Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ferny Grove Line - 10 months post duplication

The $100m+ duplication of the Ferny Grove Line was completed in early April 2012, with the purpose of the duplication to allow an increase in track capacity and increased reliability. So how is the Ferny Grove fairing more than 10 months after more than $100m in infrastructure was completed?

 Poor advertising = poor patronage
Off-peak services

15 minute off-peak services between 9am and 3pm on weekdays were introduced in October 2012 - 6 months after the duplication was completed. BrizCommuter is finding the improved off-peak frequency very useful! So far patronage observations have been quite reasonable, but less than expected when compared with similar frequency improvements elsewhere in the world (and even Brisbane's BUZ  bus services). An average of around 120 passengers have been observed on additional services, whilst pre-existing services often have loads in excess of 200 passengers. This mismatch between additional and pre-existing services shows that some passengers may not be aware of the extra services.  What needs to improve to make the 15 minute off-peak services more of a success?
  1. More advertising - whilst initial press and social media coverage was good, the most advertising that was seen at train stations was on an A4 sheet which most passengers probably didn't notice. These posters have now mainly been removed. TransLink and QR need to make more of an effort in advertising the extra services - posters, banners, and what about that QR billboard at the entrance to Gaythorne's car park (in full view of motorists stuck in the Samford Rd/Wardell St intersection queue)?
  2. Peak improvements (see below) - a significant proportion of off-peak users, also travel in the peak period for their "other" daily journey. Thus peak (and to a lesser extent counter-peak improvements) may help drive off-peak patronage further. 
  3. Further off-peak improvements - until the 15 minute off-peak is rolled out to other train lines, early evenings, and weekends (as per Brisbane's hugely successful frequent "Buz" bus services), then off-peak patronage will continue to be less than optimal.
Lets hope that the re-start of university traffic in late February/early March, and more of an effort in publicity from TransLink and QR will help drive off-peak patronage growth further. 

Train arriving at Ferny Grove in 2013
Peak services

The lack of peak period improvements post Ferny Grove duplication is one of BrizCommuter's biggest annoyances. Ferny Grove Line users are still waiting for peak service improvements more than 10 months after the duplication was completed. 6 services per day still start or terminate at Mitchelton despite the bottleneck between Mitchelton and Ferny Grove having been eliminated. 4 express trains per day unnecessarily bypass inner-suburbs stations such as Alderley and Windsor due to erratic scheduling of a timetable largely unchanged since 2008. There are peak service gaps of up to 23 minutes, in which time you could drive to the CBD, and possibly even drive back again! In the counter-peak direction, only approx. 1 in 3 trains take passengers with gaps of up to 32 minutes.

Just to make things worse, the LNP Queensland Government is blaming the lack of peak improvements on the failure of the previous government to act on Merivale Bridge capacity. The lack of peak improvements is simply due to the lack of a new timetable! The tracks that the Ferny Grove Line shares with the Doomben, Shorncliffe, and Airport Lines still have 25-33% spare track capacity in the peak direction assuming a maximum reliable track capacity of 20tph (note that approx. 24tph were operated post 2013 floods/storm!). An optimised Ferny Grove Line peak timetable would require modifications to 6 other lines, however this does not seem to be an impediment to implementing new timetables anywhere else in the world. TransLink are continuing to treat their customers with contempt, having so far given two dates of the stage 2 timetable improvements, and have failed to deliver on both occasions! At the time of writing, there is currently no known date of when the new timetables will now be introduced.

The continuing mediocrity of SE Queensland's rail system is totally unacceptable!

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