Sunday, October 30, 2016

QR's Cancellation Catastrophe - Analysis

As BrizCommuter's readers (and anyone not living under a rock for the last few weeks) will be aware, both Queensland Rail (QR) and the commuters who use QR's train services are having a rather hard time of late. This is primarily due to lack of trained drivers since the Redcliffe Peninsula Line opened in early October 2016, but also due to an ongoing lack of trains which has been an issue since January 2014. This has in the last few days, caused heads to roll including the CEO and Board Chair of QR. It has also caused massive political damage to the otherwise "ticking along" Palaszczuk ALP government, as well as a huge loss of commuter confidence in QR.
Axed train services
So what are commuters unhappy about?
  • For three weeks post-Redcliffe Peninsula opening, there we up to 100 cancellations per day, often at short notice causing angst to commuters who could no longer rely on trains turning up. Many commuters were unhappy about cancelled or overcrowded trains, resulting in commuters being late to work, education, appointments, or picking up children from daycare. 
  • An interim timetable was introduced last Tuesday, with between 30 to 50 trains axed per weekday. Poor communication of changes, confusion with different timetables for Mon-Thu and Friday, and overcrowded services either side of cancelled trains (sometimes 3-car unit trains). 
  • Despite the interim timetable, further cancellations have occurred, including a considerable number of cancellations on Sunday 30th October. 
  • Poor reliability of outbound Redcliffe Peninsula Line services due to signalling, driver training, timetable, and poor track layout at Kippa-Ring. 
  • Minor late running of many lines through the CBD, due to additional "Inner North" services from Northgate to CBD pushing the limits of signalling and track capacity.
  • Political fallout from the reduction in frequency at Nundah, Toombul, Wooloowin, and Albion due to Caboolture and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines running express through these stations. These services are still missing off the Shorncliffe Line timetable. 
  • Ongoing overcrowding on Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, and Cleveland Lines due to running of 3-car units in the peak period due to lack of trains. 
  • Ongoing sub-optimal timetables on many lines (e.g. early finish of evening express services on Cleveland Line) due to lack of trains and drivers.
  • Infrequent (30 minute gap) counter-peak and off-peak services on the Ipswich, Springfield, Caboolture, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines.   
So what are the issues behind the "perfect storm" for QR?
  • Bligh ALP government failed to order additional SMU 260 series trains (which ceased production in 2011), against QR's advice.
  • Newman LNP government delayed order of New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains, reduced order from 100 to 75 trains, and made design decisions that have delayed the introduction of the NGR trains into service. 
  • Under the Newman LNP government, around 50% of driver trainers were allegedly made redundant or demoted. There was also a recruitment freeze, despite requirement for more staff to run planned improved trains services. 
  • Whilst under the Palaszczuk ALP government, driver recruitment re-started, the lack of driver trainers, and more than 12 months required to train drivers was an achilles heel in training enough drivers.   
  • Drivers unable to be properly trained on the Redcliffe Peninsula Line until only a week before opening. 
  • Change to rosters to allow a 20 minute break every 2.5 hours, and limits of 12 straight days working in a row reduced staff availability. 
  • QR had an unrealistic/incorrect estimation of staffing requirements. 
  • QR forged ahead with a full timetable (extending Petrie services to Kippa-Ring/Redcliffe) when realistically a shuttle service may have been more appropriate for the first few months. However, the latter would have caused political embarrassment due to poor services. A no win situation! 
  • Inexperienced QR Board. Maybe QR need BrizCommuter (or at least a knowledgeable commuter/public transport advocate) on the Board?
  • A Transport Minister either not on top of his portfolio, or being kept in the dark by QR. The average Rail Back on Track forum member knew more about what was going on that the Transport Minister! 
  • Legacy continuation of having two train crew (unlike Melbourne and Perth), and internal recruitment process from guards to drivers. 
Overcrowding on the Ferny Grove Line
What is the future looking like?
  • Unknown timeframe for when the axed services on the interim timetables will be returned.
  • Unknown timeframe for when there will be enough NGR trains to extend overcrowded 3-car services to 6-cars.
  • Unknown timeframe for when there will be enough NGR trains and drivers to improve peak services (e.g extend pm peak Cleveland Line expresses, additional "peak of the peak" services on many lines, etc).  
  • Unknown timeframe for when there will be enough drivers to improve off-peak services on Ipswich, Caboolture, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines.  
  • No decision on the horizon for ordering more NGR trains - BrizCommuter estimates that 7 to 13 more NGR trains need to be ordered now!

Failures due to successive incompetent governments, from both sides of politics, as well as poor decision making by QR has created the catastrophe for train commuters in Brisbane and SE Queensland. Commuters are in the dark as to when things will improve, something which both QR and the state government need to reverse. Financial compensation for commuters also needs to be seriously considered due to lack of adequate service delivery. 

Political failure, thought-bubble ideas, and tit-for-tat games has also resulted in delays to Cross River Rail, failure of Brisbane's Bus Network reform in 2013, and ill thought out proposals such as the Brisbane Metro. Unless Brisbane's politicians have a serious kick up the posterior, then Brisbane's  public transport system will continue to be an embarrassment for SE Queensland residents and businesses.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

QR's Interim Timetables - Sardine Can Services

TransLink have provided a list of service cuts and alterations as part of Queensland Rail's Interim Timetable, discussed in the previous blog post. However BrizCommuter has taken it upon himself to warn commuters on which services may be overcrowded as a result of service cancellations. You could also call this a list of services which press photographers and media crew should turn up to observe ;-)

Note, this is not a complete list!

Tuesday - Thursday

  • 6:54am from Cleveland to Bowen Hills (passes through Buranda at 7:34am)
  • 7:03am from Springfield to Bowen Hills (passes through Milton at 7:39am)
  • 7:16am Kippa-Ring to City & Springfield (passes through Eagle Junction at 08:01am)
  • 7:35am Caboolture to City & Ipswich (passes through Eagle Junction at 08:16am) 
  • 7:54am Shorncliffe to City & Cannon Hill (passes through Albion at 8:22am)
  • 5:11pm Bowen Hills to Cleveland (passes through South Bank at 5:27pm) *
  • 7:17am Ferny Grove to Park Road (passes through Windsor at 7:39am)*
  • 7:32am Ferny Grove to Park Road (passes through Windsor at 7:54am) *
  • 7:35am Caboolture to City & Ipswich (passes through Eagle Junction at 08:16am) 
  • 5:31pm Bowen Hills to Springfield (passes through Milton at 5:42pm)

* denotes - likely to have most densely packed sardines commuters. 

Don't say BrizCommuter didn't warn you!

QR's Interim Timetables - Back to the 1990s?

The new QR interim timetable
Queensland Rail (QR) have announced their interim timetable with many service cuts, which will run indefinitely until they have enough trained drivers to run the existing timetables. This is due a combination of poor decision making from three successive Queensland governments (from both sides of politics), and poor planning within QR. This has resulted in insufficient drivers and trains to run the new train timetables since the opening of Moreton Bay Rail Link / Redcliffe Peninsula Line.

So what are the changes in the interim timetable?

Well for starters, there is a different timetable for Tuesday to Thursday, and Friday. This will confuse the hell out of passengers. Whilst there are no changes on Monday Oct 24th, there is no mention of what will happen next Monday.

Tuesday to Thursdays
  • More than 40 train services cut or altered. 
  • Early morning Cancellations on Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Inner North (Northgate), and Cleveland Line, resulting in 30 minute gaps - bad for shift workers!
  • Cancelled inbound am peak services on  Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Caboolture, Redliffe Peninsula, Beenleigh, and Springfield Lines - highly likely to cause overcrowding on following services!
  • Daytime off-peak cancellations on the Ferny Grove, Beenleigh, Springfield, Inner North, and Ipswich Lines, with gaps up to 60 minutes!
  • Cancelled outbound pm peak services on Ferny Grove, Ipswich, and Cleveland Lines. Cancellation of the  5:03 Bowen Hills to Cleveland express service will upset a lot of passengers.  
  • Cancelled evening off-peak services on Ipswich and Inner North Lines, with gaps up to 60 minutes. 
  • More than 50 train services cut or altered. 
  • Early morning cancellations on Ferny Grove, Inner North, and Beenleigh Lines - bad for shift workers again. 
  • Quite severe am peak cuts on Ferny Grove Line - very likely to cause full trains, leaving passengers behind at inner-Ferny Grove Line stations due to cancellation of 07:10am and 07:25am ex-Ferny Grove trains.  
  • Cuts to am peak services on the already recently cut Inner North services - passengers at Nundah and Toombul will be very unhappy.
  • Massive cuts to daytime 15 minute off-peak services on Ferny Grove, Cleveland, and Beenleigh Lines, and hour gaps on Doomben Line - back to 1990s era timetable?
  • Cuts to pm peak services  on the Shorncliffe, Springfield, and Cleveland Lines, including an unacceptable 30 minute gap for some inner-Cleveland Line passengers. 
  • Cancellation of some evening services to Northgate. 
  • Who knows???

The interim timetable is terrible for shift workers, daytime off-peak users, and some peak service changes will result in either unacceptable waits between services, or even overcrowded full trains leaving passengers behind (as will probably be observed on Friday at Windsor at 7:39 and 7:54 if any press photographers want to get some piccies).  The Friday timetable in particular takes Brisbane back to 1990s era timetables with 30 minutes off-peak. Passengers at Northgate and Toombul who have just had their peak train service cut by over 50%, will have even more train services cut.

It is very concerning that QR or TransLink have not specified an end date to this interim timetable.  Just when commuters were expecting service improvements due to the belated New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains coming online, it looks like they will have to wait even longer due to lack of drivers. This is bad news in particular for Cleveland Line users who have a bizarrely early finish to the evening express service pattern and subsequent overcrowding on following services - in fact the last express service has been cancelled as part of the cuts.

An increasingly common scene on QR's network
It is also concerning that it has been mentioned that further cancellations can be expected on top of the interim timetable service cuts for at least the next few weeks. This continues the uncertainty as to whether commuters will actually be able to get to work or appointments on time, or be able to pick top kids from daycare before it closes. It is totally unacceptable that passengers have to check TransLink's (often incorrect) website daily to work out how they can get to work by train and not be late.

With so many train commuters lives being messed around, this situation has destroyed confidence in QR, the State Government, and SE Queensland public transport network. Commuters are also unhappy that they have not been offered any compensation, with commuters just expected to "suck it up". BrizCommuter expects that a few commuters may even go back to driving cars to work due to this fiasco.

Interim timetable (well, list of service cuts):
BrizCommuter's list of services that may be overcrowded:

Addendum - Mon 24th Oct - 8pm

During BrizCommuter's two peak period commutes today, there were no announcements at stations or on-board trains. TransLink's social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) have at the time of writing, no mention of tomorrow's changes. QR only updated their social media channels during late afternoon. TransLink's list of service cuts has inaccurate information on following train services.

It is likely that the majority of commuters are unaware of tomorrows service changes, and quite a few commuters will be in for a shock when their expected train does not materialise tomorrow, and the following train is overcrowded. Even fewer commuters will be aware that the service changes on Friday are completely different from Tuesday to Thursday. It seems that QR and TransLink's poor customer information is making the interim timetable situation even worse.

Addendum - Wed 26th Oct - 6am

Unaffected train services were observed to much quieter than usual yesterday (Tue), though overcrowding was reported on some services as a result of the cuts, as well as the usual overcrowded services (on Ferny Grove and Shorncliffe/Inner North Lines). Maybe some passengers have given up on public transport due to this debacle? Amusingly, UBER were seen giving out $20 off vouchers outside South Bank station. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Redcliffe Peninsula Line - Queensland Rail's Epic Fail

A rarely spotted Queensland Rail service.
The recent situation of cancelled trains on Queensland Rail's (QR) SE Queensland train network worsened today with the cancellation of around 100 train services today, and the evening closure of two train lines due to lack of train crew. After weeks of misery for commuters, QR finally came out from the woodwork and admitted fault for the situation. QR's CEO Helen Gluer has been quoted as saying:

“The performance of Queensland Rail since the new Redcliffe Peninsula line has opened has been unacceptable and from our customer’s perspective, totally unacceptable.

We know now that we had unrealistic assumptions on how much train crew we did need to run this new timetable.

This is my fault, this is Queensland Rail’s fault and we had unrealistic expectations on what crew we needed to actually run this timetable.”

QR are apparently 20 train crew short of what is required to run the current timetable, which also has issues with a lack of trains as well. So who is fault for this situation?
  • QR for lack of forward planning. 
  • The LNP Newman Government for sacking driver trainers and freezing recruitment, plus delays to the NGR trains. It is alleged that the Newman government was planning on privatising QR and was setting it up to fail.  
  • The ALP Palaszczuk Government for not undoing the staffing issues from the Newman Government, even with a 6 month delay to Redcliffe Peninsula Line.  
  • The ALP Bligh Government for not ordering extra previous generation trains. 
This is a classic example of the incompetence of three successive Queensland governments from both sides of politics, as well as poor planning by QR. This has resulted in Brisbane's train network being the laughing stock of Australia yet again. Insider sources are mainly pointing the finger at the LNP Newman government razor gang as the main source of this debacle. 

Is the situation going to improve soon? Sadly, things are likely to get worse. QR have announced that they will introduce an interim timetable until they can train enough new train crew, which could take a year! Expect cuts to peak services causing overcrowding and full trains, and expect 15 minute off-peak frequency to be cut back to "third-word" 30 minute off-peak frequencies. Don't expect any improvements to train services (such as later running Cleveland Line expresses) when enough NGR trains start running. BrizCommuter will blog on the interim timetable and associated service cuts when they are announced over the next few days.  

Maybe a free fare week, or huge cut in fares is required to compensate commuters? There is no question that Brisbane commuters are sick and fed up with the ongoing situation. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How many more NGR trains does QR need?

QR's NGR Train
Queensland Rail's (QR) New/Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR) will, when taking into account replacing the ageing EMU and ICE trains, result in 27.5 more 6-car units compared to the existing train fleet. BrizCommuter looks at how many more NGR trains may be required on top of the current 75 train order. These includes what is required now to resolve overcrowding, and what will be required by the end of current NGR deliveries in 2018. Patronage growth as a result of the fare review, and newly opened Redcliffe Peninsula Line has been factored in.  Due to the non-public availability of passenger load information and working timetables (which show empty out of service trains), considerable guess work has been required which may decrease accuracy (in either direction).

The only extra infrastructure taken into account is the Coomera to Helensvale duplication. It is claimed in project literature that the Gold Coast peak and counter-peak service will increase by 2 trains per hour (tph), though BrizCommuter debates how this is actually possible given the limited tracks along the Beenleigh Line corridor. A request to the Coomera to Helensvale duplication project team has never been answered. It has been assumed that the extra Gold Coast Line services will prevent any increase in peak frequency to the Beenleigh Line.

It has also been assumed that maximum capacity of the mains tracks (Ipswich, Springfield, Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Peninsular Lines) is 20tph (train every 3 minutes), and the maximum capacity of the suburbans tracks (Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Airport, Doomben, Cleveland, Gold Coast, and Beenleigh Lines) is 22tph (train every 2.5 minutes, with one 5 minute gap every 30 minutes). Improved counter-peak direction service frequency (e.g. out of the City in the am peak, into the City in the pm peak) has also been evaluated, and as these services run slower than empty trains, the resulting requirement estimate for additional trains has also been factored in.

Additional off-peak services are not relevant to this article, as there are already sufficient trains for considerably enhanced off-peak services. Funding and sufficient train crew are the current restrictions for enhancing off-peak services.

Peak service improvement priorities
  1. Replace 3-car trains with 6-car trains, with priority based on crowding.
  2. Expand pm peak Cleveland Line express pattern services.
  3. Regular (8tph) pm peak frequency on Ferny Grove Line.
  4. Additional peak services based to reduce standees based on crowding (in particular peak of pm peak Ipswich, Springfield, Caboolture, and Redcliffe Peninsula Line services). 
  5. Regular (8tph) am and pm peak frequency on Gold Coast Line post-Coomera to Helensvale duplication. 
  6. Expand coverage of high-frequency peak services based on crowding.
  7. Expand 15 minute counter-peak service where possible across the network (in particular Ipswich, Springfield, Caboolture, Redcliffe Peninsula Lines). 
AM Peak
  • Estimated that there are 18x3-car trains in service (+/-2) = 8 to 10xNGR trains.
  • 1 extra late am express service on Cleveland Line = 1xNGR trains. 
  • 1 extra late am peak service in Ferny Grove Line (filling in 15 minute gap) = 0 to 1xNGR train  (may be formed from existing Bowen Hills terminating service).
  • 1 extra early am peak Northgate to CBD service, improved counter-peak service = 1xNGR train. 
  • No additional am peak Shorncliffe Line services (assumed insufficient track capacity). 
  • 3 extra Gold Coast Line am peak services (filling in 15 minute gaps) = 3xNGR trains. 
  • No additional Beenleigh Line services (assumed insufficient track capacity).
  • No additional Doomben Line services (assumed insufficient track capacity).
  • 2 extra Ipswich Line am peak services (expanding 6 min frequency), 15 min counter-peak = 2xNGR trains.
  • 2 extra Springfield Line am peak services (expanding 6 min frequency), 15 min counter-peak = 3xNGR trains.
  • 1 to 3 extra Caboolture Line am peak services (filling in 12 and 30 minute gaps), 15 min counter-peak = 2 to 4xNGR trains.
  • No additional Sunshine Coast Line am peak services (assumed insufficient track capacity). 
  • 2 extra Redcliffe Peninsula Line am peak services (early expansion of 6 min frequency, later expansion of 12 min frequency), 15 min counter-peak = 3xNGR trains.
  • 2 early am peak Airport Line services (filling in 30 minute gaps) = 2xNGR.
  • TOTAL = 25 to 30xNGR trains. 
PM peak
  • Estimated that there are 11x3-car trains in service (+/-2) = 5 to 7xNGR trains required.
  • 2 to 4 extra express services on Cleveland Line = 2 to 4xNGR trains required. 
  • 3 extra services (filling in 15 minute gaps) on Ferny Grove Line = 3xNGR required.
  • 2 extra CBD to Northgate service (extending combined 7.5 frequency), improved counter peak service = 1xNGR.
  • No additional Shorncliffe Line services (assumed insufficient track capacity).
  • 3 extra Gold Coast Line pm peak express services (filling in 15 minute gaps), 3 extra Gold Coast Line counter-peak services (filling in 30 minute gaps) = 6xNGR.
  • No additional Beenleigh Line services (assumed insufficient track capacity).
  • No additional Doomben Line services (assumed insufficient track capacity).
  • 1 to 3 extra Ipswich Line pm peak services (filling in 12 min gaps), 15 minute counter-peak services (filling in 30 min gaps) = 1 to 3xNGR.
  • 1 to 3 extra Springfield Line pm peak services (filling in 12 min gaps), 15 minute counter-peak = 1 to 3xNGR.
  • 1 to 2 extra Caboolture Line pm peak services (filling in 12 min gaps), 15 minute counter-peak = 2 to 3xNGR.
  • No additional Sunshine Coast Line am peak services (assumed insufficient track capacity). 
  • 1 to 3 extra Redcliffe Peninsula Line pm peak services (filling in 12 min gaps), 15 minute counter-peak = 2 to 4xNGR.
  • No additional Airport Line services (already every 15 minutes).
  • TOTAL = 23 to 34xNGR.
Up to 3 more NGR trains may need to be ordered now to manage a more optimal am peak service, and approximately 7 more NGR trains may need to be ordered now to manage a more optimal pm peak service. Given, the recent cancellations due to lack of train crew, it is also critical that sufficient extra train crew are employed and trained to allow the NGR trains to be used to their full potential.

If any more infrastructure projects are planned, or the implementation of ETCS signalling to allow for higher frequencies, then additional NGR trains to the numbers stated will need to be ordered, to allow for implementation into services before the infrastructure opens. The current lack of trains issue that has been ongoing since January 2014, is due to political ineptitude (from both sides of politics) and poor planning, and should never be repeated.

Addendum 19/10/16

Informed sources mention that QR's 20 year old SMU200 series trains have reliability issues, with some of the units out of service indefinitely. Replacement of these units would require an additional 6 NGR trains in addition to the recommended purchase of at least 7 more trains.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Queensland Rail's Cancellation Disgrace

Operational issue = not enough drivers
Updated Monday 17th October 2016

More than a fortnight ago BrizCommuter reported on Queensland Rail (QR) cancelling over 50 train services in one day, with little or no notice to waiting passengers. This was found to be due to there being a lack of drivers available, as a result of driver training on the new Redcliffe Peninsula Line. The situation has continued with more than 200 train services cancelled over the last few weeks. This unacceptable situation includes:

  • Daytime off-peak commuters on the Ipswich, and Springfield Line have had to endure waits of up to 60 minutes between train services.
  • Evening off-peak commuters on nearly all trains lines have had to endure waits of up to 60 minutes between services.
  • Services to Nundah and Toombul, already cut under the new timetables, have been cut even further due to cancellations. 
  • Services after full 3-car services cancelled, forcing passengers unable to board having to wait even longer. 
  • Very short notice of some cancellations (on TransLink's website and app). Surely even a few days notice can be provide?
  • Inconsistent or no information on Queensland Rail's social media. (Trying to hide something QR?)

The big question is, why do QR not have enough drivers (and/or guards) to cope with the driver training for the Redcliffe Peninsula Line? With the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains and Redcliffe Peninsula Line being delayed by a year, and half a year respectively, you would have thought that QR would have plenty of time to have employed and train sufficient new train crew? Are Newman era cuts still affecting QR more than 20 months later? Why was the train line opened with insufficient drivers trained - political decision?

With the NGR trains expected to enter service in (very) late 2016, or early 2017, BrizCommuter is concerned that there won't be enough train crew to allow for driver training without cancelling even more train services. There may not even be enough drivers to allow for improved services (such as the urgently required extension to Cleveland Line pm peak express services) once the first few NGR units have been delivered.

BrizCommmuter would like there to be an inquiry into this situation, and for commuters to receive compensation (such a free travel day) as would occur in the UK in such circumstances. Brisbane's long suffering commuters expect better than the current contempt from QR and TransLink!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Redcliffe Peninsula Line - What No Expresses?

Within a few hours of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line opening, commuters had already caught the terrible affliction known as "I want an express from my stationitis". For new BrizCommuter readers, below is the dictionary definition of "I want an express from my stationitis":

I want an express from my stationitis
1. Affliction in which commuters think that they should have a frequent express train service from their nearest station to home, to their nearest station for work.
2. Absolutely no regard for the fact that other people with different journeys also need to get to work.
3. Involves a lack of knowledge of how railways actually work.  

The Redcliffe Peninsula Line train services are an extension of the previous Petrie all stations services. The Caboolture Line, which it shares some tracks with, runs express from Petrie to Northgate saving 9 minutes. Both lines run express from Northgate to Bowen Hills (calling at Eagle Junction). saving around 5 minutes.

Due to the previous, and historic timetables, and some Caboolture Line services running from Nambour (or even Gympie), it was sensibly decided that the Caboolture Line services would continue to run express from Petrie to Northgate, and the Redcliffe Peninsula Line would serve all stations between Petrie and Northgate. During the busiest part of the am peak, both Caboolture and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines run every 6 minutes. This is a higher frequency than most other Queensland Rail (QR) Lines. It also should be noted that the average journey speed of Redcliffe Peninsula Line services is much faster than the Beenleigh and Cleveland Line which are of similar length (approx. 40km from Central). Despite the relatively high speed, and high service frequency, some Redcliffe Peninsula Line commuters are still asking why they don't have an express service?

Lets look at the constraints and of requirements of the Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Peninsula Line services (Sector 1):

  • These lines share a track pair between Northgate and the CBD, with a limit of a train every 3 minutes (20tph). 
  • These lines share 3 tracks between Lawton and Northgate, allowing for a peak express service on one track, a peak stopping/all stations service on the second track, and a counter-peak service on the third track. 
  • Express trains cannot overtake stopping trains on the same track, and express trains will catch up with stopping trains on the same track (also taking into account 3 minute train separation).
  • All passengers expect a high frequency train service and fast journey times (which can counteract each other). 
So if some Redcliffe Peninsula Line passengers want an express service what are the alternative options?
  1. Run Caboolture Line express, Redcliffe Peninsula Line express, and Petrie all stations services every 9 minutes. Outcome: more express services, but 33% reduction in service frequency at each station. This would likely cause overcrowding on Caboolture and Sunshine Coast services. Turn-back of trains at Petrie may be problematic.  
  2. Alternate Caboolture Line express, Redcliffe Peninsula Line all stations, Caboolture Line all stations, Redcliffe Peninsula Line express services, each running every 12 minutes. Outcome: operationally difficult, unreliable, would cause confusion, uneven train loadings, more overcrowding on some services.
  3. Caboolture Line services to stop at more stations, and Redcliffe Peninsula Line to stop at less stations between Petrie and Northgate. Outcome: slower journeys and more overcrowding for Caboolture and Sunshine Coast Line commuters. 
  4. Advertise that Redcliffe Peninsula Line passengers can (in am peak) change to Caboolture Line expresses at Petrie and get to work 3 minutes earlier. Note: this is already the case for those in the know! Outcome: debatable as to whether changing trains to save 3 minutes is worth it, risk of not getting seat after changing from Redcliffe Peninsula to Caboolture Line service. 
Realistically, there is no "golden bullet" solution, and it is unlikely that there will be any significant changes to the timetable, other than more 6-car trains, and increases in frequency from every 12 to 6 minutes during the am shoulder peak, and pm peak periods. ETCS signalling, plus more trains and train crew, may allow for a 20% increase in frequency. 

Significant improvements in the am peak will only be possible when Cross River Rail is eventually opened. Even then, due to track constraints, the service improvements may not make up the patronage increases over time. The Trouts Road Line from Brisbane CBD to Strathpine would allow for a 100% increase in service frequency on both the Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines, but is not even a pipe dream. 

At the end of the day, the best way to get to work faster, is to live closer to your place of work!  

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Redcliffe Peninsula Line - Winners, Losers, and the Incompetent

After more than 100 years of waiting (well, for the only person who lived that long), the Redcliffe Peninsula Line officially opened for regular service on Tuesday 4th October 2016. After the first day of operation, who are the winners, and losers from the changes to train services? Also, what has TransLink stuffed up this time?


  • Redcliffe Peninsula Line users - the obvious winners, are those who live along the new Redcliffe Peninsula Line. Lots of positive comments on Queensland Rail (QR) and TransLink's social media from users of the new line today. There were more than 2,100 boardings in the am peak, which is a great start. 
  • Commuters from North of Petrie - as outer Caboolture Line services now run express from Petrie to Bowen Hills (calling at Northgate and Eagle Junction), there are generally much faster journeys for passengers travelling on Caboolture and Sunshine Coast Lines north of Petrie.  Lots of positive comments on social media from these users - yes, even positive comments from the usually whinging Sunshine Coast Line commuters.   

  • Commuters from stations between Petrie and Northgate (excl.) - the Redcliffe Peninsula Line services are just extensions of the previous Petrie all stations services. Due to 2,100 extra passengers boarding trains from Redcliffe Peninsula Line stations, there were multiple reports of trains (in particular to the 6:46am from Kippa-Ring) being full and leaving passengers behind at stations south of Carseldine (incl.). It is unknown of any of services were dreaded 3-car trains. Whilst loads may balance out over the next few days, BrizCommuter is concerned about future chronic and long term overcrowding on these services, which was predicted by BrizCommuter many years ago. There may a more detailed article on this issue soon. 
  • Commuters from Nundah, Toombul, Wooloowin, and Albion - as Caboolture and Redcliffe Peninsula Line services now express past these stations, there has been a more than 50% reduction in train services at these stations.  As recently predicted by BrizCommuter the 6:54am and 7:09am 3-car services from Shorncliffe were overcrowded and busier than usual. There are extra Northgate services, but communication of these services has been poor (see the incompetent section below). Again, loads may even out, but the 3-car unit services are a concern until QR have enough trains, which won't be until at least early 2017. 
  • Passengers who now need to change trains - due to the new stopping patterns along the Caboolture Line corridor, there are a small number of inconvenienced commuters who have been quite vocal on social media. For example, a commuter from Lawnton to Toombul, or Nundah to Milton, would now have to change trains whilst previously it was a one seat journey. 
  • It is too early to say how many 6-car trains have been cut to 3-car trains. However, the 4:00pm Roma Street to Nambour train is already a known casualty of the QR's lack of trains, with overcrowding reported this afternoon (replaced with 5-car low seating capacity ICE train). 

Based on past experience, TransLink always have to stuff something up. This time, TransLink (and maybe QR) forgot to add the new Northgate to CBD services to any final .pdf or printed timetables. The new line map, shows the Shorncliffe Line now serving Nundah and Toombul.  So you would expect the Northgate to CBD services to be on the Shorncliffe Line .pdf timetable?
Nundah and Toombul on Shorncliffe Line
The new Caboolture and Redcliffe Peninsular Line timetables, also make a note to refer to the Shorncliffe Line timetable for services from these stations. So, again, you expect the Northgate to CBD services to be on the Shorncliffe Line .pdf timetable? 
"Refer to Shorncliffe trains..."
Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Whilst the Shorncliffe Line .pdf timetable shows the existing off-peak Northgate to CBD services, the new peak Northgate to CBD services (which alternate with most peak Shorncliffe services) are bizarrely not shown!
So where are the new Northgate to CBD trains?
Just to confuse passengers further, if you look in the html timetable on TransLink's website, the new services are shown under the Caboolture Line, despite the Caboolture Line services not stopping at these stations any more. 
Not the Shorncliffe Line html timetable
During the draft timetable consultation, the new Northgate to CBD services were shown on an Inner North Stations timetable. However, the final version of this timetable is not listed on the list of train timetables on TransLink's website. (The draft timetable can still be found if you go digging deep in the depths of the website). 
So no Inner North timetable then?
The failure of TransLink (and maybe QR) to add these new Northgate to CBD train services to the Shorncliffe Line timetable is completely incompetent. Queenslander! 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

50 QR Services Disappear into Black Hole

SE Queensland's train network went into meltdown (again) on Friday 30th September 2016, as more than 50 train services were cancelled by Queensland Rail (QR) in the afternoon, evening, and late at night. Gaps between train services of more than an hour were experienced. Information provided to commuters was somewhere between poor to non-existent. In less backward cities such as London, an online apology, and posters at stations would have been written explaining the circumstances. All Brisbane commuters get is a mention of "operational issues" on Facebook and Twitter (which the majority of commuters don't use for public transport information anyway). It seems that even the Transport Minister didnt know what is going on (above image). There are many questions that need to be out to QR:
  • Was there a chronic lack of train crew?
  • Or had too many train crew taken a sicky for Grand Final long weekend?
  • Why are commuters not being properly informed of the reason behind the cancellations?
  • Will QR be able to cope with the extra train services added next week when the Redcliffe Sardine Peninsula Line opens?
Given that next week will see a new train line open, and some 6-car train services chopped in half,  this situation is very concerning. 

Tit for Tat Political Stupidity

Rather that getting on, and getting things done, it seems that Queensland politicians are just playing silly games. A few weeks back, LNP Brisbane City councillors suggested that the Queensland Government should fund the free CityHopper ferry as they used it in a promotional video. This week, the ALP Queensland Government suggested that Brisbane City Council fund some Queensland Rail (QR) services after using imagery of QR trains in a Brisbane Metro promotional video. Quite frankly, both parties need their heads banging together. Rather than fighting congestion, the Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council just seem to be fighting each other. With both the Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council working on different agendas, the losers are Brisbane commuters who are seeing no action in resolving Brisbane's major public transport issues which are:
  1. The need for Cross River Rail to increase suburban rail capacity, and add more train stations to Brisbane. 
  2. The need for bus network reform to make more efficient use of the existing busway infrastructure and increase the population of Brisbane served by high frequency bus routes.
  As BrizCommuter has mentioned before, Brisbane City Council appears to have lost the plot on transport issues (notably around the unnecessary Brisbane Metro Subway System) and should be removed from both running buses, and public transport planning. Brisbane Transport (buses) either should be privatised or transferred to a state government related organisation (as per QR).