Saturday, November 12, 2011

Queensland Rail - now 18% slower!

Slower and slower!
An interesting thread on Rail Back on Track that BrizCommuter has been keeping an eye on is a discussion about the slowing down of rail services in recent train timetables. It seems that Brisbane is heading towards the world's worst practise of Sydney's trundling rail network (but with a lower service frequency just to add to SE Queenslander's woes). Unfortunately, timetable padding is nothing new in the railway world, with some UK train services being slower with 125mph trains now that with sub 100mph steam trains in the past.

In the 1995 Ipswich Line timetable, a midday off-peak Central to Ipswich service took 49 minutes. In 2011, it takes 58 minutes! That is a whopping 18.4% increase in journey time. Even in the last few years, the Ferny Grove Line timetable had a midday off-peak journey time from Central to Ferny Grove increase from 27 minutes in 2007, to 31 minutes in 2011. That is a 14.8% increase in journey time in just 4 years.

So why are rail services getting significantly slower? Are Queensland Rail and TransLink more concerned about on-time running statistics instead of actually getting passengers from A to B in a reasonable journey time? Does the timetable have to take into account ageing EMU trains with failing motors, or "sandbagging" train drivers? Is the timetable allowing for the annoying transit officer train delaying spot checks, where there seems to be complete disregard for law-abiding commuter attempting to get to their destinations or interchange points on time?

What are the consequences of slowing down train timetables? As many commuters on the Ipswich and Sunshine Coast Line may notice, trains will have to dwell for a few minutes at multiple stations on the line so as to not run early. Unfortunately not all train crew keep to time, and early running trains are a serious issue on QRs network. For example BrizCommuter regularly sees the 07:04 from Central to Ferny Grove run 3 minutes early through Enoggera. Reports from BrizCommuter's sources show that this is not an isolated incident, with inbound Cleveland Line weekend services also having a reputation for chronic early running. It is likely that some pedestrian level crossing near misses have been due to passengers trying to make it onto an unexpectedly early running service.

It is very difficult for public transport to compete with the car in Brisbane due to the poor frequency of SE Queensland's train services. It doesn't help when two rail lines parallel to roads which are either currently receiving or about to receive upgrades (Ipswich Motorway and Samford Road) are having their timetables slowed down by more than 18% and 14% respectively. With the phase 2 draft timetables looming, lets hope that the slowing of down of train services does not get even more ridiculous.

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