Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Cross River Rail - The Rail Operations Secret

Cross River Rail's tag line is "More Trains, More Often". Despite this, the proposed rail operations i.e. how often the trains will run, appears to be a state secret. There has been no significant mention of proposed rail operations for Cross River Rail (CRR) in publicly available literature since 2017, and this only covered am peak services. Proposed off-peak, and pm peak services have never had a mention. This diagram from 2017 is likely to now be obsolete due to the removal of the grade-separated junction at Mayne in Project Change 4.
2017 Proposal for am peak services in 2026
Only through trawling the "Check Mate" spin section of CRR's website in 2019, was there any mention of proposed peak services, and again no mention of off-peak services. The proposed servivce frequencies appeared to have changed slightly from the above diagram, and sadly for many lines there was no proposed increase compared to the current service provision. The line pairings were also not documented:
  • Ferny Grove Line - 8tph
  • Caboolture Line - 12tph (4tph from Sunshine Coast)
  • Kippa-Ring Line - 12tph
  • Shorncliffe Line - 6tph (8tph from Northgate to CBD)
  • Airport Line- 4tph
  • Doomben Line - 2tph
  • Ipswich Line - 12tph
  • Cleveland Line - 11tph (4-5tph from Cleveland to Manly)
  • Beenleigh Line - 6tph (4tph Beenleigh to Kuraby)
  • Gold Coast Line - 12tph
  • Salisbury/Salisbury-Beaudesert Line) - 7tph
Concerningly, the above data has now been completely removed from CRR's website, ringing even more alarm bells that CRR is turning into a $5.4b white elephant. A generic statement stating "more trains, more often during peak, across the whole of South East Queensland" does not fill BrizCommuter with any confidence. Either the rail operating plan is being purposefully hidden from public view, possibly to avoid embarrassment, or the CRR project has designed the infrastructure with minimal thought to rail operations.

Given CRR's achilles heel of removing of the grade seperated junction at Mayne, and restrictive 3 track section between Dutton Park and Salisbury, BrizCommuter is currently predicting the following am peak period rail operations for when CRR opens in 2024. The frequency in trains per hour varies from best to worst case scenarios depending on associated infrastructure projects being completed:
  • Ferny Grove Line (via Suburbans through CBD) - 8-12tph
  • Cleveland Line (via Suburbans through CBD) - 8-12tph
  • Caboolture Line (via CRR through CBD) - 10-12tph (incl. 3-4tph Sunshine Coast Line)
  • Kippa-Ring Line (via CRR through CBD) - 10-12tph
  • Gold Coast Line (via CRR through CBD) - 6-12tph
  • Beenleigh Line (via CRR through CBD) - 6tph (4-6tph Beenleigh to Kuraby)
  • Salisbury-Beaudesert Line (via CRR through CBD) - 0-6tph
  • Ipswich Line (via Mains through CBD) - 10-12tph
  • Springfield Line (via Mains through CBD) - 10-12tph
  • Shorncliffe Line (via Mains through CBD) - 8tph (4-8tph Shorncliffe to Northgate)
  • Airport Line (via Mains through CBD) - 4tph 
  • Doomben Line (via Mains through CBD) - 2-4tph
This operating plan is interesting as it makes for maximum, or almost maximum use of CRR from opening. This will keep the spin doctors happy! It balances the frequency for the line pairings fairly well, minimizes conflicting train movements, and maintains sectorization. Additionally, most lines can potentially receive a frequency increasing pending associated infrastructure projects being completed. On the down side, anyone from the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines trying access South Bank and South Brisbane will have to change trains at the poorly designed Boggo Road/Park Road interchange.

Interestingly, the Suburban tracks through the CBD will only be running at 33-50% capacity (down from 92%), and services via South Bank will be less than at present. So what might this spare capacity be used for? A clue is in the statement that CRR will "support a future rail link between Alderley and Strathpine". This would be via the North West Transportation Corridor (NWTC) / Trouts Road Line. This would have the benefits of using the NWTC for a frequent (up to 12tph) suburban train service to serve many Northern Brisbane suburbs that are currently devoid of half-decent public transport including Everton Park, McDowall, Chermside West, Albany Creek, and Bridgeman Downs. However, due to the routing via the indirect inner-Ferny Grove Line instead of a more direct tunnel from Enoggera area to the CBD, it would poorly serve the NWTC's second purpose of being used for fast regional rail from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane.

Without associated infrastructure, CRR is not fit for purpose. Making optimal use of the extra capacity provided by CRR requires the following infrastructure projects to be completed:
  • ETCS - Level 2 Signalling - anywhere where trains need to spaced less than 3 mins apart.
  • Beenleigh Line upgrade (Beenleigh to Kuraby section).
  • Salisbury-Beaudesert Line.
  • Grade-seperated junction and temporary turnback facilities at Salisbury/Acacia Ridge.
  • Cleveland Line duplication/3rd platform at Lota.
  • Sandgate to Shorncliffe duplication.
  • Doomben Line duplication (with possible extension options such as Northshore Hamilton). 
  • 4th electrified track and platform at Oxley.
  • Removal of most Road/Rail Level Crossings.
  • Additional train stabling.
  • 40-45 more 6-car trains (and enough train crew).
  • NWTC - Alderley to Strathpine.
Tunnel stubs for NWTC to plug into CRR at Roma Street, and 4 tracks (instead of 3) from Dutton Park to Salisbury would allow for a more optimised rail network in SEQ, but it looks like it is now sadly too late to save these infrastructure projects.

It is time that the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority, Department of Transport and Main Roads, Queensland Government, and Queensland Rail come clean on how the train network will operate after CRR opens. The authorities also need to come clean on the timeframe and priority for each associated infrastructure project required to optimise use of CRR's extra capacity. Questions include:
  • What are the proposed am peak service patterns at CRR opening?
  • What are the proposed pm peak service patterns at CRR opening?
  • Will the 4tph daytime off-peak network be increased, and on which lines?
  • Which lines will be linked through Brisbane's CBD?
  • When will the required associated infrastructure projects take place, and how will they enhance services?
  • What are the current proposals (including route safeguarding for rail) for the NWTC?
These questions need to be answered, otherwise CRR will continue to look like it will be the next project to join the large catalogue of Queensland Rail Fails. 

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