Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Cross River Rail - Boggo Road - A Change for the Worse?

Whilst the rail operation plan for Cross River Rail (CRR) is still being kept a state secret, there is no question that many passengers will need to change trains at Boggo Road / Park Road Stations. Depending on the rail operations (which are not helped by the diabolical 3 track layout South of the Dutton Park Portal) all Gold Coast/Beenleigh/Beaudesert Line services will run through CRR, or approximately 6tph local services will run via South Brisbane, whilst the rest will run via CRR. This effectively means that up to 10,000 passengers a day will have to change from the Gold Coast, Beenleigh (and eventually Beaudesert) Lines to the Cleveland Line to access South Bank and South Brisbane stations. There will also be the requirement for passengers to change between Eastern Busway/Brisbane Metro bus services and train at this location. In fact, CRR's website states that this will be the second busiest public transport interchange in Brisbane. So you would expect a well integrated interchange station then? Sadly, no...

Park Road & Boggo Road - no direct interchange
As you can see in the Diagram, Boggo Road and Park Road stations are not quite adjacent. Now this wouldn't be a huge issue if there was an elevated walkway within the "gated" area between the two stations (not that Park Road has any fare gates), linking Boggo Road station with the South end of Park Road station. This is entirely possible, but for some bizarre reason has been left out of the design. Instead, these 10,000 passengers will need to walk over 200m outdoors to change trains. This won't be fun in Brisbane's hot, humid, and often stormy summer weather. As passengers will have to change outside of the "gated" fare area, the mix of ungated Park Road and gated Boggo Road stations is also likely to confuse many go card users resulting in fixed fares. The interchange between Boggo Road and Park Road stations needs an urgent rethink, to allow a shorter distance transfer, protected from the sun and rain, and within a gated fare area.

This dysfunctional interchange will annoy rather a lot of commuters who currently access South Bank and South Brisbane stations from the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Line corridor without having to change trains. Just to make the change worse, there is still little understanding of how frequent train services will be from Park Road to South Bank and South Brisbane. If there are no capacity enhancements to the Cleveland Line at Cross River Rail's opening, then the worst case scenario is these passengers will be trying to cram their way onto just 8tph worth of already busy train services to get to their final destination. These passengers will expect a more frequent connecting train service if they are to be forced to change, and the rail operations on the South Bank section of the network needs to meet this demand. It is critical that CRR, Queensland Government, Department of Transport and Main Roads and Queensland Rail, come clean about the rail operations to be expected at CRR's opening.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Cross River Rail - Mayne Capacity Constraints

BrizCommuter has previously discussed the bottlenecks at both ends of Brisbane's Cross River Rail tunnel, and this post looks in more detail at changes to the Northern end where Cross River Rail (CRR) plugs into the rest of the rail network at Mayne (near Bowen Hills).

CRR adds 2 extra tracks (CRR Up and Down) for passenger services through Brisbane's CBD for a total of 6 tracks, however at the Northern end, those 2 tracks need to plug into the existing 4 tracks (Mains Up and Down, and Suburban Up and Down) just south of Albion. Concerningly, information on proposed rail operations is extremely limited on CRR's website. It is assumed that up to 24tph services will run on the existing Mains between Albion and Northgate. This will split into the Mains and CRR tracks at Mayne. For example 12tph am peak from Caboolture/Sunshine Coast will run via CRR, and 12tph am peak from Kippa-Ring will run via the Mains through the CBD. Due to this frequent peak service merging or splitting at this junction, it would be expected that a grade seperated junction would be provided at Mayne. Unfortunately, it seems that this is no longer the case.

The other problem with plugging 6 tracks into 4 (technically 4.33 if you include the Ferny Grove Line), means that CRR will not provide any capacity increase for train services to/from Brisbane's Northside. All of the service improvements will be due to implementing European Train Control System (ETCS) - Level 2 signalling, and not from spending over $5b on building a new tunnel. To increase Northside capacity, extra tracks will need to be constructed North of Brisbane, of which the Trouts Road Line / North West Transportation Corridor would be the most sensible option.

In Project Change Application 1 (2017), there was a grade seperated junction, with the Up CRR line running in a trench under the Up and Down Mains lines. Track layouts also placed stabling in-between the CRR Lines at Mayne, and Mains at Mayne North to reduce conflicts. This layout seemed quite logical, aside from lack of track connections between the Mains and Suburbans (on which the Airport/Doomben/Shorncliffe Line) services run on for operational flexibility.
Project Change 1 - Mayne

Project Change 1 - Mayne North
Then came along "cost cutting" Project Change 4 (2019). This removed the grade seperated junction, and replaced it with a track layout that seemed to defy any operational logic as it prevented the Down Mains at Bowen Hills (services from Ipswich/Springfield) from plugging into the Down CRR (at Albion). This may have been a major design mistake. Alternatively the operational plans may have been to run all 24tph services from Caboolture/Sunshine Coast/Kippa-Ring via CRR. However there is insufficient track capacity at CRR's Southern portal to allow this unless all Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line services are run via CRR, and none via South Bank.
Project Change 4 - Mayne

Project Change 4 - Mayne North
The most recent version is Project Change 7. This has no accompanying information in the Request for Project Change 7 documentation. This is operationally much better than the illogical Change 4 track layout, as it allows services from Up and Down Mains, and Up and Down CRR to merge into the Up and Down CRR/Mains near Albion. However, as junction this is not grade seperated, it is less likely that services will now be split at this junction. It also allows services from the Up and Down Mains to connect into the Up and Down Suburbans which allows for more operational options.
Project Change 7 - Mayne

Project Change 7 - Mayne North

The downside of the Project Change 7 track layout is that there is no grade seperation, between the merging or splitting CRR and Mains services (nor services being switched between the Suburbans and Mains). This means that a train service running from Ipswich/Springfield to Kippa-Ring via Central, will have conflicting movements with a train service running from Caboolture/Sunshine Coast to Gold Coast via CRR. Whilst this can be timetabled out, either train service running late will cause knock on operational issues to the rest of the network. Changes to track layouts should have sufficient merit to have publicly available documentation on why the changes have been made.

The bottleneck and track layout at Mayne raises a list of serious concerns:
  • Why was the grade seperated junction at Mayne for Mains/CRR tracks removed from the plans?
  • Why are the proposed rail operations for Cross River Rail being kept a secret? Surely this is one of the most crucial parts of a project that is designed to increase rail capacity?
  • Why is there no mention of the track layout changes at Mayne in the Request for Project Change 7? Is the Coordinator-General even aware of these changes?
  • What are the long term plans for connecting Cross River Rail to the Trouts Road Line / North West Transportation Corridor, and is this route safeguarded for rail transport?
Note: all screenshots from http://statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/coordinator-general/assessments-and-approvals/coordinated-projects/completed-projects/cross-river-rail-project/project-changes.html

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Brisbane Metro - Now Half-Baked

Cultural Centre - half-baked upgrade
Brisbane City Council's Brisbane Metro project has had a rocky history. The original idea, possibly drawn up on the back of a napkin after a few alcoholic drinks, was to convert the core of the SE and Inner Northern Busway to a Paris style rubber tyred metro system. It was fundamentally flawed as it stopped short of key trip generaters such as UQ, PAH, and RBWH, and any savings in journey times would have been eroded by forcing most passengers to have to change from bus to metro (or vice versa), sometimes twice. A much more sensible decision was made to replace this with a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system with specially designed "Metro" buses on the core routes (including to UQ, PAH, and RBWH) whilst also allowing many existing bus routes to also traverse the busway.

The key part of the Brisbane Metro Mk2/BRT project was fixing the most serious mistake of the original SE Busway design - the Melbourne Street/Grey Street intersection at Cultural Centre. The plan was to underground this section, removing the congested and dangerous grade junction with road traffic. Unfortunately it seems that now, possibly due to silly LNP vs ALP political games, that this idea had been dropped. Whilst there will be some improvements at this intersection, it will be remain a bottleneck for busway traffic. This bottleneck lengthens journey times, can make journey times very unpredictable, and reduces capacity.

This move is very disappointing, as multiple Brisbane public transport projects are watered down to the point at which they are barely worth building. The Northern Busway tunnel along Gympie Road was recently replaced by proposed bus lanes, which was then replaced by peak period only bus lanes This is a repeat of the delay inducing road running of the Northern Busway between Windsor and Lutwyche. Cross River Rail has been watered down so much that it is now a tunnel between two serious bottlenecks at both ends. Whilst Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland are all constructing well designed infrastructure allowing for huge increases in transport capacity, public transport planning in SE Queensland continues to be a half-baked disaster.