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COAST real estate boss Rem Rafter says the case for Sunshine Coast Council's light rail push has weakened as a fast train project gathers steam.
Mr Rafter, who is managing director at CBRE Sunshine Coast, made the claim in light of a funding commitment for the North Coast Connect project's business case.
"Given the Federal Government support for North Coast Connect, it's hard now to make a case for council's light rail proposal," Mr Rafter said.
"The 50km light rail network would be too costly to build and it would take decades to pay for itself.
"Council has enough on its plate with the imminent start of the $347 million airport expansion and the first stages of development at SunCentral."
The council has been investigating and advocating for a light rail system for at least six years.
It last year increased the transport levy for ratepayers by $15 to help create a future fund of about $2 million, dedicated to bringing light rail to the Sunshine Coast.
CBRE Sunshine Coast managing director Rem Rafter wants a North Coast Connect station to be built at Sippy Downs.Contributed
A council spokeswoman said the council was strongly supportive of the North Coast Connect proposal to develop a business case for a fast rail connection from Maroochydore and Nambour to Brisbane.
"Council has supported this proposal from the outset and is working with the consortium partners on the approach to developing the business case," a spokeswoman said.
"That said, council also acknowledges that a fast rail network represents a city to city transport solution and by the nature of its technology, would not be suitable for transporting passengers between contiguous suburbs on the Sunshine Coast."
She said fast rail was not designed to stop every one to two kilometres to accommodate passenger movements between suburbs, like other public transport solutions.
"Given 90% per cent of all vehicle trips on the Sunshine Coast occur within the region and the latest Census data shows that 7.3% of the working population of the Sunshine Coast work in the Brisbane and Moreton Bay local government areas, it remains a critical priority for council to work with the Department of Transport and Main Roads in identifying a sustainable and effective public transport solution for the Sunshine Coast.
She said that solution, which could include light rail, would integrate with any fast rail infrastructure or North Coast Rail Line duplication that may be established if that infrastructure was funded by the state and federal governments.
"This is a clear priority given 80% of the current population of 303,000 people live in the coastal corridor between the Sunshine Coast Airport running south through Maroochydore, Kawana to Caloundra and approximately 90% of the forecast population growth of nearly 200,000 people through to 2041 will be accommodated in this same corridor."
She said that included development at Caloundra South and Beerwah East.
"Council is therefore continuing to work closely with the Department of Transport and Main Roads on the assessment of an appropriate and integrated public transport network for the Sunshine Coast.
"However, in doing so, it is recognised that the provision of public transport on the Sunshine Coast is the responsibility of the State Government and council is looking to its State Parliamentary representatives to provide a coherent plan on how they will advocate for and secure investment in an integrated public transport solution that will service the greater majority of residents and connect them with where the live, work and recreate."
A Transport and Main Roads spokeswoman said any future light rail project would be dependent on a business case developed by Sunshine Coast Council.
She said the State Government had committed to providing its Beerburrum to Nambour business case to the North Coast Connect consortium as an in-kind contribution as long as the Beerburrum to Nambour project continued to receive favourable consideration and was not delayed by the consortium's investigations.
"To support population growth and the economic development of the Sunshine Coast, the Queensland Government's Beerburrum to Nambour Rail Upgrade Project will improve safety, efficiency and reliability of rail connections between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast," the spokeswoman said.
"The project's business case has recently been considered favourably by Infrastructure Australia and the project was upgraded from a 'priority initiative' to a near term 'priority project'.
Mr Rafter said he thought Sippy Downs was an ideal destination for the North Coast Connect line as it passed from Maroochydore to Beerwah.
In the interim, he supported a major bus interchange and park and ride facility at Sippy Downs to help cater for growth at University of the Sunshine Coast.
"It's not hard to imagine the university being involved in a transport interchange and park and ride project," Mr Rafter said.
This article first appeared on www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au
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