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Qld government slammed for direct rail plan but Opposition unable to offer alternative option

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The state Opposition has pilloried the state government for its ‘off-track’ plan for heavy rail on the Sunshine Coast but cannot detail its own strategy for the line.

The deputy leader of the Liberal National Party Jarrod Bleijie told Sunshine Coast News that the government’s latest plans for the dual-track line were politically motivated, late and insufficient.

It was initially anticipated that a 37.8km route for high-speed trains would be built from Beerwah to Maroochydore in time for the 2032 Olympics.

But the government recently announced it would only commit to building a 19km section from Beerwah to Caloundra by then, after a business case summary revealed the entire line would cost $12 billion and would take many years to build. The business case said it might be possible to build Stage 2, from Caloundra to Birtinya, but it would not be possible to build the third and final stage to Maroochydore.

Mr Bleijie believed it was a power play to secure a marginal electorate.

“Their plan for Sunshine Coast rail is only political, because they’re desperate to hold the seat of Caloundra,” he said.

“The Sunshine Coast community has been waiting 30 years for heavy passenger rail to connect Beerwah to Caloundra to Kawana to Maroochydore.

“Sunshine Coast heavy passenger rail is off track.”

Do you have an opinion to share? Submit a Letter to the Editor at Sunshine Coast News via news@sunshinecoastnews.com.au. You must include your name and suburb.

He said the line ending at Caloundra would only add to the rapidly growing region’s traffic woes.

“Labor’s plans will create congestion chaos and it will turn Caloundra into a car park,” he said.

Mr Bleijie, the Member for Kawana, asked the Minister for Transport, Bart Mellish, if delays had cost the Sunshine Coast a heavy rail line to Maroochydore.

But the latter said the government was focused on providing for the region.

“We have committed $2.75 billion to the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line project: the largest investment any government has done,” he said.

The extended transport plan for the Sunshine Coast, including heavy rail (in green) and bus connections.

“This project is proposed to be delivered in stages, as we have done for many transport projects.

“What the member is proposing (Beerwah to Maroochydore) costs in the order of $12 billion, as the business case has indicated.

“The Opposition want to have it both ways. They want to be able to say that they can get to Maroochydore, but they have not locked in their federal colleagues in funding.

“(Federal Opposition leader) Peter Dutton, when asked a couple of weeks ago, would not even comment. He would not support the Opposition’s proposal to get straight to Maroochydore for $12 billion.

“The Opposition need to come clean on how they propose to fund getting Sunshine Coast direct rail (to Maroochydore).

“We have a proposal to get Sunshine Coast direct rail to Caloundra by the 2032 Olympic Games.”

Design plans for the station at Caloundra.

“We are investigating, as part of the business case, options to get to Birtinya (Kawana) and then further to Maroochydore.

“For those opposite to propose that they have a plan for Sunshine Coast direct rail is completely incorrect.

“They have a $12 billion unfunded, uncosted plan for Sunshine Coast direct rail.

“We have a plan on the table. The member for Caloundra is a strong supporter of this.

“The opposition cannot be trusted to deliver Sunshine Coast Direct Rail.”

Stage 1 of the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line, from Beerwah to Caloundra, is expected to cost $5.4 billion. The state government has pledged $2.75 billion. The federal government committed $1.6 billion for the project before the business case was submitted to Infrastructure Australia, for review and possible further funding.

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