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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Commonwealth Games Rail Fail - which lines will be axed?

Back in November 2016, BrizCommuter predicted that the train services for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) will be a bit of a disaster due to lack of drivers, lack of trains, and lack of rail infrastructure. This prediction is looking like it may have been an understatement for GC2018 which is being held in April. The situation with less than 200 days until GC2018:

  • Lack of drivers - Since the start of Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail in October 2016 due to lack of drivers, less than 40 new drivers have qualified. It has been claimed by "rail advocate" Paul Pluta, that more drivers have departed QR in this period, than have qualified. Even if not completely true, this is not surprising given that only 2 of the 333 axed train services in the 2017 timetable have been restored, and hourly services have been run on many weekends. Obviously with more drivers currently being trained, this balance will eventually tip in the positive direction, but there will still be a severe lack of driver issue throughout 2018, and well into 2019. 
  • Lack of trains / NGR delays - QR's New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) train project (run by Department of Transport and Main Roads) has been a disaster, with large numbers of defects, and disabled toilets that don't meet legal requirements. After nearly 600 days of being in Australia, not one NGR train has entered passenger service. There have been insufficient trains to run QR's timetable since 2014, and the delays to the NGR project is only making this issue worse. 
  • Failing EMU trains - the end of service life EMU trains are nearly 40 years old, and constitute most of the train failures on QR's network. Expected to have already been replaced by the delayed NGR trains, EMU reliability will be a concern until they are all retired. 
  • Lack of infrastructure - short sighted triplication instead of quadruplication of the Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line under the Beattie/Bligh era prevents Gold Coast express services overtaking slower Beenleigh Line services in both directions. This will prevent running fast high frequency services in both directions during GC2018 - note: the usual peak direction will the opposite to GC2018 traffic. At least the Coomera to Helensvale duplication and track improvements at Varsity Lakes will be complete. 
  • Politicians in the land of spin - it seems that politicians are avoiding the issue (well, there is an election looming) saying everything they can other than that train lines will inevitably have to see services axed during GC2018.
As extra services will need to be run to and from the Gold Coast during the games, it has been pretty obvious for the last year, that due to lack of trains and drivers, services will have to be removed from train lines other than the Gold Coast Line. This will cause pain for regular commuters, and for those connecting with services to/from the Gold Coast for GC2018. Accountant firm Deloitte seem to have tasked to do the number crunching to decide which train lines will see services axed. The fact that QR hasn't done this itself is somewhat concerning of its capabilities. So which lines may see services axed?
  • Beenleigh Line - interesting one. On on hand the Beenleigh Line may see services extended to run to/from Varsity Lakes to form some of the extra Gold Coast Line services. On the other hand, the run more Gold Coast express services, we may see some Beenleigh Lines axed, or skip stations (though we could also see Gold Coast services slowed down).
  • Springfield and Ipswich Lines - these lines use different tracks through Brisbane CBD to the Gold Coast Line, so should be unaffected for operational reasons. However due to only having a few stations, BrizCommuter would not be surprised if the Springfield Line is high up the list for train service axing. 
  • Ferny Grove Line - this is the busiest line (per number of stations) on QR's network. Being at the "other end" of the Beenleigh Line may (or may not) save it from having services axed. However, 15 minute off-peak and weekend frequencies may be jeopardy. 
  • Caboolture, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines - these lines do not share tracks with the Gold Coast Line. However, QR have had no qualms about axing 50% of Sunshine Coast Line services on some weekends, or reducing Caboolture Line peak services by 60% during January 2017. So be afraid! The new and still relatively quiet Redcliffe Peninsula Line (mainly due to an infrequent train service) is a high contender for having services axed. 
  • Airport Line - QR would be pretty dumb if they axed Airport Line services, which are usually at the "other end" of the Gold Coast Line. 
  • Shorncliffe and Doomben Lines - these share the same tracks as the Gold Coast Line, and thus could see services removed for capacity reasons. The short Doomben Line is relatively quiet, and could be at very high risk of having its already infrequent services axed. The 15 minute off-peak services to Northgate could also be at risk of axing. 
  • Cleveland Line - this line also shares tracks with the Gold Coast Line. With capacity across the Merivale Bridge shared with the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines, the Cleveland Line could see services axed for capacity reasons. The 15 minute off-peak services, and weekend 30 minute services could be axed. 
With an election looking, it is highly unlikely for the GC2018 service cuts to be announced until after the new government has formed power. There is no question that many commuters are going to be very annoyed with the inevitable Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games train service cuts, and that SE Queensland is going to look very stupid on the world stage.  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

TransLink's Information Fail (again)

Screen shot of TransLink's fail
Yesterday (Monday 18th September 2017), there were late night track closures through the CBD. TransLink advertised this closure as being from Corinda, Roma Street, Albion and Ferny Grove stations. BrizCommuter was travelling in from a late night Cleveland Line services, and planned to connect to a last bus from Roma Street, as based on TransLink's information trains were running to Roma Street. Right? Wrong!

Unfortunately, when the train arrived at Park Road, there was an announcement that the train terminated there, and passengers were to transfer to replacement buses to get to the CBD. This was the first time that the train passengers had been informed by the train guard of this service change. The extra time taken by the replacement bus to travel from Park Road to Roma Street, put onward bus and train connections into question. Thankfully, BrizCommuter just made his connection by seconds. Unfortunately, some of the other passengers forced onto the replacement bus were likely to miss onward bus connections (in one case the last bus of the night) and were furious at TransLink's information failure. 

The fact that TransLink can't get basic information right, such as the terminus for replacement services, is just another example of the chronic public transport failure in Brisbane. 

PS: BrizCommuter was also incorrectly told by platform staff at Park Road to not touch off at Park Road. If BrizCommuter had followed that advice, he would have incurred at $10 fixed fare. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

QR's Rail Fail - Yet more hourly shame!

QR's Train Wreck Timetables continue...
Rail Fail looks set to continue with Queensland Rail (QR) announcing yet more days of terrible hourly train services. TransLink and QR have announced that during the Spring School Holidays and Queen's Birthday Public Holiday, that they will again axe train services down to an hourly frequency on Sunday 17th September, Sunday 24th September, Sunday 1st October, and Monday 2nd October. Again, this means that Brisbane will have the worst train frequency in Oceana (Australia and New Zealand), even worse than Adelaide and Wellington (the latter only having 10% the population of Brisbane). Hourly service frequency is completely inadequate for the estimated 50,000 people who still have to use trains to get to work (including hospitality workers who have just suffered a pay cut), and for weekend shopping and events. This is likely to result in many workers being late into work, harming CBD businesses and decreasing event attendance. It is also causing severe repetitional damage to Brisbane.

Just to make things worse, there is a chance of Brisbane's Suncorp stadium hosting an NRL Finals Game. Whilst extra services will be run, many attendees (including those from interstate) will want to travel around QR's network during the day when hourly trains would be running. This will be quite a shock for those used to Sunday frequencies as good as every 10 minutes in Melbourne and every 15 minutes in Sydney and Perth.

On the good side, at least QR have kept the normal clock face timings of the remaining services so as to not break all bus connections.

The current state of Rail Fail (now into its 11th Month) is that:
  • Only 2 out of QR's 333 axed weekly train services have been restored
  • External recruitment has only just been advertised thanks to Union interference. 
  • Less than 40 new drivers have been trained out of the required 200. 
  • Citytrain Response Unit have dropped any mention of when services will be restored in their latest publication. 
BrizCommuter is very concerned. Expect more axed services during the Summer School Holidays, Easter, and of course during the Commonwealth Games. Due to the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) disaster, Rail Fail, and the M1 being the M1, expect transport chaos during the Commonwealth Games! Just to make things worse, the October 2016 timetable might not be fully restored until October 2019!

Monday, August 28, 2017

LNP go Hyper Loopy

Artists impression of the LNP's transport policy
In yet another example of laughable/destructive public transport policies from the Queensland LNP, today opposition leader Tim Nicholls announced that the LNP would pledge $2.5m towards a business case for Very Fast Train's (VFT) running between the Gold Coast and Bundaberg. It seems that even the Hyperloop concept from Tesla Cars entrepreneur Elon Musk will be investigated as an option.

Despite this investigation into Very Fast Trains, it appears that the LNP are still very cold on Cross River Rail (CRR). This is despite CRR going through countless evaluation processes throughout the last decade to be the best transport solution for SE Queensland. Without CRR (and ETCS signalling), capacity cannot be increased across Brisbane's existing rail network, making new lines such as the Salisbury to Beaudesert corridor (Greater Flagstone), and increasing train services to the Gold and Sunshine Coasts impossible to implement. Also, without CRR, much of Brisbane's CBD including the Queens Wharf Casino and QUT Gardens Point are still a long way from train stations, and transport in Brisbane will grind a standstill. This will make Queensland much less attractive to businesses compared to Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland that are all advancing with building new rail tunnels.

Does Tim Nicholls realise that:
  • For VFT's to run into Brisbane, that new train lines and transport corridors are required, a la Cross River Rail which he so despises? 
  • Due to acceleration and deceleration, that the time savings of VFT within 100km distance e.g. Brisbane to Gold and Sunshine Coats is barely worth the effort, especially given the linear nature of these conurbations requiring multiple stations? 
  • That Hyperloop is not in operation anywhere in the world, and that Queensland isn't too successful at project management recently? (NGR and MBRL, cough, cough)? 
  • That VFT from Brisbane to Bundaberg would cost approximately $100b (based on HS2 costs). 
  • That VFT requires a price premium, which many SE Queenslanders will not want to pay for (e.g. in Japan a similar distance journey on a Bullet Train will cost approximately double that of conventional rail)? 
  • That Brisbane to Bundaberg traffic would not sustain VFT in the slightest? 
If the LNP axe the urgently required CRR to instead investigate travelling at 1000kph in a drain pipe, then they will most definitely be Hyper Loopy! 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

CRR - ALP Release Business Case, LNP Clueless

The ALP Palaszczuk government has finally released the Cross River Rail (CRR) Mk3 Business Case. This can be downloaded here:
http://buildingqueensland.qld.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Building-Queensland-Business-Case-LR.pdf
According the QLD state government, the key findings of the business case are:
  • For every $1 invested in the project it returns $1.41 to the people of Queensland.
  • The project will generate an average of 1500 jobs each year over the construction period, with a peak of 3000 in the most intensive year.
  • CRR will provide capacity for ‘turn-up-and-go’ services for South East Queenslanders.
  • CRR will help reduce pressure on the region’s roads, freeing them up for commercial vehicles and commuter buses.
  • It will enable greater integration of bus and rail services which will help to maximise the State Government’s rail network investments and Brisbane City Council’s investment in Brisbane Metro and improved bus services.
  • Total daily public transport trips (bus & rail) will climb from around 510,000 to more than 880,000 in 2026 and to more than 1.1 million by 2036.
The benefits of CRR include:
  • Higher public transport use, increase frequencies, reduced journey times, reduced crowding, increased network reliability.
  • Facilitate city building and urban growth.
  • Improve population and employment linkages.
  • Improve SEQ's economic potential.
  • Road de-congestion,
  • Supply chain improvements. 
Cross River Rail map
The benefit improvements are obviously welcome. However, there is still no detail on the additional costs for out of scope infrastructure, required to meet the projected service frequencies. Irrespective of this, the current ALP government are committed to funding CRR, with support from the LNP Brisbane City Council, and even road lobbyists RACQ. 

Unfortunately, the LNP Federal Government, and LNP state opposition just don't get it. The Tim Nicholls led state opposition still appear that they want to delay or axe CRR if they get into power. This is rather ironic given that they were so keen to proceed with the seriously flawed BaT Tunnel three years ago. Excuses are that patronage is not growing. As previously discussed in this blog, there is considerable latent demand for public transport in Brisbane, however it is being held back to due to fare increases by the previous ALP and LNP governments, and mediocre train frequencies due to lack of staff, trains, and willpower during the last decade. It appears that LNP do not have the interests of SE Queenslanders at heart, with their destructive transport policies only appealing to car manufacturers and oil companies. Sadly, due to the ALP governments lacklustre efforts in resolving the LNP induced QR Rail Fail increasing the likelihood of political annihilation, the future of CRR, and thus Brisbane being competitive for business in the future is in serious doubt.