Saturday, February 17, 2018

Closure Confusion

Wrong!
As is expected from purveyors of incompetence - TransLink, they have dropped another clanger over the information provided for this weekend's mass line closure through Brisbane's CBD. Taking in mind that the Ferny Grove Line is still running from Ferny Grove to Bowen Hills, the reasons for the closure has been given as - Turnout maintenance (Fortitude Valley), Embankment stabilisation (Newmarket), Removal of ground frames (Newmarket), Track reconditioning (Windsor to Wilston), Re-railing works (Bowen Hills to Windsor & Newmarket to Alderley), Overhead power line maintenance, General track maintenance. Given that many of these locations are on the apparently still open Ferny Grove Line, it seems that TransLink have done a half-arsed copy and paste job from a previous track closure. This has caused confusion, with many Ferny Grove Line commuters now unsure as to whether the Ferny Grove Line is actually running or not?

Showing how clueless Brisbane's journalists are, the Brisbane Times have copied and pasted this incorrect information into a news article without giving any thought to whether it was correct or not. Not much hope for investigative journalism is there!

This is not the first time TransLink have provide incorrect information regarding line closures. Last year, BrizCommuter was turfed off a late night northbound train at Park Road, when the TransLink's line closure information stated that trains were terminating at Roma Street. In fact, the train terminated at South Brisbane. 

Ferny Grove Line commuters aren't the only ones confused by this weekends shenanigans. Long suffering Doomben Line commuters will have to alight at Wooloowin, then catch the next train (which could be quite a wait given the infrequency of trains in Brisbane) to travel one more stop to Albion, before then having to catch a rail replacement bus into the city or beyond. Anyone not prepared for this (which will be the majority) will end up arriving at their destination very very late!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Spinning Out of Control

In BrizCommuter's previous blog post about the impending Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Rail Fail, it was alluded to that Queensland politicians are wrapped up in in their own spin. In this blog post BrizCommuter dissects some recent press releases, to show how out of touch politicians are from the land of reality. By the way, this blog post was almost going to be called "how big is the Transport Minister's weenie", but BrizCommuter thought better. If you want to know why - keep reading!

(Note: BrizCommuter apologises for the excessive use of quotation marks within quotation marks).

From the Brisbanetimes "Mr Beattie said the transport plan would provide terrific gains for the Commonwealth Games, "with a little pain". There is no gain, without some pain," he said." There would have been a lot less pain if the Beattie government had quad tracked Salisbury to Kuraby instead of only triplicating it!

From the Brisbanetimes "Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the government had kept its commitment not to close any rail lines during the games, but admitted commuters who used several stations along the Beenleigh line would be forced to use free buses instead." So "several" means 16? The dictionary definition of Several is "more than two but not many".

From the ABC news "Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told Parliament last year "categorically" there would be no line closures, but Mr Bailey insisted the Beenleigh line would have a "continuous service" with the replacement buses." What is a "continuous service"? A conveyer belt? Be honest, you've closed 16 stations on one line, and replaced them with buses!

Transport Minister Mark Bailey discussing the Beenleigh Line rail replacement buses on ABC news "It will be quite convenient. In some cases it will actually be faster, in some cases it will be similar, and in some cases it will be a weeny-bit slower". A weenie bit slower? So having to walk to the bus stop (in some cases hundreds of metres from the station), wait for a bus, travel on the bus, walk from the bus to the platform, wait for the train, and then travel on the train, is only a weenie bit slower than just getting on a train? Maybe Mr Bailey has a very large weenie?

From the Courier Mail "Mr Bailey said the cuts were happening during the “usually quiet” Easter school holiday period." There are cuts for the whole week after the games and Easter holidays have finished. This will result in severe train overcrowding, and very annoyed commuters!

From the Brisbanetimes, quoting QR CEO Nick Easy "We’ve always said there would need to be some adjustments to other parts of the rail network as we increase services on the Gold Coast line to meet this unprecedented demand." So "some", means up to a 50% reduction in peak services, removal of some peak express services, up to 50% reduction of off-peak services, awful hourly weekend frequencies, closure of 16 Beenleigh Line stations, and 100% reduction of Ferny Grove to South Bank/Brisbane journeys. Right?

QR CEO Nick Easy "Other transport providers around the world have also had to alter their regular timetables to meet the demands of major events of this scale." The London Olympics, and Glasgow Commonwealth Games only saw service increases, not decreases. In Delhi, a few new metro lines opened for the Commonwealth Games. In SE Queensland, it's just a disaster!

When politicians are this delusional, there is little hope!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Fail McFailFace - QR's Comm Games Train Service

The Beenleigh Line has been axed!
As predicted by BrizCommuter back in November 2016 after the onset of #RailFail, Queensland Rail's (QR) services for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) timetable will be a international embarrassment to Australia. Whilst the actual timetables have inconveniently yet to be been published, the service frequencies have been announced by TransLink. In order to increase frequencies on the Gold Coast Line to every 10 minutes or better, and allow for a rather pointless hourly overnight (24 hour) service, services have been heavily cut on all other train lines in Brisbane and SE Queensland. The frequencies on a line by line basis are available here:
https://translink.com.au/service-updates/165881

So what is wrong with QR's GC2018 train service?
  • The Beenleigh Line has been axed, due to the lack of infrastructure to allow faster Gold Coast Line services to overtake slower Beenleigh Line services in both directions. The Gold Coast services will serve 4 additional Beenleigh Line stations, thus slowing down the Gold Coast Line service in the process. Beenleigh Line passengers from the 16 non-serviced stations will have to use (thankfully free to use) rail replacement buses, massively slowing down commutes. 
  • Peak services have been axed on all train lines other than the Gold Coast Line. It is expected that the peak service will be similar to that for the 2017/18 Summer Holiday Interim Timetable (SHIT) which was inadequate, resulted in overcrowded services, removed express services, and cut some direct journey opportunities by up to 75%. TransLink are still somehow charging peak fares! 
  • Weekday 15 minute off-peak services have been axed on all lines other than the Gold Coast Line, with a 30 minute weekday off-peak services on all lines. That's a worse frequency than in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Auckland! 
  • Weekend off-peak services have been reduced by 50%. Services have been reduced from every 30 minutes to only every 60 minutes on all lines other than the Gold Coast and Airport Lines. This is worse than all other heavy rail systems in Australia and New Zealand! These hourly weekend services will be a nightmare for Brisbanites who need to get work, such as hospital and emergency service workers, retail and hospitality staff. 
  • Long suffering Sunshine Coast Line commuters will see off-peak services reduced to an abysmal two hourly service. 
  • The poor frequency of connecting services (especially on weekends) makes travelling by train to GC2018 extremely unattractive for both staff and spectators, forcing these commuters onto the already busy M1 Pacific Highway.
  • Bus to train connections around Brisbane and SE Queensland will be broken due to the large number of train services being cut and changes to clockface times. 
  • The actual timetables (rather than service frequencies) are still unavailable two months out from GC2018. 
  • The commuter pain will not just be during GC2018, but cover a 22 day period including Easter and a whole week after the games. Expect severe train overcrowding in the week beginning 16th April. 
Who is to blame for this disastrous train service?
  • The Newman LNP government for stopping driver recruitment and demoting driver trainers, at a time when more train services were being added, or due to be added.  
  • The Newman LNP government ordered NGR trains that were not compliant with disability access laws and regulations. 
  • The Palaszczuk ALP government for mediocrity in fast tracking driver recruitment by giving in to Union demands and pressure. 
  • The Palaszczuk ALP government for being slow at resolving NGR train issues, that were known about in 2015. 
  • The Beattie/Bligh era ALP government for triplicating instead of quadding parts of the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line corridor, thus preventing Gold Coast Line services from overtaking Beenleigh Line services in both directions (hence the axing of the Beenleigh Line).
  • The Beattie/Bligh era ALP government for dropping an add on order for the previous generation of trains, resulting in a lack of trains since 2014. 
  • Rail Transport and Bus Union - for trying to block and delay external driver recruitment.  
  • QR for chronically failed management. (Note: BrizCommuter has more faith in the new management, but the scale of past failure for them to fix is of epic proportions). 
  • Department of Transport and Main Roads - this government department has overseen NGR Fail, Moreton Bay Rail Link Signalling Fail, QR's Rail Fail, and GC2018 Timetable Fail. 
  • CityTrain Response Unit - for well, not doing much at all. 
  • Queensland's media for being being hopeless at investigative journalism and reporting pressing transport issues. Authorities in cities such as London for example, could not get away with the mediocrity that QR and the various Queensland Governments have got away with in the last decade. 
Whilst QR have tried to do the best with limited drivers and trains, the services frequencies for GC2018 show how bad #RailFail still is. Commuters on all train lines other than the Gold Coast Line will suffer from an inadequate "third world" train service between Friday 30th March and 20th April. Using trains to get to the games will be very unattractive due to poor service frequencies on connecting train lines, forcing more cars (including BrizCommuter's) onto the already congested M1 Pacific Highway. The only saviour to congestion chaos will be SE Queenslander's trying to avoid the dreaded M1 like the plague. 

The only positive that BrizCommuter can see, is if Queensland and Australia is embarrassed so much on the world stage, that it sparks changes to governance and investment for SE Queensland's failing public transport system. However, given that QLD politicians are so lost in their own spin, BrizCommuter isn't convinced there will be much change to the current status quo of mediocrity. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Not Appy TransLink!

The MyTransLink app for smart phones was one of the few decent things that have come out of TransLink. It was easy to use, and generally popular with commuters. Unfortunately, TransLink implemented a major upgrade to version 2, and now the app is one of the worst smart phone apps that BrizCommuter has come across.

For example, previously if you wanted to find real time info for a (non-favourited) bus stop or train station it was really easy by searching the location on a map. Now, BrizCommuter can't even work out how to do this other than ignoring the search function (which tries to do a journey plan) and scrolling around the SE Queensland map until you eventually find the stop.

If you manage to work that out, you have to look at every train platform to get to the details. So instead of being able to for example view all Northbound services from Fortitude Valley, you have to look up individual platforms. How about timetables from Roma Street to Milton? You can't see both Ipswich and Springfield Line services together, even though they both serve the stations.
Almost as unpopular as QR! 
The app has also been reported to crash and freeze often, and has been getting loads of 1 star reviews on Google Play and Apple's App Store. BrizCommuter expects that many commuters have missed buses and trains due to time wasted trying to work out how to use the app to see when the bus or train was coming. Please TransLink, revert back to developing the old user interface. If you do need to change things, maybe review the software with actual public transport users first. Attention to detail on coding and debugging also helps! Apps need to be intuitive enough that users can work them out with no training or assistance.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Fares Increase, QR's Rail Fail Farce Continues...

Screenshot from getsetforthegames.com
How can we prepare with no timetables?
As Queensland Rail's (QR) inadequate Summer Holiday Interim Timetable (SHIT) comes to a close, TransLink have unimpressively increased public transport fares in SE Queensland by 1.5%. This small fare increase, based on CPI, was expected as part of the public transport fare reforms. Unfortunately, any increase in fares during the continuation of #RailFail leaves a very sour taste in the mouth of the dwindling number of SE Queensland rail commuters. It is totally unacceptable for fares to be increased until QR's full October 2016 timetable is re-implemented or even improved upon.

Just to add insult to injury, QR's 2017 interim timetable will be continued indefinitely throughout 2018. Commuters are not impressed with the ongoing 330+ axed train services/week, and confusingly different timetables for Fridays. Even QR's base service (before service axing) is worse than Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. The sporadic hourly weekend services are also worse than Adelaide, Auckland, and even tiny Wellington. Both QR and TransLink continued to show their contempt for commuters, by only announcing the continuation of the 2017 interim timetable with less than a week until the 2018 2017 timetables were implemented. Very little explanation was required, just stating " On Monday 22 January, services will revert to the timetable in place prior to the temporary summer service changes, coinciding with the beginning of the school term". QR have also ignored questions on social media asking for when the October 2016 timetable will be restored, which shows that either they don't have a clue,  don't care about their customers, or both. Stop the spin, and just be honest please QR!

The lack of information from QR, TransLink, the Queensland Government, and the utterly pointless CityTrain Response Unit on when #RailFail will be resolved is very concerning. Given that only 2 train services have been restored in the last year shows quite how badly QR stuffed up when it came to planning the October 2016 timetables for the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line. With the Commonwealth Games looming, changes to train drivers working conditions later in the year, and drivers leaving QR at a similar rate to new drivers being qualified, then BrizCommuter is expecting at least another year of pain for SE Queensland commuters.

On the subject of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018), commuters are being urged to change their journey plans during the games at: https://www.getsetforthegames.com/travel-public-transport
Unfortunately, as neither expected train service frequencies, let alone the actual timetables themselves have been published, then this situation is somewhat farcical!  Maybe QR and Department of Transport and Main Roads are awaiting a decision on the legality of running the badly designed NGR trains before publishing the timetables?

With Rail Fail, Commonwealth Games Fail, and NGR Fail still ongoing, SE Queensland's public transport system is set to be an embarrassment to Australia on the world stage.

Monday, January 1, 2018

QR Hits Rock Bottom

Can things get any worse for SE Queensland commuters? Commuters in Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne are enjoying summertime full peak services, and 15 minute off-peak services (or better) even on weekends - with standing off-peak observed loads even on Xmas day in Perth. In the meantime, Brisbane commuters are struggling to get to work and play with slashed peak services, half-hourly weekday off-peak, and hourly weekend services. The service (the worst of any rail system in Australia and New Zealand) is so appalling, that many regular commuters have taken to driving instead, with some trains almost deserted. Not since the days of diesel hauled train services in the 1970s, have Brisbanites had to endure such terrible train services. There have even been cases of passengers being stranded at Landsborough for hours on end due to failed bus connections. Critical hospital and emergency service workers have been arriving to work late. Hospitality workers have had to leave up to an hour earlier to get to work. Shoppers have abandoned Brisbane's CBD for suburban shopping centres. The Pacific Highway has been at a standstill for 4 consecutive days due to commuters shunning public transport. Queensland Rail (QR) keeps spouting the same spin "throughout the summer period we usually experience a drop in patronage, and we want to ensure we deliver a reliable service for our customers while also effectively managing our resources" which sounds like a broken record on repeat. QR's ongoing lack of drivers Rail Fail is a major embarrassment to Queensland, and is causing severe repetitional damage to Brisbane and SE Queensland. at home and abroad.

The New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) train project (managed by Department of Transport and Main Roads) is an absolute disaster, with the poorly designed "illegal" trains being forced into service by QR in a desperate effort to avoid Commonwealth Games catastrophe. The first two NGR trains have reportedly been moved into storage, with rumours that they may even be cannibalised for spare parts. Not enough NGR trains have even been ordered to maximise use of the existing train network. Given that the current ALP government has stated that they will not buy more foreign manufactured trains, then expect huge delays in the procurement and construction of new rollingstock whenever anyone in authority belatedly realises that there is a lack of trains again in the early 2020s. BrizCommuter is already predicting that there will be a lack of immediate service improvements when Cross River Rail opens due to lack of drivers and trains.

As predicted by BrizCommuter in late 2016, the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) is looking like it will be a dogs breakfast regarding transport. Commonwealth Games workers and volunteers are in the process of receiving their rosters, and in some cases making the final decision as to whether they can actually work or not. Unfortunately, QR have not released the timetables or even expected service frequencies so that these workers can plan how they will get to work. In fact QR are still in "planning" stages, leaving commuters in the dark as to how their train services will be affected. At this point in time, just 4 months out from GC2018, the following is unknown:
  • Gold Coast Line peak and counter peak frequency - this was touted to be 8tph in both directions, which is looking highly unlikely due to lack of trains, drivers, and tracks on the Beenleigh/Gold Coast line corridor. 
  • Peak and off-peak service provision on other lines - everyone knows QR will have to axe services due to lack of drivers and trains, but which services, and by how much? Connecting services need to be frequency enough to make people use the Gold Coast Line to get to the games - this is looking doubtful.
  • Whole line closures - there have been rumours of closures of the Shorncliffe, Redcliffe Peninsula, and Springfield Lines during GC2018. QR is stating that no line closures have been "planned", but are avoiding the yes/no answer to the question. 
With workers and volunteers in the dark as to how to get to work for GC2018, BrizCommuter is expecting many dropouts between now, and possibly even during the games. This could impact the success of the GC2018 games, especially as some volunteers are critical to venues being open and athletes being in the right place at the right time. Spectators and workers may give up on using public transport, and just drive to the park and ride locations instead. This will add to congestion on the M1 Pacific Highway, which is likely to resemble a car park during GC2018. Transport for GC2018 is looking very troublesome and is likely to be a major embarrassment to Australia. 

BrizCommuter is also not expecting the return of the 333 axed train services due to Rail Fail during 2018, as QR's net driver increase is currently around the zero mark. Expect Fridays to still confusingly have a different timetable to the rest of the network. The Queensland Government, TransLink, and QR will likely continue to hide train patronage, loading, and Rail Fail recovery statistics to avoid the awful truth. Some axed services may never return! 

Is there any positive from Rail Fail? It would be hoped that if there is major embarrassment to Queensland and Australia during GC2018, that this may encourage a knee-jerk investment in public transport. However, as it seems that Queensland politicians have their head buried in a sea of spin and delusion (in particular, the LNP who wanted to dump Cross River Rail), expect SE Queensland's public transport to be a disaster for years to come. Things have reached rock bottom, and it will take a heavy crane to lift that rock!