Thursday, February 18, 2016

The BrizCommuter Rail Capacity Study

A few weeks ago, BrizCommuter looked at rail infrastructure recommended by the Inner City Rail Capacity Study, and what was actually delivered. The outcome was that SE Queensland is far behind where it should be to cope with future travel demand and urban growth.

Since that post, Infrastructure Australia and Engineers Australia Queensland have weighed in on the issue in this Brisbane Times news article which covers the lack of transport infrastructure, and huge population increases expected in SE Queensland over the next decade or so.

In this detailed blog post, BrizCommuter looks at what can be improved, or what can't be improved until Cross River Rail (CRR) and related rail infrastructure are constructed. As usual, BrizCommuter reviews lines in a clockwise direction.

Ferny Grove Line
Until CRR is built, the Ferny Grove line is limited to 8tph peak service with all 6-car unit trains. It is currently limited to 8 trains per hour per direction (tph) with some 3-car unit trains in the am peak, and 6tph in the pm peak due to lack of trains and crew.

Current peak capacity: 6 to 8tph (with some 3-car units)
Max capacity pre-CRR: 8tph (all 6-car units)
Max capacity post-CRR: 12tph
Infrastructure required: More trains. Wye junction at Mayne. Removal of more dangerous level crossings.

Caboolture/Sunshine Coast/Kippa-Ring Lines
Unless there are any signalling improvements such as European Train Control System Level 2 (ETCS), the Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Kippa-Ring Lines can only add 2tph in the am peak (from the current 18tph). A few more trains may be possible in the pm peak, but train paths for the rarely operated Ekka Loop service also have to be available. Duplications of the Sunshine Coast Line and/or a branch to Caloundra will improve the frequency for services north of Caboolture. Capacity increases south of Caboolture are limited even if CRR is constructed, due to all of these lines sharing tracks between Petrie and Brisbane. Thus BrizCommuter predicts that there may be a significant increase in overcrowding on these services over the next decade. The only realistic solution is to build a new line along the Trouts Rd/Northwest Transportation Corridor linking CRR to the existing Caboolture Line in the Strathpine area. 4 tracks would be required between Petrie and the junction with the Trouts Rd Line.

With a pathetic 2tph off-peak services to Caboolture and Kippa-Ring, there is potential for improved off-peak services with no extra infrastructure required. More trains and crew would be required.

Current peak capacity: 18tph
Max capacity pre-CRR: 20tph (24tph if ETCS installed)
Max capacity post-CRR: 20tph (24tph if ETCS installed)
Max capacity post-CRR and Trouts Rd Line: 30tph (36tph if ETCS installed)*.
Infrastructure required: More trains and stabling. Construction of Trouts Rd Line with 3 or 4 tracks, Caloundra Line, duplications and/or additional platforms at passing points between Beerburrum to Nambour, quadruplication Petrie to junction with Trouts Rd Line.

*assumption that 24tph Caboolture/Sunshine Coast/Trouts Rd local services would use the Trouts Rd Line, and 12tph from Kippa-Ring would use the "mains" tracks via Northgate (shared with up to 12tph Shorncliffe trains from Northgate to CBD).

Shorncliffe Line
The Shorncliffe Line currently runs a 4tph peak service to/from Shorncliffe. 4tph will soon turn-back short at Northgate in the peak. Irrespective of CRR, this cannot be improved without duplication between Sandgate and Shorncliffe, and a 2nd platform at Shorncliffe. A duplication would potentially allow for a 8tph peak service to Shorncliffe, which would probably meet demand for a long time. Off-peak services to Shorncliffe could be improved to 4tph, however due to the short dwell time at Shorncliffe this would be susceptible to poor reliability.

Current peak capacity: 4tph
Max capacity pre or post-CRR with no duplication: 4tph
Max capacity pre or post-CRR with duplication: 8tph
Max capacity post-CRR with duplication and grade separation at Northgate: 12tph
Infrastructure required: More trains. Duplication between Sandgate and Shorncliffe, including 2nd platform at Shorncliffe.

Airport Line
The Airport Line currently runs a weekday peak and off-peak service of 2tph to 4tph, currently limited to lack of trains, crew, and willpower. Irrespective of CRR, the Airport Line is limited to 4tph due to a very long single track section, and demand is unlikely to exceed capacity (note: London's Heathrow express also operates at 4tph).

Current peak capacity: 2 to 4tph
Max capacity pre or post-CRR with no duplication: 4tph
Infrastructure required: More trains. No extra track/station infrastructure.

Doomben Line
The Doomben Line currently runs 2tph during the peak and weekday off-peak. Improvements are limited by the single track, and a duplication would be required for any service improvements. Though demand is currently low, there may be significant latent demand due to the traditionally poor frequency of this line. There are 2tph unused track slots currently available, though using up these track slots would likely cause severe unreliability for the 7 lines that share the "suburban" tracks through the CBD. An extension to Northshore Hamilton would be wise, but sadly is not likely to occur to terrible urban planning.

Current peak capacity: 2tph
Max capacity pre or post-CRR with no duplication: 2tph
Max capacity pre-CRR with duplication: 4tph
Max capacity post-CRR with duplication:  8tph (though this demand would be unlikely without an extension).
Infrastructure required: More trains. Partial or complete duplication.

Cleveland Line
The Cleveland Line currently runs up 8tph in the peaks, 4tph being Cleveland expresses, and 4tph Manly all stations. The pm peak service span is currently limited by lack of trains. The 8tph peak service cannot be improved until both CRR is built, and the Cleveland Line is duplicated between Manly and Cleveland.

The off-peak service is 4tph to Cannon Hill, and 2tph to Cleveland. With sufficient trains, the off-peak service could be extended to Manly. Theoretically the 4tph off-peak service could be extended to Cleveland but with poor reliability. Again, a duplication is required here.

Current peak capacity: 8tph
Max capacity pre or post-CRR with no duplication: 8tph
Max capacity pre-CRR with duplication: 8tph
Max capacity post-CRR with duplication: 12tph (16tph if additional turn-back facilities are added)
Infrastructure required: More trains and stabling. Duplication between Manly and Cleveland. Partial triplication or station overtaking tracks may ultimately be required to allow expresses to overtake all stations services, otherwise all peak services will need to be all stations (no expresses).

Triplicated Beenleigh Line, should have been quadruplicated!
Beenleigh/Gold Coast Lines
The Beenleigh and Gold Coast Lines currently run an irregular 6tph peak service on each line, 12tph total. The inbound Beenleigh Line services are slowed down at Bethania to allow Gold Coast services to overtake. The single track between Helensvale and Coomera currently limits the Gold Coast peak service from reaching a pre-CRR maximum of 8tph. Lack of off-line turn-back facilities for Beenleigh Line trains restricts an increase in short running services from Kuraby or Coopers Plains.

Off-peak services are also compromised by the lack of quadruplication, or turn-back facilities. Thus only 2tph can run on the Gold Coast Line, and 2tph to/from Beenleigh, and 2tph to/from Coopers Plains. Theoretically, the 2tph that turn-back at Coopers Plains could turn-back at Altandi with a shorter dwell time and decreased reliability. QR claim that post Coomera to Helensvale duplication more off-peak services could be operated, but BrizCommuter is not sure how this will be achieved without slowing down some Gold Coast services as they cannot overtake the Beenleigh Line services in both directions.

CRR would allow for significant increases in capacity on these lines, but only if there is significant extra track infrastructure to allow Gold Coast trains to reliably overtake Beenleigh Line trains with high-frequency services. A quadruplication will be required along most of the combined Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line corridor, which should have been partially addressed during the Salisbury to Kuraby triplication in 2008. A lot of money will need to be spent on this corridor due to the short sightedness of past governments!

Current peak capacity: 12tph
Max capacity pre or post-CRR with Coomera to Helensvale duplication: 14 to 16tph
Max capacity post-CRR with quadruplication and additional turn-back facilities: 24tph**
Infrastructure required: More trains. Quadruplication along parts of Beenleigh Line. Stabling at Clapham. Additional turn-back facilities at suitable locations.

Tennyson Line
Resuming services on the Tennyson Line would cause operational issues on other, busier lines. Whilst it was used by a reasonable amount of school traffic, the cost/benefit for re-opening this line is poor. BrizCommuter is thus assuming that this line will not re-open.

Springfield/Ipswich/Rosewood Lines

These lines currently run a combined 16tph in the am peak, and a lacklustre 10tph in the pm peak. Thus, given enough trains and crew, there is potential for 4tph increase in the am peak, and doubling of the pm peak frequency. With that in mind, it is likely that only "peak of the peak" services will be overcrowded until the early 2030s if existing infrastructure is used at it's maximum capacity.  At this point, a second underground rail tunnel will be required under Brisbane. The 4th track between Corinda and Darra should be electrified, with a 4th platform at Oxley, to allow for improved reliability.

Off-peak and counter-peak services are currently a terrible 2tph per line, with all stations services only. These could be improved to 4tph per line, with express Ipswich services. This would require sufficient trains (and crew), which seems to be re-occuring theme in this blog post!

Current peak capacity: 16tph
Max capacity pre or post-CRR: 20tph (24tph with ETCS)
Infrastructure required: More trains. Electrification of 4th track Corinda to Darra, and 4th platform at Oxley. Ultimately, a 2nd underground rail corridor in early 2030s.

New Lines
ULDC plans for the mythical Greater Flagstone Line (in red)

Greater Flagstone Line
This line would use the Brisbane to Sydney Line and serve Greenbank, the low-density urban sprawl new town of Greater Flagstone / Undullah, and possibly reach Bromelton near Beaudesert. There is zero capacity through the CBD for this line until CRR is opened. A grade separated junction would also be required at Salisbury, dual gauging would be required, and multiple duplicated sections to allow for at least a 4tph peak service. Full duplication would allow for an increased peak service. Depending on track layouts between Salisbury and the CRR portal, this line could run up to around 8 to 12tph.

Infrastructure required: More trains and stabling. Partial or complete duplication, dual gauging, new stations, grade separated junction at Salisbury, quadruplication Salisbury to CRR portal.

Ripley Valley Line
This extension to the Springfield Line, would increase the pressure on the Springfield Line. Maximum capacity would be 12tph with ETCS.

Infrastructure required: More trains and stabling. New line.

Caloundra Line
Infrastructure required: see Caboolture/Sunshine Coast/Kippa-Ring Line section.

Trouts Road Line
This line should be built as the northern route for CRR. This is essential to increase capacity for the Caboolture/Sunshine Coast/Kippa-Ring Lines as the Caboolture and Sunshine Coast services could be re-routed via this potentially faster line from Strathpine area to Brisbane's CBD. Local trains would significantly improve public transport options for many of Brisbane's northern suburbs. This line should be very high up the infrastructure priority list, and infrastructure would have to allow express services to overtake local all stations services. Up to 24tph could run along this line with ETCS.

Infrastructure required: see Caboolture/Sunshine Coast/Kippa-Ring Line section.

BrizCommuter has assumed the following:

  • 20tph max capacity on the 'mains' tracks through the CBD.
  • 24tph max (unreliable) capacity on the 'suburban' tracks through the CBD.
  • 24tph max (reliable) capacity post ETCS Level 2 implementation. 
  • Max capacity of 2 track dead-end termini is 12tph (arrival and departure every 5 minutes). 
  • Timetables will be based around even service patterns. 

  • Without CRR and additional duplications or quadruplications, significant long term improvements to peak capacity are restricted on the Ferny Grove, Doomben, Cleveland, Beenleigh, and Gold Coast Lines. 
  • The Greater Flagstone Line is not realistically possible without CRR.
  • Without CRR and the Trout's Rd Line, peak capacity cannot be significantly improved on the Caboolture/Sunshine Coast/Kippa-Ring Lines. 
  • CRR should be designed for Northern services to be routed along the Trouts Rd Line instead of the Exhibition Line and via Northgate. 
  • Pre-CRR Shorncliffe Line peak and off-peak capacity could be improved with a short duplication.  
  • Springfield/Ipswich/Rosewood Lines have some spare capacity, however CRR will not assist with improving this capacity. Ultimately, a second underground rail line may be required for this corridor. in the 2030s.  
  • For expansion of a reliable 4tph off-peak service, extra infrastructure is required on the Gold Coast/Beenleigh corridor, plus duplication of Cleveland and Shorncliffe Lines. 
  • Pre-CRR, more trains and crew, and ETCS are urgently required to maximise existing network capacity.
It is time for both federal and state governments to stop spinning, and start building! 


  1. Where will the 2nd underground route likely be?

  2. After suffering yet another Gold Coast line failure, now occurring several times per week, I investigated their statistics and I think I've uncovered a GREAT loophole. QR is not responsible for delays caused by failures in their own infrastructure. Their Peak On Time Results (OTR) are 100% almost all the time because there is almost no incident that can occur to a train that would fall outside the contractual definition.

    Hit a Kangaroo and strand thousands of people for hours? No problem that doesn't affect your stats. Have yet another points failure (which is QR infrastructure), that's okay, even through thousands of people are delayed it shouldn't affect your figures either.

    It would be like me turning up to work late every day with a different excuse. "Well, actually I'm on time because my car broke down because I haven't serviced it well enough or bought a new one in 30 years." "I'm not late, there was a police incident which meant I got stuck in traffic." But in the public sector these excuses don't fly. Several times I've tried the true "I'm late because the train was delayed again" but it is never acceptable and means I need to make reparations by working later.

    QR/Translink is paid to get me to my destination within their advertised time (plus or minus 4 minutes), unless anything what-so-ever occurs, in which case QR/Translink still takes my money but doesn't provide the purchased service.

    What gets measured gets managed. What we need are accurate measures of these disruptions if we expect them to be managed.

  3. Anonymous - the second underground route would best link with the Ipswich/Springfield Lines, serve Centenary Suburbs, Indro, UQ, and through the CBD. Of course, an interchange with the existing lines at a suitable location (maybe Darra) rather than diverting the existing lines may suffice.

    Philip - yes, QR's OTR results are a big con. The one that annoys BrizCommuter is when all stations trains are expressed, miss loads of stations, arrive at the end terminus on time, and thus have a 100% on time record. Bulls**t QR - its effectively a cancellation!

  4. RE: Tennyson line

    I can see a case for a 3 car shuttling back and forth between Yeerongpilly and Corinda, at least during peak hours. Corinda already has a spare (fifth) platform. One would need to be built at Yeerongpilly but that shouldn't be overly expensive. I'd also like to see Tennyson station relocated several hundred metres to the east, but only used when there is an event on at the tennis centre. Your thoughts?

  5. Jockosaurus - the cost of building an extra platform at Yeerongpilly would not be value for money given the low potential ridership on the Tennyson Line. The Tennyson Line is dead, and is not worth reviving.


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