Thursday, October 12, 2017

NGR Fail - 600 Days and Questions for Mr Nicholls

NGR - 600 Days and Not in Service
Today was the 600th day anniversary of the first of the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains arriving in Queensland. Due to a project failure of epic proportions, these trains are still not in passenger service. The NGR trains were ordered under the one-term LNP Newman government, who also laid the foundations for Rail Fail by ordering a recruitment freeze ahead of the implementation of 15 minute off-peak services and the Redcliffe Peninsula Line. It is well known the NGR trains were ordered without guard accommodation, as the intention was for the trains to be Driver Only Operated (DOO). This was a polar opposite of the EBA that was in place for train crew. So how were the LNP Government going to get around this? It is also well known that QR has limited involvement with the design of the NGR trains. Well it seems that there are a few questions for current QLD LNP opposition leader Mr Tim Nicholls MP to answer:

  • Were the LNP planning on the NGR trains to be run by a private company?
  • Was this private company going to use DOO trains on the QR network?
  • Was this private company going to poach train drivers from the already understaffed QR?
  • Was the recruitment freeze a plan to setup QR to fail?
  • Why was the NGR business case not released? 
  • Are public servants too scared to speak up about the LNP's secret plans, as they could loose their jobs if the LNP got back in power?
  • Why were the disabled toilets in the NGR trains designed to not meet legal requirements?
BrizCommuter has run many a blog post about the LNP's other destructive public transport policies, such as axing Cross River Rail for the ill-thought out BaT Tunnel which has set back CRR by over half a decade (or even permanently if the LNP get back in power). There is no question that QR had serious internal issues irrespective of the government in power, and that the ALP Palaszczuk have done a half-arsed job with Rail Fail service recovery thanks to Union pressure. In fact, BrizCommuter is not adverse to QR Citytrain being privatised, but it needs to be done by honest and transparent methods. However, if it appears that the LNP were planning on privatising QR by stealth, by getting a private company to run the NGR trains with different safety rules and staff agreements, then it appears that the LNP cannot be trusted with public transport. 

If the LNP get back in power before the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, then they will have egg on their face when services have to be axed to lack of NGR trains and drivers. With the LNP being more concerned with privatising train services than improving train services, expect the pain of the Rail Fail to continue well into the next decade if they win the next Queensland state election. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

1 Year of Rail Fail, No End in Sight!

Lets celebrate
by running hourly trains!
Today is the 1st birthday of Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail (#RailFail), with the first wave of mass service cancellations occurring on 30th September 2016, a few days ahead of the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line.

So what caused Rail Fail?
  • Recruitment freeze under the LNP Newman Government at the same time as construction was occurring on the Redcliffe Peninsula Line, and expansion of 15 minute off-peak services.
  • Changes to train driver breaks, requiring more drivers for the same number of services. 
  • Slow driver training programs, and Union influence internal recruitment slowed down recruitment. 
  • Chronic incompetence at QR failed to see that the October 2016 timetable was not possible with the staff availability at the time. 
How have commuters suffered?
  • Waves of last minute service cancellations (usually on Fridays and Sundays) during late 2016. 
  • Multiple timetable changes during late 2016 with axed services. 
  • Confusingly different timetables between Monday-Thursdays and Fridays.
  • 333 axed services per week in the 2017 timetable, of which only 2 have since been restored. 
  • Service gaps of up to 1 hour in the peaks, and increased overcrowding on some services.
  • Hourly weekend timetables during School Holidays and Public Holidays - worst train service in Australia and New Zealand (Oceania)!
  • Up to 60% peak period service cuts during the Summer School Holidays.
  • 2/3 of services cancelled on Xmas Day 2016. 
  • Looming Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Rail Fail - services to be axed on train lines other than the Gold Coast Line. 
  • Looming service cuts during School Holidays throughout 2018. 
What other issues have there been?
  • Chronic lack of trains since the January 2014 timetable limiting train services and resulting  overcrowded 3-car services. 
  • Nearly 600 day delay in New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) entering service.
  • Not enough NGR trains have been ordered to maximise use of existing infrastructure - politics and lack of perceived problem may prevent further orders from Indian Bombardier factory, and delay subsequent orders. 
  • NGR train toilets are not large enough for wheelchairs. 
  • NGR train guard position has moved to back of train, away from accessibility "seating" area, and raised platforms.
  • Increasing unreliability of ageing EMU and ICU trains. 
  • Poor train/platform interface at most stations. 
  • Chronic issue with trains running early.
  • Chronic issue with CBD track closures during the daytime causing delays of up to 15 minutes and missed connections.
  • Late night track closures creating a headache for shift workers. 
  • On-time running statistics exclude "expressed" services and off-peak services. 
What has been the result of Rail Fail?
  • Decline in patronage on QR's network (taking into account opening of Redcliffe Peninsula Line) - though statistics have gone "missing in action". 
  • Increased road congestion. 
  • Permanent damage to QR's reputation - privatisation almost inevitable when the LNP next gain power. 
  • Damage to Brisbane and SE Queensland's reputation - including lower liveability than other Australian capitals. 
  • High risk of Cross River Rail getting axed.
  • Due to massive number of 1 star reviews on Facebook, QR removed all Facebook reviews, and started concentrating on posts irrelevant to running a train service - trying to hid the truth QR?
When will Rail Fail be resolved?
  • Information of Rail Fail resolution and service recovery was conveniently dropped from the last CityTrain response - so little information is available. 
  • Likely that some of the axed 333 services will be restored during the second half of 2018. Expect further Friday and School Holiday service cuts throughout 2018. 
  • Most of the axed 333 services should be restored during 2019. Some axed services may not return. 
  • Urgently required service improvements (such as extending Cleveland Line pm peak expresses) unlikely until late 2019 or 2020. 
  • Major improvements to timetables (such as improved off-peak services and pm peak services on most lines) unlikely until well into 2020s. 
Whilst Queensland Rail's annual report states that Queensland Rail is focussed on becoming a "world class" rail operator, it is quite obvious that Queensland Rail is just a "world class" embarrassment to Brisbane and SE Queensland. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Toilets dropped from QR's NGR trains!

The disastrous New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) project has just taken another step towards mediocrity.  According to the New Generation Rollingstock website "Each NGR train will have an on-board toilet located in the third or fourth car (depending on direction of travel), with a baby change table inside." BrizCommuter's informed sources have also confirmed that the original intention was for all NGR trains to have toilets.

Unfortunately, in todays Brisbane Times article it has been stated that "The fleet will include 35 trains for long distance services on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Rosewood lines which will have two toilets and these will be made disability-accessible, while the remaining 40 trains will have no toilets, like QR's existing urban fleet".

This is the first that BrizCommuter was aware that more than half of the supposedly toilet equipped NGR trains will now not have toilets. When was this change made? Was it a cost saving exercise? Was it due to the toilets on the first batch of NGR trains being too small for wheelchairs? With urban train services to Cleveland, Beenleigh, Caboolture, Ipswich, and Kippa-Ring having journeys times of approximately an hour from Brisbane's CBD, the lack of toilets is a disgrace. This will also reduce operational flexibility by having two classes of NGR, increasing the likelihood of non-toilet equipped NGR trains running on the longer distance services to Rosewood, Gold Coast, and Sunshine Coast. The lack of amenities for basic human requirements on trains, is yet another reason why the majority of SE Queenslanders avoid using Queensland Rail's train services, and prefer to use their car instead. BrizCommuter backs calls by Rail Back on Track for a Commission of Inquiry into the massively botched NGR project. It is also time that the DG of Transport and Main Roads - Neil Scales was "flushed down the toilet", having presided over so many project failures.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Commonwealth Games Rail Fail - which lines will be axed?

Back in November 2016, BrizCommuter predicted that the train services for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) will be a bit of a disaster due to lack of drivers, lack of trains, and lack of rail infrastructure. This prediction is looking like it may have been an understatement for GC2018 which is being held in April. The situation with less than 200 days until GC2018:

  • Lack of drivers - Since the start of Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail in October 2016 due to lack of drivers, less than 40 new drivers have qualified. It has been claimed by "rail advocate" Paul Pluta, that more drivers have departed QR in this period, than have qualified. Even if not completely true, this is not surprising given that only 2 of the 333 axed train services in the 2017 timetable have been restored, and hourly services have been run on many weekends. Obviously with more drivers currently being trained, this balance will eventually tip in the positive direction, but there will still be a severe lack of driver issue throughout 2018, and well into 2019. 
  • Lack of trains / NGR delays - QR's New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) train project (run by Department of Transport and Main Roads) has been a disaster, with large numbers of defects, and disabled toilets that don't meet legal requirements. After nearly 600 days of being in Australia, not one NGR train has entered passenger service. There have been insufficient trains to run QR's timetable since 2014, and the delays to the NGR project is only making this issue worse. 
  • Failing EMU trains - the end of service life EMU trains are nearly 40 years old, and constitute most of the train failures on QR's network. Expected to have already been replaced by the delayed NGR trains, EMU reliability will be a concern until they are all retired. 
  • Lack of infrastructure - short sighted triplication instead of quadruplication of the Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line under the Beattie/Bligh era prevents Gold Coast express services overtaking slower Beenleigh Line services in both directions. This will prevent running fast high frequency services in both directions during GC2018 - note: the usual peak direction will the opposite to GC2018 traffic. At least the Coomera to Helensvale duplication and track improvements at Varsity Lakes will be complete. 
  • Politicians in the land of spin - it seems that politicians are avoiding the issue (well, there is an election looming) saying everything they can other than that train lines will inevitably have to see services axed during GC2018.
As extra services will need to be run to and from the Gold Coast during the games, it has been pretty obvious for the last year, that due to lack of trains and drivers, services will have to be removed from train lines other than the Gold Coast Line. This will cause pain for regular commuters, and for those connecting with services to/from the Gold Coast for GC2018. Accountant firm Deloitte seem to have tasked to do the number crunching to decide which train lines will see services axed. The fact that QR hasn't done this itself is somewhat concerning of its capabilities. So which lines may see services axed?
  • Beenleigh Line - interesting one. On on hand, the Beenleigh Line may see services extended to run to/from Varsity Lakes to form some of the extra Gold Coast Line services. On the other hand, to run more Gold Coast express services, we may see some Beenleigh Lines axed, or skip stations (though we could also see Gold Coast express services slowed down).
  • Springfield and Ipswich Lines - these lines use different tracks through Brisbane CBD to the Gold Coast Line, so should be unaffected for operational reasons. However due to only having a few stations, BrizCommuter would not be surprised if the Springfield Line is high up the list for train service axing. 
  • Ferny Grove Line - this is the busiest line (per number of stations) on QR's network. Being at the "other end" of the Beenleigh Line may (or may not) save it from having services axed. However, 15 minute off-peak, and weekend frequencies may be jeopardy. 
  • Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines - these lines do not share tracks with the Gold Coast Line. However, QR have had no qualms about axing 50% of Sunshine Coast Line services on some weekends, or reducing Caboolture Line peak services by 60% during January 2017. So be afraid! The new and still relatively quiet Redcliffe Peninsula Line (mainly due to an infrequent train service) is a high contender for having services axed. 
  • Airport Line - QR would be pretty dumb if they axed Airport Line services, which are usually at the "other end" of the Gold Coast Line. 
  • Shorncliffe and Doomben Lines - these share the same tracks as the Gold Coast Line, and thus could see services removed for capacity reasons. The short Doomben Line is relatively quiet, and could be at very high risk of having its already infrequent services axed. The 15 minute off-peak services to Northgate could also be at risk of axing. 
  • Cleveland Line - this line also shares tracks with the Gold Coast Line. With capacity across the Merivale Bridge shared with the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines, the Cleveland Line could see services axed for capacity reasons. The 15 minute off-peak services, and weekend 30 minute services could be axed. 
With an election looking, it is highly unlikely for the GC2018 service cuts to be announced until after the new government has formed power. There is no question that many commuters are going to be very annoyed with the inevitable Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games train service cuts, and that SE Queensland is going to look very stupid on the world stage.  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

TransLink's Information Fail (again)

Screen shot of TransLink's fail
Yesterday (Monday 18th September 2017), there were late night track closures through the CBD. TransLink advertised this closure as being from Corinda, Roma Street, Albion and Ferny Grove stations. BrizCommuter was travelling in from a late night Cleveland Line services, and planned to connect to a last bus from Roma Street, as based on TransLink's information trains were running to Roma Street. Right? Wrong!

Unfortunately, when the train arrived at Park Road, there was an announcement that the train terminated there, and passengers were to transfer to replacement buses to get to the CBD. This was the first time that the train passengers had been informed by the train guard of this service change. The extra time taken by the replacement bus to travel from Park Road to Roma Street, put onward bus and train connections into question. Thankfully, BrizCommuter just made his connection by seconds. Unfortunately, some of the other passengers forced onto the replacement bus were likely to miss onward bus connections (in one case the last bus of the night) and were furious at TransLink's information failure. 

The fact that TransLink can't get basic information right, such as the terminus for replacement services, is just another example of the chronic public transport failure in Brisbane. 

PS: BrizCommuter was also incorrectly told by platform staff at Park Road to not touch off at Park Road. If BrizCommuter had followed that advice, he would have incurred at $10 fixed fare. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

QR's Rail Fail - Yet more hourly shame!

QR's Train Wreck Timetables continue...
Rail Fail looks set to continue with Queensland Rail (QR) announcing yet more days of terrible hourly train services. TransLink and QR have announced that during the Spring School Holidays and Queen's Birthday Public Holiday, that they will again axe train services down to an hourly frequency on Sunday 17th September, Sunday 24th September, Sunday 1st October, and Monday 2nd October. Again, this means that Brisbane will have the worst train frequency in Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), even worse than Adelaide and Wellington (the latter only having 10% the population of Brisbane). Hourly service frequency is completely inadequate for the estimated 50,000 people who still have to use trains to get to work (including hospitality workers who have just suffered a pay cut), and for weekend shopping and events. This is likely to result in many workers being late into work, harming CBD businesses and decreasing event attendance. It is also causing severe repetitional damage to Brisbane.

Just to make things worse, there is a chance of Brisbane's Suncorp stadium hosting an NRL Finals Game. Whilst extra services will be run, many attendees (including those from interstate) will want to travel around QR's network during the day when hourly trains would be running. This will be quite a shock for those used to Sunday frequencies as good as every 10 minutes in Melbourne and every 15 minutes in Sydney and Perth.

On the good side, at least QR have kept the normal clock face timings of the remaining services so as to not break all bus connections.

The current state of Rail Fail (now into its 11th Month) is that:
  • Only 2 out of QR's 333 axed weekly train services have been restored
  • External recruitment has only just been advertised thanks to Union interference. 
  • Less than 40 new drivers have been trained out of the required 200. 
  • Citytrain Response Unit have dropped any mention of when services will be restored in their latest publication. 
BrizCommuter is very concerned. Expect more axed services during the Summer School Holidays, Easter, and of course during the Commonwealth Games. Due to the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) disaster, Rail Fail, and the M1 being the M1, expect transport chaos during the Commonwealth Games! Just to make things worse, the October 2016 timetable might not be fully restored until October 2019!