The Gold Coast Line has for many years been known as the Bombay Express, due to really quite pathetic peak frequencies and overcrowding until March 2008, when most of the line was duplicated, and am peak frequencies increased to approx. every 15 minutes. The Gold Coast Line now has peak frequencies better than many inner-city stations in Brisbane, is far less crowded (we'll come back to this later), but still retains the Bombay Express tag.
Lets take a look a real Bombay Express. This shocking You Tube video was taken on Mumbai's commuter rail system. Approximately 3,500 passengers are killed on Mumbai's 147km rail system every year (thats around 10 deaths every day), many of whom suffer the same fate as the gentleman in the linked video. 9-car trains designed for 1,200 passengers can carry more than 4,000 passengers. Doors either do not exist or cannot close due to the extreme levels of overcrowding at more than 14 passengers per square metre. Still want to call the Gold Coast Line the Bombay Express?
Now, back to the Gold Coast Line. This is one of the few lines in Brisbane that despite the Queensland Government's public transport policy failures is still seeing patronage growth. In the year leading to March 2010, there was a 2.2% increase in the am peak, and 4.7% increase in the pm peak. The March 2010 QR Passenger Load Survey showed that 5/8 am peak, and 3/9 pm peak services have standing passengers more than 20 minutes from Central. However, the Gold Coast trains are still far emptier than those on the Beenleigh and Cleveland Lines which share tracks across the Merivale Bridge. Many am peak Beenleigh and Cleveland Line trains have more than 40 standing passengers per carriage, whilst the Gold Coast Line trains only have a handful of standing passengers (although standing for much longer). Until the urgently required Cross River Rail is constructed, then these three lines will be fighting for the few remaining extra track slots across the bridge in the am peak. It is unfair on other commuters that track capacity is wasted on effectively half-empty Gold Coast trains.
What is the solution? Maybe extend the standing rule to 30 minutes, and make the Gold Coast trains pick up inner-city commuters closer to the City (Yeerongpilly for example)? Maybe infrastructure projects on the Beenleigh and Cleveland Lines, to allow scheduling with more balanced train loads? However, the latter would involve the Queensland Government having to spend some money!
Part 2 will look at how how far behind the Queensland Government is on rail infrastructure projects compared to the recommendations in the Inner City Rail Capacity Study - Rail Operations Review (2008). It will also have a look at how this lack of spending has stunted rail patronage growth compared to forecasts in said study.