Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sector 2 Train Timetables - Detailed Review

Merivale Bridge
Two and half years later than originally promised by TransLink, the sector 2 train timetables have now been made available to the public, ahead of an early 2014 introduction. These timetables are for the lines that share the "suburban" tracks through the CBD and across the Merivale Bridge - Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Airport, Doomben, Cleveland, Beenleigh, and Gold Coast Lines. With all of these lines sharing tracks through the CBD, as well as multiple infrastructure limitations, it needs to be remembered that there are limited options for Queensland Rail's schedulers, and in some cases limited opportunity for improvements. Due to this, and Brisbanites "I want an express to my stationitis" mentality, the consultation process appears to have been skipped. As predicted, the weekday timetables are based around a 15 minute cycle. Here is BrizCommuter's review of the timetables:

AM Peak

Overview -
Up to 18tph will run northbound across the Merivale Bridge in the am peak,  a surprising decrease of 1tph. Up to 18tph will run on the "suburbans" southbound through the CBD in the am peak, an increase of 3tph. Due to lack of trains, some services may consist of 3 car units, and at this point it is unknown which services will be served by 3 car units.
Ferny Grove Line - an 8tph service, every 7-8mins, serving all stations. This is a huge improvement over the previous irregular am peak service that contained Mitchelton starters, and Ferny Grove expresses that missed many stations, and resulted in service gaps of up to 23 minutes! Just a shame that it has taken 21 months since duplication for the Ferny Grove line to receive a decent peak timetable.
Shorncliffe Line - will receive a 4tph service, every 15 minutes. This also a huge improvement over the previous irregular 2-3tph service, made possible by use of both platforms at Sandgate. All trains will serve all stations.
Airport Line - will now has an outbound 4tph, every 15 minute frequency, and the same inbound after approx. 8am. This will make life much easier to access Brisbane Airport for morning flights. All trains will now surprisingly serve all stations, however the impact on journey time is minimal.
Doomben Line - now has a regular 2tph, every 30 minutes service.
Cleveland Line - will receive an 8tph service, with alternating Cleveland express services (express Manly to Morningside), and Manly all stations services every 15 minutes each. The reduction of stations served by the expresses sensibly allows for more even loadings, and allows for more regular scheduling. The timetable is now more consistent, although some stations may have seen an overall reduction in service. One negative point is the 22 minute gap between arrivals at CBD stations (8:19 to 8:41am at Central) for travellers from stations beyond Manly - this is worse than the current timetable! With Manly services departing only 2 minutes behind the express services, there is little margin for delays.
Beenleigh & Gold Coast Lines - are the timetables achilles heel, due to lack of overtaking opportunities along the shared corridor. Both lines have a 4tph, 15 minute base service, with some additional services slotted in. It seems that the Gold Coast Line has most of these extra slots in the first half of the am peak, and the Beenleigh Line most of these extra slots in the second half of the pm peak. Is this based around actual travelling patterns, or just a solution to a currently unsolvable problem? No Beenleigh Line services run express, and some services start/terminate at Kuraby or Coopers Plains. All Gold Coast services call at Loganlea, Altandi (with good bus connections), and Park Road (for connections to UQ). It will be interesting to see how this will affect passenger loading balances. Apparently Park Road's platform 4 will now be utilised after the addition of rubber platform edge strips, and overtaking may occur at Bethania, the latter having little margin for delays. BrizCommuter will take a look at the Beenleigh and Gold Coast Line schedules in more detail in a forthcoming blog post, along with comment on the combined service pattern through the CBD.

PM Peak

Up to 19tph will run southbound across the Merivale Bridge in the pm peak, an increase of 3tph. Up to 17tph will run on the "suburbans" northbound through the CBD in the pm peak, an increase of 1tph. Service frequencies and stopping patterns are similar to the am peak, with a few exceptions. For starters, the Airport service is 4tph, every 15 mins throughout the peak period. The alternating Cleveland express/Manly all stations service strangely stops quite early in the pm peak, with the last Cleveland express departing Central at 5:09pm. The additional Beenleigh and Gold Coast Lines also seem to favour earlier travel on the Gold Coast Line, and later travel on the Beenleigh Line. There are also a few 15 minute gaps in the Ferny Grove pm peak service that will result in inconvenience and possible overcrowding.


Counter-peak services have traditionally been terrible in Brisbane, making decentralisation only realistic for car users, and causing a pain for school children and students. The new timetables now have a 15 minute reverse peak frequency to/from Ferny Grove, Airport (from 8am), Cleveland, Coopers Plains, and Shorncliffe. This is another big improvement.

The busy South Bank precinct also has an improved counter-peak service of up to 14tph in the am peak, and 11tph in the pm peak. Most services are within 5 minutes of each other, with no gaps longer than 10 minutes.

Weekday Off-peak

Weekday 15 minute off-peak has been extended from the Ferny Grove Line, to Northgate on the Shorncliffe Line, Cannon Hill on the Cleveland Line, and Coopers Plains on the Beenleigh Line. This service is from approx. 6am to 8pm. This is a major improvement to public transport in Brisbane, bringing the city into 21st century!  Of course, there will be some disappointment that the 15 minute off-peak services were not extended out further, but this may have been limited by infrastructure constraints, or cost. It is interesting to note that 15 minute off-peak to Cleveland is technically possible. The Cleveland Line is now paired with the Shorncliffe Line, and the Doomben Line runs as a shuttle to/from Roma Street.

The Doomben Line has had it's weekday off-peak service extended later at night (to approx.8pm), and in increase to 30 minute frequency throughout the day. This is a major improvement for Doomben Line users. Airport Line services have a longer shoulder peak period with 15 minute frequency, and again call at all stations.

It appears that most hourly late night gaps have been finally been filled in, with 30 minute services until the end of traffic. This makes it much easier to get home after nights out during the week.


Disappointingly, weekend frequencies are still based around a 30 minute service, Brisbane is thus still a long way behind Perth (15 minute frequency), and Melbourne (10 minute frequency). Brisbane may have moved into the 21st century with weekday 15 minute off-peak services, but is certainly not yet in the 2010s!

Doomben is now hourly on Saturdays, resulting in a worse service to and from the races (outboud around midday, and inbound late afternoon). There is still no Doomben Line service on Sundays.

Sunday am hourly gaps have now been eliminate at long last, making it much easier for shift workers to get to work on Sunday morning.


The sector 2 timetables are a huge improvement over the previous diabolical timetables dating from 2008. Credit must be given to Queensland Rail's schedulers for making the most of the available infrastructure and trains. Most limitations to the timetable are as a result of successive governments lack of rail infrastructure construction and lack of sufficient train purchases. Aside from a few issues mentioned in the blog post, the only big downside is the continuation of 30 mins off-peak frequency on weekends.

As previously mentioned, if it wasn't for excessively high train fares, these timetable improvements would have been expected to have caused a huge increase in public transport patronage, and possible reduction in road congestion.


  1. Yep.

    While the improvements are mostly good, particularly counter peak to South Bank and Park Rd, it's disappointing that they didn't go the whole hog and fix up weekend and evening services. I think you're a bit generous with your comments about moving into the 21st Century. Perhaps post 70s Oil Shock though.

    Even besides that, they really should have gone into the Airport every 15 minutes between the peaks at least and extended the Northgate terminators to Shorncliffe. (To those that whine about off-timetable services, these can run beyond Shorncliffe to turn around.)

    I guess people will always want more but I'd really rather there was a BUZ style focused improvement approach to less lines than this scattergun approach of a mediocre improvement to some lines.

  2. Positives: I am someone who does a lot of counter peak travel, so the massive increase in counter peak services is fantastic. On the Ferny Grove, the closing of the 1 hour gap between second last and last train Monday to Thursday is welcomed :) About damn time.

    It is a mystery though why some services do stop where they do. Why do services on the Shorncliffe line stop at Northgate, rather than continuing onto Shorncliffe, providing a 15 minute all day service?

    In regards to the gap mentioned on the peak hour inbound Cleveland to city travel, is there the option to transfer at Park Road/South bank to another train service, so it would be a trunk and feeder type service? Or is it just no options at all?

    The Doomben line, whilst having services increases, still gets a poorly run service. The decision long ago to abandon the train line to Pinkenba and not to duplicate was ridiculous and should be reversed. It should be two lines all the way to Pinkenba and maybe to Myrtletown, allowing more services out to that area.

  3. Simon - BrizCommuter does think that whilst the timetable is better than expected, it could have gone further.

    Garvin - There is probably not enough demand for 15 minute off-peak to Shorncliffe, although it is theoretically possible. Saying that, it would probably only require 1 or 2 more trains/crew. There is no alternative to the 22 min late am peak Cleveland Line gap for travellers apart from a timetable change. The Doomben Line does not require anymore services at this point in time, and with current infrastructure cannot run a higher service. Any (re-)extension would be better off serving Hamilton Northshore development instead of the desolate wasteland of Pinkenba. There are currently much bigger fish to fry.

  4. Shorncliffe Line- There might not ? be enough demand, but it is always surprising when more services are put on how more often they are used. In this case it seems to be only a case of running the trains from Northgate to Shorncliffe to provide a 15 minute service.

    Stopping the trains at Northgate seems completely unnecessary.

    Lota and beyond to city weekdays- You are correct, there is no other option. I thought it might be a case of trunk and feeder possible change at Park Road, but the timetable design just means those passengers are stuck. Seems strange to stop the express trains so early.

    Pinkenba/Northshore Hamilton- I do agree about NSH, but do not agree so much about Pinkenba as I think it would grow with better public transport and services. But as you say, bigger fish to fry. So lets move on to discussions that mean nothing in the grand scheme of things :)

  5. And so the bigger fish to fry is no trains over one of the bigger public transport weekends of the year. :o

  6. It won't take much to run trains every 15 minutes all the way to Shorncliffe. Maybe a next election promise?

    1. Hi I'm thinking of working in Brisbane between hours 7 to 7pm. Varsity To show bris. Any suggestions or comments welcomed


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