Saturday, October 15, 2011

Value for Money?

Poor value for money!
With the recent news that most of Brisbane's rail network will continue have laughable 30 minute off-peak frequencies, and another huge 15% fare rise around the corner, BrizCommuter decided to take a look at the value for money of Brisbane's train network. The value for money has been calculated by dividing the cost of the cheapest available adult off-peak single for a 15km journey, by the Monday to Friday midday off-peak frequency (trains per hour). Exchange rates and fares are as of 15/10/2011.

Worst VFM

Melbourne Metro (Hurstbridge, Epping Lines) = $5.10/3tph = 1.70 *
Brisbane QR City (Ferny Grove, Caboolture, Shorncliffe, Cleveland, Beenleigh Lines) $3.13/2tph = 1.57
Brisbane QR City (Ipswich/Richlands Line) $3.13/4tph = 0.78
London National Rail (Chingford, Hayes Line) $3.08/4tph = 0.77 *
Melbourne Metro (Alamein, Lilydale/Belgrave, Glen Waverley Lines) $3.02/4tph = 0.76 *
Perth TransPerth (All Lines) $2.85/4tph = 0.71 *
Berlin S-Bahn (Most Lines) $3.04/6tph = 0.52 *
Melbourne Metro (Frankston Line) $3.02/6tph = 0.50 *
Los Angeles (Red Line) $1.45/5tph = 0.29 *
London Underground (Jubilee Line) $3.76/18tph = 0.21 *
Singapore SMRT (NE Line) $1.69/10 = 0.17

Best VFM

* donates daily ticketing options also available.

The results show that the majority of the Brisbane's off-peak commuters suffer from the second worst value for money train service of all the studied train lines. Only 2 lines in Melbourne fared worse, and that was due to the stations being just over the zone 2 border, and having Melbourne's worst off-peak frequency of every 20 minutes (still 50% more frequent than most of Brisbane's rail network). Lucky commuters on the combined Ipswich/Richlands Line fared only slightly better thanks to the 15 minute off-peak service to Darra. It is a huge disappointment that the Queensland Government and TransLink do not appear to be interested in improving the off-peak train frequency across the rest of Brisbane's rail network, despite the huge patronage increases of high frequency bus routes. The winners of Australia's best value for money train line are those on the Frankston Line in Melbourne, where the 15km mark is within zone 1, and trains run every 10 minutes off-peak. All Perth, and most Melbourne rail lines are better value for money than all lines in Brisbane.

It should be noted that all studied rail systems apart from Brisbane and Singapore (which is more than 9 times better value for money than Brisbane anyway) offer daily tickets, or daily capping, resulting in huge potential savings for passengers who need to make lots of journeys in one day. Melbourne's Myki ticketing system also offers cheaper Saturday, Sunday and Public Holiday fares. Brisbane's off-peak fares were used in this study. Unfortunately there are also many examples in Brisbane where an every 30 minutes off-peak train service is provided in the even more expensive peak fare period (which bizarrely starts at 2am when no trains are running!).

The latest TransLink Tracker Q4 2010/11 shows that rising fares have reduced train patronage, and the "affordability" statistic is plummeting. Can the Queensland Government and TransLink explain why SE Queenslanders have to contend with one of the least value for money suburban train networks in the world?


  1. If time=money, then how much money is wasted by passengers waiting for trains in Brisbane?

  2. Your Melbourne (Hurstbridge/Epping) vs Brisbane/other comparison has the most expensive Melbourne fare against the second cheapest Brisbane one.

    Comparing the 3-zone peak Brisbane peak fare against the 1-zone Melbourne peak is $3.68 vs $3.02. Both go around 13.5km to Keperra/Reservoir respectively. I guess Melbourne is still slightly worse value on the $/frequency comparison.

  3. Simon - thanks for pointing that out. BrizCommuter's brain must have turned off whilst waiting eons for a train. The blog post has been adjusted to reflect Z1-3 Brisbane fares.

  4. Thanks for the research on this. I'm glad you're out there thinking about it.

    I do think we also need to include the concept of population density along the routes.

    For example, to compare the Ferny Grove line with a line in Hong Kong doesn't make sense to me because of the wildly different population densities.

    I definitely absolutely utterly certainly DON'T want population density increase as the price of getting more frequent rail services.

    In fact, if I'm honest, the two things most important are the absolute regularity and reliability of train departure times; and being able to park at the station. Ferny Grove station is great for the first, but lousy for parking since we have to provide parking for the whole Samford hinterland where there is virtually no public transport.


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