Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014 World Fare Comparison - Part 2

Melbourne - cheaper public transport than Brisbane
In part 1 of the 2014 BrizCommuter world fare comparison, we ascertained that Brisbane has the worlds 5th most expensive 5km adult single peak train fare. In part 2, we look at bus fares, daily ticketing options, and weekly periodical ticket options. We generally only look at the 8 most expensive cities sampled in part 1.

Exchange rates are as of the 26th December 2013. Fares are as of the 6th January 2014.

* Note: Sydney's "Opal Card" fares not shown due to lack of network wide availability.

Bus ticket, adult passenger, single 5km peak journey

Oslo - $5.47
Stockholm - $4.26
Brisbane - $4.14
Berlin - $3.98
Liverpool (similar to some other UK cities) - $3.85
Sydney* - $3.70 ($2.96 with 10 multitrip ticket)
Melbourne - $3.58
London - $2.26
Toowoomba - $2.90 (similar to most QLD regional cities)

Half of the 8 cities sampled have cheaper bus fares compared to train fares. Of the cities sampled, Brisbane has the world's 3rd most expensive fares for a 5km peak bus journey. Sadly, with most of Brisbane having an infrequent bus service due to Brisbane City Council's poor network planning, it could be argued that Brisbane has the world's worst value for money bus network. Brisbane also has peak bus fares 43% higher than regional cities in Queensland. On the positive, at least one fare can be used for a train then bus journey (connection within an hour) in SE Queensland. 

Daily ticket maximum, adult passenger, for 5km journeys (including train)

Brisbane - $32.34 (incl. 3 peak trips)/$29.88 (all off-peak)
Sydney* - $23
Stockholm - $19.61
London (Underground) - $15.39 (peak)/$12.82 (off-peak)
Oslo - $14.59
Berlin - $10.27
Melbourne - $7.16 (weekday)/$6.00 (weekend)
Liverpool (and most other UK cities) - $6.60 (after 9:30am only)

Due to complete lack of daily ticketing options (apart from the ridiculously expensive tourist SEEQ card), Brisbane potentially has the world's most expensive public transport system for multiple daily journeys. Not good news for tourists or those without cars who rely heavily on public transport! It's about time that Brisbane has an attractive daily ticketing option - just look at Melbourne's as a good example. Sydney also has a very expensive daily ticketing option, but is at least valid across most of the Sydney Trains network.

Weekly ticket maximum, adult passenger, for 5km train journeys (including peak)

London (Underground) - $57.90
Stockholm - $51.18
Berlin - $44.14
Oslo - $40.11
Brisbane - $37.26
Melbourne - $35.80
Liverpool (and most other UK cities) - $32.80 to $37.94
Sydney* - $28 (train only)/$46 (all modes)

Thanks to the 9 and free weekly cap, Brisbane "only" has the world's 6th most expensive weekly train fares, but is still more than expensive than most other Australian cities. The ridiculous difference in price between Sydney's train only fares ($28) and fares that allow use of all modes ($46) should also be noted. This may improve in the future with Sydney's Opal Card.

In brief

As there has been no significant changes to fare structure (other than an across the board 7.5% increase) then it can still be concluded that longer distance journeys in SE Queensland are considerably better value for money than shorter journeys. This bizarrely favours environmentally unsustainable long distance commuting and lifestyle habits.

Public transport is more expensive than using a car (running/fuel costs only) for journeys in SE Queensland up to approximately 40km (depending on fuel economy). This assumes a car is already available, and parking is free. Public transport is still cheaper than driving when new car purchase costs and parking costs are factored in.

Off-peak fares are a small improvement over peak fares at $3.32 for a 5km adult single peak train or bus fare. However, even with off-peak fares, Brisbane is still within the 10 most expensive cities sampled in part 1 of the world fare comparison. In fact Brisbane's off-peak fares are 58% more expensive than Perth's anytime fares of $2.10, and 84% more expensive than Adelaide's off-peak fares of $1.80. The latter is also valid for Adelaide's entire public transport network! The movement of the end of the am peak fare period from 9am to 8:30am (touch on time) is just a desperate gimmick that does not improve a shoddy and extortionate fare system. The am peak fare period should be based on touch off times anyway!

Due to lack of refund policy for public transport delays in SE Queensland, then Brisbane has the world's most expensive public transport system without a refund policy. For example, in London if you are delayed by more than 15 minutes on The Tube, you get the fare refunded. In Oslo, if you are delayed by more than 20 minutes, you can catch a taxi for free.

Part 1 of the BrizCommuter 2014 world fare comparison took a look at 5km, adult, peak period train fares:
Part 3 of the BrizCommuter 2014 world fare comparison will take a look at fares in relation to average income:
The Awful Truth:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2014 World Fare Comparison - Part 1

High train fares = empty trains! 
It is the time of year again when BrizCommuter compares train fares between different cities around the world. For 2014, the LNP Queensland Government and TransLink have increased the already unsustainable public transport fares in SE Queensland by yet another 7.5%. Whilst this is less than the 15% fare rise planned by the annihilated ALP Government, this 7.5% fare rise is still still an unacceptable increase to the cost of living. Yes, that is an increase Mr Emerson!

Cities known for their high cost of living, such as Tokyo, Moscow, London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Stockholm, and Oslo have again been included in the comparison. The top ten most liveable cities in the world are also included in the list. This comparison does not take into account varying incomes between cities, however this is planned for part 3 of the BrizCommuter 2014 world fare comparison.

For this fare comparison we are looking at a 5km train (or light rail) journey from an inner suburb to the city centre (CBD), using the cheapest available adult peak single fare (excluding multi-trip, weekly, or other season tickets). Exchange rates are as of the 26th December 2013. Fares are as of the 6th January 2014.

Top 10 most expensive

Oslo - $5.47
London (Underground) - $5.31
Liverpool (and some other UK cities) - $4.76
Stockholm - $4.26
Brisbane - $4.14
Berlin - $3.98
Sydney* - $3.80
Melbourne - $3.58
Helsinki - $3.37
Adelaide - $3.29

* Note: Sydney's "Opal Card" fares not shown due to lack of network wide availability.

Selected other cities

Vienna - $3.22
Toronto - $3.16
Calgary - $3.16
Vancouver - $3.08
Ottawa - $2.87
Auckland - $2.81
Portland - $2.80
NYC (Subway) - $2.80
Paris - $2.68
Seattle - $2.52
Lausanne (and most other Swiss Cities)- $2.38
Perth - $2.10
Los Angeles - $1.68
Tokyo (Japan Rail) - $1.61
Moscow - $1.03
Singapore - $0.91
Hong Kong - $0.87
Shanghai - $0.55

Of the cities sampled, Brisbane has the the world's 5th most expensive train fares for a peak 5km train journey. Only cities in Scandinavia and UK are more expensive. Whilst this may appear as an improvement given Brisbane's 3rd placing in the last few years, this is only due to the falling value of the Australian Dollar. Brisbane is more expensive than all other Australian cities, and nearly double the cost of Perth!

In the last 5 years public transport fares in South East Queensland have increased by 83% compared with CPI at just 9.5%. With 2014 seeing a huge improvement to train services across South East Queensland, then an increase in rail patronage would usually be expected. Unfortunately, with fares completely off the rails, patronage will probably continue to be stagnated. To the casual observer it would appear that public transport patronage is being purposefully stunted so that government spending on more infrastructure is not required. This policy only increases road congestion, road trauma, and pollution, and goes against the United Nations vision of a low-carbon, sustainable transport future.

Part 2 of BrizCommuter 2014 fare comparison takes a look at bus fares, daily fares, and weekly fare options:
Part 3 of the BrizCommuter 2014 fare comparison takes a look at public transport fares vs average income:
The Awful Truth:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Overheard on the Springfield Line

Springfield Central
5 year talking to his mother, overhead on the Springfield Line:

"Mummy, why is there a station called Springfield Central and another called Springfield. That's really silly Mummy."

Yes, even a 5 year old can see the stupidity in similar sounding station names. In fact, in BrizCommuter's trip along the Springfield Line he overhead four different groups of people talking about the lack of differentiation in station names between Springfield and Springfield Central. Typically railway naming conventions call a centrally located station by "place name" or "place name central". Surrounding stations are then called "place name east/west/north/south/parkway etc etc". However, Queensland Rail or TransLink have named one station Springfield and the other Springfield Central. Now this is based around the suburbs that the stations are actually located in, but is obviously causing great confusion to passengers. BrizCommuter would not be surprised if multiple passengers have got off at the wrong station - resulting in a 30 minute wait for the next train! Just to add to the confusion, it should also be noted that the train destination shows "Springfield" when the terminus is actually "Springfield Central".

So what should Springfield station be renamed as?
  • Springfield Lakes - makes sense at that is the name of the adjacent suburb.
  • Springfield North - makes sense due to geographical location.
  • Springfield Middle (of Nowhere) - well it is.
  • Springfield Outback - as above. 
  • Teenage Mum Central - accurate, but not politically correct.
  • Springfield Bushfire Fodder - it's only a matter of time. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Brisbane Underground - the Park Road problem

The messy bit.      Screenshot from TMR Website. 
As many BrizCommuter readers will be aware, the lack of interchange for the planned Brisbane Underground / Underground Bus and Rail (UBAT) project at Park Road/Boggo Road, and removal of Dutton Park station has caused quite a stir. But is it such a big issue? BrizCommuter takes a look at the scenarios where interchange may be worse, and then takes a look at alternative solutions.

  1. There will a frequent bus route using UBAT serving Roma Street-George Street-Wooloongabba-Park Rd/Boggo Rd-UQ Lakes. 
  2. There will be a frequent bus route linking Wooloongabba and Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH). 
  3. There will be a more sensible bus network (i.e. Brisbane City Council removed from bus network design).
  4. There will be a three tier train service on the Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line corridor, each running a 15 minute off-peak frequency as per the Inner City Rail Capacity Study and Cross River Rail plans. Gold Coast and outer-Beenleigh Line services will run via UBAT. Inner-Beenleigh Line services (eventually extended to Flagstone) will run via Park Rd and South Brisbane. 
Interchange between Cleveland Line and outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Lines

Current situation - this currently requires a single change, but waits can vary. 
Problem post UBAT - this interchange will not be possible without changing twice.
Solutions post UBAT - 1) Well timed train interchanges at both Park Rd and suitable location on inner-Gold Coast Beenleigh Line (?Yeerongpilly). This would create additional train scheduling requirements.  2) Frequent bus service between Park Rd/Boggo Rd (Cleveland Line) and Wooloongabba (outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line) via UBAT. 
Estimated impact: Approx. 10-15 mins additional journey time for ? less than 100 passengers/day. 

Access to UQ and PAH from outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Lines

Current situation - this currently requires a single change between bus and rail at Park Rd/Boggo Rd.
Problem post UBAT - outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line services will bypass Park Rd/Boggo Rd.
Solution post UBAT - outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line services will serve Wooloongabba, allowing interchange with buses to UQ and PAH.  
Estimated impact: Approx. 2 mins additional journey time for a few thousand passengers/day. 

Access to South Bank/Brisbane area from outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Lines

Current situation - these stations are currently served by all trains from this corridor. 
Problem post UBAT - outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line services will not serve these stations.
Solution post UBAT - outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line services will interchange with inner-Beenleigh Line services at suitable station (e.g. Yeerongpilly). As per the first problem in this blog post, if train services could be timed to connect at this station (which would require an extra platform for cross-platform interchange), then the issue would be mitigated significantly.
Estimated impact: Approx. 7.5 mins additional journey time for a few thousand passengers/day. 

Access to Dutton Park station from Beenleigh Line

Current situation - this station is served by all Beenleigh Line services (from Jan. 2014).
Problem post UBAT - station will be closed permanently.
Solution post UBAT - 1) Walkway from Park Rd/Boggo Rd station, 2) Buses will serve Dutton Park, 3) Buses to PAH busway station from multiple locations including Wooloongabba (UBAT) and Park Rd/Boggo Rd (outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Lines). 
Estimated impact: Overall balanced journey times for less than a thousand passengers/day. 


Whilst far from perfect, the plans for UBAT will improve public transport for tens of thousands of public transport users. Examples include (but are not exclusive to):
  • Increased capacity to the CBD for many rail lines (may require other rail infrastructure projects) - approx. 5-7 min faster journey times and less crowding/more capacity.  
  • Faster bus journeys through CBD for some routes - approx. 7 min faster journey time.
  • Improved access to Gardens Point end of CBD - approx. 15 min faster journey time.
  • Faster train journeys to CBD from outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line - approx. 10 min faster journey time.
  • Improved access to CBD from Centenary Suburbs/Kenmore area via Legacy Way tunnel (although this doesn't need to wait until UBAT) - approx. 15-20min faster journey times, and new journey opportunities. 
The preferred solution would still be an interchange between existing rail lines and UBAT at Park Rd/Boggo Rd, and this would be BrizCommuter's preference. However, even without this interchange station (that may cost at least $500m) the benefits of UBAT still significantly outweigh the dis-benefits as long as the above mitigation strategies are in place.

Previous blog post on Brisbane Underground/UBAT:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Springfield Line opens

The long awaited Springfield Line opened on Monday 2nd December 2013. The extension of the Richlands Line to the "urban sprawl in the middle of nowhere" has two stations. These are confusingly called Springfield (which should have been named Springfield Lakes or Springfield North), and Springfield Central. Ellen Grove station, near Forest Lake was unfortunately not built, leaving a long gap between Springfield and Richlands stations.

This line will create a much needed public transport link to the currently car reliant new town of Springfield. The peak direction service is half-decent, with a train every 6 to 12 mins in the am peak, and every 12 mins in the pm peak. With a branch of the University of Southern Queensland at Springfield, quite a few business, and a reasonably sized medical centre, there should be a reasonable amount of reverse peak traffic (e.g. to Springfield in am peak, and from Springfield in pm peak). With this in mind, it is disappointing that both off-peak and counter-peak trains will only run every 30 minutes. Approximately. 2 out of 3 am peak trains will run empty (out of service) outbound to Springfield in the am peak, somewhat disappointing for those trying to get to University! Whilst it is well known that there are a lack of trains in the am peak, BrizCommuter wonders if it is realistic to run any of these empty trains in service? The hourly Sunday am train service is also disappointing.

The last minute car park extension at Springfield is very welcome, but may become stretched to capacity very quickly. Decent feeder bus services appear to be missing in action, as per usual in Brisbane's poorly integrated public transport system. The bus services around Springfield has received quite a bit of bad press in the last few days, and something urgently needs to be done to improve coverage, frequency, and routing.

BrizCommuter hasn't been bothered enough to take a trip on the line yet, so has used a stock photo of Springfield instead (top left). Homer was unavailable for comment.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Next Generation Rollingstock - Not enough doors?

Queensland Rail's Next Generation Rollingstock
The good news is that a preferred bidder (Bombardier NGR Consortium) has been announced for Queensland Rail's Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR). These trains will be tested from late 2015, and all 75 6-car units are planned to be in service by 2018. These trains will allow for more trains to be run on Queensland Rail's CityTrain network (required for Moreton Bay Rail Link, and increases in peak services on other lines), as well as replacing the ageing EMU fleet. The fleet will be based at Wulkaraka, near Ipswich.

The potential bad news, is that the trains will continue to have only 2 sets of doors per car side. This is disappointing given the trend on other suburban commuter rail systems (including Paris RER, San Francisco's BART, and in Melbourne) to increase the number of doors per car side. The more sets of doors per car side, allows for faster passenger flows getting on and off the train, and thus allows for shorter station dwell times. Shorter station dwell times results in being able to run trains more frequently and more reliably. Shorter station dwell times also result in faster journey times.

The reasons for not having 3 sets of doors per car side on the NGR is unknown. Platform edge doors on Cross River Rail/Brisbane Underground could have been a factor, but as long as the 1st and 3rd doors on the NGR trains matched the position of the 1st and 2nd doors on the current trains, this would have been a non-issue. Japan is even testing platform edge doors that can automatically adjust their position for different trains!

Another reason may have been to simply decrease (or not increase) maintenance costs. 3 sets of doors per car side require a 50% increase in maintenance than 2 sets of door per car side. This may increase recurring costs. However, these decreased costs will leave a legacy of longer station dwell times for the next 40 years. Good or bad decision?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Moreton Bay Rail Link - Petrie station still sub-optimal?

Sub-optimal layout for Petrie. 
There have been some recent changes to the plans for Moreton Bay Rail Link (MBRL), most of them sensible, such as an island platform at Kippa-Ring (Redcliffe). Despite a re-design at Petrie, now sensibly incorporating fly-overs, the track and platform layout still appears to be sub-optimal. Petrie is where the MBRL splits off from the existing Caboolture Line. Unfortunately, it appears in the plans that inbound services (to Brisbane) from both lines will share a platform at Petrie.

Typically, where two train lines merge, it is best practice to allocate a separate platform for each train line. Using a separate platform for each line allows for more operating margin and reliability, as trains can wait for their turn on the merged track at the station platform. Instead, Petrie will have a shared platform. The shared platform will result in trains entering the merged track approx. 2.5 mins apart (due to station dwell time), instead of approx. 1 minute apart (on yellow signals) for separate platforms. The shared platform will increase the occurrences of trains waiting outside of the station if the train arrives early, or a train from the other line arrives late.

An optimal design in Barcelona Source:
There will be three tracks south of Kippa-Ring, aided by the Lawnton to Petrie triplication, allowing for express services to overtake all stations services between Petrie and Lawton. Due to the above mentioned constraints, having a shared inbound platform at Petrie will result in limitations for overtaking opportunities - in fact an express train would not be able to catch up with and overtake the all stations train until at least Lawnton, making the Lawnton to Petrie triplication useless in the inbound direction.

Unless the publicly available plans are an incorrectly drawn "artists impression", then the track and platform layout at Petrie requires an urgent rethink. There should be separate platforms (preferably an island platform) for inbound MBRL and Caboolture Line services.

MBRL TMR Webpages:
Carto Metro Free (excellent track maps):

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sector 2 Train Timetables - Which Gold Coast trains will be congested?

QR overcrowding (on Ferny Grove Line)
As has been mentioned in a previous blog post, from January 20th 2014, the Gold Coast Line will run a 15 minute peak service, with some alternate 15 minute cycles having an additional train service. This will result in a 15, 7, 8, 15, 7, 8, 15 minute service pattern. More passengers will be using Gold Coast Line services due to passenger growth, and extra stops at Loganlea, Altandi, and Park Road. The result of this, is that some services may be much busier than at present, and other services may be much quieter. For example, in the pm peak passengers typically catch the first service home after they arrive at the station. The trains after the 7 to 8 minute gaps are likely to be quieter, and the trains after the 15 minute gaps are likely to be busier. In the am peak, passengers tend to catch the train that will arrive just time for them to get to work (with a margin for delays). Thus services before the 15 minute gap may be busier, and services before the 7 to 8 minute gaps may be quieter.

It is quite clear that there is likely to be a big variation in loading between Gold Coast Line train services. The Beenleigh Line (am and pm peaks), and Ferny Grove Line (in pm peak) may also have uneven loadings due to uneven scheduling. BrizCommuter suggests that once travelling patterns have settled down after the timetable change, that Queensland Rail or TransLink measure the loadings on each service. The results can then be presented on a webpage and/or information poster. This may then give passengers an informed choice to change their travelling patterns, to help even out the loads.

An example would be below (times and loadings are fictional).

Departures from Central to Varsity Lakes
16:30    Spare seats usually available
16:45    Passengers usually standing to Altandi
16:52    Spare seats usually available
17:00    Spare seats usually available
17:15    Passengers usually standing to Beenleigh

Further thoughts and suggestions are welcome.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Brisbane Underground - more information revealed

Double decked bus and rail tunnel.
Last updated 25/11/2013 - 8pm - Public Consultation

More on the LNP Newman government's Cross River Rail (CRR) replacement - Brisbane Underground has been announced. This also has the working name of Underground Bus and Train (UBAT).

So what are the announced plans?
  • 15m diameter bored tunnel (one of the largest diameter rock tunnels in the world) between Dutton Park and Victoria Park (Herston), following a (cheaper to tunnel) George Street alignment through the CBD. 
  • Double deck tunnel with 2 lane busway and 2 train tracks.
  • Trains tracks - connected with Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line around Dutton Park, and Exhibition Line around Victoria Park. 
  • Busway - connected with Eastern Busway near Princess Alexandra Hospital, Inner Northern Busway near RBWH, and Legacy Way tunnel. 
  • Underground stations at Wooloongabba, George Street (Parliament/QUT end), and Roma Street. It is assumed that these would be double decked bus and train stations, constructed by "cut and cover" methods. 
  • Dutton Park station will be closed and demolished. 
  • $5m price tag - similar to "cut price CRR". 
  • Planned for 2015 start, and 2021 completion. 
  • Platforms long enough for 6 to 7 car trains. 
What is missing from the plans?
  • Station at Boggo Road/Park Road has been removed - was in CRR plans. 
  • Station at Spring Hill is still removed - was removed from CRR plans to reduce costs. 
  • No busway station or busway portal around Queen Street. 
  • Plans (and costs) on how trains will avoid Exhibition Line congestion between Victoria Park and Mayne/Bowen Hills, and how tracks will connect with Caboolture Line corridor. 
  • Plans (and costs) on associated infrastructure capacity enhancements in the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line corridor - e.g. quadruplication between Salisbury and Kuraby, and duplication between Helensvale and Coomera. 
  • No connection with Legacy Way. 
So what are the advantages of the Brisbane Underground/UBAT plans?
  • Solves rail congestion across the Merivale Bridge (Park Road to Bowen Hills), as per the purpose of CRR - potentially allowing for more Gold Coast/Beenleigh/Cleveland Line services. 
  • Solves busway congestions on SE Busway via Cultural Centre (Mater Hill to Queen Street Bus Station section).
  • Removes buses from the Captain Cook Bridge. 
  • Solves all of the above, in one project. 
  • Improves public transport access to Wooloongabba, and Parliament/QUT end of Brisbane's CBD.
  • Allows improved access between CBD and Centenary Suburbs/Kenmore area via Legacy Way tunnel (although Legacy Way should have been connected with the Northern Busway anyway).
What are the problems with Brisbane Underground/UBAT plans, which need to be addressed?
  • Worse connections between Gold Coast/Beenleigh, and Cleveland Line corridor due to removal of Boggo Road/Park Road interchange from plans. Note: Access to UQ and PA Hospital is assumed to be unaffected if  passengers can change from rail to bus at the combined Wooloongabba station. This is dependant on bus network design, which hopefully will be removed from Brisbane City Council by the time Brisbane Underground/UBAT opens.
  • Northern Busway services would be able to bypass RCH Herston, QUT Kelvin Grove, and Normanby busyway stations. This is the busiest part of the Northern Busway, with QUT Kelvin Grove being a huge trip generator. Thus the busway portion north of Roma Street will be of limited use. 
  • No busway station around the busy Queen Street precinct. 
  • Does not assist with bus transport on East-West axis through CBD (e.g. buses that travel through CBD to Fortitude Valley (and beyond) - this was the purpose of the debatably required City2Suburbs bus tunnel, which Brisbane Underground/UBAT is intended to replace. 
  • Cost does not appear to include other associated rail infrastructure projects required to maximise its use (see what is missing section). 
  • Platforms cannot accommodate 9 car trains, as per CRR. 
  • Requires completely new design, accurate costing, and environmental impact assessments. CRR was "ready to process" aside from lack of funding. 
  • Construction needs to coincide with George Street redevelopments - limited timeframe for design and funding. 
To conclude. Brisbane Underground is potentially a cost effective solution that solves both rail and bus congestion, particularly from the South side. There are concerns about the removal of the station at Park Road, effectiveness of linking with the Northern Busway, lack of busway station around Queen Street, and shorter platforms than CRR. The cost of other associated rail infrastructure projects also needs to be made clear.

Project info on TMR website:
.pdf info on TMR website:
You Tube fly-through:

Public consultation open

Public consultation is now possible until 20th Dec 2013 at the following web page:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sector 2 Train Timetables - Designed for 24tph?

Is 24tph across the Merivale Bridge possible?
Whilst researching the previous blog posts, BrizCommuter picked up on an interest way that the service patterns are designed in the sector 2 train timetables. BrizCommuter was expecting the timetables to based around a train running through the CBD every 3 minutes/20 trains per hour (tph) as per the sector 1 train timetables. However, this isn't the case...

The sector 2 train timetables are based around a repeating 2/3/2/3 minute service pattern, although in many cases as not all potential track slots have be filled, it is a repeating 2/3/5 or 3/2/5 minute pattern. Given that trains cannot realistically run closer than every 2.5 minutes, BrizCommuter suspects that this is actually a repeating 2.5 minute/24tph service pattern, and that the printed timetable simply does not show the half minute. This is not confirmed, but has been assumed for the rest of this blog post. If it is not the case, then it certainly should be!

It appears that no more than 18tph will actually be operated through the CBD (Park Rd to Bowen Hills) in the sector 2 timetables so why do we have a service pattern based around 2.5 minutes/24tph intervals  instead if 3 minute/20 kph intervals:
  1. It allows for more regular scheduling. With 3 minute intervals, the Ferny Grove Line would have an uneven alternating 6/9 minute frequency. This would result in uneven loadings. With a 2.5 minute interval, the Ferny Grove Line has a regular 7.5 minute frequency (shown as alternating 7/8 minute frequency. 
  2. It allows for more flexibility. Additional services run in each 15 minute cycle on either the Gold Coast or Beenleigh Lines. However, they optimally require different slots in the 15 minute cycle through the CBD. This would not be possible using 3 minute intervals without slowing down journey times, but is possible using 2.5 minute intervals. 
  3. It may allow for an ultimate capacity of 24tph through the CBD, the limit with current signalling (with minimal margin for delays). This would allow for 8tph to be run in the peak direction on the Gold Coast Line, as well as 8tph each on the Beenleigh and Cleveland Lines. However, to allow this to be possible would require more trains, stabling for those trains, and more infrastructure (such as Coomera to Helensvale duplication) on the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line corridor, all of which cost $$$. For reliable operation at 24tph, improved signalling may be required. 
  4. Until (3) occurs, the timetable will allow for at least 2.5mins of additional operating margin (delay catch up time) per 15 minute cycle. 
To conclude, it appears that the timetables are based around 2.5min (or alternating 2/3min) intervals. Whilst ultimately this could allow for 24tph operation, until there are sufficient trains, tracks, and signalling to allows 24tph to be operated reliably, then the service pattern will just allow for more flexibility in scheduling to cope with the 7 lines that share the sector 2 changes.

Update 05/12/2013

From insider information, it is likely that points 1, 2, and 4 are the case with current infrastructure. With a maximum capacity of 20tph, only one additional Gold Coast or Beenleigh Line (but not both) train can be operated per 15 minute cycle.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Queensland Rail - Christmas Party Pooper

...or in fact the whole weekend.
The weekend of 14th/15th December 2013 is expected to be the busiest weekend for Christmas shopping, and also one of the busiest weekends of the Christmas party season. In a show of complete lack of customer respect, Queensland Rail have decided to close half of Brisbane's inner-city rail network over this weekend. Trains will be replaced by buses between Roma Street to Corinda, Yeerongpilly, and Murarrie, affecting the Beenleigh, Cleveland, Gold Coast, Ipswich, and Springfield Line services. With no direct access from the South and Western suburb to Brisbane's shopping and party precincts, South Bank, and Park Road (Milton) restaurants, this closure will cause pre-festive season chaos. BrizCommuter feels sorry for rail replacement bus staff who will have to deal with lots of confused, annoyed, and drunk (in many cases all at the same time) customers.

In the UK, with more customer focussed London Underground, there is only 1 minor track closure, and that is from 7am to 8:45am on the Sunday, on just one branch line. Given Queensland Rail's claims of being customer focussed, this track closure is extremely disappointing!

The bad news on TransLink's website:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sector 2 Train Timetables - More on the Beenleigh and Gold Coast Lines

More trains from Brisbane to the Gold Coast
The Beenleigh and Gold Coast Lines share the same corridor from Beenleigh into Brisbane's CBD. Limitations of the current Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines timetables are:

  • Two tracks between Beenleigh and Kuraby restrict faster Gold Coast trains overtaking slower Beenleigh Line trains. 
  • Three tracks between Kuraby and South Brisbane allows for Gold Coast Coast trains to overtake slower Beenleigh Line trains in one direction only. 
  • Single track section between Coomera and Helensvale. 
  • Gold Coast services are (based on the existing off-peak timetable) 16 mins faster along this corridor than Beenleigh Line trains - a problem if you want to increase frequency better than every 22 minutes. 
  • Some peak Gold Coast services have a handful of standing passengers for long distances (very politically sensitive), and are thus regarded as overcrowded, yet are only marginally above 50% passenger capacity. 
  • Some peak Beenleigh Line services have almost full standing loads, over 80% passenger capacity, however some other services only require 3 car units. 
  • Some track slots in existing timetable are taken up by ex-Corinda via Tennyson services that now terminate to passengers at Yeerongpilly, but still run empty to Corinda.
  • Requirement to avoid conflicting train movements at Park Road junction.
  • No reversing track at Kuraby (trains reversing block running lines). 
  • Requirement to slot in Cleveland Line services (which is currently done a rather "random" manner). 
  • Requirement to avoid the outbound Brisbane to Sydney XPT service in the am peak. 
  • Requirement for fast journey times from Gold Coast to Brisbane. 
  • Platform 4 at Park Road unavailable for use due to gap between train and platform. 
The new sector 2 timetables (due Jan 2014) has the following modifications to requirements:
  • Corinda via Tennyson services removed, freeing up two track slots.
  • Expectation for better rail to rail, and rail to bus connections at Park Road, and rail to bus at Altandi. 
  • Expectations for 15 minute off-peak services (and more frequent late evening services). 
  • Sector 2 timetables based around a 15 minute cycle - preventing for example the current every (approx.) 15 minute Gold Coast peak service being changed to every 10 or 12 minutes.
  • Availability of Park Road platform 4, after rubber strips added to platform edge. 
So as we can see, the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines have the potential of being a schedulers nightmare. Now BrizCommuter takes a look to see what changes have occurred:

Existing am peak Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line timetable (arrivals at Roma Street):
7:01 from Beenleigh
7:05 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to South Bank)
7:14 from Beenleigh
7:20 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to South Bank)
7:30 from Beenleigh
7:36 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to South Bank, calling at Loganlea)
7:43 from Beenleigh
7:48 from Kuraby
7:51 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to South Bank)
8:01 from Beenleigh
8:06 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to South Bank)
8:10 from Beenleigh (expressish from Sunnybank to Park Road)
8:19 from Kuraby 
8:21 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to South Bank)
8:25 from Beenleigh (expressish from Sunnybank to Park Road)
8:32 from Yeerongpilly
8:38 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to South Bank)
8:41 from Kuraby
8:47 from Beenleigh
8:50 from Yeerongpilly

New Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line timetable (arrivals at Roma Street):

7:07 from Beenleigh
7:12 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to Park Road, calling at Loganlea and Altandi)
7:19 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to Park Road, calling at Loganlea and Altandi)
7:22 from Beenleigh
7:27 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to Park Road, calling at Loganlea and Altandi)
7:37 from Beenleigh
7:42 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to Park Road, calling at Loganlea and Altandi)
7:49 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to Park Road, calling at Loganlea and Altandi)
7:52 from Beenleigh
7:57 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to Park Road, calling at Loganlea and Altandi)
8:07 from Beenleigh
8:12 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to Park Road, calling at Loganlea and Altandi)
8:15 from Kuraby
8:22 from Beenleigh
8:27 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to Park Road, calling at Loganlea and Altandi)
8:29 from Coopers Plains
8:37 from Beenleigh
8:42 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to Park Road, calling at Loganlea and Altandi)
8:44 from Kuraby
8:52 from Beenleigh
8:57 from Gold Coast (express Beenleigh to Park Road, calling at Loganlea and Altandi)

Existing pm peak Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line timetable (departures from Roma Street):
(3:57 Gold Coast)
4:03 Beenleigh
4:22 Kuraby
4:26 Gold Coast (express South Bank to Beenleigh)
4:34 Beenleigh
4:41 Gold Coast (express South Bank to Beenleigh)
4:46 Kuraby
4:53 Beenleigh (expressish Park Road to Sunnybank)
4:56 Gold Coast (express South Bank to Beenleigh)
5:06 Beenleigh
5:13 Kuraby
5:17 Gold Coast (express South Bank to Beenleigh)
5:26 Beenleigh (expressish Park Road to Sunnybank)
5:30 Gold Coast (express South Bank to Beenleigh, calling at Loganlea)
5:36 Beenleigh
5:42 Gold Coast (express South Bank to Beenleigh, calling at Loganlea)
5:48 Kuraby
5:58 Gold Coast (express South Bank to Beenleigh, calling at Loganlea)

New pm peak Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line timetable (departures from Roma Street):
4:02 Gold Coast (express Park Road to Beenleigh, calling at Altandi and Loganlea)
4:07 Beenleigh
4:17 Gold Coast (express Park Road to Beenleigh, calling at Altandi and Loganlea)
4:22 Beenleigh
4:32 Gold Coast (express Park Road to Beenleigh, calling at Altandi and Loganlea)
4:37 Beenleigh
4:40 Gold Coast (express Park Road to Beenleigh, calling at Altandi and Loganlea)
4:47 Gold Coast (express Park Road to Beenleigh, calling at Altandi and Loganlea)
4:52 Beenleigh
5:00 Kuraby
5:02 Gold Coast (express Park Road to Beenleigh, calling at Altandi and Loganlea)
5:07 Beenleigh
5:10 Gold Coast (express Park Road to Beenleigh, calling at Altandi and Loganlea)
5:17 Gold Coast (express Park Road to Beenleigh, calling at Altandi and Loganlea)
5:22 Beenleigh
5:30 Kuraby
5:32 Gold Coast (express Park Road to Beenleigh, calling at Altandi and Loganlea)
5:37 Beenleigh
5:47 Gold Coast (express Park Road to Beenleigh, calling at Altandi and Loganlea)
5:52 Beenleigh

One of the major differences in the new timetables is the stopping pattern of Gold Coast peak services , now consistent with the off-peak services. Loganlea is now consistently served, as is Altandi (for good train to bus connections), and Park Road (for train to train, and train to bus connections e.g. access to UQ). The latter has been made possible due to the addition of rubber strips along Park Road's previously "dangerous" platform 4. These changes have obvious benefits (especially for students). It also appears that Gold Coast Line journey times have not been significantly slowed down, however Beenleigh Line services have been slowed down by approx. 4 mins. It is possible for more savvy outer-Beenleigh Line passengers to transfer to some Gold Coast services at Loganlea for a faster peak journey to the CBD. The above changes will likely result in increased loadings on Gold Coast services. Beenleigh Line services now stop all stations, with some peak services starting/terminating short at Kuraby or Coopers Plains. 

The new peak timetables are based around a base pattern of one Gold Coast service, and one Beenleigh service in each 15 minute cycle (4tph each). In each 15 minute cycle there appears to be the ability to add one additional Gold Coast service, or one additional Beenleigh Line service (starting/terminating at Kuraby or Coopers Plains), but not both. The single track section between Coomera and Helensvale prevents additional Gold Coast services in consecutive 15 minute cycles. The additional inbound Gold Coast Line services appear to overtake Beenleigh Line services at Bethania (corrected), which requires both services to be bang on schedule. The move to consistent 15 minute cycles, means that no passengers have more than a 15 minute wait for a train, previously up to 21-22 minutes for Beenleigh Line passengers and up to 30 minutes for Gold Coast passengers in the am peak, and up to 30 minutes for both lines in the pm peak. 

In the am peak, CBD arrivals between 7am and 8am see additional Gold Coast services added into two of the 15 minute cycles, increasing Gold Coast services to 6tph. The Beenleigh Line has additional services added into the 15 minute cycle in the 8:15am and 9am CBD arrival period. Whilst the latter results in 1tph less on the Beenleigh Line during this period, the more consistent service pattern is an overall improvement. BrizCommuter is concerned however, that the overall reduction in Beenleigh Line services in the 7:45am to 8:15am period could increase crowding. The lack of extra Gold Coast services in the 8:00am to 8:30am CBD arrival period could also increase crowding. There is a potential spare track slot between the 7:57 an 8:12am Roma St arrivals from the Gold Coast where an additional service may be added in the future (most likely a short Beenleigh Line service).

In the pm peak, there are major improvements in frequency due to the base pattern replacing some 30 minute service gaps with 15 minute service gaps. In addition to the base pattern there are additional Gold Coast services at 4:40pm and 5:10pm (from Roma Street) which will help reduce loading on following services, and additional Kuraby services at 5:00pm and 5:30pm (from Roma Street). Schedule changes are quite significant at times, making loadings difficult to predict. There are potential spare track slots in the early and late peak for additional services to be added in the future, but not between 4:30pm and 5:30pm. 

For counter-peak services and off-peak (weekday 6am to 8pm ish), there is a base 30 minute frequency for Beenleigh and Gold Coast services, but with additional services to/from Coopers Plains creating a 15 minute frequency (4tph) between Coopers Plains and the CBD. This is a significant improvement for inner-Beenleigh Line users. With current infrastructure, this is realistically the furthest out that 15 minute off-peak services can be run without significantly slowing down Gold Coast services. Other improvements include elimination of all late night 60 minute gaps, now every 30 mins, and improvements to early Sunday am services. 

To conclude, Queensland Rail's (QR) schedulers have made a very good attempt at scheduling the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines when taking into account the list of problems, issues, and requirements. It is a good example of extreme problem solving! Limitations to the timetable, and resulting increasing crowding in the future are not the fault of QR's schedulers, but due to successive governments not investing in infrastructure improvements along the corridor, and not purchasing enough trains. Aside from adding a few additional services when the first next generation rolling stock (NGR) trains are available in 2015, the following infrastructure is required for significant improvements to services for Gold Coast and Beenleigh Line commuters:
  • Duplication of Coomera to Helensvale.
  • Additional reversing track/platform at Kuraby. 
  • Partial triplication between Kuraby and Beenleigh.
  • Partial quadruplication between Park Road and Kuraby. 
  • Improved signalling through the CBD (to allow reliable 24tph) and/or Cross River Rail. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sector 2 Train Timetables - Detailed Review

Merivale Bridge
Two and half years later than originally promised by TransLink, the sector 2 train timetables have now been made available to the public, ahead of an early 2014 introduction. These timetables are for the lines that share the "suburban" tracks through the CBD and across the Merivale Bridge - Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Airport, Doomben, Cleveland, Beenleigh, and Gold Coast Lines. With all of these lines sharing tracks through the CBD, as well as multiple infrastructure limitations, it needs to be remembered that there are limited options for Queensland Rail's schedulers, and in some cases limited opportunity for improvements. Due to this, and Brisbanites "I want an express to my stationitis" mentality, the consultation process appears to have been skipped. As predicted, the weekday timetables are based around a 15 minute cycle. Here is BrizCommuter's review of the timetables:

AM Peak

Overview -
Up to 18tph will run northbound across the Merivale Bridge in the am peak,  a surprising decrease of 1tph. Up to 18tph will run on the "suburbans" southbound through the CBD in the am peak, an increase of 3tph. Due to lack of trains, some services may consist of 3 car units, and at this point it is unknown which services will be served by 3 car units.
Ferny Grove Line - an 8tph service, every 7-8mins, serving all stations. This is a huge improvement over the previous irregular am peak service that contained Mitchelton starters, and Ferny Grove expresses that missed many stations, and resulted in service gaps of up to 23 minutes! Just a shame that it has taken 21 months since duplication for the Ferny Grove line to receive a decent peak timetable.
Shorncliffe Line - will receive a 4tph service, every 15 minutes. This also a huge improvement over the previous irregular 2-3tph service, made possible by use of both platforms at Sandgate. All trains will serve all stations.
Airport Line - will now has an outbound 4tph, every 15 minute frequency, and the same inbound after approx. 8am. This will make life much easier to access Brisbane Airport for morning flights. All trains will now surprisingly serve all stations, however the impact on journey time is minimal.
Doomben Line - now has a regular 2tph, every 30 minutes service.
Cleveland Line - will receive an 8tph service, with alternating Cleveland express services (express Manly to Morningside), and Manly all stations services every 15 minutes each. The reduction of stations served by the expresses sensibly allows for more even loadings, and allows for more regular scheduling. The timetable is now more consistent, although some stations may have seen an overall reduction in service. One negative point is the 22 minute gap between arrivals at CBD stations (8:19 to 8:41am at Central) for travellers from stations beyond Manly - this is worse than the current timetable! With Manly services departing only 2 minutes behind the express services, there is little margin for delays.
Beenleigh & Gold Coast Lines - are the timetables achilles heel, due to lack of overtaking opportunities along the shared corridor. Both lines have a 4tph, 15 minute base service, with some additional services slotted in. It seems that the Gold Coast Line has most of these extra slots in the first half of the am peak, and the Beenleigh Line most of these extra slots in the second half of the pm peak. Is this based around actual travelling patterns, or just a solution to a currently unsolvable problem? No Beenleigh Line services run express, and some services start/terminate at Kuraby or Coopers Plains. All Gold Coast services call at Loganlea, Altandi (with good bus connections), and Park Road (for connections to UQ). It will be interesting to see how this will affect passenger loading balances. Apparently Park Road's platform 4 will now be utilised after the addition of rubber platform edge strips, and overtaking may occur at Bethania, the latter having little margin for delays. BrizCommuter will take a look at the Beenleigh and Gold Coast Line schedules in more detail in a forthcoming blog post, along with comment on the combined service pattern through the CBD.

PM Peak

Up to 19tph will run southbound across the Merivale Bridge in the pm peak, an increase of 3tph. Up to 17tph will run on the "suburbans" northbound through the CBD in the pm peak, an increase of 1tph. Service frequencies and stopping patterns are similar to the am peak, with a few exceptions. For starters, the Airport service is 4tph, every 15 mins throughout the peak period. The alternating Cleveland express/Manly all stations service strangely stops quite early in the pm peak, with the last Cleveland express departing Central at 5:09pm. The additional Beenleigh and Gold Coast Lines also seem to favour earlier travel on the Gold Coast Line, and later travel on the Beenleigh Line. There are also a few 15 minute gaps in the Ferny Grove pm peak service that will result in inconvenience and possible overcrowding.


Counter-peak services have traditionally been terrible in Brisbane, making decentralisation only realistic for car users, and causing a pain for school children and students. The new timetables now have a 15 minute reverse peak frequency to/from Ferny Grove, Airport (from 8am), Cleveland, Coopers Plains, and Shorncliffe. This is another big improvement.

The busy South Bank precinct also has an improved counter-peak service of up to 14tph in the am peak, and 11tph in the pm peak. Most services are within 5 minutes of each other, with no gaps longer than 10 minutes.

Weekday Off-peak

Weekday 15 minute off-peak has been extended from the Ferny Grove Line, to Northgate on the Shorncliffe Line, Cannon Hill on the Cleveland Line, and Coopers Plains on the Beenleigh Line. This service is from approx. 6am to 8pm. This is a major improvement to public transport in Brisbane, bringing the city into 21st century!  Of course, there will be some disappointment that the 15 minute off-peak services were not extended out further, but this may have been limited by infrastructure constraints, or cost. It is interesting to note that 15 minute off-peak to Cleveland is technically possible. The Cleveland Line is now paired with the Shorncliffe Line, and the Doomben Line runs as a shuttle to/from Roma Street.

The Doomben Line has had it's weekday off-peak service extended later at night (to approx.8pm), and in increase to 30 minute frequency throughout the day. This is a major improvement for Doomben Line users. Airport Line services have a longer shoulder peak period with 15 minute frequency, and again call at all stations.

It appears that most hourly late night gaps have been finally been filled in, with 30 minute services until the end of traffic. This makes it much easier to get home after nights out during the week.


Disappointingly, weekend frequencies are still based around a 30 minute service, Brisbane is thus still a long way behind Perth (15 minute frequency), and Melbourne (10 minute frequency). Brisbane may have moved into the 21st century with weekday 15 minute off-peak services, but is certainly not yet in the 2010s!

Doomben is now hourly on Saturdays, resulting in a worse service to and from the races (outboud around midday, and inbound late afternoon). There is still no Doomben Line service on Sundays.

Sunday am hourly gaps have now been eliminate at long last, making it much easier for shift workers to get to work on Sunday morning.


The sector 2 timetables are a huge improvement over the previous diabolical timetables dating from 2008. Credit must be given to Queensland Rail's schedulers for making the most of the available infrastructure and trains. Most limitations to the timetable are as a result of successive governments lack of rail infrastructure construction and lack of sufficient train purchases. Aside from a few issues mentioned in the blog post, the only big downside is the continuation of 30 mins off-peak frequency on weekends.

As previously mentioned, if it wasn't for excessively high train fares, these timetable improvements would have been expected to have caused a huge increase in public transport patronage, and possible reduction in road congestion.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Have TransLink employed a 3 year old to make maps?

Due to the forthcoming line pairing changes in Queensland Rail's sector 2 timetables, and the opening of the Springfield Line in early December 2013, a new SE Queensland rail network map has been published on TransLink's website. Unfortunately, it joins to long list of TransLink stuff ups. The map is so bad, that BrizCommuter wonders if TransLink employed a 3 year old to create it.

Fractured Richland's Line - the line could have just run under the Ipswich Line in the diagram, but instead TransLink have fractured it, making it look like Bowen Hills to Darra, and Darra to Richlands are two separate train services. 

Missing Line - "hey, no one will notice if we remove the busway from the diagram, but keep in the interchange station symbols". Wrong. 

Try harder next time TransLink!

Update 07/12/2013

Thankfully, a better map has now been introduced, although zone information is sadly lacking.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sector 2 Train Timetables - Massive Improvement!

Queensland Rail's sector 2 train timetables have been released, for implementation on the 20th January 2014. As BrizCommuter is currently on holiday, this is just a minor review. A more in-depth review will be available in a few weeks.

TransLink's webpage for sector 2 improvements:

Good news:
  • Peak improvements on Ferny Grove Line (every 7-8 mins), Shorncliffe Line (every 15 mins), Doomben Line (every 30 mins), and Gold Coast Line (additional trains added in some 15 mins gaps). 
  • 15 minute off-peak from approx. 6am to 8pm out to Ferny Grove, Coopers Plains, Northgate, and Cannon Hill.
  • Removal of late night and Sunday am hour gaps (now every 30 mins).
  • Expansion of 15 minute "shoulder-peak" services to Airport. 
  • Airport trains to serve all stations between Bowen Hills and Eagle Junction - big surprise! 
  • 30 mins weekday daytime off-peak to Doomben, with later operating hours. 
  • Improvements to counter-peak services where possible. 
  • All Gold Coast services to serve Beenleigh, Loganlea, Altandi (instead of Coopers Plains for better bus connections), and Park Road (for UQ). 
  • More sensible express pattern on Cleveland Line (Manly to Morningside). 
Bad news:
  • No 15 minute frequency on weekends. (Note: Melbourne now has 10 mins frequency on weekends!).
  • 15 minutes off-peak services expected to Manly didn't occur. 
  • Doomben Line hourly on Saturdays (even for races traffic), and still extinct on Sundays. 
  • Debatably worse peak service for some Beenleigh Line commuters. However, some may be able to use Gold Coast express services for part of the trip to decrease journey time. 
Overall, impressive improvements! Just a shame that high fares will prevent these excellent improvements from massively increasing public transport patronage. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Should go cards be sold on buses?

BrizCommuter has been recently contacted to plug a petition, and this petition appears to make pretty good sense. The petition is to request that go cards are sold on buses instead of paper tickets, and the link is below:

Given that BrizCommuter is often driven crazy by buses being delayed by passengers paying for paper tickets, then isn't it time that they are "encouraged" to switch to go cards. The "encouragement" is to sell a go card instead of paper ticket on buses. This should help almost eradicate paper ticket users - and thus makes common sense. It would also be ultimately cheaper for the passenger, and reduce bus delays, but may reduce TransLink's piggy bank slightly. Issues that can be foreseen are at what price should the go card be sold? Selling the go card at the usual price of $20 may be a problem if the passenger is short of change. However, selling a go card at less than around $15 could compromise the deposit designed to reduce people throwing away go cards after longer distance train journeys or the overpriced AirTrain.

Given that Melbourne has completely eradicated paper tickets, then it is laughable that Brisbane is still using paper tickets. Time to move into the 21st century!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Secure Carparking targets public transport users

Don't waste your money away driving!
With Brisbane having one of the most expensive public transport systems in the world, with poor service frequency, it is no surprise that at least one car parking company is targeting public transport users. Secure Carparking have been handing out flyers to public transport commuters exiting train and busway stations in Brisbane's CBD . However, interestingly one of the observed advertisements is actually based around saving time than money. Not surprisingly the ad fails to mention that driving instead of using public transport increases pollution, increased risk of risk of road trauma and death, increases stress, and requires concentration throughout the commute (instead of reading/texting/web surfing/looking out the window which you can do on public transport).

What about cost? Well it appears that Secure Carparking locks you into a minimum three month contract, at a minimum cost of $49/week. Based on BrizCommuter's car vs train comparison in January 2013, and assuming single vehicle occupancy, the addition of parking costs to car running costs would result in public transport still being far cheaper (at least $11/day for 40km weekday only commute). Also, if you take into account days when you be paying for parking and not using it (sickies, rostered days off, annual leave, etc), and the go cards 9 then free cap, then cost comparison is even worse for the driving to work option. Oh, and that $49/week is a minimum cost only available at certain car parks. No wonder that advert is based around time savings! But is it really worth paying at least $2,500 more per year for a (usually) faster car based commute?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bus Review Spin Alert

Buses in Brisbane's CBD
With lots of cuts, and few improvements coming to Brisbane's bus network on 14th October, it's time from some spin on TransLink's website, not that the mediocre bus changes are TransLink's fault. Here is the quote from TransLink's website concerning the changes:

"The second stage of the Brisbane City Council bus network changes will be implemented on Monday 14 October.

These changes will help simplify the network, eliminate service duplication, improve connectivity between services and redirect resources to overcrowded routes.

Changes include timetable changes, changes to route alignments, route removals, route amalgamations and stop relocations."

This is what really should have been stated:

"The second stage of the Brisbane City Council bus network changes will be implemented on Monday 14 October.

These changes will make lots of cuts to the network due to Brisbane City Council's failure to co-operate  with TransLink to develop an efficient public transport network. The network will continue to be an inefficient use of funding, confusing to use, with too many bus routes, multiple cases of service duplication (e.g. buses heading in same direction leaving from different CBD stops), congestion through Cultural Centre, poor connectivity with rail services, and many parts of Brisbane continuing to be public transport black-holes.  

The changes are quite frankly, not good enough.

It's time that Brisbane Transport was privatised, Brisbane City Council removed from all public transport responsibility, and the state transport minister needs to grow some balls to stand up to "clueless" councillors. 

PS: CityCats have also been cut. Sorry."

Brisbane City Council's bus network changes (re: cuts) are below:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Where is QR's sector 2 timetable consultation?

Don't expect too much improvement!
In what seems a very long time ago, Queensland Rail (QR) and TransLink's sector 1 train timetables were introduced 6 months (June 2012) after the draft timetables had been made available to the public in December 2011. The massively delayed sector 2 train timetables are now strongly rumoured to be introduced in early 2014. This means that on past form, we should already have been shown the draft timetables? However, no draft timetables have yet to be shown the public.

So what came out of the sector 1 draft timetables consultation? The sector 1 timetables affected the Ipswich, Rosewood, Richlands, Caboolture, and Sunshine Coast Lines. There was much complaining about the unavoidable slow down of Caboolture and Sunshine Coast express services, which was required to allow more train services to be run. There were some minor modifications of timings around school closing times. Also, a pm peak Sunshine Coast service was moved to a "more popular" time slot, only for it to be massively overcrowded (well I never), and was then moved later again. So, the consultation process really had limited use. 

What could come out of sector 2 draft timetables consultation? The sector 2 timetables affect the Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Airport, Doomben, Cleveland, Beenleigh, and Gold Coast Lines. With all these lines sharing a pair of tracks through the CBD (the "suburban" tracks), there is not an awful lot of options available to schedulers. Due to track capacity being already near maximum capacity in the am peak for services from the Beenleigh, Gold Coast, and Cleveland Lines, then there is likely to be limited improvements to these peak services on these lines. As per the sector 1 timetables, any frequency improvements may need to be counter-balanced by slower journey times. Queue whinging commuters! Due to infrastructure improvements, there may be significant peak period improvements for the Ferny Grove Line (? 2 trains every 15 mins) and Shorncliffe Line (?1 train every 15 mins), but with the loss of the current rather pointless express services. Queue more whinging due to commuters suffering from "I want an express from my stationitis". Off-peak improvements, such as the move towards 15 minute off-peak services, will be limited in scope due to lacking infrastructure. Queue whinging from outer suburban commuters who may not see any off-peak improvements to their stations. So really, aside from minor changes, the consultation process is likely to result in lots of whinging and whining, with little chance for changes. Something QR and politicians want to avoid! 

With this in mind, we need to remember what happened with TransLink's revolutionary bus review. The consultation, of which the benefits were not clearly stated, ended up being abandoned after a (somewhat misguided) backlash from politicians, councillors, press, and the public. BrizCommuter has faith that QR's schedulers will come out with as good a timetable as is realistically possible (as per the sector 1 timetables). BrizCommuter expects that we will see a much lower profile consultation process for the stage 2 timetables, possibly to avoid excessive commuter whinging. It would be strongly recommended that some better reasoning is made available to explain the changes this time around. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Brisbane Underground - half-baked or innovative?

Not the Brisbane Underground
Thanks to political ineptitude from successive federal and state governments, Cross River Rail as we known it is deceased. This is very disappointing for a plan that has been recognised as being one of Australia's most important infrastructure projects, has clear economic benefits, and is almost ready to proceed.

However, Queensland premier Campbell Newman has been reported to be devising a cut price alternative plan, known as the "Brisbane Underground". Little is known about this project other than:

  • It will be a North South Rail Line, as per Cross River Rail.
  • It is likely to be based on a "cheaper" George Street alignment instead of a more "central"Albert Street" alignment.
  • It will take advantage of George and William Street precinct redevelopments. 
  • It is likely to be combined with a bus tunnel.
It should be noted that Cross River Rail was the result of an in-depth review into multiple alignments, and George Street was not one of the short listed alignments. However, this was before Campbell Newman's plans to redevelop the end of George Street. This brings a potential new catchment to this "rather close to the river" alignment, and may allow for more partnership and funding from the private sector to reduce costs. Apparently, under George Street is easier to tunnel too. 

BrizCommuter doubts that there is currently need for a combined bus tunnel, as current SE Busway congestion could be simply solved by a more efficient and better designed bus network (as per TransLink's bus network review abandoned by transport minister Scott Emerson). However, this forward thinking by a state government must be commended. 

It will be interesting to see how these plans develop. With Abbott's road centric spending, there may be more state funds available for urban rail. Whilst the new plans must cut costs, they must not significantly cut benefits (as occurred with the ill-thought out Cleveland Solution). It will be interesting to see how this plan develops, but action will need to take place very soon due to the impeding George and William Street redevelopments, and impending congestion crisis. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

SE Queensland - this is what you voted for...

Welcome to congested Hicksville
As expected, the LNP's Tony Abbott will be Australia's new prime minister, bringing with him a "1960's" road-centric transport policy, and no funding for urban rail projects including Cross River Rail (CRR) and Melbourne's Metro Rail Tunnel. Thus a vote for the LNP was a vote against the urgently required CRR.  So for all of those who voted for the LNP, this is what you have effectively voted for:

Gold Coast Line - more than 60% of Gold Coast residents have voted against CRR, which means that the Gold Coast Line will become increasingly overcrowded after 2016. Enjoy your hour of standing!

Cleveland and Beenleigh Lines - approx. 55% of voters along the Cleveland Line corridor have voted against Cross River Rail. The majority of voters along the Beenleigh Line voted for CRR, but unfortunately this line shared tracks with the Cleveland and Gold Coast Lines. Again, enjoy the prospect of standing, not being able to board trains, and being kicked off the train at South Brisbane.

Ferny Grove and Doomben Lines - more than 53% of voters along these lines have voted against Cross River Rail. Ferny Grove Line commuters can thus expect increasing overcrowding, and Doomben Line commuters could even see their already infrequent rail line be axed to allow increased capacity for other rail lines.

Shorncliffe Line - this line has a majority of ALP voters. Unfortunately as this line shares tracks with the Doomben, Airport, and Ferny Grove Lines, there will be no room for increased train services after new timetables are introduced in 2014.

Sunshine Coast, Caboolture, and Kippa-Ring Lines - these lines mainly serve LNP strongholds, and the swung Petrie electorate. With Moreton May Rail Link (Kippa-Ring/Redcliffe Line) adding more passengers onto an already busy rail corridor running at near maximum train capacity, expect overcrowding from 2016, and severe overcrowding by the early 2020s.

Ipswich and Richland Lines - the majority of voters chose the ALP. Thank's to the majority of voters elsewhere favouring the LNP, you can expect severe overcrowding from the early 2020s. Don't expect enough train capacity to cope with rail extensions to Ripley Valley.

Flagstone Line - Greater Flagstone is in area with more than 60% LNP vote, Well, don't expect a train line to this new town, as the lack of CRR effectively prevents running trains to/from Flagstone. Enjoy your long drive to work!

Public transport fares - due to lack of CRR, BrizCommuter can only see a continuation of the high fares policy to deter commuters from using public transport, so as to avoid government public transport spending.

Tony Abbott's vision for Brisbane
Car commuters - lets not forget the majority who drive to work. You commute is directly affected by the number of people who use public transport. Less public transport users = more road users. Expect, more road congestion, more pollution, and more road trauma (i.e. deaths and injuries on the road). Roads that parallel train line corridors (such as Wynnum Road and Samford Road) may be worse off. Enhancements to the Pacific Highway and Bruce Highway will only add to road congestion in inner-Brisbane and suburbs.

SE Queensland economy - congestion and delayed commutes = poorer economy. CRR had major economic benefits for SE Queensland, sadly the majority of voters did not vote for it. The risk to the Queensland economy should a peak oil crisis occur will also rise significantly.

Thanks to Tony Abbott's retro transport policies, the Queensland state government now needs to urgently devise a plan B (such as introducing advanced signalling to allow more effective use of existing train lines). Again, with the state governments poor public transport credentials (e.g. failed bus network review), don't hold your breath.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Brisbane - Congestion Capital

1 train = all these cars and more!
This photo is taken at 5pm, looking at the traffic queue approaching the Samford Rd & Wardell Street intersection. This photo is taken 300m back from the intersection. Samford Road happens to parallel the Ferny Grove Line between Alderley and Ferny Grove. So what is being done to fix this road congestion?

Campbell Newman's LNP government is spending $60m on "upgrading the intersection" (the previous ALP government wanted to spend $90m!). With the grand total on one extra left turn lane in the outbound direction, this $60m is likely to only make a small dent (circa a few minutes less queuing) in reducing the road congestion along this important transport corridor.

So what else can be done to reduce the road congestion? Well, $100m was spent on duplicating the Ferny Grove Line, with the duplication opening in April 2012. Unfortunately, the failure of the LNP state government / TransLink / Queensland Rail (delete as applicable) to introduce the sector 2 train timetables has resulted in no extra train services taking advantage of the increase in capacity available due to the duplication. Even, with restricted train capacity through the CBD, an extra 2 trains per hour (tph) could be operated in the evening peak. 2 half full trains (500 passengers each) per hour would eliminate 15 minutes worth of free flowing car traffic from 2 traffic lanes - in other words all of the cars in the photo and more, a 25% reduction in traffic! As we can see the authorities are not getting their priorities right when it comes to solving congestion along Samford Road. It is still unknown when the sector 2 train timetables will be introduced, and whether they will have the "optimal" 8 tph timetabled.

So can rail help reduce congestion further along this transport corridor? Yes, but it would require construction of Cross Rail Rail and the elimination of major level crossings to allow more trains to be run. Unfortunately, the likely next Prime Minister, Tony Abbott is currently refusing the fund Cross River Rail, instead only funding more road projects and a rail freight tunnel. Failure to build Cross River Rail will result in train capacity through the CBD reaching it's maximum between 2016 and 2020, resulting in increased road congestion along transport corridors parallel to trains lines (such as Samford Road, Pacific Highway, Wynnum Road, Cleveland Road, etc, etc). It is well documented from around the world that more road construction eventually results in more road congestion, and thus is seems that Brisbane is heading for the death spiral of costly road congestion and trauma.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Brisbane - Australia's least liveable state capital

Brisbane - more liveable than Mumbai! 
The annual world liveability league table, by Economist Intelligence Unit, has recently been published for 2013. Brisbane is at 20th in the table behind Melbourne (1st), Adelaide (5th), Sydney (7th), and Perth (9th). Auckland, which unlike Brisbane is successfully implementing it's revolutionary bus network changes is 10th. Clearly in denial, Campbell Newman labelled the results a "sick joke".

So, apart from shops that close at 5:30pm, worse restaurants than Damascus (140th), and lack of culture, why has Brisbane fared so badly compared to its peers? Poor public transport of course!

  • World's 2nd highest bus fares, 3rd highest train fares. Most expensive fares in Australia, which are deterring public transport use. 
  • Grossly inefficient, generally infrequent, and confusing bus network. This was compounded by the failure of Queensland government and Brisbane City Council to implement TransLink's bus network review. 
  • Laughably infrequent train system, both during peak and off-peak. 
  • Poor connectivity between bus and train networks. 
  • Failure of successive governments to develop the train network to cope with demand - e.g. failure to implement required additional tracks, Cross River Rail, improved signalling, new trains, and timetable improvements. 
It should be noted that for example, two public transport journeys in Melbourne on a Sunday will be nearly half the cost than in Brisbane, and with trains running 3 times more frequently in Melbourne! 

In addition to poor public transport in SE Queensland, there is also a big issue with uncontrolled urban sprawl (e.g. Ripley Valley, Flagstone, Yarrabilba) adding to the inefficient road and rail transport network. It is clear that Brisbane's relatively poor liveability (against its peers) is due to the failure of successive governments when it comes to implementing an frequent, affordable, and efficient public transport network. 

Economist article:
Courier Mail story:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tony Abbott's freight tunnel will not help peak commuters!

Port of Brisbane Line at Park Road.  Source: Google Maps
With one and a half weeks to go until the 2013 federal election, Cross River Rail is finally starting to become an election issue. Tony Abbot has flagged a $5b 25km rail freight line, mainly in tunnel from Acacia Ridge to the Port of Brisbane, and an Ipswich rail freight bypass (Southern Freight Rail Corridor) from Rosewood to Kagaru. The former would be planned to open by 2026. These are both part of an inland Brisbane to Melbourne rail project, something has been planned for some time. BrizCommuter is not going to question the need for this tunnel to get freight off the roads. However LNP state transport minister Scott Emerson has stated that this project will help commuters by "freeing up capacity for passenger services", and BrizCommuter questions whether this is the truth. Lets take a look:

These two rail freight projects will allow freight trains to avoid conflict with passenger trains between Salisbury and Park Road (Beenleigh and Gold Coast Line) and Corinda to Rosewood (Ipswich and Richlands Line).

Salisbury to Park Road - this dual gauge track is used by freight off-peak, with a freight embargo taking place during the peaks when it used by Gold Coast Line trains. Abbott's freight tunnel will allow freight trains to run in the peak. However, as the capacity of this rail corridor is restricted through the CBD (e.g. Merivale bridge crossing) in the peak period, then removing freight trains will not help at all with increasing peak train services from the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, and Cleveland Lines. This is a problem that can only be ultimately solved by Cross River Rail, which Abbott is refusing to fund. Off peak, the freight tunnel may allow Gold Coast trains to overtake Beenleigh Line trains on this section, potentially allowing for a reliable 15 minute off-peak Gold Coast and Beenleigh Line trains (in conjunction with some other minor infrastructure projects).

Corinda to Rosewood - this is commonly used by coal trains running, which then travel via Tennyson and the previously mentioned section to access the Port of Brisbane. Again, there is a freight embargo during the peak period. The Ipswich and Richlands Lines already run approx. 16tph in the am peak, with a maximum capacity through the city of approx. 18tph to 20tph with current signalling. It is likely that by the mid to late 2020s this rail corridor will reach maximum capacity, and Abbott's freight tunnel will not help matters as there is already no freight during the peak. As per the previous example, the freight tunnel would allow for reliable 15 minute off-peak services to both Richlands and Ipswich (the latter being an express service). However, it is possible that this service could be operated now, just less reliably.

This rail tunnel also does not solve the issue with freight travelling North - South through the CBD, and limited capacity of the North Coast Line which parallels the Bruce Highway. It seems that Tony Abbott's priorities lie with inefficient and environmentally unsustainable road traffic along this important transport corridor.

To conclude, Tony Abbott's freight tunnel may help improve off-peak frequencies on SE Queensland's rail network, but will not help peak commuters at all. This rail freight project should not seen as an alternative to Cross River Rail.

Courier Mail article:
Southern Freight Rail Corridor: