On again – Off again ... Cross River Rail

Touted as one of the major new urban rail projects in Queensland, Brisbane's Cross River Rail project is being thrown backwards and forwards like a political ping-pong ball at present – especially as the Federal election heat builds up.

Brisbane CBD's Merivale Bridge, the major rail bridge into the city from the south, is almost at capacity and looking 'worse for wear' at times, so an additional CBD bridge crossing is essential for a city of this size, geography and growth potential of its outer suburbs and Gold Coast. Daily train commuters from the south and east are often subject to delays, chronic overcrowding and a city river crossing bursting at the seams. Brisbane's inner city tracks/ platforms are predicted to reach capacity by 2016. Meanwhile South-East Queensland's population is set to grown from 2.8million to 4.4 million residents by 2031.

The 'solution' appears to be Cross River Rail project, with additional train stations and an extra city river crossing taking the load off the increasing train bottleneck and problems. $60million has already been spent in the planning phase.

Cross River Rail's key components are:

  • Construction of two running tunnels from Yeerongpilly in the south to Victoria Park in the north, and under the CBD and Brisbane River
  • Four new underground stations at Woolloongabba, Boggo Road, Albert Street and Roma Street
  • Connections to the existing northern and southern rail network.
  • Estimated completion in 2021.
  • Total project cost estimated to be around $5billion.

Why the current project delays?

It comes down to one simple thing: money! And who pays or is prepared to pay for it.

The current political tug of war can be summarised as follows:

  • Federal Labor government has pledged $715million towards the project if they are re-elected in September. This may sound terrific, however, this funding will only be made available if the Queensland State Government matches this amount.
  • Federal Liberal opposition will not give any funding to this project if elected, rather towards improving the highway network in Queensland. This means the state government would have to foot the entire bill.
  • Queensland State Government is desperately trying to get the state back into some sort financial shape, and doesn't have the funds needed for the project – neither partially nor totally. This would mean using monies earmarked for other essential or critical services / projects within the state.

... and the solution?

Apart from a money-making machine, there does not currently appear to be any solution out of this deadlock. Despite planned improvements to increase train and commuter flow I fear that rail commuters will just have to put up with the situation getting increasingly worse unless this project goes ahead.

Anyone who works in the CBD can only hope that a solution or compromise will be found sooner rather than later – but I'm not holding my breathe until then!


Cross River Rail details:

How the Rail line will flow and what stations are planned where can be found on the Department of Transport website.

However the 'Latest News' is not very current and only shows updates until December 2012.

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