Sunday, January 15, 2012

More on the GHD/COMSEQ report

Light rail every 3 minutes at Windsor?
In the previous blog post, BrizCommuter took a look at "The Cleveland Solution" a cut price, and considerably less effective alternative to Cross River Rail (CRR). The Cleveland Solution was part of a report by GHD, and commissioned by the Council of Mayors South East Queensland (COMSEQ) to look at more cost effective solutions for improving public transport in Brisbane.

The report is here:

Whilst this report, and it's timing is political playing, BrizCommuter does think that analysing the cost effectiveness of current projects is worth considering. However, this report only analysis the costs and not the benefits. BrizCommuter likes the "What does the commuter actually want?" section on page 8 of the report, which is spot on. So what are the alternative solutions to the current state governments plans?

  • The Cleveland Solution - discussed in the previous blog post. The Ferny Grove and Cleveland Lines would be linked and taken over by light rail. This should significantly improve both peak and off-peak frequencies on these lines, but is much less effective than CRR at increasing overall rail capacity through the CBD. Whilst significantly cheaper than CRR, the price tag of $2.5b seems rather optimistic, and the required (and expensive) grade-seperation of many level crossings doesn't appear to have been considered. This solution would only free up approx. 8tph across the Merivale Bridge, meaning that yet another solution will be required in the future when patronage from the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, and Flagstone lines eat up these track slots. 
  • Cheaper Eastern and Northern Busway - only in SE Queensland can busway construction almost cost the same as heavy rail construction. It has been proposed to limit expensive grade separated tunnelling, and concentrate more on cheaper bus lanes with traffic light priority. This should be given serious consideration. 
  • CBD Bus Infrastructure Capacity Program - there is little question that Cultural Centre Bus Station is approaching capacity. Multiple staged solutions have been suggested in this report, which include various alterations around Cultural Centre for $25m, to a new Adelaide Street Bridge $500m, and eventually a $2b+ CBD Bus Tunnel. The CBD bus tunnel is not planned until after 2017 which means that it is not being proposed as a Cross River Rail alternative as touted a few months ago.
  • Clapham Stabling - as per the CRR plans, extra train stabling will be required a Clapham Yards. 
  • Extra track Yeerongpilly to Park Road - instead of the CRR tunnel, a 4th track would be provided between Park Road and Yeerongpilly to separate freight traffic from peak direction Gold Coast trains. A required grade-seperated junction would also be built at Yeerongpilly for freight trains to access the Tennyson Line. This proposal could however eat up a few properties in Fairfield. 
  • Flagstone Line - diesel powered trains (DMUs) shuttling between Flagstone and Salisbury (where passengers would connect with Beenleigh Line services) has been suggested. Including stations with extra tracks at Flagstone, Boronia Heights, and Parkinson, this would allow for 15 minute services at an initial cost of $300. This is a cheaper, but less effective option than running direct services to the CBD on dual gauge track. 
  • Brisbane Cross City Metro - Portside to Indooropilly. This medium term (i.e. pie in the sky) project serves Indooroopilly, UQ, West End, CBD, James Street, Tenerife, Bulimba, and Portside. This alignment is better than previous suggested metro routes, but will not solve limited track capacity on the Ipswich/Caboolture train corridor. Suggested future extensions to Kenmore and Mount Ommaney could help improve public transport to Western Suburbs.
  • Moreton Bay Rail Link - this report mentions that frequencies will not be high enough, and busway or light rail would have been cheaper. BrizCommuter thinks that Redcliffe commuters would much prefer a direct heavy rail link, and that if all Petrie peak services are extended to Kippa-Ring, then the line should be able to operate am peak services every 6-12 minutes. 
  • Other projects - within the 2012-2017 timeframe, many rail level crossing grade-seperation projects are planned (locations unspecified), as well as Coomera to Helensvale duplication, and Kuraby to Kingston/Loganlea triplications to increase Gold Coast peak frequency. Beerburrum to Landsborough duplication, and Lawnton to Petrie triplication are also featured. Within 2018-2022 timeframe include Gold Coast Line, and Gold Coast Rapid Transport extensions, Redbank to Ripley rail (new alignment?) and scoping for Sunshine Coast Light Rail. 
  • Missing in action - no mention of Alderley to Strathpine/NorthWest Corridor/Trouts Road Line, which is very disappointing as it would serve a large swathe of Brisbane's Northern Suburbs which are currently a public transport black-hole. Extension of Doomben Line to Hamilton Northshore is also missing - this could be cheaper than a hugely expensive Kingsford Smith Drive upgrade touted by Brisbane City Council. Thankfully no suggestions included of converting the SE Busway to Light or Heavy Rail. 
Whilst a lot of these projects are considered as being short sighted and money saving, it also has to be considered that if projects are too expensive (especially with the reality of a broke state government) that they may not happen. Which is better - no project, an affordable half-baked project, or a future proof project which takes funds from other critical projects?

It will also be interesting too see how much this document will be aligned with LNP policy. More is likely to be known within the next few weeks. A promise of frequent light rail services along the Ferny Grove Line instead of the existing infrequent heavy rail service could give Campbell Newman a few more crucial votes in the battlefield constituency of Ashgrove. The next few weeks may be very interesting!

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