Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The UP Express

My golly gosh. Isn't it so good to have fast  train when you go to or arrive at an airport to get to the middle of town. Some of Australia's cities have them, but not the second biggest city in Australia, that is Melbourne. For some reason governments have decided it is not their responsibility. What was a 20 minute bus trip to airport at an usurious cost of the airport bus of around $17 one way. The 20 minute trip time has blown out to up to 50 minutes because of traffic congestion on the freeway and at the airport. The cost of the train is similar in Sydney, but the trip there is by train and by my experience, it is fast and reliable. Marcus Wong tells you about his experience of Melbourne's airport bus here.

In Toronto, Canada's largest city,  a newly built a limited express train from the airport to the main city Union Station had just opened when we visited a couple of years ago. You can read of our arrival to Toronto and using the train here, but here is a snip from what I wrote then.

A new limited express train to the main railway station had only begun service last month. I looked around in vain for someone or a machine to buy a public transport card, called Presto and I could not find anything. Although we knew we would pay a premium price for buying a normal ticket, we did so from a machine. My one way fare was CA$27. With the Presto card, it would have been $19. I was a little annoyed but as we discovered later, the system has not been fully rolled out.

I think it was late afternoon when we caught the train. Being new, it was very clean and rather quiet in the number of users. Early days.

It felt uncomfortably warm in the train. At the first stop the train sat for five minutes and it was clear the timetable would not be met. I believe the train was shut down to reset the air conditioning as when we finally moved, lots of lovely cool air flooded in.

The early ridership numbers were dismal. It was very quiet when we travelled on the train, admittedly a very new service. We as good as had a carriage to ourselves.

When it opened in June 2015 its first passenger numbers for the month were around 2,800. It dropped the next month and by January 2016 there was something like 13 people on average per train, on one day at least. Build it and they will come was an absolute failure.

What to do? While it was a public private partnership, the government was covering the high losses. The usual excuses were pumped out, lack of awareness. More advertising. Making sure people realise the benefits. Nothing was mentioned about the extremely high cost of travelling on the Union Station to Pearson Airport Express, that wasn't an express train anyway. At best it could be described as a quickish suburban train.

But then traveller numbers had tripled by June 17. Why so? Essentially the fares were cut in half, and if you had public transport card, Presto, you were only paying $9 from the Pearson Airport to Union Station, and $12 by cash.

Some argue, perhaps with some right, that the train should just be part of the normal Toronto public system and fares charged as appropriate to public transport.

I can't find later ridership figures than mid 2017, but the train line has also become part of some people's daily commute between interim stations. The UP Express has become so busy that commuters using the few intermediate stations need to be corralled to wait for free spaces while airport travellers are given priority.

The line is actually referred to as the up express, not the U P Express. I think there are some very salient lessons to be learnt from Toronto's UP Express experience.

28 comments:

  1. I refuse to pay for the expensive ride on the London Heathrow Express although to be fair it is fast. You can get there on a normal commuter train or the tube and for a pensioner like myself I dont have to pay. In other cities round the world i usually take their airport express. Shanghai was a favourite.

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    1. Marie, isn't there a cheaper airport train as well? I heard there are three different trains you can use to get to the airport. I guess high speed airport trains are targeted at tourists and business people.

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  2. We only have a couple of bus routes where I live so all this mass transit talk is beyond my knowledge. But that train is cool looking. I like it.

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    1. Strayer, and so quiet as it moves along too.

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  3. Honestly Andrew... we need a Fast Train like they have in Europe to go ALL OVER Australia!!!! God I would love that!

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    1. I'm with you.
      Yes, we NEED more rail transport all over this lump of dirt!!!

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    2. I'm with you Lady J and Jayne. Sydney to Melbourne and on to Brisbane via respective airports is a no brainer.

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  4. Have been on 'airport' trains both in Vancouver and Sydney and both were 'shared' with regular passengers. Neither was labeled as fast.
    Lifes not meant to be fast - maybe I not the norn - that's why I drive four days to FNQ rather than take a plane lol

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    1. Cathy, I understand what you are saying, but slow stopping all stations trains will not attract people. These airport trains that you speak of are priced very close to what it would cost two people in a taxi, so there has to be a clear time advantage. Toad of Toad Hall is not your favourite character. :-)

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  5. Don't get me started on the urgent need for more rail transport everywhere and the Very SENSIBLE concept of an express rail link to the airport.

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    1. Jayne, remember the Oppositions plans for an airport train. Much of it using existing tracks....so slow.

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  6. If it is an express to and from the airport, I do think only airport travellers should be getting on it, but if there is only one line and no room for another train for interim stations of course that's a problem. The answer? More carriages. We have talk of a train or tram line to the airport and I think it's a great idea, can't wait for it to be built and running. We already have buses that go there and they are almost always filled with people going to the airport and others going to Ikea or the more popular Harbortown destination, which is where the bus goes after leaving the airport on the "out" trip and coming back into the city, the bus fills up at Harbortown before getting to the airport and is often packed like a can of sardines by the time we get to the city, depending on what time of day it is.

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    1. River, it was built to be used by both airport travellers and commuters. Before having bigger trains, a more frequent service can solve the matter. It sounds like that might be the case with your airport bus, although you can only run so many buses before they begin to get in each others way, as happens in Sydney City and Brisbane.

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  7. Of course extra carriages and all the necessary stops for interim passengers does negate the "express" part of the deal.

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    1. River, it was described as a Limited Express, which means it stops at some stations.

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    2. I must take a look at the Adelaide Airport bus.

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    3. Airport buses, the J1, J1A, and J1X run every 15 minutes from the city and probably from the airport too, during peak hour times. I'm not sure about middle of the day times. You could probably print a copy of the timetable from the adelaidemetro.com.au site
      You'll see there is a 163 on the same route that goes in the same direction, but bypasses the airport.
      The J1X is the express bus, picks up passengers at all its city stops, then runs express to Sir Donald Bradman Drive (used to be Burbridge road) on a different route to the others.

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    4. J1X is called the Jet Express.

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  8. The lack of an efficient train line from Central Melbourne to Tulla drives us nuts.

    Joe and I drive our car to a locked car park within 5 ks of the airport and then get a bus transfer run by the car park company. But Melbourne is a city that encourages public transport, not private cars!!!

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    1. Hels, we have tried that but we had to allow so much extra time. We find the long term airport car park if booked well in advance is not too bad. A taxi is not a really expensive option for us either.

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  9. As what you post. I haven't seen anything close to this. But the town I'm buy has less then 3,000 people

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    1. Yes Dora. Toronto is a very big and very nice city.

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  10. We have no train to the airport in Perth either, but I wonder if it would actually fill up as Perth doesn't have that many people. I used the Sydney train to and from the airport, it's good but the price is over the top.

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    1. Smai, a train to your airport is coming. I believe it is under construction now.

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  11. It would be really excellent to have a train to the airport Andrew, it just makes sense especially when most cities are enticing more and more tourists to visit!

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    1. Grace, a train to the city does make it very easy for tourists when they first arrive at an airport.

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  12. We are lucky only takes about 15 minutes to airport from where we live. If picking someone up we look for plane or listen for ( can be just heard from home sometimes) then we get there just in time.

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    1. Margaret, I shall mention that to our friend in Launceston before we visit in April for a weekend.

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