Monday, January 22, 2018

Not Appy TransLink!

The MyTransLink app for smart phones was one of the few decent things that have come out of TransLink. It was easy to use, and generally popular with commuters. Unfortunately, TransLink implemented a major upgrade to version 2, and now the app is one of the worst smart phone apps that BrizCommuter has come across.

For example, previously if you wanted to find real time info for a (non-favourited) bus stop or train station it was really easy by searching the location on a map. Now, BrizCommuter can't even work out how to do this other than ignoring the search function (which tries to do a journey plan) and scrolling around the SE Queensland map until you eventually find the stop.

If you manage to work that out, you have to look at every train platform to get to the details. So instead of being able to for example view all Northbound services from Fortitude Valley, you have to look up individual platforms. How about timetables from Roma Street to Milton? You can't see both Ipswich and Springfield Line services together, even though they both serve the stations.
Almost as unpopular as QR! 
The app has also been reported to crash and freeze often, and has been getting loads of 1 star reviews on Google Play and Apple's App Store. BrizCommuter expects that many commuters have missed buses and trains due to time wasted trying to work out how to use the app to see when the bus or train was coming. Please TransLink, revert back to developing the old user interface. If you do need to change things, maybe review the software with actual public transport users first. Attention to detail on coding and debugging also helps! Apps need to be intuitive enough that users can work them out with no training or assistance.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Fares Increase, QR's Rail Fail Farce Continues...

Screenshot from getsetforthegames.com
How can we prepare with no timetables?
As Queensland Rail's (QR) inadequate Summer Holiday Interim Timetable (SHIT) comes to a close, TransLink have unimpressively increased public transport fares in SE Queensland by 1.5%. This small fare increase, based on CPI, was expected as part of the public transport fare reforms. Unfortunately, any increase in fares during the continuation of #RailFail leaves a very sour taste in the mouth of the dwindling number of SE Queensland rail commuters. It is totally unacceptable for fares to be increased until QR's full October 2016 timetable is re-implemented or even improved upon.

Just to add insult to injury, QR's 2017 interim timetable will be continued indefinitely throughout 2018. Commuters are not impressed with the ongoing 330+ axed train services/week, and confusingly different timetables for Fridays. Even QR's base service (before service axing) is worse than Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. The sporadic hourly weekend services are also worse than Adelaide, Auckland, and even tiny Wellington. Both QR and TransLink continued to show their contempt for commuters, by only announcing the continuation of the 2017 interim timetable with less than a week until the 2018 2017 timetables were implemented. Very little explanation was required, just stating " On Monday 22 January, services will revert to the timetable in place prior to the temporary summer service changes, coinciding with the beginning of the school term". QR have also ignored questions on social media asking for when the October 2016 timetable will be restored, which shows that either they don't have a clue,  don't care about their customers, or both. Stop the spin, and just be honest please QR!

The lack of information from QR, TransLink, the Queensland Government, and the utterly pointless CityTrain Response Unit on when #RailFail will be resolved is very concerning. Given that only 2 train services have been restored in the last year shows quite how badly QR stuffed up when it came to planning the October 2016 timetables for the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line. With the Commonwealth Games looming, changes to train drivers working conditions later in the year, and drivers leaving QR at a similar rate to new drivers being qualified, then BrizCommuter is expecting at least another year of pain for SE Queensland commuters.

On the subject of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018), commuters are being urged to change their journey plans during the games at: https://www.getsetforthegames.com/travel-public-transport
Unfortunately, as neither expected train service frequencies, let alone the actual timetables themselves have been published, then this situation is somewhat farcical!  Maybe QR and Department of Transport and Main Roads are awaiting a decision on the legality of running the badly designed NGR trains before publishing the timetables?

With Rail Fail, Commonwealth Games Fail, and NGR Fail still ongoing, SE Queensland's public transport system is set to be an embarrassment to Australia on the world stage.

Monday, January 1, 2018

QR Hits Rock Bottom

Can things get any worse for SE Queensland commuters? Commuters in Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne are enjoying summertime full peak services, and 15 minute off-peak services (or better) even on weekends - with standing off-peak observed loads even on Xmas day in Perth. In the meantime, Brisbane commuters are struggling to get to work and play with slashed peak services, half-hourly weekday off-peak, and hourly weekend services. The service (the worst of any rail system in Australia and New Zealand) is so appalling, that many regular commuters have taken to driving instead, with some trains almost deserted. Not since the days of diesel hauled train services in the 1970s, have Brisbanites had to endure such terrible train services. There have even been cases of passengers being stranded at Landsborough for hours on end due to failed bus connections. Critical hospital and emergency service workers have been arriving to work late. Hospitality workers have had to leave up to an hour earlier to get to work. Shoppers have abandoned Brisbane's CBD for suburban shopping centres. The Pacific Highway has been at a standstill for 4 consecutive days due to commuters shunning public transport. Queensland Rail (QR) keeps spouting the same spin "throughout the summer period we usually experience a drop in patronage, and we want to ensure we deliver a reliable service for our customers while also effectively managing our resources" which sounds like a broken record on repeat. QR's ongoing lack of drivers Rail Fail is a major embarrassment to Queensland, and is causing severe repetitional damage to Brisbane and SE Queensland. at home and abroad.

The New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) train project (managed by Department of Transport and Main Roads) is an absolute disaster, with the poorly designed "illegal" trains being forced into service by QR in a desperate effort to avoid Commonwealth Games catastrophe. The first two NGR trains have reportedly been moved into storage, with rumours that they may even be cannibalised for spare parts. Not enough NGR trains have even been ordered to maximise use of the existing train network. Given that the current ALP government has stated that they will not buy more foreign manufactured trains, then expect huge delays in the procurement and construction of new rollingstock whenever anyone in authority belatedly realises that there is a lack of trains again in the early 2020s. BrizCommuter is already predicting that there will be a lack of immediate service improvements when Cross River Rail opens due to lack of drivers and trains.

As predicted by BrizCommuter in late 2016, the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) is looking like it will be a dogs breakfast regarding transport. Commonwealth Games workers and volunteers are in the process of receiving their rosters, and in some cases making the final decision as to whether they can actually work or not. Unfortunately, QR have not released the timetables or even expected service frequencies so that these workers can plan how they will get to work. In fact QR are still in "planning" stages, leaving commuters in the dark as to how their train services will be affected. At this point in time, just 4 months out from GC2018, the following is unknown:
  • Gold Coast Line peak and counter peak frequency - this was touted to be 8tph in both directions, which is looking highly unlikely due to lack of trains, drivers, and tracks on the Beenleigh/Gold Coast line corridor. 
  • Peak and off-peak service provision on other lines - everyone knows QR will have to axe services due to lack of drivers and trains, but which services, and by how much? Connecting services need to be frequency enough to make people use the Gold Coast Line to get to the games - this is looking doubtful.
  • Whole line closures - there have been rumours of closures of the Shorncliffe, Redcliffe Peninsula, and Springfield Lines during GC2018. QR is stating that no line closures have been "planned", but are avoiding the yes/no answer to the question. 
With workers and volunteers in the dark as to how to get to work for GC2018, BrizCommuter is expecting many dropouts between now, and possibly even during the games. This could impact the success of the GC2018 games, especially as some volunteers are critical to venues being open and athletes being in the right place at the right time. Spectators and workers may give up on using public transport, and just drive to the park and ride locations instead. This will add to congestion on the M1 Pacific Highway, which is likely to resemble a car park during GC2018. Transport for GC2018 is looking very troublesome and is likely to be a major embarrassment to Australia. 

BrizCommuter is also not expecting the return of the 333 axed train services due to Rail Fail during 2018, as QR's net driver increase is currently around the zero mark. Expect Fridays to still confusingly have a different timetable to the rest of the network. The Queensland Government, TransLink, and QR will likely continue to hide train patronage, loading, and Rail Fail recovery statistics to avoid the awful truth. Some axed services may never return! 

Is there any positive from Rail Fail? It would be hoped that if there is major embarrassment to Queensland and Australia during GC2018, that this may encourage a knee-jerk investment in public transport. However, as it seems that Queensland politicians have their head buried in a sea of spin and delusion (in particular, the LNP who wanted to dump Cross River Rail), expect SE Queensland's public transport to be a disaster for years to come. Things have reached rock bottom, and it will take a heavy crane to lift that rock! 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

QR'S Summer Timetable Backlash

It was inevitable that the second annual Queensland Rail (QR) Summer School Holiday Interim Timetable (SHIT), which neglects important requirements such as getting commuters to work, was going to result in a major backlash from commuters. Before the comments get deleted, here is a sample of feedback on QR's Facebook page.

It's not a timetable change. It's a timetable reduction.

So how about all day off peak fares to coincide with the all day off peak timetable?

So I guess we’re NOT catering for the working community...you know, the ones who have a clear start/finish time, from early January, that starts at or before sunrise and finish mid-late afternoon?

About time QR get competition in the market!

Sorry Queensland Rail, but this is a failure of management yet again. You make a big song and dance about the new trains on Monday improving the network and then at the same time you cut back services over the Christmas period. How does that improve things? Ultimately, this is not about "effectively deploying our available resources to where they’re needed most to meet demand" to quote you above, it is simply about not falling in a big heap due to not managing your train crews leave properly. As one who works over the Christmas and New Year period, these timetable changes are ludicrous for a first world public transport network. A lot of us still have to come to work, and we all suffer because of it. When will you stop inconveniencing your customers and provide us with a continuous year round regular service rather than the Friday farce and Christmas/New Year slowdown that you force us to endure.

Wow. Hourly services. Too bad if you miss one. Some people still work. The world doesn't stop because christmas is coming.

This is ridiculous, the trains are bad enough tring to get to and from Cleveland to the city. No express trains in the afternoons after 5pm. Who finishes work before 5pm to get the express train, not office people, then there's the usual Friday afternoon battle, standing room only with everyone squashing on the 1 train you have after 5pm and not even an express. Now you cut services for those still working over Christmas. Seems you only cater for school kids, not the workers who are the ones who actually pay your wages. Very sad Qld rail.

This timetable is really inconvenient, it's bad enough having to get to work for 6am as it is, but now you've taken out the train I catch so I'll have to catch an even earlier one to be there on time... too bad I can't just take a holiday over that period! People still have to go to work, surely most people catching the train around that time are doing just that, why change it.

Might have been worth announcing this news all week last week on the trains.... but I can’t seem to understand why you think if schools are on holidays the rest of the populations goes on holidays.... Frustrated!!!

Well done QR with the ridiculous Summer timetable, the trains are more packed and unbearable than ever!

I have never been to your Facebook page before. So unlucky for me did not know about summer timetable. No signs or messages on the platforms. What a service that we have the pleasure of paying for. No summer time rates....

Packed trains all round today. Unable to stand let alone sit. Jesus QR, do you really think no one comes into the city on the last week before Christmas? City is packed with Xmas shoppers and working folk who still have their nose to the grind, and yet you cut services across the board. Another really poor management decision

People want to spend extra time with heir families over the Christmas period, not extra time sitting on a train

I can’t believe this awful timetable is going to run until the 21ST OF JANUARY!! Surely you know the majority of people will be back at work within the first week or so of January!! And can I just predicted now that you will slyly cut a couple of services along the way when the Summer Timetable finishes!

Hi QR, I have noticed that ALL afternoon outbound CBD express services on the Ipswich line have been changed to all stations. This will impact many, many people and cause a lot of inconvenience to those that have time restraints. I cannot just leave my work early to compensate for the extra delay in getting home and I do not have the additional dollars to fork out to my daycare provider for every minute I am late to collect my son. This isn’t good enough QR, can you please reinstate the express services, it seems absurd that cutting these services would even be considered, let alone approved

Thanks ever so much for making my working day just that little bit longer and a little more frustrating to get home to Ipswich from Central by stopping at every station. Really appreciate it guys.

So QR why do you always do this? Most people don't stop working over school holidays and are still required to get to and from work -only now it takes twice as long because you've adjusted your timetables to have less trains and express services. Merry Christmas - this year QR gives you less time with your family!

 Who was the genius who moved the 5.03pm Redcliffe train to 5.12pm, and has the Nambour now leaving before it at 5.09pm. Everyone who wants to get to Petrie to then get to Redcliffe, and the people who want to get to Caboolture, are all now getting the one train. Yesterday I could hardly get into the train as it was so full. People had trouble getting off at their station we were packed in that tight. Where is your duty of care? if there was a FIRE we would be dead, this has to be illegal! It's down right dangerous and unacceptable, but yet again we're just cattle that don't count. If the politicians had to use this miserable service then I bet it would be changed. What an embarrassment!!!

Brisbane- “new world city” but no express trains to get you home for an entire month.

This is so disappointing, the bus timetable at redbank hasn't changed to coordinate with the train delay. My husband will be leaving home at 5.50 am and getting home at 6.40pm that extra 20 mins at each end is cutting into the few precious minutes he sees his kids each day. I am so disappointed

Why not start from 22/12?? In any normal workplace in the city offices are still open and all staff work hence why EVERY TRAIN is crammed to the max!!

Agree on the fare... less services avaliable with less convenience = same price???

Hard to plan a journey when you have made sure that none of your Ipswich services make it in time for bus transfers any more! Absolutely disgusting service QR. If you don’t have enough train drivers to meet demand, hire & train more, considering the outrageous prices you charge you should have plenty to accomplish this.

 Love the new "summer service"..... its like someone at QLD rail thinks everyone goes on holiday 

Cant even get a seat on my train anymore and thats all the way at Petrie, so every other stop after that is just crowding the train. 
Now at central waiting forever for a train like this is a 3rd world country, i just want to get home to my family, instead sitting here waiting for my train on a super crowded platform. We don't even get a fare reduction to make up for this lack of service!!!! At least keep the trains running at their normal timetable right up until xmas and have 2 weeks of "summer service" before returning back to normal.

Thanks for letting us know?! What happened to communication? No mention at central station last week no mention on the trains no flyers in mailboxes on Sunshine Coast (heard Redcliffe got them) no signage at train stations nothing. Found out Monday morning when train didn't turn up normal time (after I rushed to catch train too) - and thanks for making me late to work. Appalling service and communication of changes not happy traveller at all. By the way no decrease of passengers on Sunshine Coast line trains are full, people are still working right up to Christmas.

I have to commute from Caboolture to Park Road daily. I don’t understand making these changes to peak hour timetables I got to the station early to attempt to get to work early but got to central and just missed the connecting train then have to wait a whole 13 minutes for the next train!! It sucks I can’t get to where I want to go in the timeframe I want to be there. If you change this timetable perhaps you should change the charges, summer timetable summer charges accordingly seeing the services are cut. Not great QR you make it very difficult for the people that have to work right up to Xmas!!!

My timetable has completely changed. None of my connections work anymore. Trains are crowded. Some of us are still working in December and January.

If you think this is bad, just wait until the Commonwealth Games!

Monday, December 11, 2017

QR's "Illegal" NGR Trains Enter Service


 Two years after long suffering QR passengers had been informed the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains would enter service, they finally entered service. BrizCommuter took a ride on part of the inaugural NGR service from Varsity Lakes to Brisbane Airport.

First impressions are that the Bombardier built NGR trains have some great features. These include destination displays on the outside of the train, half-decent handholds for standing passengers, touch responsive lights on the push buttons, high seat backs, lots of internal CCTV, external cameras for drivers only operation (sorry, Campbell) guards, and a quiet ride. In fact, the trains are generally looking good until you get the toilet.

The toilets are where the NGR's fall flat on face. The single toilet (as the moment) has been placed in the middle of the train, at the medial end of the 3rd or 4th carriage depending on the direction of the train (due to track layouts on the QR network trains can be either way around). The corridor past the toilet is too narrow for a wheelchair, mobility scooters, double prams, or even people on crutches. Thus you can only access the disabled toilet from the half of the train in which the toilet is located. Just to add to the misery for disabled passengers, there is insufficient space in between the toilet bowl and the wall, not helped by a curving door. In fact, the toilets are not legally compliant, according to the Disability Discrimination Act. To allow the trains to enter service, QR (or possibly Department of Transport and Main Roads who have badly managed the NGR project) have had to request an exemption from AHRC to enter the trains into passenger service until they sort out the mess. At this point in time, this exemption hasn't been provided (and is unlikely to be until at least February 2018), thus it is technically illegal for the NGR trains to have been entered into service, with risk of litigation.

To sort out this discrimination against the disabled, the NGR trains will be reconfigured. The result of this, is that less than half of the NGR rains will have a toilet instead of all trains as originally promised. This means that commuters on hour long suburban journeys (e.g. between Beenleigh, Cleveland, Kippa-Ring, and Caboolture to Brisbane) will have to hold their bladders for the next three decades. This is totally unacceptable, and discourages public transport use.

Why weren't the toilets located next to the drivers cabs? Well this would have been sensible from a design point of view as it would have allowed for more space. Unfortunately due to having multiple half-arsed QR station upgrades where only the centre of the platform has been raised, the wheelchair access point is still in the middle of the train, despite the guard being at the back. Ooops!

The mismatch in position between the wheelchair access in the middle of the train, and the guard at the back will also massively increase staffing costs, as all stations served by NGR trains will have to be manned throughout operating hours. There may also be extra customer assistance staff on-boarding, bringing an NGR train up to Boeing 737 staffing levels. Who knows what the extra wage bill will be when NGRs are running throughout the network?

BrizCommuter feels sorry for QR, who are having to deal with major design faults caused by poor project management by TMR (the design was signed off under the Newman government). They are in a no win situation - keep the NGR trains out of service to comply with the law, or face increased unreliability from the ageing NGR trains and lack of time to troubleshoot the NGRs in service before the Commonwealth Games. There is no question that there should be a Commission of Inquiry into the epic botch that is the NGR project.

Monday, December 4, 2017

QR's Summer of Hell (Again)

QR's Summer School Holidays Service Axe
It was pretty inevitable that more than a year into #RailFail, and with the net increase of train drivers being somewhere close to zero, that Queensland Rail (QR) were going to inflict yet more pain on commuters during the Summer School Holidays. This Summer, QR have decided to add two extra weeks of commuter hell, by axing even more train services from Monday 18th December 2017 until Sunday 21st January 2018. Changes in this years School Holiday Interim Timetable (SHIT) include:
  • Peak services cut, with 15 minute frequency running on most lines during much of the peak period (instead of every 6 to 7.5mins), and a few extra services during the busiest part of the peak period. Many express services have been axed, slowing down journey times. 
  • Off-peak 15 minute services axed, with 30 minute frequency on most lines. 
  • Hourly services on 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 30th, and 31st* December 2017, and 1st January 2018. 
  • *Hourly services on New Years Eve, until 5pm when they will be every 30 minutes.
  • Further service reductions on the already infrequent Sunshine Coast, Doomben, and Rosewood Lines.
... in the mean time, every other major city in Australia is running a normal timetable, with off-peak frequencies of 10 to 15 minutes in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. 

It appears that yet again, QR have contempt for the travelling public, not realising that passengers still need to get to work, travel for leisure during the school holidays and Xmas/New Year period, attend Boxing Day sales, and attend New Year functions. Despite a 25% reduction in patronage at this time of the year, services frequencies are being cut by up to 75%. The ongoing #RailFail service reductions which are likely to last at least another year, are a major embarrassment to Brisbane and SE Queensland. 

BrizCommuter has already been contacted by concerned Nurses and hospital admin staff working at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Lady Cilento Children's Hospital, and Mater Hospital. The early am peak service reductions (people trying to get to work for 7am to 8am starts) through South Bank are horrific, with up to 75% reduction is services from Roma Street to South Bank and Park Road in the early am peak. With only 10 hours between shifts, nursing staff are concerned that the increased journey times will increase on the job fatigue, with risk to patient care. 

Surely with a peak service that resembles an off-peak service, and an off-peak service that is wholly inadequate for a "New World City", that TransLink should only be charging off-peak fares throughout the Summer School Holiday Timetable?