CBD to beach in 45 minutes: How fast rail could unlock SEQ
A BLUEPRINT for fast rail that would connect Brisbane to the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba in as little as 45 minutes would create more than 8000 jobs at its peak as well pouring billions of dollars into the Queensland economy.
Project backers SEQ Mayors are meeting Federal Government ministers from today to brief them on the plan, as it calls on the Queensland Government to give the green light to a business case it says won't cost state taxpayers a cent.
The Courier-Mail can today reveal details of the plan that includes two pricing options - $16.9bn for a "60-minute region" or $28.8bn for the 45-minute option.
The blueprint argues southeast congestion is costing Queensland $6bn a year by 2031 and can only be unclogged with what would be the state's biggest infrastructure project to date.
As well as convincing commuters to finally ditch their cars to get in or out of the CBD, the scheme would unlock massive tourism and business potential, hooking up the southeast's four airports in Brisbane, the Gold and Sunshine coasts and Wellcamp in Toowoomba.
It would also lay the platform for any serious Olympics and Paralympics bid.
Waiting would add billions to the total cost, the mayors say, pointing to the mega-costs of Sydney and Melbourne's attempts at similar projects.
Under the 45-minute scheme, dedicated trains would travel at speeds of more than 160km/h, meaning trips times would be slashed.
Passengers from Ipswich would arrive in 21 minutes, Petrie 12 minutes, Loganlea 19 minutes, Toowoomba 52 minutes, Gold Coast Airport 45 minutes and Caloundra 41 minutes.
The 45-minute Fast Rail Network would generate 4464 jobs a year over two decades, with a peak of 8700 jobs.
The 60-minute option would generate 2619 jobs a year, peaking at 5000.
The mayors say the Commonwealth Government has committed $8 million to explore fast rail between Brisbane to Gold Coast, with another $15 million to explore passenger rail services between Brisbane and Toowoomba.
The North Coast Connect business case has also been completed and is currently sitting with the State Government for its consideration.
They are asking the State Government to commit to investigating fast rail alongside the Federal Government, the Council of Mayors (SEQ) and industry.
They argue while the $5.4bn Cross River Rail will help unchoke the inner city part of the City Train network, the New Generation rollingstock has an average running speed of roughly 6 km/h and a top speed of 140km/h, too slow to offer commuters in the outer rings of South East Queensland a reason to leave their cars behind and use public transport.
Council of Mayors (SEQ) Chair, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said population growth was already outpacing critical infrastructure.
"Our governments need to find a balance between local projects that keep communities moving forward, while planning for the major infrastructure that creates economic uplift and jobs for years to come," Cr Schrinner said.
"A South East Queensland Fast Rail network is the obvious next step beyond Cross River Rail, but we all know these business cases take time. Now is the time to start exploring the possibility of fast rail.
"A Fast Rail network is a critical part of building a successful proposal to secure the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and supercharging our economic and tourism recovery in the coming decade.
"Business-as-usual won't be enough to reboot our economy, we need our governments to think big."
A State Government spokesperson said it was "already exploring fast rail but it will cost billions of dollars, so any proposal needs to be matched by a genuine Federal Government commitment to invest appropriately in it.
"There are a series of major rail projects like Cross River Rail that need to be completed before any serious conversation about fast heavy rail between the Gold Coast and Brisbane can be considered.
"The current track configuration of the Gold Coast Rail Line between Kuraby and Beenleigh limits the ability for express trains to pass all stops during peak periods.
"It needs to be fixed and the business case for that piece of work is underway now with the Federal Government.
"We're also developing business cases for a passenger line from Salisbury to Beaudesert and between Toowoomba and Brisbane with the Federal Government."
The State Government has already contributed to a fast rail business case now with Infrastructure Australia for fast trains between Nambour and Brisbane with a spur line to Maroochydore, the spokesperson said.
It was also assessing first stage tenders for the $550m Beerburrum to Nambour Sunshine Coast Rail Duplication upgrade.
"Early works will start on that next year and will support almost 350 jobs on the Sunshine Coast."
Originally published as CBD to beach in 45 minutes: How fast rail could unlock SEQ