Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Brisbane Brain Drain

Last year, Fortitude Valley train station has a "1 in 10 year flood event" twice within a few weeks in November 2014 caused by heavy storms. Given that Fortitude Valley train station has not flooded for some time, despite heavy storms every year, it was pretty obvious that something was wrong. Generally, train lines are designed to handle 100mm/hour storms, double that of roads. Both of these storms were less than that, though this rainfall rate may have been exceeded during very short periods.

The report into the flooding events has recently been finalised. However, as with the usual lack of transparency in Queensland, it does not appear to have been released to the public. The only information is thus obtained from this Brisbane Times article. The report showed that there was insufficient drainage, and that some of the drainage pipes were blocked despite QR apparently installing CCTV in the drains to check for blockages. BrizCommuter also suspects that nearby development near the cutting may also have increased storm run-off.

The fix is of course to install new drainage under the tracks, and feed this run-off into an existing Brisbane City Council (BCC) drain that exits into the river in the Newstead area. Whilst necessary, this poses a few problems:

  • Track closures - these will be required for around 45 weeks if carried out between 12am and 4am. Queensland Rail claim the fix may take 3 years. If evening track closures are required, this will continue to cause misery to shift workers and night owls who keep suffering from Queensland Rail QR's annoying evening track closures. However, it could be completed within a few weeks if all 4 tracks are closed. This latter option would severely limit system capacity as trains would have to run via the Exhibition Line and turn back at Roma Street. It could even prevent Ferny Grove trains from reaching any CBD stations during the closure period. Fast fix, slow fix, or no fix, passengers are likely be affected. 
  • Drain capacity - a new 2sq m cross section drain is planned to be built under the tracks. However, this will feed into a 100+ year old Brisbane City Council drain that may not be expanded. Given that the path of this drain is known for flooding in Fortitude Valley and Newstead area, then the new drain may cause more issues downstream. BrizCommuter thinks that Brisbane City Council may need to significantly increase the capacity of their drain at great cost.
  • Governance - the project will require QR and BCC to co-operate. Something that they don't seem to be able to do with rail feeder bus routes. BrizCommuter is thus a bit pessimistic of success here!
Storm Water drain map of Fortitude Valley  Source: BCC
Additionally, QR have claimed that they will have a rapid reponse team at Fortitude Valley station if there is a heavy rain event. BrizCommuter hopes that they have a rather large mop and bucket! If the work isn't completed within a few years, then at least Fortitude Valley train station can be used for the rowing contests in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. 

Brisbane Times article:

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