Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Preventing Cross River Rail Fail - Scorecard

Albert Street Station
Recent BrizCommuter posts have found serious concerns about a looming Cross River Rail Fail where the proposed am peak service frequencies after Cross River Rail (CRR) opens will not be achievable. BrizCommuter has decided to produce this score card, which will be updated on a regular basis showing the progress, or lack of progress towards achieving these goals. The proposed service frequencies are based on the information provided in the "Check Mate" section of CRR's website, which appears to be modified from the Changed Project Indicative Service Plan. Possible scores are No Improvement, Achievable, Concerning, and Critical.

Gold Coast Line 12tph - CONCERNING - requires the Kuraby to Beenleigh track upgrade (or slowing down of Gold Coast services). 8tph more likely.

Beenleigh Line 4-6tph - NO IMPROVEMENT

Salisbury (future Beaudesert) Line 7tph - CONCERNING - requires suitable turn back facilities at Salisbury and scheduling concerns i.e. interactions with other lines. Limited possibility of service improvements after Beaudesert Line opens due to the lack of a 4th track from Dutton Park to Salisbury.

Ipswich and Springfield Lines 12tph (each) - CONCERNING - requires European Train Control Signalling (ETCS) from Darra to CBD, and ideally 4th electrified track and platform through Oxley. Not dependant on CRR.

Ferny Grove Line 8tph - NO IMPROVEMENT - ETCS would improve reliability on core section.

Caboolture and Redcliffe Lines 12tph (each) - CONCERNING - requires ETCS from Petrie to CBD, and ideally improved track layout at Kippa-Ring. Not dependant on CRR. 4tph on Sunshine Coast Line.

Shorncliffe Line 6-8tph - CONCERNING - 6tph requires duplication between Sandgate and Shorncliffe (or complex timetabling with poor reliability). 8tph from Northgate to CBD is no improvement, and ETCS would improve core system reliability.

Airport Line 4tph - NO IMPROVEMENT - ETCS would improve reliability on core system.

Doomben Line 2tph - NO IMPROVEMENT - to not extend to Hamilton Northshore is a disgrace.

Cleveland Line 11tph - CONCERNING - 11tph from Manly to CBD would require a 3rd platform at Manly. No improvements proposed from Manly to Cleveland. Express services will probably be eliminated.

15 minute off-peak services - CONCERNING - off-peak service proposals are not even published by CRR, and running 4tph throughout the suburban network would be constrained by multiple infrastructure limitations including lack of 4th track on the Beenleigh Line corridor.

Sufficient Trains - CONCERNING - approximately 40 new trains are required to optimise peak services on the existing train network and for additional peak services for CRR. These have yet to be ordered.

Sufficient Train Crew - CONCERNING - sustained driver recruitment and forward planning is required.

Tunnel stubs for linking to future NWTC / Trouts Road Line - CRITICAL - not in current plans. To attach these tunnels would require a closure of CRR for many months.

To conclude, other than lines where there will no improvements from Cross River Rail, all other lines are currently in the CONCERNING category as they require either new track infrastructure that has not started construction, new signalling that has not been implemented, more trains that have yet to be ordered, and crew that have yet to be employed. CRR's opening may be 5 years away, but the clock is ticking. Many of these scores may change to CRITICAL if there is no action by this time next year.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Check Mate - Cross River Rail's BS-Ometer

Cross River Rail's (CRR) website has a section called Check Mate, that allows users to type in their postcode, suburb, or station, and see the benefits from Cross River Rail. Unfortunately, BrizCommuter has found that it is completely full of BS! Let's have a look at a few examples:
Alderley - no service improvements, yet less road congestion. How?
Alderley - the claimed benefits include trains every 7.5 minutes (8tph) in the morning peak on the Ferny Grove Line. That is the same as at present, and how it's been since 2014! So how will that "ease pressure on major roads" when there are no service improvements on this line? Connections to the 3 (not 5 as claimed) new CRR stations may add some more journey opportunities, but real world effects on traffic would be negligible. CRR have thrown in a mention of the Alderley to Strathpine Line (Trouts Road Line/North West Transportation Corridor), which isn't planned, funded, and would be better off running from Roma Street to Strathpine if it wasn't that CRR forget to build the tunnel stubs.

Holmview - trains every 15 minutes (4tph). That is also no improvement, and less than the 6tph claimed in CRR's proposal for 2026 services (as per the "Changed Project Indicative Service Plan" quoted throughout this article). There is a mention of the unfunded Kuraby to Beenleigh upgrade. No mention of off-peak improvements. 
Kippa-Ring - less trains than originally proposed
Kippa-Ring - trains every 5 minutes (12tph). That is less than the unachievable 16tph in CRR's proposal for 2026. This improvement would require improved ETCS signalling through Brisbane's CBD, and is not reliant on CRR. By looking at the stations between Petrie and Northgate, it looks like the Redcliffe Peninsula Lines will be all stations services (as at present) also changed from CRR's proposal for 2026. No mention of off-peak improvements. 
Cleveland - no improvements
Cleveland - trains every 15 minutes (4tph) as at present. That is no improvement, but strangely there is a dubious claim of an extra 450 seats (5tph) which would be difficult to achieve without duplication. There is a mention that CRR allows for the future duplication of the Cleveland Line. However, there is no reason other than lack of funding and willpower that the Cleveland Line cannot be duplicated before CRR opens. No mention of off-peak improvements. 
Manly - increase to trains every 5.5 minutes? How?
Manly - this is an interesting one. There is a claim of trains every 5.5 minutes (11tph) which is a slight increase from CRR's proposal for 2026. However with only 4tph being able to continue on the single line section to Cleveland, then 7tph would have to turnback at Manly. This is of course rather difficult with the current track layout at Manly where even the current turnback of 4tph is unreliable. So is an extra platform going to be added at Manly before CRR opens? Also, as this 11tph claim is also made for all inner-Cleveland Line stations, it looks like the Cleveland Line express services will be axed, slowing down journey times for many passengers. No mention of off-peak improvements (again). 
Shorncliffe - more trains, but again, how?
Shorncliffe - claims of trains every 10 minutes (6tph), up from the current 4tph. How will this be achieved without a duplication between Sandgate and Shorncliffe, which of course isn't mentioned, and isn't funded? No mention of off-peak improvements - see a trend here?
Springfield - more BS than the Simpsons Monorail?
Springfield and Ipswich - both of these lines are expected to have to increase to trains every 5 minutes (12tph) instead of the existing every 6 minutes service (which runs for slightly less than an hour in the am peak). As these lines are not directly relieved by CRR, this is solely down to ETCS signalling improvements through Brisbane's CBD. Claims that CRR creates the capacity for an extension to Ripley is completely false. No mention of off-peak improvements yet again.

Doomben - no services improvements, with continuation of the infrequent 30 minute weekday service. Despite this lack of service improvement, there is a highly dubious claim of less traffic pressure on Kingsford Smith Drive. There is also a claim of more reliable train services, which is also debatable as there appear to be no plans for reducing the number of train services running on the suburban tracks through Brisbane's CBD (static at 22tph). There should be an extension to Northshore Hamilton, but would be far too "smart" for Queensland. 

To conclude, the benefit claims made on CRR's website score very highly on the BS-ometer. Observations include:
  • Service improvements from improved ETCS signalling are being falsely attributed to CRR.
  • False claims of less traffic congestion near train lines that will have no train service improvements (such as Ferny Grove and Doomben Line).
  • Claims of service improvements (such as more inner-Cleveland Line and Shorncliffe Line services) that require infrastructure that is currently un-funded, and in some cases may not even have be proposed. 
  • No mention of off-peak service improvements. 
There are so many misleading claims that it appears that CRR are trying their hardest to make the current half-baked version of CRR appear to have benefits that it doesn't have. No wonder the business case has been hidden from public eye. The only realistic improvements that can now be directly attributed to CRR is 6tph of additional peak services on the Gold Coast Line, and even that might not be achievable without infrastructure upgrades on the Beenleigh Line corridor. Well worth more than $5b don't you think? It is very sad that consecutive governments from both sides of QLD politics have squandered the benefits of CRR via ill-thought out cost cutting re-designs.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Cross River Rail's Achilles Heel - Part 2 - Northside

BrizCommuter recently looked at capacity constraints on the Beenleigh Line that will hinder optimal use of Cross River Rail (CRR) and restrict future capacity enhancements. Whilst the constraints on the Southside are most critical in the short term, there are also similar capacity constraints on the Northside.

There are currently 4 tracks between Mayne (the large depot near Bowen Hills) and Northgate, with a track in each direction for the Mains and Suburbans. The Main tracks are used by the Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines. The Suburban tracks are used by the Shorncliffe Line (with some services terminating at Northgate), Airport Line, Doomben Line, and with the Ferny Grove Line branching off at Bowen Hills.
4 Track Bottleneck
The problem is that CRR will join the Mains at Mayne, with no additional tracks added between this location and points further North. Thus the Mains North of Mayne (does that rhyme?) will be utilised by both via CRR services, and via existing CBD Line services. This is likely to be split equally, with 24tph worth of am peak Inbound/Southbound services being split into 12tph via CRR, and 12tph via existing CBD Line. The Mains North of Mayne will thus have a very poor capacity increase from the current 20tph to 24tph. This can actually be achieved alone just through new signalling (plus more trains and drivers), and doesn't actually require CRR to be constructed. Thus the lack of additional tracks on Brisbane's Northside makes for a very poor business case for CRR.

So what can be done to make better use of the $5b CRR tunnel? There is no question that to fully unlock CRR will require additional tracks on the Northside between Brisbane and Petrie (Lawnton to be precise). The most ideal solution would be to build the Trouts Road Line, which has been discussed in detail before on BrizCommuter's blog. This would ideally run in a tunnel from Roma Street (connected to CRR), surface at Everton Park, and run along the Trouts Road / North West Transportation corridor to Strathpine. A 4th track would be required between Strathpine and Lawnton. This would allow up to an additional 24tph to run to/from the Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Lines instead of a pathetic 4tph. It would speed up journey times from Brisbane to/from Caboolture and the Sunshine Coast, and also add stations to many Northern Brisbane suburbs that are currently devoid of decent public transport. Sadly, tunnel stubs to allow the Trouts Road Line to be easily connected to CRR were left out of the design, so to make this connection will require the closure of CRR for possibly a couple of months.
BrizCommuter's proposal for the Trouts Rd Line
A cheaper, but less effective version would be for the Trouts Road Line to join the Ferny Grove Line at Alderley. The tracks could be skewed around Mayne to re-route the Shorncliffe, Airport, and Doomben Lines onto the Mains. All Mains North of Mayne services would be routed via CRR. However this would have minimal journey time advantages due to the indirect nature of the inner-Ferny Grove Line, and only allow for an additional 16tph of services from Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, Redcliffe, and Ferny Grove Lines.

A final option would be to add additional tracks along the existing North Coast Line. However with the area between Mayne and Northgate already being quite built up, this would be almost impossible.

There is no question that in the current iteration, CRR is very poor value for money. It is imperative that funding is found to build the Trouts Road Line to allow for significant train service improvements from the North, and get much better value for money from the $5b spent on CRR.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Cross River Rail's Achilles Heel - Part 1 - Beenleigh Line Constraints

Back in July, BrizCommuter wrote about the multiple existing system constraints that may affect Brisbane's Cross River Rail (CRR) achieving the proposed service pattern, and preventing future capacity increases. These were:

  • Lack of 4th track between Dutton Park (CRR portal) and Salisbury 
  • Lack of 4th track between Salisbury and Kuraby
  • Northside capacity constraints
  • Lack of tunnel stubs to allow for Trouts Road Line/North Western Transportation Corridor
  • Lack of enhanced train turnback facilities at Salisbury, Kippa-Ring, Kuraby, Manly, and Beenleigh 
  • Lack of duplication of the Cleveland Line 
  • Multiple "dangerous" Level Crossings 
  • Lack of Trains and Drivers
In this article BrizCommuter looks at one of the more concerning constraints, the lack of tracks on the Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line corridor. 

The proposed am peak service pattern shows the following expectations around the Dutton Park (Southern) Portal for CRR:
  • 18tph Inbound into CRR (12tph from Gold Coast, 6tph from Beenleigh)
  • 7tph Inbound via South Bank (7tph from Salisbury, eventually Beaudesert Line) 
  • 12tph Outbound via CRR (12tph presumably from Caboolture/Sunshine Coast)
  • 7tph (presumed) Outbound via South Bank 
There are proposed to be just three tracks (and platform faces at all stations) between Salisbury and Dutton Park. This is one less running track than the original plans for CRR where the tunnel surfaced at Yeerongpilly. In the am peak direction (Inbound) the via CRR and via South Bank services will be expected to use seperate tracks between Salisbury and Dutton Park to allow the ex-Beenleigh and ex-Gold Coast services to run express, and the ex-Salisbury/Beaudesert services to service all stations. Unfortunately, as there are only three tracks then 19tph Outbound services - formed from 12tph services via CRR, and 7tph via South Bank will have to share a single track. This will cause issues as the express services will get stuck behind the all stations trains. Only 4tph of these might be expresses heading to Beenleigh and the Gold Coast (see a later section as to why just 4tph), and the rest are likely to be slower all station services to Salisbury/Beaudesert, or empty trains heading to stabling at Clapham near Moorooka. A mixed bag of 18tph express and all stations services running along this section is likely to be a scheduling and reliability nightmare. The lack of 4th track along this section is a major Achilles Heel that will severely limit adding additional train services to the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, and Beaudesert Lines in the future. It is also concerning that some of the station designs between Dutton Park and Salisbury appear to make it difficult to add a 4th track when required. Turnback facilities at Salisbury and provision for a grade separated junction at Salisbury for when the Beaudesert Line opens also need consideration. 
Not much room for a 4th track at Dutton Park
Unfortunately, this isn't the only major capacity constraint on the Beenleigh Line corridor. You may have noticed the lack of proposed off-peak services patterns on CRR's website. Well, that is because it could be quite embarrassing for the authorities involved with CRR. There are only three tracks between Salisbury and Kuraby. This means that the express Gold Coast services can only overtake the all stations Beenleigh Line services in one direction, not both. This was the reason for the Beenleigh Line services being axed during the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Without a 4th track along this section (which based on the current timetables would ideally be in the vicinity of Altandi) then the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines may be limited to just 2tph each, the same as at present. This somewhat defeats the purpose of building a $5b+ tunnel! It may be possible to run a combined 6tph service by adjusting stopping patterns, or more by slowing down Gold Coast Line services, but that is far from ideal. 
The problem with 3 tracks
There are further capacity or reliability constraints between Kuraby and Beenleigh and at Beenleigh station. There are only two tracks on this section, with a passing place in the Inbound direction only at Bethania which is currently used in the am peak. Without track enhancements, this section may struggle to reliably handle any more than 8tph Gold Coast and 4tph Beenleigh Line services, compared to the proposed 12tph Gold Coast and 6tph Beenleigh Line services. Additionally the current track layout at Beenleigh has limitations, in particular with trains entering service from the sidings in the am peak. To retain the current 2 platform layout, then ideally the track layout would need to be re-arranged to place multiple sidings in-between the Gold Coast Line tracks. The multiple level crossings on the Beenleigh Line also need to be grade-separated to improve system reliability. 

So to conclude - changes required for the Beenleigh Line corridor to optimise CRR train services are as follows:
  • 4 tracks between Dutton park and Salisbury (with the enhanced station designs altered to allow this to occur)
  • 4 track sections between Salisbury and Kuraby
  • Grade separated junction at Salisbury when the Beaudesert Line opens
  • Turnback facilities at Salisbury until the Beaudesert Line opens
  • 3 track sections between Kuraby and Beenleigh
  • Track layout / stabling reconfiguration at Beenleigh
  • Grade-Separation of level crossings on the Beenleigh Line
A further article will look at the other major "Achilles Heel" for CRR - Northside constraints. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Cross River Rail - Architecturally Boring

There are amazing station designs around the world. New York has the amazing "Oculus", Stockholm has stations carved out of rock, London has the massive arched roof of Kings Cross and cavernous Canary Wharf, Munich has stunning symmetry, and Moscow has stations that look like palaces. Even Brussels has some attractive stations! So you think Brisbane would make an effort with Cross River Rail? Of course not. Cross River Rail (CRR) has boring looking stations that look like they were designed in the 1980s, and will date quickly (they'll already be four decades behind at opening). Yes, Albert Street is a minor improvement, but continues to put Brisbane on the "it thinks it's a world city" stage. Come on CRR, make an effort with your architecture!




Not Brisbane

Not Brisbane

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Cross River Fail - Happening but Flawed

Contracts have been signed and work is finally underway on Brisbane's Cross River Rail. There have recently been some changes to the design of CRR, mainly concerning track alignment and precise station locations. Sadly with each iteration of CRR, whilst costs generally decrease, the benefits also decrease. Whilst there is no question that CRR is required, considerable enhancements need to be made to the plans to maximise the benefits of spending more than $5m on rail tunnels and stations. There have also been some interesting articles by David Bannister, Director of Minerva Transport Planning Company which echos what BrizCommuter has been discussing for many years. BrizCommuter agrees with most of the points in these excellent articles, and also raises a few other  flaws with Cross River Rail that need rectification. These have been listed in approximate order of severity:

  • Lack of 4th track between Dutton Park (CRR portal) and Salisbury - the revised plans have added a 3rd platform for stations in this section, but to optimise track capacity in both the peak and off-peak directions (remembering that there is nowhere to turn back tracks from South to North in the tunnel), there needs to be 4 tracks to allow CRR services to not conflict with local services to/from Salisbury (and eventually Beaudesert). 
  • Lack of 4th track in the Altandi area - the current track layout only allows Gold Coast Line services to overtake Beenleigh Line services in one direction, allowing approx. 8tph on each line. In the opposite direction, trains cannot overtake. Thus it is not possible to run a 4tph (every 15 minute) off-peak or counter peak service on the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines. This lack of 4th overtaking track is the reason why Beenleigh Line services had to be axed during the 2018 Commonwealth Games. To open CRR, and still be limited to 30 minute off-peak services on the Gold Coast Line would look very bad. 
  • Northside capacity constraints - services on both the existing 'Mains' tracks and CRR will both have to share a track pair between Mayne and Northgate (4 tracks merging into 2). This is highly sub-optimal, and severely limits the capacity of CRR. Just to add to the pain, there appears to be a non-grade separated junction at Mayne which will cause major operational headaches. Grade separation would help, but ultimately there needs to be either 2 more tracks between Mayne and Northgate, and an extra track between Northgate and Petrie, or the Trouts Road Line (see below) needs to be built between Roma Street and Strathpine. BrizCommuter doubts that the proposed 28tph peak direction service is even reliably achievable. 
  • Lack of tunnel stubs to allow for Trouts Road Line/North Western Transportation Corridor - to optimise capacity to/from the North, there needs to be extra tracks between Brisbane and Petrie. The most optimal solution for this is constructing the Trouts Road Line, which would massively increase train capacity on the Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Lines, speed up journey times, and also add stations to many Northern suburbs which are severely lacking in frequency public transport.  Unfortunately, the current CRR plans are so short sighted that these tunnel stubs have been neglected. To add the tunnel stubs would require the closure of the entire CRR tunnel for months. 
  • Enhanced train turnback facilities at Salisbury, Kippa-Ring, Kuraby, and Beenleigh - in order to allow for the proposed post-CRR train services for 2026, there needs to be improved track layouts and enhanced turnback facilities (i.e. extra platforms or sidings, and track switches) at Salisbury, Kippa-Ring, Kuraby, and Beenleigh. Manly will also need to be on this list if the Cleveland Line is not fully duplicated. 
  • Duplication of Cleveland Line - to achieve the proposed 10tph post-CRR train services on the Cleveland Line, there needs to be a full duplication of the Cleveland Line, and possibly even partial triplication. 
  • Removal of busier/more dangerous Level Crossings - the proposed capacity enhancements will increase the closure time at many level crossings. Thus more effort and funding is required to replace level crossings with bridges. 
  • More trains and drivers - more than 40 new trains and sufficient train crew will be required to operate the additional train services for CRR, as well as optimising services on the existing train network. 
BrizCommuter also has concerns over the disruptive closure of Roma Street busway station whilst it is relocated underground. At least the long term gain may be worth it. On the good side, at least the most recent plans have more optimal track layouts through Mayne sidings (aside from lack of grade separation). 
Capacity constraints for CRR

The current plans for Cross River Rail severely limits the maximum track capacity through Brisbane's CBD, journey times, and operational efficiency. With 6 tracks through Brisbane, there should be 72tph per direction in the peaks. The current design of CRR allows for only 54tph to/from the South, and 50tph to/from the North. This makes for a poor business case. To rectify this situation, SE Queensland's rail network will require considerably more infrastructure and associated funding. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The End of RailFail is Nigh!

After exactly 1000 days of Rail Fail (#RailFail), Queensland Rail (QR) has finally announced that they will be restoring the axed services from 29th July (presumably 2019). According to the spin merchants at TransLink:

From Monday 29 July, Queensland Rail will introduce an extra 430 weekly train services across the South East Queensland train network.

Changes to the train network will include:

  • a consistent Monday to Friday timetable
  • 85 extra weekly peak services, in addition to the 32 weekly peak services introduced in May
  • a consistent departure times with 142 extra services each Friday
  • six-carriage upgrades to 59 three-carriage services.

Yet again, it needs to be clear that these are "restored" train services, not "extra" train services. Whilst the resolution of Rail Fail is good news, the fact that it took Queensland Rail more than 1000 days to recover from the destructiveness of the LPN Newman government is totally unacceptable. The ALP state government and Unions needs to take responsibility for the slow recovery. The lack of transparency as to when Rail Fail was to end was also unacceptable. On top of the lack of driver issue, the lack of trains issue (3-car peak services) has been a chronic issue since January 2014 timetable, over half a decade ago.

Now that the October 2016 timetable is due to be restored, there are still big questions that need to be answered:

  • Can QR's network actually reliably cope with the peak timetable running up to 22tph (on the suburban tracks) through the network core?
  • How much staff contingency is there in the short term? Are we likely to see many cancellations due to lack of train crew?
  • When are urgently required additional pm peak services going to be added (notably extension of the pm peak Cleveland Line express services, and filling in the more critical 12-15 minute pm peak gaps on many other lines)?
  • When will the 15 minute off-peak service be extended onto sector 1 lines (Caboolture/Kippa-Ring to Ipswich/Springfield)?
  • Do QR have a plan in place to have sufficient trains and drivers for the proposed Cross River Rail services in in the mid-2020s?

Monday, May 13, 2019

Extra train services = Restored train services

After 956 days of Rail Fail, Queensland Rail (QR) managed to today (Monday 13th May 2019) restore the grand total of 32 out of the 330 weekly train services that were axed due to lack of train drivers. So how did TransLink and Queensland Rail spin this news? By claiming that they were adding 32 "extra" train services. They may have fooled a few people who had forgotten about Rail Fail's axed train services, as it happened so long ago. However, the spin has not fooled BrizCommuter and many other frustrated commuters. It would be great if QR, TransLink, the Queensland Government, or even the missing in action CityTrain Response Unit (remember them) could tell commuters when the other 300+ train services will be restored, or when the abomination that is Friday Fail Day will have the same train services at Monday to Thursday. Sadly, we can only hear chirping Crickets.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cross River Rail Fail - Another Year Closer!

Almost a year ago (March 2018), BrizCommuter wrote a blog post on the looming Cross River Rail Fail - #CRRrailfail. Unfortunately, not much has improved during the last year. Thus Cross River Rail Fail has edged another year closer to yet another public transport debarcle. So what are the problems that will impact the opening of Cross River Rail?

Cross River Rail (CRR) is currently scheduled to open in 2024, and the above service plan for Cross River Rail is proposed for 2026 (am peak). The current state of play shows that this may not be possible due to the following:
  • Rail Fail caused by lack of drivers has now been ongoing for nearly 900 days. Queensland Rail (QR), nor the overseeing Citytrain Response Unit can commit to when the October 2016 timetable will be restored. 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 approximately 26 more train services in the am peak, as well as additional off-peak and pm peak services services. This will also require another further increase in train drivers. 
  • The NGR train rollout has been a disaster with less than 2/3rds of the fleet operating after more than 1000 days since the first train arrived in Queensland, and years worth of fleet rectifications required. 
  • 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 just to optimise the existing (pre-CRR) 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 in 2026.
  • Given the severe design issues with 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, design, and construction process will be required, delaying the addition of additional trains onto QR's network. This process would realistically need to start before the end of this year if the additional trains are to be in service in time for CRR's opening.  
  • 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. Limited or no progress appear to have been made on these projects, and none are funded. 
  • 28tph on one track (am peak from Caboolture/Sunshine Coast/Kippa Ring between Northgate and Mayne) will be highly unrealistic and/or highly unreliable, even with ETCS L2 signalling. 
  • The imbalance of train services from each side of CRR (18tph vs 12tph) makes for operational issues and inefficient use of trains and crew. 
  • The risk of a political interference (such as a future LNP government repeating destructive policies, such as driver recruitment freezes, or attempting to privatise QR by stealth) before the opening of CRR. 
  • Ongoing poor public transport governance under Department of Transport and Main Roads. 
Without sustained driver (and train crew) recruitment throughout the next 5 to 7 years, timely orders for approximately 42 additional 6-car trains, and multiple expensive infrastructure projects, it will be impossible 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 a repeat of sub-optimal train services on both the existing train network and on train lines that that will run through CRR. Failure to meet the 2026 service pattern would also make a mockery of the business case, which is already dubious by claiming that CRR will allow for service improvements on the unconnected Ipswich and Springfield Lines. Given Queensland's track record of blundering transport planning, and minimal progress since BrizCommuter raised the issue of Cross River Rail Fail a year ago, things are not looking good. In fact, expect this blog post to be repeated verbatim next year with little progress. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Lime Scooters - Kids Toy Mayhem

Lime Scooters "parked" at South Bank
BrizCommuter usually covers more conventional methods of transport, so this subject is a bit of a change. Anyone who has recently walked through Brisbane's CBD or South Bank cannot helped have noticed (or been knocked over by) the rapid increase in Lime Scooters. These li-ion powered electric scooters can be unlocked and paid for on a time basis using a smart phone app. A trial/temporary law exemption is running in Brisbane until the end of February for electric scooters. Lime scooters are proving to be very popular (or possibly a fad), but unfortunately there are huge risks being taken by the majority of users. So what are the issues surrounding Lime Scooters in Brisbane?
  • Despite helmets being mandatory, over 85% of Lime Scooter riders observed by BrizCommuter are not wearing helmets. 
  • Despite only one person being allowed to ride on a Scooter, BrizCommuter has observed two people riding on one on around 50% of days of observations. 
  • Lack of policing of the above. If a police offer was to be stationed at the city end of the Victoria Bridge, they could make a hefty profit in fines!  
  • Scooters are being observed being driven at up to 30kph along footpaths, dangerously weaving past pedestrians. 
  • Scooters are being illegally driven on narrow streets at night. 
  • A huge increase in injuries has been recorded by Brisbane emergency departments, with associated cost to the taxpayer. Some of these injuries have been people hit by scooters (in one case in a no scooter zone), and not just the scooter riders.
  • Cases of drunk scooter riders and even Lime Scooter pub crawls. 
  • Scooters being "parked" in the way of pedestrians. 
  • Lack of decent cycleways is causing scooter riders to mix with pedestrians. 
  • Lack of protective clothing (unlike many cycle, motor scooter, and motorbike riders).
  • Litigation and accountability grey areas.
It will be interesting to see what decisions are made at the end of trial. Innovative transport options needs to be weight up against the public nuisance aspect. Decisions need to be made around issues related to speed limits on shared footpaths, use of cycleways, serious policing/crackdown of helmet wearing, clear laws of what do in case of an accident, and clear guidelines related to accountability and litigation. In the mean time, you might need eyes in the back of your head when walking the city streets so that you don't get hit by a souped up kids toy.