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THERE is no shortage of seats on the 8.16am Kippa-Ring to Central service as just a dozen or so passengers embark at the start of the Redcliffe line.
With the quality of Queensland Rail’s Citytrain service under the spotlight, The Courier-Mail this week put the train up against a car on the morning commute.
There is plenty of room to get comfortable and this looked a promising start.
One of the few passengers was Scarborough’s Meegan Barnard, 24, an admin worker who is on board every weekday to work in the city.
She had been driving to Boondall to catch the train from there but the Redcliffe line cut her drive in half.
“It’s about $7 each way, which is expensive but if you weigh up petrol costs and parking, it’s pretty good,” she said.
Meegan Barnard catches the train from Kippa-Ring to work in the City.Passenger numbers slowly built as the train passed through Rothwell, Mango Hill, Murrumba Downs and Kallangur. Public servant Venkat Gopal, 44, got aboard at Mango Hill East.
“It used to be 45 minutes’ drive from Petrie then from there an hour,” Mr Gopal said.
“This is much quicker.”
It was only when the train hit the main Caboolture/Sunshine Coast line at Petrie that the carriages began to fill.
When the service arrived on schedule at Central at 9.11am, my colleague Clare Armstrong was already waiting, her car journey taking four minutes less.
Aside from congestion near the school zone at Clontarf at about 8.25am and a route change due to traffic on Sandgate Rd at 8.40am, Clare’s journey was very smooth, although she admitted the train had its advantages.
“I kept thinking about how if I was on a train I could be doing work, checking social media, even sleeping,” she said.
“Taking the Clem7 tunnel saved time, but the $5.30 toll in addition to estimated fuel costs also made the trip more expensive than the train.”
.Passengers slow to get on board
QUEENSLAND’S $1.15 billion Redcliffe Peninsula line has fallen dramatically short of passenger forecasts that predicted quadruple the number of commuter trips.
The poor performance has raised doubts about claims the new line would cut traffic gridlock by removing 600 cars a day from the heavily congested Bruce Highway and surrounding road network.
TransLink figures provided to The Courier-Mail reveal less than a quarter of the predicted trips were made in its first two months of operation after its October 3 opening.
Modelling for the project in 2011 had anticipated a total of 20,358 passenger boardings and alightings each day across the line’s six stations by 2016, rising to 35,172 trips a day by 2031.
“Every full train on the new line will take about 600 cars off the road,” a Queensland Rail briefing note to the Transport Minister predicted the month before the line’s opening.
But TransLink figures reveal an average of just 4787 daily boardings and alightings on the line in the eight weeks to November 27.
An empty platform at Kippa-Ring station is indicative of the underuse of the new Redcliffe line.It shows about 2400 people on average each day boarded a train on the rail line, which connects Kippa-Ring to Petrie station, in the period compared to the forecast 9606 daily boardings.
The 2011 modelling predicting passenger numbers took in population and job growth data.
A spokesman for Mr Hinchliffe rejected the line was underperforming, saying the 2011 projections for this year were based on an assumption the line would be operational by 2011 rather than this year.
He said it had recorded “solid patronage of an average of almost 5000 passengers per day” which was expected to rise as the line became established.
Rail Back on Track transport advocate Robert Dow said he was not surprised at the low passenger numbers given service cancellations caused by Queensland Rail’s timetable fiasco.
“It (the Redcliffe Peninsula Line) will be a raging success, but if people can’t depend on reliable services they are less inclined to use it,” he said.
The line’s opening fanfare saw thousands of people arrive at Kippa-Ring train station and drew politicians from all spheres, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Clare Armstrong in her car beat Daniel Knowles on the train by four minutes.But it was quickly overshadowed by driver shortages that forced hundreds of service cuts. This included on the Redcliffe line, with peak hour morning services cut from 17 to 11 trains.
Timetable problems started in the first days of opening, with almost half of all train services arriving late on the third day of the line’s operation, according to Queensland Rail figures.
Mr Dow also blasted TransLink for a lack of transparency about passenger numbers, accusing it of “a culture of obfuscation” when it came to performance reporting. “We never get an accurate idea of what is happening line by line, or station by station,” he said.
Opposition transport spokesman Andrew Powell blamed the driver shortages for driving commuters away from the new Redcliffe line.
“When trains are unreliable – and the ones that do turn up are like sardine cans – passengers will stop using trains,” he said.
Reliability improved with the adoption of a heavily pared back Citytrain timetable in late October, but the network is regularly performing below the 95 per cent on-time target.
This article first appeared on www.couriermail.com.au
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