Thursday, September 2, 2010

Connecting SEQ 2031 - Spin or Substance?

BrizCommuter has just had a read of the Draft Connecting SEQ 2031 plan, and it definitely justifies a second post to the blog. Is this plan going to be spin or substance? If the plan is substance, then Brisbane is in for some vital changes in the transport paradigm. The investment, and number of parallel infrastructure projects required will be massive. For example 4 tracks will be required as far out as Loganlea to allow UrbanLink, ExpressLink, and CoastLink services to not get in each others way. However, it is sad that the legacy of poor urban planning means that even by 3031, only 30% of the population will live near decent public transport. If the plan is spin, then we will be in for the usual half-baked infrastructure projects that we are accustomed to. The magnitude of the task ahead demonstrates how far behind public transport is in Brisbane. The plans also need a clear timeframe. The "UrbanLink" 15 minute off-peak rail and bus frequencies are required now, not sometime between when this plan is finalised and 2031. If most lines do not have 15min off-peak frequency in the belated 2011 train timetables, then BrizCommuter will be very unhappy!

There are two main areas in which BrizCommuter thinks that improvements need to be made to the plan:

1) Linking the new Northwest Corridor/Trouts Road Line (Alderley to Strathpine) to the existing rail network.

If this line was to join the Ferny Grove Line, there would be severe capacity issues on the Ferny Grove Line between Alderley and Bowen Hills as the line would have a mix of Ferny Grove UrbanLInk, Strathpine UrbanLink, and Sunshine Coast CoastLink services. Unless the CoastLink services are to be slowed behind all stations UrbanLink services, then either the Ferny Grove Line will need extra tracks between Alderley and Bowen Hills, or an alternative underground route will need to be created between Alderley and the CBD. Both of these options will not come cheap! The latter may also require extra tracks to be added to Cross River Rail between the southern tunnel portal and Roma Street. Has this been considered by Cross River Rail planners? Also, has the future use of 9-car trains been considered in the design of the new Ferny Grove station? Are the elimination of level crossings across the network part of the plan?

There are also issues in the Bowen Hills area, where according to the map, UrbanLink services would have to access the Ferny Grove LIne from the existing suburban tracks, CoastLink services would have to access the Ferny Grove Line from the Cross River Rail tracks, and ExpressLink services would have to access the existing Caboolture Line from the Cross River Rail tracks. The design of Cross River Rail infrastructure will have be take into account the eventually of these various possible line routings in the Bowen Hills area. 

2) The Brisbane Subway should not be a self-contained metro. 

According to the Inner City Rail Capacity Study (2008), the Ipswich/Springfield to Caboolture Line will reach capacity in the mid 2020s. Recently announced lines to Kippa-Ring, Trouts Road/Northwest Corridor, and Flagstone will add even more pressure onto the rail system. The Inner CIty Rail Capacity Study study suggested a second cross city rail line to cope with required capacity, along a similar route to the "Brisbane Subway" (previously known as the Inner City Metro). If the Brisbane Subway is self-contained, this will not add capacity to the existing rail network. So what will happen when the Ipswich/Springfield Line reaches capacity? A self-contained Brisbane Subway is a fundamental flaw to the Connecting SEQ 3031 plan. Many cities are moving or have moved away from building self-contained metros in favour of through routing of suburban rail services through tunnels - Tokyo Metro and Paris RER being excellent examples. If the "Brisbane Subway" is not connected to existing rail lines, then yet another tunnel will be required to cope with suburban rail capacity at great expense to the tax-payer.

Whilst on the subject of metros (only the Yanks and Scots call metro systems subways), don't believe the spin of "ultra high frequencies (trains to 90 second)". No heavy rail metro in the world is timetabled at 90 second frequencies, although Moscow and Paris Metros come close. Also the claim that the existing rail system can run 30tph with advanced signalling is only possible if there are no infrastructure limitations, and station dwell times are less than around 50 seconds. Possible conversion of sections of the Busway to the "Brisbane Metro" is also quoted in the plan. There are many reasons why this is a pie in the sky idea. 

BrizCommuter looks forward to seeing the full version of this report after the consultation process has finished. BrizCommuter would also like to see an independent study along the lines of the Inner City Capacity Rail Study taking into account the plans made in the draft Connecting SEQ 2031 plan. 

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