Metro - suburban train timetables too complicated - The Age

 
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
From Saturday's Age...

http://www.theage.com.au/national/train-timetables-too-complicated-20100115-mck6.html

Train timetables 'too complicated' - CLAY LUCAS.

January 16, 2010
MELBOURNE'S timetables are far too complicated and need to be drastically simplified as part of a major two-year regeneration of the rail network, the new head of the city's rail system says.

A ''run-to-failure philosophy'' that had endured under previous train operators was no longer good enough, Metro chief executive Andrew Lezala said yesterday in an interview with The Age.

''It is time for the railways to step up now and play our part in keeping Melbourne moving, because with another 1 million people coming in the next 15 years, the roads simply won't cope,'' he said.

Mr Lezala does not own a car in Melbourne, does not yet have a myki card and rides the tram to work from his inner-city home.

Yesterday, at the end of another torrid week for Melbourne train travellers - with 43-degree heat on Monday resulting in 247 of 2050 scheduled services being cancelled - Mr Lezala said the city deserved better.

Melbourne needed a public transport system as good as that of Hong Kong or Singapore, he said, and the existing system needed upgrading to run reliably in temperatures as hot as 45 degrees.

Mr Lezala said Metro had embarked upon several projects to improve Melbourne's rail system. These would ultimately take two years to work their way through the system. ''But that is too long to wait for an improvement in reliability,'' he said, stressing that Metro was working on a range of immediate fixes to make the system noticeably better.

A simplified timetable was needed so customers could remember it, and so train controllers could recover the system when things went wrong, he said.

''We have some fantastic train controllers and they keep in their heads a timetable that is more complex than many I have seen,'' he said.

Mr Lezala said he deliberately did not own a car in Melbourne. ''I am an advocate of public transport. I like the tram network because the frequency is such that you do not need to understand the timetable.''

The train network needed that frequency, he said. The Public Transport Users Association campaigned in 2008 to get trains, trams and buses running every 10 minutes. He said this was the correct approach.

Mr Lezala said Melbourne's trains, tracks, signalling and overhead power all needed much work. He said the way the last train contracts were structured ''created a bit of tribalism'' that led to a blame game.

The complex contracts that Connex operated under were set up in 2004 by consultants and senior bureaucrats who included the now Secretary of the Department of Transport, Jim Betts.

The contracts established Connex as train operator, another company, Mainco, as track maintainer and a third firm, United - now part of Metro Trains - as train repairer.

The new contracts bring responsibility for all of this into one company, Metro. Mr Lezala - who repeatedly apologised to the public this week for Monday's problems - said people should expect excellent service from Metro. ''If it is not going right, we should apologise and let people know what we are doing about it.''

Overhead power lines on the city's train network are now his biggest concern after wires sagged in this week's heat, causing cancellations.

Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky had been ''very successful at getting finances for this railway'', said Mr Lezala, 54, who has worked on railways in Asia, Europe and Australia.

''I've worked with a lot of politicians … and the sincerity with which they [the State Government] want to make this system better is fantastic compared to a lot of other places.''


Please note, the Secretary of the Department of Transport, Jim Betts as far as I'm aware still doesn't own a car and always travels to work by PT. Minister Kosky generally travels by car for reasons that have been discussed elsewhere in these pages.

Mike.

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  heisdeadjim Chief Commissioner

The complex contracts that Connex operated under were set up in 2004 by consultants and senior bureaucrats who included the now Secretary of the Department of Transport, Jim Betts.
"Is Mr Lezala having a go through the Age article?"


That is my first reading of it.


(As reported in an earlier edition) the rail strengthening works that we've been conducting are showing benefit, with no incidents of rail buckling being recorded in the recent heat.

Night track teams have conducted a blitz of rail strengthening works at more than 400 locations which were identified as susceptible to track buckling across the network.

Rail strengthening works involve:
· Compacting the rock under the train tracks, to improve the track stability
· Concrete sleeper replacement, and
· Welding and 're-stressing' the metal of the tracks to make them less likely to buckle (no welding is undertaken on days of total fire ban)
"Metro Express"


15 January 2010

I think we're going to see from Metro a more overt display of their opinion of things before franchise. The current timetabling is still a legacy of Connex, and while he seems to support the PTUA's "ten to everywhere" campaign, as I have alluded to earlier that's not going to happen without the 38 "nexttraps" and then some coming on line.

I include the comment on maintenance because that seems to be an obvious point of difference as well.
  pheonics The Gardener

Location: Meal room with a hot cuppa
What in the hell are they on about!.. It's not like they are reading W.T.T. Graphs!  Shocked
  Michaelje Chief Commissioner

What in the hell are they on about!.. It's not like they are reading W.T.T. Graphs!  Shocked
"pheonics"


No idea. A timetable is a timetable is a timetable. They've been that way for 50 years plus.

You want to "simplify it"? One was of "simplifying it" would be convert all those previously-PSR trains, back to PSR operations.

Wouldn't that just make your timetable much nice and neater?
  Michaelje Chief Commissioner

What in the hell are they on about!.. It's not like they are reading W.T.T. Graphs!  Shocked
"pheonics"


No idea. A timetable is a timetable is a timetable. They've been that way for 50 years plus.

You want to "simplify it"? One was of "simplifying it" would be convert all those previously-PSR trains, back to PSR operations.

Wouldn't that just make your timetable much nice and neater?
  michinyon Chief Commissioner

I am not convinced that a blow-in who doesn't drive is in any position to be pontificating about the range of transport issues which Lezala has been commenting.   Not just this week but also a few weeks ago.

Be suspicious of a "simplified" timetable.   This is usually a euphemism for getting rid of extra peak services  so that the system runs at the existing off-peak level constantly all day long.
  tomohawk Chief Commissioner

Location: Getting The Met to get around
Go check out timetables from other cities in the world and understand what he means. I can completely understand what he's saying, and I think he has a point.

This was as un-Clay Lucas-like that I've ever read, too.
  Michaelje Chief Commissioner

Go check out timetables from other cities in the world and understand what he means. I can completely understand what he's saying, and I think he has a point.

This was as un-Clay Lucas-like that I've ever read, too.
"tomohawk"


Perhaps you could elucidate on what you think he is trying to say?
  SteamtoStay Chief Commissioner

Location: Building floorplates
The way I understand it, under the new timetable a passenger will be able to go to a platform at Flinders Street, get on the first Frankston Train and know automatically that it runs express South Yarra - Caulfield - Cheltenham, regardless of the time of day or day of week.
  tomohawk Chief Commissioner

Location: Getting The Met to get around

Perhaps you could elucidate on what you think he is trying to say?
"Michaelje"


We have a lot of strange stopping patterns, where it may be more beneficial to better streamline the stopping patterns, allowing more trains to run, and being easier for passengers to know which train to be on.

We also have strange departure times out of terminal stations, where it may be possible to move to clockface departures in some instances.

I think first and foremost he's really pressing the fact that we shouldn't need to consult a timetable to work out when to be at the station, rather we should have the "10 minutes everywhere" style approach.
  Michaelje Chief Commissioner


Perhaps you could elucidate on what you think he is trying to say?
"Michaelje"


We have a lot of strange stopping patterns, where it may be more beneficial to better streamline the stopping patterns, allowing more trains to run, and being easier for passengers to know which train to be on.

We also have strange departure times out of terminal stations, where it may be possible to move to clockface departures in some instances.

I think first and foremost he's really pressing the fact that we shouldn't need to consult a timetable to work out when to be at the station, rather we should have the "10 minutes everywhere" style approach.
"tomohawk"


Re: strange stopping patterns, we "streamlined" them in the 80's. On my line, every single train stopped every single station and went through the loop.

Which is exactly what pisses people off. Lack of stopping patterns, lack of flexibility, lack of loop options. Makes almost everyones trip longer than needed.

I guess you are after the "letters" on the Perth timetable? They seem rather pointless.

Clockface departures - once again, pointless. Welcome to the real world, Joe Blow doesn't give a damn what time the train leaves, he just cares that there is a train to get onto.

On the Watergardens line for instance, there have been a few extra peak services injected into the timetable in recent years. I don't know a single person that has whinged that they'd rather go back to having the train leave at 09, 29 and 49.

The more the merrier, thanks.
  tomohawk Chief Commissioner

Location: Getting The Met to get around
Services do not have to be cut to tidy up the timetable. I have seen some very promising mocked up timetables from a few people, and they add services and make the timetable a lot neater.

No, I'm not demanding the stopping pattern letters as used in Perth, though  think they are very useful, especially when getting new users onto the system.

I'm not suggesting all trains run all stations either. That's not at all efficient. But why not stop all trains at Glenferrie when they do the Richmond-Camberwell-Boxhill run? Some of them already do.
  Ballast_Plough Chief Commissioner

Location: Lilydale, Vic
I too can't understand why clockface departures will help? Might make it neat and tidy for terminal stations but everywhere else in between will be potluck if they get a nice easy time to remember.
  Natronomonas Chief Train Controller

I think by clockface the intention is exactly evenly spaced and at easy to remember intervals, ie every 15 mins, every 10, every 5. Not every 17 mins or 13 mins, or trains at :03, :17, :33 and :52.

Even intervals make it easy for infrequent users (the everyday commuter will still have their favourite train(s) too, I'm sure) but system accessibility is improved as you're not required to consult a timetable to figure out your chances of getting a train in the next 20 mins.

Of course once you get up to turn up and go frequencies the specific minutes apart matters less because they're coming every 10 mins or better anyway.
  Sir Thomas Bent Minister for Railways

Location: Banned
Ric... I mean Michealje, it seems you're asking a lot of other people to post, and very few ideas of your own are posted.  

Let's see what you have to say.  How would you fix it?
  gazz Locomotive Fireman

Where my line (Hurstbridge) could benefit from "cleaning up" is in the morning peak where it and the Epping service merge at Clifton Hill.  Trains are very close together at times and this cause delays at FFS etc, then there are gaps of several valuable minutes where nothing is happening.  There is no logic in the frequency of stoppers v express between Clifton Hill and Jolimont either (refer timetable if you are interested).  

If services could be spread out more evenly, better use might be made of the limited infrastructure.  Similar things may be the case on other lines too.
  GORT-KLAATU Train Controller

From Saturday's Age...

http://www.theage.com.au/national/train-timetables-too-complicated-20100115-mck6.html

Train timetables 'too complicated' - CLAY LUCAS.

January 16, 2010
MELBOURNE'S timetables are far too complicated and need to be drastically simplified as part of a major two-year regeneration of the rail network, the new head of the city's rail system says.

A ''run-to-failure philosophy'' that had endured under previous train operators was no longer good enough, Metro chief executive Andrew Lezala said yesterday in an interview with The Age.

''It is time for the railways to step up now and play our part in keeping Melbourne moving, because with another 1 million people coming in the next 15 years, the roads simply won't cope,'' he said.

Mr Lezala does not own a car in Melbourne, does not yet have a myki card and rides the tram to work from his inner-city home.

Yesterday, at the end of another torrid week for Melbourne train travellers - with 43-degree heat on Monday resulting in 247 of 2050 scheduled services being cancelled - Mr Lezala said the city deserved better.

Melbourne needed a public transport system as good as that of Hong Kong or Singapore, he said, and the existing system needed upgrading to run reliably in temperatures as hot as 45 degrees.

Mr Lezala said Metro had embarked upon several projects to improve Melbourne's rail system. These would ultimately take two years to work their way through the system. ''But that is too long to wait for an improvement in reliability,'' he said, stressing that Metro was working on a range of immediate fixes to make the system noticeably better.

A simplified timetable was needed so customers could remember it, and so train controllers could recover the system when things went wrong, he said.

''We have some fantastic train controllers and they keep in their heads a timetable that is more complex than many I have seen,'' he said.

Mr Lezala said he deliberately did not own a car in Melbourne. ''I am an advocate of public transport. I like the tram network because the frequency is such that you do not need to understand the timetable.''

The train network needed that frequency, he said. The Public Transport Users Association campaigned in 2008 to get trains, trams and buses running every 10 minutes. He said this was the correct approach.

Mr Lezala said Melbourne's trains, tracks, signalling and overhead power all needed much work. He said the way the last train contracts were structured ''created a bit of tribalism'' that led to a blame game.

The complex contracts that Connex operated under were set up in 2004 by consultants and senior bureaucrats who included the now Secretary of the Department of Transport, Jim Betts.

The contracts established Connex as train operator, another company, Mainco, as track maintainer and a third firm, United - now part of Metro Trains - as train repairer.

The new contracts bring responsibility for all of this into one company, Metro. Mr Lezala - who repeatedly apologised to the public this week for Monday's problems - said people should expect excellent service from Metro. ''If it is not going right, we should apologise and let people know what we are doing about it.''

Overhead power lines on the city's train network are now his biggest concern after wires sagged in this week's heat, causing cancellations.

Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky had been ''very successful at getting finances for this railway'', said Mr Lezala, 54, who has worked on railways in Asia, Europe and Australia.

''I've worked with a lot of politicians … and the sincerity with which they [the State Government] want to make this system better is fantastic compared to a lot of other places.''


Please note, the Secretary of the Department of Transport, Jim Betts as far as I'm aware still doesn't own a car and always travels to work by PT. Minister Kosky generally travels by car for reasons that have been discussed elsewhere in these pages.

Mike.
"The Vinelander"


At least this bloke Mr Lezala is actually doing something or plans to do something to improve the rail system. When Connex was around it wasn't everyday that you saw their CEO talking about how they could improve the system or how they didn't pick up on the "run to failure" philosophy as Mr Lezala mentions.

Any improvements would be good i suppose, which im sure we could all agree on. Just my thoughts.
  GORT-KLAATU Train Controller

Where my line (Hurstbridge) could benefit from "cleaning up" is in the morning peak where it and the Epping service merge at Clifton Hill.  Trains are very close together at times and this cause delays at FFS etc, then there are gaps of several valuable minutes where nothing is happening.  There is no logic in the frequency of stoppers v express between Clifton Hill and Jolimont either (refer timetable if you are interested).  

If services could be spread out more evenly, better use might be made of the limited infrastructure.  Similar things may be the case on other lines too.
"gazz"


On the line (Sydenham) i travel on when occasionally taking the train a place that could also benefit from "cleaning up" as you say, gazz, is that there needs to be better crowd control movement at Parliament Station in peak times. I know there's only so much that can be done, but im pretty sure with more effort and resources and planning they could better streamline the crowding on some City Loop Stations, such as Parliament which believe me does get very busy indeed.

Just my opinion. but im always open to anyone who wants to comment/criticise/ or just share their thoughts or opinons on any of my posts Smile
  Ballast_Plough Chief Commissioner

Location: Lilydale, Vic
I think by clockface the intention is exactly evenly spaced and at easy to remember intervals, ie every 15 mins, every 10, every 5. Not every 17 mins or 13 mins, or trains at :03, :17, :33 and :52.
"Natronomonas"


But at Lilydale the trains are basically every 30 minutes on a weekday and every 20 mins on a weekend. Making them :20, :40, :00 on a weekend instead of :19, :39, :59 might make Lilydale departures neater but doesn't do anything for all the other stations.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
If you have a problem you do one of the following:

1. You rename it
2. You paint it a different colour
3. You create a sufficiently large red herring as to divert attention from 1 and 2 above.

No 3 is what is happening in this case.

Unfortunately, there is a school of thought that Melbourne commuters totally unable to cope with anything beyond a neanderthal train service where every train does exactly the same thing regardless of traffic levels, special circumstances or anything else. We have got beyond this and in doing so have introduced a small extra level of complexity which seems to be well accepted and understood by almost all regular passengers.

The alternative now floated would be to return all services to the lowest common denominator:

1. Identical schedules all day regardless of peaks and troughs
2. Kick V/Line off the network as their services complicate matters
3. Everything stops all stations (or none !!) regardless of passenger needs or wishes.

The whole thing makes me wonder whether Metro are not floating the idea with an ulterior motive known only to themselves.

We should be building and improving on what we have got not reverting to the stone age.
  Calgully Deputy Commissioner

Location:
Agree 110% with the seniment here.

To attract non users to the system you have to make it brain-dead simple.  Ie you can travel unconsciously - just rock up and go.

That needn't necessarily mean loss of service quality - but it might mean some compromises to make it simplest.

For instance - why so many stopping patterns - reduce them on any line to "Fast" and "Stopping all stations"  Thats it.  You could even brand them if you absolutely must.

I was talking with someone from Brisbane recently ( a normal non-gunzel) who found the complexily of the Melbourne city loop ridiculous.   When I told him there are four tracks, and they change direction at certain times of the day, and its different on different days of the week and at certain times of the day you cannot travel direct from Parliament to Flinders Street for example without going out to Richmond - I started to see his point.

He laughed and said "In Brisbane its pretty simple - we have one track for trains going this way and another track for trains going that way."

Obviously Brisbane isn't necessarily the world's best example, but it's people like this guy that have to be attracted to PT - and making it simple enough to master with confidence after a night outon the town has to be an entry level qualification for a thriving service.
  gxh Junior Train Controller

Location: SE suburbs
While respecting the various views that have been expressed, as a new user, may I comment that perhaps a degree of simplification would assist passengers using stations between Hawksburn and Malvern, especially in the evening peak.   At FSS (and Richmond), you always have to check whether the next stopping train will be a Frankston or Pakenham/Cranbourne train (and if there's any disruption, this means running from platform to platform, checking each).
Things aren't made easier for Loop passengers by the fact that the only departure from FSS between between 4.58 and 5.24 that stops at these stations runs direct FSS to Richmond - regulars know about this, but occasional users wait bemusedly at the Loop stations wondering why every train is an express.  There's nothing to tell them to take the next train to Richmond.
However, I wonder if the cure for this problem may well end up being worse than the disease!   One "cure" might be regular local stopping trains to Oakleigh or Moorabbin (or in the future, Westall).   Problem with this is that "regular" may well end up being at 15 minute intervals during the peaks, and possibly not via the loop!
  kuldalai Chief Commissioner

This guy has wide experience in  Rail Ops Overseas and he is going to make changes for the better here. Its just that they cannot happen overnight , as he has inherited a wounded underfunded beast from both Government and Connex.

The Contract requires Metro within 18 months of 01/12/09 to introduce a two level service timetable, or if Metro find that is not practicable with current infrastructure, then a totally new "greenfields" suburban timetable.

The current tt is a mess with extra Met and VLP trains shoehorned in by DOT irrespective of their impact on reliability. Thus the Government nonsense claims of x hundred extra Weekly services - but most are counter peak or off-peak and have contributed little to adding extra peak capacity.

A two tier timetable would have on many lines a set of trains running SAS to an inner termini; and a second set of longer distance trains running semi express within the area served by the first set of trains, and terminating at the end of the overhead.

Simplification by Overseas standards means say on the Frankston line the two sets of trains being Moorabbin SAS , and Frankston stopping Richmond,  South Yarra, Caulfield, Moorabbin then SAS . Fixed stopping patterns and only two of them - 7 days a week .  Frequency would be higher on Weekdays (and even higher in peak periods) , and hopefully a common timetable for Saturdays & Sundays .  Thats what simplification means, it is not "rocket science", it is common practice on Overseas railways.

So say on the Frankston line you would have only two sets of trains and two sets of stopping conditions, and two terminal stations. At Off peak times (Weekdays daytime and evening, and all Weekends) both sets of trains might run say 4 times per hour; and Weekday peaks up to line capacity (which in this case would be governed by track capacity in the South Yarra - Caulfield section.)

Gets complicated - more trains can be put though if all Express outer trains for both the Dandenong and Frankston legs are run down the same track in this section . But this creates more cross moves at Caulfield.

Alternatively operated at Down - Dng,  Up Dng, Dn Fktn, Up Fktn removes the cross moves at Caulfield but at the cost of less train throughput as mixing stoppers with expresses on the same line reduces services run .

Interesting times ahead . Certainly in for change , and no doubt change for the better .

Finally dare one mention it, it would be beneficial for Government to seriously consider converting Newport - Williamstown and Camberwell - Alamein to  stand alone high frequency light rail services, independent of the suburban rail services. this could even open up opportunity to say extend services into the waterfront at Williamstown and also other areas near Alamein .  (St Kilda & Port Melbourne light rails have been a huge success.)
  John_Proctor Train Controller

^^ well said.  if you look at hte Frankton line timetable I think there are 4 different terminal stations in the AM peak with Frankston, Carrum, Moorabin and Cheltenham...  what the hell is that.

It should be that everyone knows if you get on a train on Platform 2 in the loop it will run express from South Yarra to Caulfield with stopping trains all running direct from Flinders Street.  People wanting htose stations would then know to 'board the next train to Richmond'.

I still can't believe how poor the passenger information is at FSS though.  At richmond there are boards on every platform wiht 'next FSS, next loop'  why aren't there boards at FSS saying 'next Parliament, next SXS, next Richmond'???
  DalyWaters Chief Commissioner

You've nailed it Kuldalai.

Gets towards what I think the aim should be.  No journeys over 60 minutes for commuters.  Work in layers.

And Willy and Alamein to light rail, absolutely,

In fact, Williamstown light rail could continue via Newport South across to Westona or Laverton(with a mainline interchange at Newport South).  The trams could easily handle the patronage and the Werribee line would be streamlined without the shuttles or deviations.

It would however, expose the Laverton project as the big waste of money it really is.

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