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Rail line to coast has full funding after federal government announcement

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The federal government has committed a further $1.15 billion towards a heavy rail line on the Sunshine Coast.

Minister for Transport Catherine King on Monday announced the funding boost, which should see Stage 1 of the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line come to fruition.

The federal government has now pledged a total of $2.75 billion towards the project, while the state government has also committed $2.75 billion, to fully fund the $5.5 billion job.

The first stage will see a 19 kilometre dual track built from Beerwah to Caloundra, making it the longest spur line in Queensland’s south-east passenger network.

But the State Opposition said the funds failed to deliver the line to Kawana and Maroochydore, and added that Caloundra will essentially turn into a car park.

Once complete, journeys from new stations at Caloundra and Nirimba to Roma Street in Brisbane are expected to take around 45 minutes less than driving in peak hour.

The line should help ease congestion on South-East Queensland roads while making public transport a quicker, safer and more viable choice.

The full DSCR line, in green. Stage 1, which will go from Beerwah to Caloundra, has funds committed.

Planned future stages of the line are expected to go from Caloundra to Kawana and from Kawana to Maroochydore.

It had initially been hoped the line could be built to Maroochydore by the 2032 Olympic Games, but a business case summary revealed just how much the entire project could cost and outlined some of the issues associated with it.

But Minister King heralded the funding injection for Stage 1, which was announced one day before the federal budget.

“We’re investing $1.15 billion, making sure the Sunshine Coast has the infrastructure it needs to connect it to opportunities in a faster, more reliable way,” she said.

“We’re delivering the infrastructure – built by Australians – that improves safety, revitalises regions, and ensures Australia is well placed to compete in the new, net zero economy.”

Premier Stephen Miles, federal Minister for Infrastructure Catherine King, Member for Caloundra Jason Hunt, Member for Nicklin Rob Skelton and Senator for Queensland Anthony Chisolm, at Caloundra on Monday.

Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Senator for Queensland Anthony Chisholm said the line would be crucial in one of the country’s fastest-growing areas.

“More and more people are choosing to call the Sunshine Coast home, so we’re investing in the infrastructure this area needs to keep up with the growing demand,” he said.

“Once completed, the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line won’t just benefit locals here and those in Brisbane, but also the millions of tourists who visit the Coast each year.”

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The business case showed how much it could cost to build the entire project. There is funding committed for Stage 1.

The state government is committed to the delivery of the line from Beerwah to Caloundra, the planning of the line to Birtinya, and the protection of the alignment to Maroochydore, by 2032.

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

Mr Bleijie, the member for Kawana, believed the focus on Stage 1 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.”

He also issued a statement on Monday, after the funding announcement.

“Maroochydore and Kawana will miss out and Caloundra will be consigned to a car park,” the statement said.

“The LNP committed to the project years ago and remain the only ones who will deliver Sunshine Coast Heavy Passenger Rail to Maroochydore. The LNP’s commitment will see the project delivered the full length to Maroochydore via Beerwah, Caloundra and Kawana.”

The proposed station at Caloundra.

The federal member for Fisher, LNP’s Andrew Wallace, welcomed the funding announcement but said it was little and late.

“It’s a good thing for the federal government to be investing in rail on the Sunshine Coast, when we are one of the fastest growing areas in the country,” he said.

“But what it really reveals is that both the federal labor and state labor governments are spending around $5 billion to prop up a state the state seat of Caloundra.

“When we costed this project only three years ago, this project was going to be a rail project all the way from Beerwah to Maroochydore … and now, of course, delays in infrastructure costs means billions of dollars in additional costs.”

“It (the $1.16b funding) is simply not enough to run rail to Caloundra when, in just eight years, we are going to have the Olympics and the Paralympics on the Sunshine Coast.

“We’ve got events in Alexandra Headland, and of course in Maroochydore: we need to get that rail all the way through to Maroochydore.”

State government officials, including Premier Stephen Miles, promoted the rail line and welcomed the funding announcement.

“A direct rail connection to the Sunshine Coast will unlock thousands of homes in the growing Sunshine Coast region and accelerate the release of new, affordable developments,” he said.

Minister Catherine King announces the funding boost.

“Without the rail line, that development would bring an unmanageable level of congestion to the local road network, making this connection essential for new housing to be brought forward.”

Deputy Premier and Treasurer Cameron Dick said the line “will transform South-East Queensland.”

“The Sunshine Coast has a growing economy and approximately 11 million annual visitors who currently rely on private vehicles, so this project will make it easier and faster to work, holiday, or travel to see friends and family.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Bart Mellish said the track “will revolutionise public transport”.

“Sunny Coast residents will also get another first – a direct rail journey to the AFL or the Ekka, thanks to Cross River Rail. No station change needed. Suncorp Stadium will also be just a short walk from Roma Street.”

“The project will also deliver cleaner and greener transport for a more sustainable Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and provide a lasting legacy for these communities.”

Member for Caloundra Jason Hunt said the region stood to benefit from it.

“This rail line will connect people on the Sunshine Coast to Moreton Bay and Brisbane for work, medical appointments, sporting and cultural events.”

Mayor Rosanna Natoli welcomed the funding announcement.

Sunshine Coast Mayor Rosanna Natoli welcomed the rail investment.

“An effective, reliable and sustainable public transport network is critical to the liveability of the Sunshine Coast and supporting the productivity of our economy,” she said.

“We need this to help people move around, get to work and access services and relieve unmanageable traffic congestion.

“Our council looks forward to working with the Australian and State governments on how this investment can be stretched to deliver this project beyond Caloundra – with our ultimate goal of securing funding to deliver the rail connection to Maroochydore.”

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