17 May 2022

Brisbane to Maroochydore in 70 mins under 2032 rail plan

It would take about 70 minutes to travel from Brisbane to Maroochydore by train under the revised $3.2 billion plan partly funded in Tuesday night’s federal budget.

Four years ago, under a much-hyped high-speed rail dream, it was thought spectators at the 2032 Olympics would travel from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast in just 45 minutes by train.

Not any more. Timing, and budget, appear to have settled on the slower option, even if stakeholders agree rail upgrades are needed to support the growing south-east corner.

Maroochydore in 2032 will be the business and retail hub of the Sunshine Coast and people might be travelling there to see the early rounds of the Olympic basketball, some soccer or the marathon.

After 2032, concerts, ballet or major exhibitions could be held in the multi-function venue built there to host the preliminary basketball rounds at Olympics and Paralympics.

“That’s the big vision for me,” said Sunshine Coast federal MP Ted O’Brien, who has acted as the federal government’s Queensland link for the Olympics.

“The entertainment centre [at Maroochydore] is a big part of the story in our part of the world and the passenger rail line activates that.

“This whole thing gets transformed into the new heart of the Sunshine Coast, that’s the vision.”

While high-speed rail has long been trumpeted as the future of mass transit between cities, all that can be promised for the current Queensland projects is “faster rail” - and not that much faster.

The Beerwah to Maroochydore rail line is not planned as high-speed rail - where trains travel more than 200km/h - or even a fast rail where trains can travel at 165km/h.

Where the Sunshine Coast passenger rail line might run in 2032

Approximate south to north route

  • leaves Beerwah towards east Beerwah through state forest
  • over the Bruce Highway
  • behind the Aura residential development at Caloundra South
  • near the roundabout on Nicklin Way near Caloundra
  • across a 7 metre high bridge over Caloundra Road
  • towards the Sunshine Coast Hospital at Kawana
  • Mountain Creek
  • to the Maroochydore CBD.

It will be a spur line from the main Sunshine Coast rail line to Nambour, using existing rail and signalling technology.

There will be just three stops after Beerwah: one at Caloundra, one at Kawana and the final stop at the new Maroochydore CBD.

The project will not be the $5.3 billion fast rail concept explored by the North Coast Connect consortia and rejected by Infrastructure Australia in January, but Mr O’Brien said it would need to plan for that capability.

Despite promises of $1.6 billion earlier this week, which the Queensland government claimed was not enough, Mr O’Brien said there would be “about $250 million” set aside in the budget.

“The simple answer is we are assuming the bulk of construction will be in the second half of this decade because we’ve got multiple years ahead of detailed planning and design,” he said.

“So there will be about one quarter, about $250 million. The forward estimates [next four years] should have about $250 million, by memory.

“Then the bulk [of the $1.6 billion] is in the ‘out years’ [outside the budget] for construction.”

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick questioned the $3.2 billion price tag, but the proposed Beerwah to Maroochydore line is shorter than the proposed $5.3 billion Brisbane to Maroochydore link examined in 2021.

“They think they can deliver the project for $3.2 billion. That’s not the advice we’ve received previously, that it would be a more expensive project,” Mr Dick said.

However, Mr O’Brien said it was cheaper than the fast rail concept because it did not require the “smoothed” realigned curves - in some cases special rail track - and new signalling required under the North Coast Connect fast rail model.

He suggested the time to get from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast for the two weeks of the Olympics could be faster because “express services” could be planned ahead and other stations closed.

“But I’d be dragging your chain if I said that would be less than an hour,” Mr O’Brien said.

Federal Labor would not immediately match the promised $1.6 billion for Sunshine Coast rail project.

Opposition infrastructure spokeswoman Catherine King said the Coalition government was “splashing cash” before the election.

“Every year, the Morrison-Joyce government makes big splashy announcements and every year they fail to live up to the hype,” Ms King said.

SOURCE: https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/queensland/brisbane-to-maroochydore-in-70-mins-under-2032-rail-plan-20220329-p5a8vj.html

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