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MP voices opposition to light rail as five public transport options contemplated

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A member of federal parliament has called on the community to rally against a light rail proposal, as the state government considers options to improve public transport on the Sunshine Coast.

Light rail is among five options for enhanced travel from the Maroochydore City Centre to Sunshine Coast University Hospital at Birtinya, with a possible extension to Caloundra.

It would complement the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line and other proposed transport upgrades like the Kawana Motorway and Mooloolah River Interchange Upgrade.

But the LNP MP for Fisher, Andrew Wallace, said there was no place for light rail in the region.

“The light rail project will remove a lane either side of Nicklin Way and Alexandra Parade while allowing for a wall of high-density residential development along this same coastal strip,” he said.

“Light rail will worsen congestion and impact on the character and liveability of our community.

“In previous community feedback, light rail had the lowest number of positive sentiments and the highest number of negative sentiments. Despite this, it has not been ruled out.”

A Transport and Main Roads spokesperson said the department was undertaking a detailed business case for an improved public transport system, and exploring options including bus rapid transit, light rail, wireless light rail, trackless tram and a quality bus corridor.

“Our current focus is on narrowing down these mode options to identify which of these will progress through the detailed business case,” they said.

“We want to create the best possible public transport network for the Sunshine Coast and ensure everyone’s needs and views are considered when it comes to determining options for a future public transport system.

“Community consultation is currently underway for the project, until August 20.”

The project webpage said there was an over-reliance on car travel in the region, and more options were needed for commuters.

“With expansive growth forecast for the region between now and 2041, a fresh approach is needed to provide more convenient, sustainable and accessible ways to get around and develop an improved public transport system that connects everyone,” it said.

The department’s detailed business case comes as business and industry leaders meet with experts to discuss the region’s transport needs.

The public transport network could follow the coastline, adjacent to the proposed Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line.

The five options could come at varying costs and times.

A preliminary Sunshine Coast Mass Transit Options Analysis indicated that electric and wireless light rail could cost more than $1.5b to build, while trackless tram and bus rapid transit could cost more than $1.3b, while a quality bus corridor could cost about $427m.

It’s estimated the bus corridor would cost less than half of the others to operate, but the others could yield about three times the revenue in fares.

It’s not known how long it could be before work starts and finishes but the clock is ticking for the 2032 Olympic Games in South-East Queensland, and the region’s population is expected to balloon in coming years.

“Costing and possible timeframes for the shortlisted options will be developed as part of the detailed business case,” the TMR spokesperson said.

The $15m business case is being funded through contributions from the Australian Government, Queensland Government and Sunshine Coast Council.

Neither TMR or council commented when asked about the potential for high-density residential development along Nicklin Way and Alexandra Parade.

Sunshine Coast Public Transport options

Quality bus corridor: a high-frequency bus service running in dedicated kerbside bus priority lanes with features such as high-quality vehicles, pre-paid boarding and quality bus stops.

Preliminary analysis suggested it could cost $426m to build and it would be twice as cheap as the other options to operate, but it would generate less revenue.

Bus rapid transit: 25m-long, battery-powered, rubber-tyred vehicles running at high frequency in a dedicated busway corridor mostly in the centre of the road with high-quality stations, pre-paid boarding and priority signalling.

Preliminary analysis suggested it could cost $1.33b to build and it would cost about the same to operate as the tram and rail options and yield similar revenue.

Light rail: 45m-long modern rail vehicles running at high frequency on a dedicated trackway mostly in the centre of the road with high-quality stations, pre-paid boarding and priority signalling.

Preliminary analysis suggested it could cost $1.57b to build and it would cost about the same to operate as the tram, wireless rail and rapid bus options and yield similar revenue.

Trackless tram: 32m-long battery-powered rubber-tyred ‘tram like’ vehicles running at high frequency in a dedicated busway corridor mostly in the centre of the road with high-quality stations, pre-paid boarding and priority signalling.

Preliminary analysis suggested it could cost $1.34b to build and it would cost about the same to operate as the tram rail and rapid bus options and yield similar revenue.

Wireless light rail: A wire-free light rail system, identical to the light rail option, minus the overhead wires, with on-board batteries and charging equipment at select stations.

Preliminary analysis suggested it could cost $1.57b to build and it would cost about the same to operate as the tram, wired light rail and rapid bus options and yield similar revenue.

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