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If you listen to Queensland Rail, passenger services are improving all the time. If this is so, it makes you wonder why yet another senior QR official was sacked just two weeks ago over timetable failures.
While the QR media machine churns out announcements about how the percentage of cancellations is falling, the truth is otherwise.
As this graph, based on figures released by QR and provided to me shows, the actual number of trains scheduled fluctuated wildly between the week beginning the 17th October, 2016, and the week beginning the 8th May, 2017. The number of trains each week is shown in blue. The overall trend, shown by the line in pink, declined over this period.
In fact, the very idea of a settled passenger timetable is a joke, as is evident from the variations in the number of trains that actually ran each week.
Actual QR passenger services run week-on-week. Photo: Queensland Rail
That is why QR refuse to talk about the number of services that actually run. They prefer to talk instead about the percentage of services that are cancelled, or not cancelled.
The problem with this is that if a service runs one week, but is not run the next week because they don't have the staff, then it isn't cancelled as far as they are concerned. It is an absurd state of affairs that can only undermine passenger confidence and satisfaction even further.
This explains is why train services are worse when QR claims they are better.
As an example, consider the total number of train services from the end of March to the beginning of May. In the last week of March there were 7,813 services scheduled, but 690.6 of these services were cancelled. The number of actual train services for the week, therefore, was 7,122.4. The following week was the first full week of the school holidays. QR took over 670 trains off the tracks and scheduled 7,141 trains, but of these 125.7 were cancelled. The net number running that week was 7,015.3.
The next week was Easter, so the number of trains scheduled was reduced to 6,203 of which 45 were cancelled.
With school holidays and Easter over, you would expect the number of scheduled services to return to the previous levels. Instead, QR only scheduled 6,951 trains, and cancelled 21 of these, so that the actual number of trains run that week was 6,930. That was almost 200 fewer than before.
Absurdly, the number of trains run increased during the ANZAC Day week, only to drop again in the first week of May. At no time between October and May was the number of trains scheduled in any week the same as the number scheduled the week before.
It is clear that train schedules are being dictated by staff availability, instead of the needs of the travelling public, and that QR and the Queensland government are engaged in a grotesque distortion of the facts about train services. In fact, their misinformation campaign is so systemic and persuasive that it has reached Goebbelesque proportions.
Behind the scenes, however, the failures and sacking continue a month after proclaiming service standards were improving.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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