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.

Monday, January 1, 2018

QR Hits Rock Bottom

Can things get any worse for SE Queensland commuters? Commuters in Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne are enjoying summertime full peak services, and 15 minute off-peak services (or better) even on weekends - with standing off-peak observed loads even on Xmas day in Perth. In the meantime, Brisbane commuters are struggling to get to work and play with slashed peak services, half-hourly weekday off-peak, and hourly weekend services. The service (the worst of any rail system in Australia and New Zealand) is so appalling, that many regular commuters have taken to driving instead, with some trains almost deserted. Not since the days of diesel hauled train services in the 1970s, have Brisbanites had to endure such terrible train services. There have even been cases of passengers being stranded at Landsborough for hours on end due to failed bus connections. Critical hospital and emergency service workers have been arriving to work late. Hospitality workers have had to leave up to an hour earlier to get to work. Shoppers have abandoned Brisbane's CBD for suburban shopping centres. The Pacific Highway has been at a standstill for 4 consecutive days due to commuters shunning public transport. Queensland Rail (QR) keeps spouting the same spin "throughout the summer period we usually experience a drop in patronage, and we want to ensure we deliver a reliable service for our customers while also effectively managing our resources" which sounds like a broken record on repeat. QR's ongoing lack of drivers Rail Fail is a major embarrassment to Queensland, and is causing severe repetitional damage to Brisbane and SE Queensland. at home and abroad.

The New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) train project (managed by Department of Transport and Main Roads) is an absolute disaster, with the poorly designed "illegal" trains being forced into service by QR in a desperate effort to avoid Commonwealth Games catastrophe. The first two NGR trains have reportedly been moved into storage, with rumours that they may even be cannibalised for spare parts. Not enough NGR trains have even been ordered to maximise use of the existing train network. Given that the current ALP government has stated that they will not buy more foreign manufactured trains, then expect huge delays in the procurement and construction of new rollingstock whenever anyone in authority belatedly realises that there is a lack of trains again in the early 2020s. BrizCommuter is already predicting that there will be a lack of immediate service improvements when Cross River Rail opens due to lack of drivers and trains.

As predicted by BrizCommuter in late 2016, the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) is looking like it will be a dogs breakfast regarding transport. Commonwealth Games workers and volunteers are in the process of receiving their rosters, and in some cases making the final decision as to whether they can actually work or not. Unfortunately, QR have not released the timetables or even expected service frequencies so that these workers can plan how they will get to work. In fact QR are still in "planning" stages, leaving commuters in the dark as to how their train services will be affected. At this point in time, just 4 months out from GC2018, the following is unknown:
  • Gold Coast Line peak and counter peak frequency - this was touted to be 8tph in both directions, which is looking highly unlikely due to lack of trains, drivers, and tracks on the Beenleigh/Gold Coast line corridor. 
  • Peak and off-peak service provision on other lines - everyone knows QR will have to axe services due to lack of drivers and trains, but which services, and by how much? Connecting services need to be frequency enough to make people use the Gold Coast Line to get to the games - this is looking doubtful.
  • Whole line closures - there have been rumours of closures of the Shorncliffe, Redcliffe Peninsula, and Springfield Lines during GC2018. QR is stating that no line closures have been "planned", but are avoiding the yes/no answer to the question. 
With workers and volunteers in the dark as to how to get to work for GC2018, BrizCommuter is expecting many dropouts between now, and possibly even during the games. This could impact the success of the GC2018 games, especially as some volunteers are critical to venues being open and athletes being in the right place at the right time. Spectators and workers may give up on using public transport, and just drive to the park and ride locations instead. This will add to congestion on the M1 Pacific Highway, which is likely to resemble a car park during GC2018. Transport for GC2018 is looking very troublesome and is likely to be a major embarrassment to Australia. 

BrizCommuter is also not expecting the return of the 333 axed train services due to Rail Fail during 2018, as QR's net driver increase is currently around the zero mark. Expect Fridays to still confusingly have a different timetable to the rest of the network. The Queensland Government, TransLink, and QR will likely continue to hide train patronage, loading, and Rail Fail recovery statistics to avoid the awful truth. Some axed services may never return! 

Is there any positive from Rail Fail? It would be hoped that if there is major embarrassment to Queensland and Australia during GC2018, that this may encourage a knee-jerk investment in public transport. However, as it seems that Queensland politicians have their head buried in a sea of spin and delusion (in particular, the LNP who wanted to dump Cross River Rail), expect SE Queensland's public transport to be a disaster for years to come. Things have reached rock bottom, and it will take a heavy crane to lift that rock!