Saturday, January 5, 2013

2013 World Fare Comparison - Conclusion and Recommendations

The last 4 BrizCommuter blog posts have compared public transport fares across the world and Australia as of 7th January 2013. Below is a summary of the awful news for Brisbanites, who will be in for another shock when using their go cards from the 7th of January:
  • Brisbane has the world's 3rd most expensive train fares for a 5km adult single peak journey
  • Brisbane has the world's 2nd most expensive bus fares for a 5km adult single peak journey
  • Brisbane has the world's most expensive maximum daily fares for multiple 5km adult bus and train journeys due to complete lack of daily ticketing options
  • Brisbane has the world's 5th to 6th most expensive weekly fares for multiple (10+) 5km adult peak train journeys
  • Brisbane has the world's most expensive 5km single journeys without a refund policy if delays occur
  • Brisbane has a relatively poor train frequency, and thus train fares are poor value for money
  • Brisbane's off-peak train and bus fares are more expensive than anywhere in North America and Asia, as well as being more expensive than peak fares in Auckland and Perth
  • Brisbane's fare structure is skewed against short distance journeys, and favours environmentally unsustainable longer journeys
  • Brisbane's "9 journeys then free" cap can be easily rorted by longer distance commuters
  • Brisbane's morning peak fare period bizarrely starts at 2am! 
City Cat or Rip-off Cat?
The result of Brisbane and SE Queensland's extortionate public transport fares (71% increase since late 2009) is quite obviously deterring public transport use. It is also making Brisbane slide down the list of liveable cities, as well as increasing the cost of living. It is very concerning that a demographically similar city such as Perth has peak train fares that are 47% cheaper! It is likely that the botched go card introduction under the ALP government didn't purchase key software modules required for a sensible fare structure. In this Courier Mail article it is quoted that "Transport Minister Scott Emerson conceded fares were too high but rejected calls for a new fare review" - where is the logic in that statement? Why are we paying your wages Mr Emerson? Is the LNP government avoiding making public transport more attractive so that they do not need to spend any money on improving anything?

So what ideas can BrizCommuter give to the car-obsessed Queensland Government and competence-challenged TransLink to make Brisbane's public transport more attractive?
  • Stop the fare increases until Brisbane is more in line with it's peer cities
  • Decrease the base fare rate (zone 1) to make shorter journeys cheaper
  • Introduce a daily zone based fare capping option in line with it's peer cities, that cannot be rorted by long distance commuters
  • Introduce a weekly zone based fare capping option (or alternative periodical fare option) that cannot be rorted by longer distance commuters
  • The morning peak fare period should be based on journey finishing time (e.g. 7am to 9:15am) instead of journey start time (e.g 2am to 9am)
  • Improve peak train frequencies to be as high as reliably possible with frequent timetable reviews (note: Queensland Rail / TransLink's stage 2 train timetable update due in 2011, is now not expected until late 2013 - absolutely disgraceful!)
  • Improve off-peak train frequencies to every 15 minutes across the inner-suburban Queensland Rail (QR) network on weekdays and weekends
  • Expand the frequent and simplified bus network to all main transport corridors
  • Consider some consolidating of fare zones
  • Purchase required software modules for the above required functionality
Of course, you cannot get anything for free. How can the Queensland Government and TransLink afford to lower fares and improve public transport? 
  • Increased fare box revenue as passengers are attracted back to public transport by improved fares and services
  • Reduce inefficiencies and wastage - looking at you Queensland Rail and Brisbane City Council/Brisbane Transport (Maroon CityGlider, cough, cough!) Could privatisation of Queensland Rail and Brisbane Transport be a solution?
  • Note: An attractive 7 days per week 15 minute off-peak on inner-suburban lines would cost less than 10% of QR's current budget, even with guards! 
  • Eliminate train guards - however this would require roll-out of ATP, or ERTMS signalling across SE Queensland's rail network which would require government spending
  • Further review the bus network for increased attractiveness and efficiency - the current review is a start, but does not go far enough in creating an efficient trunk and feeder network
  • Redirect funds from poor value for money road projects to public transport - yes, roads are subsidised too!
  • A huge change in attitude from politicians from road-centric policy and urban sprawl development to more environmentally sustainable transportation and urban design - don't hold your breath on this one with either side in politics! 
In future blog posts BrizCommuter is planning on looking at weekly/periodical options from multiple public transport smart card systems, as well as car vs train costs and subsidy. 


  1. Although I enjoy a grandiose statement as much as the next person, I don't think you should state " An attractive 7 days per week 15 minute off-peak on inner-suburban lines would cost less than 10% of QR's current budget, even with guards" without backing this up somehow. Can you provide your assumptions and methodology? Define QR's budget, the cost per service km, the track maintenance, the rollingstock maintenance, and so on. If you're proven correct, I'll tip my metaphorical hat to you.

    Also, why do you link guards with a signalling system? Guards have far more to do with assisting mobility impaired passengers than safe separation of trains.

  2. H - The 10% figure was based on the budget for the Ferny Grove 15 minute trial, increased proportionally for the number of services required for 7 day/15 min inner-suburban off-peak service. This was then applied against QR's budget from TransLInk.

    Also guards are very much linked with the signalling system. The lack of ATP is why we still have guards. If we have new signalling with ATP, the railway regulators will allow the removal of guards. By the way, plenty of cities cope just fine without guards for customer service!

  3. Thanks for your reply.

    So, for clarification, are you suggesting that the 15/7 timetable across all lines could be implemented for an additional 10% of funding to QR, or are you saying that the entire business of QR could operate on 10% of its funding while providing the 15/7 timetable? I could agree with the former, and would very highly doubt the latter.

    The primary purpose of ATP is to turn what is effective an administrative control into an engineering control. Namely, that trains are kept to the speed limit, and a train does not enter a block section at danger. Both of these are driver issues, not guards. The duties of a guard have no relation to ATP - assisting passengers and "blowing the whistle" are not impacted by ATP. I'm not advocating guards, but nor do I believe ATP is related to their ongoing justification (or otherwise). A more likely way to allow the removal of guards would be to appropriately relocate the disabled boarding point on platforms to close proximity to the driver's cab, to allow a similar operation to Melbourne.

  4. H - I would suggest that rather providing 10% additional funding, that QR may be able to cut internal costs by 10% through efficiencies and cutting the fat. QR is one of the most inefficient train operators in the world in costs vs service km. Note changes to QR National after privatisation!

    The Australian railway regulators believe that guards are justified due to lack of ATP.

  5. Spot on. If only someone in the Government/Translink were listening.

  6. It is still not clear what you are suggesting. Are you suggesting:

    A) That QR could provide the 15/7 timetable on all lines, and run their entirety of their business, for 10% of their budget? That is, cut 90% of their current budget?

    B) That QR could provide the 15/7 timetable on all lines, and run their current business, for 90% of their budget? That is, a 10% reduction of their current budget?

    C) Something else?

    In your post it appears that you suggest A), while in the comment you appear to suggest B). I would agree with B), but A) is far from realistic.

    Regardless of what the regulators might think, their is no link between guards and ATP. The impact of ATP is mutually exclusive to the impact of guards. It is like suggesting that there should be conductors on Melbourne's trams because they don't have giant bullbars on the front. One is a customer service issue, the other a safeworking issue, and in no way are they related.

  7. H - BrizCommuter was quite obviously referring to option B. By the way - railway regulators make the rules!

  8. When you write "Note: An attractive 7 days per week 15 minute off-peak on inner-suburban lines would cost less than 10% of QR's current budget, even with guards!", it may be "obvious" to you, but it is not to someone who didn't write it. Reading that, it sounds like you were saying A. And if I can make that interpretation, it is likely that others will as well. Given the magnitude of what the misinterpretation means, I thought it pertinent to make the clarification.

  9. Also, just because they make the rules, doesn't mean they are sensible or justified. They can make, and enforce, whatever rules they please. If their justification for guards is lack of ATP, they are either lying or misinformed. Either way, nothing wrong with pointing out some realities of the situation.

  10. Garvin - ATP is Automatic Train Protection. This stops a train from running through a red signal, and can also keep trains to speed limits around bends and with yellow signals should the driver be incapacitated or not paying attention.

  11. I was aware of the signal protection system, just was not aware of it. Not sure how it fits in with guards though. Or at least the guards I am thinking of, which are the person who is in the middle of the train, makes sure everyone is on and off the train (all clear) and blows the whistle.

    The guard also helps disabled people with wheelchairs. Removing the guard would have a large impact on them.

    So from reading the previous replies, am I mis-understanding what is meant by guards?

  12. On the issue of fare box leakage, if you want to reduce or eliminate FBL, surely the easiest way to is to remove the 9 then free system and then reduce the overall fares. So a person would incur the same costs for 12 journeys as for nine.

    I saw on the front page of mx that the Newman Government is planning a fare review.

  13. Applaud your analysis of the fare comparison, excellent. Don't agree with your overly technical prescriptions. What we need is total reform of the system. Integrate the bureaucracies, currently too convoluted, cumbersome, conflicted. They all hate each other basically, don't want to give up their patch and blame each other for faults. A single metro system, as all other cities with good transport have, would provide massive savings and a single coordinated vision. Also, government must look at transport 'costs' in an integrated way, that is the benefits and savings it delivers to the city as a whole, rather than looking at costs in isolation. This is dumb, antiquated thinking, but they refuse to budge on it. 1) single integrated bureaucracy running a truly integrated system, 2) The wider financial benefits that a good system delivers integrated into the budgets.

  14. "The guard also helps disabled people with wheelchairs. Removing the guard would have a large impact on them."

    @Garvin, no it wouldn't.

    You have station plaforms with a built up concrete section at one end next to the drivers cab, so that wheelchairs can board level with the door.

    In situations where this is not possible the train driver simply hops out of the cab and deploys the ramp, as is the case on Transperth Trains, Metro Melbourne, TransAdelaide trains, and of course what bus drivers do on a daily basis.

  15. So, what's your budget for rolling out ATP across the network?

  16. On the other hand Brisbane was one of the leading bull bars makers and sellers in australia

  17. Yup I agree Brisbane has the world's 3rd most expensive train fares.


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