The Federal Government says construction of a passenger railway line from Beerwah to the coastal strip must start in 2023 to be completed in time for the Olympic Games in 2032.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher told Sunshine Coast News it would take nine years to build the long-awaited heavy rail, historically known as CAMCOS.
Mr Fletcher was visiting the Sunshine Coast on Tuesday as part of the federal election campaign and ramped up pressure on the State Government to co-fund the project.
He revealed figures from the confidential business case for what has been dubbed ‘North Coast Connect’ showing the total cost of building the line from Beerwah to Caloundra and Maroochydore would be $2.913 billion.
That figured was scaled up to $3.2 billion to take a “conservative approach”.
Mr Fletcher released the costing after Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey accused the Morrison Government of plucking a figure “out of thin air” when the Coalition promised funding in the budget.
The Federal Government committed $1.6 billion — half of the cost of the project — in March which Mr Fletcher said was the single-largest commitment to transport infrastructure in the federal budget.
Mr Fletcher said the Federal Government would not consider covering the full cost itself and called on Mr Bailey to pledge that the State would pay for the other 50 per cent.
“For this rail line to support the growth of the Sunshine Coast and to be delivered in time for the Olympics, the Queensland Government needs to come to the table and commit to this project.”
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He said the 600-page business case estimated a nine-year timeframe which included 3.5 years of planning and design and five years of actual building.
Mr Fletcher said if the State Government came to the table, early work could begin right away, including more “granular” designing and procurement of a project partner.
“We need to get moving on this quickly if we are going to get this done for the Olympics,” said Mr Fletcher.
He said the timeframe was based on similar heavy rail projects in Australia such as the Redcliffe Peninsula Rail Line which opened in 2016.
However Mr Bailey again rubbished the Federal Government’s costings and said the Queensland Government would wait for the results of a separate joint $6 million planning study underway.
Mr Bailey said the Morrison Government’s own advisory body, Infrastructure Australia, had rejected the North Coast Connect business case as “weak”.
“That’s why the Palaszczuk Government sought agreement from the Federal Government to ensure proper planning was done.
“We have a joint $6 million planning study underway. We’ll maintain faith with that process and make a decision based on a robust assessment from that work.”
Meanwhile, when asked if the Federal Government would also support a separate light rail project on the Sunshine Coast, Mr Fletcher would not be drawn.
The State Government is currently developing a detailed business case for a Mass Transit System, sought by Sunshine Coast Council, along the coastal strip which could be light rail, trams or electric buses.
Mr Fletcher would not say whether he believed a heavy rail line from the hinterland was more important to the region than light rail in the urban corridor.
“Our focus is on heavy rail and that’s what we’re making a funding commitment for,” he said.
“I’m focussed on committing to heavy rail.
“I think heavy rail is critical for the Olympics and people having access to public transport and connectivity to Brisbane.
“It’s going to be significant in shaping growth and the future the Sunshine Coast and that’s why it’s nationally significant.”
Mr Fletcher said he hoped to reach a construction agreement with the Queensland Government.