Sunday, October 25, 2009

The search for Melbourne's best railway line

Supposing you were moving to Melbourne and planned to commute to the CBD area by train. You had no pre-conceived suburb preferences and based your location choice soley on train service quality. Which train-served suburb or area would you pick?

The following are some key measures of service quality:

* Service frequency, both peak and off-peak. Can you 'turn up and go'?
* Service delivery. How common is it for trains to be cancelled?
* Service reliability. Do trains usually run on time?
* Comfort of travel. Are trains free of overcrowding?

Statistics on all the above are available from the following sources:

Timetables reveal service frequency. Delivery and reliability statistics are reported each month. The twelve month average is most useful here. Train loading figures are collected by the Department of Transport.

A look through these indicate significant variations between lines for frequency, reliability and comfort/crowding. Variations were fewer for service delivery, with almost all lines having around 99 percent of trains running. For this reason only frequency, reliability and comfort are needed for this survey.

An A to E scale is used to allow easier comparison. These are as follows:


A = 3 to 10 minutes
B = 11 to 15 minutes
C = 16 to 20 minutes
D = 21 to 30 minutes
E = >31 minutes


A = 96 - 100%*
B = 92 - 96 %*
C = 88 - 92%
D = 84 - 88%
E = less than 84%

(*) Exceeds compensation threshold.


A = not indicated in DoT load chart
C = feature moderately in DoT load chart
E = feature prominently in DoT load chart

Line by line comparisons are tabulated below. Peak frequency figures are for am services from the terminus unless otherwise indicated. This is based on maximum intervals and service is usually higher at stations identified (+). Ratings are given in order of peak frequency/ offpeak frequency/ punctuality/ comfort.

Werribee (Werribee): C+/B+/C/C
Werribee (Altona): C/C/C/C
Williamstown (Williamstown): C/C/B/B
Sydenham (Watergardens): B+/C/B/E
Craigieburn (Craigieburn): C+/C/C/C
Upfield (Upfield): C/C/B/A

Epping (Epping): B+/C/B/C
Hurstbridge (Hurstbridge): E+/E/C/C
Hurstbridge (Greensborough): B+/C/C/C

Belgrave (Belgrave): C+/D/C/B
Lilydale (Lilydale): C+/D/B/B
Belgrave/Lilydale (Ringwood): A+/B/B/B
Belgrave/Lilydale (Auburn): A+/B/B/B
Alamein (Alamein): D+/B/A/A
Glen Waverley (Glen Waverley): B+/B/B/A

Pakenham (Pakenham): D+/D/E/E
Cranbourne (Cranbourne): C+/D/D/C
Pakenham/Cranbourne (Clayton): A+/B/C/D
Frankston (Frankston): B+/B/E/C
Frankston (Glenhuntly): C+/B/E/C
Sandringham (Sandringham): B+/B/B/A

The winner is:

The Glen Waverley line has good peak and interpeak service frequencies and high reliability without the crowding of some other lines. Parts of other lines score higher on some individual items but Glen Waverley presents the best overall package for the commuter.


Daniel said...

You seem to have given Sandringham the same rating as Glen Waverley, but I suspect it should rate higher for off-peak frequencies due to having better evening services (double the Glen Waverley line on Sunday nights). Until recently it was more crowded, but this seems to have been largely resolved by recent timetable changes, if the DOT graph on page 22 of their submission is right.

Peter Parker said...

Yep, there were other things I could have added, although the item was more pitched at the weekday commuter. The 'off peak frequency' is better referred to as weekday interpeak service.

Things that missed out were the 15 min evening frequency to Ringwood, limited Sunday evening services on some groups and the extent, speed and span of express running.

Sandringham was the one line whose score would be most affected by not including cancellations - if these were included it would not longer be as competitive as here it trails the pack.