Thursday, December 8, 2016

Yet Another QR Meltdown

Queensland Rail's (QR) reputation went from bad to worse on Thursday 8th December 2016. A broken down ageing EMU train at Trinder Park, a maintenance "accident" at Yeerongpilly, and a power failure near South Bank caused chaos for the morning peak, with delays and cancellations on most train lines. The delays continued well into the afternoon, as QR's operations took hours to recover from delays. Delays to hospital clinics are surgery were reported due to so many staff being late to work. Whilst all rail networks have bad days, the following can be learnt from this meltdown:

  • QR's lack of drivers reduced system resilience and the ability to recover from delays.
  • QR's lack of trains reduced system resilience and the ability to recover from delays. 
  • The lack of Cross River Rail (which was originally intended to open in 2016) reduces system resilience - Cross River Rail would add 50% more tracks through the CBD. 
  • QR and TransLink's information provided to customers during delays continues to be appalling. 
  • The delay in New Generation Rollingstock means the geriatric EMU trains are remaining in service. 
The policy failure of successive state and federal governments from both sides of politics has resulted in Brisbane having a train network that can meltdown to chaos far too easily. You can tell when the current state government is in political trouble, as a rare (for Brisbane) refund for morning train commuters was announced in during the afternoon.

Monday, December 5, 2016

QR's Next Big Fail - NGR Guard Position

QR's NGR train - where's the guard?
Since electric trains have been running in Brisbane (in 1979, exactly 100 years after the Germans had electric trains), the guard's location has been placed in the middle of a 6-car train (usually the front cab of the 4th car), or the back of a 3-car train. This means that the guard is always positioned where disabled passengers, or those seeking assistance with boarding/alighting wait for assistance. Some platforms have also been raised in the middle, so as to assist with wheelchairs and prams getting on and off the train.

Queensland Rail's (QR) New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains will all be 6-cars long. It is rumoured that the LNP Newman government made no provision for guards on the NGR trains, despite eliminating guards within such a short time frame being completely unrealistic. QR have since scrambled to modify the trains design to allow for guards, however this will result in the guard being located at the back of the 6-car train, not the middle.

Disabled waiting location - 70m from guard location!
This obviously poses a serious issue. The guard will be at the back of the train, and the passengers needing assistance will be in the middle of train, more than 70m away. Now this is one of those issues you would have thought would be have been sorted by now. However due to usual lack of transparency, commuters (as well as taxpayers and voters) are completely unaware of the solution, if there is one. Brisbane's useless media have also failed to pick up on this looming crisis. What could be options be:
  • Guards able to operate the doors from any location on the train (as on some UK trains) - but does the train have technical provision for this? 
  • Station staff to assist disabled passengers - but staffing is inconsistent between stations, or will extra station staff be required at extra cost?
  • Additional customer service staff in the middle of NGR trains - also with extra staffing costs?  
At a time when many rail operators are eliminating guards to improve efficiency, it seems that QR may have to increase the number of guards or customer service staff to fix this design issue. Has anyone informed our "head in sand" Transport Minister Mr Hinchcliffe yet?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

QR's Summer of Misery Continues

"Brisbane Commuter" by Edvard Munch
If you had read some press articles recently, a non-rail commuter could think that Queensland Rail's (QR) recent catastrophe is in the past tense. Sadly, it is far from over. Whilst the press have been more quiet about it, this is the ongoing situation:
  • Not enough drivers to run the October 2016 Timetables, after the Redcliffe Peninsula Line opened. 
  • Not enough trains since January 2014 resulting in overcrowded 3-car services, and sub-optimal peak services. 
  • One and a half year (and counting) delays to QR's New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains entering service.
  • Serious operation issues looming with NGR trains due to guard being located at the back of the 6-car train, 3-cars away from the disabled access location. 
  • Interim Timetable Mk2 is in action until "the New Year" with nearly 400 train services now cut. 
  • Peak and off-peak service gaps of up to 30 to 60 minutes between trains, causing considerably lengthened commutes and passenger frustration. 
  • Different timetables on Fridays, causing mass confusion.
  • Inconsistent service frequencies throughout the day causing further confusion, especially to shift workers. 
  • Multiple mistakes in the timetables and TransLink's journey planner. 
  • Poor track layout at Kippa-Ring delaying arriving trains. 
  • Rosewood Line "secretly" axed on weekends. 
  • 77% service reduction for Nundah and Toombul in the am peak. 
  • Reports of overcrowded services on most lines. 
  • Despite promises from Transport Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe that there would be no more cancellations due to lack of drivers, we have multiple daily cancellations due to "operational reasons".
  • Despite promises from the aforementioned Transport Minister that reliability would improve, network reliability appears to be getting worse (in fact 80% of BrizCommuter's pm peak commuters were delayed last week, the figure is usually 0%). 
  • Reports (including from RACQ) that many rail commuters have "given up", and have gone back to driving, resulting in an increase in road congestion. 
  • News that QR have been hiding documents, QR senior managers have received quite substantial bonuses during the crisis, and QR allegedly spending more tax payers money on spin doctors. 
  • No financial compensation provided for affected commuters (unlike in the UK).
So how is the future looking?
  • No information provided to commuters when the October 2016 timetable will be re-instated in it's entirety. 
  • No information provided to commuters when additional drivers and NGR trains will allow for improved peak services (such as the urgently required later running of Cleveland Line pm peak expresses).
  • Grave concerns that lack of trains, drivers, and tracks/infrastructure, may result in sub-optimal and unreliable Commonwealth Games train services. 
  • No information on how QR will manage the NGR guard location issue.
  • No information on how QR will get trains to arrive at Kippa-Ring on time.
  • High likelihood of further service cuts on working days around Xmas and New Year. 
With just 10 weeks until the busiest part of the year for rail patronage (and thus potential overcrowding), the lack of information and transparency about when the situation will improve is disturbing. Policy failure of successive state and federal governments, as well as Brisbane City Council has resulted in Brisbane's public transport system continuing to be a shambles. Can anyone hear commuters scream?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Queens Wharf Bus Changes - Opportunity Lost

Due to the closure of William Street for the construction of Brisbane's new Queens Wharf Casino  complex, there have been many changes to Brisbane's bus routes through the CBD. These are listed on TransLink's website here. Some buses have also been re-timed to take into account changing road conditions (i.e. different journey times). The latter is not much of a surprise as some timings were almost impossible even if driving a Ferrari through red lights (Brookside to Enoggera in 4 minutes anyone?)

Unfortunately, the changes do not go far enough. So what is wrong with the changes, or lack of them?
  • More bus congestion through Cultural Centre and Victoria Bridge - Brisbane's infamous bus jam will only get longer as yet more hourly bus services that should go nowhere near the CBD have been re-routed through the Inner SE Busway. 
  • Multiple routes along the same corridors - these still exist with up to 8 different bus routes (instead of 1 or 2 at the most), with minor route and stopping variations all travelling along the same transport corridors. This causes inefficiency, confusion, and longer effective waits for buses. 
  • Multiple CBD bus stops - despite changes to CBD bus stops, there is still the bizarre mix of different routes to the same destination, departing from different locations in the CBD. Again, this causes confusion, inefficiency, and decreases effective service frequencies.
Bus flavoured Jam
What should have been done is a large scale re-design of Brisbane's bus network, as follows:
  • Turn the Victoria Bridge into a Green Bridge (bus, cycle, and pedestrian only) to decrease bus congestion. 
  • Consolidate bus routes along the same transport corridor to a maximum of just 2 routes (all stops and express). 
  • Infrequent "welfare" bus services to terminate outside of the CBD and connect with high frequency bus services or train services. 
  • Consolidate CBD stop locations so that all bus services along a particular transport corridor depart from the same stops. 
  • Re-use resources to add high frequency bus routes to public transport black holes such as Centenary Suburbs and Old Northern Road corridor. 
The changes that have been made by Brisbane City Council and their bus subsidiary Brisbane Transport are (as we have come to expect) half-arsed, resulting in Brisbane continuing to have Australia's most inefficient and confusing bus network. 

BrizCommuter is also concerned that re-timed bus routes will result in more buses running early during the off-peak, passing through bus stops before the passengers have arrived at the bus stop. This is already a chronic issue on the inbound Northern Busway. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Will QR be ready for the Commonwealth Games?

Carrara Stadium - not on a train line
Brisbane's rail network, run by Queensland Rail (QR) is currently a huge mess. Since the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line in early October 2016 with insufficient trains and drivers, commuters have suffered (and are continuing to suffer) from axed train services in the Interim Timetable, as well as "random" train cancellations due to "operational reasons". The situation is so bad, that BrizCommuter is aware of many commuters who have given up using trains and have gone back to driving to work.

Between the 4th and 15th April 2018, the Gold Coast will be hosting the Commonwealth Games. At the time of writing, this is just 17 months away. BrizCommuter is very concerned that QR will not be ready for the Commonwealth Games and existing commuters will continue to suffer. The reasons why are outlined below.

Service expectations

On QR's project page for the Coomera to Helensvale duplication, it is mentioned that the Gold Coast Line will run 8 trains per hour (tph) in both directions during the Commonwealth Games. That is a train on average every 7.5 minutes in each direction.

Lack of infrastructure

To run the above mentioned bi-directional 8tph service runs into a few issues due to lacking track infrastructure on the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line corridor. There are only 3 tracks between Park Road and Kuraby, and only 2 tracks between Kuraby and Varsity Lakes (with a 3rd track at Bethania). This allows an 8tph service in one direction with express Gold Coast trains able to overtake slower all stations Beenleigh Line trains. But in the other direction, the Gold Coast trains are unable to overtaken the Beenleigh Line trains as they have use the same track.

To achieve the 8tph, then in one direction, Beenleigh Line trains can simply be extended to/from Varsity Lakes or Robina. Trains will alternate between express and all stations services. But in the other direction, the lack of overtaking provision will mean that the 8tph service will only be achievable by slowing down the train services. Quite how this will be achieved will be unknown, but some regular commuters may experience a considerably slower, though hopefully more frequent train journey. The required timetable changes and/or system reliability may also have knock on effects on other lines during the Commonwealth Games.

A sub-optimal track layout at Varsity Lakes may also make turning back of the 8tph service unreliable and prone to delays.

BrizCommuter's twin brother asked QR's project team how this services was to be achieved, and didn't received a response.

Lack of trains

The have been insufficient trains available to run an optimal timetable since January 2014, resulting in overcrowded 3-car services in the peak. The delays to the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) program have added to this commuter pain, with the first NGR trains not expected to be in passenger service until early 2017. This is disappointing as QR told commuters in January 2014, that the NGR would be introduced in late 2015. BrizCommuter has already worked out that insufficient NGR trains have been ordered to cover both replacement of the geriatric EMU trains, and provide an "optimal" peak train service on all lines.

To run the Commonwealth Game's 8tph train service, then approximately 8 of these extra 6-car NGR trains will be required for this service. This means that during the Commonwealth Games, either:

  • Trains lines other than the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines will have to experience a reduced train service (as is occurring at the moment with the Interim Timetables). This could impact passengers travelling on other train lines to connect with the extra Gold Coast Line services. 
  • To avoid cuts during the Commonwealth Games, QR will not improve train services on lines other than the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines until after the Commonwealth Games has finished. Thus for example, urgently required enhancements to the Cleveland Line pm peak service (extend express service later) and Ferny Grove Line pm peak service (fill in the gaps) may be delayed.    
Both options are bad news for regular commuters.

Lack of train crew

It takes at least 12 months to train drivers (excluding recruitment phase). With the Commonwealth Games only 17 months away, that does not allow for much time to train up sufficient drivers to run both the "normal" train service (which is currently "sub-normal"), and run the "enhanced" Commonwealth Games train service. The lack of driver trainers also limits how many extra drivers can be trained. The effect on commuters is likely to be similar to the lack of train issues highlighted above.

Conclusion

Unless a miracle happens, then commuters should be very afraid that up to and during the Commonwealth Games, they may experience a sub-optimal train service from QR. The lack of accountability and transparency from QR and successive Queensland Governments only fuels BrizCommuter's concerns. Yet again, the policy failures of three successive Queensland Governments (from both sides of politics) is likely to result in yet another rail fail in April 2018.

Additionally, as the main stadium in Carrara is not directly on a train line (which is bizarre for most major sporting events), passengers using public transport to/from Brisbane will have to suffer slow and time consuming bus transfers to get to and from the trains. This will not show SE Queensland in good light.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Stop Press: QR axe Rosewood Line weekend services

Liar!
Last Updated Sat 12th Nov 2016 8:30pm

Only a week after commuters were recently told that Queensland Rail's (QR) Interim Timetable Mk2 would result in "no more cancellations due to lack of drivers", guess what has happened? You guessed it, more cancellations due to lack of drivers. This time, the entire Rosewood Line train service has been completely axed on the weekends indefinitely. Now it might not be the busiest or most frequent of lines, but the axing of yet more train services with less than a days notice is totally unacceptable. Buses have replaced trains, leaving up to 15 minutes earlier than the trains. This means that anyone turning up just before the train is due will have very very long wait. The replacement buses have also been reportedly not able to accept passengers in wheelchairs - what a disgrace!

Another "secret" unadvertised change occurred on 10th Nov, where all weekend Northgate to CBD trains have been axed, replaced by slowed down Caboolture Line trains serving "Inner North" station. This will confuse Inner North weekend commuters, who are probably completely unaware of the changes.

Just to add to the pain, the lack of trains issue has resulted in multiple Gympie North train services being replaced by buses, and the Doomben Line experienced a 90 minute gap in am peak services this Friday (11/11/2016). Things are only getting worse, and SE Queensland commuters are reportedly giving up on using public transport in droves.

BrizCommuter thinks that it is time for the transport minister Stirling Hinchcliffe (pictured) to also be "cancelled", and also time to again question whether a more competent private company could run QR much better. The worsening train woes are likely to cause the Palaszczuk government to be annihilated at the next election - Queensland voters do not taken fools gladly.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

QR's Nundah Blunder

Nundah - 77% reduction in am peak train service
Last Updated Sat 12th Nov 2016 6:30am

Aside from passengers using the Redcliffe Peninsula Line, the vast majority of commuters have only seen service cuts in the last month due to Queensland Rail's lack of drivers and trains. Those who have suffered most are commuters at Nundah and Toombul. So what has gone wrong for commuters from these stations?

  • Until 4th Oct 2016, Nundah and Toombul received 22 trains per hour (tph) in the am peak (trains departing Nundah during hour from 07:10am) as these stations were served by most Caboolture/Petrie and Shorncliffe Line services. Off-peak services were every 15 minutes. 
  • From 4th Oct 2016, Nundah and Toombul were timetabled 8tph in the same am peak period. This was to allow Caboolture and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines to run express through "Inner North" stations, speeding up journey times for 10,000+ commuters using these lines. Whilst a 64% reduction, a train every 7.5mins was still deemed quite reasonable. 
  • Unfortunately since 4th October, the cancellations and overcrowded 3-cars services significantly impacted these services resulting in much longer than expected peak (15 minutes) and off-peak (30 minutes) waits between trains, and passengers reportedly being unable to board some overcrowded peak services. 
  • Timetable information was also confusing with the peak Northgate starting/terminating services missing from the 4th Oct Shorncliffe Line timetable, and initially being shown under the Caboolture Line on the journey planner timetable. They eventually showed up on the belated Inner North timetable. 
  • A handful of commuters from these stations having to change to/from Caboolture/Redcliffe Peninsula services have also been rather politically vocal about longer journey times. 
  • The extra Northgate services were also pushing track capacity through the CBD, at 22tph, often causing minor (but still annoying) delays to Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Airport, and Doomben Line services. 
  • The Interim Timetable Mk2 shows only 5tph in the am peak during the same period as mentioned above. This is a whopping 77% reduction in service. In addition to this massive cut in services, some of these remaining trains are overcrowded 3-car units. 
  • Weekend Northgate to CBD trains were secretly axed on 10th Nov 2016, replaced by Caboolture Line trains that now call at all Inner North stations. Given the lack of information, many weekend Inner North commuters will be completely unaware of this change. 
There is little question that Nundah and Toombul commuters have a very good reason to be annoyed with QR, and the successive incompetent governments that caused the current crisis. Given the amount of apartment development in Nundah, this is an unacceptable situation that is only going to add to road congestion as commuters give up on rail. It will be interested to see what happens to train services for these stations when things eventually return back to "normal" (which BrizCommuter pessimistically predicts sometime in late 2018).

Friday, November 4, 2016

QR's Interim Timetable Mk2 - Summer of Misery

QR's Interim Timetables - A Sinking Ship! 
Last Updated 6am 5/11/16

BrizCommuter's most recent blog post was an analysis of Queensland Rail's (QR) lack of driver (and lack of train) induced meltdown since the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line in early October 2016. BrizCommuter also reviewed the first iteration of QR's Interim Timetable. The Interim Timetable (which is really a list of axed train services) has not worked as well as expected by QR, resulting in additional train services being cancelled, often at short notice. For the last two Fridays over 100 train services have been cancelled, considerably more than the 50 expected according to the Interim Timetable. Whilst the Interim Timetable has allowed for improved system reliability (which isn't difficult when running less trains), it has also resulted in excessive gaps between some train services, and also overcrowding on trains running after the cancelled service (in some cases 3-car units). The constant changes have driven many shift workers back to driving to/from work. Commuters from Nundah and Toombul have been hardest hit. When combined with the October timetable changes, these stations have seen a reduction in peak train services of up to 73%, and reduction in daytime off-peak services of up to 66%. Commuters have also been left frustrated due to the different timetables for Mon-Thu and Friday. Cue the Interim Timetable Mk2, due to be introduced from Monday 7th November, with 333 cancelled services.

The Interim Timetable Mk2 is expected to operate until the New Year, with no end date officially announced. In typical half-arsed Queenslander style, TransLink initially failed to publish the printable .pdf version of the Interim Timetable Mk2 [edit 5/11/16: now available online]. A list of which services have been axed from the original timetable is also missing. Until the .pdf timetables were published, the only way to see the timetables was via TransLink's journey planner timetable, which only shows 4 or 5 services at a time and is thus barely useable. Absolutely hopeless!
Barely useable timetable (and train service) - spot the mistake
This lack of timetable transparency will only annoy commuters further. BrizCommuter attempted to make some headway by trolling through the journey planner, before giving up [edit 5/11/16: more information added since .pdf timetables published]:
  • Interim Timetable Mk2 fairly similar to the Interim Timetable Mk1, with most of the cancelled peak services remaining cancelled.
  • Different timetables for Mon-Thu and Friday which will continue to cause mass confusion. 
  • Friday's Ferny Grove Line am peak service has been savaged, with two full 3-car services completely removed, potentially resulting in overcrowded on following services. 
  • PM peak Cleveland Line express service now finishes even earlier. 
  • Excessive gaps between peak services - 22 minute am peak service gap on inner Beenleigh Line, 30 minute am peak service gap on the outer Cleveland Line Monday to Friday, 30 minute pm peak service gap on the inner Cleveland Line on Fridays, 24 minute pm peak service gap on the Ipswich Line (at different times of course on Fridays). 
  • Disgusting outbound 60 minute off-peak service gap to Northgate, and 90 minute off-peak service gap to Shorncliffe - surely this is a mistake??? 
  • Bizarre 7:58 Doomben to Eagle Junction train on Fridays - where does it go after Eagle Junction?
  • Seemingly random gaps in early morning, daytime, and evening off-peak services an annoyance to shift workers. 
  • More cuts to the already heavily cut "Inner North" services, providing ongoing misery for Nundah, Toombul, Wooloowin, and Albion commuters which have had peak service frequency reduced from every 3 minutes to 15 minutes at times, and the added "fun" of overcrowded 3-car trains.  
  • No information on which services use overcrowded 3-car trains. 
  • Mistakes and inconsistencies found between the journey planner timetable and .pdf timetables. 
  • On the good side, the Inner North services (or lack of) are now sensibly shown on the Shorncliffe Line timetable. 
Politician spin (mainly from beleaguered Transport Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe) has not helped the situation. Statements such as "the recent timetable has been less than optimal" doesn't resonate with those who have been suffering from the January 2014 timetable changes for nearly 3 years, such as passengers at Windsor not being able to fit onto some Ferny Grove Line services. Statements such as "the timetable will be more reliable and consistent" doesn't resonate well with those whose services have been axed, lengthening their commute and waits for trains. Different timetables for Fridays is not consistent in the slightest! Statements such as "we are still running more trains than before the Redcliffe Peninsula Line opened"doesn't resonate well with people who use every other train line, who have only seen services reduced.

QR's ongoing lack of train and driver issues, and the resulting Interim Timetable Mk2 will provide a summer of misery for many commuters in SE Queensland. Whilst the seeds of this problem were clearly sown by the previous ousted LNP government, the current ALP government has handled this situation badly with un-truths and spin. To regain any trust in SE Queensland's rail network, the state government, QR, and TransLink need to:
  1. Improve customer information and transparency regarding the new Interim Timetables Mk2 - which services have been cancelled, and which services are 3-car?
  2. Inform customers when the October 2016 timetables will return in full.
  3. Inform customers of when they will receive any financial compensation. 
  4. Inform customers of when the overcrowded 3-car services on the Shorncliffe, Ferny Grove, and Cleveland Lines will be resolved by the introduction of New Generation Rollingstock trains.
  5. Inform customers of when the NGR and extra drivers will allow for long awaited (since 2014) improvements to the timetables, such as extending the pm peak Cleveland Line express services, and improving off-peak services on the Springfield, Ipswich, Caboolture, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines. 
Right, now where is that car showroom? As I've had enough of trains.

Interim Timetables Mk2:
https://translink.com.au/service-updates/104191

Sunday, October 30, 2016

QR's Cancellation Catastrophe - Analysis

As BrizCommuter's readers (and anyone not living under a rock for the last few weeks) will be aware, both Queensland Rail (QR) and the commuters who use QR's train services are having a rather hard time of late. This is primarily due to lack of trained drivers since the Redcliffe Peninsula Line opened in early October 2016, but also due to an ongoing lack of trains which has been an issue since January 2014. This has in the last few days, caused heads to roll including the CEO and Board Chair of QR. It has also caused massive political damage to the otherwise "ticking along" Palaszczuk ALP government, as well as a huge loss of commuter confidence in QR.
Axed train services
So what are commuters unhappy about?
  • For three weeks post-Redcliffe Peninsula opening, there we up to 100 cancellations per day, often at short notice causing angst to commuters who could no longer rely on trains turning up. Many commuters were unhappy about cancelled or overcrowded trains, resulting in commuters being late to work, education, appointments, or picking up children from daycare. 
  • An interim timetable was introduced last Tuesday, with between 30 to 50 trains axed per weekday. Poor communication of changes, confusion with different timetables for Mon-Thu and Friday, and overcrowded services either side of cancelled trains (sometimes 3-car unit trains). 
  • Despite the interim timetable, further cancellations have occurred, including a considerable number of cancellations on Sunday 30th October. 
  • Poor reliability of outbound Redcliffe Peninsula Line services due to signalling, driver training, timetable, and poor track layout at Kippa-Ring. 
  • Minor late running of many lines through the CBD, due to additional "Inner North" services from Northgate to CBD pushing the limits of signalling and track capacity.
  • Political fallout from the reduction in frequency at Nundah, Toombul, Wooloowin, and Albion due to Caboolture and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines running express through these stations. These services are still missing off the Shorncliffe Line timetable. 
  • Ongoing overcrowding on Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, and Cleveland Lines due to running of 3-car units in the peak period due to lack of trains. 
  • Ongoing sub-optimal timetables on many lines (e.g. early finish of evening express services on Cleveland Line) due to lack of trains and drivers.
  • Infrequent (30 minute gap) counter-peak and off-peak services on the Ipswich, Springfield, Caboolture, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines.   
So what are the issues behind the "perfect storm" for QR?
  • Bligh ALP government failed to order additional SMU 260 series trains (which ceased production in 2011), against QR's advice.
  • Newman LNP government delayed order of New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains, reduced order from 100 to 75 trains, and made design decisions that have delayed the introduction of the NGR trains into service. 
  • Under the Newman LNP government, around 50% of driver trainers were allegedly made redundant or demoted. There was also a recruitment freeze, despite requirement for more staff to run planned improved trains services. 
  • Whilst under the Palaszczuk ALP government, driver recruitment re-started, the lack of driver trainers, and more than 12 months required to train drivers was an achilles heel in training enough drivers.   
  • Drivers unable to be properly trained on the Redcliffe Peninsula Line until only a week before opening. 
  • Change to rosters to allow a 20 minute break every 2.5 hours, and limits of 12 straight days working in a row reduced staff availability. 
  • QR had an unrealistic/incorrect estimation of staffing requirements. 
  • QR forged ahead with a full timetable (extending Petrie services to Kippa-Ring/Redcliffe) when realistically a shuttle service may have been more appropriate for the first few months. However, the latter would have caused political embarrassment due to poor services. A no win situation! 
  • Inexperienced QR Board. Maybe QR need BrizCommuter (or at least a knowledgeable commuter/public transport advocate) on the Board?
  • A Transport Minister either not on top of his portfolio, or being kept in the dark by QR. The average Rail Back on Track forum member knew more about what was going on that the Transport Minister! 
  • Legacy continuation of having two train crew (unlike Melbourne and Perth), and internal recruitment process from guards to drivers. 
Overcrowding on the Ferny Grove Line
What is the future looking like?
  • Unknown timeframe for when the axed services on the interim timetables will be returned.
  • Unknown timeframe for when there will be enough NGR trains to extend overcrowded 3-car services to 6-cars.
  • Unknown timeframe for when there will be enough NGR trains and drivers to improve peak services (e.g extend pm peak Cleveland Line expresses, additional "peak of the peak" services on many lines, etc).  
  • Unknown timeframe for when there will be enough drivers to improve off-peak services on Ipswich, Caboolture, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines.  
  • No decision on the horizon for ordering more NGR trains - BrizCommuter estimates that 7 to 13 more NGR trains need to be ordered now!
Conclusion

Failures due to successive incompetent governments, from both sides of politics, as well as poor decision making by QR has created the catastrophe for train commuters in Brisbane and SE Queensland. Commuters are in the dark as to when things will improve, something which both QR and the state government need to reverse. Financial compensation for commuters also needs to be seriously considered due to lack of adequate service delivery. 

Political failure, thought-bubble ideas, and tit-for-tat games has also resulted in delays to Cross River Rail, failure of Brisbane's Bus Network reform in 2013, and ill thought out proposals such as the Brisbane Metro. Unless Brisbane's politicians have a serious kick up the posterior, then Brisbane's  public transport system will continue to be an embarrassment for SE Queensland residents and businesses.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

QR's Interim Timetables - Sardine Can Services

TransLink have provided a list of service cuts and alterations as part of Queensland Rail's Interim Timetable, discussed in the previous blog post. However BrizCommuter has taken it upon himself to warn commuters on which services may be overcrowded as a result of service cancellations. You could also call this a list of services which press photographers and media crew should turn up to observe ;-)

Note, this is not a complete list!

Tuesday - Thursday

  • 6:54am from Cleveland to Bowen Hills (passes through Buranda at 7:34am)
  • 7:03am from Springfield to Bowen Hills (passes through Milton at 7:39am)
  • 7:16am Kippa-Ring to City & Springfield (passes through Eagle Junction at 08:01am)
  • 7:35am Caboolture to City & Ipswich (passes through Eagle Junction at 08:16am) 
  • 7:54am Shorncliffe to City & Cannon Hill (passes through Albion at 8:22am)
  • 5:11pm Bowen Hills to Cleveland (passes through South Bank at 5:27pm) *
Friday
  • 7:17am Ferny Grove to Park Road (passes through Windsor at 7:39am)*
  • 7:32am Ferny Grove to Park Road (passes through Windsor at 7:54am) *
  • 7:35am Caboolture to City & Ipswich (passes through Eagle Junction at 08:16am) 
  • 5:31pm Bowen Hills to Springfield (passes through Milton at 5:42pm)

* denotes - likely to have most densely packed sardines commuters. 

Don't say BrizCommuter didn't warn you!

QR's Interim Timetables - Back to the 1990s?

The new QR interim timetable
Queensland Rail (QR) have announced their interim timetable with many service cuts, which will run indefinitely until they have enough trained drivers to run the existing timetables. This is due a combination of poor decision making from three successive Queensland governments (from both sides of politics), and poor planning within QR. This has resulted in insufficient drivers and trains to run the new train timetables since the opening of Moreton Bay Rail Link / Redcliffe Peninsula Line.

So what are the changes in the interim timetable?

Well for starters, there is a different timetable for Tuesday to Thursday, and Friday. This will confuse the hell out of passengers. Whilst there are no changes on Monday Oct 24th, there is no mention of what will happen next Monday.

Tuesday to Thursdays
  • More than 40 train services cut or altered. 
  • Early morning Cancellations on Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Inner North (Northgate), and Cleveland Line, resulting in 30 minute gaps - bad for shift workers!
  • Cancelled inbound am peak services on  Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Caboolture, Redliffe Peninsula, Beenleigh, and Springfield Lines - highly likely to cause overcrowding on following services!
  • Daytime off-peak cancellations on the Ferny Grove, Beenleigh, Springfield, Inner North, and Ipswich Lines, with gaps up to 60 minutes!
  • Cancelled outbound pm peak services on Ferny Grove, Ipswich, and Cleveland Lines. Cancellation of the  5:03 Bowen Hills to Cleveland express service will upset a lot of passengers.  
  • Cancelled evening off-peak services on Ipswich and Inner North Lines, with gaps up to 60 minutes. 
Fridays
  • More than 50 train services cut or altered. 
  • Early morning cancellations on Ferny Grove, Inner North, and Beenleigh Lines - bad for shift workers again. 
  • Quite severe am peak cuts on Ferny Grove Line - very likely to cause full trains, leaving passengers behind at inner-Ferny Grove Line stations due to cancellation of 07:10am and 07:25am ex-Ferny Grove trains.  
  • Cuts to am peak services on the already recently cut Inner North services - passengers at Nundah and Toombul will be very unhappy.
  • Massive cuts to daytime 15 minute off-peak services on Ferny Grove, Cleveland, and Beenleigh Lines, and hour gaps on Doomben Line - back to 1990s era timetable?
  • Cuts to pm peak services  on the Shorncliffe, Springfield, and Cleveland Lines, including an unacceptable 30 minute gap for some inner-Cleveland Line passengers. 
  • Cancellation of some evening services to Northgate. 
Monday
  • Who knows???
Discussion

The interim timetable is terrible for shift workers, daytime off-peak users, and some peak service changes will result in either unacceptable waits between services, or even overcrowded full trains leaving passengers behind (as will probably be observed on Friday at Windsor at 7:39 and 7:54 if any press photographers want to get some piccies).  The Friday timetable in particular takes Brisbane back to 1990s era timetables with 30 minutes off-peak. Passengers at Northgate and Toombul who have just had their peak train service cut by over 50%, will have even more train services cut.

It is very concerning that QR or TransLink have not specified an end date to this interim timetable.  Just when commuters were expecting service improvements due to the belated New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains coming online, it looks like they will have to wait even longer due to lack of drivers. This is bad news in particular for Cleveland Line users who have a bizarrely early finish to the evening express service pattern and subsequent overcrowding on following services - in fact the last express service has been cancelled as part of the cuts.

An increasingly common scene on QR's network
It is also concerning that it has been mentioned that further cancellations can be expected on top of the interim timetable service cuts for at least the next few weeks. This continues the uncertainty as to whether commuters will actually be able to get to work or appointments on time, or be able to pick top kids from daycare before it closes. It is totally unacceptable that passengers have to check TransLink's (often incorrect) website daily to work out how they can get to work by train and not be late.

With so many train commuters lives being messed around, this situation has destroyed confidence in QR, the State Government, and SE Queensland public transport network. Commuters are also unhappy that they have not been offered any compensation, with commuters just expected to "suck it up". BrizCommuter expects that a few commuters may even go back to driving cars to work due to this fiasco.

Interim timetable (well, list of service cuts):
https://translink.com.au/service-updates/102746
BrizCommuter's list of services that may be overcrowded:
http://brizcommuter.blogspot.com.au/2016/10/qrs-interim-timetables-sardine-can.html

Addendum - Mon 24th Oct - 8pm

During BrizCommuter's two peak period commutes today, there were no announcements at stations or on-board trains. TransLink's social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) have at the time of writing, no mention of tomorrow's changes. QR only updated their social media channels during late afternoon. TransLink's list of service cuts has inaccurate information on following train services.

It is likely that the majority of commuters are unaware of tomorrows service changes, and quite a few commuters will be in for a shock when their expected train does not materialise tomorrow, and the following train is overcrowded. Even fewer commuters will be aware that the service changes on Friday are completely different from Tuesday to Thursday. It seems that QR and TransLink's poor customer information is making the interim timetable situation even worse.

Addendum - Wed 26th Oct - 6am

Unaffected train services were observed to much quieter than usual yesterday (Tue), though overcrowding was reported on some services as a result of the cuts, as well as the usual overcrowded services (on Ferny Grove and Shorncliffe/Inner North Lines). Maybe some passengers have given up on public transport due to this debacle? Amusingly, UBER were seen giving out $20 off vouchers outside South Bank station. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Redcliffe Peninsula Line - Queensland Rail's Epic Fail

A rarely spotted Queensland Rail service.
The recent situation of cancelled trains on Queensland Rail's (QR) SE Queensland train network worsened today with the cancellation of around 100 train services today, and the evening closure of two train lines due to lack of train crew. After weeks of misery for commuters, QR finally came out from the woodwork and admitted fault for the situation. QR's CEO Helen Gluer has been quoted as saying:

“The performance of Queensland Rail since the new Redcliffe Peninsula line has opened has been unacceptable and from our customer’s perspective, totally unacceptable.

We know now that we had unrealistic assumptions on how much train crew we did need to run this new timetable.

This is my fault, this is Queensland Rail’s fault and we had unrealistic expectations on what crew we needed to actually run this timetable.”

QR are apparently 20 train crew short of what is required to run the current timetable, which also has issues with a lack of trains as well. So who is fault for this situation?
  • QR for lack of forward planning. 
  • The LNP Newman Government for sacking driver trainers and freezing recruitment, plus delays to the NGR trains. It is alleged that the Newman government was planning on privatising QR and was setting it up to fail.  
  • The ALP Palaszczuk Government for not undoing the staffing issues from the Newman Government, even with a 6 month delay to Redcliffe Peninsula Line.  
  • The ALP Bligh Government for not ordering extra previous generation trains. 
This is a classic example of the incompetence of three successive Queensland governments from both sides of politics, as well as poor planning by QR. This has resulted in Brisbane's train network being the laughing stock of Australia yet again. Insider sources are mainly pointing the finger at the LNP Newman government razor gang as the main source of this debacle. 

Is the situation going to improve soon? Sadly, things are likely to get worse. QR have announced that they will introduce an interim timetable until they can train enough new train crew, which could take a year! Expect cuts to peak services causing overcrowding and full trains, and expect 15 minute off-peak frequency to be cut back to "third-word" 30 minute off-peak frequencies. Don't expect any improvements to train services (such as later running Cleveland Line expresses) when enough NGR trains start running. BrizCommuter will blog on the interim timetable and associated service cuts when they are announced over the next few days.  

Maybe a free fare week, or huge cut in fares is required to compensate commuters? There is no question that Brisbane commuters are sick and fed up with the ongoing situation.