Thursday, April 20, 2017

QR to axe train services during Commonwealth Games

As predicted by BrizCommuter last November, it is looking like Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail is going to seriously impact SE Queensland commuters during the Commonwealth Games, being held on the Gold Coast between the 4th and 15th of April 2018.

The Courier Mail recently ran an article on this subject, based on concern from Rail Back on Track, which included this quote:
" ... Asked about the risk of another rail fail debacle from extra stress on the network during the event, Commonwealth Games Minister Kate Jones yesterday said: “We are very confident that both TransLink and the Director-General of Transport and Main Roads [Neil Scales] have given their assurance that we can deliver the additional capacity.”
BrizCommuter is very concerned that Commonwealth Games Minister Kate Jones is being kept in the dark about the impending Commonwealth Games Rail Fail, just as ex-Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe was kept in the dark about Rail Fail. Kate, you might want to read the below blog post...

Not enough drivers + extra Gold Coast Line services = axed train services for other lines

It has already been stated by the Strachan Inquiry that there will be insufficient train crew to run the full "October 2016" timetable until late 2018 with overtime, and mid/late 2019 without overtime. These dates are after the Commonwealth Games. As there are plans for increasing train services on the Gold Coast Line during the Commonwealth Games to 8 train per hour (tph) (from the current 2tph off-peak), then it is pretty obvious that train services will need to be reduced on QR's other train lines due to lack of drivers. The delay to New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains will also not help the situation, though the lack of driver issue seems to be far more pressing.

Unfortunately, at this stage it is unknown how bad these service cuts are going to be. Since the start of #RailFail, QR and TransLink have provided inadequate timetables, the worst of which have been:
  • Summer School Holiday Timetable - QR axed up to 60% of peak services on some lines, and eliminated express services, despite demand only being 25% less than usual. This caused severe overcrowding on some services, and commuters angry with longer commutes.
  • Easter Timetables - QR ran hourly train services, the worst Easter period train service in Oceana (yes, even worse than Adelaide and Wellington), causing commuter backlash
  • Friday timetable - confusingly different to the Monday to Thursday timetable, QR's Friday timetable makes the rail network barely useable to many users, with hourly peak service gaps, and severely overcrowded trains. 
Based on recent experience of QR and TransLink's complete disregard for customers, the cut timetables may only be announced a few weeks before the Commonwealth Games, with many commuters being completely unaware of the changes until their usual train fails to appear. What service cuts might be expected during the Commonwealth Games?
  • Weekday peak services - the combination of driver, train, and track capacity resources is likely to result in some train lines having peak services reduced by around 50%, and some express services may be eliminated (including quite possibly on the Gold Coast Line). Despite the Commonwealth Games being held during the Easter School Holidays, this service will still be inadequate for those who need to get to work on-time. 
  • Weekday off-peak services - due to more drivers being required on the Gold Coast Line, then BrizCommuter expects that the already butchered 15 minute off-peak services will be axed, with a 30 minute off-peak service in place. This will be annoying for shift workers, and those trying to get to appointments, shopping, events, and entertainment in and around Brisbane. It will also increase journey and waiting times for passengers trying to connect to the increased Gold Coast Line services. 
  • Weekend services - depending on the driver situation, there may be no change to the usual 30 minute off-peak, though the worst case scenario is the return of the horrendous hourly train services as per the Easter 2017 timetable. This would be disastrous for passengers connecting to the increased Gold Coast Line services. It should be noted that Brisbane already has the most infrequent weekend train services in Oceana. 
Of course, this is in stark contrast to the highly successful London 2012 Olympics where train service frequency (typically 24tph), and operating hours were increased on all Tube lines during the event. 

Enhanced Gold Coast Line services 

The problem with 3 tracks
Lack of drivers and trains is not the only issue for the 2018 Commonwealth Games train services. On QR's project page for the Coomera to Helensvale duplication, it is mentioned that the Gold Coast Line will run 8tph in both directions during the Games. That is a train on average every 7.5 minutes in each direction.

To operate the above mentioned bi-directional 8tph service runs into a few issues due to lacking track infrastructure on the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line corridor. Due to a half-baked infrastructure projects during the Beattie/Bligh era, there are only 3 tracks between Park Road and Kuraby (when there should have been 4), and only 2 tracks between Kuraby and Varsity Lakes (with a 3rd track at Bethania). This allows an 8tph service in one direction with express Gold Coast trains able to overtake slower all stations/stopping Beenleigh Line trains. But in the opposite direction, the Gold Coast trains are unable to overtake the Beenleigh Line trains as they have to share the same track.

As trains are unable to leapfrog each other, this is likely to be causing a major headache for QR's schedulers. BrizCommuter doubts that the claimed bi-directional 8tph services will be possible, without either slowing down Gold Coast train services, or severely limiting services calling at Beenleigh Line stations. Just to exacerbate the issue, the normal peak service direction will be the opposite to the Commonwealth Games peak traffic direction. Thus QR will have to choose between either slowing down regular commuters trying to get to/from work in Brisbane, or slowing down passengers trying to get to/from the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Unreliable EMU Trains

Due to the serious NGR project failure, it is likely that very few NGR trains will be in service by April 2018. Thus QR will still be relying on their geriatric EMU fleet of trains. There seems to be a noticeable decrease in EMU reliability recently. A broken down EMU train blocking the path of trains trying to get to/from the Gold Coast could be disastrous during the Commonwealth Games. Also, a broken down train on other lines will make the reduced train service frequency even worse.


It looks like the policy failures of three successive Queensland state governments, combined with institutional incompetence in QR, is going to make SE Queensland look even more backwards on the world stage (well, ex-British Empire stage) during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. This impending issue is already starting to attract the international press. Rail Fail may make getting stuck in traffic on the M1 the more attractive option for getting around SE Queensland during the Games.

Addendum 23/04/17 

The Courier Mail have reported that Commonwealth Games chiefs in London had written to the "Palaszczuk Government warning the event was at “significant risk” due to the magnitude of transport planning problems faced". This of course, no surprise to many BrizCommuter readers who can quite clearly see that decades of continuing 1960s road-centric transport policy in SE Queensland has placed the urban conurbation into a transport nightmare. This is confounded when you have to efficiently move hundreds of thousands of event goers. Will this be a wake up call that Brisbane is far behind other Oceana cities when it comes to public transport? Or will SE Queensland's politicians just continue with their spin and denial?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

QR's Easter Rail Fail - The Backlash Begins

Queensland Rail - Not many trains this Easter
BrizCommuter has reported on Queensland Rail's (QR) Easter Rail Fail with unacceptable hourly train services over two weekends, in a few recent blog posts - here, here, and here.

QR and TransLink's contempt for the travelling public has been displayed in responses to complaints about the timetable, such  as this example:

"These changes have been put in place to ensure reliable services and to give certainty to commuters, while helping to manage our resources.  We know that 68 percent fewer people travel by rail over the Easter long weekend. With that in mind, hourly services on most lines will ensure reliability and certainty, while still delivering an adequate frequency for the decreased demand"

Hourly services are not adequate in the slightest, irrespective of demand - people still have to get to/from work, university, shopping, family, events, and entertainment. That is why every other urban rail system in Oceana is running trains between every 10 to 30 minutes. Even Adelaide and Wellington have more frequent train services than Brisbane! To then classify the service changes as "minor" is quite insulting to the travelling public. Are QR and TransLink living a parallel universe of delusion and spin?

Not surprisingly, there has already been a lot of backlash on QR and TransLink's social media (Facebook and Twitter) - not helped by multiple late running trains on Saturday 8th April (none of which were reported on-line by TransLink). As QR conveniently keep deleting their Facebook posts and thus negative comments, BrizCommuter has kindly archived some of them below:

"It's taken me 3 hours to get from Bethania to Nundah due time timetable changes.
I've just lost a $100 job now as I have missed my appointment. I only allowed 1.5 hours to travel this short distance.
I feel like moving away to a real city with modern services.
Brisbane is a second rate city with third rate transportation.
The slowest, over priced trains I have seen anywhere.
What a rip off!"

"Rosewood train 15 minutes late?! You have less services and you still can't run on time. Great, thanks. Incompetence."

"Wow! Trains running hourly on the ipswich line for the next two weekends hey? Thanks for the signs and announcements, not! Not like I'm trying to get to work. Which I'm now going to be late for because u didn't bother to let anyone know about this. Typical bloody Translink and QR. I will be writing a formal complaint about this. Not impressed!"

"How do you guys manage to have hourly trains STILL run late.
Also why have less trains (on school holidays) when there's more people? 
Someone needs to be bloody sacked."

Or maybe pay me back the hours pay I lost (essentially a $30 ticket) to get to my destination in the first place."

"Joke Translink. What other cities change trains to run hourly. No wonder we get called the nanny state. Not enough drivers and saving $'s more like it."

"It's got nothing to do with reduced patronage. That is a complete distraction. It's got everything to do with poor planning over years which has resulted in a shortfall in drivers. Disgusting."

"If you're going to change the trains to hourly without warning could you at least make sure the train comes on time and not have an announcement that the the train is 10 minutes late as it arrives. It was kind of evident that the train was 10 minutes late when it arrived 10 minutes late."

"Many people took the 4.46 train from Central Station to Redcliffe Peninsula and got off the train at Bowen Hills because of the speaker saying that it was express from Bowen Hills to Northgate stopping only at Eagle Junction and it wasn't true!! Stopped all stations!!!!"

"Not happy QR last time I had to worry about ever missing a train and having to wait an hour would have been the 1990's! Those used to a 15 minute service are now 30mins! I heard this happens again Easter weekend too. Lord help those on the Sunshine Coast line, I believe it is two hours between services. Sharpen up QR!"

"Shout out to all those uni students which have mid semester exams on saturdays - they still need to get in and out of uni and running trains hourly is a huge inconvenience. Imagine if an hourly train gets cancelled - they will have to wait two hours to get to uni and will likely miss their exam. I understand reduced services for holidays, but it doesn't make sense when it is only school holidays and not public holidays? Uni students and workers still need to get in and out of the city....not happy at all "

"Why are pax told to detrain at Yeerongpilly on Corinda via Yeerongpilly services?"

"QR, the only place you pay full price for the privelidge of inconvenience."

"Yay to my 4 hour trip tomorrow! With my 57 min wait. thanks translink."

"Over priced, unreliable & no concept of customer service... 
Yep, that's Queensland Rail!"

"Fantastic work Translink, 58minute wait at the station for my train to the Gold Coast, the schedule isn't just hourly it isn't even the same normal times, great work! You're in Public Transport, you don't see Airlines creating a special Easter Schedule, they hire appropriate numbers of staff to handle it!"

"I'm disgusted. Don't have occasion to use the trains much but trying to get to Southbank and back was just awful. You can do better than this. Brisbane deserves better."

"It's great when Brisbane hosts a world class event like the Davis Cup, encourages visitors to use the train network to get to the venue, then cancels half the trains so we can sit at Park Road for 50 minutes. Hourly trains are not good enough, and you wonder why patronage is down??"

"Left work early so I could get home at a reasonable time and actually see my kids, knowing that if I didn't, I'd be waiting over 50 minutes for my train. Train turns up late anyway. Can't wait till next weekend when I get to deal with this nonsense all over again."

"I was shocked when I found this out today. The funny thing is the 500 bus leave 4 mins before the train is due so you have to wait another hour for a bus home. If the trains changes should the buses not change to meet the trains. Why does this not happen."

"Yeah pity about the extra hour it'll take me to get home though because of the infrequency of services."

"Normal high fares and service levels below the already subpar levels!"

"I see Coles are advertising on TV Every Checkout Open this Weekend from 10am to 6pm 8th & 9th April 2017. Where was Queensland Rail's TV advertising telling us that you have reduced services for this very same weekend and passengers may also miss train and bus connections due to the changed passenger train tables. Queensland Rail > " We aim to be Australia's best performing railway delivering safe, on time, customer-focused and efficient rail services." Can you please let us know when you plan on delivering on this statement."

"Thank you Translink, I'm late for work again"

Bit of a disaster isn't is QR and TransLink? And it's not even the Easter weekend yet!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

NGR - RTI Access Denied

It is a mirage, or a real NGR?
BrizCommuter recently reported on the heavy delays to the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) project. Rather than being managed by rail operator Queensland Rail, this disastrous project is being managed by the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR). TMR were also behind the significant delays to the Moreton Bay Rail Link due to signalling incompatibilities. The Director-General of TMR is none other than Neil Scales, who has recently been Acting CEO of QR, during which he has overseen the debacles of the inadequate School Summer Holiday Timetable, the Xmas Day cancellation-fest, and the planning of the disgraceful Easter Holiday Timetable. Mr Scales was also reportedly involved with $116m spent on an aborted tram scheme in Liverpool, UK. Concerned?

With all of the alleged NGR project issues, it is no surprise that multiple parties have made Right to Information (RTI) requests to the Queensland Government to access project information. In a continuation of the non-existent transparency that Queenslanders are sadly used to - all RTI requests about the NGR project have been either denied, withdrawn, or the decision being delayed as long as possible. Not a single RTI request related to the NGR project has been disclosed to the public. For example:

15 February 2017
Correspondence between Queensland Rail CEO Helen Gluer and Director-General Neil Scales regarding the New Generation Rollingstock Project from 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2016.
Currently being processed - i.e. no decision

30 January 2017
Documents relating to:
1. Agreed project milestones for the New Generation Passenger Rollingstock (NGR) Project.
2. Copies of any annual performance reviews of the NGR project.
3. Reports/briefing papers/minutes of NGR project monitoring committee meetings.
Time period/date range for request: 1 January 2015 - 30 January 2017.
Application refused

28 December 2016
- abatements involving Queensland Rail re Citytrain services
- a copy of the letter attached to an email to Neil Scales on October 21 labelled as ""
- documents discussing issues relating to Moreton Bay Rail Link signalling and the New Generation Rollingstock project
- documents relating to disputes in relation to the New Generation Rollingstock project.
Application withdrawn

1 November 2016
Briefing notes and correspondence regarding the commissioning of New Generation Rollingstock including risks, variances, crew requirements. Time period / date range for request: February 2015 - October 2016.
Application withdrawn

1 November 2016
All documents relating to any discussions, briefings, meetings between the Minister for Transport and a)Translink, b) Queensland Rail representatives and c) Queensland Rail board members that relate to
1. train driver capacity for the South East network over the year 2016 with particular reference to the impact of the opening of the Redcliffe line;
2. overtime for QR drivers;
3. possible train driver shortages;
4. the NGR trains - capabilities, timing in terms of being ready for passengers and/or and changes to those timings; and
5. the NGR trains and any concerns and or issues relating to design, braking systems, safety requirements.
Time period/date range for request: 1 January 2016 - 1 November 2016. (This application was made to the Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games)  
Application withdrawn

1 November 2016
Departmental and Ministerial Briefing Notes and attachments, reports, emails and internal correspondence to and from Queensland Rail, relating to:
1. New Generation Rollingstock (NGR);
2. QR driver recruitment.
Timeframe: 01/01/2015 to 01/11/2016.  
Currently being processed - i.e. no decision made

31 October 2016
All documents related to, but not limited to, correspondence between Minister Stirling Hinchliffe and other parties regarding the New Generation Rollingstock. Time period/date range for request: 1 August 2016 - 31 October 2016.
(This application was made to the Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games)
Application refused

Would Mr Scales like to explain exactly what the Department of Transport and Main Roads is trying to hide?

TMR's RTI (lack of) disclosure log:

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

QR's Easter Rail Fail - Brisbane vs Everywhere Else

Melbourne - Easter trains up to every 10 minutes
BrizCommuter's most recent blog post looked at the awful news that Queensland Rail (QR) will reduce train frequency to hourly services over the Easter Weekend (14-17th April 2017), and the weekend before (8th/9th April 2017). It is not known whether this is directly caused by the lack of drivers issue, or whether it is an excuse for QR to reduce their driver overtime costs. In this blog post, BrizCommuter shows how bad this situation is, comparing Brisbane's rail services on these affected days to other cities in Oceana. Typical daytime service frequencies at stations 10km from CBD are shown.

Brisbane - 60 minutes (1tph)
Melbourne - 10 to 20 minutes (3 to 6tph)
Sydney - 15 minutes (4tph)
Perth - 15 minutes (4tph)
Adelaide - 30 minutes (2tph)
Auckland - 30 minutes (2tph)
Wellington - 30 minutes (2tph)

Winner of Easter Egg Train Hunt is Melbourne, with up to a 500% more frequent train service than Brisbane over the Easter period. Sydney and Perth are in joint second place, with four times as many trains as Brisbane.

Adelaide, which has half the population of Brisbane, has experienced improved service frequencies in recent years. Aside from a couple of short branch lines, Adelaide will be running twice as frequent train services than backwards Brisbane. In fact, its light rail line (outside of the scope of this comparison) will be running trams four times more frequently than Brisbane's trains over Easter.

Auckland, a city slightly smaller population than Brisbane on its own (excluding the rest of SE Queensland) manages to run a 30 minute train service on it's recently electrified rail network. Finally, Wellington, with a population of just 1/10th of Brisbane, still manages to run train services at twice the frequency of failed rail operator QR. It is thus confirmed that Brisbane will have the worst Easter train service of all Oceana (Australia and New Zealand) urban rail systems.

Sadly it is not just the frequency and number of train services where Brisbanites and SE Queenslanders will be missing out. Due to the Easter services running at different clock face times than usual, usual bus and train connections will be missed. So far, TransLink and QR have failed to effectively communicate the Easter service changes to customers, which will result in some commuters having a very nasty Easter Egg surprise from QR.

Brisbane the "New World City" is currently more like Brisbane the "New World Laughingstock".

Saturday, April 1, 2017

QR Spoils Easter for SE Queensland

QR Spoils Easter for SE Queensland
Last updated 3/4/17 6:30am

As previously rumoured, failed SE Queensland rail operator Queensland Rail (QR) have sunk to a new low in customer service. Whilst the news is currently saturated with the post Cyclone Debbie natural disaster, the Deputy Premier and Minister for Transport Jackie Trad conveniently announced that Easter train services, and also the weekend before Easter (8-9th April), will only run hourly. Trains services will only run every 2 hours on the Sunshine Coast Line. Only the Airport Line will still run the usual 30 minute service. The train times will also be at a different time to the normal clock face times, which will frustrate passengers with even longer waits and missed bus/train connections.

The spin is that this will make Easter services more reliable, though QR appear to run an unreliable service irrespective of frequency. This horrendous service reduction will take QR back to era of diesel hauled services in the late 70s, early 80s. BrizCommuter is very disappointed that Neil Scales (A/CEO of QR, and D-G of Department of Transport and Main Roads) saying that the "2017 timetable would be in place for the whole of 2017" turned out to be a lie.

Quite clearly, QR do not care the slightest bit about the travelling public including those who need to travel over Easter and the weekend prior, including:
  • Hospital and Emergency Service workers.
  • Hospitality and restaurant workers.
  • Retail workers.
  • Students travelling to/from University Exams on Sat 8th April. 
  • People wanting to go shopping (or other amenities) in and around Brisbane CBD.
  • Families wanting to get to/from various events in and around Brisbane (and there are a lot of events on over Easter).
  • People wanting to travel to/from the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. 
  • People wanting to get to/from 5 major sporting events over the Easter weekend. 
  • Anyone else trying to avoid Easter road congestion. 
BrizCommuter has just cancelled a restaurant reservation in Brisbane's CBD on Easter Saturday, as he can't face up to a 59 minute wait for a train home. BrizCommuter's work colleagues will struggle to get to work by train, and will have to add to road congestion on the Pacific and Bruce Highways instead. Also, at the time of writing, TransLink have failed to publish any .pdf timetables. Lets hope QR make more of an effort at informing customers about the Easter changes than the previous #RailFail changes. 

QR's worsening #RailFail begs quite a few questions:
  • Are there going to be any more cutbacks to the "2017 timetable". Are more weekends going to see hourly services?
  • Do QR realise the damage this will cause businesses and events?
  • Do QR understand the further reputational damage this will cause to Brisbane and SE Queensland?
  • What is the point of the seemingly useless Citytrain Response Unit, if it does not prevent further service cuts?
Just when commuters didn't think #RailFail could get any worse, it does. Public transport operation, and governance need a complete overhaul in Brisbane. With utter contempt for public transport users, the ALP Palaszczuk government appears to be handing the next election on a plate to the LNP.

Government spin:
TransLink information:

Meanwhile in Western Australia, which will be running trains every 15 minutes, there is an increase in long distance public transport services for Easter...