Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cross River Rail EIS

Merivale Bridge
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Cross River Rail (CRR) has recently been released. There is rather a lot of information available, so BrizCommuter recommends reading the Executive Summary first, and then if you require further information (i.e. is your house going to be demolished), then download the relevant bits. Page numbers mentioned in this blog post are from the Executive Summary.
Cross River Rail EIS Webpage
Executive Summary .pdf

BrizCommuter is a strong supporter of CRR. Despite it's huge economic benefits, the ALP Federal and State Government's are having a few issues finding funding, and the LNP State Opposition appear to be sitting on the fence. With 3 out of 4 tracks through the CBD already operating near maximum track capacity in the am peak, there is little spare track capacity left already in 2011!  After a new timetable earlier this year, the Ipswich and Caboolture Line's will have spare passenger capacity on the majority of their services for many years. Whilst the forthcoming new timetable on the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, and Cleveland Lines lines may make for a more efficient use of limited track capacity, the passenger capacity across the Merivale Bridge will still be severely limited. This was slated to reach saturation in 2016. The 2016 figure appears to have disappeared from the EIS, although one graph (page 39) shows capacity being reached in 2018. The current public transport policy of high fares which is discouraging public transport use, may delay this saturation date whether intentional or not.

The design of CRR has had few changes since the excellent reference design which has previously been discussed in this blog. The most obvious changes are the relocation of Yeerongpilly station and the tunnel portal to reduce the number of required property resumptions. The "ultimate" track capacity is stated as being 24tph per direction which is the same as London's Cross Rail. The EIS is written around a belated 2015 construction start, and 2021 opening date. For non-believers, the benefits of CRR are outlined on page 43.

It's a shame that figure 4-1 on page 51 shows the existing trains per hour (tph) situation in Feb 2009. Since then there have been significant improvements to am peak services on the Ipswich and Caboolture Line which are not reflected in the EIS. The 2021 post-CRR am service chart on page 56 is however an improvement over the similar chart (for 2018) in the reference design which had very disappointing projected service improvements on some lines. Examples from the EIS include am peak services on the Ferny Grove Line increasing from the current 7tph to 10tph in 2021, Shorncliffe Line from 3tph to 7tph, Cleveland Line from 8-9tph to 12tph, Beenleigh Line from 8tph to 13tph, Sunshine Coast from 2-3tph to 4tph, and Gold Coast Line from 4tph to 11tph! The service increases on the Ipswich/Rosewood, Springfield/Richlands, Caboolture, and Redcliffe Lines are not so impressive. With Caboolture and Redcliffe (assuming the latter are extended Petrie services) only receiving 1tph more than at present in the am peak. These services will still only use 6-car trains, so will expressing a few inner city stations such as Toombul and Nundah allow for sufficient capacity in 10 years time? There is little planned service improvement in 2021 for the Ipswich/Rosewood and Springfield Lines (assuming the latter are extended Darra and Richlands services) of just 2tph and 1tph respectively. This is not good news for users of these lines.

On page 57 is the plan for 2031. Here things get messier the BabyCommuter's nappy! SE Queensland's rail network will include branches to the urban sprawl of Flagstone,  Ripley, and the long awaited line to Caloundra. Line pairings will change, as well as new reversing points to support 3 layers of service patterns to allow for a reasonable balance between frequency and journey times for all rail users. Considerable new infrastructure would have to be funded to allow for these service patterns, as well as 9-car outer-suburban trains, and new higher capacity trains for inner-suburban services. Lets hope the next train orders reflect these future plans.

The 2031 plan shows a spur from CRR north of Roma Street to Alderley, and then along the Alderley to Strathpine corridor, also known as the Trouts Road Line and North West Transport Corridor. There is also a junction at Alderley where Ferny Grove Line services will be split between Ferny Grove services and Strathpine services along the Alderley to Strathpine Line, reducing the number of services to Ferny Grove. The Alderley to Strathpine Line will also be used for express services to/from Nambour and Caloundra, with these services using a tunnel from Alderley to somewhere between Roma Street and Exhibition where it will join CRR. This means that CRR will have services split off North of Roma Street. BrizCommuter wonders if it makes sense to construct a separate tunnel from Roma Street to Alderley (continuing onto the Alderley to Strathpine Line), and run both stopping services to Strathpine and express services to Sunshine Coast along this line rather than splitting services on both CRR and the Ferny Grove Line? There is also no information in the CRR EIS as to construction requirements around Alderley, and thus some local residents maybe concerned if their house in the path of the junction!

Aside from higher capacity trains on the Springfield Line there are no plans for overall service improvements between 2021 and 2031 on the Ipswich/Rosewood/Ripley/Springfield corridor. These lines will share tracks through the CBD that will be limited to 19tph, just 3tph more than in 2011. BrizCommuter is very concerned about this future capacity constraint to and from the West of Brisbane which is not addressed by CRR.

The rest of the EIS goes into considerable depth about the construction methods and environmental impacts of CRR's construction. There is also not surprisingly a section on how CRR will be flood proofed, such as a raised entrance to the Albert Street station, a part of Brisbane which was inundated in January 2011.

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