Yesterday’s Age contained an article about non PSR services which seems to have generated a bit of interest. Of course, this is nothing new, Connex have been running many of these trains at peak shoulder periods for passengers for years. After all, if the trains have to be taken out of the (now decentralised) stabling sidings to run peak services, why not open them to passengers? Even better, why not actually get a decent return on purchase and upkeep of rolling stock and run the trains all day instead of having half of them sitting around doing nothing between 10am and 3:30pm? Sure, we’d need a couple of hundred more drivers, but imagine how much more efficient and patronised Melbourne’s trains would be if they actually ran frequently enough to be a viable alternative to the car off-peak. I’ve written about this issue before – here and here.
The strangest part of it all is that doubling off peak frequencies would have a capital cost of $0 for most lines, cause only slightly higher labour costs (a few million per year), maximise the return on the investment in rail and be politically popular. Furthermore, the supplier induced demand effects would be considerable. Melbourne doesn’t just have an overcrowding problem on peak rail services because lots of people go to work between 7-9am and come home between 4-6pm – it’s because many lines have peak services that are actually frequent enough to make rail compete with the car. At least we are lucky enough to have trams which (with the exception of night time services) are frequent enough to provide a decent level of service.
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