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.

6 comments:

  1. Wow... you have a very warped definition of "ready".

    I can tell you right here and right now that the KPIs will be near 100% and the revenue will be very high.

    If getting passengers to their destination, picking them up from stations and doing so regularly, providing comfortable, reliable and/or clean services, and offering refunds for lack of service were important aspects public transport, surely they would either happen or make up any aspect of "key performance indicators" that would impact payments to the provider.

    The KPIs don't include these irrelevant factors so clearly you have to redefine "ready", and in doing so you will realise that we are already ready. We are ready to put on new train lines, we are ready to cater for a world-defining public event. The truth is in what gets measured, because what gets measured gets managed.

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  2. I'm sure QR can run all the other lines at 95% reliability, on a reduced service, as half of the trains and drivers will be required for the (slowed down) Gold Coast Line 8tph service.

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  3. I expect there will be shuttles between Beenleigh and Varsity Lakes. Although perhaps they will do something dodgy like an overtaking move at Bethania?

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  4. I think in one direction they have 4tph Varsity-Brisbane all stations, and 4tph Varsity-Brisbane express (overtaking on the 3rd track).
    In the other direction, with no ability to overtake, who knows! Maybe a skip stop service, or all trains all stations.
    "Peak direction" for the games, will also be the opposite to most commuters, just to complicate things.

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  5. The problem with the all stations idea is that it would need to very closely follow the standard stopping train. It's 28 minutes slower inbound! I can't see it happening. Perhaps add one or more stops to the GC trains such as Coopers Plains (keeping Altandi and Loganlea) and a few other changes.

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