Thursday, June 30, 2011

TransLink Ghost Train to Tennyson

Ghost Train 
Just when you thought that TransLink couldn't excel themselves anymore in inconveniencing commuters, here comes along another classic!

BrizCommuter readers may remember this recent blog post on the possibly premature extinction of the Tennyson Line:
In that blog post, a question was asked about where the curtailed Tennyson Line will reverse, now that they only run as far as Yeerongpilly instead of Corinda. According to one of BrizCommuter's sources, some of the ex-Tennyson Line services are actually still running along the Tennyson Line, and reversing at Corinda. Yep, that right, some Tennyson Line services are apparently still running along the same route as they were before the timetable changes, just now without passengers! The 600+ school children (and their parents) who now have to take a longer and/or slower route to get to and from school should be absolutely horrified by this news.

Yet another reason why public transport in Brisbane is most definitely not "World Class".

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sunshine Coast Line - Fixed!

After excessive (and somewhat justifiable) complaining from those who wish to live miles from where they work, TransLink and QR will modify the Sunshine Coast Line timetable from Monday 11th July. The first change is the 5:04pm from Central to Caboolture will be extended to Nambour. BrizCommuter assumes that this will replace the rail bus that connected with the 4:52pm departure from Central? The 5:04pm service usually only has few passengers standing, so should easily cope with a few extra Sunshine Coast passengers. The overcrowded 5:21pm from Central to Nambour will now be curtailed to Caboolture, taking the pressure off this service. A new 5:28pm service from Central to Nambour has been created in it's place. Sensibly, stopping patterns remain the same to keep the timetable homogeneous. Well done to TransLink and QR for modifying these services so soon. However, lets just hope that this doesn't cause more services on other lines to be reduced from 6 to 3-car units.

Whilst the new times may not be the most convenient for the average CBD worker (and lets face it, the convenient timing caused the problem), this is still a significant improvement for the Sunshine Coast. Lets look at some facts. The Sunshine Coast Line will now have 3tph in the busiest evening peak hour - pretty impressive for a line with less than a quarter of the patronage of the Gold Coast Line! Between 5 and 5:30pm, the Sunshine Coast line will now have a service gap (at 24 mins) only 3 minutes longer than inner-city stations such as Windsor, Alderley, and Enoggera. 3tph is also 1tph more than a typical half hourly outer-suburban commuter service in the UK. Journey times are comparable or even faster to similar journey distances in Japan on non-premium fare services. Yet the Courier Mail's comments section is still full of unreasonable demands by Sunshine Coast commuters. Please Sunshine Coast commuters, you can now stop whinging - apart from on the subject of lack of toilets which is still an issue!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Transparent as a brick wall?

Transparent as a...
It is no surprise to BrizCommuter's readers that TransLink (and QR is some cases) are not the most transparent of organisations. Here are a few reasons why:

  • QR Passenger Load Survey - This survey is now performed twice yearly, with the key count being in March each year. This study lists the number of passengers using each train line, and every station in the peak periods, as well as train crowding figures. The Q1 2009 (March) QR Passenger Load Survey was released, possible due to a Right to Information request by journalists. Only limited load information has since been released in the TransLink trackers. So why are TransLink (and QR in this case) keeping the numbers of passengers using each station a big secret? Are they scared about the public knowing about the effects that high fares and poor train services have on patronage?
  • TransLink Public Transport User Survey - This large scale survey took place in May 2010, and looked at public transport users travelling habits, such as modes of transport to get to the train station. Over a year later, and the results still haven't been announced. Were the need for feeder buses, and more car parking spaces untenable?
  • TransLink Tracker - This quarterly document seems to get published later and later after each quarter. The Q3 (January to March) 2010/11 TransLink Tracker is now long overdue. Maybe the figures are getting an extra long massage?
  • The 300,000ish Extra Seats - Last year TransLink claimed in their annual report that they met the promised extra seats. Unfortunately, this was a bit of lie, as the even their own published figures in the annual report showed that they were approx. 53,000 seats short on the 83,000 seats that had originally been promised for rail services. BrizCommuter would like to see an exact breakdown of where these promised extra seats have gone each year. 
  • Phase 2 Timetables - Now delayed to 2012, it would be nice if TransLink actually told commuters, since it is now well past the quoted on website "consultation in early 2011". 
  • Keperra to Ferny Grove duplication completion - It is now mid-2011, and the only published date for completion on QR's website is "2012". When in 2012? Early? Mid? Late? A few weeks before a State Election?
TransLink's lack of transparency is not helped by Queensland's Right to Information scheme that charges you $38 (plus extra potential processing costs) if you want to access unpublished information. Right to Information is free (within reason) in the UK. Commuters are becoming increasingly bemused with TransLink's continued lack of transparency and often disgraceful spin (such as claiming the last fare increases were for flood recovery). Given that SE Queensland commuters are paying some of the world's highest public transport fares, we expect more honesty, accountability, and openness from our public transport authority and service providers. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Park 'n' Ride, minus the Park!

It has been reported in this Courier Mail article today 23/06/2011, that Westfield Chermside are planning on charging for parking of more than 3 hours. This fine example of corporate greed is a big slap in the face for hundreds of commuters who park at Westfield Chermside on it's quieter midweek days (the car park is usually only full on Saturdays), and then commute by bus (330,333, and 340) to RBWH & RCH Hospitals, QUT Kelvin Grove, and the CBD. This has effectively taken the "Park" bit out of "Park 'n' Ride" at the Chermside Bus Interchange.

So what are the options now for these public transport users? They could still park at Westfield Chermside, but this would cost more than driving and parking at their destination, thus raising the cost of living even further. They could drive to their destination, not only increasing the cost of the commute, but adding to road congestion as well. They could park for free in nearby neighbourhoods, but apparently there isn't much parking in this area at the best of times. This would also not be popular with nearby residents! There is little in the way of attractive feeder buses to Chermside Bus Interchange as an alternative to driving. So it looks like commuters will be quite royally screwed by Westfield's decision.

BrizCommuter hopes that the Queensland Government (who are spending large amounts of money building a busway in the direction of Chermside), and Brisbane City Council put a lot of pressure on Westfield to continue providing free parking. Otherwise, they will have to provide an attractive alternative such as frequent feeder bus services into Chermside Bus Interchange, or build a free Park 'n' Ride nearby.

This problem adds to the system wide issue of insufficient commuter parking at train stations, and lack of attractive feeder bus services (i.e. frequent, with early and late operating hours). This poor planning by both the Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council, is turning residential streets around train stations into giant daytime car parks. There are also many potential public transport users who are effectively forced to drive to work due to their local station car parks filling up to capacity, often by around 7am. Another reason why Brisbane's public transport system is not "World Class".

Anyway, BrizCommuter is glad he doesn't shop at Westfield. Why pay exorbitant prices for goods, due to shops being charged exorbitant rent, when you can shop for half the price online. It's just a shame most of us do not have the option of commuting online!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Phase 2 Timetable Speculation - Part 2 (South)

The phase 2 timetables for the lines from the South - Cleveland, Beenleigh, and Gold Coast, may be somewhat more complex for QR/TransLink's schedulers. This time, we will start with peak service issues. There are many infrastructure constraints, including multiple single track sections on the Cleveland Line, and the single track between Coomera and Helensvale. Two tracks between Beenleigh and Kuraby prevent Gold Coast Line trains overtaking Beenleigh Line trains on this section in both directions. Three tracks between Kuraby and South Brisbane prevent Gold Coast Line trains overtaking Beenleigh Line trains in the counter peak direction or in one direction off-peak. The unusable 4th platform at Park Road, conflicting moves at Park Road junction, conflicting moves at Roma Street, and crew changeovers at Bowen Hills also add to the schedulers headache.

Currently during the am peak, just under 20tph cross the Merivale Bridge between South Brisbane and Roma Street. Of these approx. 4tph originate from the Gold Coast, approx. 8tph are from the Beenleigh Line (some of which previously used the Tennyson Line and now start at Yeerongpilly), and approx. 8tph from the Cleveland Line. Aside from the Gold Coast and outer Beenleigh Lines, the service patterns are somewhat random. Another problem is that many Cleveland and Beenleigh Line trains are overcrowded by the time they reach South Bank, but to limit passengers standing for long periods, the Gold Coast Line trains are little over half-full. More use needs to be made out of this spare capacity as trains approach the CBD, but with the Gold Coast Line patronage rising, more peak Gold Coast Line services may be required further adding to the spare capacity. The only solutions to this are to either increase the number of standing passengers on the Gold Coast Line services, or increase the number of Gold Coast services, but take on more passengers nearer to the CBD (e.g stopping at all stations between Yeerongpilly and Park Road). Both of these suggestions will be unpopular with Gold Coast Line passengers, possibly apart from those trying to get to UQ or the PA Hospital. The single track section between Helensvale and Coomera will restrict some peak frequency increases for the Gold Coast Line, as counter peak direction trains also have to be allowed to traverse this section approximately every 30mins.

The Cleveland Line has many single track sections (of varying section running times) between Manly and Cleveland, which limits the number of services which can be run to and from Cleveland. BrizCommuter suggests alternating expresses from Cleveland, and all stations services from Lota/Manly.  Due to the bias of passengers on the inner section of the line, the expresses should additionally call at some stations between Manly and Park Road such as Morningside (busiest station on line) or Buranda (near to SE Busway and PA Hospital). Trains should be scheduled so as to avoid peak service gaps of more than 15 mins at all stations.

The Beenleigh Line would require approx. half of it's services to start at Kuraby, so as to not get in the way of Gold Coast Line express services. Whether there are requirements for the Beenleigh starters to run express for part of the line may depend upon expected loadings. Again, peak service gaps of more than 15 mins at any station should be avoided. With the extinction of Tennyson Line services which now start at Yeerongpilly, there should be a few track slots available for extra Beenleigh or Gold Coast Line services.

The services from all 3 lines then have to fit happily together like a jigsaw at various points between Yeerongpilly and South Brisbane before crossing the Merivale Bridge. Depending on which source you believe, the tracks across the Merivale Bridge can handle either 20tph, 23tph, or 25tph. At 20tph, the lines would probably have a similar service provision to the current timetables - e.g approx. 1 Gold Coast, 2 Beenleigh Line, and 2 Cleveland Line services every 15 minutes. However the advantages of a complete timetable re-write and extinction of Tennyson Line services may allow for more efficient use of these track slots to reduce overcrowding. At 23tph, services could be increased slightly with 1 Gold Coast Line, 2 Beenleigh Line, and 2 Cleveland Line services every 13 minutes. But can the Cleveland Line's single track sections cope with trains every 13 minutes? BrizCommuter doubts that frequencies higher than 23tph across the Merivale Bridge are realistically possible. These above mentioned service patterns are regular, but there are lots of possibilities using either less regular service patterns, or radical changes to the current stopping patterns that haven't been looked at in this blog post. BrizCommuter recommends that QR/TransLink's schedulers take some strong headache tablets before writing the peak timetables for these lines! BrizCommuter also suggests that there need to be more early am peak services, as service provision for those arriving in the CBD around 7:30am is often underestimated, and attracting passengers to earlier services may help move some passengers from later services.

As for off-peak services, the recent extortionate fare rises mean that public transport users expect the belated 15 minute "intermediate off-peak" service patterns between the CBD to Kuraby, and CBD to Manly to be introduced in 2012. Unfortunately due to half-baked infrastructure projects on the Beenleigh Line, Gold Coast Line trains would have to be slowed down by approx 4 minutes to allow 15 minutes off-peak to Kuraby. Maybe off-peak Gold Coast trains should also stop all stations between Yeerongilly and Park Road? The Rail Service and Infrastructure Requirements Study (2007) also mentioned a 15 minute off-peak service as far as Robina, but this was dropped by the Inner City Rail Capacity Study (2008), so don't hold your breath for 15 minute off-peak services to the Gold Coast.

To conclude, with limited track capacity across the Merivale Bridge, and many infrastructure constraints (thanks to the Queensland Government's lack of spending), the phase 2 timetables for the Beenleigh, Gold Coast, and Cleveland Lines will be rather interesting. It is likely that as with the phase 1 timetables (i.e. slowing down of Caboolture Line services) that some scheduling compromises will need to be made which will be unpopular with some commuters.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Phase 2 Timetable Speculation - Part 1 (North)

Once a few issues have been sorted out with the recently introduced phase 1 timetable changes, hopefully QR/TransLink's schedulers will move onto planning the phase 2 timetables. These are now due for draft release in late 2011, with introduction into service sometime in 2012. These phase two timetables will be for the Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Airport, Doomben, Cleveland, Beenleigh, and Gold Coast Lines which all share the suburban tracks through the CBD. Here is the first of a two part blog post, with BrizCommuter's speculation of what we may see in these timetables changes. Part 1 is covering the lines from the North - Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Airport, and Doomben Lines.

Lets start with the current off-peak timetables - which at every 30 mins is poor compared with both Australian and international benchmarks. With 15% yearly fare increases making Brisbane one of the most expensive places in the world to use public transport, commuters expect nothing other than the belated introduction of the 15 minute "intermediate off-peak pattern" in 2012. According to the Inner City Rail Capacity Study (2008), this was expected to be introduced in 2010, and would give the Ferny Grove Line, inner Beenleigh and inner Cleveland Lines a 15 minute off-peak service. Airtrain, the "world's worst airport train service" also urgently needs to have its 15 minute off-peak frequency re-introduced.  Failure to introduce 15 minute off-peak services in 2012, would result in a huge backlash from public transport lobbyists, just before an election!

Peak service improvements will have to fit around multiple infrastructure limitations. These include single track sections between Sandgate to Shorncliffe, Eagle Junction to International Airport, and Eagle Junction to Doomben. It is assumed that the phase two timetables will now be introduced after the opening of Keperra to Ferny Grove duplication, which should solve a lot of scheduling headaches. Further scheduling limitations will be caused by the requirements for Roma Street starting/terminating trains to cross the path of all other passenger train services, as well as junction conflicts at Eagle Junction and Airport Junction. Trains that travel beyond Roma Street will have to fit in with infrastructure limitations on the Cleveland, Beenleigh, and Gold Coast Lines which will be explained in part 2 of this blog post. As at present, line pairings may have to be thrown out of the window during the peaks. Of course, this may mean that the 16km Ferny Grove Line may end up with some trains with toilets.

According to the Inner City Rail capacity study, the suburban tracks can handle up to 23tph - 5 trains every 13 mins. BrizCommuter doubts that this is realistically possible from the North, and has assumed a timetable based around 3 min track slots - 5 trains every 15 minutes.  Into this it would be possible to run 8tph from Ferny Grove. These should be an all stations "metro style" service running every 6 to 9 minutes. There would be no need for Mitchelton starting/terminating trains, or expresses on the Ferny Grove line after the duplication to Ferny Grove has been completed. The counter peak direction service to Ferny Grove should be 4tph/15 min frequency. 4tph/15 min frequency should be run to/from Airport, which would probably still have to run express between Eagle Junction and Bowen Hills to keep Airtrain happy. 4tph/15 min frequency is probably the maximum even peak frequency that can be run to/from Shorncliffe using the existing infrastructure, and there may need to be some signalling modifications at Sandgate for this to occur. This Shorncliffe Line frequency would mean that Caboolture and Sunshine Coast services would still need to serve all stations between Northgate and Bowen Hills. Finally assuming the Doomben Line doesn't get "Tennysoned", it would get a 2tph/30 minute frequency service. Infrastructure constraints would make 4tph very difficult to achieve on this line. Sadly, this will still mean that only the desperate and car-less would use the Doomben Line.

So a half hourly inbound am peak timetable at Bowen Hills could look something like this:
00 - from Airport
03 - from Doomben
06 - from Ferny Grove
09 - from Shorncliffe
12 - from Ferny Grove
15 - from Airport
18 - Free slot
21 - from Ferny Grove
24 - from Shorncliffe
27 - from Ferny Grove
and repeat...

This would result in a total 18tph am peak service on the suburban tracks from the North, a 20% increase compared to the present 15tph. Of course, the real timetables may be very different!

Part two of this blog post will look at the suburban lines from the South - Cleveland, Beenleigh, and Gold Coast Lines.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Timetables - One Week Later

Move down the aisles! 
The new train timetables on the Rosewood, Ipswich, Richlands, Caboolture, and Sunshine Coast have not received the best press over the last week, as well as misguided comments by the Shadow Transport Minister. This negativity is despite the new timetables increasing the overall frequency of the Ipswich and Caboolture Lines by approx. 15% in the peaks, pretty good 6-12 minute peak frequencies, more homogenous peak service patterns, and 7 days a week 15 minute off-peak services between Northgate and Darra. BrizCommuter decided to make observations from 4:30pm to 5:25pm at Central station today to see how the new timetables were working.

The first thing that BrizCommuter noticed were QR staff doing the same thing - observing, and recording the loading of services affected by the new timetables. It seems that QR are serious about making sure the new timetables work effectively, and BrizCommuter expects that a few alterations will occur after travel patterns settle down, and more trains are available.

Anyway, back to the observations. Apart from 3 services, all trains departed Central with only a few standees per carriage, and often a few empty seats. Obviously some more passengers will join at CBD stations after Central, but these loadings are pretty good, and shows that the timetables have been very effective at reducing crowding on most services. The 5:16pm to Ipswich had around 20-40 passengers standing per carriage, but this is nothing too excessive for a "peak within a peak" service. Certainly in a few years time an extra pm peak services to Ipswich may well be required around 5:10pm. The 5:19pm to Petrie, and the 5:22pm to Nambour were both overcrowded with between 40-60 passengers standing in most carriages, although a few minutes gave late running would have added a few more passengers than usual. With two more CBD stations to take on more passengers, both services were in danger of leaving passengers behind by Fortitude Valley and Bowen Hills. Although it is unrealistic to expect a train at around 5:20pm to have spare seats, the overcrowding on these two services is excessive for a brand new timetable. Suggestions as to how to solve this situation were suggested in last weeks blog post, so there is no need to repeat them here.

Not all pm peak services were observed, some excessive shoulder peak service gaps remain, counter peak frequencies could be better, and there may some am peak issues as well. However, in general overcrowding has been significantly reduced by the increase in peak frequencies. If QR can sort out the overcrowding on the 5:19pm to Petrie, and 5:22pm to Nambour, then the new timetables should be seen as a success.

Now roll on the new timetables (including 15 minutes off peak) for the other lines...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why do all trains now stop between Northgate and Bowen Hills?

A question asked by many a Caboolture and Sunshine Coast Line user in the last week, is why do (nearly) all trains now stop at all stations between Northgate and Bowen Hills? The answer is pretty simple, and explained by a simplified "train graph" (right). In the am peak, the Caboolture Line now runs 18 trains per hour (tph), with trains usually spaced 3 minutes apart. Half of these trains start at Caboolture, and half at Petrie. As there are three tracks between Lawnton and Northgate, then the trains from Caboolture can run express and overtake the Petrie services. However, between Northgate and Bowen Hills (and to Roma Street), the Caboolture Line only has the use of two tracks (the mains), one in each direction. As the trains cannot overtake each other, they have to stop at all stations.

So what would happen if one of the Caboolture Line services ran express between Northgate and Bowen Hills. The "train graph" shows a 15 minute portion of the am peak, with 5 stopping services (green and red), all spaced 3 minutes apart. If you run an express service (purple) to run just 6 minutes faster than other services, it will eat up the track slots for 3 of the other services (red). This would decrease the overall number of train services by 40%, or 1500 passengers (assuming 750 passengers per train) just in this 15 minute period. It would reduce the number of trains serving all stations by 60%. It would also increase the gap between services at these stations by 300%. So as you can see, to make the most out of the available infrastructure, all service have to stop at all stations between Northgate and Bowen Hills.

Are there any other options? There are four tracks between Northgate and the CBD, two of which (the suburban tracks) are not fully utilised until the Ferny Grove Lines joins North of Bowen Hills. Why can't expresses from Caboolture or the Sunshine Coast run on these tracks? Again the answer is fairly simple, and shown in another diagram (right). The train would have to switch between tracks, crossing the paths of other train services known as a conflicting move. The schedules for services on both tracks would have to allow for this conflicting move, and the trains would need to run exactly to schedule so as to not cause the conflicting services to also run late. So for reliability reasons, it makes perfect sense to segregate the train services on the mains from the train services on the suburbans.

Could Shorncliffe Line services serve all stations between Northgate and Bowen Hills, and allow all Caboolture and Sunshine Coast services to run express between Northgate and Bowen Hills? At the moment, no, as there are only approx. 3tph of am peak Shorncliffe services which would not be able to cope with the numbers of passengers from Nundah, Toombul, Eagle Junction, Wooloowin, and Albion. What about after the phase two timetables in 2012? This all depends of how many trains can be run on the suburban tracks through the CBD. If the limit is 20tph, then it is likely that the timetables will repeat every 15 minutes, with 8tph from Ferny Grove, and 4tph from Airport. This leaves just 8tph to be split between the Doomben and Shorncliffe Lines. Everytime a Doomben Line train runs, this will leave a 15 minute service gap between Northgate and Eagle Junction. This may be too long a gap to prevent the next service from Shorncliffe becoming overcrowded. There is also the question as to whether the Shorncliffe Line could handle approximately 6tph anyway due to the single track section, unless some trains can reverse at Sandgate (or another location) instead? Also, Nundah, Toombul, Wooloowin, and Albion commuters would not appreciate a massive reduction in train services from 18tph to 6-8tph. So unless more than 20tph can be run along the suburban tracks, or QR's schedulers can think of a more clever service pattern on the suburbans (maybe 9/18 minute cycles?), then it is not looking good for the expressing of Caboolture and Sunshine Coast trains between Northgate and Bowen Hills until after Cross River Rail is opened.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dude, where's my 6-car unit?

Quite a few commuters may have had a shock in the last week when their previous cushy ride on a spacious 6-car train was replaced by a 3-car unit with standing room only. Trains that have reportedly been converted to 3-car services include the 8:21am from Mitchelton to Roma Street, and the 5:42pm expresso from Bowen Hills to Cleveland. Some Ipswich and Caboolture Line services on the new timetable have also been observed running with 3-car units. BrizCommuter is surprised at this, as it was thought that there should be enough trains to run the new timetables, particularly in the less intensive pm peak.

BrizCommuter travelled on the 8:21am from Mitchelton on Friday (the quietest working day for train loadings), and there were around 20-25 standing passengers per carriage. It could be possible that mid-week this service could get uncomfortably busy (although only for a short period), adding to commuter misery of this service running after an unacceptable 17 minute service gap. If this service is not returned to being a 6-car service by the busier Q3 2011/12, then this service could leave passengers behind on the platform. Lets hope that the busier 3-car services are given priority to be converted (back) to 6-car services once new trains are delivered. 

It seems that poor old QR are having to try and make the most out of limited resources yet again thanks to the Queenland Government's lack of public transport spending - in this case a train delivery program that cannot keep up with demand for new train services (despite the Queensland Government's apparent efforts to limit public transport patronage increases). Also, are there any other issues such as maintenance, that are putting are larger number of trains than usual out of service?

With a 3-car unit only being delivered every month, BrizCommuter can now understand why the phase two timetable "improvements" will not be happening until sometime in 2012 - there will simply not be enough trains for an improved timetable on the suburban tracks (Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Airport, Doomben, Cleveland, Beenleigh, & Gold Coast Lines) for some time. Of course it would be nice if TransLink could communicate this information to frustrated commuters. Stating that new timetables will be in action in "late 2011", and then going all quiet about the delay is extremely rude of TransLink! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New Timetables - how did they go?

The new timetables on the Ipswich, Rosewood, Richlands, Caboolture, and Sunshine Coast Lines were introduced yesterday 06/06/2011. If you read the Courier Mail's article you would think that the world has ended, however todays comments section shows a lot of positive comments about the most significant timetable changes in 15 years. Most of those complaining seem to be either suffering "I want an express from my stationitis", have serious change management issues, or don't understand that trains cannot overtake each other on the same track. Probably the most valid comments (aside from the Sunshine Coast Line issues that we will get to) are car drivers unable to get through level crossings on the Caboolture Line due to the 18tph am peak frequencies. About time the Queensland Government has a kick up the posterior to start building over-bridges!

Observations of train crowding seem to show that train loadings are generally lower than in the previous timetable. Commuters will adjust their travelling times slightly, however there will still continue to be some very busy trains. There will always a "peak within a peak" just after common work finish times, or prior to common work start times. This will  cause uneven loadings even with the best of timetables. There may be some need in the near future to add additional services on the Ipswich and Caboolture Lines around these busier times. However, the requirement to fit in Ekka loop services, Tilt Trains, and Travel Trains are a thorn in the side of schedulers. Areas that may need timetable adjustments in the next few years:

  • More early am peak capacity - early am peak loads always seems to be underestimated by TransLink & QR.
  • More counter peak direction capacity - particularly to/from Indooroopilly, Toowong, and Milton. 
  • More services around the "peak within the peaks" - e.g 6 or 9 min pm peak Ipswich/Richlands frequencies instead of current 12mins around the busier times. 

Now for the Sunshine Coast Line. As part of the consultation process the draft 5:04pm service from Central to Nambour was requested to be moved later to be more convenient for CBD workers. This occurred, and the service was moved to a 5:22pm departure time. Unfortunately, this train is 12 mins after the previous Caboolture Line service, and at a time more convenient for everyman and his dog. Thus it was no surprise that this service was going to be somewhat popular - 70+ standing passengers per carriage popular! (Although this is no worse than the 07:06 from Ferny Grove at busy times of the year, and outer suburban commutes on may other rail systems around the world). To add to the overcrowding, this train runs from Richlands, and due to the poor counter peak frequency fills up with lots of commuters from Indooroopilly, Toowong, and Milton. Thankfully, there are few things that can, and probably will be done in the near future to solve these problems. Allowing track slots for Ekka loop services,  overtaking being limited to between Virginia and Lawnton, limited tracks slots north of Caboolture, and resourcing extra trains and crew are issues that will affect the outcome of these changes. Here are some of BrizCommuter's suggestions:

  • Move the Nambour train back to 5:10pm from Central.
  • Run extra counter peak services from Richlands or Darra, and make the 5:22pm from Central start from Roma Street instead of Richlands.
  • Run an extra Nambour service 3 mins after the 5:22pm from Central (which would terminate at Caboolture) on the same stopping pattern. This would only delay the preceding Petrie all stations service by 1 minute into Petrie. By running this extra service immediately after the 5:22pm from Central, should considerably help minimise crowding. 
  • Run an extra Nambour service 6 mins before the 5:22pm from Central (which would terminate at Caboolture) on the same stopping pattern. This service would depart Central at 5:16pm. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tennyson Line Extinction

Dead as a...
On Friday 03/06/2011, with no fanfare, the Tennyson Line (also known as the Corinda via South Brisbane Line) became extinct to passenger services for the foreseeable future. Although the Tennyson Line closure was briefly mentioned as part of the draft timetable consultation process and their have been information leaflets given out, the is no mention of the line closure on TransLink's webpage that outlines the timetable changes. This continues TransLink's record of being less than honest with the travelling public. The webpage, that forgets to mention the line closure is below:
Whilst very few passengers use Tennyson station itself, quite a lot of school children travel along the Tennyson Line.

BrizCommuter rode the final two outbound trains on the last day of operation, and was very surprised to see how busy the trains were. The penultimate train filled up with lots of school children from South Bank at 3:15pm, and Yeronga at 3:25pm. This 6-car train had a loading far in excess of 400 passengers by the time it passed along the Tennyson Line. One naive school girl was running a petition on this train to stop the line closure. The final train was less loaded, but certainly had in excess of 200 school children on board. So what journey options do more than 600 school children now have to get to Corinda and beyond from South Brisbane (and vice versa)? BrizCommuter has taken a look at alternative options to the first of the two afternoon outbound Tennyson Line trains.

A school child travelling from various schools around South Bank to Darra will now have to travel via Roma Street, and will have a 15 to 27 minute longer journey depending on whether they can make a 3:11pm departure from South Bank. A school child travelling from Yeronga State High to Darra will now have to catch a 105 bus to Graceville, then walk 500m to the train station, and eventually get to their destination with a 27 minute longer journey time. Unfortunately, BrizCommuter doubts that neither the infrequent and poorly timed 104 or 105 buses would be able to cope with the extra school traffic. The fastest alternative journey by train, would be via Roma Street, would take an extra 48 minutes thanks to the Beenleigh Line's infrequency, and cost more as the journey would be via Zone 1! It is likely to be a similar story in the morning peak as well, but in the opposite direction.

On top of inconveniencing hundreds of school children, BrizCommuter doubts as to whether most of the Tennyson Line services needed to be eliminated at this time. For example 4 out of the 6 outbound Tennyson Line services do not actually have to run on the Ipswich Line tracks when they reverse at Corinda, due to Corinda having 5 platforms. Thus these services could have been kept until the stage two timetables require more Beenleigh and Gold Coast Line train paths across the Merivale Bridge. As BrizCommuter readers will know, the stage two timetables have now been delayed until at least 2012, so it seems that the extinction of the Tennyson Line was rather premature.

Another question BrizCommuter would like to know, is where are the Tennyson Line trains going to reverse, now that they terminate at Yeerongpilly instead of Corinda? Will they reverse at Yeerongpilly, blocking Beenleigh Line tracks? Will they reverse at Rocklea siding, meaning that trains will run empty through Rocklea and Moorooka stations? Or will they do the daftest thing of all, and reverse at Corinda and just run empty along the Tennyson Line?

Monday will be a very interesting day for those rail users who have new timetables. There may be a very big shock in store for many school children on Monday 6th June!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

World Class or Misleading Parliament?

The Bligh Government are regularly claiming that SE Queensland has a World Class" public transport system. This is a rather risky statement, considering that misleading parliament is a bit of a naughty offence. Here is a list of reasons why SE Queensland's public transport system is not "World Class".

1) 30 minute midday service gaps, and hourly late night and Sunday am service gaps, at inner-city train stations such as Buranda, Windsor, Wilston, and Dutton Park. Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, and many European cities have 10-20 minute service gaps at similar locations on branched lines. The lack of off-peak utilisation of rail lines and rolling stock makes for inefficient use of assets and infrastructure. Having guards on trains is also an inefficient use of resources.

2) 22+ minute gaps between some peak train services on the Ferny Grove, Cleveland, Beenleigh, Shorncliffe, and Airport Lines means that is often faster to drive in the rush hour. Even Adelaide has better peak train services on some lines! Up to 30 minute gaps between counter-peak train services makes travelling against the flow even more unattractive - not good for decentralisation, students, or some hospital workers.

3) Some of the worlds highest public transport fares for journeys within Brisbane, with fare increases nearly 5 times the CPI, and 3 times the rate of public transport service improvements (which seem to mainly occur at the end of each financial year)! With high car ownership, it is cheaper for many commuters to drive to work.

4) Lack of daily capping, weekly, monthly, and other periodical ticketing options, as found on real "World Class" public transport systems. The go card fare structure discourages and penalises those who wish to use public transport more frequently. It also discourages tourists from using public transport.

5) Go card reader failures and "red light errors" on buses, and unreadable LCD displays on go card readers at train stations (unlike Melbourne's excellent Myki readers).

6) Failure to extend the route 66 to RBWH for 7 months after the opening of the RBWH busway station was inexcusable. "World Class" public transport systems increase services at the same time as infrastructure openings. Even after the extension of the route 66, the demand often outstrips supply on the Inner Northern Busway, and many high frequency bus routes such as the 345 and 444.

7) The SE Busway is chronically congested between Buranda and Queen Street Bus Station, most notably at Cultural Centre. The Victoria Bridge is increasingly resembling a bus park in the pm peak. Note that busways are most commonly a "cheap" public transport solution in developing countries rather than developed.

8) Lack of open-ness, and frequent misleading information/spin by TransLink. E.g. expecting commuters to not notice phase 2 timetable delays till 2012, claiming fare increases were to help with flood recovery, failure to explain where the promised 80,000 train seats in the 2009/10 financial year went, failure to publish 2010 and 2011 QR passenger load survey, only 3 working days notice of consultation events, etc, etc.

9) Lack of any signage in Brisbane's CBD to tell passengers from which stop their bus departs from, and where those stops are. "World Class" public transport systems at least tell passengers from where they can catch a bus!

10) Different bus routes to the same destination depart from different CBD and Fortitude Valley bus stops. Made worse by both point 9, and poor bus frequencies.

11) The world's worst airport train service - infrequent, overpriced, and no trains after 8pm. No other public transport options to the airport. "World Class" cities have multiple frequent airport access public transport options, and some do not even charge premium fares.

12) Poor access to train stations, caused by infrequent, or non-existent feeder bus services, and limited space car parks that fill up by as early as 7am. This causes many would be public transport users to drive to work instead. "World Class" public transport systems provide frequent rail feeder bus services and/or sufficient car parking spaces to cope with rising demand.

13) Public transport black-holes, even along some main roads. More high frequency bus routes required! In most European and Japanese cities you can get everywhere easily by frequent public transport.

14) FlexiLink. An infrequent taxi that has to be booked ahead is most definitely not "World Class" public transport. European and Japanese cities simply service less dense areas with smaller buses.

15) The crown jewel of Brisbane's public transport system - the Doomben Line. Enough said!

So by "World Class" benchmarks, Brisbane's public transport system fares rather badly. The lack of investment to improve frequencies and services, extortionate fare increases, unattractive fare structure, and a culture of spin instead of substance, makes it appear that the Queensland Government is actually trying to limit public transport patronage growth. For politicians to say that Brisbane has a "World Class" public transport system, just makes them appear increasingly out of touch, and at risk of misleading parliament.