Thursday, September 21, 2017

Commonwealth Games Rail Fail - which lines will be axed?

Back in November 2016, BrizCommuter predicted that the train services for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) will be a bit of a disaster due to lack of drivers, lack of trains, and lack of rail infrastructure. This prediction is looking like it may have been an understatement for GC2018 which is being held in April. The situation with less than 200 days until GC2018:

  • Lack of drivers - Since the start of Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail in October 2016 due to lack of drivers, less than 40 new drivers have qualified. It has been claimed by "rail advocate" Paul Pluta, that more drivers have departed QR in this period, than have qualified. Even if not completely true, this is not surprising given that only 2 of the 333 axed train services in the 2017 timetable have been restored, and hourly services have been run on many weekends. Obviously with more drivers currently being trained, this balance will eventually tip in the positive direction, but there will still be a severe lack of driver issue throughout 2018, and well into 2019. 
  • Lack of trains / NGR delays - QR's New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) train project (run by Department of Transport and Main Roads) has been a disaster, with large numbers of defects, and disabled toilets that don't meet legal requirements. After nearly 600 days of being in Australia, not one NGR train has entered passenger service. There have been insufficient trains to run QR's timetable since 2014, and the delays to the NGR project is only making this issue worse. 
  • Failing EMU trains - the end of service life EMU trains are nearly 40 years old, and constitute most of the train failures on QR's network. Expected to have already been replaced by the delayed NGR trains, EMU reliability will be a concern until they are all retired. 
  • Lack of infrastructure - short sighted triplication instead of quadruplication of the Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line under the Beattie/Bligh era prevents Gold Coast express services overtaking slower Beenleigh Line services in both directions. This will prevent running fast high frequency services in both directions during GC2018 - note: the usual peak direction will the opposite to GC2018 traffic. At least the Coomera to Helensvale duplication and track improvements at Varsity Lakes will be complete. 
  • Politicians in the land of spin - it seems that politicians are avoiding the issue (well, there is an election looming) saying everything they can other than that train lines will inevitably have to see services axed during GC2018.
As extra services will need to be run to and from the Gold Coast during the games, it has been pretty obvious for the last year, that due to lack of trains and drivers, services will have to be removed from train lines other than the Gold Coast Line. This will cause pain for regular commuters, and for those connecting with services to/from the Gold Coast for GC2018. Accountant firm Deloitte seem to have tasked to do the number crunching to decide which train lines will see services axed. The fact that QR hasn't done this itself is somewhat concerning of its capabilities. So which lines may see services axed?
  • Beenleigh Line - interesting one. On on hand, the Beenleigh Line may see services extended to run to/from Varsity Lakes to form some of the extra Gold Coast Line services. On the other hand, to run more Gold Coast express services, we may see some Beenleigh Lines axed, or skip stations (though we could also see Gold Coast express services slowed down).
  • Springfield and Ipswich Lines - these lines use different tracks through Brisbane CBD to the Gold Coast Line, so should be unaffected for operational reasons. However due to only having a few stations, BrizCommuter would not be surprised if the Springfield Line is high up the list for train service axing. 
  • Ferny Grove Line - this is the busiest line (per number of stations) on QR's network. Being at the "other end" of the Beenleigh Line may (or may not) save it from having services axed. However, 15 minute off-peak, and weekend frequencies may be jeopardy. 
  • Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines - these lines do not share tracks with the Gold Coast Line. However, QR have had no qualms about axing 50% of Sunshine Coast Line services on some weekends, or reducing Caboolture Line peak services by 60% during January 2017. So be afraid! The new and still relatively quiet Redcliffe Peninsula Line (mainly due to an infrequent train service) is a high contender for having services axed. 
  • Airport Line - QR would be pretty dumb if they axed Airport Line services, which are usually at the "other end" of the Gold Coast Line. 
  • Shorncliffe and Doomben Lines - these share the same tracks as the Gold Coast Line, and thus could see services removed for capacity reasons. The short Doomben Line is relatively quiet, and could be at very high risk of having its already infrequent services axed. The 15 minute off-peak services to Northgate could also be at risk of axing. 
  • Cleveland Line - this line also shares tracks with the Gold Coast Line. With capacity across the Merivale Bridge shared with the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines, the Cleveland Line could see services axed for capacity reasons. The 15 minute off-peak services, and weekend 30 minute services could be axed. 
With an election looking, it is highly unlikely for the GC2018 service cuts to be announced until after the new government has formed power. There is no question that many commuters are going to be very annoyed with the inevitable Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games train service cuts, and that SE Queensland is going to look very stupid on the world stage.  


  1. Aren't they doing a bunch of makeshift 'park n rides' too?
    I can just imagine it. 1000s of cars in places like Bindha, Murrarie, etc

    1. Yep, the "no cars to venues" policy, is really "cars to car parks and then buses to venues". The most unsustainable transport option at the Comm Games for decades.

  2. Rather than axing, line shuttles could be more of a viable and feasible option:

    1. Shuttles are an option, but it is still a service axing. E.g. if Caboolture Line gets 30min off-peak to become all stations, and Kippa-Ring has connecting 30 min shuttle, then there will be longer journey times for all, and lower frequencies at stations served by both lines. Poor outcomes for everyone. Shuttles also waste a lot of time and resources at termini, and are not necessarily the best use of limited train and driver resources.

  3. Nobody could have ever predicted this. This was totally unexpected and unpredictable. Besides the fact that all independent parties were predicting this... so besides independent parties, it just couldn't have been predicted.

    ROI find that all parties have NFI.

  4. Jackie Trad has promised 10 minute services on the GC line, but would not give much detail, and certainly would not answer what would happen to the slash and burn that will occur to the other lines to allow this to occur.

    Are 10 minutes services all day from Central to Varsity Lakes and back again even possible? Given that there is only three tracks on the Beenleigh line.


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