Monday, May 30, 2016

Warning - Fixed Fares at Fortitude Valley!

Fortitude Valley Train Station
Queensland Rail are currently carrying out refurbishment of the (unreliable) ticket gates at Fortitude Valley train station. This means that passengers entering the station are having to touch their go card on using handheld readers. Unfortunately, it seems that this is not working very well.

This morning BrizCommuter stopped off briefly at Fortitude Valley train station to get a can of Red Bull from Foodworks thanks to BabyCommuter keeping him awake all night. BrizCommuter touched back on (journey continuation) using the handheld reader. Unfortunately when BrizCommuter reached his destination he touched off only to see $10 flash up on the go card reader - arrggh! BrizCommuter immediately had a look at the journey history on the nearest ticket machine, to see that the touch on at Fortitude Valley had not registered, and the touch off had registered as a $10 fixed fare and a touch on. BrizCommuter then touched off again to avoid a second $10 fixed fare.

It seems that the handheld reader was not "live" on the go card system, and it is likely that this issue may have caused $10 fixed fares and confusion to hundreds if not thousands of other commuters entering Fortitude Valley train station. This could cause some commuters to be stranded with no go card funds. As per usual, there has been no mention of this issue on TransLink's webpage.

BrizCommuter hopes that TransLink automatically refund all affected commuters as soon as possible for both this fixed fare, and any subsequent fixed fares caused by the go card being one touch out of sync. This situation, in particular the lack of information at Fortitude Valley and on TransLink's website to warn commuters of the fixed fare  (and subsequent fixed fares) is totally unacceptable!

Update 9/6/16

The work to the ticket gates has been completed, so no more fixed fares from handheld readers. However the ticket gates at Fortitude Valley are still unreliable, and likely to causing fixed fares and putting passengers at risk of fines due to the usual list of fare gate errors.

Moreton Bay Rail Stink

As predicted by BrizCommuter only a few weeks ago, the Moreton Bay Rail Link (MBRL) is indeed in serious trouble, and has now been delayed indefinitely. This of course means that commuters from the Redcliffe and North Lakes area will be without train services until possibly next year.  The new improved bus services to these suburbs will also be delayed, and the improved faster timetables for the Sunshine Coast and Caboolture Lines may also be delayed.

So what might have caused this horrendous stuff up? Well it seems that the Ansaldo MAcrolok signalling system as installed is unable to handle the required number of signals and train operations for safe operation of Moreton Bay Rail Link around the Petrie area. There are also reports of issues with the new signalling communicating with the existing systems in place. The ALP Palaszczuk government has thus sensibly delayed to opening due to safety reasons on the advice of Queensland Rail (QR), and an independent audit will be conducted into what has caused the delay. Interestingly the previous generation of signalling from Ansaldo known as Microlok is used successfully elsewhere on QR's network.

Not surprisingly, the finger is already being pointed at the destructive and arrogant Newman LNP government that was voted out in 2015. Despite QR having been involved in numerous successful (i.e. on time and under budget) rail projects with Trackstar Alliance, they were not allowed to tender for the construction of Moreton Bay Rail Link. This may have been part of Newman's plan to ultimately privatise QR's passenger services. Questions will be asked as to whether the $159m savings on the MBRL project by the Newman government, so gleefully announced by then transport minister Scott Emerson, resulted in the installation of a signalling system that was not type approved, and appears to be not fit for purpose.

Even if the blame lies with the ousted Newman government, BrizCommuter is concerned that it has taken so long for a formal announcement on the MBRL project's delay by the Palaszczuk government when most rail insiders have known there have been serious issues for months.

On the good side, the delay to MBRL slightly increases the chances of there actually being enough trains to run the MBRL train services, as the Next Generation Rollingstock project also seems to be yet another severely troubled and delayed project.

Only in Queensland - the utterly dumb state!

Update 10/06/16

Going by the news today, it looks like there was some dodgy LNP lobbying going on behind the scenes that may have resulted in the contract with Ansaldo STS. BrizCommuter hopes that the investigation doesn't leave any stones unturned, and that those who are found responsible get more than a slap on the wrist.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"I want an express to my stationitis" spreads to Springfield Line

Springfield Central
The selfish infliction known as "I want an express to stationitis" has reportedly now spread to the Springfield Line. A petition has more than 100 signatures from Springfield commuters who obviously couldn't give two hoots to how an express service would detrimentally affect other commuters. The Springfield Line currently has a pretty good am peak service that runs every 6 to 12 minutes, and stops all stations to Brisbane, which allows Ipswich Line services to run express to Brisbane. This is fair, as Ipswich and Rosewood are much further our from Brisbane than Springfield. The Springfield Line pm peak service is OK at every 12 minutes, though once the Next Generation Rollingstock are eventually in service (sometime this century) hopefully there may be room for improvement. The Springfield Line also has a relatively fast average journey speed of 42kph. So what are the detrimental effects of running express services on the Springfield Line?
  • Running an Springfield Line express service would reduce the number of train services calling at non-served stations e.g if 50% of Springfield Line services didn't stop at Chelmer, then Chelmer commuters would have a 50% worse train service. Cue another petition. 
  • Running a Springfield Line express service would require a reduction in the frequency of Springfield Line services, otherwise the express train would catch up with an all stations train in front and trundle slowly between stations. So running faster Springfield Line trains would actually result in up to 33% less frequent Springfield Line trains. Oh dear! 
  • Running express Springfield Line services would result in uneven and irregular timetables, adding confusion to commuters (and train crew). In fact, the elimination of express services on the Ferny Grove, and the running of a more frequent all stations service in the am peak increased patronage by more than 10%. 
It should be noted that in the am peak if Springfield Line commuters change trains at Darra, they can actually get to Brisbane faster by using the Ipswich Line express services as it overtakes the Springfield Line service. BrizCommuter does agrees with the "more parking" part of the petition, and requirement for an earlier start to train services on the Springfield Line. 

In reality, if Springfield commuters want to get to work faster, then maybe they should consider living closer to their place of work in Brisbane instead of living in a satellite town in the bush. 

If you are selfish, please sign here:
Media story:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Trouts Road - Trains not Lanes!

Purveyors of congestion, the RACQ, have recently been pushing to build a road along the North Western Transportation Corridor. This is also known as the Trouts Road corridor, and runs through Brisbane's Northern Suburbs. Here is a list of reasons why this corridor must have a train line constructed instead of a new road:

  1. Building a road would not solve road congestion. If this corridor was constructed as a road, then there is nowhere for the traffic to go once it reaches Everton Park and Alderley other than already congested arterial roads e.g. Samford Road (pictured), Enoggera Road, Stafford Road, and Wardell St. If built as a road, the North Western Transport corridor would just be a peak period car park due to the above bottlenecks, and make existing roads even more congested.
  2. A Trouts Rd train line connecting linking Cross River Rail and the existing Caboolture Line around Strathpine would allow for a huge increase in trains running from the Sunshine Coast Caboolture, and Kippa-Ring Lines to Brisbane. This is due to train services being able to be diverted away from the existing Caboolture Line via Northgate which has an almost full track capacity. 
  3. A Trouts Rd train line would improve public transport to Northern suburbs including Everton Park, Stafford Heights, McDowell, Chermside West, and Bridgeman Downs.  These all currently have very poor public transport. A train line would almost definitely have a more positive effect on property prices in these areas compared to building yet another road. 
  4. A Trouts Rd train line would significantly reduce journey times from Caboolture and the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane's CBD. 
  5. A train line running 24 train per hour, and 500 passengers per train would carry 300% more passengers than a 4 lane (2 per direction) highway. 

Samford Road - 800m queue from next traffic lights! 
Building a train line along the Trouts Road corridor would have transport benefits for the suburbs it runs through, as well as improving train services to the Sunshine Coast, Caboolture area, and Redcliffe. Building a road along the Trouts Road corridor would add create yet more road congestion, and also continue to restrict capacity on many train lines (adding even more cars to the Bruce Highway). With only space for the equivalent of 4 traffic lanes, there is only one sensible decision for this corridor, and that is building a new train line to connect Cross River Rail and the existing Caboolture Line. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

MBRL and NGR delayed again?

Moreton Bay Rail Link

The Moreton Bay Rail Link (MBRL) was semi-officially expected to open in March 2016, then April 2016, then sometime before the Ekka 2016. Now it seems to be a case of who knows when. Rumoured (and not verified) reasons for the delays are based on signalling system issues, and power supply issues. Anywhere else in the world the press would be onto Queensland Rail (QR) and Department of Transport and Mains Roads (TMR) who are responsible for the project to find out what is going on, but not in Queensland where the press seem to generally be clueless around public transport issues. The delay to MBRL not only affects potential train passengers, but is also delaying the introduction of new and improved bus routes around the MBRL catchment, and the opening of new cycleways to help break the car-reliance of the North Lakes area. It would be appreciated if QR, TMR, or TransLink could tell the public what was going on, but they seem to be a bit quiet.

Of course, the delay may also be due to lack of trains...

Next Generation Rollingstock 

As previously discussed on this blog, QR's press department claimed back in January 2014 that the Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains would be in service in late 2015 to solve the overcrowding problems on many lines. So far only one has been delivered, and it is not even known if the second is even being shipped from India to Australia. This is of course no surprise to BrizCommuter who predicted that the first NGR train was going to be beset with "teething issues". These "teething issues" seem to be so bad that other than it's diesel train hauled trip from the Port of Brisbane to Wulkuraka Depot, it hasn't been seen outside of the train shed. Manufacturing issues are not surprising given that India is not exactly renowned for having a quality manufacturing industry. BrizCommuter is sure that many workers in Maryborough are saying "we told you so".

Even when the concerning manufacturing and reliability issues are ironed out, there is also another elephant in the room. The NGR are fixed 6-car units. This means that guard may have to change position from the middle of the train to the back. This has a stack of issues including raised platforms being in the wrong place, disabled passenger platform waiting location, and potential staffing/union issues. BrizCommuter would not be surprised if this may also add delays to the NGR project, though the delays to the NGR entering service may provide more time for a solution. There are also rumours that the Newman Government made some odd fit out decisions related to the guards requirements that are adding delays to the trains readiness.

As usual, the press have failed to pick on both of these problems. BrizCommuter would not be surprised if we do not see the NGR in regular passengers service until at least late 2016. This also means that the overcrowding issues on the Ferny Grove and Cleveland Lines are expected to not be resolved until well into 2017.  Not good news for commuters.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Roma Street to be buried underground?

An interesting article in the Brisbane Times website mentions plans by AEG Ogden to build a 17,000 capacity entertainment venue, cinemas, restaurants, and public space above "Roma St Rail Yards". Interestingly "Roma St Rail Yards" were actually replaced by Roma St Parklands many years ago. It appears that almost the entire Roma Street station (apart from the heritage listed buildings) will be buried underground this development to be called "Brisbane Live".
The station is under there somewhere.  
Now this is certainly not a bad thing. Brisbane could do with a large entertainment centre in the CBD instead of it's current location in a swamp on the Shorncliffe Line (which results in car reliance to get home from concerts). The development would also improve access between Suncorp Stadium and Roma Street station, which is currently somewhat mediocre. There are many other examples of stations being built over, including Federation Square above parts of Flinders St station in Melbourne. However, there are a few things that BrizCommuter thinks is essential in this development if it goes ahead:

  • That the state government / QR make some profits from the use of "air rights" over the railway land. 
  • That rail disruption is kept to a  minimum during construction. 
  • That any expected future changes to the track layout at Roma Street are not compromised. 
  • That the addition of a station at Roma Street for Cross River Rail is not compromised.
The latter is quite a concern, given that the current state government may have missed the boat regarding building a station box for Cross River Rail as part of the Queen's Wharf Development. This could be a fantastic development for Brisbane, just as long as future public transport improvements are not compromised.  

Cross River Rail - Federal Election Pawn?

Welcome to Backwardsville!
As BrizCommuter readers will be well aware of, Brisbane's Cross River Rail has had many problems getting off the ground, mainly due to lack of funding from both sides of federal and state government, as well as successive state governments using its design as a political football.

Both Sydney and Melbourne Metro projects appear to be full steam ahead, receiving federal funding from the LNP Turnbull federal government in return for selling state assets, which is apparently something that gets liberals excited.

In Queensland, successive ALP and LNP government's have been booted out of office, with asset sale policies being a possible major cause of the voter discontent. However, this is somewhat debatable as both governments were incompetent and destructive respectively, and thus pissed off rather a lot of voters anyway.

Whilst there was no funding in the 2016 federal budget for Cross River Rail Mk3, the fact that the business case has not been completed may have been a major factor rather than silly politics. However this business case may be ready in time for the federal election on June 2nd. ALP opposition leader Bill Shorten has already promised to provide funding for Cross River Rail. So it be interesting to see if LNP prime minister Malcolm Turnbull will match this promise without forcing the ALP state government into selling assets*. There are also quite a few marginal seats in Queensland. With 55 days of the election campaign to go, there will be lots of time for Cross River Rail to become a political pawn - let the games begin!

* Though please privatise Brisbane Transport (Brisbane City Council's bus operator), and remove them from the incompetent control of Brisbane City Council.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

ICB Bus Band Aid

Brisbane's Lord Mayor Graham Quirk has just announced a belated band aid solution to the failure of successive governments and his own administration to connect the Legacy Way tunnel to the Inner City Bypass, to allow buses to access to CBD faster. Today, it was announced that Brisbane City Council plans to add extra lanes to the Inner City Bypass (ICB) between Legacy Way tunnel and the Exhibition Tunnel. Bus priority lanes will be added at the Herston off-ramp to avoid the queue of cars in the morning peak. A bus on-ramp will also be added at Herston. 

Whilst this is a step in the right direction to allow buses to utilise the time saving of Legacy Way to better potential, the announcement is around 4 years too late. As buses will have to cross multiple lanes of ICB traffic to get between the Inner Northern Busway and Legacy Way, this plan may not help with traffic flow, and even increase the risk of accidents. If the connection between the Inner Northern Busway and Legacy Way had been built at the Kelvin Grove portal in time for the opening of Legacy Way, then lane changes could have been avoided. 

Now, will Quirky bite the bullet and add the missing bus lanes between the Inner Northern Busway at Federation Street and the Northern Busway at Lutwych?