Monday, December 11, 2017

QR's "Illegal" NGR Trains Enter Service


 Two years after long suffering QR passengers had been informed the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains would enter service, they finally entered service. BrizCommuter took a ride on part of the inaugural NGR service from Varsity Lakes to Brisbane Airport.

First impressions are that the Bombardier built NGR trains have some great features. These include destination displays on the outside of the train, half-decent handholds for standing passengers, touch responsive lights on the push buttons, high seat backs, lots of internal CCTV, external cameras for drivers only operation (sorry, Campbell) guards, and a quiet ride. In fact, the trains are generally looking good until you get the toilet.

The toilets are where the NGR's fall flat on face. The single toilet (as the moment) has been placed in the middle of the train, at the medial end of the 3rd or 4th carriage depending on the direction of the train (due to track layouts on the QR network trains can be either way around). The corridor past the toilet is too narrow for a wheelchair, mobility scooters, double prams, or even people on crutches. Thus you can only access the disabled toilet from the half of the train in which the toilet is located. Just to add to the misery for disabled passengers, there is insufficient space in between the toilet bowl and the wall, not helped by a curving door. In fact, the toilets are not legally compliant, according to the Disability Discrimination Act. To allow the trains to enter service, QR (or possibly Department of Transport and Main Roads who have badly managed the NGR project) have had to request an exemption from AHRC to enter the trains into passenger service until they sort out the mess. At this point in time, this exemption hasn't been provided (and is unlikely to be until at least February 2018), thus it is technically illegal for the NGR trains to have been entered into service, with risk of litigation.

To sort out this discrimination against the disabled, the NGR trains will be reconfigured. The result of this, is that less than half of the NGR rains will have a toilet instead of all trains as originally promised. This means that commuters on hour long suburban journeys (e.g. between Beenleigh, Cleveland, Kippa-Ring, and Caboolture to Brisbane) will have to hold their bladders for the next three decades. This is totally unacceptable, and discourages public transport use.

Why weren't the toilets located next to the drivers cabs? Well this would have been sensible from a design point of view as it would have allowed for more space. Unfortunately due to having multiple half-arsed QR station upgrades where only the centre of the platform has been raised, the wheelchair access point is still in the middle of the train, despite the guard being at the back. Ooops!

The mismatch in position between the wheelchair access in the middle of the train, and the guard at the back will also massively increase staffing costs, as all stations served by NGR trains will have to be manned throughout operating hours. There may also be extra customer assistance staff on-boarding, bringing an NGR train up to Boeing 737 staffing levels. Who knows what the extra wage bill will be when NGRs are running throughout the network?

BrizCommuter feels sorry for QR, who are having to deal with major design faults caused by poor project management by TMR (the design was signed off under the Newman government). They are in a no win situation - keep the NGR trains out of service to comply with the law, or face increased unreliability from the ageing NGR trains and lack of time to troubleshoot the NGRs in service before the Commonwealth Games. There is no question that there should be a Commission of Inquiry into the epic botch that is the NGR project.

Monday, December 4, 2017

QR's Summer of Hell (Again)

QR's Summer School Holidays Service Axe
It was pretty inevitable that more than a year into #RailFail, and with the net increase of train drivers being somewhere close to zero, that Queensland Rail (QR) were going to inflict yet more pain on commuters during the Summer School Holidays. This Summer, QR have decided to add two extra weeks of commuter hell, by axing even more train services from Monday 18th December 2017 until Sunday 21st January 2018. Changes in this years School Holiday Interim Timetable (SHIT) include:
  • Peak services cut, with 15 minute frequency running on most lines during much of the peak period (instead of every 6 to 7.5mins), and a few extra services during the busiest part of the peak period. Many express services have been axed, slowing down journey times. 
  • Off-peak 15 minute services axed, with 30 minute frequency on most lines. 
  • Hourly services on 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 30th, and 31st* December 2017, and 1st January 2018. 
  • *Hourly services on New Years Eve, until 5pm when they will be every 30 minutes.
  • Further service reductions on the already infrequent Sunshine Coast, Doomben, and Rosewood Lines.
... in the mean time, every other major city in Australia is running a normal timetable, with off-peak frequencies of 10 to 15 minutes in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. 

It appears that yet again, QR have contempt for the travelling public, not realising that passengers still need to get to work, travel for leisure during the school holidays and Xmas/New Year period, attend Boxing Day sales, and attend New Year functions. Despite a 25% reduction in patronage at this time of the year, services frequencies are being cut by up to 75%. The ongoing #RailFail service reductions which are likely to last at least another year, are a major embarrassment to Brisbane and SE Queensland. 

BrizCommuter has already been contacted by concerned Nurses and hospital admin staff working at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Lady Cilento Children's Hospital, and Mater Hospital. The early am peak service reductions (people trying to get to work for 7am to 8am starts) through South Bank are horrific, with up to 75% reduction is services from Roma Street to South Bank and Park Road in the early am peak. With only 10 hours between shifts, nursing staff are concerned that the increased journey times will increase on the job fatigue, with risk to patient care. 

Surely with a peak service that resembles an off-peak service, and an off-peak service that is wholly inadequate for a "New World City", that TransLink should only be charging off-peak fares throughout the Summer School Holiday Timetable?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

CRR is Go, Emerson is Gone

Cross River Rail is Go
Whilst the final results are still being counted in the 2017 Queensland Election, it looks highly likely that ALP leader Annastacia Palaszczuk will form a majority or minority government. This is excellent news for Cross River Rail (CRR), as the out of touch LNP and PHON wanted to axe it. In fact, the LNP has had quite a significant swing against it in SE Queensland. It is quite likely that their bizarre dislike of CRR played a part in that swing. Why would small and big business owners support an LNP policy that would harm Brisbane's economy and quality of living, and increase congestion?

Scott Emerson is Gone
As part of that swing against the LNP, former Transport Minister under the Newman Government - Scott Emerson has lost his seat. Whilst being interviewed on TV, he seemed to blame the loss on everything but himself and LNP policies. Scott Emerson oversaw the driver freeze at Queensland Rail which resulted in #RailFail, the purchase of the disastrous NGR train project, and didn't have enough balls for drive bus network reform past Brisbane Council Council. Scott Emerson was thus quite possibly the worst Transport Minister in Queensland ever (note: that removal of trams in the 1960s was a Brisbane City Council decision). BrizCommuter says good riddance. Maybe cleaning tables at Taco Bell would be a better career prospect, though Mr Emerson would probably just blame the messy tables on the ALP?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

LNP & PHON - The Consequences of Bad Decisions


Tim Nicholls - Out of Touch
As the 2017 Queensland Election campaign rolls along, it is becoming more apparent that the Tim Nicholls led LNP will axe Cross River Rail if they win the election. This is despite the Newman LNP government supporting the BaT tunnel on the same route just 3 years earlier. Instead the LNP are promising a study (yes, just a study) into vapourware (i.e. non-existent) fast transport options such as Hyperloop. The LNP will almost definitely have to partner with Pauline Hanson's One Nation (PHON) to form a government, and PHON have already made it clear that they have no interest in CRR. If the LNP and PHON get there way, these will be consequences of their bad decisions:

  • No 50% increase in rail capacity through Brisbane's CBD.
  • No 50% increase in Gold Coast Line services.
  • No 25% increase in Cleveland Line services.
  • No 50% increase in outer Beenleigh Line services.
  • No capacity for Salisbury to Beaudesert Line services.
  • No 100% increase, and express services on the Redcliffe Peninsula Line.
  • No improvements in journey times from the Gold Coast to Brisbane's CBD.
  • No station as part of Roma Street redevelopments (Entertainment Centre).
  • No capability for building the Trouts Road Line to massively increase services on the Sunshine Coast Line and serve North West Brisbane suburbs for the first time by rail.
  • No improvements in train network resilience and reliability across QR's train network.
  • No train service to the Southern end of Brisbane's CBD and Wooloongabba.
  • Will limit off-peak frequency across QR's train network.
  • Will increase road congestion.
  • Will result in Brisbane loosing out on business to more progressive cities which are building rail tunnels such as Auckland, Sydney, and Melbourne.
  • Will severely damage Brisbane's reputation as a "New World City".
Business groups and even the RACQ are fully supportive of Cross River Rail. For Tim Nicholls and the LNP to continue being anti-CRR, shows how out of touch he is with 21st century transport policy. Axing CRR would prevent improvements to public transport from suburbs that are in LNP electorates - go figure! A vote against CRR, will cause transport meltdown in SE Queensland, and make Brisbane look even more backwards on the world stage. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Less Rail Patronage - Why?

Perth - 15 minute frequency, 7 days a week
After significant SE Queensland rail patronage increases in the mid 2000s, patronage has declined significantly in recent years. This is being used by the LNP as an excuse to axe Brisbane's Cross River Rail (yet again). There is huge latent demand for rail transport, but unfortunately this patronage is being stifled for the following reasons:
  • I would catch the train if the pm peak frequency wasn't half of the am peak frequency.
  • I would catch the train if the off-peak frequency wasn't so poor.
  • I would catch the train if I didn't have to travel on overcrowded 3-car trains.
  • I would catch the train if it wasn't for the axed train services due to Rail Fail.
  • I would catch the train if Fridays had the same timetable as Monday to Thursday.
  • I would catch the train if night time services didn't keep being replaced by buses.
  • I would catch the train if my services didn't keep getting cancelled or expressed past my station.
  • I would catch the train if weekend services were sometimes not hourly. 
  • I would catch the train if it wasn't cheaper to drive.
  • I would catch the train if I could salary sacrifice the fare.
  • I would catch the train if the station car park didn't reach capacity at 6:50am.
  • I would catch the train if there was a frequent bus service to the station.
  • I would catch the train if the last connecting bus service ran after 5pm.
  • I would catch the train if the air conditioning wasn't too hot/cold.
  • I would catch the train if they weren't filthy cess pits. 
Unfortunately, most of the above are due to failed public transport policy by successive governments on both sides of politics (and in a  few cases Brisbane City Council and TransLink incompetence).  The biggest causes of patronage decline is poor frequency and overcrowded train services due to chronic lack of trains and drivers. The #RailFail lack of drivers won't be resolved until at least 2019. As not enough NGR trains have been ordered to maximise use of the current network, lack of trains will again be an issue by the early 2020s. Fare policy is a other huge issue, with a clear link between successive 15% fare increases and patronage decline. Lesser issues include the removal of cleaners at termini under the Newman government, and lack of station car parking.

There is huge latent demand for public transport in Brisbane, all it requires is for QR to run a frequent  train service that the population of SE Queensland deserves (as per Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne). Of course, governments may be purposefully stifling demand for public transport to avoid having to build more rail infrastructure such as Cross River Rail, and Salisbury to Beaudesert Line. If Queensland governments continue to ignore public transport, then Brisbane will struggle to attract business as it descends further into car-centric transport failure. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunshine Coast Line Duplication - Reality Check

Add - Beware of Politicians! 
With the 2017 Queensland State Election campaign underway, there will be a few political footballs that involve public transport. The most critical is Cross River Rail (CRR), which is vital for increasing rail capacity through Brisbane's CBD by approximately 50% allowing for more services to run through Brisbane to/from the suburbs, and allows for passenger services on the Salisbury to Beaudesert Line. However, the project most likely to receive bi-partisan political support (at least until the day after the election) will be the duplication of the Sunshine Coast from from Beerburrum to Landsborough, or even Nambour. However, anyone who thinks that this is going to be problem solver for peak period passenger services to the Sunshine Coast, needs a reality check. These are the facts:
  • Current am peak service from the Sunshine Coast is approximately 3 trains per hour in the peak direction (tph), with 9 tph running through to Brisbane from Caboolture. These services share tracks with the Redcliffe Peninsula Line from Northgate through the CBD, running at 18tph, out of the maximum 20tph capacity. 
  • Proposed ETCS signalling will allow approximately 24tph reliably. This is only a 20% increase in track capacity to be shared between the Sunshine Coast Line, Caboolture Line, and Redcliffe Peninsula Line. 
  • Due to the limited spare track capacity between Northgate and Brisbane's CBD, there is little potential for increasing train services. Even with a duplication, the Sunshine Coast Line may just see 1 or 2 extra tph in the am peak. There would however be significant potential for increasing the current inadequate off-peak services. 
  • The only way of significantly increasing peak train services to/from the Sunshine Coast is to construct the "barely on the political radar" Trouts Rd Line / North Eastern Transportation Corridor, which would connect with CRR just North of Roma Street. This would cost in excess of $2b. 
  • Thus unless political parties support both CRR and the Trouts Rd Line, then duplicating the Sunshine Coast Line will have little benefit for increasing peak train services to/from the Sunshine Coast. The LNP and One Nation appear to be anti-CRR, and no political parties are makings series effort towards building the Trouts Rd Line. An LNP MP has been quoted as wanting to build a road along the North Eastern Transportation Corridor instead of a train line. 
  • The Sunshine Coast Line services a few hinterland villages and small town (Nambour). Whilst duplicating the line would have benefit for freight services, a better solution for passengers would be to construct the long planned CAMCOS Line from Beerwah to Caloundra and Maroochydore. 
It can be concluded that duplication the Sunshine Coast Line will have benefits for improving reliability, rail freight and off-peak passenger services. However, for any significant peak period service improvements, the Trouts Rd Line and Cross River Rail will be required. Without these two projects, the Sunshine Coast Line duplication may be a white elephant. To better service the larger population centres on the Sunshine Coast, will require the construction of CAMCOS to Caloundra and Maroochydore. Brave politicians will need to spend big to solve SE Queensland's transport woes, and allow SE Queensland to support growth and attract business to the benefit of Queensland's economy. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

NGR Fail - 600 Days and Questions for Mr Nicholls

NGR - 600 Days and Not in Service
Today was the 600th day anniversary of the first of the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains arriving in Queensland. Due to a project failure of epic proportions, these trains are still not in passenger service. The NGR trains were ordered under the one-term LNP Newman government, who also laid the foundations for Rail Fail by ordering a recruitment freeze ahead of the implementation of 15 minute off-peak services and the Redcliffe Peninsula Line. It is well known the NGR trains were ordered without guard accommodation, as the intention was for the trains to be Driver Only Operated (DOO). This was a polar opposite of the EBA that was in place for train crew. So how were the LNP Government going to get around this? It is also well known that QR has limited involvement with the design of the NGR trains. Well it seems that there are a few questions for current QLD LNP opposition leader Mr Tim Nicholls MP to answer:

  • Were the LNP planning on the NGR trains to be run by a private company?
  • Was this private company going to use DOO trains on the QR network?
  • Was this private company going to poach train drivers from the already understaffed QR?
  • Was the recruitment freeze a plan to setup QR to fail?
  • Why was the NGR business case not released? 
  • Are public servants too scared to speak up about the LNP's secret plans, as they could loose their jobs if the LNP got back in power?
  • Why were the disabled toilets in the NGR trains designed to not meet legal requirements?
BrizCommuter has run many a blog post about the LNP's other destructive public transport policies, such as axing Cross River Rail for the ill-thought out BaT Tunnel which has set back CRR by over half a decade (or even permanently if the LNP get back in power). There is no question that QR had serious internal issues irrespective of the government in power, and that the ALP Palaszczuk have done a half-arsed job with Rail Fail service recovery thanks to Union pressure. In fact, BrizCommuter is not adverse to QR Citytrain being privatised, but it needs to be done by honest and transparent methods. However, if it appears that the LNP were planning on privatising QR by stealth, by getting a private company to run the NGR trains with different safety rules and staff agreements, then it appears that the LNP cannot be trusted with public transport. 

If the LNP get back in power before the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, then they will have egg on their face when services have to be axed to lack of NGR trains and drivers. With the LNP being more concerned with privatising train services than improving train services, expect the pain of the Rail Fail to continue well into the next decade if they win the next Queensland state election. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

1 Year of Rail Fail, No End in Sight!

Lets celebrate
by running hourly trains!
Today is the 1st birthday of Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail (#RailFail), with the first wave of mass service cancellations occurring on 30th September 2016, a few days ahead of the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line.

So what caused Rail Fail?
  • Recruitment freeze under the LNP Newman Government at the same time as construction was occurring on the Redcliffe Peninsula Line, and expansion of 15 minute off-peak services.
  • Changes to train driver breaks, requiring more drivers for the same number of services. 
  • Slow driver training programs, and Union influence internal recruitment slowed down recruitment. 
  • Chronic incompetence at QR failed to see that the October 2016 timetable was not possible with the staff availability at the time. 
How have commuters suffered?
  • Waves of last minute service cancellations (usually on Fridays and Sundays) during late 2016. 
  • Multiple timetable changes during late 2016 with axed services. 
  • Confusingly different timetables between Monday-Thursdays and Fridays.
  • 333 axed services per week in the 2017 timetable, of which only 2 have since been restored. 
  • Service gaps of up to 1 hour in the peaks, and increased overcrowding on some services.
  • Hourly weekend timetables during School Holidays and Public Holidays - worst train service in Australia and New Zealand (Oceania)!
  • Up to 60% peak period service cuts during the Summer School Holidays.
  • 2/3 of services cancelled on Xmas Day 2016. 
  • Looming Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Rail Fail - services to be axed on train lines other than the Gold Coast Line. 
  • Looming service cuts during School Holidays throughout 2018. 
What other issues have there been?
  • Chronic lack of trains since the January 2014 timetable limiting train services and resulting  overcrowded 3-car services. 
  • Nearly 600 day delay in New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) entering service.
  • Not enough NGR trains have been ordered to maximise use of existing infrastructure - politics and lack of perceived problem may prevent further orders from Indian Bombardier factory, and delay subsequent orders. 
  • NGR train toilets are not large enough for wheelchairs. 
  • NGR train guard position has moved to back of train, away from accessibility "seating" area, and raised platforms.
  • Increasing unreliability of ageing EMU and ICU trains. 
  • Poor train/platform interface at most stations. 
  • Chronic issue with trains running early.
  • Chronic issue with CBD track closures during the daytime causing delays of up to 15 minutes and missed connections.
  • Late night track closures creating a headache for shift workers. 
  • On-time running statistics exclude "expressed" services and off-peak services. 
What has been the result of Rail Fail?
  • Decline in patronage on QR's network (taking into account opening of Redcliffe Peninsula Line) - though statistics have gone "missing in action". 
  • Increased road congestion. 
  • Permanent damage to QR's reputation - privatisation almost inevitable when the LNP next gain power. 
  • Damage to Brisbane and SE Queensland's reputation - including lower liveability than other Australian capitals. 
  • High risk of Cross River Rail getting axed.
  • Due to massive number of 1 star reviews on Facebook, QR removed all Facebook reviews, and started concentrating on posts irrelevant to running a train service - trying to hid the truth QR?
When will Rail Fail be resolved?
  • Information of Rail Fail resolution and service recovery was conveniently dropped from the last CityTrain response - so little information is available. 
  • Likely that some of the axed 333 services will be restored during the second half of 2018. Expect further Friday and School Holiday service cuts throughout 2018. 
  • Most of the axed 333 services should be restored during 2019. Some axed services may not return. 
  • Urgently required service improvements (such as extending Cleveland Line pm peak expresses) unlikely until late 2019 or 2020. 
  • Major improvements to timetables (such as improved off-peak services and pm peak services on most lines) unlikely until well into 2020s. 
Whilst Queensland Rail's annual report states that Queensland Rail is focussed on becoming a "world class" rail operator, it is quite obvious that Queensland Rail is just a "world class" embarrassment to Brisbane and SE Queensland. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Toilets dropped from QR's NGR trains!

The disastrous New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) project has just taken another step towards mediocrity.  According to the New Generation Rollingstock website "Each NGR train will have an on-board toilet located in the third or fourth car (depending on direction of travel), with a baby change table inside." BrizCommuter's informed sources have also confirmed that the original intention was for all NGR trains to have toilets.

Unfortunately, in todays Brisbane Times article it has been stated that "The fleet will include 35 trains for long distance services on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Rosewood lines which will have two toilets and these will be made disability-accessible, while the remaining 40 trains will have no toilets, like QR's existing urban fleet".

This is the first that BrizCommuter was aware that more than half of the supposedly toilet equipped NGR trains will now not have toilets. When was this change made? Was it a cost saving exercise? Was it due to the toilets on the first batch of NGR trains being too small for wheelchairs? With urban train services to Cleveland, Beenleigh, Caboolture, Ipswich, and Kippa-Ring having journeys times of approximately an hour from Brisbane's CBD, the lack of toilets is a disgrace. This will also reduce operational flexibility by having two classes of NGR, increasing the likelihood of non-toilet equipped NGR trains running on the longer distance services to Rosewood, Gold Coast, and Sunshine Coast. The lack of amenities for basic human requirements on trains, is yet another reason why the majority of SE Queenslanders avoid using Queensland Rail's train services, and prefer to use their car instead. BrizCommuter backs calls by Rail Back on Track for a Commission of Inquiry into the massively botched NGR project. It is also time that the DG of Transport and Main Roads - Neil Scales was "flushed down the toilet", having presided over so many project failures.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Commonwealth Games Rail Fail - which lines will be axed?

Back in November 2016, BrizCommuter predicted that the train services for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) will be a bit of a disaster due to lack of drivers, lack of trains, and lack of rail infrastructure. This prediction is looking like it may have been an understatement for GC2018 which is being held in April. The situation with less than 200 days until GC2018:

  • Lack of drivers - Since the start of Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail in October 2016 due to lack of drivers, less than 40 new drivers have qualified. It has been claimed by "rail advocate" Paul Pluta, that more drivers have departed QR in this period, than have qualified. Even if not completely true, this is not surprising given that only 2 of the 333 axed train services in the 2017 timetable have been restored, and hourly services have been run on many weekends. Obviously with more drivers currently being trained, this balance will eventually tip in the positive direction, but there will still be a severe lack of driver issue throughout 2018, and well into 2019. 
  • Lack of trains / NGR delays - QR's New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) train project (run by Department of Transport and Main Roads) has been a disaster, with large numbers of defects, and disabled toilets that don't meet legal requirements. After nearly 600 days of being in Australia, not one NGR train has entered passenger service. There have been insufficient trains to run QR's timetable since 2014, and the delays to the NGR project is only making this issue worse. 
  • Failing EMU trains - the end of service life EMU trains are nearly 40 years old, and constitute most of the train failures on QR's network. Expected to have already been replaced by the delayed NGR trains, EMU reliability will be a concern until they are all retired. 
  • Lack of infrastructure - short sighted triplication instead of quadruplication of the Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line under the Beattie/Bligh era prevents Gold Coast express services overtaking slower Beenleigh Line services in both directions. This will prevent running fast high frequency services in both directions during GC2018 - note: the usual peak direction will the opposite to GC2018 traffic. At least the Coomera to Helensvale duplication and track improvements at Varsity Lakes will be complete. 
  • Politicians in the land of spin - it seems that politicians are avoiding the issue (well, there is an election looming) saying everything they can other than that train lines will inevitably have to see services axed during GC2018.
As extra services will need to be run to and from the Gold Coast during the games, it has been pretty obvious for the last year, that due to lack of trains and drivers, services will have to be removed from train lines other than the Gold Coast Line. This will cause pain for regular commuters, and for those connecting with services to/from the Gold Coast for GC2018. Accountant firm Deloitte seem to have tasked to do the number crunching to decide which train lines will see services axed. The fact that QR hasn't done this itself is somewhat concerning of its capabilities. So which lines may see services axed?
  • Beenleigh Line - interesting one. On on hand, the Beenleigh Line may see services extended to run to/from Varsity Lakes to form some of the extra Gold Coast Line services. On the other hand, to run more Gold Coast express services, we may see some Beenleigh Lines axed, or skip stations (though we could also see Gold Coast express services slowed down).
  • Springfield and Ipswich Lines - these lines use different tracks through Brisbane CBD to the Gold Coast Line, so should be unaffected for operational reasons. However due to only having a few stations, BrizCommuter would not be surprised if the Springfield Line is high up the list for train service axing. 
  • Ferny Grove Line - this is the busiest line (per number of stations) on QR's network. Being at the "other end" of the Beenleigh Line may (or may not) save it from having services axed. However, 15 minute off-peak, and weekend frequencies may be jeopardy. 
  • Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines - these lines do not share tracks with the Gold Coast Line. However, QR have had no qualms about axing 50% of Sunshine Coast Line services on some weekends, or reducing Caboolture Line peak services by 60% during January 2017. So be afraid! The new and still relatively quiet Redcliffe Peninsula Line (mainly due to an infrequent train service) is a high contender for having services axed. 
  • Airport Line - QR would be pretty dumb if they axed Airport Line services, which are usually at the "other end" of the Gold Coast Line. 
  • Shorncliffe and Doomben Lines - these share the same tracks as the Gold Coast Line, and thus could see services removed for capacity reasons. The short Doomben Line is relatively quiet, and could be at very high risk of having its already infrequent services axed. The 15 minute off-peak services to Northgate could also be at risk of axing. 
  • Cleveland Line - this line also shares tracks with the Gold Coast Line. With capacity across the Merivale Bridge shared with the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines, the Cleveland Line could see services axed for capacity reasons. The 15 minute off-peak services, and weekend 30 minute services could be axed. 
With an election looking, it is highly unlikely for the GC2018 service cuts to be announced until after the new government has formed power. There is no question that many commuters are going to be very annoyed with the inevitable Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games train service cuts, and that SE Queensland is going to look very stupid on the world stage.  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

TransLink's Information Fail (again)

Screen shot of TransLink's fail
Yesterday (Monday 18th September 2017), there were late night track closures through the CBD. TransLink advertised this closure as being from Corinda, Roma Street, Albion and Ferny Grove stations. BrizCommuter was travelling in from a late night Cleveland Line services, and planned to connect to a last bus from Roma Street, as based on TransLink's information trains were running to Roma Street. Right? Wrong!

Unfortunately, when the train arrived at Park Road, there was an announcement that the train terminated there, and passengers were to transfer to replacement buses to get to the CBD. This was the first time that the train passengers had been informed by the train guard of this service change. The extra time taken by the replacement bus to travel from Park Road to Roma Street, put onward bus and train connections into question. Thankfully, BrizCommuter just made his connection by seconds. Unfortunately, some of the other passengers forced onto the replacement bus were likely to miss onward bus connections (in one case the last bus of the night) and were furious at TransLink's information failure. 

The fact that TransLink can't get basic information right, such as the terminus for replacement services, is just another example of the chronic public transport failure in Brisbane. 

PS: BrizCommuter was also incorrectly told by platform staff at Park Road to not touch off at Park Road. If BrizCommuter had followed that advice, he would have incurred at $10 fixed fare. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

QR's Rail Fail - Yet more hourly shame!

QR's Train Wreck Timetables continue...
Rail Fail looks set to continue with Queensland Rail (QR) announcing yet more days of terrible hourly train services. TransLink and QR have announced that during the Spring School Holidays and Queen's Birthday Public Holiday, that they will again axe train services down to an hourly frequency on Sunday 17th September, Sunday 24th September, Sunday 1st October, and Monday 2nd October. Again, this means that Brisbane will have the worst train frequency in Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), even worse than Adelaide and Wellington (the latter only having 10% the population of Brisbane). Hourly service frequency is completely inadequate for the estimated 50,000 people who still have to use trains to get to work (including hospitality workers who have just suffered a pay cut), and for weekend shopping and events. This is likely to result in many workers being late into work, harming CBD businesses and decreasing event attendance. It is also causing severe repetitional damage to Brisbane.

Just to make things worse, there is a chance of Brisbane's Suncorp stadium hosting an NRL Finals Game. Whilst extra services will be run, many attendees (including those from interstate) will want to travel around QR's network during the day when hourly trains would be running. This will be quite a shock for those used to Sunday frequencies as good as every 10 minutes in Melbourne and every 15 minutes in Sydney and Perth.

On the good side, at least QR have kept the normal clock face timings of the remaining services so as to not break all bus connections.

The current state of Rail Fail (now into its 11th Month) is that:
  • Only 2 out of QR's 333 axed weekly train services have been restored
  • External recruitment has only just been advertised thanks to Union interference. 
  • Less than 40 new drivers have been trained out of the required 200. 
  • Citytrain Response Unit have dropped any mention of when services will be restored in their latest publication. 
BrizCommuter is very concerned. Expect more axed services during the Summer School Holidays, Easter, and of course during the Commonwealth Games. Due to the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) disaster, Rail Fail, and the M1 being the M1, expect transport chaos during the Commonwealth Games! Just to make things worse, the October 2016 timetable might not be fully restored until October 2019!

Monday, August 28, 2017

LNP go Hyper Loopy

Artists impression of the LNP's transport policy
In yet another example of laughable/destructive public transport policies from the Queensland LNP, today opposition leader Tim Nicholls announced that the LNP would pledge $2.5m towards a business case for Very Fast Train's (VFT) running between the Gold Coast and Bundaberg. It seems that even the Hyperloop concept from Tesla Cars entrepreneur Elon Musk will be investigated as an option.

Despite this investigation into Very Fast Trains, it appears that the LNP are still very cold on Cross River Rail (CRR). This is despite CRR going through countless evaluation processes throughout the last decade to be the best transport solution for SE Queensland. Without CRR (and ETCS signalling), capacity cannot be increased across Brisbane's existing rail network, making new lines such as the Salisbury to Beaudesert corridor (Greater Flagstone), and increasing train services to the Gold and Sunshine Coasts impossible to implement. Also, without CRR, much of Brisbane's CBD including the Queens Wharf Casino and QUT Gardens Point are still a long way from train stations, and transport in Brisbane will grind a standstill. This will make Queensland much less attractive to businesses compared to Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland that are all advancing with building new rail tunnels.

Does Tim Nicholls realise that:
  • For VFT's to run into Brisbane, that new train lines and transport corridors are required, a la Cross River Rail which he so despises? 
  • Due to acceleration and deceleration, that the time savings of VFT within 100km distance e.g. Brisbane to Gold and Sunshine Coats is barely worth the effort, especially given the linear nature of these conurbations requiring multiple stations? 
  • That Hyperloop is not in operation anywhere in the world, and that Queensland isn't too successful at project management recently? (NGR and MBRL, cough, cough)? 
  • That VFT from Brisbane to Bundaberg would cost approximately $100b (based on HS2 costs). 
  • That VFT requires a price premium, which many SE Queenslanders will not want to pay for (e.g. in Japan a similar distance journey on a Bullet Train will cost approximately double that of conventional rail)? 
  • That Brisbane to Bundaberg traffic would not sustain VFT in the slightest? 
If the LNP axe the urgently required CRR to instead investigate travelling at 1000kph in a drain pipe, then they will most definitely be Hyper Loopy! 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

CRR - ALP Release Business Case, LNP Clueless

The ALP Palaszczuk government has finally released the Cross River Rail (CRR) Mk3 Business Case. This can be downloaded here:
http://buildingqueensland.qld.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Building-Queensland-Business-Case-LR.pdf
According the QLD state government, the key findings of the business case are:
  • For every $1 invested in the project it returns $1.41 to the people of Queensland.
  • The project will generate an average of 1500 jobs each year over the construction period, with a peak of 3000 in the most intensive year.
  • CRR will provide capacity for ‘turn-up-and-go’ services for South East Queenslanders.
  • CRR will help reduce pressure on the region’s roads, freeing them up for commercial vehicles and commuter buses.
  • It will enable greater integration of bus and rail services which will help to maximise the State Government’s rail network investments and Brisbane City Council’s investment in Brisbane Metro and improved bus services.
  • Total daily public transport trips (bus & rail) will climb from around 510,000 to more than 880,000 in 2026 and to more than 1.1 million by 2036.
The benefits of CRR include:
  • Higher public transport use, increase frequencies, reduced journey times, reduced crowding, increased network reliability.
  • Facilitate city building and urban growth.
  • Improve population and employment linkages.
  • Improve SEQ's economic potential.
  • Road de-congestion,
  • Supply chain improvements. 
Cross River Rail map
The benefit improvements are obviously welcome. However, there is still no detail on the additional costs for out of scope infrastructure, required to meet the projected service frequencies. Irrespective of this, the current ALP government are committed to funding CRR, with support from the LNP Brisbane City Council, and even road lobbyists RACQ. 

Unfortunately, the LNP Federal Government, and LNP state opposition just don't get it. The Tim Nicholls led state opposition still appear that they want to delay or axe CRR if they get into power. This is rather ironic given that they were so keen to proceed with the seriously flawed BaT Tunnel three years ago. Excuses are that patronage is not growing. As previously discussed in this blog, there is considerable latent demand for public transport in Brisbane, however it is being held back to due to fare increases by the previous ALP and LNP governments, and mediocre train frequencies due to lack of staff, trains, and willpower during the last decade. It appears that LNP do not have the interests of SE Queenslanders at heart, with their destructive transport policies only appealing to car manufacturers and oil companies. Sadly, due to the ALP governments lacklustre efforts in resolving the LNP induced QR Rail Fail increasing the likelihood of political annihilation, the future of CRR, and thus Brisbane being competitive for business in the future is in serious doubt.  

Sunday, August 13, 2017

BrizCommuter 2017 Caption Competition

It's competition time! BrizCommuter asks for amusing captions for the below photo of a cardboard cut-out of a Queensland Rail (QR) New Generation Rollingstock train. The winner gets to be stuck on a broken down Ferny Grove Line train for 3 hours whilst holding a full bladder.


To get you started here are a few caption ideas:
  • I know the disabled toilets are too small, but that small?
  • To get the NGR trains in service before the Commonwealth Games, requires passengers to build their own. 
  • The closest you'll get to riding on an NGR train in 2017. 
  • The 50% cheaper NGR trains ordered by the Newman government, was due to cardboard construction. 
Add captions using the comments section. If you work for Department of Transport and Main Roads, or QR, you can enter anonymously!

Friday, August 11, 2017

QR's 2017 Ekka Rail Fail

Ekka loop service - faster to walk!
From Oceana's worst train operator that brought you the diabolical Interim and 2017 Timetables, the inadequate Summer, Easter, and Winter School Holiday Timetables, comes yet another Rail Fail event. This time, due to lack of organisational competence and lack of train drivers, Queensland Rail (QR) have reduced the train services to the 2017 Ekka.

Despite adverts at train stations advertising 15 minute Exhibition Loop services, TransLink's journey planner tells a different story. The Exhibition Loop services will only be running every 20 minutes, even on the busy weekend days and People's Day on Wednesday. This is a 25% cut in Ekka train services compared to last year. Just to make things worse, there is also no sign in the journey planner of the many additional train services that were run to the Ekka, many of them being trains that usually terminate at Roma Street being extended to serve Exhibition station on the way to the depot (or vice versa). Thus it is likely that the final figure may be that more than 30% of Ekka services have been axed - unless of course TransLink's journey planner is hopelessly wrong. This is a disgrace, and will result in severe overcrowding on the first few trains of the day. BrizCommuter would strongly advise walking to the Ekka from Fortitude Valley and Bowen Hills stations, rather than travelling on one of QR's infrequent sardine cans, or relying on TransLink getting their journey planner to match actual services.

A quick inspection of the timetable, also shows a 17 minute gap between Ekka Loop trains arriving at Roma Street and departing. This would block platforms to other services, add conflicting moves, or cause mass go card confusion by using platform 10. So, BrizCommuter also doubts that this timetable can be reliably operated. It is likely that unfortunate passengers may experience a rather random service frequency.

If you think things can't get any worse, then look forward to reduced timetables in the Spring School Holiday, 2018 Summer School Holiday, Easter, around and during the Commonwealth Games, and so on until sometime in 2019 when QR may finally have enough drivers to operate the October 2016 timetable - only 3 years late!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

QR's Rail Fail DB Review - Finds the bleeding obvious!

Screenshot from DB report.
Over 300 days after the start of Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail, an independent investigation by consultants from Deutche Bahn (DB) has told Queensland Rail exactly what BrizCommuter has been saying for the last three quarters of a year. The main findings are:

  • The New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) project, also dubbed as Not Going Right, is a complete disaster with 140 technical issues at the time of the review. Whilst India is not renowned for it's manufacturing industry, it seems that a lot of the flaws are in the "Queenslander" specifications and design. 
  • That the 18 NGR trains required for the proposed Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) is not likely to be achieved. 
  • That there are not enough train crew to operate the proposed timetable for the GC2018 - this will result in cuts to services on train lines other than the Gold Coast Line, which BrizCommuter has been warning about since November 2016. 
  • The geriatric EMU trains are becoming a reliability liability, adding to risks for GC2018. 
  • Fragmented IT systems, with high risk from cyber attack. 
  • That QR's customer service is good. Really? BrizCommuter assumes that DB didn't ask any passengers about this?
  • Risk in 40 year life cycle for SMU and IMU trains. Time to order more NGR trains?
  • High rate of overtime dependance. 
  • Fragmented organisational structure. 
  • General lack of trust and partnership between QR and TransLink/Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR).
So what needs to happen?
  • Realistically, QR is a failed organisation that can probably only be fixed by privatisation with a train operator that knows what it is doing, such as DB or MTR. 
  • TMR's governance of public transport is a failure. There needs to be better governance of public transport in Queensland, maybe following Perth's example of governance with a public transport only body. 
  • DG TMR Neil Scales should be sent packing back to England. 
  • That the #GC2018railfail is inevitable, resulting in reduced services on lines other than the Gold Coast Line before, during, and after the Commonwealth Games. Politicians need to stop hiding the truth from the public. 
  • More NGR trains need to be ordered, once the design flaws are fixed. 
The DB Whole of Business Review of Queensland Rail report:
https://www.cru.qld.gov.au/resources/20170720%20QR%20Whole%20of%20Business%20Review%20-%20DB%20EC%20final%20presentation.pdf

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fixing The Trains - But When?

You forgot to mention the 333 axed train services?
After recently being berated by BrizCommuter for the delayed June edition of Fixing The Trains (.pdf download link), the Citytrain Response Unit (CRU) has finally released it. So what have the Citytrain Response Unit, who incidentally are costing the taxpayer $3.5m a year, said in the latest update on Queensland Rail's (QR) #RailFail?

Stabilising timetables - the CRU have stated that "Queensland Rail has undertaken rigorous stress testing of the current timetable and has determined that the current timetable should remain in place. There are however, a number of distinct stress periods identified over the next 12 months which will require active management. This may require timetable adjustments, for a defined period of time, to ensure sufficient train crew are available to deliver reliable services across the network." In other words, expect yet more hourly weekend train services (worst train frequency in Oceana), and cuts to timetables during school holidays. No mention of how long the "interim timetable" cuts will stay in place, seems to be indefinitely.

QR being more customer focussed - the CRU have stated that "From equipping station staff with more tools to help customers, to frequent Commuter Catch-Ups and a refresh of station amenities, Queensland Rail is demonstrating that it is an organisation committed to meeting the needs of its customers and stakeholders. Queensland Rail will continue to use customer feedback to grow and evolve initiatives to improve customer experience." They failed to mention QR deleting hundreds of negative reviews of Facebook, the somewhat last minute mentions of the Commuter Catch-Ups, and the fact that customer information during times of delays is still as bad as ever.

Business Review - "Deutsche Bahn Engineering and Consulting was engaged to assist in the first phase of the review which comprised more than 70 interviews, 4 site visits and review of more than 250 documents. This  first phase of the review will be finalised next quarter." How about just privatise QR to Deutsche Bahn or another competent company, rather than wasting taxpayers money trying to get consultants to sort out the schmozzle that is QR?

Commonwealth Games - one tiny entry for the next major #RailFail disaster, with the CRU saying "plans for the Commonwealth Games are being developed and stress-tested in consultation with the Department of Transport and Main Roads". In other words, expect cuts on all train lines other than the Gold Coast Line during and around the 2018 Commonwealth Games!

Recruitment - this is the key to resolving Rail Fail, and so far out of a target of 200 drivers, only 28 have been trained, and 107 recruited. This is not good. In other words, expect Rail Fail's interim timetables to continue well into 2019, and don't expect any service improvements (on top of the axed October 2016 timetable) this decade.

Services Delivered - this graph on page 10 shows that 99.69% of services were delivered in Q3 16/17. Unfortunately, this figure is highly misleading as it based on the current "interim timetable" (AKA 2017 timetable) with 333 axed train services, rather than the full October 2016 timetable.

NGR - No information on the disastrous New Generation Rollingstock project. Chronic lack of trains, and increasingly unreliable EMU trains are also impacting train services. Incidentally, the Queensland Auditor General "forgot" about a request (which was declined) to audit this project when asked in Parliament yesterday (18/07/2017). It seems that obstruction of the truth goes very high up the food chain in Queensland!

Timetable recovery - absolutely no information has been provided on the expected recovery of the full October 2016 timetable, and improvements thereafter. This is the absolutely number one piece of information that the public want to know. The omission of this data, shows that either the CRU are out of touch with commuters, or that the news is so "politically unsavoury" that it is being hidden, or that there is no intention of recovering the full timetable. Would the CRU (or QR) like to tell the customers when the full October 2016 timetable will be restored?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Will the LNP axe Cross River Rail?

An LNP Politican?
As predicted (yet again) by BrizCommuter, it looks like the LNP, led by the clueless Tim Nicholls is refusing the rule out Cross River Rail (CRR) if they win the next Queensland state election. In other words they want to delay of axe CRR. What is the reasoning behind the LNP's problem with Brisbane's underground rail tunnel?

"It is just for the inner city". Quite clearly, this shows that the LNP don't understand the very basics of CRR's purpose. CRR adds an extra track pair through Brisbane's CBD. This in turn allows for approximately 50% more track capacity through the CBD, allowing for more frequent train services to and from the suburbs in both the peak and off-peak. For example CRR will allow for more train services on the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, Cleveland, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines. It allows the construction of a passenger train line along the Salisbury to Beaudesert Corridor to server Flagstone new town. It also theoretically allows for a train line to built along the North East Transportation Corridor / Trouts Rd, though of course the LNP would rather turn this into a road. Quite clearly, CRR will benefit commuters travelling to and from huge swaths of Brisbane's suburbs and conurbations. However, BrizCommuter would like to see track layouts at the Northern end of the tunnel also allow for increases in capacity on the Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, and Doomben Line (with an extension to Hamilton Northshore).

"Lack of business case". There is a severe lack of transparency from the Palaszczuk Government, and this needs to be released as soon as possible. Of course, the $5.4b for CRR is only for the tunnel section. A few more $ billion are required to pay for additional track infrastructure around SE Queensland's train network to allow for the claimed capacity increases, and also for additional trains and crew. Much of this extra cost is due to SE Queensland's train network being vastly under-invested in the last decade when much of this work should have been done. Is this extra cost a reason to axe CRR? Of course not. Without CRR, Brisbane will descend further into being a congested mess, costing the economy far more $, than the cost of CRR.

"There isn't enough demand". This was recently discussed by BrizCommuter. Successive governments have damaged SE Queensland's rail patronage with high fares, infrequent services, overcrowded services, and of course #RailFail. There is considerable latent demand for public transport in Brisbane - if the service was affordable and frequent enough people would use it.

If the "destructive" Queensland LNP, led by Tim Nicholls have their way, Brisbane will continue to be laughing stock of Oceana, cancelling a critical rail tunnel at the same time that work is full swing in Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland. With ludicrous policies such as adding a 7th car, the Cleveland Solution, and BaT Tunnel, and now questioning CRR, it is quite clear that LNP really don't have a clue when it comes to transport policy.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Citytrain Un-response Unit?

Quarterly reports? 
Back in Early May, BrizCommuter blogged that the Citytrain Response Unit (CRU), designed to keep on eye on Queensland Rail's recovery from Rail Fail, appeared to be ineffective bureaucracy. Well, as usual, BrizCommuter appears to be correct. The CRU is suppose to be publishing quarterly reports of Queensland Rail's (QR) recovery, The first report was available on March 8th 2017. Thus the second quartile report would be expected in early June 2017. Well it is now mid-July 2017, and the second quarterly report is still to be published. This adds to the lack of transparency around #RailFail, the disastrous NGR project, and looming Commonwealth Games Rail Fail. In the absence of the CRU's report, here is BrizCommuter's report on QR's recovery from lack of driver induced Rail Fail.
  • Number of newly qualified drivers - unknown.
  • Numbers of drivers in training, and expected date of qualification - unknown. 
  • Number of qualified train drivers rejected from working for QR Citytrain - quite a few. 
  • Number of non-train driver external applicants hired - none.
  • Likelihood of Union/ALP meddling with recruitment process - very high.
  • Number of axed train services reinstated - none.
  • Expected timeline of axed train services being reinstated - unknown.
  • Likelihood of further hourly weekend train services (worst frequency in Oceana) - very high.
  • Likelihood of more Rail Fail (axed train services) during and around the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games - exceedingly high. 
  • Days that NGR trains have not entered passenger service - 511 (as at 15/7/17).
  • Days until NGR train enter passenger service - unknown, probably ages. 
  • Likelihood of NGR trains having toilets locked due to failing to meet DDA requirements - possible. 
  • Likelihood of the incompetent and secretive ALP Palaszczuk Government getting kicked out at the next election due to Rail Fail - reasonably high. 
  • Likelihood of a Nicholls LNP Government privatising QR and axing Cross River Rail - almost guaranteed. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

CG2018 Transport Management Plan - Brushing #RailFail under the carpet?

The Queensland Government recently published the Transport Management Plan for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. BrizCommuter was hoping this would address the following concerns about Heavy Rail Public Transport:
  • The train frequencies expected both to/from the Gold Coast during the Games? Note: previous claims of bi-directional 8tph service are pretty much impossible without slowing down trains.
  • How the extra Gold Coast Line services will manage due to #RailFail's ongoing lack of drivers?
  • How the extra Gold Coast Line services will manage due to delays to New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains?
  • The extend of train service reductions across the rest of Queensland Rail's (QR) CityTrain network due to the extra Gold Coast Line services. 
So how much of these rather important points were in the GC2018 Transport Management Plan? Nil, nothing, nada. Despite road based transport being given its own chapter, Heavy Rail has been given a single page, which is completely lacking in detail, and fails to mention the issues with lack of drivers and train. It seems that the Palaszczuk Government, and Minister for Education and Minister for Tourism, Major Events and the Commonwealth Games Kate Jones seem to be continuing to brush Rail Fail under the carpet hoping no-one will notice.

With there being minimal public transport legacy from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and transport mainly based around park and ride, it looks like Queensland will be holding the least sustainable Commonwealth Games in terms of transport policy for decades. Expect the M1 to be chaos! 

The GC2018 Transport Management Plan is downloadable from here:
http://public.intelligencebank.com/03e845b388c040f7c5ddb4db8707e73d/pubwewWdC.html

Sunday, July 9, 2017

NGR - Not Going Right

A timely press release from Rail Back on Track's Robert Dow, says it all about the disastrous New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) train project...

9th July 2017

Not Going Right trains - community service public information campaign gains steam

Good Morning,

Days since NGR 701 towed to Wulkuraka is now 505.  Five hundred and five days in which the fundamental design problems with the trains have only been given scant regard until recently. It has only been the threats of legal action by disability groups that has forced a tacit acknowledgement that there are problems with DDA compliance and it needs fixing - we now have the ' Fixing the NGR trains ', another monumental blunder along with ' Fixing the trains '.

It will probably be many months still before we see these NGR trains in revenue passenger service.  Is anyone concerned about that?  We are.  This is a shocking abysmal failure by the former Newman Government, followed up with more failure and bumble by the Palaszczuk Government.

Serious questions have to be asked as to why such a botched design was ordered in the first place by the Newman Government.  This explains in part why mainstream media in SEQ appear to be reluctant to report on the NGR botch as it hits back at the Newman Government and the  gross mismanagement by the LNP and their transport bureaucracy.  The ALP have not covered themselves in glory either with their constant attempts at cover-up (surprising) and general frozen at the wheel approach, not only for NGR fail and but rail fail generally.

We have been forced into our community service public information campaign re the NGR (Next Generation Rollingstock a.k.a. Not Going Right) trains because Queensland Citizens deserve to know the sheer level of incompetence and managed deceit that lies within the corridors of power and fumble bumble bureaucracy and maladministration of this state. They deserve to know that the rail fail shambles, compounded by NGR fail, will certainly impact the 2018 Commonwealth Games as more reductions in service on their lines to pump up the Gold Coast line services.

We are so looking forward to the state election.

Best wishes,
Robert

Robert Dow
Administration
admin@backontrack.org
RAIL Back On Track https://backontrack.org

Saturday, June 24, 2017

QR deletes negative Facebook reviews

QR's new social media strategy
Back in December 2016, BrizCommuter ran a tongue in cheek blog post about Queensland Rail's (QR) plummeting review score on Facebook. QR's rating was last seen at an abysmal 1.5 out of 5, thanks to stacks of angry passengers infuriated with poor timetables, broken down trains, poor customer information, axed services due to Rail Fail, hourly train services at Easter and weekends, and badly managed rail replacement services (the list could go on and on). In fact the only positive ratings were believed to be fake ratings from relatives of QR staff! In order to avoid the truth about what happens when rail service providers have utter contempt for passengers, QR have recently deleted the facebook reviews (including 650+ 1 star reviews) and related negative comments from their Facebook page.

In a bit to somehow make passengers think that QR aren't incompetent, QR have decided to change their social media strategy to wide angle photos of dogs, or donuts. Have QR forgotten that they are a rail operator?

Additionally, QR keep deleting service information posts once they are out of date (rather than keeping them in the timeline), thus deleting all the negative posts. Thankfully, BrizCommuter saved the negative comments from the Easter Rail Fail, so that they are archived indefinitely.  Ouch - the truth hurts!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

NGR - Down the Toilet?

NGR Toilet Plans
One thing you can guarantee of governments in Queensland, is to completely stuff things up. At the time of writing, Queensland Rail's New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains have been in Queensland for 488 days - that's longer than most celebrity marriages! The NGR project is being run the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR), who seem to be perpetrators of multiple project recent project failures. So aside from braking problems, restricted line of sight, stopping point issues, and guards being 3 carriages away from the wheelchair boarding location, why are the NGR trains still not in service?

There is a big problem with the NGR trains, that the ALP Palaszczuk government seems to be very tight lipped over, despite the trains being ordered under the LNP Newman Government. It is claimed that the toilets do not meet Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) requirements. Since this is legally required on trains, and the trains were designed by Bombardier in Brisbane, this is a monumental stuff up if it is true. Given the complete lack of response to Right to Information (RTI) request on NGR trains, and lack of response to a barrage of tweets and letters from Rail Back on Track and disability advocates, it can only be assumed that this is indeed the case.

The problem is that the distance between the entrance wall and the centre of the toilet bowl must be at least 1150mm according to the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (DSAPT). Unfortunately, the distance on the NGR is 1124mm, which means that the door may not be able to be closed with a wheelchair in the toilet cubicle. So what are the solutions? Will the toilets on the $4.4b NGR trains need to be re-built to larger dimensions at significant cost? This could restrict side corridor width. Will disabled passengers have to do their business with the door open? Or will the "Queenslander" solution be to lock the toilets - as it is may not be breaking then DDA act if everyone has to cross their legs?

Until TMR and QR sort out this mess, long suffering QR passengers will keep being faced with overcrowded 3-car services, well apart from on Fridays when QR has axed them!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

LNP - You don't think CRR is needed?

It has been reported that Queensland's opposition don't think that Cross River Rail (CRR) is required quite so urgently (in other words they would rather axe it for BaT Mk2). This is due to rail patronage allegedly declining over the last 7 years. Firstly it would be great if detailed rail patronage and passenger loading was not kept a state secret by successive LNP and ALP governments. Secondly, there are rather a lot of reasons why rail patronage (which was growing rapidly in the mid-00s) has stagnated or even dropped:
  • Massive fare increases by under the ALP Bligh, and LNP Newman governments. 
  • Poor fare structure with no daily or weekly capping, introduced under the ALP Beatty/Bligh era.
  • Unreliable go-card readers that often give "innocent" users $10 fixed fares. 
  • Chronic lack of trains resulting in overcrowded 3-car trains, and sub-optimal peak timetables - due to delays to NGR and lack of extra orders of 160/260 series trains - thanks to LNP Newman and ALP Blight governments's respectively.  
  • Infrequent 30 minute off-peak services across most of Queensland Rail's (QR) network. 
  • Sub-optimal peak frequencies with many 15 minute service gaps, especially in the pm peak. 
  • Rail Fail - "randomly" axed peak and off-peak services, confusing and "unusable" Friday timetable, hourly weekend timetables during holidays, poor reliability - started by driver recruitment freezes under the LNP Newman government, and handled badly by the ALP Palaszczuk government.
  • Unreliable EMU trains breaking down left right and centre. 
  • Poor customer service and information by TransLink and QR. 
  • Un-integrated network with buses not feeding trains in Brisbane - TransLink's bus networks reform was abandoned under the LNP Newman government.
  • Lack of pro-action in expansion of the rail network to meet new developments and population e.g. not extending the Doomben Line to Northshore Hamilton, lack of Gold Coast Line extension progress - both LNP and ALP to blame here. 
Incompetence from both sides of politics in Queensland is the reason why rail patronage is currently not increasing. Sorting out the fares, having enough drivers and trains (note: not enough NGRs have been ordered) to maximise use of the existing infrastructure, as well as reforming the bus network would likely result in significant increases in rail patronage. But do either the ALP or LNP have the guts to properly sort out the mess? It doesn't look like it. 

Additionally, the Salisbury to Beaudesert corridor and the Trouts Road (North East Transportation Corridor) Line cannot be built for passengers services until Cross River Rail has been built. Both would have massive effects on reducing road congestion and serving public transport black-holes. The Trouts Road line would massively speed up rail services and increase capacity from Caboolture and the Sunshine Coast. Unfortunately, an LNP MP has stated they would rather build a new road instead of building the latter, which would be a congested car-park from day one as it would funnel onto already congested roads. 

Chronic political mismanagement in Queensland is the reason why Brisbane is such a mess when it comes to transport. At a time when Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland all building new rail tunnels, Brisbane is again looking very backwards when the state opposition does't think that CRR is required. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

QR's Rail Fail gets even worse

QR Ruins the School Winter Holidays
After the dreadfully inadequate Summer School Holiday Timetable, and appalling hourly Easter Timetables, surely commuters would be expecting some improvements to Rail Fail by now? Sadly, SE Queensland rail operator Queensland Rail (QR) has sunk even further into the black hole of customer service, by plans to run hourly train services on Sunday 26th June, 2nd July, and 9th July during the Winter School Holidays. Sunshine Coast Line commuters will only see trains running every 2 hours. Only the Airport Line will still run the usual 30 minute service. Just to annoy passengers further, QR have bizarrely decided to run train times at a different time to the normal clock face times, which will frustrate passengers with even longer waits and missed bus/train connections. Did QR and TransLink not learn from the Easter Rail Fail?

This horrendous service reduction will take QR back to era of diesel hauled services in the late 70s, early 80s. Quite clearly, QR continue to have disregard for those who actually need to use public transport, including:

  • Hospital and Emergency Service workers.
  • Hospitality and Restaurant workers.
  • Retail workers.
  • People wanting to go shopping (or other amenities) in and around Brisbane CBD.
  • Families wanting to get to/from various timed events in and around Brisbane.
  • People wanting to travel to/from the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. 
  • Anyone else trying to avoid holiday road congestion. 

At the time of announcing the last minute changes, TransLink have failed to publish any .pdf timetables, and the usual half-arsed communications from QR will be expected. No mention of the changes on QR's Facebook page, as that now seems to concentrate on wide angle photos of dogs instead of informing customers about train services. The ongoing rail fail makes Brisbane appear to be a laughing stock of the western world, yet again having the worse urban rail frequent in Australia and New Zealand over these weekends.

The Winter School Holiday #RailFail begs the following questions:

  • With the Commonwealth Games only 10 months away - how bad are the train service cut backs going to be on lines other than the Gold Coast Line?
  • Will there be more timetable cut backs in 2017 and 2018?
  • Is the "invisible" Citytrain Response Unit actually doing anything? 
  • Do QR and the Palaszczuk government realise the reputational damage this is causing Brisbane and SE Queensland?
  • Do QR and the Palaszczuk government realise the Cross Rail Rail could be axed by the LNP if they get back in power due to voters fed up with Rail Fail?
TransLink's information:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Will Cross River Rail finally become reality?

After nearly a decade of delays from both sides of politics, the ALP Palaszczuk state government has announced that they will fund, or at least fund the first few years of Brisbane's Cross River Rail's (CRR) construction. This is excellent news for Queenslanders, and is a shot in the arm for the supposedly pro-public transport Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who has refused to fund CRR - though it is debatable how "complete" the supplied business case was.
Cross River Rail Map
The advantages of $5.4b CRR, for which the Palaszczuk government has contributed $2.8b, are:

  • Increased rail capacity through Brisbane's CBD by approx. 50%.
  • Allows for service frequency increases on the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, Cleveland, Sunshine Coast, Caboolture, and Kippa-Ring Lines - though extra "out of scope" infrastructure (tracks, and trains) is required to maximise capacity, which will cost $ billions more. 
  • Allows for passenger services on the Salisbury to Beaudesert Line. 
  • Allows for future addition of the Trouts Rd Line (North West Transportation Corridor) to increase rail capacity from the North and serve Northern Suburbs, though tunnel stubs are lacking in the design.  
  • Allows for frequent train services to the South end of Brisbane's CBD, Wooloongabba, and Exhibition. 
  • Reduces road congestion.
  • Will increase property prices and aid development along served corridors. 
  • Economic benefits of improved transport options in SE Queensland.
  • Is complemented by the "Brisbane Metro" Bus Rapid Transit system. 
  • Supports Queens Wharf and proposed Brisbane Live developments.  
  • Eliminates the need for operationally problematic Ekka Loop train services. 

So is CRR definitely going to happen? CRR becoming reality may depend upon the result of the looming Queensland state election. Unfortunately the LNP have a history of destructive public transport policies. These include the ill-though out CRR alternatives - "The Cleveland Solution" and "BaT Tunnel". The latter has delayed CRR by at least 3 years. The LNP's driver recruitment freeze was also a notable factor contributing towards QR's Rail Fail. LNP opposition leader Tim Nicholls has not displayed any signs of being pro-CRR, and has been reported by industry insiders as "just not getting it". Thus unless CRR's contracts and construction are sufficiently advanced before the LNP get back in power, then CRR hangs in the balance.

As a side note - Ms Palaszczuk and Ms Trad - don't forget to order more trains and employ more train crew for CRR!