Monday 20th May, 2019

Brisbane Metro, Beerburrum to Nambour upgrade approved by Infrastructure Australia

Brisbane Metro. Graphic: Brisbane City Council

Infrastructure Australia has approved the upgrade of a key section of Queensland’s north-south rail corridor and the Brisbane Metro high capacity bus project, and has urged governments to focus on public transport, in its latest Priority List update.

The $722 million upgrade of a 39-kilometre section of Queensland’s North Coast Line between Beerburrum and Nambour was previously listed by IA as a Priority Initiative before its evaluation this February.

Under the proposal assessed by IA, the Queensland Government plans to build two new tracks along an improved alignment between Beerburrum and Glass House Mountains, and then to duplicate the existing railway between Glass House Mountains and Landsborough.

New structures, including rail and road bridges, drainage structures and retaining walls will be built to accommodate the new track, and existing passing loops at Landsborough, Eudlo and Woombye stations will be extended.

“The project will address capacity constraints on this key section of the North Coast Line by nearly doubling the number of freight paths and enabling additional passenger services, which will improve the efficiency of passenger and freight services and ease pressure on the Bruce Highway,” IA said in its assessment.

The Queensland Government is proposing the Federal Government contribute $577.9 million of the needed funds, while it says it will contribute $144.5 million.

The approval of the project was part of IA’s latest Priority List update. The independent advisory body is tasked with assessing projects worth more than $100 million on behalf of the Australian Government.

The update released on March 27 is the first since July last year. It includes 12 approved projects, and 84 initiatives suggested for future assessment.

Several approved projects which have graduated to the delivery phase have been removed from the list, including the Melbourne Metro Rail project, the Murray Basin Rail Project, and the Adelaide-Tarcoola Rail Upgrade Acceleration.

The Perth Freight Link toll road project – which was cancelled by the freshly-elected McGowan Government last year – has also vanished from the list.

The Beerburrum to Nambour Rail Upgrade was joined as a new addition to the approved projects list by the Brisbane Metro, and the WA Government’s Myalup-Wellington water project.


Trad peeved at continued Cross River Rail snub

Brisbane Metro is a proposal from the Brisbane City Council, to solve the issue of significant bus congestion in the city’s centre, by delivering 60 bi-articulated buses to operate every three minutes in peak periods along a 21-kilometre route with 18 dedicated stations.

The Council and the State Government have worked together to push for both the Brisbane Metro and Cross River Rail projects to be approved by IA, but the latter project remains on the ‘High Priority Initiatives’ list, following its failed test by the independent body last year.

Queensland transport minister Jackie Trad reiterated her displeasure with Cross River Rail’s failure to proceed as a Priority Project, saying IA’s actions were politically motivated.

“We dispute Infrastructure Australia’s assessment,” she told ABC Radio on Tuesday. “The same transport modelling that was used for Brisbane Metro was used for Beerburrum to Nambour was used for Cross River Rail.

“It’s the same modelling, it’s the same maths; Infrastructure Australia is just choosing to assess them differently and I say it’s because they’re playing to the tune of their political masters.”

Queensland’s Labor Government has vowed to fully-fund the Cross River Rail project if it must. Premier Annastacia Palasczcuk has repeatedly alleged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition of blocking the project, but the PM has said his Government will only fund the project iof it gets IA approval.


Governments urged to focus on public transport

In handing down the new list, new IA chair Julieanne Alroe said governments need to respond to the demands of Australia’s growing population, with a focus on projects which will benefit cities and public transport networks.

“In the 10 years since Infrastructure Australia was formed, the Priority List has helped establish a longer-term view of our collective needs as a nation – one that enables our leaders to look beyond elections and budgetary cycles and make evidence-based investment decisions,” Alroe said.

“New investment-ready projects like the $1 billion Brisbane Metro and the $800 million Beerburrum to Nambour rail upgrade in South East Queensland have been prioritised because of their potential to deliver national productivity gains.

“We have also added new initiatives to improve rail network capacity in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to meet unprecedented demand in major capital cities.

“The Priority List identifies a number of additional opportunities to improve connectivity between capitals and neighbouring cities. This includes improvements to rail capacity on the Melbourne–Geelong and Brisbane–Gold Coast rail lines, as well as rail upgrades on lines from Sydney to the regional centres of Newcastle and Wollongong.”

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