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 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Additionally, QR keep deleting service information posts once they are out of date (rather than keeping them in the timeline), thus deleting all the negative posts.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?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

QR's Easter Rail Fail - The Backlash Begins

Queensland Rail - Not many trains this Easter
BrizCommuter has reported on Queensland Rail's (QR) Easter Rail Fail with unacceptable hourly train services over two weekends, in a few recent blog posts - here, here, and here.

QR and TransLink's contempt for the travelling public has been displayed in responses to complaints about the timetable, such  as this example:

"These changes have been put in place to ensure reliable services and to give certainty to commuters, while helping to manage our resources.  We know that 68 percent fewer people travel by rail over the Easter long weekend. With that in mind, hourly services on most lines will ensure reliability and certainty, while still delivering an adequate frequency for the decreased demand"

Hourly services are not adequate in the slightest, irrespective of demand - people still have to get to/from work, university, shopping, family, events, and entertainment. That is why every other urban rail system in Oceana is running trains between every 10 to 30 minutes. Even Adelaide and Wellington have more frequent train services than Brisbane! To then classify the service changes as "minor" is quite insulting to the travelling public. Are QR and TransLink living a parallel universe of delusion and spin?

Not surprisingly, there has already been a lot of backlash on QR and TransLink's social media (Facebook and Twitter) - not helped by multiple late running trains on Saturday 8th April (none of which were reported on-line by TransLink). As QR conveniently keep deleting their Facebook posts and thus negative comments, BrizCommuter has kindly archived some of them below:

"It's taken me 3 hours to get from Bethania to Nundah due time timetable changes.
I've just lost a $100 job now as I have missed my appointment. I only allowed 1.5 hours to travel this short distance.
I feel like moving away to a real city with modern services.
Brisbane is a second rate city with third rate transportation.
The slowest, over priced trains I have seen anywhere.
What a rip off!"

"Rosewood train 15 minutes late?! You have less services and you still can't run on time. Great, thanks. Incompetence."

"Wow! Trains running hourly on the ipswich line for the next two weekends hey? Thanks for the signs and announcements, not! Not like I'm trying to get to work. Which I'm now going to be late for because u didn't bother to let anyone know about this. Typical bloody Translink and QR. I will be writing a formal complaint about this. Not impressed!"

"How do you guys manage to have hourly trains STILL run late.
Also why have less trains (on school holidays) when there's more people? 
Someone needs to be bloody sacked."

Or maybe pay me back the hours pay I lost (essentially a $30 ticket) to get to my destination in the first place."

"Joke Translink. What other cities change trains to run hourly. No wonder we get called the nanny state. Not enough drivers and saving $'s more like it."

"It's got nothing to do with reduced patronage. That is a complete distraction. It's got everything to do with poor planning over years which has resulted in a shortfall in drivers. Disgusting."

"If you're going to change the trains to hourly without warning could you at least make sure the train comes on time and not have an announcement that the the train is 10 minutes late as it arrives. It was kind of evident that the train was 10 minutes late when it arrived 10 minutes late."

"Many people took the 4.46 train from Central Station to Redcliffe Peninsula and got off the train at Bowen Hills because of the speaker saying that it was express from Bowen Hills to Northgate stopping only at Eagle Junction and it wasn't true!! Stopped all stations!!!!"

"Not happy QR last time I had to worry about ever missing a train and having to wait an hour would have been the 1990's! Those used to a 15 minute service are now 30mins! I heard this happens again Easter weekend too. Lord help those on the Sunshine Coast line, I believe it is two hours between services. Sharpen up QR!"

"Shout out to all those uni students which have mid semester exams on saturdays - they still need to get in and out of uni and running trains hourly is a huge inconvenience. Imagine if an hourly train gets cancelled - they will have to wait two hours to get to uni and will likely miss their exam. I understand reduced services for holidays, but it doesn't make sense when it is only school holidays and not public holidays? Uni students and workers still need to get in and out of the city....not happy at all "

"Why are pax told to detrain at Yeerongpilly on Corinda via Yeerongpilly services?"

"QR, the only place you pay full price for the privelidge of inconvenience."

"Yay to my 4 hour trip tomorrow! With my 57 min wait. thanks translink."

"Over priced, unreliable & no concept of customer service... 
Yep, that's Queensland Rail!"

"Fantastic work Translink, 58minute wait at the station for my train to the Gold Coast, the schedule isn't just hourly it isn't even the same normal times, great work! You're in Public Transport, you don't see Airlines creating a special Easter Schedule, they hire appropriate numbers of staff to handle it!"

"I'm disgusted. Don't have occasion to use the trains much but trying to get to Southbank and back was just awful. You can do better than this. Brisbane deserves better."

"It's great when Brisbane hosts a world class event like the Davis Cup, encourages visitors to use the train network to get to the venue, then cancels half the trains so we can sit at Park Road for 50 minutes. Hourly trains are not good enough, and you wonder why patronage is down??"

"Left work early so I could get home at a reasonable time and actually see my kids, knowing that if I didn't, I'd be waiting over 50 minutes for my train. Train turns up late anyway. Can't wait till next weekend when I get to deal with this nonsense all over again."

"I was shocked when I found this out today. The funny thing is the 500 bus leave 4 mins before the train is due so you have to wait another hour for a bus home. If the trains changes should the buses not change to meet the trains. Why does this not happen."

"Yeah pity about the extra hour it'll take me to get home though because of the infrequency of services."

"Normal high fares and service levels below the already subpar levels!"

"I see Coles are advertising on TV Every Checkout Open this Weekend from 10am to 6pm 8th & 9th April 2017. Where was Queensland Rail's TV advertising telling us that you have reduced services for this very same weekend and passengers may also miss train and bus connections due to the changed passenger train tables. Queensland Rail > " We aim to be Australia's best performing railway delivering safe, on time, customer-focused and efficient rail services." Can you please let us know when you plan on delivering on this statement."

"Thank you Translink, I'm late for work again"

Bit of a disaster isn't is QR and TransLink? And it's not even the Easter weekend yet!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

NGR - RTI Access Denied

It is a mirage, or a real NGR?
BrizCommuter recently reported on the heavy delays to the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) project. Rather than being managed by rail operator Queensland Rail, this disastrous project is being managed by the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR). TMR were also behind the significant delays to the Moreton Bay Rail Link due to signalling incompatibilities. The Director-General of TMR is none other than Neil Scales, who has recently been Acting CEO of QR, during which he has overseen the debacles of the inadequate School Summer Holiday Timetable, the Xmas Day cancellation-fest, and the planning of the disgraceful Easter Holiday Timetable. Mr Scales was also reportedly involved with $116m spent on an aborted tram scheme in Liverpool, UK. Concerned?

With all of the alleged NGR project issues, it is no surprise that multiple parties have made Right to Information (RTI) requests to the Queensland Government to access project information. In a continuation of the non-existent transparency that Queenslanders are sadly used to - all RTI requests about the NGR project have been either denied, withdrawn, or the decision being delayed as long as possible. Not a single RTI request related to the NGR project has been disclosed to the public. For example:

15 February 2017
135/04793
Correspondence between Queensland Rail CEO Helen Gluer and Director-General Neil Scales regarding the New Generation Rollingstock Project from 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2016.
Currently being processed - i.e. no decision

30 January 2017
135/04758
Documents relating to:
1. Agreed project milestones for the New Generation Passenger Rollingstock (NGR) Project.
2. Copies of any annual performance reviews of the NGR project.
3. Reports/briefing papers/minutes of NGR project monitoring committee meetings.
Time period/date range for request: 1 January 2015 - 30 January 2017.
Application refused

28 December 2016
135/04693
- abatements involving Queensland Rail re Citytrain services
- a copy of the letter attached to an email to Neil Scales on October 21 labelled as "disruptions.docs"
- documents discussing issues relating to Moreton Bay Rail Link signalling and the New Generation Rollingstock project
- documents relating to disputes in relation to the New Generation Rollingstock project.
Application withdrawn

1 November 2016
135/04572
Briefing notes and correspondence regarding the commissioning of New Generation Rollingstock including risks, variances, crew requirements. Time period / date range for request: February 2015 - October 2016.
Application withdrawn

1 November 2016
135/04570-MIN
All documents relating to any discussions, briefings, meetings between the Minister for Transport and a)Translink, b) Queensland Rail representatives and c) Queensland Rail board members that relate to
1. train driver capacity for the South East network over the year 2016 with particular reference to the impact of the opening of the Redcliffe line;
2. overtime for QR drivers;
3. possible train driver shortages;
4. the NGR trains - capabilities, timing in terms of being ready for passengers and/or and changes to those timings; and
5. the NGR trains and any concerns and or issues relating to design, braking systems, safety requirements.
Time period/date range for request: 1 January 2016 - 1 November 2016. (This application was made to the Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games)  
Application withdrawn

1 November 2016
135/04569
Departmental and Ministerial Briefing Notes and attachments, reports, emails and internal correspondence to and from Queensland Rail, relating to:
1. New Generation Rollingstock (NGR);
2. QR driver recruitment.
Timeframe: 01/01/2015 to 01/11/2016.  
Currently being processed - i.e. no decision made

31 October 2016
135/04566-MIN
All documents related to, but not limited to, correspondence between Minister Stirling Hinchliffe and other parties regarding the New Generation Rollingstock. Time period/date range for request: 1 August 2016 - 31 October 2016.
(This application was made to the Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games)
Application refused


Would Mr Scales like to explain exactly what the Department of Transport and Main Roads is trying to hide?

TMR's RTI (lack of) disclosure log:
http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/About-us/Right-to-Information/Disclosure-log

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

QR's Easter Rail Fail - Brisbane vs Everywhere Else

Melbourne - Easter trains up to every 10 minutes
BrizCommuter's most recent blog post looked at the awful news that Queensland Rail (QR) will reduce train frequency to hourly services over the Easter Weekend (14-17th April 2017), and the weekend before (8th/9th April 2017). It is not known whether this is directly caused by the lack of drivers issue, or whether it is an excuse for QR to reduce their driver overtime costs. In this blog post, BrizCommuter shows how bad this situation is, comparing Brisbane's rail services on these affected days to other cities in Oceana. Typical daytime service frequencies at stations 10km from CBD are shown.

Brisbane - 60 minutes (1tph)
Melbourne - 10 to 20 minutes (3 to 6tph)
Sydney - 15 minutes (4tph)
Perth - 15 minutes (4tph)
Adelaide - 30 minutes (2tph)
Auckland - 30 minutes (2tph)
Wellington - 30 minutes (2tph)

Winner of Easter Egg Train Hunt is Melbourne, with up to a 500% more frequent train service than Brisbane over the Easter period. Sydney and Perth are in joint second place, with four times as many trains as Brisbane.

Adelaide, which has half the population of Brisbane, has experienced improved service frequencies in recent years. Aside from a couple of short branch lines, Adelaide will be running twice as frequent train services than backwards Brisbane. In fact, its light rail line (outside of the scope of this comparison) will be running trams four times more frequently than Brisbane's trains over Easter.

Auckland, a city slightly smaller population than Brisbane on its own (excluding the rest of SE Queensland) manages to run a 30 minute train service on it's recently electrified rail network. Finally, Wellington, with a population of just 1/10th of Brisbane, still manages to run train services at twice the frequency of failed rail operator QR. It is thus confirmed that Brisbane will have the worst Easter train service of all Oceana (Australia and New Zealand) urban rail systems.

Sadly it is not just the frequency and number of train services where Brisbanites and SE Queenslanders will be missing out. Due to the Easter services running at different clock face times than usual, usual bus and train connections will be missed. So far, TransLink and QR have failed to effectively communicate the Easter service changes to customers, which will result in some commuters having a very nasty Easter Egg surprise from QR.

Brisbane the "New World City" is currently more like Brisbane the "New World Laughingstock".

Saturday, April 1, 2017

QR Spoils Easter for SE Queensland

QR Spoils Easter for SE Queensland
Last updated 3/4/17 6:30am

As previously rumoured, failed SE Queensland rail operator Queensland Rail (QR) have sunk to a new low in customer service. Whilst the news is currently saturated with the post Cyclone Debbie natural disaster, the Deputy Premier and Minister for Transport Jackie Trad conveniently announced that Easter train services, and also the weekend before Easter (8-9th April), will only run hourly. Trains services will only run every 2 hours on the Sunshine Coast Line. Only the Airport Line will still run the usual 30 minute service. The train times will also be at a different time to the normal clock face times, which will frustrate passengers with even longer waits and missed bus/train connections.

The spin is that this will make Easter services more reliable, though QR appear to run an unreliable service irrespective of frequency. This horrendous service reduction will take QR back to era of diesel hauled services in the late 70s, early 80s. BrizCommuter is very disappointed that Neil Scales (A/CEO of QR, and D-G of Department of Transport and Main Roads) saying that the "2017 timetable would be in place for the whole of 2017" turned out to be a lie.

Quite clearly, QR do not care the slightest bit about the travelling public including those who need to travel over Easter and the weekend prior, including:
  • Hospital and Emergency Service workers.
  • Hospitality and restaurant workers.
  • Retail workers.
  • Students travelling to/from University Exams on Sat 8th April. 
  • People wanting to go shopping (or other amenities) in and around Brisbane CBD.
  • Families wanting to get to/from various events in and around Brisbane (and there are a lot of events on over Easter).
  • People wanting to travel to/from the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. 
  • People wanting to get to/from 5 major sporting events over the Easter weekend. 
  • Anyone else trying to avoid Easter road congestion. 
BrizCommuter has just cancelled a restaurant reservation in Brisbane's CBD on Easter Saturday, as he can't face up to a 59 minute wait for a train home. BrizCommuter's work colleagues will struggle to get to work by train, and will have to add to road congestion on the Pacific and Bruce Highways instead. Also, at the time of writing, TransLink have failed to publish any .pdf timetables. Lets hope QR make more of an effort at informing customers about the Easter changes than the previous #RailFail changes. 

QR's worsening #RailFail begs quite a few questions:
  • Are there going to be any more cutbacks to the "2017 timetable". Are more weekends going to see hourly services?
  • Do QR realise the damage this will cause businesses and events?
  • Do QR understand the further reputational damage this will cause to Brisbane and SE Queensland?
  • What is the point of the seemingly useless Citytrain Response Unit, if it does not prevent further service cuts?
Just when commuters didn't think #RailFail could get any worse, it does. Public transport operation, and governance need a complete overhaul in Brisbane. With utter contempt for public transport users, the ALP Palaszczuk government appears to be handing the next election on a plate to the LNP.

Government spin:
TransLink information:

Meanwhile in Western Australia, which will be running trains every 15 minutes, there is an increase in long distance public transport services for Easter...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Perth's Paid Car Park Fail

Perth has one of the best public transport systems in Australia, with trains every 15 minutes off-peak on all lines, reliable services, high frequency bus corridors, low fares, and common sense decisions. However, on a recent business trip to Perth, BrizCommuter came across a big fail.

Below is an photo of Cottesloe Station (on the Fremantle Line) car park in the middle of a weekday. It's a bit empty isn't it. Where are the cars you ask?

Here they are, in a grassy patch of land next to the empty station car park.


So why are commuters avoiding parking in Cottesloe Station car park? The answer is simple, TransPerth decided to charge $2 for use of station car parks on weekdays. This applies to cars, motorbikes, and motorised scooters.

The implementation of paid parking in 2014 has resulted in many commuters (in fact, all but one at Cottesloe) to avoid paying for parking, and parking anywhere else they can get away with (e.g. on grassy land, nearby residential streets). This somewhat defeats the purpose of having a station car park in the first place, and appears to be a money making cash grab by the recently ousted LNP  state government. Whilst there were claims by the previous WA government of no drops in patronage, no station by station data was released (note: not all stations in Perth have a car park). Whilst Perth's smart card (SmartRider) can be used to pay for parking, only one car number plate can be active to the card at any time, thus if you keep changing cars, you risk a $50 fine unless you jump through hoops to change the active car. Whilst the infrastructure cost of a car parking space is surprisingly high, there are also significant financial and social benefits of attracting users onto efficient public transport.

So what are the disadvantages of making commuters pay for station parking?
  • Drivers will avoid using the station car park where reasonably possible, resulting in...
  • Congestion in nearby residential streets, or any other location suitable for parking. 
  • Lots of empty car parking spaces is a waste of expensive infrastructure and land resources. 
  • It makes using public transport less attractive, and less value for money compared to driving to the destination. Potential increases in road congestion. 
  • Does not necessarily prevent non-train users using station car parks. 
  • Technicalities around payment (as per above Perth example, note: not all station car parks can have boom gates fitted). 
  • Requires extra staff to police compliance. 
So what are the advantages of making commuters pay for station parking?
  • May encourage some commuters to cycle to the station if there are free, safe, and sufficient cycle storage families (note: hot climates limit the uptake of cycling).
  • May encourage the use of feeder bus services - but only if the feeder bus exists, and is sufficiently frequent, which most aren't.
  • Provides cost recovery for expensive infrastructure and land resources. 
With Brisbane having a chronic issue with full station car parks, and thus overflow to suburban residential streets, then introducing paid train station parking would be disastrous for public transport and residents around train stations. Thankfully, there are currently no plans for implementing paid station parking in SE Queensland.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

QR's Rail Fail - Hourly Train Shame?

There are currently rumours floating about on Rail Back on Track that Queensland Rail are considering hourly train services over Easter, and hourly services on Weekends. An hourly frequency would take Brisbane back 35 years to the early 1980s, would most likely cause political annihilation for the ALP Palaszczuk government, and probably the end for QR as a public company when the LNP "Nasty party" inevitably get back into power. BrizCommuter has the following questions for QR, the Palaszczuk Government, and the Citytrain Response Unit:
  • Are there going to be any more cutbacks to the "2017 timetable" that we were told would be in place for the whole of 2017?
  • If so, when are you going to bother to tell the public about any changes? The day before, like the weekend axing of the Rosewood Line?
  • If so, how are you going to tell the public? Or are you just going to pretend it isn't happening like the original Rail Fail cutbacks?
  • Do you realise that many people (retail, entertainment, and healthcare) actually have to get to work on the Weekends and Easter?
  • Do you realise the damage this will cause to CBD businesses and events?
  • As Brisbane would have the least frequent weekend train service in Oceana, do you understand the reputational damage this will cause to Brisbane and SE Queensland?
  • Do you understand how this will affect businesses and development?
  • Do you understand this may also prevent federal funding for Cross River Rail?
  • What is the point of the Citytrain Response Unit, if it does not prevent further pain to commuters?
BrizCommuter hopes these rumours are false, but given reports that QR's acting CEO Neil Scales (who is usually D-G of stuff up merchants Department of Transport and Main Roads) barely seems to think there is a problem with #RailFail (cough, cough), then BrizCommuter fears the worst.

Citytrain Response Unit - Fixing The Trains

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Brisbane Metro - Why Bus is Best

Brisbane Metro - is it a bus or train?
BrizCommuter was delighted when Brisbane City Council (BCC) recently announced plans to replace the original (ill thought out) rubber tyred train based Brisbane Metro, with the much more sensible high frequency bi-artic buses. The only major infrastructure change is the $1b under-grounding of the congested Cultural Centre busway station - this location being the achilles heel of the busway network. Unfortunately, this bus Metro plan has been ridiculed by some uninformed politicians (council opposition) and journalists.

In this blog post, BrizCommuter explains why bus is the best option for increasing the capacity of Brisbane's busway system. But first, what is a Metro? Metro is short for Metropolitan (or Metropolitan Railway), of which the first "Metro" ran in London in 1863. Metros are defined as being train lines where trains run frequently enough for the service to be truly turn up and go (at least every 10 minutes), and are completely grade separated from other traffic (cars, pedestrians, other train lines). However, in more recent years, the Metro term has been used to describe any high frequency public transport system (train, light rail, or bus), entire low frequency public transport systems (hello Hobart Metro), and of course mid-sized urban supermarkets (hello Woolworths Metro). Thus BCC are far from the first people to be charged with abuse of the term Metro, and knocking BCC for use of the term is somewhat petty.

So what are the advantages of using bi-artic buses (three section bendy buses) instead of the originally planned rubber-tyred metro trains?

  • Infrastructure changes. Buses can handle the steep slopes and sharp turns of the busway system. Significant and very expensive modifications (additional $2b) would have been required to allow metro trains (whether rubber-tyred, steel wheel, or light rail) to run on the existing busway corridor.  
  • Coverage. Bi-artic buses can use the whole of the existing busway (Eight Mile Plains and UQ to RBWH). The scope of the train based metro was just Wooloongabba to Herston, which would have not served RBWH, UQ, PA Hospital, or Garden City, and would have forced far more passengers to have to change between bus and metro. To extend the original train based metro plan between Eight Mile Plains and UQ to RBWH would have added significant extra cost to the project (>$1b). 
  • One seat rides from suburbs to CBD. Both existing bus services (most likely frequent BUZ, Rocket, and Maroon City Glider services) and the high-frequency Brisbane Metro services can all use the busway. This increases the number of one-seat services from the suburbs to the CBD compared to the train based metro would would have forced almost all passengers to have to change to/from the metro. 
  • Congestion. Most high frequency bus routes will either connect with the bus metro, or still use the busway infrastructure. The train based metro would have forced bus routes that only use part of the busway network (such as the 444, 390, and Maroon City Glider) onto CBD roads, increasing traffic congestion and slowing journey times. 
  • Capacity. Based on existing station lengths (notably the 45m long Mater Hill) the bus metro actually has higher theoretical capacity than a train based metro. This is due to the shorter platform re-occupation time and headways of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). If platform lengths were longer (>75m), than train based metro would have a clear advantage. 
  • Disruption. Aside from the inevitable changes at Cultural Centre, modifications to the busway to run bi-artic buses is minimal. Building a train based metro would have caused significant disruption for around 5 years, with buses being diverted onto congested roads. 
  • Depot. As buses can run on roads, the depot does not need to be immediately adjacent to the metro infrastructure. With a train based metro, the depot has to be immediately adjacent to the metro infrastructure. Unfortunately, there were no suitable depot locations along the original train based Brisbane Metro alignment. 
  • Infrastructure operating costs. Busways generally have lower ongoing operating costs for infrastructure compared to railways, where the track, power supply, and signalling needs to be frequently maintained. 
  • Fuel. Fast electric charging technology, and hybrid diesel engines have increased the attractiveness of buses in recent years as a green form of transportation. Long gone are the days of buses chugging out dirty black diesel fumes.  
Are there any reasons why train based Metro would have been better?
  • Capacity. If the entire busway system was to be converted to rail, and platforms extended to at least 75m, then train based metro would have significant capacity increases over bus metro. Medium to large sized trains are the ultimate method of moving large numbers of passengers. However, this would have realistically resulted in a cost in excess of $4b. Given the much more urgently required Cross River Rail cannot get funding, then finding such sums of money would be unrealistic. 
  • Staff operating costs. Staffing costs are typically 50% of the operating costs for public transport. Operating frequent buses has high staffing costs. Train based metro can operate with no drivers, with staffing only in maintenance, administrative, and customer service roles. However, you have to spend huge sums on upfront costs to achieve the long term operating cost savings. 
  • Reputation. There is no question that a "proper" train based metro adds to the perceived attractiveness of a city (e.g. London's Tube, NYC Subway, Paris Metro) . BRT has a somewhat "third world" reputation, and there are no world famous busway systems. However, reputation and attractiveness of a systems does not necessarily mean that it is the best system for that city. 
For many large cities rail/train based Metro is the best solution to transport issues, and this is one of the reasons why Cross River Rail (which will run metro like frequencies) is Queensland's most urgent infrastructure project. However, in the case of upgrading Brisbane's busway network, there are many compelling reasons why bus based metro (Bus Rapid Transit) is by far the best solution to serve Brisbane for the next few decades. Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, and Deputy Mayor Adrian Schrinner have made the sensible decision to switch from trains to buses for the Brisbane Metro.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Is Tim Nicholls Out of Touch?

Tim Nicholls MP - Out of Touch?
BrizCommuter was recently delighted to see the LNP Brisbane City Council refining the Brisbane Metro design to something more sensible - Bus Rapid Transit. It was also good news, that Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, and Deputy Mayor Adrian Schrinner have been quoted as finally supporting Cross River Rail, which the Brisbane Metro will connect with and complement. The LNP Federal Government have also recently stated (whilst playing tit-for-tat politics) that Cross River Rail needed to have better integration between Brisbane Metro. Well now it does, both systems are looking a bit more likely. Even car lobby group RACQ is highly supportive of Cross River Rail, stating that it is Queensland's number one infrastructure project. So what are the views of LNP Leader of the Opposition Tim Nicholls MP?

Unfortunately, it seems that Tim hasn't quite got the memo that Brisbane and SE Queensland is well and truly screwed with coping with future population growth, if it doesn't build Cross River Rail. He has recently been quoted as saying:

"the Cross River Rail project had been "hopelessly stalled" under the Palaszczuk government"

Hey Tim, didn't, the LNP Newman Government (for which you were Newman's henchman), delay Cross River Rail by years, by scrapping it for the flawed BaT Tunnel design, for which sources have since been quoted as saying "would never happen"?

"The Metro solves a current infrastructure bottleneck while the cross river rail seeks to address a bottleneck that ‘may’ occur in 2026."  

Hey Tim, maybe patronage would have been better if under the awful LNP Newman Government, the following hadn't occurred:
  • Increase in public transport fares by 10%, and failed to review the fare structure?
  • Delayed the opening of Moreton Bay Rail Link due to the purchase of incompatible signalling?
  • Delayed and screwed up the design of Indian built New Generation Rollingstock trains?
  • Stopped QR from hiring new staff, and demoted driver trainers, resulting in Rail Fail?
  • Failed to implement bus network reform?
  • Put many public transport users out of jobs? 
So Mr Nicholls - what are your policies? 
  • How do you expect Brisbane to compete with other Oceana cities (such as Auckland, Perth, Sydney,  Melbourne, and Wellington) which have far better public transport? Build more financially disastrous road tunnels?
  • How do you expect train lines to be built to new towns such as Greater Flagstone when there isn't enough core network capacity? Force people onto already congested roads?
  • Or are you anti-Cross River Rail, because you can't admit the the BaT Tunnel was severely flawed and half-arsed?
  • Are you completely blind to the fact that Brisbane's least frequent train line (Doomben Line) runs through your Clayfield constituency, and that it could have been more usefully extended to Northshore Hamilton?
  • Do you want Brisbane to continue to be only developed city in the world that actively promotes car use as if it is still the 1960s?
Please tell us Tim? Anyone there?

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Quirky Metro - Common Sense Prevails!

Artists impression
BrizCommuter and Rail Back on Track have been very vocal in being against Brisbane City Council's ludicrous Brisbane Metro Subway System proposal, which was an ill-thought out election promise. In a pleasantly surprising move, Brisbane City Council have seen the light, and dumped the disruptive idea of converting the inner busway into a rubber-tyred metro system. Yes, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, and Deputy Mayor Adrian Schrinner have finally seem some common sense! Before we move into the replacement plan for the Brisbane Metro - what was wrong with the original plan?
  • Busway congestion could have been resolved by an almost $0 bus network reform, instead of spending $1.5b+ (more realistically $3b) on a totally unnecessary Metro system. 
  • It would have increased journey times, as passengers would have to change from bus to metro at Wooloongabba and Herston to access Brisbane's CBD.
  • It went against Graham Quirk's excuse for lack of bus network reform of providing one seat journeys. 
  • It had lower capacity than the existing busway.
  • It did not serve RBWH, PA Hospital, and UQ, three major trip generators on the busway network. In fact it annoyingly stops just one stop short of both RBWH and PA Hospitals.
  • Important parts of the design, such as the interchange design  had not been properly considered.
  • It did not provide any new journey opportunities, unlike the urgently required Cross River Rail CRR). 
  • It provided political distraction from the urgently required CRR.
  • It did not solve Brisbane's rail capacity issues, unlike CRR.
So what is in the far more sensible Brisbane Metro Mk2, which is now a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. 
  • Brisbane Metro will use bi-artic (long bendy) buses instead of rubber-tyred metro, massively reducing the cost of the changes to infrastructure (now $1b), and allowing both the "Metro" and existing high frequency bus routes to continue using the busway. 
  • Two high frequency bus routes with bi-artic buses - Eight Mile Plains to Roma Street (current route 111), and UQ to RBWH (current route 66) every 3 minutes. 
  • Serves large trip generators outside of Brisbane's CBD including RBWH, PA Hospital, Mater and Lady Cilento Children's Hospital, UQ, QUT Kelvin Grove, and Garden City Shopping Centre. 
  • Claimed capacity of 22,000 passengers per hour - higher than existing busway (note: BrizCommuter is yet to verify this claim).   
  • Fleet of 60 bi-artic buses - hybrid or battery powered electric.
  • New underground bus station at Cultural Centre to avoid congestion.  
  • Victoria Bridge will be green - buses, bikes, and pedestrians only.
  • Brisbane Metro will free up existing buses for feeder services and better coverage.
  • Integrates well with CRR, as interchange will be provided at Roma Street and Boggo Road.
  • Complements CRR, rather than being a rival project. 
  • Considerably less impact during construction. 
Bi-artic electric bus   Source: Busworld
Some of BrizCommuter's thoughts on this:
  • BrizCommuter hopes that this brings about sensible bus network reform, with mainly high frequency trunk routes serving the CBD, and "local" routes acting as a feeder to the high frequency network. 
  • Most of the exiting BUZ routes still need to serve the busway, in particular the routes to Chermside and Carindale. 
  • BrizCommuter hopes to see more high frequency bus routes, serving more of Brisbane including Northern Suburbs, Centenary Suburbs, and the Prince Charles Hospital. 
  • BrizCommuter hopes that politicians won't play silly buggers with bus reform like last time. Yes, some people will loose out, but the majority of passengers across Brisbane should be better off. 
  • As the state government owns the busway infrastructure, BrizCommuter hopes that they are fully supportive of the changes around Cultural Centre.
  • Will Brisbane City Council put some of the savings from Brisbane Metro towards Cross River Rail?
  • As these buses will have all-door boarding, how will go card touch on/off work? Onboard or on platform?
BrizCommuter is happily stunned that Brisbane politicians have finally made a sensible decision. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

QR's Friday Timetable from Hell

Overcrowding on 07:17 from Ferny Grove to City
Source: Supplied
As most of the remaining rail users in Brisbane and SE Queensland will know, Friday is the "Day from Hell" when trying to get to and from work, school, university, appointments, and even getting pissed in the Valley. Due to Queensland Rail's (QR) lack of drivers, and drivers only being able to work 11 days on a row, Fridays have a further reduced timetable. This is different to the Monday to Thursday timetable. Even BrizCommuter, who is a self confessed "public transport expert", keeps getting caught out by the timetable changes on Friday. So what are the problems with QR's Friday timetable from hell?
  • Completely different service cuts on Friday compared to Monday to Thursday causes massive confusion to passengers who have to remember two different "dismembered" timetables. 
  • Totally unacceptable 60 minute gaps between trains on the Doomben Line in the am peak, early pm peak, and pm peak. 
  • The previously full to capacity 07:10am and 07:25am services from Ferny Grove to the City has been axed, resulting on severe overcrowding (as in passengers unable to board from Alderley) on the 07:17am from Ferny Grove service. 
  • Multiple 30 minute gaps between peak period train services on the Cleveland Line, with the pm peak express service being reduced by 50%, and "dangerous overcrowding" reported.
  • 30 minute late am peak gap on the Caboolture Line. 
  • Pm peak services axed during the busiest part of the peak period from Ipswich and Springfield Lines with 24 minute service gaps, and annoyingly different times to axed services on Monday to Thursday. 
  • 32 minute gap between Springfield services at school finish time.
  • Large number of axed "Inner North" services from Northgate to City (and vice versa)
  • The "Turn Up and Go" 15 minute daytime off-peak services on the Ferny Grove, Beenleigh, and Cleveland Lines have been butchered - more like "Turn Up and Hope"! 
  • 06:02am from Varsity Lakes to City runs all stations, slowing down the Gold Coast to Brisbane commute by 18 minutes. In fact this train gets overtaken by the following service. It would be awfully nice if QR could inform commuters of this fact!
  • 30 minute am peak gap to Brisbane Airport delaying passengers trying to catch morning flights. 
  • Considerable reduction in via South Bank services, causing disruption to hospitals, workplaces,  and education. 
  • Some axed services from Monday to Thursday run on Fridays, causing passengers to avoid services that are actually running. 
  • Increase in last minute cancelled (or "altered" as QR like to call it) services on Fridays. 
  • Plenty of other service changes that have missed off this list causing annoyance and frustration to passengers. 
  • Mistakes in the timetables and TransLink journey planner. 
Whilst the lack of driver issue is not going to be solved overnight (in fact, possibly not until 2019, due to QR still not hiring external applicants), BrizCommuter calls that the Friday services need to be same as Thursday services as soon as reasonably possible. In the mean time, there needs to be improved communications to passengers about the changes. Some passengers (who must be living under a rock) are still unaware that Friday has a different timetable, and many passengers are unaware of the changes that affect them.

Rail services on Fridays are an embarrassment for Brisbane, and resulting voter anger may well be end for the ALP Palaszczuk government, irrespective of the Newman and Emerson cause. Does any other developed city in the world run a "special cut-back" timetable Fridays? No!

Addendum 10/03/2017

The above service advisory from TransLink should read: The 4:50pm Ipswich to Kippa-Ring train is delayed 10 minutes due to inadequate train service caused by institutional incompetence.