Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The lack of trains problem

Next Generation Rollingstock - urgently required!
As predicted by BrizCommuter back in 2011, there are not enough trains to effectively run the sector 2 timetables. This is mainly due to the previous ALP government not purchasing enough trains. This result of this lack of trains has been mentioned in the last two blog posts, and mainly appears to be affecting the Ferny Grove Line. BrizCommuter takes a look at what can and can't be done:

Increased rolling stock utilisation

It is not possible to run 100% of trains in service. Trains require maintenance at set periods, and also on an ad-hoc basis as components fail. Approximately 93% of trains are in use by Queensland Rail (QR) in the am peak, which is relatively high figure considering many of QR's trains (EMUs) are over 30 years old. The pm peak utilisation figure is unknown.

BrizCommuter is however concerned about the number of Inter City Express (ICE) units sitting at Mayne Depot, and wonders if increased utilisation of these units, could allow cascading of IMU trains to other services. Would re-fitting these trains with higher capacity seating be an effective use of money given that they are ageing? Given the poor reliability of the ICE units (most likely the reason why there are so many at Mayne) this is unlikely.

Realistically, increasing rolling stock utilisation is an unlikely solution to solving the lack of trains problem.

Moving units from other services

With rolling stock utilisation being at it's maximum, then if you convert an overcrowded 3-car service to a 6-car service, then you will have to reduce another service from 6-cars to 3-cars. There may be limited other services that could handle a halving in capacity. The other problem, is that the other train may make trips earlier or later in the day which do require 6-cars.

A good example of the above is the many Airport services that have been observed with around 20% loading in the pm peak, and thus are good candidates for being reduced from 6-cars to 3-cars. The problem is that the Airport train then becomes a Gold Coast train when it runs it's next trip. If this 6-car train has a loading of 45% (a few spare seats), then it would be severely overcrowded (political nightmare) if it was converted from 6-cars to 3-cars on a Gold Coast service. BrizCommuter has however received reports of some Gold Coast Line peak services mainly carrying air since the timetable changes.

This option may help solve the lack of trains problem, but only if it does not resolve overcrowding on one service by causing overcrowding on another. There may be limited scope here.

Remove other services

Another option may be to remove services that have low loadings, are additional to the 15/30 minute timetable cycles, and do not form other services. These 3-car units can then be used to boost other services.

One debatably required service is the 06:40am from Ferny Grove. Removal of this service would result in a 15 minute gap in service between two 6-car units at a reasonably quiet time, which is no worse than the previous timetable. Unfortunately, given that this train runs to Park Road, it can only be assumed that it runs empty along either the Beenleigh or Cleveland Line to form another peak service. Thus means that removing this service and re-utilising it's 3-cars is not an option. Also removing services after a timetable change would annoy commuters who have just started using this service.

The Sunshine Coast Line received a few extra services on January 20th 2014 despite not being part of the sector 2 timetable review. Maybe QR should have held off on adding these services until after seeing whether sector 2 services required more 3-car units? Now is too late to remove these services, as it would cause a political outcry (although saying that, adding an extra service has also caused a political outcry from some Sunshine Coast commuters)! Maybe, the sector 1 timetables can be re-reviewed for more efficient use of rolling stock?

There may be very limited or no options in removing services to boost others.

New trains

Unfortunately, new trains cannot be built overnight. Despite claims on QR's Facebook page in recent days of new trains in 2015, we are unlikely to see these in passenger service until early to mid 2016. Depending on delivery schedules and opening of the Moreton Bay Rail Link, these trains may not even be available for use on overcrowded services until much later than this date. Thankfully these new Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains will all be 6-car units.


BrizCommuter is sounding pessimistic, but based on comments in social media by QR in the last few days it seems that there will chronic overcrowding on some services (mainly on the Ferny Grove Line) for the next few years. This is a sad state of affairs on a line that was duplicated to reduce overcrowding, and parallels a congested road. It's a return to bad old overcrowded days of 2007, when commuters were expecting better.

First day of the new sector 2 train timetables:
Rest of the first week of the new sector 2 train timetables:


  1. Caboolture Line also received 2 services in the PM peak - Approx 10 services a week.

  2. I don't think I can cope with 3 more years of standing on the Ferny Grove Line!!!

  3. If QR has a regular schedule of 6 cars and 3 cars, then schedule your travel for the 6 cars. It is the only option, especially when the trains are only 7 minutes apart.

  4. Garvin - that's a rather apathetic opinion. It is unacceptable that after $130m has been spent duplicating the Ferny Grove Line, that it now likely to have more trains chronically overcrowded than before.

  5. I agree it is apathetic and I agree it is also unacceptable as you have listed, but what other options are there? The only other option is a full timetable re-design. Or pulling 3 cars from the other services.

    I think QR have at least done well to inform their passengers which services will be 3 cars, rather than having it is at a random situation, which is normally the case. At least this way they are doing the best they can with a terrible situation NOT of their making.

    It really would be helpful if anyone could provide informaton on the other lines if they are having to put up with 3 car trains, or if it is the FG line that is getting 'screwed'. Likely line would be the Shorncliffe line. It is a shame that both BzC and I live on FG line, otherwise I would go look at Shorncliffe for a morning and find out, especially say Tuesday morning with all the school children back.

    I have had one chuckle. At least the big red signs are accurate. Turn up and go, every 15 minutes 6am to 8pm at selected stations. That is still accurate haha.

    Doing a maths calculation that you are fond of: They are running at:

    7 tph between 6am and 8am and 7 then 8 minutes apart. There are no 3 cars after 8am.

    Trains could go:


    This now provides an 11 train service, instead of the current 14 service and could meet the an eleven 6 car service. Please feel free to bust.

  6. ICEs are not designed for suburban services. To further add, due to operational and technical requirements of the ICEs, they would also be required to take a "suburbans" train path on the outbound, robbing Ferny Grove, Airport, Doomben and Shorncliffe of a PM path.

    Increased utilization of those units, given their less than stellar reliability will mean no toilet equipped back up trains in case of breakdowns, and it's known that the Sunshine & Gold Coasters will complain about malfunctioning (or no) toilets.

  7. Speaking of new trains:

  8. Garvin - good news, but sadly at least two years away (despite QR's optimistic claims of 2015).

  9. I have two questions. How many additional carriages does QR need to provide a 100% six-carriage train service? In the interim, how difficult is it to lease from interstate or overseas the additional trains until the Bombardier NGR trains come online?

  10. gu - not too sure, but at a guess, probably at least 7 x 3-car sets short. Due to differences in track gauge, loading gauge, and design/maintenance/training differences, BrizCommuter doubts that leasing trains from other networks is a possibility.

  11. Qld runs on narrow gauge tracks, and in Australia only WA and Tasmania use narrow gauge. So that is the only source for possible trains.

    WA trains are all single operator compliant where the platform is at the height of the train, where Qld stations are not, so their trains probably would not be suitable. And I am not sure about the Tasmania set up.

    So in short, no easy options. Otherwise they probably would have been thought of.

  12. Perhaps they can grab some diesel clunkers from Auckland, if pigs fly.

  13. Also, Perth has rolling stock shortages of its own and the trains currently delivered are needed to serve the Butler extension later this year, so none there even if they were fully compatible. Tasmania I don't think has any currently operating passenger rail...


All comments are reviewed before being published, and it may take a few days for comments to appear. If comments do not add to the conversation, or are just plain stupid, they will not be published.