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Govt urged to ‘put our money where its mouth is’ for heavy rail project

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A transport advocacy group and local politicians are urging the Queensland Government to get moving on a proposed train line on the Sunshine Coast.

Federal and state MPs have demanded more funding and approvals for the planned 37km dual track between Beerwah and Maroochydore.

But a Department of Transport and Main Roads spokesperson said officials would consider the findings of a business case for the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line this year before considering further funding for the project.

Rail Back on Track (RBOT) and local politicians said there had been very little progress on the project that is required for a population boom and the 2032 Olympic Games.

“Way too slow,” RBOT spokesperson Jeff Addison said.

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“It was (first) listed for construction in the 2005-06 state budget.

“It is in catastrophic danger of not being ready in time for the Games.

“It requires urgent state government funding and approval to proceed.”

The planned passenger train line, from Beerwah to Maroochydore, in green. Picture: TMR

The federal government has $1.6 billion on the table for the project, including $160 million for planning and $1.44 billion for construction, but said it would further examine the details amid fears of a cost blow-out.

Meanwhile, the state government has contributed a relatively modest $14 million for the business case, which was completed in December and is being assessed this year.

“The state needs to put our money where its mouth is,” Mr Addison said.

He urged the state government to start construction as soon as possible.

“Get cracking, building it all the way to Maroochydore,” he said.

“It took them six years to design and build the 12.5km Redcliffe line (and) it took them six years to design and build the 13.6km Springfield line.

“The previous (Transport) Minister (Mark Bailey) claimed it could be done but under recent historic construction rates it’d take them almost 18 years to build the longer Sunshine Coast line.

“We have eight years left.”

Some of the proposed stops on a heavy rail line would have elevated stations and walkways.

Mr Addison said preliminary details of the project, including the proposed route, appeared to be sound.

“It will be duplicated tracks designed for 160km/h train speeds, which is a good thing,” he said.

“This results in the proposed Little Mountain tunnel getting extended from 700m up to 1100m long, but a worthwhile action to future-proof the line and improve train transport speeds.”

Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace said the project was taking too long.

“It has been nearly 21 months since the former Coalition Government committed $1.6 billion to the construction of 37km rail line, and yet the State Labor Government have not contributed a single cent (aside from the business case) to delivering the Sunshine Coast rail project,” he said.

“We are less than nine years away from the Games, and I’m told this project will take eight years to build.

“Any further dithering and delays and the absence of state funding only puts this project at further risk of not being completed before the Olympic cauldron is lit.”

The state government has allocated $14m to a Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line study but the full project could cost billions. Picture: AAP

State Member for Maroochydore Fiona Simpson said the project’s study results should be released and workers should start construction.

“The fight goes on to get proper passenger rail connecting Maroochydore to Brisbane,” she said.

“The delays to passenger rail are adding cost and complication. It’s time to release the business case and start building a modern public transport system.”

The business case was completed in December.

Sunshine Coast News asked TMR when a review could be finished and when an announcement could be made in relation to the project’s future.

SCN also asked whether the project could cost significantly more than anticipated.

A TMR spokesperson responded by saying the state government would review the business case this year, before any more decisions are made on the project.

“The Queensland and Australian governments will consider the findings of the business case in 2024, including cost estimates and construction timeframes, before considering allocation of further funding for this project,” they said.

“This is a standard process for project planning and development which follows Queensland Treasury’s Project Assessment Framework. Queensland’s Project Assessment Framework is used across government to ensure a common, rigorous approach to assessing projects at critical stages in their life cycle, from the initial assessment of the service required, through to delivery.”

Details could be revealed at the mid-year state budget, but TMR has said on multiple occasions that it would consider all details of the business case before making further financial commitments.

The state government acknowledged the federal government’s $1.6 billion allocation towards delivery of the DSCRL, confirmed in its recent review of the infrastructure pipeline.

The service could allow people to commute with efficiency, easing congestion on the roads. Picture: Shutterstock

The proposed rail line is expected to ease congestion and be a key cog in the region’s transport future.

“It will provide a fast, reliable and sustainable connection between the Sunshine Coast community, Moreton Bay, Brisbane and beyond,” a TMR spokesperson has previously told Sunshine Coast News.

A corridor was preserved for the rail line, but some homes could make way. Property impacts were to be investigated as part of the business case.

The line is set to run from Beerwah to Maroochydore, via Caloundra and Kawana. It’s expected to complement the proposed Sunshine Coast Public Transport project, which is being designed to improve transport between local towns and suburbs.

It would essentially allow commuters to use efficient public transport between Brisbane and most towns and suburbs on the Sunshine Coast. Some changes to the route were announced last month.

Premier Steven Miles said, as deputy premier last month, that the project was high on the state government’s agenda.

“The Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line will be prioritised as part of the transport program for the 2032 Games,” he said.

Labor’s Member for Nicklin Rob Skelton told SCN last year that the state government was focused on “getting things done”.

“I’m proud to support the current record investment in public transport on the Sunshine Coast, including both the Sunshine Coast Direct Line study and the Stage 1 works for the Beerburrum to Nambour Rail Upgrade,” he said.

“The local LNP have used the issue of public transport on the Sunshine Coast as a political football for decades. I’m happy to be part of a government getting things done to deliver better outcomes for commuters on the Sunshine Coast.”

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