“Our overall plan is to double patronage on the railway during the life of the franchise, which requires a major increase in the system’s capacity.”
I think there’s two important points to make here:
It does not mean piling double the number of people into trains at peak hour, going into the CBD.
Travel into the CBD at peak hour is already dominated by public transport. It’s just the last hold-out rev-heads who fight their way through traffic to their employer-paid $16+ per day parking spots, as well as those whose lack of access to decent PT dictates that they drive. (They might change their minds if they get a train to Doncaster, for instance.)
(Source: Central City Users Survey 2008, page 62, weekday figures)
Peak hour is all about 9-5 workers and students. Melbourne City Council estimates show by 2020 these segments will grow from 431,000 per day to 520,000 — about 20% growth. (That’s entire City of Melbourne, not just the CBD.)
About half of all people come in by train now, so if every single one of those extra people was also coming by train in peak hour (unlikely), that’s at most a 40% increase in peak train passenger numbers — a long way from the 100% growth Metro is aiming for.
Other groups such as visitors will increase too, but they are less likely to be travelling in peak hour.
By far the biggest potential growth market (and Lezala realises this) is in off-peak travel: daytime, weekend, evening, and to destinations other than the city centre. Plenty of people are moving around Melbourne outside peak times, but because train (and other PT) services are pretty poor, most of them are moving by road — in fact some roads are now clogged seven days-a-week.
It’s all about providing more frequent services right across the week, which not only grows patronage at a time when there are heaps of spare trains and spare track capacity, it also helps spread the peak load.
And of course you also need frequent supporting bus/tram feeder services so people can get to the trains all day, given the car parks fill up by 8am, and so many people live beyond walking distance to stations, or are going to places not served by trains.
Timetabling in the peak
Secondly, he made the point that the timetables need a shake-up. One of the reasons peak hour trains are so packed (and conversely some have plenty of space) is we’re running a mid-90s train timetable with lots of bolt-ons added over the years. The extra services added have been slotted in wherever they could fit, and so the stopping patterns are all over the place, and the frequencies are uneven on many lines.
Take for example the times of AM peak hour trains leaving Carnegie, one of the busiest suburban stations on the Dandenong line:
…7:06, 7:10, 7:26, 7:30, 7:40, 7:43, 7:47, 7:57, 8:05, 8:11, 8:22, 8:27, 8:30…
They have different origin points, and serve different stations before getting to Carnegie, but in many cases they trail each other through the same stations.
I confess I haven’t checked these myself, but I’d lay odds that the 7:10 may be close to empty while the 7:26 will be packed, and the 7:40 is going to be much more crowded than the 7:47.
So you can see what he’s getting at when Lezala says the timetables need simplifying, with more regular stopping patterns and frequencies.
And yes, I suspect some zone 1 stations will lose their odd occasional express services: at my station Bentleigh I’m betting the 8:06 and 8:17 Bent-Caul-S.Yarra expresses may well disappear.
But if it means more services overall, with more even frequencies (none of the 16 minute gaps you sometimes see now), I think that more than makes up for it.