Sunday, July 8, 2012

QR Passenger Load Survey - The Awful Truth

Where have the passengers gone?
Edited 09/07/2012 8:30pm

After being published in response to a Right to Information request in 2009, the Queensland Rail (QR) passenger load survey has been missing in action until it recently published again from late 2011. The non-publishing of the passenger load survey coincided with the 15% fare increases. BrizCommuter reveals the awful truth that the last government was hiding from commuters about the effects of extortionate fare increases, lack of new train services, and a disastrous new timetable.

BrizCommuter has taken a look at figures for the whole QR passenger network, the Ferny Grove Line, and Enoggera - an individual station on the Ferny Grove Line in Campbell Newman's electorate. The load surveys are undertaken in March each year, and are manually counted.

Network am peak

2005 50725
2006 54572 7.6%
2007 59548 9.1%
2008 62505 5.0%
2009 65740 5.2% 
2010 62863 -4.4% <-15% fare increase
2011 67421 7.3% <-15% fare increase
2012 63563 -1.5% <-15% fare increase

Ferny Grove Line am peak

2005 6632
2006 7250 9.3%
2007 7772 7.2%
2008 7583 -2.4%
2009 8182 7.9%  <- New timetable
2010 7834 -4.1% <-20% fare increase
2011 7942 1.3% <-15% fare increase
2012 7855 -1.1% <-15% fare increase

Enoggera am peak

2005 617 
2006 666 7.9%
2007 713 7.1%
2008 722 1.3%
2009 626 -13.3% <- New timetable
2010 580 -7.3% <-20% fare increase
2011 563 -2.9% <-15% fare increase
2012 599 6.4% <-15% fare increase

Network pm peak

2005 46784
2006 48518 3.7%
2007 52018 7.2%
2008 56263 8.2%
2009 57270 1.8%
2010 56478 -1.4% <-20% fare increase
2011 59728 5.8% <-15% fare increase
2012 60422 1.2% <-15% fare increase

Ferny Grove pm peak

2005 6646 
2006 6331 -4.7%
2007 7179 13.4%
2008 7644 6.5%
2009 7081 -7.4% <- New timetable
2010 7057 -0.3% <-20% fare increase
2011 7622 8.0% <-15% fare increase
2012 7269 -4.6% <-15% fare increase

Enoggera pm peak

2005 494 
2006 572 15.6%
2007 674 17.8%
2008 670 -0.6%
2009 598 -10.7% <- New timetable
2010 439 -26.6% <-20% fare increase
2011 520 18.5% <-15% fare increase
2012 496 -4.6% <-15% fare increase

The results show that network patronage was generally soaring year by year prior the ALP government's flawed fare rise policy. The first 20% fare rise was massively detrimental to patronage, with more than 4% reduction in both network and Ferny Grove Line am peak patronage, and a whopping 26.6% pm peak reduction at Enoggera. It should be be noted that these trends have also been repeated on most of the rest of QR's passenger network. 

At Enoggera the pm peak patronage is now the same as in March 2004. This shows that the 15% fare increases, and an abysmal pm peak service reduction (from 7tph to 4tph) in the March 2008 timetable has undone all of the huge patronage increases that occurred in the mid-2000s with an overall -35% patronage decrease between 2007 and 2010! Sadly, commuters are still awaiting a fix to the flawed 2008 timetable which was introduced with no consultation. 

So where have all the passengers gone? Some of the inner Ferny Grove Line passengers may have moved to more frequent bus services (390, 345, P343, 333, etc). However, most of outer Ferny Grove Line passengers (Oxford Park to Ferny Grove) have no alternative other than driving to work. Commuters who are discouraged from using these stations will just add to the congestion of the Samford Road/Wardell Street intersection! 

The new LNP government must urgently curb, or even roll back the fare increases, and improve peak service frequencies. Failure to do so will increase road congestion, road trauma and pollution, all of which will have negative effects on Queensland's economy. 


  1. Let's do a quick bang-for-buck analysis of the $133M Ferny Grove track duplication.
    (BTW, was the above $value for Mitchelton-FG - or just the Keperra-FG final stage?)

    #1. Use 2012 peak daily numbers for Ferny Grove AM/PM combined
    = 7855+7269
    = 15,124 1-way journeys PER DAY

    #2. Extrapolate #1 OVER 10 YEARS @ 52 weeks' @ 5 days/week (suggest this is overly generous)
    = 39,322,400 1-way journeys OVER 10 YEARS

    Opinion: judging by past performance, the presumption of no increase in patronage would seem a reasonable assumption.

    #3. Average nominal cost of the upgrade per 1-way journey over 10 years
    = 133,000,000/39,322,400
    = $3.38 per 1-way journey over a 10 year period
    = an INCREDIBLY over-priced piece of infrastructure when compared to the price of a ticket

    Continuing on, if one were to be more conservative on the above-inputs and factor-in the following (at a minimum) -
    * funding costs - e.g. interest
    * the fact that only a (modest?) portion of total 1-way trips attributed to the FG line occuractually occur on thuse the new track
    - then that initial figure $3.38 per 1-way journey WOULD BE SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER.
    Personally, as a tax-payer I am *stunned* at how poor value such spending is (and honestly, the best-case potential gains are modest IMO).
    (that said, I'm still hoping one day to not have to wait up to 17 minutes for a train departing FG before 8am.)

    Opinion: we - Brisbane/Australia - don't build livable cities AND/OR don't manage our infrastructure spend at all well.

  2. Anonymous - nice attempt at maths, however you have forgotten the following:
    1) You have not included off-peak patronage.
    2) The patronage is likely to increase significantly whenever QR/TransLink actually introduce a decent peak timetable. However, the failure to provide an improved train service when the duplication opened means that it's currently a white elephant.
    3) The figure quoted is for the entire duplication from Mitchelton to Ferny Grove, and new Ferny Grove station, and car park extension. However, BrizCommuter is concerned that there is some financial wastage during public transport infrastructure projects.
    4) The benefits of the duplication also increases train system reliability for 6 other train lines, and if a decent train service is ever introduced - reduce pollution, road congestion and road trauma between the NW suburbs and the CBD.

  3. Thanks for the reply and for the blog - it is very constructive; the best I've seen on-topic.

    1) Let's go more conservative then => treble the daily peak numbers I used earlier
    INPUTS => 117,967,200 1-way journeys over 10 years
    OUTPUS => $1.12 cost of the project per 1-way journey over a 10 year period
    => Still very poor value IMO.

    To reiterate:
    * many FG-line trips (before Mitchelton) won't actually use this $133M "investment"
    * funding costs (interest) not included
    * maintenace costs not included

    2) Increased patronage?
    FORS (if the following occur sufficiently: a. and b. are feasible; c. and d. are problematic)
    a. fares need to drop
    b. timetable needs radical improvement
    (esp. peak-times defined, ideally, in my mind as: 06:45-09:15; 15:00-18:30)

    Less important, but still relevant:
    c. improving availabilty of onsite- or nearby- car-parking (not just at FG)
    (opinion: large car-parks are symptomatic of low-densities => part of the problem)
    d. improving platform access times once you are "at" the station
    (platform access is traumatic at some stations IMO - e.g. Mitchelton)

    e. When the public realise that the "great Aussie dream" is no longer feasible or desirable (THINK: huge debt on a maintenance-hungry asset; the need for 2 gas-guzzling cars typically on-credit; lawns to mow; congested suburban streets once the stay-at-home grown-up kids need to house their own vehicle on-the-street; etc) then medium-density living, closer-in to the city will surely increase.

    Me thinks (hopes) it's just a matter of time before this happens. Numbers living out in the 'burbs - i.e. using the outer-confines of the train-line - might actually not increase as much as you think.

    3) How expensive can a car-park and a largely open-air station be?
    My suspicion: the public is being ripped-off by >50%; those in charge of the purse-strings are either incompetent or complicit.

    Anecdote#1: a reliable source tells me that employed tradesmen - employees of subcontractors to the large corporations - working one of the Brisbane tunnels were grossing $160K for 6-months' (hardly dangerous) work!
    => One *shudders* then when thinking about the layer-upon-layer of profit margin$.

    Anecdote#2: huge areas of concrete-slab being multiples of what they need otherwise have been at a certain major northside construction site (this time federally funded).

    Anecdote #3: re-furbishment of govt buildings in city after water damage => huge flat-screen TVs everywhere; european appliances (never used in most cases);

    4) Agree - though there are lots of IFs involved.

  4. Anon, clearly there is no benefit in the duplication if there are no service increases from it, except perhaps improved reliability! That's an axiom.

    Off peak isn't that relevant for the second stage, but it was a bit more challenging to increase the off peak while single track applied Mitchelton-Keperra.

  5. Briz, a recent comment on Crikey's Plane Talking blog provoked memories of this thread.

    Checkout which invokes a comparison of greater-Sydney's South West Rail Link (=AUD$1.8B) with that of Berlin's new Hauptbahnhof build. The Berlin project opening in 2006 went 100% overbudget, at that time costing €700M (which approximates AUD$1.1B using German inflation indexes and today's exchange rate).

    Wikipedia gives indications on the immensity of the project which was substantial to say the least. In-the-flesh though, the result is truly impressive - and functional. Comparable to Kyoto (for example) given my limited experience of such facilities. Of course, there is nothing remotely like either project in Australia - but there are clearly many builds costing much much more, delivering much much less.

    Anyhow, let's quickly flash up the original topic of this thread: our delightful Ferny Grove rail extension weighing-in at around AUD$144M (in today's dollars).

    Comparison of the FG-extension with the Sydney project (itself poor value by global standards) suggests FG was extremely poor value I subjectively argue - though I'm not an engineer or urban planner.

    Mainly, though I think that a comparison of the FG spend to that of the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, once again confirms:
    1) the Qld taxpayer was completely ripped-off with the FG extension; and
    2) How badly we manage our infrastructure spend in Qld and TheLuckyCountry


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