Why transport infrastructure is key to Queensland’s future

South-East Queensland’s Cross River Rail is a key ingredient in the state’s future success.

A centrepiece of the Queensland State Government’s 2018 Budget was an announcement, made in May this year, of a $45 billion spend on infrastructure over the next four years. One of the key pieces of infrastructure under this announcement, seen as vital to the building of “future Queensland”, is the ambitious project known as the Cross River Rail (CRR).

The business case for the CRR says that it will “create the foundation for a world-class, integrated public transport system in South-East Queensland (SEQ)”. With a population expected to be 1.9 million greater by 2036, the state is having to answer questions about how it expects to move those people around. The CRR offers one of those answers.

Transport is not just a topic of political conversation in Queensland, but is being discussed Australia-wide. At the Australian Engineering Conference 2018, Sir Rod Eddington, former Chairman of government body Infrastructure Australia, will be discussing the fact that smart transport infrastructure is at the core of a city’s liveability.

“Cities are seen as more attractive places to live for a whole series of reasons, despite the challenges that living in them brings – the cost of housing, congestion availability of services, commutability,” he said.

“The bottom line is, we didn’t invest in our rail networks for a long time. As the cities get bigger and more congested, the best way to move large numbers of people down narrow corridors is rail.”

CRR, which will deliver 10.2 km of rail line (5.9 km in twin tunnels under the Brisbane River and CBD) between Dutton Park and Bowen Hills, as well as four new high-capacity, underground stations and two station upgrades, comes as the state admits roads and bus systems are beginning to reach capacity.

It has also been designed to release capacity across the entire rail network, clearing bottlenecks and creating opportunities for further rail extensions to growing parts of SEQ. It doubles rail capacity across the Brisbane River and, the business case says, allows for more people to live within 30 minutes of their work. Network expansions to Flagstone, Caloundra, Ipswich, Springfield and the Gold Coast all become possible thanks to the CRR. Around 23,000 trips each day are expected to shift from road to public transport by 2036, reducing travel times for all commuters.

Amazingly, the CRR’s Albert Street and Roma Street underground stations will be the first new CBD stations in 120 years! Growth areas such as Woolloongabba and Bowen Hills are expected to experience extra revitalisation support as a result of the new rail line. The project is forecast to generate around 1500 new jobs, directly and indirectly, annually over the next four years.

Cross River Rail

An artist’s impression of the future Albert Street Station. (Image: Courtesy Queensland Cross River Rail Delivery Authority)

Why is rail so important? A standard six-carriage train carries 750 people (and trains on the CRR will be up to nine carriages in length), compared to a bus that carries 65 people, a light rail train that carries 250 people, and a ferry that carries 165 people. Cars, of course, carry one to five commuters. No other form of transport comes close to rail in terms of moving large numbers of people.

Tenders for the major works are, at the time of writing, in progress. These include the tunnel work, from a location near Dutton Park station, under the CBD and the river, to a northern portal, four new underground stations, tunnel portals and dive structures, plus all associated electrical, mechanical and safety systems, vertical transport systems for passengers and track work, power systems and operation and control infrastructure. Minor works include demolition and clearing projects.

Clearing works have begun on the Woolloongabba site, which will be the launch pad for the tunnel boring machines and, eventually, the site of a new station. The CRR is expected to be fully complete by 2024.

Experts agree that the CRR is not just an interesting engineering project, but also an excellent way for the state of Queensland to future-proof its most populated regions.

“As the motor car arrived, rail patronage either stalled or fell a bit and, as a result, we took our eye off the rail ball particularly,” Eddington said.

“Roads are an important part of the jigsaw too, but inner cities only work if you have the right rail network as well as the right road network.”

Learn more about the future of Australia’s transport infrastructure at the Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney. To register, click here

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