Saturday, November 20, 2010
Low Fat Sunshine Expresso
It is not hard to notice that Sunshine Coast Line commuters are very unhappy about the draft 2011 timetable, released this week as part of the phase 1 timetable consultation process. The slowing down of the expresses, and retiming of services will inconvenience many Sunshine Coast commuters. Unfortunately there have reports of irate commuters abusing QR staff at Landsborough, which is totally unacceptable behaviour. There are both organised information sessions, and TransLink's feedback forms for Sunshine Coast commuters to vent their frustration! However, TransLink's explanations behind the reason for the changes has been poor, akin to a Dentist not warning you just before jabbing a needle into your gum!
So why have the Sunshine Coast expresses been neutered? Well the answer is pretty obvious. The Sunshine Coast, Caboolture, and Petrie services generally have to share a track per direction between Cabooture and Lawnton, and between Northgate and Bowen Hills/CBD. You can only use a train line to maximum capacity if all trains are travelling at the same speed. If you want to express some trains on these sections, you have to space out the predecing and following all stations service. Running a express service 4 minutes faster than an all stations service, would mean that one all stations service would have to be eliminated - that's a whole train load of passengers without a train, so that another train load of passengers can get home 4 minutes faster! It has been suggested that some Sunshine Coast/Caboolture/Petrie services could use the suburban tracks, but then the scheduling has to fit around Shorncliffe, Airport, Doomben, and Ferny Grove timetables as well adding conflicting moves which decreases system reliability. The draft timetable makes for efficient use of the available track capacity, and this track capacity is unlikely to be increased anytime soon due to the Queensland Government dragging their heels on rail infrastructure projects.
Have Sunshine Coast commuters considered that running their services more express between Northgate and Bowen Hills will deprive Caboolture Line commuters of the 15% increase in am peak train services that have been scheduled to reduce overcrowding? That's 15% increase is space for nearly 2,000 commuters! Have Sunshine Coast commuters considered that living closer to their place of work is more environmentally sustainable, more resource efficient, and more time efficient than a daily round commute in excess of 100km? Maybe move to Albion, lots of nice restaurants, a train every few minutes, and fine ocean views. Well, maybe not the latter!
Expressing aside. It is understandable that arrival and departure times at Central are not great for Sunshine Coast commuters. Many commuters start and leave work on the hour or half-hour. Given the infrequency of Sunshine Coast Line services, is it too much to ask that Sunshine Coast services depart and arrive at more convenient times? Whilst other commuters may also prefer these departure and arrival times, Caboolture/Petrie commuters have more travel options as they have train services every 6-12 minutes. A more homogenous Sunshine Coast timetable may also be appreciated (as has been done with evening peak Ipswich services that connect with Rosewood services, which are approximately every 30mins +/- 6 minutes). Another option if sufficient rolling stock and crew are available, could be to extend a peak Caboolture service or two to Landsborough.
One important last point, given the increasing journey times for Sunshine Coast Commuters, it would be very cruel for trains to be without toilets. Let's hope that this has been considered in the scheduling of trains!