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Sourcing critical railway upgrade funding needs cool heads and smart solutions
A CRITICAL rail upgrade promised for completion four years ago won't have its funding priority confirmed for another 18 months.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads has revealed a new business case for duplication of the Beerburrum to Landsborough section of the North Coast line won't be ready for consideration by the State Government until mid-2017, after which funding for the project will be assessed against other priorities.
The proposed work will also include upgrades of the track to Nambour, duplication of which is now not in the pipeline before 2031.
The project remains uncosted with a spokesman saying that would not be generated until the completion of the business case.
Transport and Main Roads officials revealed yesterday that planning of the long-awaited Caboolture to Maroochydore Corridor Options Study (CAMCOS) rail link into the Sunshine Coast from Landsborough via Caloundra South was still on the table with design work now focused on the best route through Stockland's 50,000-population Aura development.
However, no advance beyond planning can be expected before 2031 at the earliest.
Uncertainty over the delivery of the rail line duplication comes after a Christmas-new year holiday break that saw the Bruce Highway and roads across the Sunshine Coast gridlocked during peak hours.
And it is set against proposed changes to extend the SEQ Regional Plan urban footprint and State Government projections the Sunshine Coast will grow by 60% during the next 20 years.
In 2006 Former Labor minister Paul Lucas promised the Beerburrum to Landsborough duplication would be completed by 2012.
In 2007 a Landsborough to Nambour duplication "initial advice statement" produced by consultant Arup said under a "Do Nothing Option" it was "likely the region will experience adverse socio-economic effects should the North Coast line not be upgraded".
And then in 2011 former Labor state treasurer Andrew Fraser issued a media statement stating that planning for the Landsborough to Nambour duplication was on track.
The entire duplication from Beerburrum to Nambour was a critical element of key planning documents including the SEQ Regional Plan 2000-2026, the SEQ Infrastructure Plan 2005-2026, the Draft Translink Network Plan of 2005 and the Rail Network Strategy for Queensland 2001-2011.
Assessment of the business case for the project will now rest with Building Queensland, a body established last year by the Palaszczuk Government to determine the state's infrastructure priorities.
Funding for the Beerburrum to Landsborough link was withdrawn in 2009 after Labor lost the railway town seat of Glass House to the LNP's Andrew Powell, who remains the member.
The Transport and Main Roads spokesman said yesterday: "The Queensland Government is committed to the progressive priority upgrade of the North Coast line to improve safety, efficiency and reliability. As such, the government has assessed potential property impacts within the required corridor for the Beerburrum to Landsborough rail upgrade project.
"This includes 82 properties between Beerburrum and Landsborough, 24 of which are privately owned and 162 properties between Landsborough and Nambour, 153 of which are privately owned.
"To date the government has acquired 11 properties between Beerburrum and Landsborough and 109 properties between Landsborough and Nambour. This proactive approach demonstrates the government's longer-term commitment to the North Coast line."
Sunshine Coast rail upgrade advocate Jeff Addison said the main issue remained the need to upgrade the eastern seaboard line between Brisbane and Cairns with particular attention to the Brisbane to Nambour section that was its weakest link.
"We can't see any light on the horizon,'' Mr Addison said.
"The Environmental Impact Statement announced in 2011 giving approval to proceed expired in November. They now have to redo the entire process.
"It's just been a litany of disappointment. We'll end up with a car-centric Coast. There's another city the size of Gladstone to be built at our southern end and an inadequate highway.
"It's negligence on the part of government.
"One passenger train will take more than 500 cars off the road. A single 1500m freight train removes 110 semi-trailers from the Bruce Highway."
This article first appeared on www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au
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