Monday, March 10, 2014

Update on 3-car-mageddon

Before BrizCommuter continues criticising the sector 2 train timetables, the benefits of the new sector 2 timetables on the affected lines should be noted:
  • More frequent peak services on all affected lines, with reductions on crowding on the majority of services.
  • Weekday daytime 15 min off-peak throughout most of the inner-suburban network.
  • Elimination of hour gaps on Sunday am and weekday late nights.
  • Elimination of expresses on Ferny Grove and Beenleigh Lines, and revised express patterns on Gold Coast and Cleveland Lines allowing for improved journey opportunities, and less confusion.
3-car QR Sardine Can departing Windsor
Unfortunately, as previously discussed in blog, there is one big problem that prevents the new timetables from being excellent - that is lack of trains. Whilst loadings are quite variable from day to day, the loadings on the following services have been observed to be overcrowded or full on multiple occasions:
  • 7:10am from Ferny Grove - 3-car unit.
  • 7:25am from Ferny Grove - 3-car unit.
  • 5:26pm from Central to Ferny Grove - after a bizarrely placed 15 minute gap in the "peak of the peak".
  • 5:48pm from Central to Cleveland - 3-car unit. 
Now BrizCommuter doesn't have issues with passengers standing on short or medium distance journeys. This is par for the course in most cities, and expected during the "peak of the peak" period. However, what BrizCommuter deems as being unacceptable is when:
  1. Passengers are choosing not to board a train, or are unable to board a train due to overcrowding - longer journey times.
  2. QR are having to actively discourage passengers from using the affected services - effectively halving the frequency, increasing journey times, and less convenient travel times for some users. 
  3. There are more overcrowded services in the new Ferny Grove Line timetable than the previous timetable.
These overcrowding issues somewhat defeat the purpose of a high frequency "metro like" peak timetable on the Ferny Grove Line, which is Brisbane's busiest train line per km. A timetable that should have made using this line highly attractive has failed in its mission, resulting in hundreds of disgruntled commuters. There is also no room for patronage improvements on some services, for whenever the fares get fixed (although don't hold your breath for that). This situation is very disappointing given that more than $130m was recently spent on duplicating the Ferny Grove Line.

Samford Road widening near Gaythorne station
By early 2015, Samford Rd (which is parallel to the Ferny Grove Line) may have significant reductions in journey time due to the $60m Samford Rd/Wardell St intersection upgrade. The car may continue to be looking like the more attractive commuting option for some commuters along the Samford Rd corridor until Queensland Rail can solve the overcrowding issues when new trains arrive.

Many Cleveland Line commuters are also disgruntled about the ending of the express pattern at 5:09pm from Central, with 15 minute services to all stations from 5:17pm from Central. This is resulting in a less frequent service in the "peak of the peak" for many commuters.

Given the initial allocation of Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains may have to go to the Moreton Bay Rail Link in 2016, it could be a painful 3 years+ until commuters see some relief on these problem services. 

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