Monday, February 27, 2017

Cross River Rail Mk3 Analysis - Winners and Losers

In the recently announced Cross River Rail (CRR) Environmental Impact Statement Request for Project Change (2017), there is a diagram showing the expected peak service plan (rail operations). The latest $5.4b iteration of CRR (Mk3) has tunnels shortened from 10km to 5.9km, with implications on the potential for increasing train services due to track layouts at either end of the shortened tunnel. There have also been some changes to CBD stations, mainly for the better.

BrizCommuter takes an analytical look at expected service improvements on a line by line basis, to see who are the winners, and who are the losers from CRR Mk3. Note that comparisons with the current state are made against the 4th October 2016 timetable (i.e. what should be running) as opposed to the #RailFail 2017 timetable.
Expected peak services after Cross River Rail opens
Source: CRR EIS Request for Project Change


Currently there are two track pairs in each direction running through Brisbane's CBD, and CRR will add a third. Cross River Rail Mk3 has seen the tunnel portals moved to Dutton Park (instead of Yeerongpilly) and Victoria Park (instead of Albion). This means that trains are running along existing tracks between Yeerongpilly and Dutton Park, and along the Exhibition Line between Victoria Park and Albion. So whilst Cross River Rail has resolved the Merivale Bridge bottleneck, there are now additional bottlenecks at each end of the CRR tunnel. With improved European Train Control System (ETCS) signalling, each set of tracks should be able to reliably run 24 trains per hour per direction (tph). The figures quoted for the three tracks post-CRR from the North are 12tph, 16tph, and 22tph, and from the South 20tph, 16tph, and 18tph. This is far from optimal.

Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines

The Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines are the biggest winners of CRR Mk3. Currently, the Gold Coast Line runs a 6tph am peak service with irregular frequencies (every 7.5 or 15 minutes), and the Beenleigh Line runs 4tph am peak service (every 15 minutes), with 2tph additional services from Coopers Plains or Kuraby (every 30 minutes).

Post-CRR, the Gold Coast Line will run 12tph am peak service (every 5 minutes), and the outer Beenleigh Line will run 6tph (every 10 minutes) running express from Salisbury to Boggo Road (Park Road). This is quite a significant improvement, and all of these services will run via CRR. On the down side, Gold Coast will loose it's direct connection to Brisbane Airport.

Inner Beenleigh Line am peak services will also run all stations from Salisbury to the CBD at 6tph (every 10 minutes) and run via South Bank. It is expected that these services would be extended to run from Beaudesert at some point when funding is available to build suburban rail services along the existing Salisbury to Beaudesert freight corridor. It is unknown how this 6tph service will integrate with the proposed 10tph service from Cleveland along South Bank as the service patterns would be quite different (generally service patterns should be multiples of each other).

BrizCommuter expects that for the proposed service to be achievable, that extra tracks would be required from Holmview to Kuraby, a turnback facility would be required at Salisbury, and enhanced turnback facilities may be required at Beenleigh. Track layout improvements at Varsity Lakes may also be required to turnback 12tph.  These infrastructure projects are all outside of CRR's scope and funding.

Cleveland Line 

The Cleveland Line currently runs 8tph in the am peak, with 4tph Cleveland express services (every 15 minutes), and 4tph Manly all stations services (every 15 minutes).

Post-CRR, the Cleveland Line is proposed to run 10tph (every 6 minutes) in the am peak. For this to be achievable, additional or full duplications would be required between Manly and Cleveland. This infrastructure project is outside of CRR's scope and funding.

Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Inner North, Airport, and Doomben Lines

The Ferny Grove Line currently runs 8tph in the am peak (every 7.5 minutes). The Shorncliffe Line runs 4tph (every 15 minutes), with an additional 4tph "Inner North" services starting at Northgate (every 15 minutes). The Airport Line runs 4tph (every 15 minutes), and the single track Doomben Line runs 2tph (every 30 minutes). It should be noted that commuters at Nundah, Toombul, Wooloowin, and Albion recently saw a huge service cuts due to changes in stopping patterns - these commuters would be expecting improvements post-CRR.

Unfortunately, post-CRR there is expected to be zero train service improvement to these lines. This will be obviously quite disappointing to commuters along these lines, especially as significant train service improvements were touted during previous iterations of CRR. The only solution to overcrowding will be the move from 3-car to 6-car services over the next few years as NGR trains are introduced. There will probably be no solution for overcrowding on 6-car train services for decades. The opportunity for extending the Doomben Line into Northshore Hamilton has also been missed due to incompetent city planning.

Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines

The Caboolture Line currently runs 9tph in the am peak (every 6 or 12 minutes), with approximately 3tph originating further North on the Sunshine Coast Line. The recently opened Redcliffe Peninsula Line also runs 9tph in the am peak (every 6 or 12 minutes).

Post-CRR, the Caboolture Line services will be increased to 14tph (train approx. every 4 minutes 15 seconds), with 4tph of these services originating further North on the Sunshine Coast Line. It is expected that all of these services will run express from Petrie to the City, and run via CRR.

Post-CRR, the Redcliffe Peninsula Line is interesting. It is planned to operate 16tph (trains approx. every 3 minutes 45 seconds), with trains running through the existing "mains" track in Brisbane. 10tph of these services will stop at all stations between Petrie and Northgate, and 6tph will run express.

BrizCommuter has great concerns about this proposed service. 28tph (trains every 2 minutes 10 seconds) will have to operate between Northgate and Albion on the same set of tracks. With a complex mixture of Caboolture and Redcliffe Peninsula Line services merging with different service patterns, and then splitting into either CRR or "mains" tracks (and vice versa in the pm peak) a delay to one service will cause an immediate knock on effect to following services. BrizCommuter doubts that this proposed service is realistically possible, at least not reliably. 24tph split equally (12tph each) between the Caboolture/Sunshine Coast Lines based on the existing service pattern would be more realistic and reliable.

The current track crossover layout at Kippa-Ring is also incapable of allowing the turnback of 16tph - in fact it cannot reliably turnback the existing 5tph pm peak service, which consistently fails to achieve a 100% peak reliability! Improvements would be outside of CRR's scope and funding.

It should be noted that Exhibition Loop services would no longer be required during the Ekka.

A long term solution to improving train services on the Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines is to construct a train line along the Trouts Road (North East Transportation Corridor) between Strathpine and Roma Street (connecting with CRR). Whilst mentioned in the Bligh government's Connecting SEQ2031 document, it does not seem to be on the radar of politicians. Building a road in its place would be a travesty. At the very least, CRR needs to have tunnel stubs constructed to allow this line to be connected with no impact to CRR services. Going by the latest plans, this may be the case.

Ipswich, Rosewood, and Springfield Lines

The Ipswich Line currently runs 8tph in the am peak (trains every 6 or 12 minutes), with 2tph originating at Rosewood (approximately every 30 minutes). The Springfield Line runs 8tph in the am peak (train every 6 to 12 minutes).

Post-CRR the Ipswich Line will run 10tph in the am peak (trains every 6 minutes), with 4tph originating at Rosewood (approximately every 15 minutes). The Springfield Line will run 10tph in the am peak (trains every 6 minutes). These services improvements are simply achieved by extending the period at which the highest frequency service is operated, and would be possible without CRR being constructed. All it requires is sufficient trains, crew, and funding. As the "peak of the peak" services would remain at every 6 minutes, there will be no solution to overcrowded services for decades.  

Unknowns - counter-peak, off-peak services, and stabling

The document does not cover the frequency of counter-peak services, or off-peak services. Due to the current three track restriction between Park Rd and Kuraby, and Northgate to Lawton, it would be very difficult to improve counter-peak services which will be restricted to one track. It may also be difficult to improve off-peak frequencies on the Beenleigh and Gold Coast Line corridor without constructing extra tracks. Neither of these help with de-centralisation of offices and services away from Brisbane's CBD.

There is also mention of where extra stabling would be added for trains using CRR. In the original CRR, there was a large train depot planned for Clapham, South of Yeerongpilly. Sufficient additional new trains, and of course drivers would also be required to operate the claimed service patterns.


It seems that with every cost cutting iteration of Cross River Rail, that the benefits decrease. CRR will potentially allow for considerable service improvements on the Gold Coast and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines. Smaller service improvements are expected to occur on the Beenleigh, Cleveland, Caboolture, and Sunshine Coast Lines. For these improvements to occur, funding would be required for multiple infrastructure improvements that could easily add a few billion dollars to the "real"cost of CRR. The state government needs to come clean on the costs of associated infrastructure required to achieve these improvements and benefit claims, which are outside of the scope and funding of CRR.

Claimed improvements to peak services on the Ipswich, Rosewood, and Springfield Lines do not require CRR to be achieved. There will be no improvements to peak services as a result of CRR on the Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Inner North, Airport, and Doomben Lines. This is very disappointing, and supports Brisbane City Council's otherwise misguided claim that Cross River Rail does not benefit commuters living in Brisbane. Cross River Rail will improve access to Wooloongabba, the Southern end of Brisbane's CBD, RNA Showgrounds, and Herston Health Campus (RBWH).

The current tit-for-tat politics is preventing the LNP Federal Government from assisting the ALP State Government with funding. There is also the likelihood that the next Queensland government may be a coalition between the (public transport policy destructive) LNP and the "racist party" One Nation. Thus unless a shovel is in the ground before the next State election, BrizCommuter is highly concerned that CRR will be delayed even further. This would be very bad news, given that Queensland is considerably under-prepared for expected population increases during the next few decades.

Cross River Rail website:
Project documentation:


  1. This version of CRR seems like a real dud from your review and a bit of a look at the plans.

    A lot of the so called winners seemed to be based on a lot of guesswork from the Government, or still needs a lot more associated infrastructure to be built for any meaningful benefits of CRR to be realised.

    In these plans, I am having difficulty working out which station is now the most efficient for a person who wants to go to the Airport who is travelling from the Gold Coast? What if the train terminates at Albert St or similar area?

    With the original CRR, even though there did not seem to be much direct benefit for those on the FG line (and associated lines not attached to CRR V1), they were gaining a lot with increased trains per hour and easier connections.

    With this version, plus all the associated issues with Rail Fail V1, V2 and V63 continuing, those who are not on the direct CRR line, do not seem to get any benefit at all.

    So BrizCommuter, whilst you have claimed that there are winners and losers, after reading your review and looking at the plans, I am struggling to see how there are any real winners when the extra infrastructure costs are factored that allows the increased capacity to work.

    Without that extra infrastructure, then it seems we are stuck with basically what we have now.

  2. Aside from what is in scope for CRR, and with no extra out of scope infrastructure, the only capacity increases will be a couple of extra trains on the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines. ETCS may also allow a few more trains on the Ipswich, Caboolture, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines, but that is independent of the CRR project.

  3. CRR has no hope of being delivered well. Paul Lucas has been put in charge of this project. You know, the guy who who was mostly responsible for the Qld Health pay debacle and issues at energex as well.


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