Thursday, October 4, 2018

Queensland Rail - The End is Nigh!

It has recently been announced that at the last minute,  $3.6m worth of bonuses was stopped from being paid to senior Queensland Rail (QR) managers by the Queensland Government. How on earth QR's Board (update: some of whom have now resigned) could think that bonuses were appropriate is beyond anyone who actually has to suffer from using QR's mediocre rail service. It is also concerning that this wasn't picked up early by Transport Minister Mark Bailey - maybe he wasn't checking the right emails? So why shouldn't QR's managers get bonuses?
  • 2 years after the start of Rail Fail (#RailFail), QR's CityTrain network is still running on interim reduced timetables, with further service reductions on Fridays, and no end in sight. 
  • QR's recruitment and training process for new drivers is agonisingly slow.
  • QR have failed to control the RTBU, who appear to be running the show. The RTBU's opposition towards external driver recruitment and a closed shop mentality has hit Rail Fail recovery hard. 
  • There is allegedly poor moral amongst train crew, in particular due to ongoing overtime requirements. 
  • On-time running stats are misleading, as they don't show unscheduled expressed services, off-peak services, or services removed due to Rail Fail. 
  • Communication from staff at times of delays is still poor to mediocre. 
Other things wrong with SE Queensland's rail network, that also have successive state governments, and the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) to blame are:
  • The disastrous New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) project - "illegal" trains that don't meet disability accessibility requirements, door problems, and a "who knows when" fix for these issues. 
  • Due to the NGR project delays, the geriatric EMU trains are failing regularly, causing delays and rollingstock availability problems, including chronic overcrowded 3-car trains. 
  • Inadequate base timetables - even the never delivered October 2016 timetables are inadequate compared to Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne - with 15 minute peak gaps on many lines, limited 15 minute off-peak coverage, and abysmal Cleveland Line pm peak service. 
  • Inadequate rail feeder bus network and park and rides. 
  • The looming Cross River Rail Fail - unless 40+ more trains are purchased soon, driver recruitment is ramped up, and multiple "bottleneck" infrastructure projects are completed. 
  • Farcical situation caused by the guard being at the back of NGR trains, disability access being in the middle of the train, and half-arsed platform raising being in the middle of the train. 
  • Lack of Automatic Train Protection across most  of QR's CityTrain network - this means that getting rid of guards for more efficiency is a big problem. 
  • Inland QR long distance services are extremely poor value for money for the taxpayer.  
  • Lack of periodical (e.g. weekly) capping options on the go-card is a deterrent to weekend public transport use. 
Until Brisbane and SE Queensland has a train service as frequent and reliable as other major Australian capital cities, there is no way that anyone in QR or TMR should be paid a bonus. With QR's failures and poor efficiency, it should even be questioned as to why QR should not be privatised.  BrizCommuter will not be surprised if this happens within minutes of the LNP next gaining power in Queensland. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

2 Years of Rail Fail - No End in Sight!

QR's Rail Fail - Unhappy 2nd Birthday
Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail (#RailFail) started on the 30th September 2016, just before the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line. Rail Fail was a result of insufficient train drivers to operate the October 2016 timetable. The cause and ongoing delays in the resolution of Rail Fail have been caused by a combination of:
  • Driver recruitment being stopped, and driver trainers being reduced under the destructive LPN Newman government (who were allegedly planning to privatise NGR operated train services).
  • Organisation incompetence within QR, including ignoring external advice that the October 2016 timetables were not feasible. 
  • The Palaszczuk ALP government bumbling along with fixing the problem.
  • QR's board for signing off an EBU (with changes to drivers meal breaks) just before the Strachan inquiry into Rail Fail was handed down. 
  • The Rail Tram and Bus Union for trying to prevent external driver recruitment. 
  • Poor relationship between Department of Transport and Main Roads (TransLink) and QR.
  • The Citytrain Reponse Unit for doing, erm, not much. 
After 2 years of Rail Fail, the net gain in driver sits at little more than 40 drivers. The result of this highly unimpressive gain in drivers has resulted in:
  • The continuation of over 330 train services each week being cancelled.
  • Friday "Fail Day" with different timetables to Monday to Thursday, and more cancellations. 
  • Peak service gaps of up to 30 minutes (or 60 mins for the Doomben Line).
  • "Breaking" of the 15 minute daytime off-peak services (which was limited enough in the first place". 
  • Up to 60 minute off-peak service gaps.
  • The totally inadequate School Holiday Timetables with up to 60% of peak services being cancelled, up to 50% of off-peak services being cancelled, and "third world" hourly weekend services. This particular impact may now be resolved. 
  • The embarrassing Commonwealth Games timetables that resulted in abysmal train service for anyone that didn't use the Gold Coast Line. 
  • An increase in trains being expressed past stations to meet QR's KPIs. 
  • A decline in rail patronage from many stations, even more so when taking into account population growth. 
  • A decline in Brisbane's liveability ranking. 
  • Misleading excuses for delays and lack of transparency further decreasing QR's credibility.
  • Rail Fail may also be a contributory factor towards the slow rollout of NGR trains.  
Unfortunately, the Queensland Government, QR, and the Citytrain Response Unit are all refusing to let commuters known when Rail Fail will be fixed. This was originally touted by Citytrain Response Unit as being in late 2019, before this estimate went missing in action in subsequent publications. BrizCommuter is estimating full recovery of the October 2016 timetable sometime in 2020 - 4 years late. Even the mythical 2016 timetable is far behind the high frequency service frequencies that commuters in Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney have enjoyed for many years. Thus Brisbane and SE Queensland will continue to have a substandard train service that is damaging Brisbane's reputation  and liveability well into the next decade. If further driver recruitment is not sustained, and further trains are not ordered soon, then the opening of Cross River Rail will be the next major failure on the horizon, as the proposed service provision will not be possible. And lets not get started on NGR Fail!  

Monday, August 6, 2018

Cleveland Line - Brisbane's Misery Line

Cleveland Line - Off The Rails! 
Whilst Brisbane's public transport system continues into a death spiral, there is one Queensland Rail (QR) train line BrizCommuter hears more complaints about that any other - the Cleveland Line. What are the issues with the Cleveland Line?
  • Lacking infrastructure - single track sections between Manly and Cleveland, and lack of 3rd platform at Manly causes havoc with on-time running and track capacity. 
  • Train services are often "expressed" past stations, with excuses from QR designed to obfuscate, including "Congestion on the network" and "Heavy passenger loading" (in other words, we are bypassing stations so that the train can get to the terminus on-time and meet our KPIs). 
  • Overcrowded 3-car trains on some services, due to the ongoing NGR train delays and old EMU trains being beyond end of service life. 
  • Woeful 30 minute am peak gap between the 6:24am and 6:54am from Cleveland (Mon-Fri) due to the ongoing #RailFail. 
  • "Random" 30 minute gaps during the 15 minute daytime off-peak period, notably on Fridays. 
  • Daytime 15 minute off-peak period only goes as far as Cannon Hill.
  • Peak services are no better than every 15 minutes / 4tph (and in many cases far worse) for most stations. 
  • Notoriously early finish of the pm peak express service at 4:54pm from Central, before most people have left work!
  • 23 minute pm peak gap for passengers heading to stations between Manly and Cleveland in the pm peak (Mon-Thu).
  • Multiple 30 minute gaps between trains in the pm peak on Fridays. 
The Cleveland Line is so bad, that commuters has dubbed it Brisbane's "Misery Line". The train service is so infrequent and unreliable, that many of BrizCommuter's work colleagues who use the line have taken to using buses, or even driving instead. Some are even looking at leaving their jobs in Brisbane's CBD as they can't handle the terrible commute. It would be great if QR or politicians could tell commuters when the Cleveland Line's woes will be over, but don't count on it. The pain will continue for many years to come. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Taking a Break

You might have noticed that BrizCommuter has been a bit quiet lately. BrizCommuter has been concentrating on more productive life projects, instead of going round in circles complaining about Brisbane's never ending public transport woes. BrizCommuter will be back, but in the meantime, posts will be sporadic.

Before BrizCommuter heads into hibernation, what is the state of play?

  • Queensland Rail (QR) - is still managing to be the worst train operator in Oceania. The expected date for resolution for #RailFail seems to be state secret, which can only mean that it won't be resolved this decade. Both the previous LNP government and the current ALP government should hang their heads in shame on how they have handled QR. In fact, BrizCommuter thinks that the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) are running QR! Train service frequencies are now worse than Adelaide. Melbourne has a 500% more frequent train service on some weekends. The only thing that QR seem to be good at (sic) is obfuscation of reasons why trains are delayed - "congestion on the network" anyone? 
  • NGR - an absolutely disastrous project, poorly managed by the Department of Transport and Main Roads. The lack of disability access is a national disgrace, and not enough trains were ordered. Lets hope the the inquiry finds out who made the wrong decisions, and why they were made so that the same mistakes are never made again. A further little known problem, is that more trains need to be ordered very soon for service expansion and Cross River Rail, and there is zero progress as to how this order will proceed. 
  • Brisbane's Bus Network - still a confusing and inefficient mess, with multiple bus routes along the same corridors staring at different locations in the CBD. Maybe the Brisbane Metro might solve things?
  • Brisbane Metro - finally came good after the original ludicrous "rubber tyred metro" plan, but only really brings the busway to standard that it should have been built to in the first place. Unless you believe LNP spin, it is not as important as...
  • Cross River Rail - finally going ahead (unless a future LNP government cancel it again), but now cut price the point at which it is quite half-arsed. The tunnel needs to be designed to allow a railway line along the Trouts Rd Corridor/North West Transport Corridor to be connected. Without at least 40 extra trains, sustained driver recruitment, and multiple related infrastructure projects (including extra tracks on the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line and Cleveland Line), Cross River Rail is heading towards being a $5.4b Rail Fail. 
  • Unfair fares - the current fare system is broken. No weekly capping is causing a nose dive in weekend patronage. Increasing fares during #RailFail is not winning any friends. 
  • LNP loony policies - however bad the ALP are running the show, the LNP really don't get it. Every election they come out with a ridiculous unworkable idea such as 7-car trains, the BaT Tunnel, and Hyperloop to Bundaberg. The plan to privatise QR by stealth has cause major issues with the NGR and #RailFail. The LNPs anti-Cross River Rail stance continues despite  being a reason why they lost the last state election. 
  • Backlog of infrastructure projects - with the slow progress of major infrastructure projects in SE Queensland, there is now a huge (and expensive) backlog of public transport infrastructure projects required to keep pace with population growth and urban sprawl. These include the Salisbury to Beaudesert Line, Trouts Rd/North West Transport Corridor, rail to Caloundra and Maroochydore (CAMCOS), Gold Coast Line extension to Coolangatta Airport, Springfield Line extension to Ripley, Cleveland Line duplication, extra tracks on Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line corridor. 
See ya! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

QR's most unreliable service - 7:28am from Manly?

Queensland Rail (QR), currently the worst rail operator in Oceania, is copping even more flak than usual from long suffering Cleveland Line users. This is due to the 7:28am from Manly to Shorncliffe running late and/or being expressed past stations on what seems like an almost daily basis. The reliability is so bad, that commuters are suggesting that QR should just remove it from the timetable instead of advertising a train that regularly omits stopping at stations. Regular excuses from QR include the rather obscure "congestion on the network".

Unfortunately, the lack of investment in infrastructure from successive governments has left the Cleveland Line with insufficient infrastructure to reliable run a peak train service. Between Manly and Cleveland the line is single track with passing places. This allows for a service in each direction every 15 minutes, but with little operating margin for late running before a delayed service delays services in the opposite direction. To add to the problem, there are only 2 tracks at Manly, where the additional "inner all stations" services start and terminate every 15 minutes. The train blocks a track during the turn-back at Manly, with minimal operating margin to allow for late running. Thus it is very easy for the Cleveland Line service to fall to pieces during the peak period, which can cause subsequent delays on other lines. A 3rd track and platform at Manly by 2012 was recommended in the the Inner City Rail Capacity Study (2008), but was never constructed.
Inadequate Cleveland Line infrastructure. Source: QR NAG 046.

With QR being obsessed by on-time running KPIs, and to avoid the knock on effect of late running services, QR will often run services express past stations that they are scheduled to stop at, much to the annoyance of commuters. It is unknown if there is a particular issue with the provision of the empty service that forms the 7:28am from Manly. QR's ongoing lack of driver #RailFail, lack of trains, and unreliable EMU trains are also not helping matters.

With a projected 10tph am peak service on the Cleveland Line when Cross River Rail opens in the mid-2020s, work needs to start soon to duplicate the single track sections of the Cleveland Line, and provide improved intermediate turn-back facilities for services that are not running all the way to/from Cleveland. More drivers and trains will also be required. The clock is ticking!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Sunshine Coast Line Duplication - Reality Check

Limited passing places
on the Sunshine Coast Line
Another week in Queensland, and yet another week in petty politics preventing SE Queensland from moving forwards from being a urban backwater. This week, the federal Turnbull LNP government has offered to part fund ($390m) the much needed duplication of the Sunshine Coast Line from Beerburrum to Landsborough, expecting the state Palaszczuk ALP government to come to the table with more funding. At the same time, the Palaszczuk ALP government is having to 100% fund the more critical (and far more expensive) Cross River Rail (CRR) as the Turnbull LNP government is refusing to fund it. This is despite the Turnbull LNP government offering to find similar projects in other states including the barely planned Melbourne Airport Rail Link. As part of this childish funding battle, there has been debate as to whether Cross River Rail (CRR) is a prerequisite for the Sunshine Coast Line duplication. Here is a BrizCommuter's reality check on the situation.

  • The Sunshine Coast Line currently runs approx. 3tph in the am peak, with these services inclusive to the Caboolture Line's 9tph (maximum currently possible is 10tph with trains every 6 minutes). The Caboolture Line services interleave with Redcliffe Peninsula Line services between Northgate and Brisbane's CBD. 
  • Off-peak services on the Sunshine Coast Line are currently every 1.5 hours, and every 30 minutes on the Caboolture Line. Train paths are also required for freight traffic. A duplication would allow more of the Caboolture services to run to/from Landsborough or Nambour as long as there are enough drivers. 
  • With duplication, but without CRR, or ETCS L2 signalling, the Sunshine Coast Line could run more peak services that currently start/terminate at Caboolture. The maximum realistically possible would be 5tph to/from Landsborough, a train every 12 minutes. This would cause increased crowding on alternate Caboolture Line services. It would also require more trains and drivers, which are currently both in severe shortage for many years to come. 
  • With duplication and ETCS L2 signalling (across QR's network), but without CRR, the Sunshine Coast Line and Caboolture Line could both have service improvements. Up to 12tph could be operated on the Caboolture Line, of which realistically 4 to 6tph could run to/from Landsborough on the Sunshine Coast Line in the am peak. 
  • Due to capacity contraints (4 tracks) between Northgate and Brisbane's CBD, CRR would not add any capacity to the above scenario. CRR's 2026 service plan claims 27tph would be split between Caboolture/Sunshine Coast and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines, but BrizCommuter doubts that this is realistically possible (and BrizCommuter is usually right). 
  • If the Caboolture and Sunshine Coast Lines were connected to a new rail line along the Trouts Road / North West Transport Corridor towards Brisbane's CBD, then 24tph could run to Caboolture. A significant proportion of these services (such as 8tph) could run on the Sunshine Coast Line. Preferably by this time, a train line serving Caloundra and Maroochydore (CAMCOS) would have been constructed. 
So realistically, Cross River Rail is not required to increase am peak capacity from 3tph to 5 or 6tph on the post-duplicated Sunshine Coast Line. ETCS L2 signalling, more trains and more drivers would help alleviate added crowding on Caboolture Line services which can only be increased by approx. 20%. For significant (>20%) capacity increases on the Caboolture Line, and to allow high frequency (>6tph) peak services to Caloundra and Maroochydore, a new train line along the Trouts Road / North West Transport Corridor would be required. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

4 Years of Pain - QR's 3-car-maggedon Continues

No more space on this 3-car train!
Back on January 2014, BrizCommuter reported on overcrowded 3-car services that were introduced in the new (at the time) timetable. This was due to a chronic lack of trains. Commuters were promised that as soon as the NGR trains were in service (originally touted for late 2015), that the 3-car services would be replaced by 6-car services in order of priority based on overcrowding. Unfortunately, despite a handful of NGR trains now being in service, BrizCommuter is only aware of one 3-car service (7:25am from Ferny Grove) that has been replaced by a 6-car service (well, apart from on Fridays when this service has been axed). 4 years after the January 2014 timetables, there are still approximately 19 peak services formed from 3-car sardine cans - with services on the Ferny Grove, Cleveland, Sunshine Coast, and Shorncliffe Lines often being complained about.

Just to make things worse, it seems that Queensland Rail (QR) have already started to withdraw the geriatric EMU trains from service, making it harder to eliminate all of the overcrowded 3-car services. It is not clear if the withdrawn trains have reliability issues so bad that withdrawing them was the most ethical decision?

The lack of action in eliminating the 3-car services has been raised by Rail Back on Track in social media, and does not seem to have had any response from QR, the Queensland Government, or Department of Transport and Main Roads. This is yet another issue causing pain for commuters in which QR are keeping the long suffering travelling public in the dark. 4 years and counting to solve a "temporary" problem is far from acceptable.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

QR's Rail Fail - Is the RTBU shooting itself in the foot?

QR - about to be consigned to history?
Things are clearly not going well with the recovery from Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail. After claims in early 2017 that the axed services would be restored (with driver overtime) by early 2019, 2020 is now looking more likely, possibly even 2021. QR, CityTrain Response Unit (CRU), and the ALP Palaszczuk government are all tight lipped on when the full October 2016 timetable will be restored, leaving long suffering commuters in the dark. It is quite clear that the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) are not helping matters when it comes to service recovery by their opposition to external driver recruitment. Questions that need to be asked to QR, CRU, the Queensland Government, and the RTBU, are:

  • Why was a new EBA (which included internal recruitment) signed off by the QR Board just before the Strachan report into Rail Fail?
  • What else in the EBA will affect Rail Fail recovery? (Hint: drivers break times). 
  • Despite the Strachan inquiry recommending external recruitment, why have no drivers without previous QR experience been trained?
  • Does the RTBU and QR care about the external driver applicants stuck in job limbo? (Some are now in serious financial difficulties)
  • Does the RTBU care about long suffering commuters, and the damage to QLD economy and reputation due to Rail Fail?
  • When will there be a consistent Monday to Friday timetable?
  • When will commuters cease to be inflicted by reduced service holiday timetables, and hourly weekend train services? 
  • When will the full October 2016 timetable be restored?
  • When will urgently required services improvements (such as improved pm peak services and 15 min off-peak on sector 1 lines) occur?
There is growing public resentment towards the ALP Palaszczuk government, QR, and RTBU, due to #RailFail dragging on for years. It is increasingly likely that QR will be rapidly privatised by the LNP when they next gain power. Of course, this was the LNP's original plan, as the seeds of Rail Fail were sown by driver recruitment freezes under the Newman government. It seems that if the RTBU continue to show contempt towards the travelling public, they will be shooting themselves in the foot, as their ALP bedfellows will loose power, and QR will be consigned to history.  

Monday, April 23, 2018

North West Transport Corridor - The Missing Link

Source: DoTMR
This isn't the first time that BrizCommuter has written about the need for the Trouts Road / North West Transport(ation) Corridor for rail, but this blog post goes into more detail. This reserved corridor stretches through Brisbane's Northern suburbs between Everton Park and Carseldine. Apart from a mention in Connecting SEQ 2031 under the state ALP Bligh government, there has been very little mention of this transport corridor in politics until recently. Recent mention has been related to the federal LPN Turnbull government's suggestion of a fast rail link between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast called "North Coast Connect". So what are the advantages of building a rail line along Trouts Road / North West Transport Corridor?
  • 100% increases in rail capacity from Caboolture and the Sunshine Coast into Brisbane (up to 24tph). This would also allow a 100% increase in rail capacity from the Redcliffe Peninsula Line and/or the Shorncliffe Line (up to 24tph). This cannot be realised by Cross Rail Rail alone due to the 4 track bottleneck on the existing North Coast Line between Albion and Northgate (which only allows for an additional 3tph to Caboolture and the Sunshine Coast). 
  • Faster journey times between Caboolture and the Sunshine Coast to Roma Street due to an approx. 5km shorter, straighter, and faster alignment.
  • High frequency public transport to many Brisbane Northern suburbs (Everton Park, Stafford Heights, McDowell, Chermside West) currently devoid of high frequency public transport. 
  • Allows for direct rail services between the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. 
  • Would improve the business cases for Sunshine Coast Line duplication and rail to Caloundra and Maroochydore (CAMCOS). 
  • All of the above would reduce pressure on roads across Brisbane's Northside and the Bruce Highway. 24tph with 50% full trains = 10,000 cars off the road = 5 car lanes/hour/direction. 
There have been some suggestions of building a freeway along this corridor. This is poor value for money concept as there would nowhere for the cars to go once they get the Samford Road or Wardell Street, over than already congested roads that would be difficult to upgrade. BrizCommuter would also debate if there is enough room for both a train line and freeway along the corridor (especially if more than 2 tracks are required) without requiring further property resumptions or building a double deck rail/road structure. There would however be space for local access roads, in particular to station car parks and drop off zones. An adjacent cycleway could also be easily provisioned. 

Suggested track map for the Trouts Rd Line
So where would the line go (heading South to North)?
  • Ideally, the line would break off from the Cross River Rail (CRR) tunnel just North of Roma Street, in the vicinity of Countess Street. It is vital that tunnel connections are created during the construction of CRR, as adding them later would force the temporary closure of CRR for months (as there are no track crossovers to allow CRR services to turnback at Roma Street). Frequency of CRR and Trouts Road services would be well matched, allowing for all or most services to through run, though this would make the rebuilt Exhibition station a bit of a white elephant. 
  • The first station heading North would be at QUT Kelvin Grove, adjacent to Kelvin Grove Road. This serves a large trip generator. 
  • The next station would be at Alderley, allowing for interchange with the Ferny Grove Line. The most ideal location would be just North north of Alderley station which would require some industrial and residential resumption. 
  • The line would then climb out of the tunnel, with a station at Stafford Rd in Everton Park. Due to the line having to cross Kedron Brook, the exact alignment here would need some detailed analysis.  
  • The line would then climb up and continue along the Trouts Road corridor, with stations at Flockton Street, Hamilton Road, Albany Creek Road, and Beams Road. The alignment is fairly hilly, so a reasonable amount of earthworks would be required. 
  • North of Beams Road, the line would need to be routed to connect with the existing North Coast (Caboolture) Line. Increasing development makes things tricky here, but an elevated route over Gympie Road would probably most cost effective. 
  • The line would connect with the existing North Coast Line to the South East of Strathpine station via a grade separated junction, allowing for via Trouts Road services to run to/from Caboolture and Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Peninsula Line services to run via Northgate. A 4th track would need to be added between Strathpine and Lawnton. 
  • Preferably, the Trouts Road Line would have 4 tracks between the tunnel portal at Everton Park and Beams Road, allowing for express services to overtake all stations services in both directions. Ideally, Sunshine Coast services would run express, and Caboolture services would serve all stations. Alternatively Sunshine Coast and Caboolture services could run express, and local service starting at Strathpine would service all stations. However, this latter service pattern would require additional reversing facilities at Strathpine, which are complicated by the directional uses of each track. This would also reduce the maximum frequency of services that could serve Caboolture and Sunshine Coast (to approx. 16tph). 
  • Stations would have an optimal mix of car parking, local feeder buses, kiss'n'ride drop off, and active transport access (walking/bike). With a 4 track layout, a central island platform with inner local and lateral express tracks would be most preferable at stations between Everton Park and Beams Road (see suggested track map). Stations would be designed to allow for up to 9-car trains in the future. 
  • Alternative options that would need a cost/benefit analysis are for a tunnel routing via Ashgrove and Enoggera, or for 2 stations at Felstead Street and Rode Road instead of 3 at Stafford Road, Flockton Street, and Hamilton Road. 3 tracks may slightly lower costs, but would prevent express services from overtaking all stations services in the counter-peak direction. With 3 tracks, two side platforms would be required, with a centre express track. If not connected to CRR, a dedicated underground terminus could be built at Roma Street (or elsewhere in the CBD), but this would considerably add to the cost, and cause an inefficient North/South train service imbalance compared to through routing all CRR services. Using the existing Ferny Grove Line as an alternative to tunnelling between Roma Street and Alderley would have negative implications on capacity and journey time, and is thus a poor option. 
So what is required to make this happen?
  • Political competence, forward thinking, bi-partisan thinking, and funding. These are all currently sadly lacking in Queensland. 
  • Urgently change the design of CRR to allow for a junction near Countess Street (without having to temporarily close CRR for months). 
  • Further route safeguarding, especially in the Enoggera/Alderley area, and between Beams Road and the North Coast Line. 
Construction of the North West Transport Corridor / Trouts Road Line is critical for allowing "fast trains to the Sunshine Coast", significantly increasing capacity on the Sunshine Coast, Caboolture, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines, and improving public transport to the Northern suburbs of Brisbane. It is also important that provision is made for this line to connect into the proposed CRR tunnels, otherwise CRR will need to be closed for months to allow for this work to occur. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

GC2018 - Review and to the Future

Shuttle buses - not a success
GC2018 Transport Review

Now that the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) has ended, how did the transport plan fare?
  • Light Rail / G:link - with all but 1 tram in service, the up to 6 minute frequency was successful at transport large amounts of passengers with few delays or excessive queues. 
  • Shuttle Bus services - these were more embarrassing than the amateurish closing ceremony. Whilst things did improve during the games, loading (and at times unloading) procedures were poorly organised and implemented. The special shuttle buses for people with disabilities were also reported as having serious operational issues. 
  • High frequency scheduled bus services - these were generally popular and successful, though multiple successive full buses occurred before/after some events. Light and heavy rail is much better at moving large numbers of people efficiently.
  • QR's Gold Coast Line service - the 6 to 8tph train service was successful at moving large numbers of passengers with few reports of overcrowding (probably helped by low capacity shuttle buses feeding it), and no serious delays. 
  • Rest of QR's CityTrain network - due to lack of train drivers #RailFail, reduced services on all other train lines resulted in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast having an an even more infrequent and dysfunctional public transport system than usual. This will continue for another week. 
  • M1 - this was often busy but still moving. Much of this was due to drivers avoiding the M1 like the plague. 
Whilst many elements of the transport plan were successful, the entire GC2018 transport plan cannot be considered a success due to the rest of SE Queensland having significantly reduced train services, and the epic shuttle bus failures.

The Future

There is no question that the improved service frequencies on the Gold Coast Light Rail (G:link) and QR's Gold Coast Line provided to be very popular with the travelling public. In fact, many Gold Coasters will be disappointed with the return to normality. SE Queensland urgently needs to move towards having a train network with a high frequency 7-days a week off-peak service throughout most of the network (just like in Sydney, Perth, and Melbourne). What is required for this to happen?
  • More drivers - it is unlikely that #RailFail will be resolved until the next decade, and it will taken further years of sustained driver recruitment until 15 minute off-peak services can rolled out network wide. This needs to be high priority. 
  • More trains - whilst providing off-peak services is less of an issue than peak services, the current NGR order is insufficient to even maximise use of the existing train network prior to Cross River Rail. 
  • Improved infrastructure - extra tracks on part of the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line corridor and Sunshine Coast Line would be a minimum requirement for network wide 15 minute off-peak service. Cross River Rail, Trouts Rd/NE Transportation Corridor Line, Cleveland Line duplication, Salisbury to Beaudesert Line, extension to Ripley, a new train line to Caloundra and Maroochydore, and extensions to the Gold Coast Light Rail are also required to cope with the growing population of SE Queensland. 
  • Improved bus connectivity - move to bus feeder networks. This won't work until the train frequency is half-decent. 
  • Improved political competence, co-operation, and governance - none of the above will happen without the end to pathetic tit-for-tat politics and co-operation between various levels of government. Public transport governance needs a serious change for SE Queensland if any progress is to be made. 
Some other lessons that need to be learnt for future sporting events in Queensland, Australia, and the rest of the world (please read Birmingham, as your stadium for the 2022 Commonwealth Games is also in a mediocre location):
  • Ideally venues should be constructed within easy walking distance of high capacity and high frequency public transport - most preferably heavy rail. The London Olympic Park got it right being served by over 100tph! Shuttle bus services and associated Park'n'Rides should be avoided as being the primary method of transport to a venue.
  • If shuttle buses are required, then dedicated infrastructure needs to be provided to allow this to efficient - allowing for grade separated flows of buses and pedestrians, and sufficient nearby places for buses to queue. Look at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium as a good example. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A "SHIT" week due for Brisbane commuters

With the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) drawing to a close, Brisbane commuters are still in for yet another week of commuting misery. Due to Queensland Rail's (QR) ongoing lack of driver induced #RailFail, QR will be running a School Holiday Interim Timetable (SHIT) during the working week after GC2018 has finished. Previous iterations of the SHIT have not gone down well with commuters, with lengthened commutes and overcrowding on some services. This time from Tuesday 17th April (inclusive) to Friday 20th April, it is not the school holidays anymore. Thus a full compliment of commuters will be using QR's CityTrain network, whilst the reduced service SHIT is in operation. So what are the issues with QR's SHIT?
  • Peak services reduced by up to 60% - this will result in overcrowding and possibly full trains on most train lines. 
  • Peak express services eliminated - reduced am peak, and no pm peak express services on the Ipswich and Cleveland Lines will significantly lengthen commutes, already affected by reduced frequency. 
  • Off-peak service reduced by up to 50% - off-peak trains every 30 minutes - worse than all other cities in Oceania. 
  • Broken bus connections - due to services reductions, and different clock face times, bus connections will be broken. 
  • Commuters still being charged peak fares for a heavily reduced peak train service. Can commuters launch a class action against TransLink?
Unfortunately, QR's #RailFail is still causing severe pain for Brisbane and SE Queensland commuters. Given that both QR and the next to useless CityTrain Response Unit refuse to mention when it will be resolved (originally stated at early 2019), expect years of pain to continue. The ongoing mess can be blamed on QR and Department of Transport and Main Roads for lack of competent forward planning, as well as political and union interference. At a time when GC2018 has shown that high frequency public transport on the Gold Coast can be successful, QR's inability to offer this to commuters for years to come makes its future look very bleak. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

GC2018 - Disgrace Shuttle Continues

Only 300m to go!
 With the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) now into its 5th day of competition, BrizCommuter takes a look to see how transport is coping.

Due to the scare campaign ahead of the games, the M1 has surprisingly managed quite well. It has been busy at times, but traffic still moving at between 90-100kph. Maybe that second M1 isn't so urgent after all?

Queensland Rail's Gold Coast Line service has been quite successful, with the 8tph service managing the crowds well. Reliability has been reasonably good, with only a few delays circa 15 minutes. However, it does seem that TransLink are not reporting all of the known Gold Coast Line delays, and have been caught out changing the wording to not mention the Gold Coast Line (e.g. a delay on a "Domestic Airport to Varsity Lakes" service was shown as a delay on a "Domestic Airport to Roma Street" service).

Unfortunately, due to the enhanced Gold Coast Line services, the rest of QR's network is suffering. Overcrowding has been reported on multiple lines due to the reduced peak services. Hourly weekend services have been a great annoyance to Brisbane workers, and also those who want to connect to Gold Coast Line services to get to GC2018 on weekends. In fact despite the disastrous shuttle bus services (later in this blog post), the "drive/park'n'ride/horrific queue" option was still faster than getting the train if you had to connect to/from another train line in Brisbane. A mini-meltdown late on Sunday evening further exacerbated the pain of hourly train services.

The Sunshine Coast Line has also been affected by unreliable ICE trains. Sunshine Coast Line passengers are also not happy with toilet free EMU trains on the long distance services (as the toilet equipped trains have been sent to the Gold Coast Line).

Light Rail (Trams) 
The Gold Coast Light Rail (G: Link) has been dealing with very heavy loading, and suffering from overcrowding, and service bunching as a result. However, BrizCommuter is not aware of any delays of more than 15 minutes (including queuing or extended waits due to full trams). Whilst an increase in frequency from every 6 to 4 minutes would have eliminated these issues, it is doubtful that purchasing more trams would have been a good use of money in the long term.

Shuttle Buses
Only 100m to go!
Unfortunately, the shuttle buses have been where the GC2018 transport plan has fallen on its face. Things haven't improved much since the 2 hour shuttle bus queues at the Opening Ceremony. On Sunday night at Carrara stadium there were social media reports of up to 90 minute waits for Broadbeach and Yatala Park'n'Ride buses. This is despite the stadium emptying gradually over the last hour or so of the Athletics session. There has even been a report of a bus driver going the wrong way and having to be directed to Yatala by passengers. Reports of 60 minute waits at Coomera Sports Centre after the Gymnastics have also been seen on social media.

The unloading and loading procedures were observed to be highly inefficient. Given that Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane manages buses with minimal queues every week, this is very disappointing. Even rollercoaster operators from Movie World could show the shuttle bus staff a thing or two in efficiency! Just in case any GC2018 transport organisers are reading, this is how you operate buses efficiently:
  • Multiple queueing bays/pens for each bus route, each adjacent to a bus parking bay
  • Keep each queueing bay/pen full of at least enough people to fill the next bus 
  • Load buses from each bay simultaneously
  • If buses have two sets of doors, load via both sets of doors. 
  • Have buses in constant supply, so that each parking bay is filled quickly by the next bus (short headway)
  • Buses moving in convoy can often help with the above (i.e. if you have 3 bays, the 3 buses arrive and depart in convoy). 
  • Have staff who understand efficient operations. 
With 7 days to go of GC2018, there needs to be an urgent review of shuttle bus operations. Shuttle bus delays have ruined an otherwise good day for many visitors and staff. Some visitors are avoiding buying tickets to more events as they just can't deal with the shuttle bus queues! 

A Few Other Thoughts
  • Many businesses on the Gold Coast are complaining about lack of patronage. Unfortunately the reliance of Park'n'Ride/shuttle bus topology, and the Gold Coast Line as a backbone, means that passengers bypass almost all businesses.  
  • The shuttle bus chaos shows that having a stadium beyond easy walking distance of high capacity public transport (i.e. heavy rail) is not a good idea. The 2.3km walk between Carrara Stadium and Nerang Station may be fine for fit young and middle aged people, but for families, the elderly, and staff/volunteers that have just finished a 10 hour shift, it is too much.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

GC2018 - Disgrace Shuttle

GC2018 Opening Ceremony - Transport Nightmare
Once again, QLD authorities have proven that they couldn't organise a kids birthday, after a major transport meltdown at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) Opening Ceremony. More on that later. As of the evening of first of day of events, how is the GC2018 Transport Plan going?

  • Enhanced Gold Coast Line services have been running well, with only minor service delays, and minimal reported crowding. 
  • Shuttle bus "meltdown" at the Opening Ceremony - not enough buses, poorly organised sequential boarding, poorly organised queues, and late start of buses before the event despite punters being told to get there early. 2 hour queues were reported after the opening Ceremony, resulting in upset kids, elderly people collapsing, and many missing last connections back in Brisbane. What a disaster!
  • Confusing and sold out Park 'n' Rides - some of the Park 'n' Rides have sold out long before events, providing visitors with limited and inconvenient options to get to some events. Coomera Sports Centre is only serviced by one Park 'n' Ride in Helensvale (already sold out for some events), forcing all other visitors to have to use the train and then a bus to get to the venue. Additionally, that Park 'n' Ride is on the opposite side of Coomera to Brisbane. Go figure?
  • Confusion over late night services in Brisbane - conflicting information from Queensland Rail, TransLink, and Get Set For The Games on the existence of late night buses, in particular services paralleling train lines (after the last train). Still a mystery if they actually exist or not! 
  • Reports of overcrowded trains on the Ipswich and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines - due to QR's (lack of train driver) #RailFail induced service reductions before, during, and after GC2018. Things will only get worse as workers come back from the Easter break. 
So, as predicted by BrizCommuter in late 2016, things are not going too well. To add insult to injury Commonwealth Games boss Mark Peters was stated as saying that "anyone expecting perfect public transport during the event is ‘a lunatic’". Visitors are not expecting perfection, but there is no question that a relatively small stadium (Carrara, 35,000 capacity) should be able to handle crowds which larger football stadiums around the world (including Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane) handle with minimal queues, week in, and week out. After 6 years of preparation, the Opening Ceremony transport situation was an international embarrassment to Australia and Queensland. At least Transport Minister Mark Bailey apologised for the issue. Lets hope that things improve pronto!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

GC2018 - QR to Add New Sporting Events!

GC2018 Medals
Due to Queensland Rail's (QR) #RailFail, NGR Fail, and pretty much everything else fail, here are a list of additional competitive sporting events for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018):

  • Waiting for Train Endurance Marathon - in this event, competitors see how long they can wait for a QR train to turn up. Sunshine Coast Line commuters are hotly tipped to be Gold Medal winners, with gaps between trains averaging 2 hours. Though after Saturday's cancellation of an hourly service, Redcliffe Line passengers may be rank outsiders. Disqualification occurs if the competitor gives up and drives to their destination instead. 
  • Waiting for Connecting Bus Endurance Marathon - another event that only involves burning energy through boredom. The likely Gold Medal winners are those who have to wait 100 minutes for a broken rail to bus connection at Landsborough. Disqualification occurs if the competitor ends up covered in cobwebs. 
  • Stationary Queueing (AKA 0m Sprint) - Due to the 35,000 capacity Carrara stadium emptying out onto a train line with a capacity of less than 7,000 passengers per hour, there may be a lot of people taking part in this event at the same time. Disqualification occurs if the competitor moves an inch. 
  • Long Distance Bladder Holding - With the combination of unaccessible NGR train toilets, broken train toilets, trains without toilets, hourly trains, and locked station toilets, there may be many in the running for this pelvic floor muscle quenching event. Disqualification occurs if the competitor has a sneaky pee behind the station bike storage bins, uses a nappy, or wets themselves.
  • Station to Work 400m Sprint - this may be jointly won by thousands of Brisbane commuters who are still unaware that their peak train services have been reduced by 50% for nearly three weeks. Disqualification occurs if the competitor actually understands all 4 different timetables for rail commuters in April. There are likely to be very few disqualifications. 
  • Spin and Delusion Ball - this will go to the first politician or authority to declare the GC2018 Transport Plan a "success", and could be won by the Department of Transport and Main Roads / TransLink, Peter Beattie, Kate Jones MP, Queensland Rail, Transport Minister Mark Bailey MP, or Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk MP. Disqualification occurs if the competitor truthfully admits that SE Queensland public transport is a complete basket case. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

AHRC - NGR Trains are Illegal

An "illegal" QR NGR train
After many weeks and months of haggling between various interested parties, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has handed down the final verdict on Queensland Rail's New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains.

Exempted until Oct 2020:
  • Availability of a manual assisted boarding device (ramp) at any accessible entrance.
Not exempted:
  • Width of access path adjacent to the unisex accessible toilet module in the MB car.
  • Width of access path adjacent to an allocated space in the accessible cars.
  • Access path is only available at a single door.
  • Extent of access path from the entrance of the single assisted boarding door to all allocated spaces and priority seats in the accessible cars.
  • Extent of access path from the entrance of the single assisted boarding door to the unisex accessible toilet module.
  • Availability of unisex accessible toilet to passengers using wheelchairs and mobility aids.
  • Ability for passengers in wheelchairs or mobility aids to enter, position their aids and exit the toilet module.
  • Dimension from the centre line of the pan to the far-side wall (of toilet). 
Quite clearly, this is a major embarrassment for the Queensland Government, and timing just ahead of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (itself likely to be a transport nightmare) cannot be worse. 

Both sides of politics need to be blamed for the mess. The NGR trains were ordered under the destructive LNP Newman government, by the Department of Transport and Main Roads. They were ordered non-complaint with Disability Access legislation, as well as being designed without a guard location which had to be added at a later stage. It is rumoured that the NGR's were to be used under a stealth rail privatisation plan, which ended when the Newman government unexpectedly (to them) lost power. The ALP Palaszczuk government has had its head in the sand in respect to solving the problem, hoping that spin and bluster could somehow get them out of the hole dug by the previous government. 

There is no question that a Commission of Inquiry must be held to get to the bottom of the disaster that is the NGR project. It also needs to be questioned as to why Department of Transport and Main Roads are still running this project, and also that public transport governance in SE Queensland needs a serious overhaul. The implications of the NGR design failures may even result in Cross River Rail opening with insufficient trains

The big question is whether the ruling means that NGR trains will be withdrawn from service, possibly even before the Commonwealth Games? The AHRC cannot force the NGRs to be removed from services. However, it may be theoretically possible for someone launch a High Court injunction to stop the non-compliant trains from running. BrizCommuter thinks it would be very unlikely for this to occur, as it would further embarrass Queensland and Australia ahead of the largest sporting event in Australia for a decade. Unlikely, but still possible. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Super Saturday, Not So Super Train Service

Not so super! Source: meme centre
TransLink have announced Easter Saturday (31st March 2018) as being "Super Saturday" in Brisbane and SE Queensland. These events include:
  • Queen's Baton Relay
  • Festival 2018
  • Brisbane Roar vs Central Coast Mariners
  • Brisbane Lions vs Melbourne Demons
  • GC2018 Open Ceremony Dress Rehearsal
  • Doomben Races
With all of these events for "Super Saturday", you think that there would be a "Super" train service? Of course not. "Super Saturday" falls on the second day of the Commonwealth Games Rail Fail Timetable - well the first of three confusing timetables to be precise. This "third world" hourly timetable on all lines is thanks to Queensland Rail's (QR) "everlasting #RailFail" which has no end in sight. Whilst Brisbane is languishing with trains every 60 minutes, Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne are running trains every 15 minutes or better. Even tiny little Wellington in New Zealand is running double the frequency of train services.

As well as making it very difficult to get to these events, the hourly train services are causing woe for commuters (including healthcare staff) trying to get to work, and quite likely damaging CBD businesses that are getting less trade. It is also causing damage to Brisbane and SE Queensland's reputation on the world stage. In the mean time the Transport Minister Mark Bailey has been stated in the news as claiming that he is "confident rail won't fail during the @GC2018" It already has failed Mr Bailey! Are you on a different planet to reality? 

PS: Can QR please give the "illegal" NGRs a wash before GC2018, they look like they haven't had a wash since they left India! 

Friday, March 16, 2018

April Timetable Confusion!

Nine April timetables just for
the Ferny Grove Line!
A wave of confusion is taking over SE Queensland commuters ahead of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018). In most cities hosting sporting events, extra train services are operated on top of the existing timetable. Unfortunately in the Banana State, in the midst of #RailFail, NGR Fail, and everything else Fail, we will be seeing an overall 6% reduction in train services to handle the 6 million increase in journeys. As only the Gold Coast Line will be seeing service enhancements, many train lines will be seeing a 50% cut in train services. Just to add to the confusion, commuters will be faced with multiple different Queensland Rail (QR) timetables during April.

Here is an example of one line - the Ferny Grove Line:

  • 30th March to 2nd April - Easter timetable - "third world" hourly services. 
  • 3rd to 4th April - Rehashed Summer Holiday Interim Timetable (SHIT) with 50% services reduction during parts of the peak and off-peak periods.
  • 5th to 15th April - GC2018 Timetable with all services terminating at Roma Street, 50% service reductions during parts of the peak and off-peak periods, and abysmal hourly weekend services.
  • 16th to 20th April - Return of the SHIT - expect severe overcrowding as the school holidays and GC2018 will have ended. 
  • 21st April onwards - #RailFail Timetable - with 330(ish) axed train services, and the weekly joy of "Friday Fail Day".
It is no surprise that commuters will be very confused as to how to get to work, go out, or even get to the Games with so many timetable changes. Some of BrizCommuter's work colleagues have given up, and will just drive instead, which somewhat defeats the purpose of public transport. Others have just taken time off, fleeing the "State that political competence forgot". BrizCommuter has received reports of GC2018 spectators regretting getting tickets to events as the public transport situation is so bad, especially on weekends with hourly connecting train services on most lines. Even some GC2018 volunteers are thinking of quitting at the last minute due to the looming transport nightmare. Adding to the mess, is that the popular park and ride at Beenleigh is not bookable, and cannot guarantee spaces. The recent 8 hour suspension of the Ferny Grove Line after some light rain short circuited a cable, and doors "falling off" NGR trains is not exactly filling commuters with confidence. 

As predicted by BrizCommuter back in November 2016, the transport situation for GC2018 is likely to be a disaster. Only a stroke of luck will avoid total embarrassment for Queensland and Australia. It would be hoped that international embarrassment will provide a kick up the posterior to Queensland politicians to sort out SE Queenland's failing public transport system. but they are so stuck in the Land of Spin that is unfortunately unlikely. Whilst politicians will hail a "success", comments of QR and TransLink's social media will tell the real story. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Will QR's Rail Fail impact Cross River Rail's opening?

Cross River Rail's proposed
am peak service pattern (2026)
Cross River Rail (CRR) is currently expected to open in 2024. Queensland Rail have been quoted as saying that the current #RailFail due to lack of drivers will not be resolved (i.e. restoration of the full Oct 2016 timetable) until 2020. BrizCommuter correctly predicted the Commonwealth Games Rail Fail back in November 2016. This may be a long shot, but BrizCommuter is predicting that the knock on effects of Rail Fail and New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) Fail will also affect the opening of Cross River Rail in the mid-2020s. What is BrizCommuter's reasoning behind this soothsaying?
  • The October 2016 timetable will not be restored until 2019 or even 2020. Considerably more rail services, and thus more drivers need to be added to optimise the existing (pre-CRR network) - examples being 15 minute off-peak service on Springfield, Ipswich, Caboolture, and Redcliffe Lines, and improvements to pm peak services on almost all train lines (Cleveland Line being the most critical). 
  • The proposed (2026) service pattern for Cross River Rail will require a considerable increase in peak (26 more tph in the am peak) services, as well as additonal off-peak services. This will also require a further considerable increase in train drivers. 
  • Not enough NGR trains have been ordered to optimise the train services on the existing (pre-CRR network). In fact approximately 13 additional 6-car trains are required to provide adequate extra services on the existing rail network as well as replace all EMU, ICE, and unreliable SMU200 trains. 
  • Approximately 29 additional 6-car trains (thus 42 in total) will be required to provide the extra train services proposed for CRR.
  • Given the severe issues with the design of the NGR trains, and the Palaszczuk government's "Buy Queensland" policy, an add on order for extra NGR trains is looking increasingly unlikely. Thus a whole new procurement and construction process will be required, delaying the addition of additional trains onto QR's network. This design and procurement process would realistically need to start before the end of 2019 if the additional trains are to be in service in time for CRR's opening.  
  • The risk of a future LNP government repeating destructive policies, such as driver recruitment freezes, or attempting to privatise QR by stealth before the opening of CRR. 
  • Multiple additional infrastructure projects are required to meet CRR's proposed service pattern - including additional tracks along parts of the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line corridor, duplication of the Cleveland Line's single track sections, additional train stabling, turnback facility at Salisbury or Acacia Ridge, and optimised track layout at Kippa-Ring. None of these projects have been started or funding sourced. 
  • Poor public transport governance under Department of Transport and Main Roads. 
Without sustained driver (and train crew) recruitment throughout the next 6 to 8 years, timely orders for approximately 42 additional 6-car trains, and multiple infrastructure projects, it will be difficult to achieve to proposed service patterns for Cross River Rail when it opens in the mid-2020s. Failures in any of these areas will result in a repeat of Rail Fail where there were insufficient drivers and trains to operate the October 2016 timetable after the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line. This would result in sub-optimal train services on both the existing train network and on train lines that that will run through CRR. Given Queensland's track record of blundering transport planning, BrizCommuter is feeling rather pessimistic. You heard it here first - #CRRrailfail. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

NGR Denied!

Mothballed NGRs eating grass at Redbank
Can things get even worse for Queensland Rail's (QR) New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains? Yes. The disastrous NGR project, which was run by Department of Transport and Main Roads (and not QR) has taken another turn into the depths of disappointment. As BrizCommuter readers will be aware, the LNP Newman government ordered trains that have toilet cubicles too narrow to fit wheelchairs, and are thus in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act. After a few years of sitting on their heels, the ALP Palaszczuk government decided to modify the trains, by adding a compliant toilet in nearly half of the trains, and annoyingly remove toilets from the the remainder of the fleet. Despite being "illegal", the trains were arrogantly entered into passenger service anyway, with the requirement for 8 trains to be in service for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018). A temporary exemption by the Australian Human Rights Condition was applied for. Today, this exemption was turned down. The Queensland Government has two weeks to respond. So what will happen?
  • Will QR continue to run the trains in service until there is a legal challenge?
  • Will the NGRs have to be withdrawn from service before the Commonwealth Games - turning GC2018 Rail Fail into GC2018 Epic Rail Fail?
  • Will the NGRs have to be completely re-designed and re-built?
  • Will completely new train designs have to be ordered for Cross River Rail? (Hint, procurement will need to start soon)
  • Will more NGR's be put out to pasture at Redbank?
  • Will the geriatric and unreliable EMU trains have to keep going for years to come?
  • Will frustrated commuters ever see the end of overcrowded 3-car services due to lack of trains?
There is no question that there needs to be a Commission of Inquiry into the huge botch that is the NGR project, and those that made seriously bad design decisions need to be held accountable for their actions. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Closure Confusion

As is expected from purveyors of incompetence - TransLink, they have dropped another clanger over the information provided for this weekend's mass line closure through Brisbane's CBD. Taking in mind that the Ferny Grove Line is still running from Ferny Grove to Bowen Hills, the reasons for the closure has been given as - Turnout maintenance (Fortitude Valley), Embankment stabilisation (Newmarket), Removal of ground frames (Newmarket), Track reconditioning (Windsor to Wilston), Re-railing works (Bowen Hills to Windsor & Newmarket to Alderley), Overhead power line maintenance, General track maintenance. Given that many of these locations are on the apparently still open Ferny Grove Line, it seems that TransLink have done a half-arsed copy and paste job from a previous track closure. This has caused confusion, with many Ferny Grove Line commuters now unsure as to whether the Ferny Grove Line is actually running or not?

Showing how clueless Brisbane's journalists are, the Brisbane Times have copied and pasted this incorrect information into a news article without giving any thought to whether it was correct or not. Not much hope for investigative journalism is there!

This is not the first time TransLink have provide incorrect information regarding line closures. Last year, BrizCommuter was turfed off a late night northbound train at Park Road, when the TransLink's line closure information stated that trains were terminating at Roma Street. In fact, the train terminated at South Brisbane. 

Ferny Grove Line commuters aren't the only ones confused by this weekends shenanigans. Long suffering Doomben Line commuters will have to alight at Wooloowin, then catch the next train (which could be quite a wait given the infrequency of trains in Brisbane) to travel one more stop to Albion, before then having to catch a rail replacement bus into the city or beyond. Anyone not prepared for this (which will be the majority) will end up arriving at their destination very very late!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Spinning Out of Control

In BrizCommuter's previous blog post about the impending Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Rail Fail, it was alluded to that Queensland politicians are wrapped up in in their own spin. In this blog post BrizCommuter dissects some recent press releases, to show how out of touch politicians are from the land of reality. By the way, this blog post was almost going to be called "how big is the Transport Minister's weenie", but BrizCommuter thought better. If you want to know why - keep reading!

(Note: BrizCommuter apologises for the excessive use of quotation marks within quotation marks).

From the Brisbanetimes "Mr Beattie said the transport plan would provide terrific gains for the Commonwealth Games, "with a little pain". There is no gain, without some pain," he said." There would have been a lot less pain if the Beattie government had quad tracked Salisbury to Kuraby instead of only triplicating it!

From the Brisbanetimes "Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the government had kept its commitment not to close any rail lines during the games, but admitted commuters who used several stations along the Beenleigh line would be forced to use free buses instead." So "several" means 16? The dictionary definition of Several is "more than two but not many".

From the ABC news "Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told Parliament last year "categorically" there would be no line closures, but Mr Bailey insisted the Beenleigh line would have a "continuous service" with the replacement buses." What is a "continuous service"? A conveyer belt? Be honest, you've closed 16 stations on one line, and replaced them with buses!

Transport Minister Mark Bailey discussing the Beenleigh Line rail replacement buses on ABC news "It will be quite convenient. In some cases it will actually be faster, in some cases it will be similar, and in some cases it will be a weeny-bit slower". A weenie bit slower? So having to walk to the bus stop (in some cases hundreds of metres from the station), wait for a bus, travel on the bus, walk from the bus to the platform, wait for the train, and then travel on the train, is only a weenie bit slower than just getting on a train? Maybe Mr Bailey has a very large weenie?

From the Courier Mail "Mr Bailey said the cuts were happening during the “usually quiet” Easter school holiday period." There are cuts for the whole week after the games and Easter holidays have finished. This will result in severe train overcrowding, and very annoyed commuters!

From the Brisbanetimes, quoting QR CEO Nick Easy "We’ve always said there would need to be some adjustments to other parts of the rail network as we increase services on the Gold Coast line to meet this unprecedented demand." So "some", means up to a 50% reduction in peak services, removal of some peak express services, up to 50% reduction of off-peak services, awful hourly weekend frequencies, closure of 16 Beenleigh Line stations, and 100% reduction of Ferny Grove to South Bank/Brisbane journeys. Right?

QR CEO Nick Easy "Other transport providers around the world have also had to alter their regular timetables to meet the demands of major events of this scale." The London Olympics, and Glasgow Commonwealth Games only saw service increases, not decreases. In Delhi, a few new metro lines opened for the Commonwealth Games. In SE Queensland, it's just a disaster!

When politicians are this delusional, there is little hope!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Fail McFailFace - QR's Comm Games Train Service

The Beenleigh Line has been axed!
As predicted by BrizCommuter back in November 2016 after the onset of #RailFail, Queensland Rail's (QR) services for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) timetable will be a international embarrassment to Australia. Whilst the actual timetables have inconveniently yet to be been published, the service frequencies have been announced by TransLink. In order to increase frequencies on the Gold Coast Line to every 10 minutes or better, and allow for a rather pointless hourly overnight (24 hour) service, services have been heavily cut on all other train lines in Brisbane and SE Queensland. The frequencies on a line by line basis are available here:

So what is wrong with QR's GC2018 train service?
  • Overall 6% reduction in train services at a time when more are required. 
  • The Beenleigh Line has been axed, due to the lack of infrastructure to allow faster Gold Coast Line services to overtake slower Beenleigh Line services in both directions. The Gold Coast services will serve 4 additional Beenleigh Line stations, thus slowing down the Gold Coast Line service in the process. Beenleigh Line passengers from the 16 non-serviced stations will have to use (thankfully free to use) rail replacement buses, massively slowing down commutes. 
  • Peak services have been axed on all train lines other than the Gold Coast Line. It is expected that the peak service will be similar to that for the 2017/18 Summer Holiday Interim Timetable (SHIT) which was inadequate, resulted in overcrowded services, removed express services, and cut some direct journey opportunities by up to 75%. TransLink are still somehow charging peak fares! 
  • Weekday 15 minute off-peak services have been axed on all lines other than the Gold Coast Line, with a 30 minute weekday off-peak services on all lines. That's a worse frequency than in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Auckland! 
  • Weekend off-peak services have been reduced by 50%. Services have been reduced from every 30 minutes to only every 60 minutes on all lines other than the Gold Coast and Airport Lines. This is worse than all other heavy rail systems in Australia and New Zealand! These hourly weekend services will be a nightmare for Brisbanites who need to get work, such as hospital and emergency service workers, retail and hospitality staff. 
  • Long suffering Sunshine Coast Line commuters will see off-peak services reduced to an abysmal two hourly service. 
  • The poor frequency of connecting services (especially on weekends) makes travelling by train to GC2018 extremely unattractive for both staff and spectators, forcing these commuters onto the already busy M1 Pacific Highway.
  • Bus to train connections around Brisbane and SE Queensland will be broken due to the large number of train services being cut and changes to clockface times. 
  • The actual timetables (rather than service frequencies) are still unavailable two months out from GC2018. 
  • The commuter pain will not just be during GC2018, but cover a 22 day period including Easter and a whole week after the games. Expect severe train overcrowding in the week beginning 16th April. 
Who is to blame for this disastrous train service?
  • The Newman LNP government for stopping driver recruitment and demoting driver trainers, at a time when more train services were being added, or due to be added.  
  • The Newman LNP government ordered NGR trains that were not compliant with disability access laws and regulations. 
  • The Palaszczuk ALP government for mediocrity in fast tracking driver recruitment by giving in to Union demands and pressure. 
  • The Palaszczuk ALP government for being slow at resolving NGR train issues, that were known about in 2015. 
  • The Beattie/Bligh era ALP government for triplicating instead of quadding parts of the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line corridor, thus preventing Gold Coast Line services from overtaking Beenleigh Line services in both directions (hence the axing of the Beenleigh Line).
  • The Beattie/Bligh era ALP government for dropping an add on order for the previous generation of trains, resulting in a lack of trains since 2014. 
  • Rail Transport and Bus Union - for trying to block and delay external driver recruitment.  
  • QR for chronically failed management. (Note: BrizCommuter has more faith in the new management, but the scale of past failure for them to fix is of epic proportions). 
  • Department of Transport and Main Roads - this government department has overseen NGR Fail, Moreton Bay Rail Link Signalling Fail, QR's Rail Fail, and GC2018 Timetable Fail. 
  • CityTrain Response Unit - for well, not doing much at all. 
  • Queensland's media for being being hopeless at investigative journalism and reporting pressing transport issues. Authorities in cities such as London for example, could not get away with the mediocrity that QR and the various Queensland Governments have got away with in the last decade. 
Whilst QR have tried to do the best with limited drivers and trains, the services frequencies for GC2018 show how bad #RailFail still is. Commuters on all train lines other than the Gold Coast Line will suffer from an inadequate "third world" train service between Friday 30th March and 20th April. Using trains to get to the games will be very unattractive due to poor service frequencies on connecting train lines, forcing more cars (including BrizCommuter's) onto the already congested M1 Pacific Highway. The only saviour to congestion chaos will be SE Queenslander's trying to avoid the dreaded M1 like the plague. 

The only positive that BrizCommuter can see, is if Queensland and Australia is embarrassed so much on the world stage, that it sparks changes to governance and investment for SE Queensland's failing public transport system. However, given that QLD politicians are so lost in their own spin, BrizCommuter isn't convinced there will be much change to the current status quo of mediocrity. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Not Appy TransLink!

The MyTransLink app for smart phones was one of the few decent things that have come out of TransLink. It was easy to use, and generally popular with commuters. Unfortunately, TransLink implemented a major upgrade to version 2, and now the app is one of the worst smart phone apps that BrizCommuter has come across.

For example, previously if you wanted to find real time info for a (non-favourited) bus stop or train station it was really easy by searching the location on a map. Now, BrizCommuter can't even work out how to do this other than ignoring the search function (which tries to do a journey plan) and scrolling around the SE Queensland map until you eventually find the stop.

If you manage to work that out, you have to look at every train platform to get to the details. So instead of being able to for example view all Northbound services from Fortitude Valley, you have to look up individual platforms. How about timetables from Roma Street to Milton? You can't see both Ipswich and Springfield Line services together, even though they both serve the stations.
Almost as unpopular as QR! 
The app has also been reported to crash and freeze often, and has been getting loads of 1 star reviews on Google Play and Apple's App Store. BrizCommuter expects that many commuters have missed buses and trains due to time wasted trying to work out how to use the app to see when the bus or train was coming. Please TransLink, revert back to developing the old user interface. If you do need to change things, maybe review the software with actual public transport users first. Attention to detail on coding and debugging also helps! Apps need to be intuitive enough that users can work them out with no training or assistance.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Fares Increase, QR's Rail Fail Farce Continues...

Screenshot from
How can we prepare with no timetables?
As Queensland Rail's (QR) inadequate Summer Holiday Interim Timetable (SHIT) comes to a close, TransLink have unimpressively increased public transport fares in SE Queensland by 1.5%. This small fare increase, based on CPI, was expected as part of the public transport fare reforms. Unfortunately, any increase in fares during the continuation of #RailFail leaves a very sour taste in the mouth of the dwindling number of SE Queensland rail commuters. It is totally unacceptable for fares to be increased until QR's full October 2016 timetable is re-implemented or even improved upon.

Just to add insult to injury, QR's 2017 interim timetable will be continued indefinitely throughout 2018. Commuters are not impressed with the ongoing 330+ axed train services/week, and confusingly different timetables for Fridays. Even QR's base service (before service axing) is worse than Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. The sporadic hourly weekend services are also worse than Adelaide, Auckland, and even tiny Wellington. Both QR and TransLink continued to show their contempt for commuters, by only announcing the continuation of the 2017 interim timetable with less than a week until the 2018 2017 timetables were implemented. Very little explanation was required, just stating " On Monday 22 January, services will revert to the timetable in place prior to the temporary summer service changes, coinciding with the beginning of the school term". QR have also ignored questions on social media asking for when the October 2016 timetable will be restored, which shows that either they don't have a clue,  don't care about their customers, or both. Stop the spin, and just be honest please QR!

The lack of information from QR, TransLink, the Queensland Government, and the utterly pointless CityTrain Response Unit on when #RailFail will be resolved is very concerning. Given that only 2 train services have been restored in the last year shows quite how badly QR stuffed up when it came to planning the October 2016 timetables for the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line. With the Commonwealth Games looming, changes to train drivers working conditions later in the year, and drivers leaving QR at a similar rate to new drivers being qualified, then BrizCommuter is expecting at least another year of pain for SE Queensland commuters.

On the subject of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018), commuters are being urged to change their journey plans during the games at:
Unfortunately, as neither expected train service frequencies, let alone the actual timetables themselves have been published, then this situation is somewhat farcical!  Maybe QR and Department of Transport and Main Roads are awaiting a decision on the legality of running the badly designed NGR trains before publishing the timetables?

With Rail Fail, Commonwealth Games Fail, and NGR Fail still ongoing, SE Queensland's public transport system is set to be an embarrassment to Australia on the world stage.