One day until the state election.
They do great work, and it’s rather good to see the ABC’s Fact Check unit looking at Victorian issues just before the election.
A couple of days ago they did a segment on train punctuality:
- The claim: Denis Napthine says his Government has “improved train punctuality”.
- The verdict: With punctuality running at over 92 per cent across the Metro network, trains are more often on time now than under the previous Labor government.
They looked at the statistics, and they also considered stop skipping, which figures indicate is done on less than half of 1% of services — not enough to greatly influence the result, though sometimes done to excess.
But as commenters on their web site have noted, they didn’t look at the other factor: timetable padding.
Comparing times on the Frankston line: during peak (morning inbound, afternoon outbound), and when it’s quiter (Sunday morning inbound and outbound), we can clearly see that running times have increased — 3-4 minutes was added in 2012.
It’s a similar story on other lines.
Is padding the timetable always bad? No. If network congestion or loadings are such that trains can never achieve the timetable, then allowing more time would be justified.
But in some cases there is now so much padding (for instance, Hawksburn to South Yarra now allows 4 minutes in peak; Richmond to Flinders Street direct allows up to 7) that trains regularly sit idle at stations waiting for the timetable to catch up… or (accidentally) depart before their scheduled time.
So it’s hardly surprising that punctuality has increased.
- They also haven’t mentioned Loop bypasses, which are a particular problem for the Altona Loop (perhaps thankfully the only suburban section they can do it on) but also the City Loop. These count as a partial cancellation, but when they happen they improve punctuality stats.
- Additionally it’s notable that the government always talks about punctuality, not cancellations, because the latter has barely changed. That’s outside the scope of ABC Factcheck though; they look at what is claimed, not what isn’t.
- See also: Alan Davies at Crikey: Did the ABC fact checkers get it right on train punctuality?