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The business case for Brisbane's $8 billion cross river rail project will be finished “in the next few months”, raising the possibility of a pre-election announcement.
But Queensland Transport Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday declined to comment when asked what discussions she may have had with the federal government about a potential election eve funding agreement.
“I can't reveal that at the moment,” she told reporters at a media event heralding preliminary drilling tests currently underway in the Brisbane River.
In January, the state government announced it would delay construction of the cross river rail project by up to two years, with completion unlikely until 2020, because of the financial impact of the summer floods.
But the government has been keen to promote the fact it has continued to push ahead with planning work for the 18-kilometre north-south railway line that will include 10 kilometres of underground tunnels from Yeerongpilly to Victoria Park.
Ms Palaszczuk said the proposed funding split – detailing how much money would come from the federal government, the state government and the private sector – was yet to be finalised.
The minister said she had had preliminary discussions with the federal government and would continue talks once the business case was completed and submitted to Infrastructure Australia.
“The business case should be completed in the next few months,” she said.
An election is due in the first half of next year, with speculation surrounding February or March.
However, the prospect of the state seeking funding from Canberra comes as the federal government tries to rein in spending in a bid to stick to its pledge to return the budget to surplus by 2012/13.
Ms Palaszczuk said the cross river rail project could be delivered in a “staged” manner so that priority sections would come first.
Her comments came as drilling continued to firm up planners' knowledge of the exact characteristics of the rock underneath the Brisbane River.
Workers on a floating barge, set up near the City Botanic Gardens last week, will drill about 15 holes up to 60 metres deep between now and early next year.
This will help determine exactly where and how deep the rail tunnels under the river should be.
Project director Luke Franzmann said the project would ultimately require seven-metre-wide tunnels to be bored, and the quality of the rock would determine what type of tunnel boring machine suited.
He said the drilling work could build on the knowledge of the riverbed already drawn from the nearby Clem7 tunnel and Captain Cook Bridge projects.
The cross river rail project is touted as a solution to the rail capacity crisis looming in about 2016, with an extra river crossing allowing extra trains to head north and south.
The Liberal National Party argues it can delay the capacity problems by five years by building an extra platform at the South Brisbane and South Bank train stations, and has vowed to look for ways to deliver a cross river rail project at a lower cost.
The government's proposal would include four new underground train stations at Boggo Road, Woolloongabba, Albert Street and Roma Street, two new surface stations at Yeerongpilly and the Exhibition Grounds, and upgrades to the Rocklea and Moorooka stations.
Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/cross-river-rail-firms-as-preelection-sweetener-20111129-1o52t.html
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