Saturday, June 24, 2017

QR deletes negative Facebook reviews

QR's new social media strategy
Back in December 2016, BrizCommuter ran a tongue in cheek blog post about Queensland Rail's (QR) plummeting review score on Facebook. QR's rating was last seen at an abysmal 1.5 out of 5, thanks to stacks of angry passengers infuriated with poor timetables, broken down trains, poor customer information, axed services due to Rail Fail, hourly train services at Easter and weekends, and badly managed rail replacement services (the list could go on and on). In fact the only positive ratings were believed to be fake ratings from relatives of QR staff! In order to avoid the truth about what happens when rail service providers have utter contempt for passengers, QR have recently deleted the facebook reviews and related negative comments from their Facebook page.

In a bit to somehow make passengers think that QR aren't incompetent, QR have decided to change their social media strategy to wide angle photos of dogs, or donuts. Have QR forgotten that they are a rail operator?

Additionally, QR keep deleting service information posts once they are out of date (rather than keeping them in the timeline), thus deleting all the negative posts. Thankfully, BrizCommuter saved the negative comments from the Easter Rail Fail, so that they are archived indefinitely.  Ouch - the truth hurts!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

NGR - Down the Toilet?

NGR Toilet Plans
One thing you can guarantee of governments in Queensland, is to completely stuff things up. At the time of writing, Queensland Rail's New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains have been in Queensland for 488 days - that's longer than most celebrity marriages! The NGR project is being run the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR), who seem to be perpetrators of multiple project recent project failures. So aside from braking problems, restricted line of sight, stopping point issues, and guards being 3 carriages away from the wheelchair boarding location, why are the NGR trains still not in service?

There is a big problem with the NGR trains, that the ALP Palaszczuk government seems to be very tight lipped over, despite the trains being ordered under the LNP Newman Government. It is claimed that the toilets do not meet Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) requirements. Since this is legally required on trains, and the trains were designed by Bombardier in Brisbane, this is a monumental stuff up if it is true. Given the complete lack of response to Right to Information (RTI) request on NGR trains, and lack of response to a barrage of tweets and letters from Rail Back on Track and disability advocates, it can only be assumed that this is indeed the case.

The problem is that the distance between the entrance wall and the centre of the toilet bowl must be at least 1150mm according to the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (DSAPT). Unfortunately, the distance on the NGR is 1124mm, which means that the door may not be able to be closed with a wheelchair in the toilet cubicle. So what are the solutions? Will the toilets on the $4.4b NGR trains need to be re-built to larger dimensions at significant cost? This could restrict side corridor width. Will disabled passengers have to do their business with the door open? Or will the "Queenslander" solution be to lock the toilets - as it is may not be breaking then DDA act if everyone has to cross their legs?

Until TMR and QR sort out this mess, long suffering QR passengers will keep being faced with overcrowded 3-car services, well apart from on Fridays when QR has axed them!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

LNP - You don't think CRR is needed?

It has been reported that Queensland's opposition don't think that Cross River Rail (CRR) is required quite so urgently (in other words they would rather axe it for BaT Mk2). This is due to rail patronage allegedly declining over the last 7 years. Firstly it would be great if detailed rail patronage and passenger loading was not kept a state secret by successive LNP and ALP governments. Secondly, there are rather a lot of reasons why rail patronage (which was growing rapidly in the mid-00s) has stagnated or even dropped:
  • Massive fare increases by under the ALP Bligh, and LNP Newman governments. 
  • Poor fare structure with no daily or weekly capping, introduced under the ALP Beatty/Bligh era.
  • Unreliable go-card readers that often give "innocent" users $10 fixed fares. 
  • Chronic lack of trains resulting in overcrowded 3-car trains, and sub-optimal peak timetables - due to delays to NGR and lack of extra orders of 160/260 series trains - thanks to LNP Newman and ALP Blight governments's respectively.  
  • Infrequent 30 minute off-peak services across most of Queensland Rail's (QR) network. 
  • Sub-optimal peak frequencies with many 15 minute service gaps, especially in the pm peak. 
  • Rail Fail - "randomly" axed peak and off-peak services, confusing and "unusable" Friday timetable, hourly weekend timetables during holidays, poor reliability - started by driver recruitment freezes under the LNP Newman government, and handled badly by the ALP Palaszczuk government.
  • Unreliable EMU trains breaking down left right and centre. 
  • Poor customer service and information by TransLink and QR. 
  • Un-integrated network with buses not feeding trains in Brisbane - TransLink's bus networks reform was abandoned under the LNP Newman government.
  • Lack of pro-action in expansion of the rail network to meet new developments and population e.g. not extending the Doomben Line to Northshore Hamilton, lack of Gold Coast Line extension progress - both LNP and ALP to blame here. 
Incompetence from both sides of politics in Queensland is the reason why rail patronage is currently not increasing. Sorting out the fares, having enough drivers and trains (note: not enough NGRs have been ordered) to maximise use of the existing infrastructure, as well as reforming the bus network would likely result in significant increases in rail patronage. But do either the ALP or LNP have the guts to properly sort out the mess? It doesn't look like it. 

Additionally, the Salisbury to Beaudesert corridor and the Trouts Road (North East Transportation Corridor) Line cannot be built for passengers services until Cross River Rail has been built. Both would have massive effects on reducing road congestion and serving public transport black-holes. The Trouts Road line would massively speed up rail services and increase capacity from Caboolture and the Sunshine Coast. Unfortunately, an LNP MP has stated they would rather build a new road instead of building the latter, which would be a congested car-park from day one as it would funnel onto already congested roads. 

Chronic political mismanagement in Queensland is the reason why Brisbane is such a mess when it comes to transport. At a time when Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland all building new rail tunnels, Brisbane is again looking very backwards when the state opposition does't think that CRR is required. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

QR's Rail Fail gets even worse

QR Ruins the School Winter Holidays
After the dreadfully inadequate Summer School Holiday Timetable, and appalling hourly Easter Timetables, surely commuters would be expecting some improvements to Rail Fail by now? Sadly, SE Queensland rail operator Queensland Rail (QR) has sunk even further into the black hole of customer service, by plans to run hourly train services on Sunday 26th June, 2nd July, and 9th July during the Winter School Holidays. Sunshine Coast Line commuters will only see trains running every 2 hours. Only the Airport Line will still run the usual 30 minute service. Just to annoy passengers further, QR have bizarrely decided to run train times at a different time to the normal clock face times, which will frustrate passengers with even longer waits and missed bus/train connections. Did QR and TransLink not learn from the Easter Rail Fail?

This horrendous service reduction will take QR back to era of diesel hauled services in the late 70s, early 80s. Quite clearly, QR continue to have disregard for those who actually need to use public transport, including:

  • Hospital and Emergency Service workers.
  • Hospitality and Restaurant workers.
  • Retail workers.
  • People wanting to go shopping (or other amenities) in and around Brisbane CBD.
  • Families wanting to get to/from various timed events in and around Brisbane.
  • People wanting to travel to/from the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. 
  • Anyone else trying to avoid holiday road congestion. 

At the time of announcing the last minute changes, TransLink have failed to publish any .pdf timetables, and the usual half-arsed communications from QR will be expected. No mention of the changes on QR's Facebook page, as that now seems to concentrate on wide angle photos of dogs instead of informing customers about train services. The ongoing rail fail makes Brisbane appear to be a laughing stock of the western world, yet again having the worse urban rail frequent in Australia and New Zealand over these weekends.

The Winter School Holiday #RailFail begs the following questions:

  • With the Commonwealth Games only 10 months away - how bad are the train service cut backs going to be on lines other than the Gold Coast Line?
  • Will there be more timetable cut backs in 2017 and 2018?
  • Is the "invisible" Citytrain Response Unit actually doing anything? 
  • Do QR and the Palaszczuk government realise the reputational damage this is causing Brisbane and SE Queensland?
  • Do QR and the Palaszczuk government realise the Cross Rail Rail could be axed by the LNP if they get back in power due to voters fed up with Rail Fail?
TransLink's information:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Will Cross River Rail finally become reality?

After nearly a decade of delays from both sides of politics, the ALP Palaszczuk state government has announced that they will fund, or at least fund the first few years of Brisbane's Cross River Rail's (CRR) construction. This is excellent news for Queenslanders, and is a shot in the arm for the supposedly pro-public transport Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who has refused to fund CRR - though it is debatable how "complete" the supplied business case was.
Cross River Rail Map
The advantages of $5.4b CRR, for which the Palaszczuk government has contributed $2.8b, are:

  • Increased rail capacity through Brisbane's CBD by approx. 50%.
  • Allows for service frequency increases on the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, Cleveland, Sunshine Coast, Caboolture, and Kippa-Ring Lines - though extra "out of scope" infrastructure (tracks, and trains) is required to maximise capacity, which will cost $ billions more. 
  • Allows for passenger services on the Salisbury to Beaudesert Line. 
  • Allows for future addition of the Trouts Rd Line (North West Transportation Corridor) to increase rail capacity from the North and serve Northern Suburbs, though tunnel stubs are lacking in the design.  
  • Allows for frequent train services to the South end of Brisbane's CBD, Wooloongabba, and Exhibition. 
  • Reduces road congestion.
  • Will increase property prices and aid development along served corridors. 
  • Economic benefits of improved transport options in SE Queensland.
  • Is complemented by the "Brisbane Metro" Bus Rapid Transit system. 
  • Supports Queens Wharf and proposed Brisbane Live developments.  
  • Eliminates the need for operationally problematic Ekka Loop train services. 

So is CRR definitely going to happen? CRR becoming reality may depend upon the result of the looming Queensland state election. Unfortunately the LNP have a history of destructive public transport policies. These include the ill-though out CRR alternatives - "The Cleveland Solution" and "BaT Tunnel". The latter has delayed CRR by at least 3 years. The LNP's driver recruitment freeze was also a notable factor contributing towards QR's Rail Fail. LNP opposition leader Tim Nicholls has not displayed any signs of being pro-CRR, and has been reported by industry insiders as "just not getting it". Thus unless CRR's contracts and construction are sufficiently advanced before the LNP get back in power, then CRR hangs in the balance.

As a side note - Ms Palaszczuk and Ms Trad - don't forget to order more trains and employ more train crew for CRR!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

QR - Set-up to Fail?

NGR Project - Epic fail, but not QR's fault?
With recent political discussion around privatisation (or "outsourcing" for those averse to asset sales) of Queensland Rail (QR), BrizCommuter smells something fishy.

There is little question that QR has chronic issues with institutional incompetence, poor culture, and placing drivers overtime pay packets above getting commuters from A to B. However, a lot of QR's perceived problems appear to have been caused by the ousted LNP Newman government, and the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR).

Exhibit A - Rail Fail - whilst both QR and the ALP Palaszczuk government have handled Rail Fail badly, the original cause of the problem was the recruitment freeze under the LNP Newman government. This recruitment freeze occurred whilst Moreton Bay Rail Link was under construction, and 15 minute off-peak was introduced to limited parts of QR's network - both of which needed more staff, not less.

Exhibit B - Moreton Bay Rail Link - despite QR being in involved with many successful rail projects, this project was instead run by TMR, with very little involvement from QR. This is quite likely to be due to "secret" LNP plans to privatise QR. The badly designed track layout at Kippa-Ring delays trains on a daily basis. The signalling design stuff up massively delayed the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula. Claims in the Courier Mail that QR did not perform due-diligence, could also be interpreted as DTMR didn't give QR enough time to perform due-diligence as they were almost frozen out the project.

Exhibit C - New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) - this project is heading towards being one of the World's most disastrous rolling stock projects of recent times. At the time of writing it is 463 days after the first NGR was delivered, and there is zero sign of them entering passenger services. The NGR were ordered under the LNP Newman government, and the project (badly) handled by TMR instead of QR. The LNP's plan to eliminate guards resulted in the train being ordered without guards accommodation. The guard will also now be located 3-carriages away from where the disabled passengers are waiting to board, with reports the NGR will require a ludicrous 4 members of staff on-board thanks to union nonsense. The trains have been ordered with toilets that may not meet the Disability Discrimination Act.

BrizCommuter is not adverse to QR being privatised, as it seems that at the moment, even some of the more mediocre private operators could do a better job. However it appears that QR have been set-up to fail by the LNP and TMR. A lot of the current mess is not directly the fault of QR, and much of the blame should lie with the destructive LNP Newman government, and Department of Transport and Main Roads. BrizCommuter cannot understand how "Captain Chaos" Neil Scales has not been sacked from the position of D-G of TMR given the number of failed projects. Whilst not the cause of the current issues, the ALP Palaszczuk government has poorly handled the resolution of these issues, has made transparency even worse than under the LNP (which is quite difficult), and are so incompetent at politics that they have failed to blame these issues on the LNP. The unions are also to blame for the potentially overstaffed NGR trains and restrictive recruitment policies. It doesn't look like there is any hope for public transport in Brisbane and SE Queensland.