Monday, November 16, 2020

Cross River Rail - Score Card Q4 2020

3 Tracks = Bottleneck
This is the third of BrizCommuter's scorecards looking at the progress of Brisbane's Cross River Rail (CRR).  This score card looks at whether the proposed am peak service frequencies will be achievable when CRR opens to train services in 2025. These proposed am peak service frequencies are based on the information provided in the "Check Mate" section of CRR's website in 2019. Strangely,  everything related to proposed rail operations went missing from CRR's website in early 2020. Possible scores are No Improvement, Achievable, Concerning, and Critical.

Gold Coast Line 12tph - CRITICAL - requires either the Kuraby to Beenleigh track upgrade or 3rd platform at Loganlea. May result slowing down of some Gold Coast Line services between Loganlea and Beenleigh. Lack of 4th track between Dutton Park and Salisbury may also slow down services.

Beenleigh Line 4-6tph - NO IMPROVEMENT - unlikely to be an overall increase in services on this line, and Beenleigh Line services may get cut back to Loganlea. 

Salisbury (future Beaudesert) Line 7tph - CRITICAL - requires suitable turn back facilities and a grade-seperated junction at Salisbury that don't appear to be in the design. There may be scheduling concerns due to an out-of-sync frequency with interacting lines (6tph is more realistic). Limited possibility of service improvements after the Beaudesert Line opens as the lack of a 4th track from Dutton Park to Salisbury will limit counter-peak and off-peak services. Also, these services are now likley to be routed via CRR instead of via South Bank as previously proposed resulting in a significant decrease in train services via South Bank.

Ipswich and Springfield Lines 12tph (each) - CRITICAL - requires European Train Control Signalling (ETCS) from Darra to CBD, and ideally 4th electrified track and platform through Oxley. So not looking good. Not dependent on CRR being built.

Ferny Grove Line 8tph - NO IMPROVEMENT - no planned improvements to services, despite it looking like the Ferny Grove Line will have the suburban tracks to itself through Brisbane's CBD.

Caboolture and Redcliffe Lines 12tph (each) - CRITICAL - it now looks like all of these services will be routed via CRR, which will be highly dependent on ETCS from Northgate to CBD. Even then, there will only a maximum of 20% increase in services.

Shorncliffe Line 6-8tph - CONCERNING - 6tph requires duplication between Sandgate and Shorncliffe (or erratic and unreliable scheduling). 8tph from Northgate to CBD is no improvement. Shorncliffe Line will be the test line for ETCS in 2022. Will become critical if planning does not start soon.

Airport Line 4tph - NO IMPROVEMENT -  It is currently looking like Airport services may run to/from Ipswich or Springfield.

Doomben Line 2tph - NO IMPROVEMENT - to not extend to Northshore Hamilton is a absolute disgrace.

Cleveland Line 11tph - CRITICAL - 11tph from Manly to CBD would require a 3rd platform at Manly or Lota, and possibly a partial duplication or which no planning work appears to be underway.

15 minute off-peak services - CRITICAL - off-peak service proposals are not even published by CRR, and running 4tph throughout the suburban network would be constrained by multiple infrastructure limitations.

Sufficient Trains - CRITICAL - approximately 40 new trains are required to optimise peak services on the existing train network (e.g. pm peak frequencies to match am peak) and for additional peak services for CRR. These have still not been ordered, which means that this category has been raised to critical. 

Sufficient Train Crew - CONCERNING - sustained driver recruitment and forward planning is required.

Tunnel stubs for linking to future NWTC / Trouts Road Line - CRITICAL - not in current plans. and looking like it is too late to add them to the plans. To attach these tunnels at a later date would require a closure of CRR for many months, or an indirect routing of NWTC tunnels. NWTC is the optimal way of improving journey times and capacity from the North. 

Project Governance - CRITICAL - having a board of Queensland Government "Yes Men", and no external rail experts is not conductive to a successful project.

Project Transparency - CRITICAL - the "hiding" of the Rail Operations Plan is very concerning, as it is clear that CRR in its current design, and lack of associated infrastructure projects, will result in very limited network capacity improvements. Right To Information requests are also being denied.

To conclude, other than train lines where there will be no service improvements from Cross River Rail, most other rail lines and project performance indicators are now in the CRITICAL status:

  • Project design is flawed - essentially a tunnel between two bottlenecks, with limited capacity improvements.
  • Multiple associated track infrastructure projects have not started design or construction.
  • New ETCS signalling - testing won't occur until 2022, which is cutting it fine for CRR implementation in 2025.
  • More trains have yet to be ordered.
  • Additional train crew have yet to be employed. 
  • Project governance (Board) is not fit for purpose.
  • Rail operations plan is being hidden as it will expose the design shortcomings.
CRR's expected opening may be less than 5 years away, but the clock is ticking and none of these are quick fixes. It is now looking highly unlikely that CRR will meet the previously proposed am peak train service proposals for 2026. Poor project design and integration with the rest of the network will result in very limited capacity increases - in fact the suburban tracks through Brisbane's CBD are likely to have 66% of capacity unused. The failings highlighted by Rail Back on Track, BrizCommuter, Minerva, and the Rail Supporters Association of Queensland appear to have been ignored by the Queensland Government. Unless these issues are rectified very soon, expect a Commission of Inquiry into Cross River Rail's failings in 2026.

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