Thursday, October 12, 2017

NGR Fail - 600 Days and Questions for Mr Nicholls

NGR - 600 Days and Not in Service
Today was the 600th day anniversary of the first of the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains arriving in Queensland. Due to a project failure of epic proportions, these trains are still not in passenger service. The NGR trains were ordered under the one-term LNP Newman government, who also laid the foundations for Rail Fail by ordering a recruitment freeze ahead of the implementation of 15 minute off-peak services and the Redcliffe Peninsula Line. It is well known the NGR trains were ordered without guard accommodation, as the intention was for the trains to be Driver Only Operated (DOO). This was a polar opposite of the EBA that was in place for train crew. So how were the LNP Government going to get around this? It is also well known that QR has limited involvement with the design of the NGR trains. Well it seems that there are a few questions for current QLD LNP opposition leader Mr Tim Nicholls MP to answer:

  • Were the LNP planning on the NGR trains to be run by a private company?
  • Was this private company going to use DOO trains on the QR network?
  • Was this private company going to poach train drivers from the already understaffed QR?
  • Was the recruitment freeze a plan to setup QR to fail?
  • Why was the NGR business case not released? 
  • Are public servants too scared to speak up about the LNP's secret plans, as they could loose their jobs if the LNP got back in power?
  • Why were the disabled toilets in the NGR trains designed to not meet legal requirements?
BrizCommuter has run many a blog post about the LNP's other destructive public transport policies, such as axing Cross River Rail for the ill-thought out BaT Tunnel which has set back CRR by over half a decade (or even permanently if the LNP get back in power). There is no question that QR had serious internal issues irrespective of the government in power, and that the ALP Palaszczuk have done a half-arsed job with Rail Fail service recovery thanks to Union pressure. In fact, BrizCommuter is not adverse to QR Citytrain being privatised, but it needs to be done by honest and transparent methods. However, if it appears that the LNP were planning on privatising QR by stealth, by getting a private company to run the NGR trains with different safety rules and staff agreements, then it appears that the LNP cannot be trusted with public transport. 

If the LNP get back in power before the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, then they will have egg on their face when services have to be axed to lack of NGR trains and drivers. With the LNP being more concerned with privatising train services than improving train services, expect the pain of the Rail Fail to continue well into the next decade if they win the next Queensland state election. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

1 Year of Rail Fail, No End in Sight!

Lets celebrate
by running hourly trains!
Today is the 1st birthday of Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail (#RailFail), with the first wave of mass service cancellations occurring on 30th September 2016, a few days ahead of the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line.

So what caused Rail Fail?
  • Recruitment freeze under the LNP Newman Government at the same time as construction was occurring on the Redcliffe Peninsula Line, and expansion of 15 minute off-peak services.
  • Changes to train driver breaks, requiring more drivers for the same number of services. 
  • Slow driver training programs, and Union influence internal recruitment slowed down recruitment. 
  • Chronic incompetence at QR failed to see that the October 2016 timetable was not possible with the staff availability at the time. 
How have commuters suffered?
  • Waves of last minute service cancellations (usually on Fridays and Sundays) during late 2016. 
  • Multiple timetable changes during late 2016 with axed services. 
  • Confusingly different timetables between Monday-Thursdays and Fridays.
  • 333 axed services per week in the 2017 timetable, of which only 2 have since been restored. 
  • Service gaps of up to 1 hour in the peaks, and increased overcrowding on some services.
  • Hourly weekend timetables during School Holidays and Public Holidays - worst train service in Australia and New Zealand (Oceania)!
  • Up to 60% peak period service cuts during the Summer School Holidays.
  • 2/3 of services cancelled on Xmas Day 2016. 
  • Looming Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Rail Fail - services to be axed on train lines other than the Gold Coast Line. 
  • Looming service cuts during School Holidays throughout 2018. 
What other issues have there been?
  • Chronic lack of trains since the January 2014 timetable limiting train services and resulting  overcrowded 3-car services. 
  • Nearly 600 day delay in New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) entering service.
  • Not enough NGR trains have been ordered to maximise use of existing infrastructure - politics and lack of perceived problem may prevent further orders from Indian Bombardier factory, and delay subsequent orders. 
  • NGR train toilets are not large enough for wheelchairs. 
  • NGR train guard position has moved to back of train, away from accessibility "seating" area, and raised platforms.
  • Increasing unreliability of ageing EMU and ICU trains. 
  • Poor train/platform interface at most stations. 
  • Chronic issue with trains running early.
  • Chronic issue with CBD track closures during the daytime causing delays of up to 15 minutes and missed connections.
  • Late night track closures creating a headache for shift workers. 
  • On-time running statistics exclude "expressed" services and off-peak services. 
What has been the result of Rail Fail?
  • Decline in patronage on QR's network (taking into account opening of Redcliffe Peninsula Line) - though statistics have gone "missing in action". 
  • Increased road congestion. 
  • Permanent damage to QR's reputation - privatisation almost inevitable when the LNP next gain power. 
  • Damage to Brisbane and SE Queensland's reputation - including lower liveability than other Australian capitals. 
  • High risk of Cross River Rail getting axed.
  • Due to massive number of 1 star reviews on Facebook, QR removed all Facebook reviews, and started concentrating on posts irrelevant to running a train service - trying to hid the truth QR?
When will Rail Fail be resolved?
  • Information of Rail Fail resolution and service recovery was conveniently dropped from the last CityTrain response - so little information is available. 
  • Likely that some of the axed 333 services will be restored during the second half of 2018. Expect further Friday and School Holiday service cuts throughout 2018. 
  • Most of the axed 333 services should be restored during 2019. Some axed services may not return. 
  • Urgently required service improvements (such as extending Cleveland Line pm peak expresses) unlikely until late 2019 or 2020. 
  • Major improvements to timetables (such as improved off-peak services and pm peak services on most lines) unlikely until well into 2020s. 
Whilst Queensland Rail's annual report states that Queensland Rail is focussed on becoming a "world class" rail operator, it is quite obvious that Queensland Rail is just a "world class" embarrassment to Brisbane and SE Queensland. 

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, to run more Gold Coast express services, we may see some Beenleigh Lines axed, or skip stations (though we could also see Gold Coast express 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 Oceania (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.  

Sunday, August 13, 2017

BrizCommuter 2017 Caption Competition

It's competition time! BrizCommuter asks for amusing captions for the below photo of a cardboard cut-out of a Queensland Rail (QR) New Generation Rollingstock train. The winner gets to be stuck on a broken down Ferny Grove Line train for 3 hours whilst holding a full bladder.


To get you started here are a few caption ideas:
  • I know the disabled toilets are too small, but that small?
  • To get the NGR trains in service before the Commonwealth Games, requires passengers to build their own. 
  • The closest you'll get to riding on an NGR train in 2017. 
  • The 50% cheaper NGR trains ordered by the Newman government, was due to cardboard construction. 
Add captions using the comments section. If you work for Department of Transport and Main Roads, or QR, you can enter anonymously!

Friday, August 11, 2017

QR's 2017 Ekka Rail Fail

Ekka loop service - faster to walk!
From Oceana's worst train operator that brought you the diabolical Interim and 2017 Timetables, the inadequate Summer, Easter, and Winter School Holiday Timetables, comes yet another Rail Fail event. This time, due to lack of organisational competence and lack of train drivers, Queensland Rail (QR) have reduced the train services to the 2017 Ekka.

Despite adverts at train stations advertising 15 minute Exhibition Loop services, TransLink's journey planner tells a different story. The Exhibition Loop services will only be running every 20 minutes, even on the busy weekend days and People's Day on Wednesday. This is a 25% cut in Ekka train services compared to last year. Just to make things worse, there is also no sign in the journey planner of the many additional train services that were run to the Ekka, many of them being trains that usually terminate at Roma Street being extended to serve Exhibition station on the way to the depot (or vice versa). Thus it is likely that the final figure may be that more than 30% of Ekka services have been axed - unless of course TransLink's journey planner is hopelessly wrong. This is a disgrace, and will result in severe overcrowding on the first few trains of the day. BrizCommuter would strongly advise walking to the Ekka from Fortitude Valley and Bowen Hills stations, rather than travelling on one of QR's infrequent sardine cans, or relying on TransLink getting their journey planner to match actual services.

A quick inspection of the timetable, also shows a 17 minute gap between Ekka Loop trains arriving at Roma Street and departing. This would block platforms to other services, add conflicting moves, or cause mass go card confusion by using platform 10. So, BrizCommuter also doubts that this timetable can be reliably operated. It is likely that unfortunate passengers may experience a rather random service frequency.

If you think things can't get any worse, then look forward to reduced timetables in the Spring School Holiday, 2018 Summer School Holiday, Easter, around and during the Commonwealth Games, and so on until sometime in 2019 when QR may finally have enough drivers to operate the October 2016 timetable - only 3 years late!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

QR's Rail Fail DB Review - Finds the bleeding obvious!

Screenshot from DB report.
Over 300 days after the start of Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail, an independent investigation by consultants from Deutche Bahn (DB) has told Queensland Rail exactly what BrizCommuter has been saying for the last three quarters of a year. The main findings are:

  • The New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) project, also dubbed as Not Going Right, is a complete disaster with 140 technical issues at the time of the review. Whilst India is not renowned for it's manufacturing industry, it seems that a lot of the flaws are in the "Queenslander" specifications and design. 
  • That the 18 NGR trains required for the proposed Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) is not likely to be achieved. 
  • That there are not enough train crew to operate the proposed timetable for the GC2018 - this will result in cuts to services on train lines other than the Gold Coast Line, which BrizCommuter has been warning about since November 2016. 
  • The geriatric EMU trains are becoming a reliability liability, adding to risks for GC2018. 
  • Fragmented IT systems, with high risk from cyber attack. 
  • That QR's customer service is good. Really? BrizCommuter assumes that DB didn't ask any passengers about this?
  • Risk in 40 year life cycle for SMU and IMU trains. Time to order more NGR trains?
  • High rate of overtime dependance. 
  • Fragmented organisational structure. 
  • General lack of trust and partnership between QR and TransLink/Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR).
So what needs to happen?
  • Realistically, QR is a failed organisation that can probably only be fixed by privatisation with a train operator that knows what it is doing, such as DB or MTR. 
  • TMR's governance of public transport is a failure. There needs to be better governance of public transport in Queensland, maybe following Perth's example of governance with a public transport only body. 
  • DG TMR Neil Scales should be sent packing back to England. 
  • That the #GC2018railfail is inevitable, resulting in reduced services on lines other than the Gold Coast Line before, during, and after the Commonwealth Games. Politicians need to stop hiding the truth from the public. 
  • More NGR trains need to be ordered, once the design flaws are fixed. 
The DB Whole of Business Review of Queensland Rail report:
https://www.cru.qld.gov.au/resources/20170720%20QR%20Whole%20of%20Business%20Review%20-%20DB%20EC%20final%20presentation.pdf

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fixing The Trains - But When?

You forgot to mention the 333 axed train services?
After recently being berated by BrizCommuter for the delayed June edition of Fixing The Trains (.pdf download link), the Citytrain Response Unit (CRU) has finally released it. So what have the Citytrain Response Unit, who incidentally are costing the taxpayer $3.5m a year, said in the latest update on Queensland Rail's (QR) #RailFail?

Stabilising timetables - the CRU have stated that "Queensland Rail has undertaken rigorous stress testing of the current timetable and has determined that the current timetable should remain in place. There are however, a number of distinct stress periods identified over the next 12 months which will require active management. This may require timetable adjustments, for a defined period of time, to ensure sufficient train crew are available to deliver reliable services across the network." In other words, expect yet more hourly weekend train services (worst train frequency in Oceana), and cuts to timetables during school holidays. No mention of how long the "interim timetable" cuts will stay in place, seems to be indefinitely.

QR being more customer focussed - the CRU have stated that "From equipping station staff with more tools to help customers, to frequent Commuter Catch-Ups and a refresh of station amenities, Queensland Rail is demonstrating that it is an organisation committed to meeting the needs of its customers and stakeholders. Queensland Rail will continue to use customer feedback to grow and evolve initiatives to improve customer experience." They failed to mention QR deleting hundreds of negative reviews of Facebook, the somewhat last minute mentions of the Commuter Catch-Ups, and the fact that customer information during times of delays is still as bad as ever.

Business Review - "Deutsche Bahn Engineering and Consulting was engaged to assist in the first phase of the review which comprised more than 70 interviews, 4 site visits and review of more than 250 documents. This  first phase of the review will be finalised next quarter." How about just privatise QR to Deutsche Bahn or another competent company, rather than wasting taxpayers money trying to get consultants to sort out the schmozzle that is QR?

Commonwealth Games - one tiny entry for the next major #RailFail disaster, with the CRU saying "plans for the Commonwealth Games are being developed and stress-tested in consultation with the Department of Transport and Main Roads". In other words, expect cuts on all train lines other than the Gold Coast Line during and around the 2018 Commonwealth Games!

Recruitment - this is the key to resolving Rail Fail, and so far out of a target of 200 drivers, only 28 have been trained, and 107 recruited. This is not good. In other words, expect Rail Fail's interim timetables to continue well into 2019, and don't expect any service improvements (on top of the axed October 2016 timetable) this decade.

Services Delivered - this graph on page 10 shows that 99.69% of services were delivered in Q3 16/17. Unfortunately, this figure is highly misleading as it based on the current "interim timetable" (AKA 2017 timetable) with 333 axed train services, rather than the full October 2016 timetable.

NGR - No information on the disastrous New Generation Rollingstock project. Chronic lack of trains, and increasingly unreliable EMU trains are also impacting train services. Incidentally, the Queensland Auditor General "forgot" about a request (which was declined) to audit this project when asked in Parliament yesterday (18/07/2017). It seems that obstruction of the truth goes very high up the food chain in Queensland!

Timetable recovery - absolutely no information has been provided on the expected recovery of the full October 2016 timetable, and improvements thereafter. This is the absolutely number one piece of information that the public want to know. The omission of this data, shows that either the CRU are out of touch with commuters, or that the news is so "politically unsavoury" that it is being hidden, or that there is no intention of recovering the full timetable. Would the CRU (or QR) like to tell the customers when the full October 2016 timetable will be restored?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Will the LNP axe Cross River Rail?

An LNP Politican?
As predicted (yet again) by BrizCommuter, it looks like the LNP, led by the clueless Tim Nicholls is refusing the rule out Cross River Rail (CRR) if they win the next Queensland state election. In other words they want to delay of axe CRR. What is the reasoning behind the LNP's problem with Brisbane's underground rail tunnel?

"It is just for the inner city". Quite clearly, this shows that the LNP don't understand the very basics of CRR's purpose. CRR adds an extra track pair through Brisbane's CBD. This in turn allows for approximately 50% more track capacity through the CBD, allowing for more frequent train services to and from the suburbs in both the peak and off-peak. For example CRR will allow for more train services on the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, Cleveland, Sunshine Coast, and Redcliffe Peninsula Lines. It allows the construction of a passenger train line along the Salisbury to Beaudesert Corridor to server Flagstone new town. It also theoretically allows for a train line to built along the North East Transportation Corridor / Trouts Rd, though of course the LNP would rather turn this into a road. Quite clearly, CRR will benefit commuters travelling to and from huge swaths of Brisbane's suburbs and conurbations. However, BrizCommuter would like to see track layouts at the Northern end of the tunnel also allow for increases in capacity on the Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, and Doomben Line (with an extension to Hamilton Northshore).

"Lack of business case". There is a severe lack of transparency from the Palaszczuk Government, and this needs to be released as soon as possible. Of course, the $5.4b for CRR is only for the tunnel section. A few more $ billion are required to pay for additional track infrastructure around SE Queensland's train network to allow for the claimed capacity increases, and also for additional trains and crew. Much of this extra cost is due to SE Queensland's train network being vastly under-invested in the last decade when much of this work should have been done. Is this extra cost a reason to axe CRR? Of course not. Without CRR, Brisbane will descend further into being a congested mess, costing the economy far more $, than the cost of CRR.

"There isn't enough demand". This was recently discussed by BrizCommuter. Successive governments have damaged SE Queensland's rail patronage with high fares, infrequent services, overcrowded services, and of course #RailFail. There is considerable latent demand for public transport in Brisbane - if the service was affordable and frequent enough people would use it.

If the "destructive" Queensland LNP, led by Tim Nicholls have their way, Brisbane will continue to be laughing stock of Oceana, cancelling a critical rail tunnel at the same time that work is full swing in Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland. With ludicrous policies such as adding a 7th car, the Cleveland Solution, and BaT Tunnel, and now questioning CRR, it is quite clear that LNP really don't have a clue when it comes to transport policy.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Citytrain Un-response Unit?

Quarterly reports? 
Back in Early May, BrizCommuter blogged that the Citytrain Response Unit (CRU), designed to keep on eye on Queensland Rail's recovery from Rail Fail, appeared to be ineffective bureaucracy. Well, as usual, BrizCommuter appears to be correct. The CRU is suppose to be publishing quarterly reports of Queensland Rail's (QR) recovery, The first report was available on March 8th 2017. Thus the second quartile report would be expected in early June 2017. Well it is now mid-July 2017, and the second quarterly report is still to be published. This adds to the lack of transparency around #RailFail, the disastrous NGR project, and looming Commonwealth Games Rail Fail. In the absence of the CRU's report, here is BrizCommuter's report on QR's recovery from lack of driver induced Rail Fail.
  • Number of newly qualified drivers - unknown.
  • Numbers of drivers in training, and expected date of qualification - unknown. 
  • Number of qualified train drivers rejected from working for QR Citytrain - quite a few. 
  • Number of non-train driver external applicants hired - none.
  • Likelihood of Union/ALP meddling with recruitment process - very high.
  • Number of axed train services reinstated - none.
  • Expected timeline of axed train services being reinstated - unknown.
  • Likelihood of further hourly weekend train services (worst frequency in Oceana) - very high.
  • Likelihood of more Rail Fail (axed train services) during and around the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games - exceedingly high. 
  • Days that NGR trains have not entered passenger service - 511 (as at 15/7/17).
  • Days until NGR train enter passenger service - unknown, probably ages. 
  • Likelihood of NGR trains having toilets locked due to failing to meet DDA requirements - possible. 
  • Likelihood of the incompetent and secretive ALP Palaszczuk Government getting kicked out at the next election due to Rail Fail - reasonably high. 
  • Likelihood of a Nicholls LNP Government privatising QR and axing Cross River Rail - almost guaranteed. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

CG2018 Transport Management Plan - Brushing #RailFail under the carpet?

The Queensland Government recently published the Transport Management Plan for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. BrizCommuter was hoping this would address the following concerns about Heavy Rail Public Transport:
  • The train frequencies expected both to/from the Gold Coast during the Games? Note: previous claims of bi-directional 8tph service are pretty much impossible without slowing down trains.
  • How the extra Gold Coast Line services will manage due to #RailFail's ongoing lack of drivers?
  • How the extra Gold Coast Line services will manage due to delays to New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains?
  • The extend of train service reductions across the rest of Queensland Rail's (QR) CityTrain network due to the extra Gold Coast Line services. 
So how much of these rather important points were in the GC2018 Transport Management Plan? Nil, nothing, nada. Despite road based transport being given its own chapter, Heavy Rail has been given a single page, which is completely lacking in detail, and fails to mention the issues with lack of drivers and train. It seems that the Palaszczuk Government, and Minister for Education and Minister for Tourism, Major Events and the Commonwealth Games Kate Jones seem to be continuing to brush Rail Fail under the carpet hoping no-one will notice.

With there being minimal public transport legacy from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and transport mainly based around park and ride, it looks like Queensland will be holding the least sustainable Commonwealth Games in terms of transport policy for decades. Expect the M1 to be chaos! 

The GC2018 Transport Management Plan is downloadable from here:
http://public.intelligencebank.com/03e845b388c040f7c5ddb4db8707e73d/pubwewWdC.html

Sunday, July 9, 2017

NGR - Not Going Right

A timely press release from Rail Back on Track's Robert Dow, says it all about the disastrous New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) train project...

9th July 2017

Not Going Right trains - community service public information campaign gains steam

Good Morning,

Days since NGR 701 towed to Wulkuraka is now 505.  Five hundred and five days in which the fundamental design problems with the trains have only been given scant regard until recently. It has only been the threats of legal action by disability groups that has forced a tacit acknowledgement that there are problems with DDA compliance and it needs fixing - we now have the ' Fixing the NGR trains ', another monumental blunder along with ' Fixing the trains '.

It will probably be many months still before we see these NGR trains in revenue passenger service.  Is anyone concerned about that?  We are.  This is a shocking abysmal failure by the former Newman Government, followed up with more failure and bumble by the Palaszczuk Government.

Serious questions have to be asked as to why such a botched design was ordered in the first place by the Newman Government.  This explains in part why mainstream media in SEQ appear to be reluctant to report on the NGR botch as it hits back at the Newman Government and the  gross mismanagement by the LNP and their transport bureaucracy.  The ALP have not covered themselves in glory either with their constant attempts at cover-up (surprising) and general frozen at the wheel approach, not only for NGR fail and but rail fail generally.

We have been forced into our community service public information campaign re the NGR (Next Generation Rollingstock a.k.a. Not Going Right) trains because Queensland Citizens deserve to know the sheer level of incompetence and managed deceit that lies within the corridors of power and fumble bumble bureaucracy and maladministration of this state. They deserve to know that the rail fail shambles, compounded by NGR fail, will certainly impact the 2018 Commonwealth Games as more reductions in service on their lines to pump up the Gold Coast line services.

We are so looking forward to the state election.

Best wishes,
Robert

Robert Dow
Administration
admin@backontrack.org
RAIL Back On Track https://backontrack.org

Saturday, June 24, 2017

QR deletes negative Facebook reviews

QR's new social media strategy
Back in December 2016, BrizCommuter ran a tongue in cheek blog post about Queensland Rail's (QR) plummeting review score on Facebook. QR's rating was last seen at an abysmal 1.5 out of 5, thanks to stacks of angry passengers infuriated with poor timetables, broken down trains, poor customer information, axed services due to Rail Fail, hourly train services at Easter and weekends, and badly managed rail replacement services (the list could go on and on). In fact the only positive ratings were believed to be fake ratings from relatives of QR staff! In order to avoid the truth about what happens when rail service providers have utter contempt for passengers, QR have recently deleted the facebook reviews (including 650+ 1 star reviews) and related negative comments from their Facebook page.

In a bit to somehow make passengers think that QR aren't incompetent, QR have decided to change their social media strategy to wide angle photos of dogs, or donuts. Have QR forgotten that they are a rail operator?

Additionally, QR keep deleting service information posts once they are out of date (rather than keeping them in the timeline), thus deleting all the negative posts. Thankfully, BrizCommuter saved the negative comments from the Easter Rail Fail, so that they are archived indefinitely.  Ouch - the truth hurts!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

NGR - Down the Toilet?

NGR Toilet Plans
One thing you can guarantee of governments in Queensland, is to completely stuff things up. At the time of writing, Queensland Rail's New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains have been in Queensland for 488 days - that's longer than most celebrity marriages! The NGR project is being run the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR), who seem to be perpetrators of multiple project recent project failures. So aside from braking problems, restricted line of sight, stopping point issues, and guards being 3 carriages away from the wheelchair boarding location, why are the NGR trains still not in service?

There is a big problem with the NGR trains, that the ALP Palaszczuk government seems to be very tight lipped over, despite the trains being ordered under the LNP Newman Government. It is claimed that the toilets do not meet Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) requirements. Since this is legally required on trains, and the trains were designed by Bombardier in Brisbane, this is a monumental stuff up if it is true. Given the complete lack of response to Right to Information (RTI) request on NGR trains, and lack of response to a barrage of tweets and letters from Rail Back on Track and disability advocates, it can only be assumed that this is indeed the case.

The problem is that the distance between the entrance wall and the centre of the toilet bowl must be at least 1150mm according to the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (DSAPT). Unfortunately, the distance on the NGR is 1124mm, which means that the door may not be able to be closed with a wheelchair in the toilet cubicle. So what are the solutions? Will the toilets on the $4.4b NGR trains need to be re-built to larger dimensions at significant cost? This could restrict side corridor width. Will disabled passengers have to do their business with the door open? Or will the "Queenslander" solution be to lock the toilets - as it is may not be breaking then DDA act if everyone has to cross their legs?

Until TMR and QR sort out this mess, long suffering QR passengers will keep being faced with overcrowded 3-car services, well apart from on Fridays when QR has axed them!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

LNP - You don't think CRR is needed?

It has been reported that Queensland's opposition don't think that Cross River Rail (CRR) is required quite so urgently (in other words they would rather axe it for BaT Mk2). This is due to rail patronage allegedly declining over the last 7 years. Firstly it would be great if detailed rail patronage and passenger loading was not kept a state secret by successive LNP and ALP governments. Secondly, there are rather a lot of reasons why rail patronage (which was growing rapidly in the mid-00s) has stagnated or even dropped:
  • Massive fare increases by under the ALP Bligh, and LNP Newman governments. 
  • Poor fare structure with no daily or weekly capping, introduced under the ALP Beatty/Bligh era.
  • Unreliable go-card readers that often give "innocent" users $10 fixed fares. 
  • Chronic lack of trains resulting in overcrowded 3-car trains, and sub-optimal peak timetables - due to delays to NGR and lack of extra orders of 160/260 series trains - thanks to LNP Newman and ALP Blight governments's respectively.  
  • Infrequent 30 minute off-peak services across most of Queensland Rail's (QR) network. 
  • Sub-optimal peak frequencies with many 15 minute service gaps, especially in the pm peak. 
  • Rail Fail - "randomly" axed peak and off-peak services, confusing and "unusable" Friday timetable, hourly weekend timetables during holidays, poor reliability - started by driver recruitment freezes under the LNP Newman government, and handled badly by the ALP Palaszczuk government.
  • Unreliable EMU trains breaking down left right and centre. 
  • Poor customer service and information by TransLink and QR. 
  • Un-integrated network with buses not feeding trains in Brisbane - TransLink's bus networks reform was abandoned under the LNP Newman government.
  • Lack of pro-action in expansion of the rail network to meet new developments and population e.g. not extending the Doomben Line to Northshore Hamilton, lack of Gold Coast Line extension progress - both LNP and ALP to blame here. 
Incompetence from both sides of politics in Queensland is the reason why rail patronage is currently not increasing. Sorting out the fares, having enough drivers and trains (note: not enough NGRs have been ordered) to maximise use of the existing infrastructure, as well as reforming the bus network would likely result in significant increases in rail patronage. But do either the ALP or LNP have the guts to properly sort out the mess? It doesn't look like it. 

Additionally, the Salisbury to Beaudesert corridor and the Trouts Road (North East Transportation Corridor) Line cannot be built for passengers services until Cross River Rail has been built. Both would have massive effects on reducing road congestion and serving public transport black-holes. The Trouts Road line would massively speed up rail services and increase capacity from Caboolture and the Sunshine Coast. Unfortunately, an LNP MP has stated they would rather build a new road instead of building the latter, which would be a congested car-park from day one as it would funnel onto already congested roads. 

Chronic political mismanagement in Queensland is the reason why Brisbane is such a mess when it comes to transport. At a time when Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland all building new rail tunnels, Brisbane is again looking very backwards when the state opposition does't think that CRR is required. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

QR's Rail Fail gets even worse

QR Ruins the School Winter Holidays
After the dreadfully inadequate Summer School Holiday Timetable, and appalling hourly Easter Timetables, surely commuters would be expecting some improvements to Rail Fail by now? Sadly, SE Queensland rail operator Queensland Rail (QR) has sunk even further into the black hole of customer service, by plans to run hourly train services on Sunday 26th June, 2nd July, and 9th July during the Winter School Holidays. Sunshine Coast Line commuters will only see trains running every 2 hours. Only the Airport Line will still run the usual 30 minute service. Just to annoy passengers further, QR have bizarrely decided to run train times at a different time to the normal clock face times, which will frustrate passengers with even longer waits and missed bus/train connections. Did QR and TransLink not learn from the Easter Rail Fail?

This horrendous service reduction will take QR back to era of diesel hauled services in the late 70s, early 80s. Quite clearly, QR continue to have disregard for those who actually need to use public transport, including:

  • Hospital and Emergency Service workers.
  • Hospitality and Restaurant workers.
  • Retail workers.
  • People wanting to go shopping (or other amenities) in and around Brisbane CBD.
  • Families wanting to get to/from various timed events in and around Brisbane.
  • People wanting to travel to/from the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. 
  • Anyone else trying to avoid holiday road congestion. 

At the time of announcing the last minute changes, TransLink have failed to publish any .pdf timetables, and the usual half-arsed communications from QR will be expected. No mention of the changes on QR's Facebook page, as that now seems to concentrate on wide angle photos of dogs instead of informing customers about train services. The ongoing rail fail makes Brisbane appear to be a laughing stock of the western world, yet again having the worse urban rail frequent in Australia and New Zealand over these weekends.

The Winter School Holiday #RailFail begs the following questions:

  • With the Commonwealth Games only 10 months away - how bad are the train service cut backs going to be on lines other than the Gold Coast Line?
  • Will there be more timetable cut backs in 2017 and 2018?
  • Is the "invisible" Citytrain Response Unit actually doing anything? 
  • Do QR and the Palaszczuk government realise the reputational damage this is causing Brisbane and SE Queensland?
  • Do QR and the Palaszczuk government realise the Cross Rail Rail could be axed by the LNP if they get back in power due to voters fed up with Rail Fail?
TransLink's information:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Will Cross River Rail finally become reality?

After nearly a decade of delays from both sides of politics, the ALP Palaszczuk state government has announced that they will fund, or at least fund the first few years of Brisbane's Cross River Rail's (CRR) construction. This is excellent news for Queenslanders, and is a shot in the arm for the supposedly pro-public transport Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who has refused to fund CRR - though it is debatable how "complete" the supplied business case was.
Cross River Rail Map
The advantages of $5.4b CRR, for which the Palaszczuk government has contributed $2.8b, are:

  • Increased rail capacity through Brisbane's CBD by approx. 50%.
  • Allows for service frequency increases on the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, Cleveland, Sunshine Coast, Caboolture, and Kippa-Ring Lines - though extra "out of scope" infrastructure (tracks, and trains) is required to maximise capacity, which will cost $ billions more. 
  • Allows for passenger services on the Salisbury to Beaudesert Line. 
  • Allows for future addition of the Trouts Rd Line (North West Transportation Corridor) to increase rail capacity from the North and serve Northern Suburbs, though tunnel stubs are lacking in the design.  
  • Allows for frequent train services to the South end of Brisbane's CBD, Wooloongabba, and Exhibition. 
  • Reduces road congestion.
  • Will increase property prices and aid development along served corridors. 
  • Economic benefits of improved transport options in SE Queensland.
  • Is complemented by the "Brisbane Metro" Bus Rapid Transit system. 
  • Supports Queens Wharf and proposed Brisbane Live developments.  
  • Eliminates the need for operationally problematic Ekka Loop train services. 

So is CRR definitely going to happen? CRR becoming reality may depend upon the result of the looming Queensland state election. Unfortunately the LNP have a history of destructive public transport policies. These include the ill-though out CRR alternatives - "The Cleveland Solution" and "BaT Tunnel". The latter has delayed CRR by at least 3 years. The LNP's driver recruitment freeze was also a notable factor contributing towards QR's Rail Fail. LNP opposition leader Tim Nicholls has not displayed any signs of being pro-CRR, and has been reported by industry insiders as "just not getting it". Thus unless CRR's contracts and construction are sufficiently advanced before the LNP get back in power, then CRR hangs in the balance.

As a side note - Ms Palaszczuk and Ms Trad - don't forget to order more trains and employ more train crew for CRR!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

QR - Set-up to Fail?

NGR Project - Epic fail, but not QR's fault?
With recent political discussion around privatisation (or "outsourcing" for those averse to asset sales) of Queensland Rail (QR), BrizCommuter smells something fishy.

There is little question that QR has chronic issues with institutional incompetence, poor culture, and placing drivers overtime pay packets above getting commuters from A to B. However, a lot of QR's perceived problems appear to have been caused by the ousted LNP Newman government, and the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR).

Exhibit A - Rail Fail - whilst both QR and the ALP Palaszczuk government have handled Rail Fail badly, the original cause of the problem was the recruitment freeze under the LNP Newman government. This recruitment freeze occurred whilst Moreton Bay Rail Link was under construction, and 15 minute off-peak was introduced to limited parts of QR's network - both of which needed more staff, not less.

Exhibit B - Moreton Bay Rail Link - despite QR being in involved with many successful rail projects, this project was instead run by TMR, with very little involvement from QR. This is quite likely to be due to "secret" LNP plans to privatise QR. The badly designed track layout at Kippa-Ring delays trains on a daily basis. The signalling design stuff up massively delayed the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula. Claims in the Courier Mail that QR did not perform due-diligence, could also be interpreted as DTMR didn't give QR enough time to perform due-diligence as they were almost frozen out the project.

Exhibit C - New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) - this project is heading towards being one of the World's most disastrous rolling stock projects of recent times. At the time of writing it is 463 days after the first NGR was delivered, and there is zero sign of them entering passenger services. The NGR were ordered under the LNP Newman government, and the project (badly) handled by TMR instead of QR. The LNP's plan to eliminate guards resulted in the train being ordered without guards accommodation. The guard will also now be located 3-carriages away from where the disabled passengers are waiting to board, with reports the NGR will require a ludicrous 4 members of staff on-board thanks to union nonsense. The trains have been ordered with toilets that may not meet the Disability Discrimination Act.

BrizCommuter is not adverse to QR being privatised, as it seems that at the moment, even some of the more mediocre private operators could do a better job. However it appears that QR have been set-up to fail by the LNP and TMR. A lot of the current mess is not directly the fault of QR, and much of the blame should lie with the destructive LNP Newman government, and Department of Transport and Main Roads. BrizCommuter cannot understand how "Captain Chaos" Neil Scales has not been sacked from the position of D-G of TMR given the number of failed projects. Whilst not the cause of the current issues, the ALP Palaszczuk government has poorly handled the resolution of these issues, has made transparency even worse than under the LNP (which is quite difficult), and are so incompetent at politics that they have failed to blame these issues on the LNP. The unions are also to blame for the potentially overstaffed NGR trains and restrictive recruitment policies. It doesn't look like there is any hope for public transport in Brisbane and SE Queensland.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Early Running Trains - Another Easy Fix?

With all all the talk about late or cancelled trains, some readers may be surprised that Queensland Rail (QR) also have a chronic issue with early running trains. These early running trains are often observed during the off-peak, when the combination of QR's padded out timetables, train crew not paying attention to the timetable, and no digital train regulation methods, can result in trains running early. BrizCommuter quite often observes early running outbound trains on the Ferny Grove Line at weekends and late at night. As QR do not publish off-peak on-time statistics, then commuters and politicians are in the dark as to how often this occurs. QR can locate their trains by the signalling system, and thus these statistics can be obtained by QR.
3 minutes early - unacceptable QR! 
This photographed example was taken at 09:10am, at Enoggera station. The watch was synced to a time server the previous day.  The train in the photo was timetabled to depart this station at 09:13am. So the train was running 3 minutes early. In fact, the train arrived at this station 1 minute earlier than the time that it was timetabled to depart the previous station on the line - Alderley (at 09:11am)! This of course totally unacceptable, and is yet another example of QR's ongoing contempt for the travelling public.

BrizCommuter has also observed passengers jumping pedestrian level crossings to get to trains that were running early, otherwise they would have missed the train with a resulting 30+ minute wait. This isn't good in the "zero harm" department. Only last week, BrizCommuter nearly missed an early am peak train service that was running 2 minutes early (though it still ended running 2 minutes late through the CBD).

Lets hope that QR's renewed "customer focus", and new CEO Mr Nick Easy can stamp out this timetable annoyance.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

QR's Daytime Track Closures - An Easy Fix?

...except without the "Sorry" bit
There are 2 pairs of tracks (4 in total) through Brisbane's CBD. For many years, Queensland Rail (QR) have been regularly closing one of these track pairs for scheduled maintenance during the daytime off-peak period, much to the annoyance of passengers who have been delayed. Since the January 2014 timetable, when 15 minute off-peak services were added on a few lines, there have been delays due to:
  • Services that are timed to run through Brisbane's CBD at the same time on seperate tracks, will always result on in a delay to one of those services. 
  • Too many trains running through Brisbane's CBD in the daytime off-peak to reliably operate on one track pair. 
  • A late running train will delay all subsequent trains as there is limited operating margin.
  • Conflicting junction moves at Roma Street, Fortitude Valley, or Bowen Hills (e.g. Ferny Grove bound trains having to cross the path of all inbound services at Bowen Hills) causing further delays. 
  • Lazy operations - e.g. 2 minute dwell time at Central for late running services. 
The effect of this on commuters and stakeholders:
  • Typically, trains running up to 10 minutes late on all lines. 
  • In some case, trains running up to 15 minutes late, or getting delayed further in their journey as a result of the earlier delay.
  • Commuters being late for appointments, work, lectures, and meetings.
  • Commuters missing onward train and bus connections - not good when some bus routes in Brisbane can be hourly (and yes, BrizCommuter has missed an hourly bus thanks to a daytime track closure). 
  • Further evidence of QR's contempt for the travelling public. 
  • Off-peak reliability figures are not published due to poor transparency, thus stakeholders are unaware of QR's mediocre off-peak performance. 
BrizCommuter is not aware of other urban rail systems that close tracks in the middle of day, resulting in delays. So why does QR think that they can get away with it? This is yet another example of QR's lack of customer focus. Lets hope that this is an easy fix for QR's new CEO - Mr Nick Easy.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Inland Rail vs Cross River Rail - The Irony

Cross River Rail - no federal funding,
no bi-partisan support
In the 2017 Federal Budget, $8.4b of additional funding was announced for the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail Project freight line, but no funding was made available for Brisbane's urgently required $5.4b Cross River Rail. Claims have been made that the Inland Rail corridor from Kagaru (near Beaudesert) to Toowoomba may allow for train services from Toowoomba to Brisbane in around half the time of current train services,  allowing train services to compete with cars. Train services may also be able to call at new suburban stations along the existing part of the Inland Rail corridor between Kagaru (near Beaudesert) and Salisbury, such as Flagstone (New Town), Greenbank, Browns Plains, and Acacia Ridge. Unfortunately, there is one slight problem - lack of Cross River Rail.

Based on the October 2016 Timetable, 20 trains per hour (tph) should run into Brisbane from the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, and Cleveland Lines, running via South Bank. This may be pushed to 22tph in coming years after the opening of the Helensvale to Coomera duplication and eventual resolution of Rail Fail. A maximum of 24tph is possible - unreliably with current signalling, reliably with ETCS signalling. This means that there is realistically no more space for additional passenger train services coming from Toowoomba via the Inland Rail Corridor, or the existing rail corridor between Kagaru and Salisbury.

Building Cross River Rail, preferably with an extra track between Salisbury and the portal at Dutton Park, would allow for train services from Toowoomba via the Inland Rail Corridor, or the existing corridor between Kagaru/Beaudesert and Salisbury to run via South Bank into the CBD (note: standard gauge trains can only run as far as Roma Street), allowing Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines to run via Cross River Rail.

Thus to allow passenger train services to run from Toowoomba to Brisbane via the Inland Rail Corridor, or the existing corridor between Kagaru and Salisbury requires the construction of Cross River Rail. With the (allegedly incomplete) Palaszczuk Government's Cross River Rail business case not being made publicly available, is is unknown as to whether running train services from Toowoomba via the Inland Rail line has been included in the business case. The requirement of running trains from Beaudesert / Flagstone should be included, but costs would additional to the $5.4b for Cross River Rail which only covers Dutton Park to Albion section.

The Palaszczuk Government needs to both complete, and come clean on the business case for Cross River Rail, making it publicly available. As previously discussed, to take full advantage of Cross River Rail, considerably more than the quoted $5.4b will need to spent on other rail infrastructure around SE Queensland. Realistically, the cost may be around $8b. Is this extra cost a reason to not fund Cross River Rail? No.   Without Cross River Rail, Brisbane will have difficulty competing for business with other Oceana cities which are building new cross city rail tunnels, such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland. Road and rail congestion will continue to get worse, making Brisbane fall even further down the liveability rankings. A SE Queensland Olympic Bid without Cross River Rail being open would be laughable. Even if the Federal Government fails to cough up the money, the state government needs to have the balls to go it alone on funding, at least for the first few years. There also needs to be bi-partisan support, and BrizCommuter is concerned that the LNP Queensland state opposition just don't understand the benefits of Cross River Rail.

Thanks to ongoing tit-for-tat politics, and political incompetence, BrizCommuter is very concerned for the future of Cross River Rail, and Brisbane as a competitive "world city".

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Citytrain Response Unit - Ineffective Bureaucracy?

In the Strachan Inquiry (Queensland Rail train crewing practises commission of inquiry), released on 31st January 2017, there was mention of the implementation of the Rail Review Office, which is now known as the Citytrain Response Unit (CRU). The purpose of the CRU, as per the inquiry report is below:

35. Establish a Rail Review Office to monitor, independently audit and report on the implementation of Queensland Rail's response and recovery plan and the agreed recommendations of the Commission
(a) Release public progress reports each quarter, commencing with the announcement of agreed recommendations

36. Task the Rail Review Office with leading reviews of the governance, legislative framework and structure of passenger rail service delivery in Queensland. These reviews should consider the appropriate operating model and accountability for public transportation services in light of forthcoming major changes, such as the introduction of the New Generation Rollingstock, the Commonwealth Games, European Train Control System and Cross River Rail. As a starting point, the Rail Review Office should undertake four key reviews:
(a) Assess, make recommendations on and oversee the implementation of a closely integrated public transport service developed based on leading models of such integrated organisations
(b) Assess the requirement for, and composition of, a Board of Queensland Rail
(c) Define accountabilities for Queensland Rail's long-term industrial relations strategy, ensuring alignment with its long-term business strategy
(d) Undertake a whole-of-business review of Queensland Rail to identify any systemic organisational issues and develop actions to address these issues.

Unfortunately, 3 months after the Strachan Inquiry, it seems that things are getting worse for commuters, rather than better. Only one report has been released by the CRU, entitled "Fixing the Trains". BrizCommuter has the following concerns that CRU have not resolved.

  • Ongoing cancellations due to "operational issues" or "mechanical issues".
  • Concern about falling reliability of ageing EMU trains. 
  • Ongoing poor or non-existent information from Queensland Rail (QR) staff and TransLink when service alterations occur. 
  • Filthy trains. 
  • Lazy guards keeping doors locked for whole journeys, when they only need to be locked for Alderley (due to reconstruction work).
  • QR's Easter timetable having worst frequency in Oceana (Australia and New Zealand).
  • Frequent daytime CBD track closure delaying trains and causing missed connections. 
  • External applicants for driver positions still not allowed. 
  • Perceived lack of progress in driver recruitment. 
  • Laughable timeline to the resolution of Rail Fail in Fixing the Trains document (see screenshot below). 
  • Lack of transparency related to ongoing delays to New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) project - including multiple Right to Information requests being denied.
  • Stalling tactics towards disability advocates over NGR accessibility issues. 
  • Lack of transparency related to detailed passenger loading and patronage reports - in fact, the QR Passenger Load survey has been hidden for years.
  • Lack of transparency related to Moreton Bay Rail Link signalling issues.
  • No publicly available plan of train service restoration - e.g. when will Fridays have the same timetable as Mon-Thu? When will individual axed train services be restored?
  • Lack of transparency (and question avoidance) related to expected train service cuts during the Commonwealth Games. 
  • Limited changes to QR's Board, executive, and culture. 
Laughable timeline - needs to be split into
Months or Quarters, not Year! 
Whilst it is still early days for the Citytrain Response Unit, it appears that the CRU is just another layer of ineffective bureaucracy for SE Queensland and Brisbane's ailing public transport system. With the combined mediocrity of the CRU, QR, Department of Transport and Main Roads, TransLink, and Queensland Government, commuters are left with no idea as to what is going on regarding driver training, restoring cut rail services, NGR delays, improving train cleanliness, improving customer information, and Commonwealth Games train services. The public aren't stupid, and treating them as such may well decide the next election. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

QR to axe train services during Commonwealth Games

As predicted by BrizCommuter last November, it is looking like Queensland Rail's (QR) Rail Fail is going to seriously impact SE Queensland commuters during the Commonwealth Games, being held on the Gold Coast between the 4th and 15th of April 2018.

The Courier Mail recently ran an article on this subject, based on concern from Rail Back on Track, which included this quote:
" ... Asked about the risk of another rail fail debacle from extra stress on the network during the event, Commonwealth Games Minister Kate Jones yesterday said: “We are very confident that both TransLink and the Director-General of Transport and Main Roads [Neil Scales] have given their assurance that we can deliver the additional capacity.”
BrizCommuter is very concerned that Commonwealth Games Minister Kate Jones is being kept in the dark about the impending Commonwealth Games Rail Fail, just as ex-Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe was kept in the dark about Rail Fail. Kate, you might want to read the below blog post...

Not enough drivers + extra Gold Coast Line services = axed train services for other lines


It has already been stated by the Strachan Inquiry that there will be insufficient train crew to run the full "October 2016" timetable until late 2018 with overtime, and mid/late 2019 without overtime. These dates are after the Commonwealth Games. As there are plans for increasing train services on the Gold Coast Line during the Commonwealth Games to 8 train per hour (tph) (from the current 2tph off-peak), then it is pretty obvious that train services will need to be reduced on QR's other train lines due to lack of drivers. The delay to New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains will also not help the situation, though the lack of driver issue seems to be far more pressing.

Unfortunately, at this stage it is unknown how bad these service cuts are going to be. Since the start of #RailFail, QR and TransLink have provided inadequate timetables, the worst of which have been:
  • Summer School Holiday Timetable - QR axed up to 60% of peak services on some lines, and eliminated express services, despite demand only being 25% less than usual. This caused severe overcrowding on some services, and commuters angry with longer commutes.
  • Easter Timetables - QR ran hourly train services, the worst Easter period train service in Oceana (yes, even worse than Adelaide and Wellington), causing commuter backlash
  • Friday timetable - confusingly different to the Monday to Thursday timetable, QR's Friday timetable makes the rail network barely useable to many users, with hourly peak service gaps, and severely overcrowded trains. 
Based on recent experience of QR and TransLink's complete disregard for customers, the cut timetables may only be announced a few weeks before the Commonwealth Games, with many commuters being completely unaware of the changes until their usual train fails to appear. What service cuts might be expected during the Commonwealth Games?
  • Weekday peak services - the combination of driver, train, and track capacity resources is likely to result in some train lines having peak services reduced by around 50%, and some express services may be eliminated (including quite possibly on the Gold Coast Line). Despite the Commonwealth Games being held during the Easter School Holidays, this service will still be inadequate for those who need to get to work on-time. 
  • Weekday off-peak services - due to more drivers being required on the Gold Coast Line, then BrizCommuter expects that the already butchered 15 minute off-peak services will be axed, with a 30 minute off-peak service in place. This will be annoying for shift workers, and those trying to get to appointments, shopping, events, and entertainment in and around Brisbane. It will also increase journey and waiting times for passengers trying to connect to the increased Gold Coast Line services. 
  • Weekend services - depending on the driver situation, there may be no change to the usual 30 minute off-peak, though the worst case scenario is the return of the horrendous hourly train services as per the Easter 2017 timetable. This would be disastrous for passengers connecting to the increased Gold Coast Line services. It should be noted that Brisbane already has the most infrequent weekend train services in Oceana. 
Of course, this is in stark contrast to the highly successful London 2012 Olympics where train service frequency (typically 24tph), and operating hours were increased on all Tube lines during the event. 

Enhanced Gold Coast Line services 

The problem with 3 tracks
Lack of drivers and trains is not the only issue for the 2018 Commonwealth Games train services. On QR's project page for the Coomera to Helensvale duplication, it is mentioned that the Gold Coast Line will run 8tph in both directions during the Games. That is a train on average every 7.5 minutes in each direction.

To operate the above mentioned bi-directional 8tph service runs into a few issues due to lacking track infrastructure on the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line corridor. Due to a half-baked infrastructure projects during the Beattie/Bligh era, there are only 3 tracks between Park Road and Kuraby (when there should have been 4), 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/stopping Beenleigh Line trains. But in the opposite direction, the Gold Coast trains are unable to overtake the Beenleigh Line trains as they have to share the same track.

As trains are unable to leapfrog each other, this is likely to be causing a major headache for QR's schedulers. BrizCommuter doubts that the claimed bi-directional 8tph services will be possible, without either slowing down Gold Coast train services, or severely limiting services calling at Beenleigh Line stations. Just to exacerbate the issue, the normal peak service direction will be the opposite to the Commonwealth Games peak traffic direction. Thus QR will have to choose between either slowing down regular commuters trying to get to/from work in Brisbane, or slowing down passengers trying to get to/from the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Unreliable EMU Trains

Due to the serious NGR project failure, it is likely that very few NGR trains will be in service by April 2018. Thus QR will still be relying on their geriatric EMU fleet of trains. There seems to be a noticeable decrease in EMU reliability recently. A broken down EMU train blocking the path of trains trying to get to/from the Gold Coast could be disastrous during the Commonwealth Games. Also, a broken down train on other lines will make the reduced train service frequency even worse.

Conclusion

It looks like the policy failures of three successive Queensland state governments, combined with institutional incompetence in QR, is going to make SE Queensland look even more backwards on the world stage (well, ex-British Empire stage) during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. This impending issue is already starting to attract the international press. Rail Fail may make getting stuck in traffic on the M1 the more attractive option for getting around SE Queensland during the Games.

Addendum 23/04/17 

The Courier Mail have reported that Commonwealth Games chiefs in London had written to the "Palaszczuk Government warning the event was at “significant risk” due to the magnitude of transport planning problems faced". This of course, no surprise to many BrizCommuter readers who can quite clearly see that decades of continuing 1960s road-centric transport policy in SE Queensland has placed the urban conurbation into a transport nightmare. This is confounded when you have to efficiently move hundreds of thousands of event goers. Will this be a wake up call that Brisbane is far behind other Oceana cities when it comes to public transport? Or will SE Queensland's politicians just continue with their spin and denial?