Monday, November 23, 2020

Cross River Rail - Anything But "Robust"

 Whilst Queensland's politicians have recently had a hard hat photo shoot in front of Cross River Rail's (CRR) Tunnel Boring Machines, CRR is headed to be yet another Queensland public transport disaster. The media releases are currently stuck on repeat saying "Queenslanders can have a high level of confidence that the project’s design and planning is robust" Unfortunately, BrizCommuter and many other rail experts are concerned that the project's current design is far from robust, and is not fit for purpose. 

Southern Constraints

CRR was primarily designed to increase capacity from the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Line corridor. Currently, the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, and Cleveland Lines operate 20tph (Trains Per Hour Per Direction) into Brisbane (via South Bank) in the am peak, though 24tph could be possible with European Train Control Signalling (ETCS) and associated infrastructure improvements. The original CRR designed has the tunnel surfacing at Yeerongpilly, which allowed for 4 tracks into Brisbane's CBD (plus a freight track). If this design has continued, it would have allowed for up to 48tph from the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, Cleveland, and future Salisbury-Beaudesert Lines into Brisbane, of which 36tph would have been able to operate between Salisbury and Dutton Park instead of the current 12-16tph.

CRR's Southern Constraints

Unfortunately, Cambell Newman's BaT Tunnel design curtailed the Southern Portal to Dutton Park, utilising the existing 3 track constraint between Dutton Park and Salisbury. When the BaT tunnel turned into CRR Mk2, this 3 track constraint stayed in the design. Only having 3 tracks means that express and empty services cannot overtake the all stations trains in the contra-peak direction. As the design changes at Mayne now mean that up to 24tph from Caboolture and Redcliffe will be heading South out of CRR in the am peak, then there is no capacity for via South Bank services in the contra-peak direction. Thus unless there is a peak direction "tidal flow" of services via South Bank (which would be operationally challenging and confusing to the public), the lack of 4th track limits the Salisbury to Dutton Park section to 24tph - that is 50% less capacity than the original design of CRR. This design flaw also means that only the Ferny Grove to Cleveland Line will be operating via South Bank, with a significant reduction in services along this busy section that serves businesses, apartments, hospitals, hotels, universities, and leisure destinations. It also means that contra-peak Gold Coast Line services may have to slowed down as they will be stuck behind stopping services.

Northern Constraints

Whilst Northside train services were not the primary driver behind the original CRR design, the subsequent construction of the Redcliffe Line and future proposals for serving Caloundra and Maroochydore mean that increased capacity is also required. The problem is that whilst Cross River Rail will add a 3rd track pair through Brisbane's CBD, north of Mayne (Bowen Hills) there are only 2 track pairs, plus the Ferny Grove Line. Due to recent track layout changes in CRR's design (Project Change 7), it now looks like all train services from Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe will run via CRR. Combined with ETCS, this will allow an increase from 18-20tph to 24tph. CRR was not required to achieve this! This is only a 20% increase in maximum capacity, which may not even last a decade. 

CRR's Northern Constraints

The services from Doomben, Airport, and Shorncliffe Lines will be shifted to the Main Tracks (the tracks that hee Caboolture/Redcliffe to Ipswich/Springfield Lines currently run on). Whilst this track will allow for 24tph from Bowen Hills to Ipswich/Springfield with ETCS, the turnback constraints of the Doomben, Airport, and Shorncliffe Lines will not allow any more than the existing 14tph peak services on these lines. Thus the extra 10tph of Ipswich/Springfield services will start/terminate from sidings at Mayne. 

This leaves the Ferny Grove Line to be connected to the Cleveland Line. Without any level crossing replacements on both lines, and duplication of the Cleveland Line, there will be just 8tph running on the Suburban Tracks through Brisbane's CBD and South Bank. This track pair will be operated at just 33% of its maximum capacity, a massive reduction from the existing 22tph.

Cross River Rail is going to deliver zero extra train services to/from the North that couldn't be achieved by just installing ETCS. Cross River Rail should have been designed with tunnel stubs at Roma Street to allow for future extensions via a quad track line along the North West Transportation Corridor (NWTC/Trouts Road Line). This would have allowed for an additional 24tph from the Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Lines. This would have enabled Fast Regional Rail and also allowed for local services to many northern suburbs which are currently public transport black holes. So what now? "Fast Regional Rail" via the Ferny Grove Line?

It is quite obvious why Cross River Rail's Rail Operations Plan is being hidden from the public. It would expose serious shortcomings of Cross River Rail's design, which the politicians don't want you to know. Cross River Rail's design is anything but "robust"!

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