Sunday, May 23, 2021

Cross River Rail - Not "More Trains, More Often"

 Cross River Rail's (CCR) advertising slogan "More Trains, More Often" was recently replaced with
"Transforming the way we travel". This is no surprise to BrizCommuter and other rail experts who have questioned CRR's ability to significantly increase trains services throughout SE Queensland in its current form, since project iterations and budget cuts removed critical infrastructure required to maximise the effectiveness of CRR. 

Base diagram designed by timh (click to enlarge)

Unlike new train tunnels in London, Auckland, Sydney, and Melbourne, where the proposed peak train services frequencies (in trains per hour per direction - tph) are publicly available, this information is unavailable for Cross River Rail. Whilst such a map was available in the Cross River Rail business case, changes to the track layouts at Mayne (near Bowen Hills) mean that the diagram is now out of date, with line pairings and expected train service frequencies no longer possible.

As the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority is keeping things hidden from the public, rail enthusiasts have had to step in to create a chart of expected line pairings are shown on the base image, helpfully created by Rail Back on Track member timh. BrizCommuter's expected line pairings, and maximum possible 2025 am peak inbound frequencies (based on currently funded or expected infrastructure) are as follows:

  • Sunshine Coast/Caboolture (12tph) & Redcliffe (12tph) to/from Gold Coast (12tph) & Beenleigh (6tph) (plus provision for future Salisbury-Beaudesert Line 6tph) via CRR.
  • Shorncliffe/Northgate (8tph) & Airport (4tph) & Doomben (2tph) to/from Ipswich/Rosewood (12tph) & Springfield (12tph) via Mains Tracks. 
  • Ferny Grove (8tph) to/from Cleveland (8tph) via Suburban Tracks - yep, that's 16tph of unused track capacity!

It is quite likely that due to insufficient trains, train crew, funding, and lack of political willpower that some of these frequencies may not be possible in 2025. 

So why isn't Cross River Rail able to offer "More Trains, More Often"?

  • No additional Northside tracks - as there are no addition tracks on Brisbane's Northside due to budget cuts, it is now a case of shifting which trains go where. There may be 20% increases to frequency on the Caboolture and Redcliffe Lines, but this due to new ETCS signalling, and not CRR. 
  • Restrictive track layouts at Mayne - changes to the track layouts at Mayne to save money, will force all Caboolture and Redcliffe services through CRR, and will leave the Suburban tracks idling with just 8tph through the city (down from 22tph). 
  • Salisbury to Dutton Park 3 track limitations - the Achilles heel of Cross River Rail, means that up to 24tph contra-peak services will have to fit on one track, this will slow down contra-peak express services, and also prevents contra-peak services to/from the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line (and eventually Salisbury-Beaudesert Line) corridor travelling via South Bank (in normal operation).
  • Capacity required for Salisbury to Beaudesert Line - this proposed line will require at least 6tph train paths in the peak. Due to the Salisbury to Dutton Park 3 track limitation, this will eat into the capacity available for the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Lines. 
  • Beenleigh Line track capacity limitations - whilst the proposed 3rd track at Loganlea may allow for a significant increase in Gold Coast Line services, it may also curtail the Beenleigh Line to Loganlea. This means that the Gold Coast Line may need 2 tiers of services - express and semi-express, and possibly additional turnback capacity. Gold Coast Line commuters need to be informed as to what will happen to their train services!
  • Cleveland Line single track - one of the benefits of CRR was that it would allow for significant increases to train services on the Cleveland Line. However, this is only possible if there is a partial or full duplication, and/or additional turnback capacity at Manly or Lota. As this is not funded, the Cleveland Line is likely to keep its infrequent and unreliable form for many years after CRR opens. 
  • Less trains via South Bank - if the Cleveland Line is not duplicated, and due to all Gold Coast/Beenleigh services running via CRR, then there is likely to be a decrease in train services running through South Bank section (Roma Street to Park Road) which serves many businesses, hotels, hospitals, and tertiary education facilities. 
  • Un-electrified 4th track between Corinda and Darra - whilst this doesn't directly affect CRR train services, service frequency increases on the Ipswich and Springfield Line have been included in the CRR business case. These service increases would be due to ETCS and not CRR. Unfortunately the lack of 4th electrified track between Corinda and Darra, and lack of 4th platform at Oxley may throw a spanner in the works of these proposed service increases. 
  • Sufficient trains and crew - to increase train services for CRR, you need more trains and more train crew. The new trains (NNGRs?) have not been ordered, and it takes many years to grow train crew staffing. BrizCommuter is very concerned!

To conclude: 

  • Expected train service frequency increases on the Gold Coast, Caboolture, Redcliffe, Ipswich, and Springfield Lines could have been possible from ETCS (plus additional turnback capacity), and didn't require CRR. 
  • Gold Coast and Beenleigh Line services may have significant stopping pattern and terminus changes, with frequency and journey time improvements not universal. 
  • CRR does allow for the future addition of the Salisbury to Beaudesert Line, but with only 6tph due to the 3 track restriction between Dutton Park and Salisbury.
  • CRR does allow for the future addition of the North West Transportation Corridor, but via the painfully slow inner-Ferny Grove Line. The NWTC is however still "pie in the sky".
  • Train services via South Bank could decrease until the Cleveland Line is eventually duplicated. 
  • Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Airport, Doomben, and Cleveland Lines are unlikely to see any service improvements without further infrastructure projects. 
  • Due to lack of trains, we are unlikely to see significant train service improvements before CRR. 

"More Trains, More Often" - you can see why the slogan was dropped!


  1. Crr is required. The Merivale is a liability. The northern portal issues identified will be fixed in due course through bi directional running on the DM and UP to Northgate. And trout's road eventually.

  2. Actually, as member of the state government, i can confirm that cross river rail is actually being built in phases. Phase 1 is the cross river Rail we know about, whilst phase 2 is and addtional set of tunnels to Yerongpilly and phase 3 is a new north west transport corridor. Construction on these next stages will commence soon after phase one Cross River Rail commences service


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