Monday, July 20, 2020

Cross River Rail - The Gold Coast Line Slow Down

One of the main benefits of building Cross River Rail (CRR) is an increase in train services between the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Unfortunately, due to neglected Gold Coast and Beenleigh Line infrastructure that is "not fit for purpose", it is looking like Cross River Rail could also result in slower journey times between the Gold Coast and Brisbane. So what might slow down the journey times?

3 tracks between Dutton Park and Salisbury + 6 minutes
CRR Mk1 (in 2011) had 5 tracks (3 at surface and 2 underground) between Boggo/Park Road and Yeerongpilly, which required some property acquisitions. The Newman Government's BaT tunnel moved the tunnel portal to Dutton Park to cut costs, and the acquired land was irresponsibly sold back to developers. Unfortunately, CRR Mk2 kept the Dutton Park portal location, resulting in a restrictive and "not fit for purpose" 3 track layout between Dutton Park and Salisbury.

If all peak direction train services from Caboolture and Kippa-Ring are routed via CRR, then the single contra-peak track between Dutton Park and Clapham Yards near Marooka will need to convey a mixture of express services, and empty trains heading to Clapham Yards, which will all get stuck behind the all stations services. The likely outcome is that contra-peak express services (Brisbane to Gold Coast in the am peak, and Gold Coast to Brisbane in the pm peak) will need to be slowed down in this section by 4 to 6 minutes. This may also result in inconsistent clock face timetables between contra-peak and peak/off-peak periods. This could all be resolved with 4 tracks (and just 2 platforms at each station) on this section, but it looks like it is now too late for a sensible, if more costly, infrastructure design.

CRR Mk1's portal at Yeerongpilly was much more sensible
Due to limitations of timetabling on each side of CRR, not helped by this 3 track section, it is possible that some trains may need to be held at stations in the CRR tunnel during the off-peak period. This could cause a worse case increase of journey time of around 5 minutes. This hasn't been included in these figures, as it is likely that services will be "bunched together" on both sides of CRR.

Interchange at Salisbury + 1 minute
An additional stop may be required at Salisbury for connections between Gold Coast, Beenleigh, and the the future Salisbury-Beaudesert Line. In the interim period, inner-Beenleigh Line services may terminate at Salisbury. This extra stop will add an extra minute to journey times, unless a stop elsewhere (such as Altandi) is bypassed. If the junction at Salisbury is not grade separated, then there will be an increased chance of delays due to conflicting moves (trains crossing the path of other trains). 

Beenleigh Line curtailed to Loganlea + 3 minutes
The two track section between Beenleigh and Kuraby is a major bottleneck, preventing Gold Coast express trains overtaking Beenleigh Line all stations trains in both directions. A submission is with infrastructure Australia for upgrades between Beenleigh and Kuraby which could solve this issue (ideally with 4 tracks). However, the only project that is currently funded is a third track and platform at Loganlea. There are multiple possible rail operations using this additional infrastructure. One option allows 12tph express and 6tph all stations in the peak direction, and 4tph express and 4tph all stations in the contra-peak direction (and off-peak). However, this would involve curtailing the Beenleigh Line to Loganlea (as per the "Connecting SEQ2031" document). This would result in alternate (50%) peak period, and possibly all off-peak Gold Coast Line trains having to additionally call at Holmview, Edens Landing, and Bethania, adding an extra 3 minutes to journey times.
Curtailing the Beenleigh Line to Loganlea isn't a new idea.

3 New Gold Coast Line stations + 4 minutes
Three new Gold Coast Line stations are planned for Pimpana, Helensvale North, and Merrimac.  If Gold Coast Line trains are to additionally stop at all three stations, then this will add an estimated 4 minutes to journey times. Gold Coast Line services may be tiered, so as to not serve all Gold Coast stations, but this would reduce frequency at the skipped stations.

Conclusion
A worst case scenario is that the neglected and "not fit for purpose" Gold Coast and Beenleigh Line corridor could result in journey times slowed down by up to 14 minutes. No wonder the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority, Queensland Government's Department of Transport and Main Roads, and Queensland Rail appear to be hiding Cross River Rail's rail operations plan.

Unlike London, Sydney, Auckland, and Melbourne where rail operations plans for new tunnels are easily accessible to the public, Queenslander's are being kept in the dark on how SEQ's rail services will be changed when CRR opens. It is time for the aforementioned authorities to stop spending ludicrous amounts of taxpayers money on adverts full of meaningless spin, and come clean on proposed rail operations, and staging of infrastructure projects that will help improve rail operations before and after CRR's opening.  

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