Railways


I have just noticed that there are no ‘next train’ indicators on the platforms at South Brisbane station. I know there used to be dot matrix displays. I wonder when they disappeared.

In a more positive vein, there are timetables for all lines posted outside the station. I don’t think any other city station has this.

The 9:57 Gold Coast train this morning left Roma St bang on time to the second. The platform attendant made a loud call just before blowing the whistle with a few seconds to go.

So why then did the PA make an announcement just as the train *left* the platform? Is it an inaccurate automated system? Whatever the reason, it gives a poor impression.

Translink has released draft new rail timetables for comment. They have been developed in response to the opening next year if the Richlands branch which will require recasting is the Ipswich and Caboolture line timetables.

Much was made in the media of how there would be trains every 15 minutes all day. While this is true – and a good thing – for stations Darra to the city, there are a lot of things that are not so great.

Firstly, in order to get the 15 minutes headway, what they have done is alternate all-stops Richlands and Ipswich trains, meaning passengers from stations beyond Darra still have to stop all stations on the long trip to the city.

Secondly, such express services there are in the peak have been pruned with no real benefit to the passenger.

Thirdly, Translink has pretty much thumbed its nose at Caboolture line passengers. Not only have their peak hour express services been cut back, there is no compensating off peak service upgrade: still only a 30 minute all stop service off peak.

While I understand and applaud the desire for service pattern rationalization I’m very disappointed that the don’t seem to be able to break out of the old “half hour all stops to everywhere” paradigm. It’s all the worse because the new draft Integrated Regional Transport Plan for SEQ (“Connecting SEQ 2031″) does.

Translink should be using this opportunity to try the new not just repeat the old.

In a press release today, Premier Anita Bligh and Transport Minister John Mickel have announced the findings of the Inner City Rail Capacity Study. The study itself hasn’t been released to the public yet (stay tuned!) but the press release and associated maps released to MX newspaper confirm the basic study findings: the need for one new cross-city corridor from the Gold Coast line by 2016 and a second new corridor from the Ipswich Line to the Caboolture line by 2026.

The whole lot is expected to cost over $14 billion, and Infrastructure Australia (the Federal government’s infrastructure fund) is being asked to contribute.

The press release also releases some interesting figures that show the scale of the demand:

Ms Bligh said the Inner City Rail Capacity Study found that in 2006 more than 44,000 people used city train services each day during the two hour morning peak period.

“By 2016 demand is forecast to reach between 70,000 and 80,000 people in peak periods and by 2026 increase further to between 105,000 and 130,000 people,” she said.

I’m quite excited the project is slowly being released, but I am a little worried that it might be being oversold with phrases like “world-class 21st century underground rail network”.

What the project is is a way of providing capacity in the congested inner city for services from the outer suburbs. Along the way, there are a few underground stations to tap into various opportunities, but it is not really an underground ‘network’ as such.

Edited to add

Immediately after posting this, I discovered that the project web site has been updated with various documents. I am a bit surprised at what has been released and for the truly geeky I would recommend the “rail operations review” (warning: 5MB pdf file)

Information about the Inner City Rail Capacity Study is dribbling out. Today’s Courier Mail reports that the state government needs in the order of 14 billion dollars to “save southeast Queensland from rail chaos”. The article goes on to say

The study findings are expected to be released later this year and details are still sketchy. However, options being considered include “doubling of existing capacity by building two dual-track tunnels connected to the existing network by 2026, with other upgrades to the surface network to support freight”.

It’s a sum of money that’s so mind-boggling big it’s hard to comprehend. In scope though, the project is not that different from Melbourne’s underground rail loop of the 1970s. If you think about it, two deep level tunnels under Brisbane River with a number of city stations wouldn’t come cheap.

Can the work be avoided? I doubt it can. Certainly at the moment there are some 21 trains coming off the Gold Coast, Beenleigh and Cleveland lines across the two-track Merivale Bridge then around a sharp curve and through a short tunnel to a flat junction with the lines from the Ipswich line. Factor in a built-over Central Station (with no real room to grow except downwards), suburban rail extensions (Springfield, Coolangatta, Maroochydore, Redcliffe – maybe) and there’s a heck of a lotta trains to handle.

I hope more details on the study are released shortly. It’s so frustrating not being able to discuss things properly.

The South East Queensland Infrastructure Plan and Program (SEQIPP) for 2008 was released yesterday (June 3).

For the past few months various rumours have been floating around suggesting that major transport projects would be pushed back or dropped altogether. It seemed the government wanted to dampen expectations with regards to major projects.

Well, it turns out the rumours were wrong.

I have had a quick look through the SEQIPP document, and in particular the summary tables of works. There is a lot of motorway work, but there is also an incredible amount of infrastructure work now scheduled and budgeted for PT. Most of these are new for 2008.

Rail

$872 million for Darra – Springfield Rail (delivery by 2019)
$1.4 billion for Ipswich to Springfield Rail (commencing 2012)
$1.3 billion for Gowrie to Granchester Rail (Toowoomba Range freight bypass I presume) (commencing 2019)
$550 million for Petrie to Redcliffe (commencing 2019)
$1.1 billion for Robina to Elanora (underway)
$650 million for Elanora to Coolangatta (commencing 2019)
$650 million for Caboolture to Landsborough duplication (underway)
$800 million for Landsborough to Nambour duplication (planning to start now)

and of course the biggie:

$7.3 billion for Inner City Rail Capacity (commencing now)

Bus

$310 million for Centenary Highway bus lanes Ipswich Motorway – Toowong (commencing now)
$2.5 billion for Northern Busway – RCH to Kedron – Bracken Ridge (underway and continues over 20 years)
$3.1 billion for Eastern Busway – Buranda to Capalaba (commencing now)
$365 million for SE Busway extension to Springwood (commencing 2011)

$420 million for a mysterious Brisbane Cross River Bus Access (commencing 2012)
$750 for an HOV network program (commencing now)

and then there is the strangely named

‘Public Transport’

$1.7 billion for Gold Coast Rapid Transit (commencing now)
$3.1 billion for CAMCOS – Beerwah – Caloundra – Maroochydore (commencing 2012)
(CAMCOS is supposed to be a suburban rail extension, so I don’t know what it is doing here with GCRT that will probably be LRT)

Exciting times ahead!

On Wednesday I posted a set of pictures, and asked which ones were from a so-called ‘metro’ and which ones weren’t.

This is what they were:

1. A high end ‘light rail’ system, the Tyne and Wear Metro
2. High capacity electric ‘heavy’ railway, the Berlin U-Bahn
3. Lightweight diesel railcars (‘Pacers’) from the West Yorkshire Metro
4. High capacity electric ‘heavy’ railway, the original Paris Metro
5. High capacity electric ‘heavy’ railway, the District Line of the London Underground
6. A high end ‘light rail’ system with city centre tunnel, the Docklands Light Railway (also in London)
7. A bus from the Adelaide metro (which also features some diesel railcars on a rather run-down railway network)

The Berlin and the two London examples aren’t called ‘metro’. All the others are. Looks can be deceiving!

(My offer of a half-mark was for recognising that the District Line began its life as the Metropolitan District Railway! I have also noticed that the Berlin U-Bahn web page refers to it in English as “metro”. I don’t recall hearing the term used in Berlin myself)

Obviously I picked this list for a point, and not just because they are all systems I have ridden on. The dictionary definition that is simply ‘an underground railway like the one in Paris’ isn’t enough on its own: West Yorkshire and Adelaide don’t have underground parts to their ‘metro’, and in London it’s always ‘the Underground’ or more often ‘the Tube’, never ‘the Metro’.

As a professional transport planner, I have had to deal with various demands for a ‘metro’ for Brisbane. When I sat down with a rail engineer we discovered that we had very different ideas about what defined a metro. He immediately thought big and bulky like the London Underground; I thought fast and flexible like DLR or Tyne and Wear. It was just what we were used to. What we agreed on, though, were:

  • It’s a railway
  • It serves a city
  • It offers a frequent service
  • It is high capacity and probably has lots of standing room on board
  • It has closely spaced stations for maximum coverage
  • It is preferably designed with lots of doors for fast loading and unloading
  • It serves in part a distribution function (not just a home-work commute function)
  • It is a marketing term

(Brisbane Central) is this a metro?We agreed that it would probably be underground for at least part of its route because this was the only way it would serve the inner city area. We also agreed that the Brisbane Citytrain system already shows many characteristics of a metro, and with improved vehicle design (for faster loading and unloading) and more frequent services (especially in the off peak) it probably ought to be called one.

What we also agreed upon was that Brisbane doesn’t need a totally new independent underground rail line or loop of the London Underground or Paris Metro type: it simply doesn’t have the population numbers or city size and shape to make it worth while. Certainly, any attempt to curtail Citytrain’s operations at the city fringes and make people transfer to a metro for their final destination (‘like London’) is a very bad idea – and bad history to boot.

As the inner areas of Australia’s capital cities increase in population through densification and urban renewal, there will be a need for improved public transport. Except for Melbourne (where the trams still have much potential) this is going to mean new dedicated facilities. I personally feel that there is much benefit in exploring the ‘lightweight’ metro of the Tyne and Wear or DLR model as a complement to the existing suburban railways, rather than trying to copy London or Paris.

Metro appears to be the transport buzz word of the moment:

Brisbane Courier Mail:
Designer advises Brisbane to go underground for metro rail

Sydney Morning Herald:
Bye heavy rail, now for a north-west metro

The “Eddington Report” from Melbourne:
melbourne metro -‘new generation’ rail tunnel (warning PDF)

But what is a metro anyway?

The dictionary defines it as

metro

• noun (pl. metros) an underground railway system in a city, especially Paris.

So, quickly now, which of the following is doesn’t have “metro” anywhere in its name? (I’ll accept two or three in the answer)

1.

2. (please excuse gratuitous picture of me)

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

Answers next time – and with it some rational discussion on why it matters.

(for images 1, 4, and 6 I am indebted to Wikimedia Commons, and in particular photographers Chris McKenna and “Pline”)

According to a story in today’s Brisbane Sunday Mail, there is a ‘bold new government plan’ to develop new a new underground railway for Brisbane:

BRISBANE could have two under-the-river rail tunnels and a new rail bridge in a bold State Government public transport plan.

There could be major new train stations at Woolloongabba, Gardens Point and the “financial district” at Eagle St, and a redeveloped Exhibition line for year-round use.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Paul Lucas will today unveil details of a $5 million feasibility study to develop options for connecting the rail network north and south of the Brisbane River.

I don’t think I will be breaking any rules of confidentiality if I mention that this project is one of the reasons I haven’t been able to post anything in the last month :-p

Sometimes I like to take my restrained professional hat off and let myself dream. Today I am going to share with you my imagined future rail network for Perth. Perth’s train network has obviously come a long way in the past 20 years, when it was reduced to a rump of diesel railcars serving the Midland and Armadale lines. The city too has expanded dramatically and with electrifications and extensions, this is roughly what the network will look like once the Mandurah line opens next year.

Now if the city continues to expand at something like the predicted rate, and proposed major developments take place then the city it going to be a lot larger in 15-20 years. Many sustainability people would be seriously freaked out if it all came to pass, but it gives me as a rail buff the opportunity to “design” system extensions. So this is what “my” network might look like in 2021.

You can see the suburban rail lines have been extended to major growth centres around the city. If I get the time I might explain some of these in more detail. I’ve also conceived two tram/light rail networks. One for the inner north-west and one for the Peel region. The diagram is not to scale, so the Peel network looks much smaller than it actually is.

OK. Back to proper analysis and planning now. :)

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