Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vote for none of the above

Doomben Now
Brisbane City Council (BCC) have created an online public vote for the five options to "upgrade" Kingsford Smith Drive. The online voting form can be accessed here until the end of January 2011. The options have previously been mentioned in a previous post here, of which all options are sadly road based. The most expensive option is a whopping $3.2b! BCC have failed to add public transport as an option. This is despite the fact that the Doomben Line could be easily extended to Hamilton Northshore. Bus Rapid Transit could be provided from Doomben or Hamilton Northshore to Australia Trade Coast developments. The Doomben Line's corridor already has space for a second track thanks to the abandoned 1950s electrification works. Post Cross River Rail, there would be sufficient rail capacity through the CBD to run 4 trains per hour off-peak, and more if required in the peaks. This extension could easily handle the projected increase in journeys along Kingsford Smith Drive caused by the Hamilton Northshore development. So why are BCC so blinkered that they cannot see the obvious solution?

Forcing Airtrain to improve it's currently pathetic frequencies and operating hours could also help take airport bound traffic off Kingsford Smith Drive and onto trains.

For the sake of Brisbane's future, and the future of the next generation living in Brisbane, our politicians need to stop their unhealthy road obsession, and think towards the environmentally sustainable future that is public transport. This is the 21st century, not the 1960s! Sadly, we currently have BCC trying to turn Brisbane into a giant road tunnel, and Queensland Government stunting public transport patronage by putting up fares with minimal service improvements.

BrizCommuter urges anyone with any common sense to vote for none of BCC's suggested options, and in the comment box write option 6 - extend the Doomben Line.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

QR Customer Charter

Today, QR launched their customer charter, amid much fanfare (well some free bottles of water). Link here. This customer charter covers the usual areas such as timely feedback to complaints, clean trains, safety, and information during delays. Whilst QR's efforts at customer service should be commended, the customer charter lacks two things. The first is that unlike on London Underground, there are no refunds for majors delays. The second, and most important, is a decent train service.

There is little point in having "the world's best customer service" if you cannot run enough trains to entice commuters from their cars. Unfortunately, however much QR would like to run a decent train service, they are limited by funding from the Queensland Government and spin outlet TransLink. In 2011, Brisbane commuters will be paying similar fares to commuters in Perth. In Perth there is a train every 15 minutes off-peak, compared to every 30 minutes in Brisbane. In Perth there are frequent and regular peak services compared to a random mess of a peak timetable in Brisbane. Brisbane's rail commuters are sick and fed up of paying ever increasing fares for an infrequent rail service, whilst being bombarded by a barrage of spin from TransLink about how their service is supposedly improving. Delaying the timetable changes by a year, and not having the new timetable ready for the opening of Richlands station have very little excuse.

BrizCommuter would like to see in a review of customer charter, that by late 2011, that there will be a 15 minute daytime and evening off-peak service to Darra, Ferny Grove, Northgate, Manly, and Kuraby, no peak service gaps of more than 15 minutes on major lines, and no late evening and early Sunday am service gaps of longer than 30 minutes. Any passengers delayed more than 30 minutes should be able to claim a full fare refund of that single journey.

A customer charter from TransLink, where by complaints are not fobbed off with the latest network plan and/or spin would also be appreciated. Another charter addition would be for QR not to close rail lines on the weekend before Christmas!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Is TransLink discouraging the use of public transport?

Cultural Centre Busway Station
Public transport authorities are meant to promote the use of public transport. However, in SE Queensland, this seems to not be the case. Lets have a look at am peak rail patronage growth in the last few years (based on head count figures from the QR March 2009 Passenger Load Survey and TransLink Tracker Q3 2009-10):

05-06: + 7.6%
06-07: + 9.1%
07-08: + 5.0%
08-09: + 5.2%
09-10: - 4.4% (yes, that's negative!)

So after many years of significant growth, the rail patronage plummeted in March 2010. Overall public transport patronage also decreased by 1% in Q3 2009-10. Even a slight overall patronage improvement in Q1 2010-11 figures of 2.7% are still well behind previous growth. Given SE Queensland's rising population, how can this stunting of public transport patronage occur?

The answer is pretty obvious to anyone who uses public transport - huge fare rises, and minimal improvements to services. In January 2010, public transport fares increased by between 20-40%. The elimination of weekly, monthly, and yearly tickets seriously hurt the hip pocket of regular commuters. There will be further 15% fare rises every year, for the next few years. Just to make things worse, the daily tickets will be phased out, further discouraging frequent public transport users (including students and tourists). Maybe TransLink should rename the go card, the go car? Many of BrizCommuter's work colleagues who were forced back to their cars due to Inner Northern Busway overcrowding have not returned to using public transport!

Fare rises wouldn't be an issue if public transport was significantly improved. But, it hasn't. Last year TransLink promised 301,000 new seats on public transport, of which 83,400 were to be on rail. TransLink failed to meet this promise for rail, only managing a rather pathetic 30,000 extra seats on rail.  Just to make things worse, these 301,000 extra seats only increased place kilometres on the TransLink network by 5.6%. Yes, you read this correctly, 20-40% higher fares, for just 5.6% improvement in public transport!

It doesn't take a mathematician to work out that next years promise of 305,000 extra seats on public transport will not add up to the 15% increase in fares. It is obvious that the Queensland Government's and TransLink's policies have seriously failed public transport users. To massively increase fares, with little in the way of service improvements, broken promises, and lack of transparency, shows that the Queensland Government and TransLink are treating public transport users with serious contempt.

PS: BrizCommuter will be making a Right To Information request for the full QR March 2010 and 2011 Passenger Load Survey, at the end of Q3 2010-11, so you might as well publish it anyway TransLink.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Shorncliffe Draft 2011 Timetable

Shorncliffe Pier
The Shorncliffe Line currently shares the main tracks with Ipswich/Caboolture/Sunshine Coast Lines, and at peak times and weekends shares sections of the suburban tracks with Ferny Grove/Airport/Doomben/Cleveland/Beenleigh/Gold Coast Lines. When the phase 1 draft timetables were released a few weeks ago, the Shorncliffe Line had a mention of minor timing changes, with no published draft timetable, and "improvements" only in the phase 2 draft timetable. However, a draft phase 1 timetable has now been published here.

The timing changes include reduction of the late afternoon 38 minute "gap of doom" to 32 minutes, but has extended the following 22 minute gap to 30 minutes. Unfortunately, a new 38 minute "gap of doom" has been created after the 6:45pm from Central. Both of these services are in TransLink's peak fare period. There is still a 29 minute gap between arrivals at Central of two am peak services. These all exceed TransLink's lame peak service guideline of a train every 20 minutes. Lets hope that in the phase 2 draft timetables, the Shorncliffe Line has improvements to adhere to the  "BrizCommuter minimum peak service guideline" of train at least every 15 minutes.

The most noticeable change to the draft Shorncliffe Line timetable is the movement of all services onto the suburban tracks through Central. This must be part of the sectorization process required for both phases of the 2011 timetables. Weekday daytime  off-peak Shorncliffe trains will now start/terminate at Roma Street, and run through the city almost simultaneously with a Bowen Hills to Richlands (or v.v.) service on different tracks. This allows for 15 minute off-peak service to both Darra and Northgate, without trains having to run from Shorncliffe to Richlands. Ex-Shorncliffe weekday evening services now continue outbound to Cleveland, possibly to make more efficient use of rolling stock.

All peak Shorncliffe services are now running on the suburbans, with some of these services slotted in only 2 minutes from existing services. Shorncliffe Line users will better have to get used to the view whilst waiting outside of Bowen Hills for a green signal in the am peak! There are quite a few re-timings (of up to 8 minutes) to the evening peak services. These may suit some commuters, but not others.

So overall, the Shorncliffe Line is not going to be any better off until the phase 2 timetables come into operation, currently expected in late 2011.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

88 - Lucky for some?

TransLink recently announced the P88 bus route, starting on Monday 13th December - timetable here. This frequent pre-paid route runs from Eight Mile Plains to Indooroopilly, via the South East Busway, (then via a 360 loop onto the) Captain Cook Bridge, King George Square, Roma Street, Coronation Drive, and ending up in Indooroopilly (but not in the bus station).

The announcement of this route, asks for many questions:
1) Why not just make the 111 more frequent on the South East Busway?
2) Is the bypassing of Mater Hill, South Bank, and Cultural Centre an admission that the South East Busway is near capacity in the peaks? This means South Bank will be bypassed at weekends and evenings by the P88, when that area is a popular destination.
3) Is using the congested Captain Cook Bridge (and Coronation Drive) a good idea for reliability?
4) Is an extra bus route along Coronation Drive really required, especially when there will soon be 15 minute off-peak frequency on the almost adjacent Ipswich Line?
5) Why doesn't the P88 terminate in Indooroopilly Bus Station?
6) Wouldn't consolidating city stop locations for Western Brisbane bus services be more useful for commuters? The array of different city stop locations for buses heading in the same direction, each with an infrequent service, makes TransLink's slogan of "Making travel easy" somewhat laughable!
7) Wouldn't running more peak 444's which are often full to capacity be a better use of resources (same goes for other bus routes that suffer from full buses)?
8) Will all bus stops along the P88 route have go-card top up facilities nearby?

It seems strange that a transport authority which took an agonising 7 months to extend the route 66 to RBWH (and still doesn't run enough route 66's in the uni holidays) is now adding a bus route that is leaving many commuters asking why? Politics maybe?

Update 15/12/2010

Despite TransLink taking 2 weeks to get the Passenger Information Displays (PID) correct for the route 66 when it was extended to RBWH, they have managed to stuff up the PIDs for route 88 as well. Rather than just showing Indooroopilly, the road and stop number of the destination are also shown, on just one line. Thus only those with 20/20 vision, and standing within 2m of the PID can actually read where on earth the 88 is heading.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ferny Grove Upgrade - Now Half Baked!

Old and new at Ferny Grove 
Just when it looked like we were going to get a rail infrastructure project in Queensland that is not half-baked, QR,  SEQIPRAIL, et al have proved us wrong yet again. The new Ferny Grove station (part of the belated Keperra to Ferny Grove duplication) was planned to be future proofed, with three platforms. The latest plans here show that this has been reduced back down to two (the same as at present).

So what are the advantages of three platforms? Well given that QR seem to prefer at least 8 minutes to reverse a train (other suburban rail operators can manage it in 2 minutes), then only having two platforms limits the Ferny Grove Line to 11tph unless QR speed up their terminus operations. Whilst even gaps between trains are ideal, three platforms allow for the operation of uneven service gaps which could help scheduling on the rest of the QR network where infrastructure constraints will unfortunately be around for many years (such as the Cleveland Line). Three platforms also help when services are delayed - Ferny Grove commuters will better have to get used to their trains waiting outside of Ferny Grove for an empty platform!

The location of the station building behind the "buffers" is potentially dangerous in case of an overrun. This new construction would not be allowed in the UK, and given QR's safety obsession this decision seems a bit odd.

The Inner City Rail Capacity Study - Rail Operations Review showed that Ferny Grove would require 3 platforms in 2018. This is only 6 years after the planned opening of the rebuilt Ferny Grove. Oh dear - the Ferny Grove Upgrade joins the growing list of half-baked rail infrastructure projects in SE Queensland.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I want an express to my stationitis

Since last Wednesday there has been a huge surge in cases reported to GPs of the serious disease known as "I want an express to my stationitis". This disease often coincides with the announcement of a new train timetable. For the first time ever in Queensland this disease has spread before a new timetable, possible caused by TransLink actually consulting with commuters for a change. Symptoms include high blood pressure, and the opinion that there must be an express service to their station with complete disregard to commuters further down the line. The victim of "I want an express to my stationitis" often writes multiple complaints to QR, TransLink, QR, politicians, QR, shadow politicians, QR, and in severe cases writing to the Courier Mail's editor. Often the victim has severe delusion, and actually thinks that complaining will make a difference.

The recent surge of cases has been in areas close to the Ipswich and Caboolture Line, with almost epidemic proportions of cases on the Sunshine Coast. A minor outbreak in Oxley may be able to be counteracted with "free QR muffins". Authorities are preparing for an outbreak in Cleveland and Ferny Grove when the stage 2 timetable consultation is released early next year. No cases are expected on the Tennyson Line due to the recent extinction of public transport commuters in that area.

There are various known methods of reducing the symptoms. The best methods are working from home, taking early retirement, or moving to another city that has moved beyond 1960s thinking. Many "smart state" politicians recommend that driving instead of catching public transport will reduce the symptoms, especially if you pay a road toll. BrizCommuter has found that catching buses instead of taking the train has helped reduced his symptoms since QR took away express trains from Enoggera.

It should be noted that "I want an express to my stationitis" is different to a disease that affects Gold Coast Line commuters, with symptoms that makes the sufferer think that they are living in Bombay.
 Delusional symptoms that include thinking that the "QR quiet carriage" is actually quieter than any other carriage are also not to be confused with "I want an express to my stationitis".

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Low Fat Sunshine Expresso

It is not hard to notice that Sunshine Coast Line commuters are very unhappy about the draft 2011 timetable, released this week as part of the phase 1 timetable consultation process. The slowing down of the expresses, and retiming of services will inconvenience many Sunshine Coast commuters. Unfortunately there have reports of irate commuters  abusing QR staff at Landsborough, which is totally unacceptable behaviour. There are both organised information sessions, and TransLink's feedback forms for Sunshine Coast commuters to vent their frustration! However, TransLink's explanations behind the reason for the changes has been poor, akin to a Dentist not warning you just before jabbing a needle into your gum!

So why have the Sunshine Coast expresses been neutered? Well the answer is pretty obvious. The Sunshine Coast, Caboolture, and Petrie services generally have to share a track per direction between Cabooture and Lawnton, and between Northgate and Bowen Hills/CBD. You can only use a train line to maximum capacity if all trains are travelling at the same speed. If you want to express some trains on these sections, you have to space out the predecing and following all stations service. Running a express service 4 minutes faster than an all stations service, would mean that one all stations service would have to be eliminated - that's a whole train load of passengers without a train, so that another train load of passengers can get home 4 minutes faster! It has been suggested that some Sunshine Coast/Caboolture/Petrie services could use the suburban tracks, but then the scheduling has to fit around Shorncliffe, Airport, Doomben, and Ferny Grove timetables as well adding conflicting moves which decreases system reliability. The draft timetable makes for efficient use of the available track capacity, and this track capacity is unlikely to be increased anytime soon due to the Queensland Government dragging their heels on rail infrastructure projects.

Have Sunshine Coast commuters considered that running their services more express between Northgate and Bowen Hills will deprive Caboolture Line commuters of the 15% increase in am peak train services that have been scheduled to reduce overcrowding? That's 15% increase is space for nearly 2,000 commuters! Have Sunshine Coast commuters considered that living closer to their place of work is more environmentally sustainable, more resource efficient, and more time efficient than a daily round commute in excess of 100km? Maybe move to Albion, lots of nice restaurants, a train every few minutes, and fine ocean views. Well, maybe not the latter!

Expressing aside. It is understandable that arrival and departure times at Central are not great for Sunshine Coast commuters. Many commuters start and leave work on the hour or half-hour. Given the infrequency of Sunshine Coast Line services, is it too much to ask that Sunshine Coast services depart and arrive at more convenient times? Whilst other commuters may also prefer these departure and arrival times, Caboolture/Petrie commuters have more travel options as they have train services every 6-12 minutes. A more homogenous Sunshine Coast timetable may also be appreciated (as has been done with evening peak Ipswich services that connect with Rosewood services, which are approximately every 30mins +/- 6 minutes). Another option if sufficient rolling stock and crew are available, could be to extend a peak Caboolture service or two to Landsborough.

One important last point, given the increasing journey times for Sunshine Coast Commuters, it would be very cruel for trains to be without toilets. Let's hope that this has been considered in the scheduling of trains!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2011 Timetable Consultation - Phase 1

Last Updated - 18/11/2010 8pm

It's very belated, but TransLInk are now consulting the public on the new timetables for the first stage of the 2011 timetable revamp. This revamp will be on the Ipswich, Richlands, Caboolture, and Sunshine Coast Lines. The consultation pages are on TransLink's new error prone website here, and include pdf draft timetables. Hopefully this consultation will prevent a repeat of the March 2008 Ferny Grove timetable disaster. If the consultation results in the need for modifications, lets hope that TransLink and QR actually take notice!

The most obvious new change is the 7-days a week, 15 minute off-peak (and reverse-peak) service to Darra. This 15 minutes service runs until late at night, where services have been improved significantly. The big question is will these 15 minute off-peak services be rolled out to other lines later in 2011? 

The Ipswich Line has an am peak service every 6 or 12 minutes which runs express from Darra to the CBD. The Springfield Line runs am peak all stations services every 12 minutes, with a few 6 minute gaps as well. This is very welcome, as Richlands requires a half-decent service to attract more users to public transport. The pm peak is a homogenous split between an Ipswich express every 12 minutes, and a Richlands all stations service every 12 minutes. All trains serve Milton, Indooroopilly, and Darra. But why has Toowong been left out? There appears to be combined train per hour (tph) improvements of approx. 25% during both the peaks, which is very good news. Evening peak Rosewood services are more homogenous than at present. The Richlands service to the CBD could be improved prior to the 6:48am departure. 

Tennyson trains appear to have been eliminated. This may be a good move to improve services to the masses and reduce conflicting train movements. The replacement bus service must improve upon the previous situation, and make public transport attractive to those living in new developments in the Tennyson area. Where is the replacement bus timetable in the consultation TransLink?

The Caboolture Line also has more homogeneous service patterns than at present. Sharing tracks with the Shorncliffe Line (which is having it's timetable re-written in phase 2), freight trains, and Traveltrains doesn't help the scheduling of this line. The peak service is split between Caboolture services running express from Petrie to Northgate every 6 to 12 minutes, and Petrie all stations services every 6 to 12 minutes. There are also some Sunshine Coast expresses that serve many Caboolture Line stations (included in the above frequencies), but confusingly these services are missing from the Caboolture Line timetable. TransLink, please show all services that serve Caboolture Line stations on the Caboolture Line timetable, otherwise some commuters will need to read two timetables! There is a concerning 18 minute gap after the 5:31pm from Central for those only served by the Petrie all stations services. The combined peak tph appears to have been improved slightly. 

For those who choose to live miles away from where they work, the Sunshine Coast Line has received an extra am peak service,  and an extra early pm peak afternoon service.  However the new timings will be inconvenient to many users (especially the 5:16pm from Central being moved to 5:04pm). Most Sunshine Coast expresses and all Caboolture expresses now serve stations between Northgate and Albion. This will increase the journey times for outer suburban users, but will considerably improve the train service for inner suburban commuters who now have a real metro like frequency during the peaks. It should also help even out train loadings, and make more efficient use of the limited track capacity. This approach may be required on the Gold Coast Line when the Merivale Bridge capacity runs out. It should also be noted that the Mon-Fri daytime Cooroy service has been extended to Gympie.

The Shorncliffe Line has had some minor timing alterations, and destination changes, but will not have any service improvements until stage 2 of the new timetables. Lets hope that these tweaks do not make Shorncliffe's current service temporarily worse. It's a shame that the late afternoon "gap of doom" has not been filled. 

To conclude, the new Ipswich Line timetables seem rather impressive. The Caboolture Line does reasonably well with the scheduling limitations, but the timetable needs to include all services so as not to cause confusion. Sunshine Coast commuters will be unhappy about the increased journey times and some re-timings. 7 days a week 15 minutes off-peak to Darra is commendable, as are the more homogenous peak service patterns. Whilst not perfect, the draft timetables are a very big step in the right direction. Users of other lines will be eagerly awaiting stage 2 of the new timetables, especially in regards  to 15 minutes off-peak services, and shortening the currently excessive peak hour gaps. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cross River Rail service forecast

BrizCommuter went along to the Cross River Rail (CRR) display in King George Square (AKA Campbell Newman's Sauna Square). BrizCommuter was impressed with the plans, until he stumbled upon the forecast train service numbers for 2016, the currently expected year of CRR's opening. Page 72 of this document. Below are the expected am peak service figures for 2016 split into sectors based on tracks used, followed by an analysis.

CRR from North - 18tph:
Nambour -  3tph
Caboolture - 8tph
Redcliffe - 7tph

Suburbans from North - 10tph:
Ferny Grove - 8tph
Doomben - 2tph

Mains from North - 10tph:
Shorncliffe - 6tph
Airport - 4tph

CRR from South - 13tph:
Varsity Lakes - 9tph
Beenleigh - 4tph

Suburbans from South - 14tph:
Manly - 4tph
Cleveland - 6tph
Kuraby - 4tph

Mains from South - 18tph:
Springfield - 8tph
Ipswich - 8tph
Rosewood - 2tph

Whilst the service provision from Caboolture and Nambour has a reasonable (but not huge) improvement, the number of trains from Redcliffe/Kippa-Ring is only 1tph more than the current number of Petrie services. BrizCommuter can see lots of standing passengers in this sector which almost fills the new Cross River Rail tunnel to capacity from opening, unless 9-car trains are planned in 2016?

8tph from Ferny Grove is extremely pessimistic for 2016. This is just 1tph more than in 2006, a decade earlier!  Interestingly the Inner City Rail Capacity Study forecast 10tph for 2016. Poor old Doomben is stuck with 2tph. At least with a combined 10tph on this sector, there is room for future service enhancements to both Ferny Grove and an extension of the Doomben Line to Northshore Hamilton (dreaming).

The Shorncliffe Line has a considerable service improvement to 6tph. It appears that the Shorncliffe Line will serve all stations from Northgate into the CBD, which will allow Caboolture/Redcliffe trains to run express through this section. This is a sensible move. Sandgate to Shorncliffe will require duplication! 

Considerable patronage increase is expected from the Gold Coast Line with 9tph expected in 2016, up from 4tph in 2010. Whether CRR will run 9-car trains from the onset is unknown. Extra tracks will be required along this corridor to accommodate the extra Gold Coast services. Not such good news for Beenleigh Line commuters, where the forecast number of services from Beenleigh and Kuraby will not be any better than in 2008. Oh dear! 

10tph will run on the Cleveland Line, of which 6tph will originate from Cleveland. Again, this is minimal improvement over the current frequency, and 3tph less than forecast in the Inner City Rail Capacity Study. A partial duplication between Manly and Cleveland may be required for this service. 

Finally, the Ipswich and Springfield corridor seems to be near full capacity in 2016, with a combined 18tph service. 8tph from Springfield seems reasonable, lets hope that the stations between Richlands and Springfield are constructed! The lack of spare capacity in 2016 means that extra trains may need to be routed via Tennyson. It also increases the need for the "Brisbane Inner City Metro" (or whatever it is called this week) to connect to this sector rather than being self-contained. 

So to conclude, whilst some sections of the QR rail network will get service significant service improvements, many other sections may be very disappointed post CRR. Service forecasts appear to be very pessimistic, showing that may be little in the way of efforts to change Brisbane's transport paradigms. Maybe these figures are reflective of the Queensland Government's current apparent attempt to discourage public transport use with ever increasing fares and little in the way of service improvements?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bombay Express - Part 2

The first part of this article looked at the current state of the Gold Coast Line. In the second part, BrizCommuter looks at the increasing gap between the recommended infrastructure improvements in the Inner City Rail Capacity Study, and the current state of infrastructure projects. The difference between the forecast patronage increases and current patronage are also looked at.

According to the Inner City Rail Capacity Study (ICRCS) - Rail Operations Review (2008), by 2010 the following infrastructure requirements were required on the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines:
- Grade separation at Park Road
- 4th track between Dutton Park to Banoon
- 4th platform at Kuraby
- 3rd track from Kuraby to Kingston
- A stabling upgrade at Robina

The reality, is that only the stabling upgrade at Robina has been delivered, and there is no mention of the other projects having even been started on the SEQIPRAIL website. This lack of infrastructure action from the Queensland Government is very disappointing for Gold Coast and Beenleigh Line commuters. The knock on effect is that services will not be significantly improved anytime, and there will be a resulting stunting of forecast patronage increases. 

The ICRCS stated that in 2010, there would be an intermediate off-peak service with an extra 2tph to Kuraby. This has not occurred. The ICRCS also projected that in 2010, 5tph would be required in the am peak, yet the reality is 20% less capacity at just 4tph. 

Not surprisingly, if there is less infrastructure than required, and less trains than required, then there will be less patronage than forecast. The study forecast  on average a 9.32% patronage increases per annum from 2010 to 2016. The reality is that between March 2009 and March 2010 the patronage increase was just 2.2% in the am peak. Recent and future large fare increases will also not help the patronage figures. 

Sadly, it is not just the Gold Coast Line where infrastructure projects are years behind. For example the ICRCS states that the Keperra to Ferny Grove duplication was required in 2010, or the Ferny Grove Line would require an 8tph am peak timetable. Yet the reality is a 2 year late duplication, and the same 7tph timetable from 2008. 

SE Queensland commuters need to send the Queensland Government, TransLink, and QR a very big please explain letter!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cross River Rail reference design

Today Cross River Rail released the reference design, which can be seen here. The design is very commendable. The previously suggested reversing points in the CBD have been removed, and excess trains from the northside will now be reversed in Clapham Yards. This is fantastic for UQ students, as all trains running through the tunnels should now serve Boggo Road station. A direct pedestrian bridge from Boggo Road station across to the Princess Alexandra Hospital would be nice though!

The removal of extra platforms at the CBD stations is probably sensible to minimise costs. However, good system reliability, efficient platform dispatching, high capacity signalling, and more doors on trains will be required to minimise dwell times in the busier CBD stations. 

The track layout between the northern tunnel portal and Bowen Hills is impressive. BrizCommuter was previously quite pessimistic about this section, but the planners have managed to thread the line (and associated realigned tracks) through this section without causing conflicting moves, and without requiring a tunnel. Well done to the planners! Interesting that the current plans now show the line connecting with the existing Caboolture Line (main) tracks as opposed to the Airport/Doomben/Shorncliffe (suburban) tracks as in the Inner City Rail Capacity Study. There doesn't seem to be much provision for Cross River Rail trains to access the planned Alderley to Strathpine Line. The implications of this line need to be considered in the final design. BrizCommuter is concerned about the required bridge reconstruction on O'Connell Terrace. Hundreds of RBWH workers walk along this road to get to/from Bowen Hills Station. The other walking alternative was removed a few years ago for Mr Newman's toll road empire. Has anyone considered alternatives for the often forgotten about pedestrians during construction?

The track layout around Yeerongpilly and Clapham Yard seems well designed, reducing conflicting moves. However the track layout around Salisbury is not clear. This area could eventually have merging of Gold Coast, Beenleigh, Greater Flagstone, and freight services. An optimal track layout in this area is essential to prevent conflicting moves. Four tracks will be required between Salisbury and at least Banoon on the Beenleigh Line to allow sufficient Gold Coast and Beenleigh Line frequency. Maybe showing these tracks is outside the scope of the study?

As usual, the car obsessed Courier Mail rather than praising the plans is running a negative story moaning about the demolition of an apparently "iconic" ugly building (Royal on the Park) . Get over it! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bombay Express - Part 1

The Gold Coast Line has for many years been known as the Bombay Express, due to really quite pathetic peak frequencies and overcrowding until March 2008, when most of the line was duplicated, and am peak frequencies increased to approx. every 15 minutes. The Gold Coast Line now has peak frequencies better than many inner-city stations in Brisbane, is far less crowded (we'll come back to this later), but still retains the Bombay Express tag. 

Lets take a look a real Bombay Express. This shocking You Tube video was taken on Mumbai's commuter rail system. Approximately 3,500 passengers are killed on Mumbai's 147km rail system every year (thats around 10 deaths every day), many of whom suffer the same fate as the gentleman in the linked video. 9-car trains designed for 1,200 passengers can carry more than 4,000 passengers. Doors either do not exist or cannot close due to the extreme levels of overcrowding at more than 14 passengers per square metre. Still want to call the Gold Coast Line the Bombay Express?

Now, back to the Gold Coast Line. This is one of the few lines in Brisbane that despite the Queensland Government's public transport policy failures is still seeing patronage growth. In the year leading to March 2010, there was a 2.2% increase in the am peak, and 4.7% increase in the pm peak. The March 2010 QR Passenger Load Survey showed that 5/8 am peak, and 3/9 pm peak services have standing passengers more than 20 minutes from Central. However, the Gold Coast trains are still far emptier than those on the Beenleigh and Cleveland Lines which share tracks across the Merivale Bridge. Many am peak Beenleigh and Cleveland Line trains have more than 40 standing passengers per carriage, whilst the Gold Coast Line trains only have a handful of standing passengers (although standing for much longer).  Until the urgently required Cross River Rail is constructed, then these three lines will be fighting for the few remaining extra track slots across the bridge in the am peak. It is unfair on other commuters that track capacity is wasted on effectively half-empty Gold Coast trains. 

What is the solution? Maybe extend the standing rule to 30 minutes, and make the Gold Coast trains pick up inner-city commuters closer to the City (Yeerongpilly for example)? Maybe infrastructure projects on the Beenleigh and Cleveland Lines, to allow scheduling with more balanced train loads? However, the latter would involve the Queensland Government having to spend some money! 

Part 2 will look at how how far behind the Queensland Government is on rail infrastructure projects compared to the recommendations in the Inner City Rail Capacity Study - Rail Operations Review (2008). It will also have a look at how this lack of spending has stunted rail patronage growth compared to forecasts in said study. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Party Poopers

It's Christmas Party season again, and the time of year when people leave the party, only to find a wait of up to 59 minutes until their next train!

Whilst there are half hourly trains until around 1am on Friday and Saturday nights, during the week the late night train service is rather poor and inconsistent. Many train lines have hourly late night frequencies on Monday to Thursday nights. The Ferny Grove Line has an hourly gap before the last outbound train. There are x2 hourly gaps on the Cleveland and Shorncliffe Line, and there is also an hourly gap between the last inbound Shorncliffe services (a bit odd given that the Brisbane Entertainment Centre is near Boondall often requiring additional services). Given that the Beenleigh and Caboolture Lines have half hourly services until close, you would have thought that the Ipswich Line would have the same. But the Ipswich Line also has x2 hourly gaps late at night. Finally, spare a thought for anyone having some afterwork drinks and using the Gold Coast Line. This line has x3 hourly gaps starting from just after 8pm. 

With the exception of Buz services, Brisbane's buses are no better than rail late at night. Many bus routes become hourly, or even non-existent late at night. The added problems with buses occasionally running early means that it is not uncommon to get to a stop a few minutes early, and still miss the bus! The poor late night frequencies make public transport even more unattractive to shift workers, such as those in health, and hospitality jobs. 

Given Brisbane's drink driving issues, you would thought that in the "smart state" there would a half-decent late night public transport alternative. But as we know, Queensland's politicians are anything but smart! 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mr Newman's road obsession continues

An article in the (also road obsessed) Courier Mail's website mentions 5 options for upgrading the congested Kingsford Smith Drive. These options vary between a minimal $255m option, a $1.35b Riverside Expressway clone (seriously are politicians that stupid?), and a $3.2b double deck road tunnel.  It is quoted in the article that "Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said council had no option but to upgrade the road, which was already overloaded with almost 5000 vehicles an hour in peak times". Well Mr Newman, it may come as a shock, but there is a 6th option called public transport. Many "world class" cities have now discovered that building more roads just results in more traffic congestion. Sadly, the stuck in the 1960's Brisbane City Council seem to be hell bent on building more and more roads towards an totally unsustainable car based future. Even the financial difficulties of RiverCity Motorways (Clem7) has failed to ring alarm bells. The Queensland Government's Connecting 3031 plan also has rather poor projected mode shares for public and active transport.

There are plenty of public transport based solutions that could serve this part of Brisbane, which includes the Hamilton Northshore and Australia Trade Coast areas. There is already the heavily under-utilised Doomben Line, which has trains so infrequent that Velociraptors regularly have to be cleared from the tracks. An easy duplication and extension of this line, combined with considerable frequency improvements could serve Northshore Hamilton, with feeder bus services to the sprawling Australia Trade Coast. One 6-car train could take more than 600 cars off the road (that's an empty car lane for 20 minutes!). Other options could include Light Rail (LRT) or Busway along Kingsford Smith Drive (in place of extra car lanes) and into the CBD.

A fair proportion of the traffic along the "congested" Kingsford Smith Drive is to and from Brisbane Airport. Yet, Airtrain run one of the world's most infrequent airport train services, with no other public transport alternative. No wonder the roads are busy! Brisbane urgently needs it politicians and decision makers to realise that they need to seriously invest in public transport instead of turning Brisbane into one giant expressway.

Update 15/11/2010

Another Courier Mail website article here. Apparently the Northshore Hamilton development will add up to 2,200 cars per hour in the am peak, and 3,000 cars per hour in the pm peak to Kingsford Smith Drive by 2026. As usual, no mention in the article of the best solution - public transport. A train every 15 minutes in the peaks, along an extended Doomben Line would be able to support these loads. Busways or LRT into the CBD are another option. So why are SE Queensland's politicians insistent on just building more roads as the solution? This definitely is not the "Smart State".

Friday, November 5, 2010

What we can learn from Japan

Yamanote Line, Tokyo
The Japanese have one of the worlds most frequent, reliable, and profitable railway systems, substantially helped by Japan's very high population density. Whilst Brisbane doesn't have the population density, there are plenty of things that the Queensland Government, TransLink, and QR could learn from the Japanese railway system. 

Efficient turnarounds - Even during the rush hours, it is rare to see QR timetable a reversing move with less than around 8 minutes. This can restrict capacity, particularly at locations such as Manly and Mitchelton where reversing trains can block the path of through trains. In Japan, where the most frequent service possible has to be run with minimal infrastructure (due to high cost of land), trains are often reversed in less than 2 minutes - see this video at Tokyo station

Child care centres - Japanese railway companies are increasingly running child care centres at railway stations as part of transit orientated developments (TODs). Simply drop of your child on the way to work, and pick them up on the return journey. This then eliminates a car journey to or from the child care centre on the way to and from the station. Given that getting the kids to and from childcare prevents many parents from using public transport, this could attract more parents to using public transport.

Shops - The Japanese love their convenience stores, which seem to be around nearly every corner. TODs around stations, even as simple as a small convenience store can make life much easier for the Japanese, and reduce the number of separate journeys (which in Australia would invariably involve a car) to pick up the groceries. 

Feeder buses - In Japan feeder buses, often run by the train company, connect with trains. In some cases where patronage (or Japanese roads) cannot justify a full size bus, then smaller midi or mini buses are used as in this photo. SE Queensland has huge swathes of public transport black-holes only just out of walking distance from some train stations, which are just crying out for feeder bus services. Anyone ever seen a bus at Enoggera bus interchange?

Grade separation of level crossings - Trains are so frequent in Japan that during the peaks there are some level crossings that can stay closed to traffic for more than 40 minutes/hour (in one location it was 58 minutes/hour!). So the Japanese are spending a lot of money on grade separation, so that road traffic does not mix with rail traffic. Similar schemes will be required in Brisbane when TransLInk and QR eventually get around to improving peak frequencies. 

There are plenty of other things that can be learnt from the Japanese railway system, notably high frequencies (even to rural areas), exceptional reliability, the ability to run both express and all stations services at high frequency by using overtaking tracks at stations, making efficient use of single track sections, high speed intercity rail, commuters with good manners, and of course happy departure melodies that play before the train departs!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

TransLink Annual Report 2009/10

TransLink Spin
The TransLink Annual Report 2009/10 has recently been made available on TransLink's website. BrizCommuter decided to have a read.

Page 39 - When there was a massive fare increase in 2009 commuters were promised 301,000 extra seats on public transport by July 2010, of which 83,400 would be on trains. Whilst TransLink met the 301,000 target, only 30,000 of those seats were on trains. So the quote " TransLink successfully delivered the full 301 000 seats per week in July 2010 " is a bit of a porky isn't it? It should also be noted that some of the 301,000 extra seats went on school buses. 

Page 45 - This page references the unpublished March 2010 QR Passenger Load Survey with the quote " The March 2010 survey identified that the overall percentage of morning peak-period train services that exceeded their comfort measure of one person standing more than 20 minutes was 28 per cent in 2009–10, down from 33 per cent in 2008–09. The proportion of afternoon peak-period train services that exceeded benchmarks was 20 per cent in 2009–10, down from 21 per cent in 2008–09".  However, TransLink failed to mention that this decrease in overcrowding was because the am peak train patronage fell by approximately 4%. A bit ironic given that the title of this page is "Growing capacity to meet peak passenger demand". By the way, this patronage decrease was not due to previous pre go card miscalculations, this load survey was performed by actually counting the numbers of passengers on trains. The fact the TransLink have failed to increase passenger numbers on trains on 2009/10 shows that TransLink's price hikes and lack of action in improving train services is discouraging commuters from using the rail network. This is a serious TransLink failure!

Page 45 and 46 - At the bottom of page 45 the report mentions that bus service kilometres increased by 7%, and train service kilometres increased by just 3% in 2009/10. On page 46, place kilometres across the network increased by only 5.6%. Yet fares increased by between 20-40%. Go figure!

Page 49 - The quote " Under the new fare structure, go card fares in 2010 are the same price or less than single paper ticket fares were in 2007. go card fares are now also approximately 30 per cent cheaper than a single paper ticket in 2010. " is a prime example of TransLink spin which does not fool commuters. The reality is that for the average commuter, weekly fares are 30-40% higher than in 2007. Yet surprisingly, this fact isn't quoted in the annual report. Lets also not mention the quote on this page about removing legacy paper tickets. 

Page 55 - On this page, one of TransLink's achievements was " the completion of the Northern Busway (Royal Children’s Hospital Herston to Windsor) ". No mention of the fact that many commuters endured 7 months of hell until TransLink extended the route 66 bus from QUT Kelvin Grove to RBWH. Another serious TransLink fail in 2009/10. 

Page 84 - This page looks at TransLink's plans for 2010/11. Good news for commuters on the Ipswich/Richlands/Caboolture Line. But absolutely no mention of any extra services on the rest of rail network. This is very disappointing, given that QR informed community reference group members in late 2008 that new timetables were expected for all lines in 2010. There is also no mention on this page of increasing bus frequencies to reduce the occurrences of full buses on popular Buz routes. 

Report grade - F. Must try harder! 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The 2011 TransLink cash grab

Lets take a look at how much fares could go up in 2011 for a student mixing study and work. This example assumes a student making a return journey to university in the morning, and a return journey to work in the evening. The journeys are 2 zone, and prices are for concession tickets. 
2010 go card fare: $5.14
2010 paper daily ticket: $3.90
2011 go card fare: $5.78
So for a student having to make 4 journeys a day, the removal of the paper daily ticket in 2011 will result in an effective fare increase of a whopping 48%. To inflict such a huge fare increase on students is an absolute disgrace. Ms Nolan and TransLink should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

What about tourists, who contribute rather a lot of money towards the Queensland economy? This scenario is based on the actual travel pattern of some of BrizCommuter's relatives who came to visit last year. The scenario has three 2 zone off-peak journeys, and one 2 zone peak journey. Modes travelled were rail, bus, and ferry. 
2010 go card fare: $9.99
2010 paper daily ticket: $7.80
2011 go card fare: $11.06
So for a tourist having to make 4 journeys a day, the removal of the paper daily ticket in 2011 will result in an effective fare increase of 42%. So after tourists arriving in Brisbane discover the backwards lack of trains from the airport after 8pm, they will then have a mighty shock in store when they try to use public transport extensively the following day. 

It seems that frequent users of public transport will be hit very hard by the 2011 fare increase. If the Queensland Government and TransLink are trying to encourage people to use public transport more often, then they are going about it the wrong way! 

Monday, October 18, 2010


Thirteen questions for TransLink about the go card, and public transport fares:

Q1) Are paper tickets going to be phased out as originally stated in Jan 2011?

Q2) Are the single use go cards going to be introduced prior to phasing out of paper tickets?

Q3) If the answer to Q1 is yes, then isn't TransLink leaving things till the last minute?

Q3) When paper daily and weekly tickets are phased out, will daily or weekly tickets be available on the go card?

Q4) Are other period tickets such as monthly and yearly going to be introduced on go card?

Q5) Will we see train and bus frequency improvements around the time of the January 2011 fare increase?

Q6) Can TransLink provide a breakdown on the provision of the 83,000 extra seats on trains which were promised this year? 

Q7) Is the go card still a Mifare Classic card, with a well publicised security flaw ?

Q8) Were the go cards in the giveaway, the flawed Mifare Classic cards?

Q9) Why was the giveaway delayed until the middle of 2010, by which time most regular commuters already had a go card?

Q10) Why did it take so long to improve the refund system, put bright orange stickers on the train station go card readers, and cover the readers on CityCats?

Q11) Why was a screen chosen for the train station readers that are almost unreadable in bright light, low light, and whilst wearing sunglasses?

Q12) Why does the route 77 have a Z1 fare even though it doesn't stop in Z1? (So much for "orbital" routes).

Q13) Will AVVM ticket machines be introduced at all busway stations before paper tickets are phased out?