Friday, February 24, 2017

No Adele-ation for Brisbane's Public Transport

Adele - doing an impression of Brisbane commuters
So "New World City" Brisbane gets one of the world's most famous singers for two concerts on 4th and 5th of March at the Gabba. What can possibly go wrong? Quite a lot...
  • Rather than holding the concert in "wholly capable" Suncorp Stadium, the 60,000 concert has been organised at the "totally incapable" Gabba, which can barely cope with maximum 40,000 crowds for watching grass grow Cricket matches. 
  • Adjacent Wooloongabba Station on Cross River Rail could easily handle the crowds, but unfortunately successive governments have failed to build Cross River Rail. 
  • The Gabba is a long walk from any train stations. 
  • The Gabba has a confusing and poorly designed method of handling after match buses, and just to add to the mess, the nearby busway station is closed after events (much to the distress of anyone not attending the stadium trying to catch a bus, or anyone trying to use "normal" bus routes to get home).
  • Brisbane City Council are playing the political game by pretending they weren't properly involved with the planning - they were. 
  • Brisbane City Council are also playing the political game by pretending that the post-event bus services on Sunday may result in a lack of bus drivers for the Monday am peak - driver sources disagree, claiming all overtime is accounted for. 
  • Some of the event bus routes start and end at shopping centres that charge for parking.
  • Queensland Rail's weekend evening frequencies are poor at every 30 minutes, are quite often cancelled with no notice since #RailFail, and finish at around 11pm. 
  • There are rarely enough Taxi drivers available on a Sunday night at the best of times.
  • UBER will make a killing out of surge pricing.  
  • There is a large parking restriction area around the Gabba during event times, so drivers may have to park a long distance away. 
  • The promoter has been quoted as being “flabbergasted” by the public transport concerns. 
So if you are travelling to and from Adele's warbling, you are pretty much screwed due to the last decade of political failure when it comes to public transport. Queensland's tit-for-tat politics continues to make Brisbane be the embarrassment of the developed world. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

NGR - 1 Year and Not in Service!

NGR #701 being delivered in February 2016
When commuters were inflicted with overcrowded 3-car services in the January 2014 timetable, Queensland Rail (QR) informed commuters via social media that the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) would be running by late 2015 to relieve their woes. Unfortunately the first Indian build NGR train didn't arrive in Queensland until 18th February 2016. A whole year later in February 2017, and despite 8 more NGR trains having been delivered, the NGR units have been mainly hiding in their train shed at Wulkuraka, near Ipswich. The NGR trains have still not introduced into service after 1 year of being in the Banana State, and there is still little sign of them being introduced into services. So why are the NGRs delayed? Well, the usual "Queenslander" lack of transparency makes it difficult to know the exact truth, but based on limited press information, informed sources, and potty mouth "Rail Advocate" Paul Pluta, the reasons cited are:
  • Guard accommodation and location. It is strongly rumoured that the LNP Newman government wanted to NGR to be driver only, and thus the guard accommodation was only an afterthought. Also, the guards being located at the back of the 6-car NGR trains, and disabled passengers waiting locations being in the middle of the 6-car NGR trains is slight problem, that is not going to end happily
  • Driver cab design. It is rumoured that drivers and/or unions were not properly involved by the LNP Newman government and "boy wonder" (now opposition) Transport Minister Scott Emerson. There have been issues related to sight lines, stopping locations, and ergonomics. 
  • Lack of drivers for testing. 
  • Changes to the braking system. 
  • Late arrival of the first few units. 
  • NGR project being managed by Department of Transport and Main Roads, not Queensland Rail.
  • Various other "teething issues". Not surprising given that India isn't exactly renowned for it's train manufacturing industry. 
BrizCommuter is also concerned about rumours that if there are delays to NGR's introduction, then the Queensland taxpayer will have to fork out millions of $$$ to manufacturer Bombardier due to contractual reasons.  So not only are commuters suffering from the now 18 month (and counting) delayed NGR trains, that all Queensland taxpayers may end up suffering as well. This is likely to be yet another embarrassment for the ALP Palaszczuk government after Rail Fail, despite many of seeds of disaster being (yet again) sown by the ousted LNP Newman government.

PS: Not enough NGR trains have been ordered. You might want to order a few more Ms Trad!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Has QR's Patronage Fallen Off a Cliff?

Where are the passengers QR?
With Queensland Rail's (QR) #RailFail now into its 5th month, it is no surprise that passengers are going to be giving up public transport in droves. There have been so many timetables changes, axed services, cancelled services, and of course the confusingly different Friday timetable, that fewer passengers can rely on QR getting them to and from work, school, university, and appointments on time.

If transparency was good enough in Queensland, then we would have known the effect of QR's Rail Fail on rail patronage by now. Unfortunately, the rail patronage figures covering the period from October to present (or even part of it) haven't been released. If fact, transparency us so bad that QR's passenger load survey hasn't been released for years.

Due to lack of official figures, BrizCommuter has had to make his own estimates of patronage fall. This particular observation was based on patronage observed this week (early Feb '17), compared to patronage observed at the same time of year (early Feb '14 to '16) since the January 2014 timetable was introduced, on the 07:10am from Ferny Grove. This is an infamous "sardine can" 3-car unit service. Whilst loading was highly variable, it usually varied between "crowded" to "completely full and leaving passengers behind". BrizCommuter has estimated the typical loading as previously being between 350 and 450 passengers, with a mean figure of just over 400 passengers. On some days, as the train was full, the services could have attracted in excess of 450 passengers.

When observed twice this week (week beginning 4th Feb '17), the difference in patronage was shocking. Plenty of empty seats were available, with an estimated loading of just 180 passengers on both days. This is a patronage reduction of  49% to 60% of passengers! Now, this service may not be typical. This service was quite often cancelled due to "operational reasons" late last year, was axed in the Summer School Holiday Timetables, and is also axed on Fridays. Thus many commuters may have given up and this service, as it is "safer" to go for the services either side. Other train services have been observed with at an estimated patronage drop of at least 25% or more.

A quick survey of BrizCommuter's work colleagues, showed an exactly 50% drop in train users, with most going back to using cars. However, most of these colleagues are shift workers, who have been badly affected by the Interim Timetables, and this may be an atypical figure compared to 9 to 5 workers. There have also been many reports of worsening traffic congestion around Brisbane over the last few weeks, with multiple days where every major arterial road has been congested. This also backs up BrizCommuter's observations of significant crash in patronage.

Whilst we may be waiting while for the awful truth, BrizCommuter predicts that QR's Rail Fail may have set back rail patronage by more than a decade. BrizCommuter is also concerned that the drop in patronage will:
  • Limit the effectiveness of the recent TransLink fare changes, as there will be less fare box revenue.
  • Provide authorities with less incentive for urgently required improvements to train services (e.g. extending Cleveland Line pm peak expresses, and adding a service in the 15 minute gap before the (previously) overcrowded 5:26 from Central to Ferny Grove) once there are sufficient trains and drivers nearer to the end of this decade. 
  • Provide authorities with less incentive for long term improvements to train services (e.g. 15 minute off-peak services on Sector 1 lines, and "as required" improvements to peak services on all lines.). 
  • Provide authorities with less incentive to order additional NGR trains for long term service improvements. 
  • Provide authorities with less incentive to build Cross River Rail. 
  • Provide more incentive for road construction due to increased road congestion. 
Lets hope that Department of Transport and Main Road, TransLink, and Queensland Rail do not keep sitting on the patronage figures, and let commuters know the awful truth. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

QR's Rail Fail to continue until 2019!

The Redcliffe Peninsula Line opened on 04/10/2016, with resulting rail chaos in subsequent days, including up to 167 services cancelled on 21/10/2016 due to lack of train crew (and to a lesser extent, lack of trains). This was followed by axed services in the Interim Timetables, even more axed services in the Interim Timetables Mk2, the Christmas Day cancellation-fest, up to 60% of peak services cut in the Summer School Holiday Timetables, and return of the Interim Timetables Mk2 for the whole of 2017. Commuters have been badly hit by these service cuts resulting in extended waits for trains, overcrowded trains, poor system reliability, and abysmal customer information. 
A Commission of Inquiry was established by the ALP Palaszczuk government to investigate the circumstances leading up to and associated with the disruptions to the Citytrain timetable, and to assess and report on Queensland Rail’s (QR) recovery plan. The inquiry is titled "An Inquiry into Queensland Rail’s train crewing practices". Mr Phillip Strachan was appointed as Commissioner and provided a report, which has just been released. The report and government's response is accessible from the below website, and is worth reading in full (possibly before reading the rest of this blog post).

The release of the report finally caused embattled ALP transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe to fall on his sword. However, BrizCommuter would like to see LNP opposition transport minister Scott Emerson (who was also behind the bus reform failure) to also fall on his sword (preferably one that has just been sharpened). 

The report is not written as to blame particular government's, however the causes of Rail Fail are outlined below:
  • Despite a forecasts deficit in drivers and guards, and plans for improved services in 2014 timetables, under the LNP Newman Government there was a one year pause on new driver training schools. Due to drivers retiring, there was also loss of drivers and driver trainers. 
  • Under the ALP Palaszczuk Government, driver training recommenced. However concerns by both Indec and GIRO as to sufficient train crew availability for the Redcliffe Peninsula Line were not properly acted upon by QR, nor adequately communicated to QR's board or the Government.
  • Internal communication, governance, and cultural failures within QR. 
  • Restrictive crewing rules due to Union pressure.
  • QR traditionally running understaffed, with considerable overtime for drivers being the norm. 
  • Internal recruitment, and relatively slow driver training programs. 

The report's 36 recommendations are outlined in brief below, with commentary in italics:
  • Establish a Citytrain Response Unit tasked with independently monitoring, auditing and reporting on the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission and QR’s response and recovery plan. This is essential, however it may not go far enough. Public transport needs to be divorced from road-centric Department of Transport and Main Roads, and have it's own overseeing authority, as in Perth and Auckland. Also, the Citytrain Response Unit needs to be staffed by people who will ask the right questions. A public transport advocate or two, should be included. 
  • Implement regular reporting on train crew demand, supply and shortfalls initiatives to QR’s Executive Leadership Team and the responsible Ministers. This is also a good move, and hopefully will take into account eventual improvements once rail fail is eventually resolved.
  • Implement transparent and timely reporting to TransLink and the public regarding operational issues that are affecting, or may affect, service delivery, to enable customers to plan alternative travel arrangements. This information is to be available in real time at stations, online and through call centres. This is urgently required. Customer information and transparency has been appalling during #RailFail and this needs to be improved significantly. 
  • Ensure that negotiations with train crew unions focus on best practice crewing arrangements to alleviate overtime pressure on train crews. Whilst most train crew like the extra money from overtime, the high rate of overtime has resulted in unreliable train services. QR should serve commuters, not the wallets of its staff. 
  • Work with the train crew unions regarding introducing modern competency‐based training arrangements in line with Australian and global best practices. The new training regime will shorten the average training time for new recruits without compromising safety. This is also essential, as whilst train crew need to be trained adequately and safely, it can be done considerably faster than at present. 
  • Leaner management structure at QR. Having the right people and culture, is also just as important to reducing the layers of bureaucracy. 

So what does the future hold for long suffering SE Queensland and Brisbane commuters?
  • Interim Timetables set to continue until at least late-2018, and possibly even mid/late-2019.
  • Unknown timeframes as to when specific axed services will be resumed. 
  • Unknown dates as to when Fridays will have the same timetables as Monday to Friday.
  • High likelihood of impact to Commonwealth Games 2018 train services - BrizCommuter predicted this in November last year. 
  • High likelihood of the return of diabolical School Holiday Timetables with service cuts of up to 60%. 
  • Urgently required peak improvements, such as extending Cleveland Line pm peak services, and resolving pm peak overcrowding on lines such as Ferny Grove may not occur until at least 2019. 
  • Improvements to off-peak services on Redcliffe, Caboolture, Springfield, Ipswich, and Gold Coast Lines may not occur until at least 2020. 
  • Ongoing repetitional damage to Brisbane and SE Queensland resulting in lower liveability, and making Brisbane less attractive to business. 
  • Angry commuters will vent their frustration at the ballot box. 

And finally:
  • Whilst the recommendations are generally good, there is no plan for an (above mentioned) public transport authority to hold both QR, and SE Queensland's bus operators (including "troublesome" Brisbane City Council owned Brisbane Transport) to task. 
  • The report does not consider the fact that insufficient New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains have been ordered to allow for more optimal peak services at the end of this decade, nor has the report investigated the serious delays to the NGR roll-out. 
  • The report does not look at what service improvements are required beyond restoration of the full (4th October 2016) timetable.  
  • The report did not look at the impact to commuters from the Interim Timetables (in particular the Friday changes, and the excessively cut Summer School Holiday Timetables), and knock on effects to road congestion, businesses, and liveability.  
Sadly, it now looks like public transport in Brisbane will continue to be embarrassingly poor until at least the next decade. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

QLD - The State of Fail

Further bad news for SE Queensland and Brisbane commuters today. It has been reported in the Courier Mail that:

 "The Federal Government has warned that Cross River Rail does not properly integrate with the rest of Brisbane’s transport network, in a blow to the Palaszczuk State Government’s top-priority project. Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher has insisted that “more work” is required on plans for the $5.5 billion inner-Brisbane rail link to ­ensure a better long-term solution for commuters."

Unfortunately, this just stinks of ongoing tit-for-tat politics that is making Brisbane look even more backwards compared to other developed cities. Cross River Rail Mk3 (CRR), has interchanges at Roma Street, Park Rd/Boggo Rd, and Wooloongabba for connections with busways and bus services. It connects with other train lines at Park Rd, and Roma Street. Track interfaces at each end, could however be better, but this doesn't seem to be the reason for this decision. BrizCommuter is somewhat confused as to how the Federal Government could come to this conclusion about integration, unless the LNP Federal Government are purposefully trying to stall CRR yet again?

It should be remembered that the LNP Newman State Government's flawed BaT tunnel plan missed out the crucial interchange at Park Rd/Boggo Rd. Would the LNP Federal Government have accepted that? Also, the ludicrous Brisbane Metro, a thought bubble of the LNP Brisbane City Council, is simply a case of turning part of the busway into a low capacity metro, forcing tens of thousands of passengers to have to change to travel into the CBD. Is that integrated enough for the LNP Federal Government? So what is the LNP Federal Government's agenda? It certainly isn't trying to improve travel for Brisbane commuters, not is it trying to make Brisbane a more attractive place for business to move to, or expand. Brisbane is only set to fall further down the list of "most liveable city" rankings.

Embarrassingly for Brisbane and SE Queensland, is that rival cities - Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland all have new rail tunnels under construction. Auckland is recently managed bus network reform with minimal fuss.

Other recent failures related to Brisbane's public transport, as a result of political stupidity from both sides of politics are - with responsible political party denoted:
  • Insufficient previous generation trains for Queensland Rail - ALP
  • Insufficient drivers for Queensland Rail causing "Rail Fail" - LNP and ALP (LNP mainly)
  • Massive delays to the New Generation Rollingstock program - LNP and ALP 
  • Not enough New Generation Rollingstock ordered - LNP and ALP
  • Delays to Redcliffe Peninsula Line due to signalling "issues" - LNP
  • Ludicrous Brisbane Metro plan - LNP
  • Failure of bus network reform - LNP
  • Ongoing delays to Cross River Rail - LNP and ALP
  • "Last minute" extension of Gold Coast Light Rail - LNP
With no competent politicians on the horizon, it seems that Brisbane is well and truly screwed when it comes to face the transport challenges of the 21st century. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

QR's Alderley Upgrade Fail

Closed platform sections at Alderley
After many years of waiting, Alderley station on the Ferny Grove Line is currently in the process of an accessibility upgrade. As part of the upgrade, sections of the platform have been closed off, to allow for re-construction. This can be seen in the uploaded photo which BrizCommuter took before being shouted at by a hi-viz worksite thug. Whilst it is good that the station has been kept open during this work, it seems that the "Queenslander" effect has crept into this project too.

A closed section of platform is not an issue for passengers boarding the train as they simply can't board the train where the platform is closed. However, it is an issue if the passenger wants to exit the train where the platform is closed. BrizCommuter received a report this week from a passenger, that they were unable to exit the train due to barricades on the platform at Alderley, and ended up at the next station, Enoggera.

BrizCommuter went for a ride (or two) to check out what was going on. During two inbound (to City) journeys, only on one of these train services did the guard put out an announcement that the doors would be locked on a specific carriage and passengers needed to move to another carriage to exit at Alderley. On two outbound (away from City) journeys, no announcement or door locking occurred at all. On the second of these two journeys, BrizCommuter observed a lady trying to exit the train, seeing the orange barricade netting on the platform, she moved to the next to doorway, same problem, she tried to move to the next carriage, only for the train to depart without her being able to exit the train. Not a happy Queensland Rail (QR) customer!

So it seems that QR have failed on multiple fronts:
  • Failure of multiple guards to lock to doors on affected carriages whilst the train is transiting through Alderley
  • Failure for multiple guards to make announcements to warn passengers to move to other carriages/doorways prior to the train arriving at Alderley.
  • Failure of QR to effectively communicate with customers (printed, online, or verbal) about the situation.
Not good enough QR!

Update 03/02/2017

Despite QR being made aware of this issue, it is still occurring. Yesterday, BrizCommuter received a report of an elderly man getting confused and distressed when the door he was trying to exit from opened into a closed and barricaded section of platform. No announcements or door locking occurred. Staff did help him off the train. What has happened to QR's Zero Harm policy?

Friday, January 20, 2017

BrizCommuter becomes AucklandCommuter

Auckland AM Class train at Britomart terminus. 
In the second part of BrizCommuter's trip to New Zealand, BrizCommuter provides a review of Auckland's public transport system. Auckland is New Zealand's principle city with 1,500,000 population, and 1/3 of New Zealand's entire population. Auckland's population is equivalent to 75% of Brisbane, and 45% of SE Queensland's population.

Services are coordinated by Auckland Transport under the AT Metro brand. Rail, bus, and ferry operations are all privatised. Auckland's train services are operated by Transdev Auckland, with the trains and stations belonging to Auckland Transport and the rail infrastructure belonging to KiwiRail.

Auckland's rail system has only recently been electrified and almost fully duplicated, with a new fleet of AM class EMUs. There are four lines, the Western Line, Eastern Line, Southern Line, and the short Onehunga Line. Weekday off-peak frequencies are every 20 minutes (30 minutes on Onehunga Line). Weekend off-peak frequencies are every 30 minutes. Peak frequencies are generally consistent at every 10 minutes, or better on the Southern Line (30 minutes on Onehunga Line). Train services end quite early at around 10:30pm, apart from on weekends. For a city of Auckland's size, the off-peak frequencies are acceptable, and peak frequencies excellent.

It was observed that trains arriving from one line, would usually become a service on a different line when departing from Auckland's Britomart terminus. Impressively fast turnarounds of just 2 to 3 minutes were observed on multiple occasions at Britomart.

Automatic gap filler
The new AM class trains are 3-car units, with most peak services consisting of 6-cars. All off-peak services were observed as running 3-cars only. As with Wellington, the platforms are relatively low. The centre carriage in each 3-car unit has a low floor section for wheelchair and pram access. The end carriages have high level seating. All doorways have an automated gap filler, which makes accessibility far better than in Brisbane. The use of gap fillers does make a noticeable increase in dwell time. Right of way permission buttons are located at each doorway, allowing guards to roam through the train.

The train network is currently limited to 20 trains per hour (tph) due to there only being 2 tracks into the 5 track Britomart terminus. There is also a flat junction outside of Britomart which can cause minor delays. The City Rail Link tunnel is currently under construction which will run under Auckland's CBD from Britomart to Mt Eden, allowing for a doubling of capacity and a more direct route for Western Line services.

No barrier pedestrian crossing
Other rail observations are that full station car parks are an issue in Auckland as well as Brisbane, and pedestrian level crossings do not have barriers (only lights and audible warning).

Auckland's bus network was also recently re-designed, allowing the city to have twice as many high frequency bus routes as Brisbane. Some train stations such as Panmure have a bus interchange for efficient bus connections, and unlike Brisbane, many high frequency bus routes by-pass the CBD or feed rail.  Auckland has a Northern Busway, which serves (unsurprisingly) the Northern Suburbs that lack a train line. There is provision for this to be converted to light rail. Thanks to some political long term thinking, Mangere Bridge has also been designed to allow an extension of the Onehunga Line to Auckland Airport.

Auckland also has an extensive ferry network, which links some Northern suburbs and many of Auckland's islands. The main ferry terminus is adjacent to Britomart station.

Auckland's smart card is the AT HOP card, which has a relatively high $10 purchase fee. Fares are reasonable, unless you have to use a more expensive paper ticket. Most train stations are unstaffed, but seem to have at least 2 ticket and top-up machines for redundancy.

Auckland's public transport has improve considerably in the last few years. Unlike in Brisbane, where bus network reform was obstructed by Brisbane City Council in 2013, Auckland has a highly efficient bus network. Unlike Brisbane, train services are reliable, with reasonable and consistent frequency. Finally, unlike Brisbane, Auckland is constructing an underground rail tunnel to increase rail capacity through the CBD. Brisbane's politicians need to take a serious look at Auckland to see how public transport can be improved.

BrizCommuter becomes WellyCommuter

Matangi trains at Wellington Station
Whilst trying to escape Brisbane's Rail Fail (#FleeQld), BrizCommuter travelled to Wellington and Auckland in New Zealand, to experience their public transport systems. The first in this two part series is BrizCommuter's insight into Wellington's public transport system.

Wellington is the administrative capital of New Zealand, located at the Southern end of New Zealand's North Island. It has a population of around 200,000 (just 10% of Brisbane's population) and a population of 400,000 in its surrounding urban area. It is thus quite a small city to have a half-decent commuter rail system, as well as a bus and trolleybus network. Wellington is like a mini-Hong Kong, with a bowl shaped inner-city with (shorter) high rises next to a harbour, and a cable car climbing the mountain.

All public transport operators are privatised, with train services run by Transdev Wellington, and use run by multiple companies including GO Wellington. They are all branded as Metlink. The Greater Wellington Regional Council is responsible for planning and subsidising public transport.

Matangi Train at Redwood Station
Wellington has a relatively new fleet of 75x2-car EMU trains (Matangi/FP Class) that run on its 1,500V DC overhead electrified network. There are 4 urban lines, the Johnsonville Line, Kapiti Line, Melling Branch, and Hutt Valley Line. There is a 4 track core section, with all of these lines terminating at Wellington Station, which has There are also some diesel hauled services to/from Masterton (Wairarapa Connection) , Palmerston North, and Auckland. On the 4 electrified urban lines, the off-peak base service is an all stations train running every 30 minutes (hourly on Melling Branch), which is reasonable enough for such a small urban area. The peak services are approximately every 15 to 20 minutes for most stations, with a mix of express and non-express services patterns, though frequencies are not consistent (other than every 15 minutes on the Johnsonville Line). Counter-peak frequencies are in some cases worse than every 30 minutes, with added expresses between Wellington and the turn-back location in the am peak (or vice versa in the pm peak). Trains can be be formed of 2, 4, or 6-car consists, with most peak services observed as being 4 or 6-cars. All trains observed in the peak had spare seats available, though this was a relatively quiet time of the year.

The platforms are relatively low. For each 2-train train, one carriage has low/platform level floor and doors for wheelchair and pram access. This makes for much better accessibility than in Brisbane. There are manually operated fold out ramps if required. The ends of this carriage, and 100% of the second carriage has 100% high level seating.

All lines are worth travelling on for interested visitors. In particular the Johnsonville Line has many sharp curves and tunnels as it climbs the hillside. The Kapiti Line has many coastal sections, and a very long tunnel between Wellington and Takapu Road stations. Another point of interest is Redwood Station which has offset side platforms either side of a level crossing to reduce level crossing closure time. Pedestrian crossings only have lights and no barriers.

Whilst the Snapper smart card is available for buses, taxis, and some shops, trains still rely on paper tickets. Most stations do not have a ticket office or ticket machine, and are bought on board from the guard. In fact some 4 and 6-car trains have more than one guard for this reason. This is rather quaint, if somewhat inefficient. However, with roaming staff on every train, it may deter fare evaders. Fares are also relatively high, in line with New Zealand's high cost of living. Child discounts are unacceptably small at 20%.

Wellington Cablecar
Wellington also has a decent bus and trolleybus network, which a reasonable number of high frequency routes (every 10 to 20 min) for a city of its size. As the city's hilly topography makes it relatively linear in nature, it is easier for the city to have an efficient bus network. As Wellington Station is not particularly central, a large number of commuters use the buses and trolleybuses to get from Wellington Station to other parts of the CBD. With a good interchange at Wellington Station, and many buses travelling along the same routes through the CBD, then the service through the CBD is operated at very high frequency. There has been some lobbying towards running tram trains from the existing train lines through to the CBD, but BrizCommuter doesn't know if there will be any progress in the land of reality.

Wellington also has a 5 station mountain-side cable car (funicular) which is mainly used by tourists. However locals can still use it with the smart card. Get there early to avoid queues, especially if a cruise ship is in town. There are also a couple of harbour ferries.

BrizCommuter found Wellington's public transport system a joy to use. The only delays were experienced just after "strong" or "severe" earthquakes! The smart card needs to be rolled out system wide with a more integrated fare structure. Train frequencies could be better, and peak frequencies more consistent. However, frequencies are still still very good for a city of Wellington's population.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

QR's Rail Fail to continue for at least a year!

QR - World's worst train operator?
Last updated 24/01/2017

Since the Redcliffe Peninsula Line opened in early October, SE Queensland commuters have been suffering badly from abysmal train service provision caused by lack of drivers and trains, due to the decision making failures of three successive (ALP and LNP) Queensland Governments, and of course Queensland Rail's (QR) incompetence.

For the last few weeks, the School Holiday Interim Timetable (SHIT) has been in operation, with peak and daytime off-peak service cuts of 50-60% despite reduced patronage of only 25%. These cuts, combined with express services being eliminated has caused even more Brisbane commuters to give up on using public transport.

New timetables were expected from the 23rd January 2016. Long suffering commuters were hoping for the return of the half-decent, but still sub-optimal "normal" timetables. However, as nothing was announced until Tuesday 17th January, it was pretty obvious that the new timetables were only going to be bad news. In fact, the news was far worse than expected. Not only has the diabolical Interim Timetable Mk2 been revived, it has been stated by the CEO of Queensland Rail that this timetable will remain in place for the whole of 2017! This is absolutely disgraceful. So what are the issues with the Interim Timetable Mk2?
  • Over 330 train services cut from the timetable per week. 
  • Different timetables for Mon-Thu and Friday which will continue to cause mass confusion and annoyance. 
  • Friday's Ferny Grove Line am peak service has been savaged, with two usually full 3-car services completely removed, potentially resulting in overcrowding on preceding and following services. 
  • The early finishing pm peak Cleveland Line express service now finishes even earlier. 
  • Excessive gaps between peak services - 22 minute am peak service gap on inner Beenleigh Line, 30 minute am peak service gap on the outer Cleveland Line Monday to Friday, 30 minute pm peak service gap on the inner Cleveland Line on Fridays, 24 minute pm peak service gap on the Ipswich Line (at different times of course on Fridays), 60 minute am peak service gap on the Doomben Line on Fridays, and more. 
  • Seemingly random service gaps in early morning, daytime, and evening off-peak services making the system unusable for shift workers, and leaving school kids stranded on platforms. 
  • 77% service cuts (compared to pre-October 2016 timetable) to the "Inner North" services, providing ongoing misery for Nundah, Toombul, Wooloowin, and Albion commuters which have had peak service frequency reduced from every 3 minutes to 15 minutes at times, and the added "fun" of overcrowded 3-car trains.  
  • Expectations of ongoing cancellations and delays due to "operational issues", with delayed or non-existent customer information. Rumours that Fridays may continue to be a cancellation-fest! 
  • Ongoing poor communication from QR about service changes.
  • Politicians obsessed by on-time running statistics over QR actually providing an adequate train service to meet demand. 
  • TransLink are still expecting passengers to pay expensive fares for poor service, with no financial compensation for delays. 
  • No .pdf timetables available on TransLink's website at the time of writing, despite this timetable being re-cycled! 
The failure to implement the "normal" timetables in time for the busiest time of the year for passenger loads (after school and universities start) will result in severe overcrowding on some services, commuter frustration, and political suicide for the ALP Queensland Government. The only thing that may reduce overcrowding is that so many commuters have given up on using trains (including more than 50% of BrizCommuter's work colleagues). Patronage could easily drop to figures similar to the start of the previous decade. However this rail patronage drop will just make road congestion worse, something that RACQ have already voiced concerns about. 

Brisbanites are unable to rely on QR getting them to work, school, university, the airport, or appointments on time. Commuters who were hoping for urgently required service improvements such as additional pm peak services on the Ferny Grove Line, and extension of the pm peak express service on the Cleveland Line will be bitterly disappointed. With, the 2018 Commonwealth Games likely to result in short term improvements only on the Gold Coast Line, commuters expecting to see any improvements will be waiting a long time. In fact, BrizCommuter has little confidence in train services in SE Queensland for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Maybe the games should have been handed to a rival third world country instead?

QR are also acting delusional, by reportedly asking their community reference group members to re-write QR's customer charter. Given QR's ongoing contempt for the travelling public, this exercise amounts to putting lipstick on a pig. It would be far more constructive for QR to truthfully inform commuters of when this #RailFail is going to end! Is the ongoing #RailFail still due to lack of drivers, or is it just a budget equalisation measure? Please tell the truth QR?

QR's Rail Fail is likely to result in privatisation when the LNP are inevitably re-elected, something they were secretly trying to achieve by causing the lack of driver issue in the first place. After a 150 year history, the nail is in the coffin for QR as an organisation. 

With QR's Rail Fail now guaranteed to last at least another year, Brisbane will also to continue to slide down the rankings in regards of liveability. This is bad for existing businesses, and bad for Brisbane trying to attract new businesses, especially when rival Oceana cities such as Auckland and Perth have considerably better public transport. Brisbane really is proving itself to be a backwards pissant town!

TransLinks website for 23rd January 2017 train timetable:

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Advertising Wraps Rapped

Can't see through the window?
Queensland Rail (QR) and Brisbane Transport seem to think it is acceptable to prevent passengers from seeing out of windows, due to covering their trains and buses with advertising wraps. This is annoying a lot commuters who would actually like to see where that are going. The visibility is worse at night and during/after rain when it is almost impossible for commuters with 20/20 vision to see through the windows. Passengers with poor eye-sight have even worse problems seeing through the wraps to the outside world. There have even been multiple reports of passengers missing their stops, as they didn't know where they were. QR train and CityGlider bus passengers are the most upset about their limited visibility.

BrizCommuter calls on SE Queensland's public transport operators to stop covering windows with advertising wraps, and give passengers the basic travelling requirement of being able to see out of the window!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Queensland Fail Forces Facebook to Consider 0 Star Ratings

QR - not rated highly!
Facebook has a 5 star rating system, which goes from 1 to 5 stars. Queensland Rail's (QR) rating on its Facebook page is currently in terminal freefall due to:

  • Unreliable train service post opening of Redcliffe Peninsula Line due to lack of drivers and trains.
  • 100+ axed services in Interim Timetable Mk1.
  • 400+ axed services, and Friday confusion-fest in Interim Timetable Mk2.
  • Completely axing the Rosewood Line at weekends. 
  • The 8th December system meltdown.
  • The complete stuff up that was the Xmas Day timetable, with 235 cancellations. 
  • Reducing peak and daytime off-peak services by around 50% in the Summer School Holiday Timetable.
  • Charging peak fares for off-peak level of service in above mentioned timetable.
  • Cancelled trains due to "operational issues" left, right, and centre.   
  • Abysmal customer information during all of the above. 
BrizCommuter has heard from uninformed sources, that Facebook's rating system is unable to handle a rating of 1.0 star, which is where QR is rapidly heading. A rating of 1.0 could cause mass server failures, and thus prevent users from around the world know that their friends and family have changed their status for the 20th time that day. Only QR staff logging on, and giving themselves a 5 star rating is currently preventing this major world catastrophe. 

Thus, due to QR's massive un-popularity, it is rumoured that the social network will implement a 0 star rating, just for QR. Software engineers are already concerned that even a 0 star rating may not be enough to handle ratings for "the developed world's worst train operator", and that Facebook may have to implement a negative rating system if full services are not restored by 23rd January 2017.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

QR's Rail Fail - More Pain to Come?

QR's service - going down the drain!
BrizCommuter is happy to be escaping Brisbane during most of January, to avoid the mediocrity that is Queensland Rail's (QR) School Holiday Interim Timetable, that's "SHIT" for short. Incidentally, BrizCommuter will be in Wellington, NZ - a city with 10% of the population of Brisbane, yet running a more frequent train timetable in January! So what is in store for commuters in January 2017?

New Year's Eve/Day

With extra trains services being scheduled, rail pundits are concerned that New Year's Eve services will be a mess, possibly on the scale of QR's Christmas Day failure. With infrequent overnight services, a cancelled train will result in quite a few pissed, and pissed off commuters. As New Year's Day falls on a Sunday, a day when QR traditionally run out of drivers, BrizCommuter is expecting News Year's Day to be worse affected than New Year's Eve. BrizCommuter's advice for New Year's Day travel - drive instead if you can. 

School Holiday Period

QR's SHIT timetable will reduce peak services by up to 50 to 60% on some train lines. With only a 22% reduction is travellers during this period, it doesn't take even prep class school kid to work out that this is likely to result in overcrowding on some trains services. Sadly, Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe probably believes in QR's laughable spin of only 11% service reduction. Passengers may be unable to board some train services. Even on the least affected train services, passengers expecting a seat during a supposedly "quiet" period may have to stand for some distance. It seems that QR do not recognised that the majority of commuters actually still need to get work in January, and have massively under-estimated the required service delivery!

TransLink seem to be persisting on charging a peak fare for the equivalent of an off-peak service during the SHIT timetable. This fraudulent lack of respect towards the travelling public will put quite a few commuter's noses out of joint. 

Inner suburban off-peak services have also been cut back from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes (a 50% cut-back) in QR's SHIT timetable. This will be a big pain for shift workers. It will also be an annoyance for families on leisure travel doing the school holidays e.g. families going to and from South Bank, shopping in the CBD, or the Brisbane's various museums. Aside from the car parking operators, the SHIT timetable may loose some trade for CBD businesses. Time to get some shares in UBER! 

After the School Holiday Period

Due to terrible transparency from both the Palaszczuk government, and QR, it is still unknown what will happen after the School Holiday Period, from 23rd January. Commuters are expecting that the "normal" 4th October 2016 timetables would be fully restored. In fact, many commuters have expectations of improvements to the 4th October 2016 timetables, such as extending Cleveland pm peak expresses. Given the ongoing delays to the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains entering passengers service, and the number of trained drivers not increasing significantly until late 2017, these expected improvements are sadly unlikely. 

BrizCommuter is very concerned that commuters will still be faced with a cut back Interim Timetable (or unreliable "full service") after the school holiday period. If this is the case, expect severe overcrowding and full trains on some services (notably Shorncliffe/Inner Northern Line, Ferny Grove, and Cleveland Line) when the schools are back, with the situation getting even worse when the universities re-start in late February/early-March - the busiest time of the year for public transport. If QR's service cuts persist, also expect increased road congestion due to commuters continuing to avoid public transport. Whilst the background of this disaster was caused by the LNP Newman government, if services are not fully restored by late-January, then the ALP Palaszczuk government can be expected to pay the price at the voting booth. This is of course rather unfortunate, as the LNP opposition seem to have zero public transport policies. Which ever way, SE Queensland commuters will continue to be screwed for years to come due to successive incompetent governments.