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.