Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Melbourne leaves Brisbane in it's shadow (again)

Melbourne - more frequent trains!
Melbourne's rail network has had umpteen new timetables since the last major timetable change in Brisbane. That was in 2008, and even that timetable was a disaster for many commuters! Now Melbourne's private rail operator  "Metro Trains" has introduced yet another timetable which will make Brisbane commuters weep, with more major changes still planned in the near future. New timetables here:

The most notable addition in the new timetable is a 10 minute weekday daytime frequency from Frankston to the City. For those not familiar with Melbourne, in respect to journey time, Frankston is a similar distance from Melbourne's CBD as Caboolture and Ipswich are from Brisbane's CBD. Other lines in Melbourne have a 15 to 20 minute off-peak frequency, with plans for 10 minute frequencies on other lines. Yet in poor old Brisbane, there is only a 15 minute off-peak frequency between Northgate and Darra (and even that isn't advertised on timetables), and between Park Road and the CBD. Most parts of Brisbane's backwards rail network still have lame 30 off-peak frequencies.

There has been some criticism of the new timetable, particularly by commuters on the Altona loop. Due to a single track section and other infrastructure constraints, the peak service is now every 22 minutes (previously 20), and off-peak is a 20 minute shuttle service. Direct off-peak services have been sent to Williamstown which has experienced higher growth than Altona. However, even this situation is still considerably better than some parts of Brisbane's inner-city rail network, notably the Doomben Line which has peak gaps up to around 45 minutes, and an off-peak service that is at many times non-existant.

There is also a mention in the FAQ section of a 11 minute am peak frequency V/Line service from Geelong to Melbourne. This is in contrast to the 15 minute am peak Gold Coast Line frequency, and 18 to 30 minute am peak frequency (Central arrivals) on the Sunshine Coast Line draft timetable. It seems that Brisbane's rail system has a long long way to go!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Not ferry happy

A baby ferry
TransLink have finally released the belated TransLink Tracker Q2 2010/11. This tracker covers the period from October to December 2010. Despite many comments and photos of the floods, it is made clear in the foreword that the statistics in this tracker were prior to the floods. The statistics are also prior to the huge January 2011 fare increase and removal of weekly paper tickets, as well as the opening of Richlands (which is also mentioned in the tracker).

The tracker shows a measly 2.4% increase in overall patronage since Q2 2009/10. This is just 0.4% higher than Queensland's annual population growth. Bus trips only rose by 2.1%, which is not surprising given that the overcrowding occurring on many routes is deterring bus usage. What is a very pleasant surprise, is that train patronage increased by more than 6% after a fall over the previous year. BrizCommuter jumped to the train patronage figures to obtain a better breakdown of this information, only to see a message on page 16 stating "The train passenger load survey will now be conducted every six months with the results of the March survey published in Q3 2010/11 Tracker". BrizCommuter would like to see the full passenger load survey to be published in a similar format to the 2009 passenger load survey. This would show growth (or decline) broken down into line sections and individual stations.

The CityCat and CityFerry services saw a 21.2% patronage decline, as well as a significant fall in customer satisfaction. Whilst the ferry services were cancelled for 3 days in this period (less than 4% of the quarter), both this and passengers jumping from CityCat to CityGlider should not have affected the figures by such a large degree. There needs to be a big please explain to TransLink and BCC as to these statistics! In general customer satisfaction appears to be decreasing for all modes. This will be little surprise to BrizCommuter's readers. If the satisfaction survey was to be done at QUT Kelvin Grove busway station, BrizCommuter would expect customer satisfaction to be zero!

The fare statistics show an average fare per trip of $1.66, up 10.7% on Q2 2009/10. This is a very odd statistic, given that BrizCommuter's average fare per trip in Q2 2010/11 was more than $2.50, and up more than 20% on the previous year. Maybe public transport is overrun by students and pensioners making one zone journeys?

The subsidy to fare ratio has not significantly changed, and amount of subsidy has significantly increased. This goes to show the Queensland Government's huge fare increases are failing in their purpose to decrease the public transport subsidy. In the mean time it is appears that the high fares have stunted bus patronage increases, and may be causing a decline in ferry patronage. A big policy fail!

Go card usage increased to more than 64.2%, which means that more than 35% of journeys were still using overpriced paper tickets. It will be interesting to see if the removal of daily paper tickets in January 2011 has increased go card uptake further. Continued use of paper tickets must be a good cash cow for TransLink, no wonder that the go card lite was abandoned! Another interesting statistic is that 3.45% of go card journeys are resulting in a fixed fare, yet only 0.038% of go card journeys have a fare adjustment. So either many people are unknowingly getting fixed fares through not swiping on and off, or many passengers are taking advantage of the fixed fare system. Another please explain for TransLink!

The place kilometres statistic annoyingly just has graphs rather than written values. It seems that in the last year, both trains and buses have only had minor increases, and far below the previously mentioned fare increases. It is also strange the the train place kilometres are less in Q2 2010/11 than Q1 2010/11. Why?

Finally, BrizCommuter would like to see the statistics for the number of full buses included in TransLink Tracker. Aside from ridiculous fares, and infrequent trains, full buses are one of the biggest problems on TransLink's network.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is Richlands designed for steam trains?

Richlands - Choo Choo!
On the 5th of March 2011, the first steam train visited the recently completed Richlands station. It is fairly common knowledge that steam trains have to change between the ends of the train at termini, with the stream engine "running around" the carriages in the platform. A single track crossover at each end of Richlands station allows steam engines to change between the ends of the train, and thus Richlands is suitable for steam train operation.

However, electric trains (Electric Multiple Units) do not have an engine, and only the driver needs to change ends. To use an electric train terminus at full capacity, double track crossovers are required on the approach to the station, instead of one. Use of double track crossovers allows for trains to be reversed in both platforms. Allowing 8 minutes for the driver to change ends, the use of two platforms allows for the reversing of 11 trains per hour, instead of only 5.5 if one platform is in use. Unfortunately, Richlands isn't designed for this purpose as it does not have a double crossover on approach! Now, it is possible to reverse a train beyond the platforms at Richlands whilst another train is reversing in the platform, but that is a rather sub-optimal way of operating a railway.

So it seems that despite Steam Trains being retired from regular service 42 years ago, the track layout at Richlands is actually more suitable for reversing the occasional steam train, than it is for running electric trains at high frequency. Only in Queensland!

PS: Still waiting for TransLink Tracker Q2 2010/11.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

An independent view...

BrizCommuter is a big fan of Robert Schwandl's website. This website provides detailed information on all of the world's metro systems, and also most of the world's suburban rail and light rail systems. Reading this website reveals how infrequent Brisbane's rail system is compared to rail systems in other major cities!

Robert Schwandl (who is from Berlin) is currently on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, and has been writing an excellent blog on the public transport system in each of cities he has visited Down Under. The blog post about Brisbane can be read here:

The Brisbane blog post is very interesting, especially that it has been written by a visitor to Brisbane, not a long suffering Brisbane commuter. The last paragraph is spot on!  It's time that TransLink and the Queensland Government wake up to their failing public transport policies and fare structure!!