Friday, March 16, 2018

April Timetable Confusion!

Nine April timetables just for
the Ferny Grove Line!
A wave of confusion is taking over SE Queensland commuters ahead of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018). In most cities hosting sporting events, extra train services are operated on top of the existing timetable. Unfortunately in the Banana State, in the midst of #RailFail, NGR Fail, and everything else Fail, we will be seeing an overall 6% reduction in train services to handle the 6 million increase in journeys. As only the Gold Coast Line will be seeing service enhancements, many train lines will be seeing a 50% cut in train services. Just to add to the confusion, commuters will be faced with multiple different Queensland Rail (QR) timetables during April.

Here is an example of one line - the Ferny Grove Line:

  • 30th March to 2nd April - Easter timetable - "third world" hourly services. 
  • 3rd to 4th April - Rehashed Summer Holiday Interim Timetable (SHIT) with 50% services reduction during parts of the peak and off-peak periods.
  • 5th to 15th April - GC2018 Timetable with all services terminating at Roma Street, 50% service reductions during parts of the peak and off-peak periods, and abysmal hourly weekend services.
  • 16th to 20th April - Return of the SHIT - expect severe overcrowding as the school holidays and GC2018 will have ended. 
  • 21st April onwards - #RailFail Timetable - with 330(ish) axed train services, and the weekly joy of "Friday Fail Day".
It is no surprise that commuters will be very confused as to how to get to work, go out, or even get to the Games with so many timetable changes. Some of BrizCommuter's work colleagues have given up, and will just drive instead, which somewhat defeats the purpose of public transport. Others have just taken time off, fleeing the "State that political competence forgot". BrizCommuter has received reports of GC2018 spectators regretting getting tickets to events as the public transport situation is so bad, especially on weekends with hourly connecting train services on most lines. Even some GC2018 volunteers are thinking of quitting at the last minute due to the looming transport nightmare. Adding to the mess, is that the popular park and ride at Beenleigh is not bookable, and cannot guarantee spaces. The recent 8 hour suspension of the Ferny Grove Line after some light rain short circuited a cable, and doors "falling off" NGR trains is not exactly filling commuters with confidence. 

As predicted by BrizCommuter back in November 2016, the transport situation for GC2018 is likely to be a disaster. Only a stroke of luck will avoid total embarrassment for Queensland and Australia. It would be hoped that international embarrassment will provide a kick up the posterior to Queensland politicians to sort out SE Queenland's failing public transport system. but they are so stuck in the Land of Spin that is unfortunately unlikely. Whilst politicians will hail a "success", comments of QR and TransLink's social media will tell the real story. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Will QR's Rail Fail impact Cross River Rail's opening?

Cross River Rail's proposed
am peak service pattern (2026)
Cross River Rail (CRR) is currently expected to open in 2024. Queensland Rail have been quoted as saying that the current #RailFail due to lack of drivers will not be resolved (i.e. restoration of the full Oct 2016 timetable) until 2020. BrizCommuter correctly predicted the Commonwealth Games Rail Fail back in November 2016. This may be a long shot, but BrizCommuter is predicting that the knock on effects of Rail Fail and New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) Fail will also affect the opening of Cross River Rail in the mid-2020s. What is BrizCommuter's reasoning behind this soothsaying?
  • The October 2016 timetable will not be restored until 2019 or even 2020. 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 a considerable increase in peak (26 more tph in the am peak) services, as well as additonal off-peak services. This will also require a further considerable increase in train drivers. 
  • 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 to provide adequate extra services on the existing 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.
  • Given the severe issues with the design of 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 and construction process will be required, delaying the addition of additional trains onto QR's network. This design and procurement process would realistically need to start before the end of 2019 if the additional trains are to be in service in time for CRR's opening.  
  • The risk of a future LNP government repeating destructive policies, such as driver recruitment freezes, or attempting to privatise QR by stealth before the opening of CRR. 
  • 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. None of these projects have been started or funding sourced. 
  • Poor public transport governance under Department of Transport and Main Roads. 
Without sustained driver (and train crew) recruitment throughout the next 6 to 8 years, timely orders for approximately 42 additional 6-car trains, and multiple infrastructure projects, it will be difficult 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 sub-optimal train services on both the existing train network and on train lines that that will run through CRR. Given Queensland's track record of blundering transport planning, BrizCommuter is feeling rather pessimistic. You heard it here first - #CRRrailfail. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

NGR Denied!

Mothballed NGRs eating grass at Redbank
Can things get even worse for Queensland Rail's (QR) New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains? Yes. The disastrous NGR project, which was run by Department of Transport and Main Roads (and not QR) has taken another turn into the depths of disappointment. As BrizCommuter readers will be aware, the LNP Newman government ordered trains that have toilet cubicles too narrow to fit wheelchairs, and are thus in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act. After a few years of sitting on their heels, the ALP Palaszczuk government decided to modify the trains, by adding a compliant toilet in nearly half of the trains, and annoyingly remove toilets from the the remainder of the fleet. Despite being "illegal", the trains were arrogantly entered into passenger service anyway, with the requirement for 8 trains to be in service for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018). A temporary exemption by the Australian Human Rights Condition was applied for. Today, this exemption was turned down. The Queensland Government has two weeks to respond. So what will happen?
  • Will QR continue to run the trains in service until there is a legal challenge?
  • Will the NGRs have to be withdrawn from service before the Commonwealth Games - turning GC2018 Rail Fail into GC2018 Epic Rail Fail?
  • Will the NGRs have to be completely re-designed and re-built?
  • Will completely new train designs have to be ordered for Cross River Rail? (Hint, procurement will need to start soon)
  • Will more NGR's be put out to pasture at Redbank?
  • Will the geriatric and unreliable EMU trains have to keep going for years to come?
  • Will frustrated commuters ever see the end of overcrowded 3-car services due to lack of trains?
There is no question that there needs to be a Commission of Inquiry into the huge botch that is the NGR project, and those that made seriously bad design decisions need to be held accountable for their actions. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Closure Confusion

As is expected from purveyors of incompetence - TransLink, they have dropped another clanger over the information provided for this weekend's mass line closure through Brisbane's CBD. Taking in mind that the Ferny Grove Line is still running from Ferny Grove to Bowen Hills, the reasons for the closure has been given as - Turnout maintenance (Fortitude Valley), Embankment stabilisation (Newmarket), Removal of ground frames (Newmarket), Track reconditioning (Windsor to Wilston), Re-railing works (Bowen Hills to Windsor & Newmarket to Alderley), Overhead power line maintenance, General track maintenance. Given that many of these locations are on the apparently still open Ferny Grove Line, it seems that TransLink have done a half-arsed copy and paste job from a previous track closure. This has caused confusion, with many Ferny Grove Line commuters now unsure as to whether the Ferny Grove Line is actually running or not?

Showing how clueless Brisbane's journalists are, the Brisbane Times have copied and pasted this incorrect information into a news article without giving any thought to whether it was correct or not. Not much hope for investigative journalism is there!

This is not the first time TransLink have provide incorrect information regarding line closures. Last year, BrizCommuter was turfed off a late night northbound train at Park Road, when the TransLink's line closure information stated that trains were terminating at Roma Street. In fact, the train terminated at South Brisbane. 

Ferny Grove Line commuters aren't the only ones confused by this weekends shenanigans. Long suffering Doomben Line commuters will have to alight at Wooloowin, then catch the next train (which could be quite a wait given the infrequency of trains in Brisbane) to travel one more stop to Albion, before then having to catch a rail replacement bus into the city or beyond. Anyone not prepared for this (which will be the majority) will end up arriving at their destination very very late!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Spinning Out of Control

In BrizCommuter's previous blog post about the impending Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Rail Fail, it was alluded to that Queensland politicians are wrapped up in in their own spin. In this blog post BrizCommuter dissects some recent press releases, to show how out of touch politicians are from the land of reality. By the way, this blog post was almost going to be called "how big is the Transport Minister's weenie", but BrizCommuter thought better. If you want to know why - keep reading!

(Note: BrizCommuter apologises for the excessive use of quotation marks within quotation marks).

From the Brisbanetimes "Mr Beattie said the transport plan would provide terrific gains for the Commonwealth Games, "with a little pain". There is no gain, without some pain," he said." There would have been a lot less pain if the Beattie government had quad tracked Salisbury to Kuraby instead of only triplicating it!

From the Brisbanetimes "Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the government had kept its commitment not to close any rail lines during the games, but admitted commuters who used several stations along the Beenleigh line would be forced to use free buses instead." So "several" means 16? The dictionary definition of Several is "more than two but not many".

From the ABC news "Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told Parliament last year "categorically" there would be no line closures, but Mr Bailey insisted the Beenleigh line would have a "continuous service" with the replacement buses." What is a "continuous service"? A conveyer belt? Be honest, you've closed 16 stations on one line, and replaced them with buses!

Transport Minister Mark Bailey discussing the Beenleigh Line rail replacement buses on ABC news "It will be quite convenient. In some cases it will actually be faster, in some cases it will be similar, and in some cases it will be a weeny-bit slower". A weenie bit slower? So having to walk to the bus stop (in some cases hundreds of metres from the station), wait for a bus, travel on the bus, walk from the bus to the platform, wait for the train, and then travel on the train, is only a weenie bit slower than just getting on a train? Maybe Mr Bailey has a very large weenie?

From the Courier Mail "Mr Bailey said the cuts were happening during the “usually quiet” Easter school holiday period." There are cuts for the whole week after the games and Easter holidays have finished. This will result in severe train overcrowding, and very annoyed commuters!

From the Brisbanetimes, quoting QR CEO Nick Easy "We’ve always said there would need to be some adjustments to other parts of the rail network as we increase services on the Gold Coast line to meet this unprecedented demand." So "some", means up to a 50% reduction in peak services, removal of some peak express services, up to 50% reduction of off-peak services, awful hourly weekend frequencies, closure of 16 Beenleigh Line stations, and 100% reduction of Ferny Grove to South Bank/Brisbane journeys. Right?

QR CEO Nick Easy "Other transport providers around the world have also had to alter their regular timetables to meet the demands of major events of this scale." The London Olympics, and Glasgow Commonwealth Games only saw service increases, not decreases. In Delhi, a few new metro lines opened for the Commonwealth Games. In SE Queensland, it's just a disaster!

When politicians are this delusional, there is little hope!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Fail McFailFace - QR's Comm Games Train Service

The Beenleigh Line has been axed!
As predicted by BrizCommuter back in November 2016 after the onset of #RailFail, Queensland Rail's (QR) services for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) timetable will be a international embarrassment to Australia. Whilst the actual timetables have inconveniently yet to be been published, the service frequencies have been announced by TransLink. In order to increase frequencies on the Gold Coast Line to every 10 minutes or better, and allow for a rather pointless hourly overnight (24 hour) service, services have been heavily cut on all other train lines in Brisbane and SE Queensland. The frequencies on a line by line basis are available here:

So what is wrong with QR's GC2018 train service?
  • Overall 6% reduction in train services at a time when more are required. 
  • The Beenleigh Line has been axed, due to the lack of infrastructure to allow faster Gold Coast Line services to overtake slower Beenleigh Line services in both directions. The Gold Coast services will serve 4 additional Beenleigh Line stations, thus slowing down the Gold Coast Line service in the process. Beenleigh Line passengers from the 16 non-serviced stations will have to use (thankfully free to use) rail replacement buses, massively slowing down commutes. 
  • Peak services have been axed on all train lines other than the Gold Coast Line. It is expected that the peak service will be similar to that for the 2017/18 Summer Holiday Interim Timetable (SHIT) which was inadequate, resulted in overcrowded services, removed express services, and cut some direct journey opportunities by up to 75%. TransLink are still somehow charging peak fares! 
  • Weekday 15 minute off-peak services have been axed on all lines other than the Gold Coast Line, with a 30 minute weekday off-peak services on all lines. That's a worse frequency than in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Auckland! 
  • Weekend off-peak services have been reduced by 50%. Services have been reduced from every 30 minutes to only every 60 minutes on all lines other than the Gold Coast and Airport Lines. This is worse than all other heavy rail systems in Australia and New Zealand! These hourly weekend services will be a nightmare for Brisbanites who need to get work, such as hospital and emergency service workers, retail and hospitality staff. 
  • Long suffering Sunshine Coast Line commuters will see off-peak services reduced to an abysmal two hourly service. 
  • The poor frequency of connecting services (especially on weekends) makes travelling by train to GC2018 extremely unattractive for both staff and spectators, forcing these commuters onto the already busy M1 Pacific Highway.
  • Bus to train connections around Brisbane and SE Queensland will be broken due to the large number of train services being cut and changes to clockface times. 
  • The actual timetables (rather than service frequencies) are still unavailable two months out from GC2018. 
  • The commuter pain will not just be during GC2018, but cover a 22 day period including Easter and a whole week after the games. Expect severe train overcrowding in the week beginning 16th April. 
Who is to blame for this disastrous train service?
  • The Newman LNP government for stopping driver recruitment and demoting driver trainers, at a time when more train services were being added, or due to be added.  
  • The Newman LNP government ordered NGR trains that were not compliant with disability access laws and regulations. 
  • The Palaszczuk ALP government for mediocrity in fast tracking driver recruitment by giving in to Union demands and pressure. 
  • The Palaszczuk ALP government for being slow at resolving NGR train issues, that were known about in 2015. 
  • The Beattie/Bligh era ALP government for triplicating instead of quadding parts of the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line corridor, thus preventing Gold Coast Line services from overtaking Beenleigh Line services in both directions (hence the axing of the Beenleigh Line).
  • The Beattie/Bligh era ALP government for dropping an add on order for the previous generation of trains, resulting in a lack of trains since 2014. 
  • Rail Transport and Bus Union - for trying to block and delay external driver recruitment.  
  • QR for chronically failed management. (Note: BrizCommuter has more faith in the new management, but the scale of past failure for them to fix is of epic proportions). 
  • Department of Transport and Main Roads - this government department has overseen NGR Fail, Moreton Bay Rail Link Signalling Fail, QR's Rail Fail, and GC2018 Timetable Fail. 
  • CityTrain Response Unit - for well, not doing much at all. 
  • Queensland's media for being being hopeless at investigative journalism and reporting pressing transport issues. Authorities in cities such as London for example, could not get away with the mediocrity that QR and the various Queensland Governments have got away with in the last decade. 
Whilst QR have tried to do the best with limited drivers and trains, the services frequencies for GC2018 show how bad #RailFail still is. Commuters on all train lines other than the Gold Coast Line will suffer from an inadequate "third world" train service between Friday 30th March and 20th April. Using trains to get to the games will be very unattractive due to poor service frequencies on connecting train lines, forcing more cars (including BrizCommuter's) onto the already congested M1 Pacific Highway. The only saviour to congestion chaos will be SE Queenslander's trying to avoid the dreaded M1 like the plague. 

The only positive that BrizCommuter can see, is if Queensland and Australia is embarrassed so much on the world stage, that it sparks changes to governance and investment for SE Queensland's failing public transport system. However, given that QLD politicians are so lost in their own spin, BrizCommuter isn't convinced there will be much change to the current status quo of mediocrity.