Thursday, November 16, 2017

LNP & PHON - The Consequences of Bad Decisions

Tim Nicholls - Out of Touch
As the 2017 Queensland Election campaign rolls along, it is becoming more apparent that the Tim Nicholls led LNP will axe Cross River Rail if they win the election. This is despite the Newman LNP government supporting the BaT tunnel on the same route just 3 years earlier. Instead the LNP are promising a study (yes, just a study) into vapourware (i.e. non-existent) fast transport options such as Hyperloop. The LNP will almost definitely have to partner with Pauline Hanson's One Nation (PHON) to form a government, and PHON have already made it clear that they have no interest in CRR. If the LNP and PHON get there way, these will be consequences of their bad decisions:

  • No 50% increase in rail capacity through Brisbane's CBD.
  • No 50% increase in Gold Coast Line services.
  • No 25% increase in Cleveland Line services.
  • No 50% increase in outer Beenleigh Line services.
  • No capacity for Salisbury to Beaudesert Line services.
  • No 100% increase, and express services on the Redcliffe Peninsula Line.
  • No improvements in journey times from the Gold Coast to Brisbane's CBD.
  • No station as part of Roma Street redevelopments (Entertainment Centre).
  • No capability for building the Trouts Road Line to massively increase services on the Sunshine Coast Line and serve North West Brisbane suburbs for the first time by rail.
  • No improvements in train network resilience and reliability across QR's train network.
  • No train service to the Southern end of Brisbane's CBD and Wooloongabba.
  • Will limit off-peak frequency across QR's train network.
  • Will increase road congestion.
  • Will result in Brisbane loosing out on business to more progressive cities which are building rail tunnels such as Auckland, Sydney, and Melbourne.
  • Will severely damage Brisbane's reputation as a "New World City".
Business groups and even the RACQ are fully supportive of Cross River Rail. For Tim Nicholls and the LNP to continue being anti-CRR, shows how out of touch he is with 21st century transport policy. Axing CRR would prevent improvements to public transport from suburbs that are in LNP electorates - go figure! A vote against CRR, will cause transport meltdown in SE Queensland, and make Brisbane look even more backwards on the world stage. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Less Rail Patronage - Why?

Perth - 15 minute frequency, 7 days a week
After significant SE Queensland rail patronage increases in the mid 2000s, patronage has declined significantly in recent years. This is being used by the LNP as an excuse to axe Brisbane's Cross River Rail (yet again). There is huge latent demand for rail transport, but unfortunately this patronage is being stifled for the following reasons:
  • I would catch the train if the pm peak frequency wasn't half of the am peak frequency.
  • I would catch the train if the off-peak frequency wasn't so poor.
  • I would catch the train if I didn't have to travel on overcrowded 3-car trains.
  • I would catch the train if it wasn't for the axed train services due to Rail Fail.
  • I would catch the train if Fridays had the same timetable as Monday to Thursday.
  • I would catch the train if night time services didn't keep being replaced by buses.
  • I would catch the train if my services didn't keep getting cancelled or expressed past my station.
  • I would catch the train if weekend services were sometimes not hourly. 
  • I would catch the train if it wasn't cheaper to drive.
  • I would catch the train if I could salary sacrifice the fare.
  • I would catch the train if the station car park didn't reach capacity at 6:50am.
  • I would catch the train if there was a frequent bus service to the station.
  • I would catch the train if the last connecting bus service ran after 5pm.
  • I would catch the train if the air conditioning wasn't too hot/cold.
  • I would catch the train if they weren't filthy cess pits. 
Unfortunately, most of the above are due to failed public transport policy by successive governments on both sides of politics (and in a  few cases Brisbane City Council and TransLink incompetence).  The biggest causes of patronage decline is poor frequency and overcrowded train services due to chronic lack of trains and drivers. The #RailFail lack of drivers won't be resolved until at least 2019. As not enough NGR trains have been ordered to maximise use of the current network, lack of trains will again be an issue by the early 2020s. Fare policy is a other huge issue, with a clear link between successive 15% fare increases and patronage decline. Lesser issues include the removal of cleaners at termini under the Newman government, and lack of station car parking.

There is huge latent demand for public transport in Brisbane, all it requires is for QR to run a frequent  train service that the population of SE Queensland deserves (as per Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne). Of course, governments may be purposefully stifling demand for public transport to avoid having to build more rail infrastructure such as Cross River Rail, and Salisbury to Beaudesert Line. If Queensland governments continue to ignore public transport, then Brisbane will struggle to attract business as it descends further into car-centric transport failure. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunshine Coast Line Duplication - Reality Check

Add - Beware of Politicians! 
With the 2017 Queensland State Election campaign underway, there will be a few political footballs that involve public transport. The most critical is Cross River Rail (CRR), which is vital for increasing rail capacity through Brisbane's CBD by approximately 50% allowing for more services to run through Brisbane to/from the suburbs, and allows for passenger services on the Salisbury to Beaudesert Line. However, the project most likely to receive bi-partisan political support (at least until the day after the election) will be the duplication of the Sunshine Coast from from Beerburrum to Landsborough, or even Nambour. However, anyone who thinks that this is going to be problem solver for peak period passenger services to the Sunshine Coast, needs a reality check. These are the facts:
  • Current am peak service from the Sunshine Coast is approximately 3 trains per hour in the peak direction (tph), with 9 tph running through to Brisbane from Caboolture. These services share tracks with the Redcliffe Peninsula Line from Northgate through the CBD, running at 18tph, out of the maximum 20tph capacity. 
  • Proposed ETCS signalling will allow approximately 24tph reliably. This is only a 20% increase in track capacity to be shared between the Sunshine Coast Line, Caboolture Line, and Redcliffe Peninsula Line. 
  • Due to the limited spare track capacity between Northgate and Brisbane's CBD, there is little potential for increasing train services. Even with a duplication, the Sunshine Coast Line may just see 1 or 2 extra tph in the am peak. There would however be significant potential for increasing the current inadequate off-peak services. 
  • The only way of significantly increasing peak train services to/from the Sunshine Coast is to construct the "barely on the political radar" Trouts Rd Line / North Eastern Transportation Corridor, which would connect with CRR just North of Roma Street. This would cost in excess of $2b. 
  • Thus unless political parties support both CRR and the Trouts Rd Line, then duplicating the Sunshine Coast Line will have little benefit for increasing peak train services to/from the Sunshine Coast. The LNP and One Nation appear to be anti-CRR, and no political parties are makings series effort towards building the Trouts Rd Line. An LNP MP has been quoted as wanting to build a road along the North Eastern Transportation Corridor instead of a train line. 
  • The Sunshine Coast Line services a few hinterland villages and small town (Nambour). Whilst duplicating the line would have benefit for freight services, a better solution for passengers would be to construct the long planned CAMCOS Line from Beerwah to Caloundra and Maroochydore. 
It can be concluded that duplication the Sunshine Coast Line will have benefits for improving reliability, rail freight and off-peak passenger services. However, for any significant peak period service improvements, the Trouts Rd Line and Cross River Rail will be required. Without these two projects, the Sunshine Coast Line duplication may be a white elephant. To better service the larger population centres on the Sunshine Coast, will require the construction of CAMCOS to Caloundra and Maroochydore. Brave politicians will need to spend big to solve SE Queensland's transport woes, and allow SE Queensland to support growth and attract business to the benefit of Queensland's economy. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

NGR Fail - 600 Days and Questions for Mr Nicholls

NGR - 600 Days and Not in Service
Today was the 600th day anniversary of the first of the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains arriving in Queensland. Due to a project failure of epic proportions, these trains are still not in passenger service. The NGR trains were ordered under the one-term LNP Newman government, who also laid the foundations for Rail Fail by ordering a recruitment freeze ahead of the implementation of 15 minute off-peak services and the Redcliffe Peninsula Line. It is well known the NGR trains were ordered without guard accommodation, as the intention was for the trains to be Driver Only Operated (DOO). This was a polar opposite of the EBA that was in place for train crew. So how were the LNP Government going to get around this? It is also well known that QR has limited involvement with the design of the NGR trains. Well it seems that there are a few questions for current QLD LNP opposition leader Mr Tim Nicholls MP to answer:

  • Were the LNP planning on the NGR trains to be run by a private company?
  • Was this private company going to use DOO trains on the QR network?
  • Was this private company going to poach train drivers from the already understaffed QR?
  • Was the recruitment freeze a plan to setup QR to fail?
  • Why was the NGR business case not released? 
  • Are public servants too scared to speak up about the LNP's secret plans, as they could loose their jobs if the LNP got back in power?
  • Why were the disabled toilets in the NGR trains designed to not meet legal requirements?
BrizCommuter has run many a blog post about the LNP's other destructive public transport policies, such as axing Cross River Rail for the ill-thought out BaT Tunnel which has set back CRR by over half a decade (or even permanently if the LNP get back in power). There is no question that QR had serious internal issues irrespective of the government in power, and that the ALP Palaszczuk have done a half-arsed job with Rail Fail service recovery thanks to Union pressure. In fact, BrizCommuter is not adverse to QR Citytrain being privatised, but it needs to be done by honest and transparent methods. However, if it appears that the LNP were planning on privatising QR by stealth, by getting a private company to run the NGR trains with different safety rules and staff agreements, then it appears that the LNP cannot be trusted with public transport. 

If the LNP get back in power before the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, then they will have egg on their face when services have to be axed to lack of NGR trains and drivers. With the LNP being more concerned with privatising train services than improving train services, expect the pain of the Rail Fail to continue well into the next decade if they win the next Queensland state election. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

1 Year of Rail Fail, No End in Sight!

Lets celebrate
by running hourly trains!
Today is the 1st birthday of Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail (#RailFail), with the first wave of mass service cancellations occurring on 30th September 2016, a few days ahead of the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line.

So what caused Rail Fail?
  • Recruitment freeze under the LNP Newman Government at the same time as construction was occurring on the Redcliffe Peninsula Line, and expansion of 15 minute off-peak services.
  • Changes to train driver breaks, requiring more drivers for the same number of services. 
  • Slow driver training programs, and Union influence internal recruitment slowed down recruitment. 
  • Chronic incompetence at QR failed to see that the October 2016 timetable was not possible with the staff availability at the time. 
How have commuters suffered?
  • Waves of last minute service cancellations (usually on Fridays and Sundays) during late 2016. 
  • Multiple timetable changes during late 2016 with axed services. 
  • Confusingly different timetables between Monday-Thursdays and Fridays.
  • 333 axed services per week in the 2017 timetable, of which only 2 have since been restored. 
  • Service gaps of up to 1 hour in the peaks, and increased overcrowding on some services.
  • Hourly weekend timetables during School Holidays and Public Holidays - worst train service in Australia and New Zealand (Oceania)!
  • Up to 60% peak period service cuts during the Summer School Holidays.
  • 2/3 of services cancelled on Xmas Day 2016. 
  • Looming Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Rail Fail - services to be axed on train lines other than the Gold Coast Line. 
  • Looming service cuts during School Holidays throughout 2018. 
What other issues have there been?
  • Chronic lack of trains since the January 2014 timetable limiting train services and resulting  overcrowded 3-car services. 
  • Nearly 600 day delay in New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) entering service.
  • Not enough NGR trains have been ordered to maximise use of existing infrastructure - politics and lack of perceived problem may prevent further orders from Indian Bombardier factory, and delay subsequent orders. 
  • NGR train toilets are not large enough for wheelchairs. 
  • NGR train guard position has moved to back of train, away from accessibility "seating" area, and raised platforms.
  • Increasing unreliability of ageing EMU and ICU trains. 
  • Poor train/platform interface at most stations. 
  • Chronic issue with trains running early.
  • Chronic issue with CBD track closures during the daytime causing delays of up to 15 minutes and missed connections.
  • Late night track closures creating a headache for shift workers. 
  • On-time running statistics exclude "expressed" services and off-peak services. 
What has been the result of Rail Fail?
  • Decline in patronage on QR's network (taking into account opening of Redcliffe Peninsula Line) - though statistics have gone "missing in action". 
  • Increased road congestion. 
  • Permanent damage to QR's reputation - privatisation almost inevitable when the LNP next gain power. 
  • Damage to Brisbane and SE Queensland's reputation - including lower liveability than other Australian capitals. 
  • High risk of Cross River Rail getting axed.
  • Due to massive number of 1 star reviews on Facebook, QR removed all Facebook reviews, and started concentrating on posts irrelevant to running a train service - trying to hid the truth QR?
When will Rail Fail be resolved?
  • Information of Rail Fail resolution and service recovery was conveniently dropped from the last CityTrain response - so little information is available. 
  • Likely that some of the axed 333 services will be restored during the second half of 2018. Expect further Friday and School Holiday service cuts throughout 2018. 
  • Most of the axed 333 services should be restored during 2019. Some axed services may not return. 
  • Urgently required service improvements (such as extending Cleveland Line pm peak expresses) unlikely until late 2019 or 2020. 
  • Major improvements to timetables (such as improved off-peak services and pm peak services on most lines) unlikely until well into 2020s. 
Whilst Queensland Rail's annual report states that Queensland Rail is focussed on becoming a "world class" rail operator, it is quite obvious that Queensland Rail is just a "world class" embarrassment to Brisbane and SE Queensland. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Toilets dropped from QR's NGR trains!

The disastrous New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) project has just taken another step towards mediocrity.  According to the New Generation Rollingstock website "Each NGR train will have an on-board toilet located in the third or fourth car (depending on direction of travel), with a baby change table inside." BrizCommuter's informed sources have also confirmed that the original intention was for all NGR trains to have toilets.

Unfortunately, in todays Brisbane Times article it has been stated that "The fleet will include 35 trains for long distance services on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Rosewood lines which will have two toilets and these will be made disability-accessible, while the remaining 40 trains will have no toilets, like QR's existing urban fleet".

This is the first that BrizCommuter was aware that more than half of the supposedly toilet equipped NGR trains will now not have toilets. When was this change made? Was it a cost saving exercise? Was it due to the toilets on the first batch of NGR trains being too small for wheelchairs? With urban train services to Cleveland, Beenleigh, Caboolture, Ipswich, and Kippa-Ring having journeys times of approximately an hour from Brisbane's CBD, the lack of toilets is a disgrace. This will also reduce operational flexibility by having two classes of NGR, increasing the likelihood of non-toilet equipped NGR trains running on the longer distance services to Rosewood, Gold Coast, and Sunshine Coast. The lack of amenities for basic human requirements on trains, is yet another reason why the majority of SE Queenslanders avoid using Queensland Rail's train services, and prefer to use their car instead. BrizCommuter backs calls by Rail Back on Track for a Commission of Inquiry into the massively botched NGR project. It is also time that the DG of Transport and Main Roads - Neil Scales was "flushed down the toilet", having presided over so many project failures.