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Sourcing critical railway upgrade funding needs cool heads and smart solutions
IN A milestone announcement and after more than a century of talk, our politicians have placed money in a budget to investigate a rail link between Toowoomba and Brisbane.
The mayor has opted for a 45-minute trip and there are really few practical reasons why this could not be a reality.
A close look at the existing line from Brisbane to Helidon reveals only one short section near the Amberley Air Base which would need realigning and the Liverpool Range would have to have a new tunnel.
Otherwise, the whole alignment is excellent following the Inland Rail between Gatton and Grantham.
The major cost of the new access is a new tunnel through the Toowoomba Range and probably duplication of the line from Helidon.
This tunnel could be justified as a cost to the Inland Rail.
The Inland Rail will have a 26 kilometre line of about one and a half per cent vertical grade which will mean that a fully loaded double stacked freight train will have a maximum speed of about 21 kilometres per hour.
I fully realise that the locomotives are extremely reliable but the engine would be running at maximum power for about one hour and, if there was a hot tail wind from the north east of similar velocity, the cooling system would be taxed to the limit.
Going into the tunnel with limited ventilation, there would be a possibility (indeed remote) of the train breaking down in the tunnel.
If this occurred, access to the locomotive is difficult but absolutely necessary. The solution would be to have another tunnel beside the existing tunnel for breakdown trucks to access the locomotive.
This, naturally, would be used and almost continually available by the proposed passenger train.
The prospect of an express train to Brisbane taking under an hour would be a great incentive for Brisbane workers to live in Toowoomba and work in Brisbane.
Houses in Brisbane are generally $150,000 dearer than in Toowoomba and, with our better climate and environment, living here makes a lot of sense.
This price differential will be maintained as Toowoomba has unlimited areas for expansion unlike Brisbane.
This may cause our council to have a considerable, but pleasant, problem.
This will result in the need for car parking. A multi-storey car park beside the heritage-listed Toowoomba Railway Station would be an expensive and horrible prospect.
This could be overcome by a new station adjacent to the western end of the Toowoomba tunnel at the northern end of Boundary St. There is more than sufficient room for a huge car park there.
Inevitably, Boundary St will be part of the New England Highway as development of the CBD especially in Ruthven St is freezing out the existing alignment through the city.
It will be a great tourist attraction both for Brisbane residents and for all the tourists coming to South East Queensland.
The alignment between Helidon and Gowrie includes about four kilometres of viaduct.
As there will be scenery on both sides of these viaducts, this is equivalent of having the unheard of impression of very low flying up a mountain gorge. Naturally, for children, a six kilometre tunnel is exciting.
Surely this will be something for Toowoomba to boast about.
As Dr McVeigh said after the budget this item in the budget will reveal the immense environmental and social benefits of this proposal at a cost that the two governments can afford.
We look forward to the conclusions reached.
This article first appeared on www.thechronicle.com.au
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