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.