Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Great Expectations

Now that Queensland has a surprise new ALP government, what expectations are there for public transport?    

Train Network Capacity Enhancements

ERTMS Level 2      Source:
As discussed in the previous blog post, it is critical to get a cost effective (note: not the cheapest option) new rail tunnel under Brisbane moving. The solution needs to resolve the flaws of the culled BaT - lack of Boggo Rd/Park Rd interchange, lack of Yeerongpilly portal, and lack of Trouts Rd Line stubs. Failure to get this moving will result in further delays as the next government, which is likely to be the LNP, will change everything yet again. 

Given the fact that any new rail tunnel will not be ready until at least 2022, then plan B needs to be enabled. Higher capacity ERTMS Level 2 should be installed throughout SE Queensland's passenger rail network. Higher capacity signalling, combined with track enhancements in critical locations (e.g. reduction of single track sections on the Cleveland Line, extra tracks to allow Gold Coast Trains to overtake Beenleigh Line trains), and of course sufficient trains would allow for at least a 20% increase in maximum network capacity. None of these efforts and expenses would be wasted post Cross River Rail opening. ERTMS would also allow for improved safety, and allow for the elimination of costly train guards (many of whom could be re-trained as drivers). 

Progress of level crossing elimination is also required, which has benefits for both road and rail users. 

New Trains

Thanks to previous ALP government not ordering enough trains, there are insufficient trains for optimal peak services, resulting in issues such as overcrowded 3-car units on the Ferny Grove and Cleveland Lines, and strangely early finish to the pm peak expresses on the Cleveland Line. Whilst 75 6-car Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains have been belatedly ordered by the ousted LNP government, these are also intended to replace the ageing EMU fleet of trains. Taking into account extra trains requirements for Moreton Bay Rail Link (MBRL), then there may still not be enough new trains for an optimal peak service. Thus at some point during the next 3 years, it may be a good idea to add more trains onto the NGR order. Otherwise SE Queensland's long running lack of trains issues with continue.  


SE Queensland continues to have some of the world's highest fares, for a somewhat mediocre transport system. The high fares have decreased public patronage, increased road congestion, and increased taxpayer subsidy. The latter what the complete opposite of what was intended when the previous ALP government increased fares by 15% per annum. There are also limited day ticket options, no concessions for job seekers, and the botched tertiary transport card implementation to deal with.  The fare system needs a complete overhaul, with fares designed to attract people to public transport helping to increase fare box revenue. BrizCommuter is hopeful of some progress in this area. 

Bus Network Review

Brisbane's inefficient and confusing bus network has been covered many times on this blog, and is in a desperate need for a major overhaul. Concerningly, the ALP are against the privatisation of Brisbane Transport, who didn't want to play ball in the ousted LNP governments bus network review failure. It is also concerning that bus network reviews can loose votes - the few who suffer "cuts" are a lot noisier than the masses who will have improved high frequency services. Thus a high level of public education is required for a successful bus network redesign without political fallout. Given the ALP's stance on privatisation, and lack of parliamentary majority, BrizCommuter is pessimistic that we will see the much needed bus network redesign for Brisbane.

Aside from connecting the Inner Northern Busway to Legacy Way tunnel, BrizCommuter doubts that further busway network expansion is required at this time. However, new urban sprawl developments should be designed with low cost busways, as found in Runcorn UK. 

Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk and new Minister for Transport Jackie Trad have a lot of work to make SE Queensland's public transport "World Class".

Friday, February 13, 2015

The BaT is dead, what next?

Campbell's BaT tunnel - now deceased
Given the demise of short lived LNP state government, the BaT tunnel plan is now likely to be at least partially, dead and buried.

First we need a brief history Cross River Rail and the BaT 
  1. The Brisbane Inner City Rail Capacity Study occurred under the old ALP government. This study recommended that two rail tunnels were needed under Brisbane. The first, to be known as Cross River Rail was required by 2016. 
  2. Multiple routes for Cross River Rail were thoroughly investigated, with the best cost/benefit route evolving into tunnel from Yeerongpilly to Albion, with stations at Park Road/Boggo Road, Wooloongabba, Southern end of CBD, Roma Street, Spring Hill, and Exhibition. 
  3. Due to state debt, and floods crisis, the "Cut Price" Cross River Rail was cut back to Victoria Park, with Spring Hill station removed.
  4. Brisbane City Council brought up the ludicrous "Cleveland Solution" elevated alternative, and a dubiously required East-West bus tunnel.
  5. The LNP government came into power, and along with killing off public servants careers, also killed off Cross River Rail. In the LNP state government, Tony Abbott took Australia back 50 years by refusing to fund urban rail. 
  6. The LNP came up with the Bus and Train (BaT) tunnel - a "innovative" dual bus and rail tunnel, possibly designed on the back of a napkin rather than via thorough processes. Routing was via George Street (probably to be closer to the proposed Casino), the essential Park Rd/Boggo Rd interchange was removed, and train services to the north were forgotten about.
So what should the new minority ALP government do for Brisbane's much needed rail tunnel?


No other developed city is as reliant on busways as Brisbane. Whilst the SE Busway is heavily congested, this could be resolved by more efficient bus network planning. Unfortunately, bus network redesign occurring during the new ALPs tenure is debatable given their stance on not privatising Brisbane Transport. Whilst the double deck bus/rail design of the BaT had some merit, it may have been better to plan for light rail or automated metro on the top tunnel. Alternatively, just a dual track, single bore train only tunnel may be far more cost effective.

CBD Routing

The BaT tunnel design moved the routing from under Albert Street to under George Street. This would have served big business better, which of course LNP politicans love.  There were also changes for Roma Street, again probably with property development potential. The original Albert Street routing may serve more of the CBD within easy walking distance. The cost of building stations is likely to be the biggest factor in whether the tunnel routing will continue along George Street or go back to the original Albert Street alignment. 

Southern Portal/Park Road 

BaT was designed to surface around Dutton Park to limit property resumptions. Unfortunately, this restricted Dutton Park to Yeerongpilly to three tracks - somewhat defeating the purpose of the tunnel in the first place. It also removed the critical Boggo Rd/Park Rd interchange. Any future tunnel needs to run to Yeerongpilly to enhance capacity, and bring back the Boggo Rd/Park Rd interchange to allow Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line commuters to easily access South Brisbane and UQ.

Northern Portal and Routing

In the ALP's Connecting SEQ 2031 document, there was a proposal for a train line along the Trouts Road corridor (Northwest Transportation Corridor) from Alderley to Strathpine. If this was to be connected to Brisbane's future rail tunnel, it would allow Caboolture and Sunshine Coast services to use this faster route to the CBD, provide rail services to many Northern suburbs currently poorly served by public transport, and allow for increased capacity on all rail branches north of the Brisbane River.

Cross River Rail had provision for connections to the Trouts Rd corridor. BaT dropped these connections. It makes perfect sense to continue Brisbane's future rail tunnel along the Trouts Rd corridor, instead of trying to connect to the existing lines between Bowen Hills and Albion.

More on this in a future blog post.

So what does the future hold?

It is critical for the new ALP government to get things moving, as funding needs to be sourced,  redesign will be required, and construction will need to start before they quite likely loose government in 3 years time. If things are not beyond the point of no return in 3 years, then we will probably just see a game of ALP vs LNP tunnel design ping pong going on for years and years. In the mean time, Brisbane's rail network will just get more congested, and network expansion to locations such as Flagstone and Caloundra/Maroochydore will be inhibited.