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A FAST rail network for south east Queensland would take commuters from the centre of Ipswich into the Brisbane CBD in just 21 minutes and create thousands of jobs if it comes to fruition.
The SEQ Council of Mayors is urging the State Government and Opposition to get on board and commit to partnering with all levels of government and industry to “undertake a genuine exploration” of fast rail.
The network would include three lines, to Toowoomba, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, and the coalition of mayors argues it is a crucial project to bust congestion, boost tourism and stimulate the economy in the wake of COVID-19.
Ipswich mayor Teresa Harding speaks at the release of ConnectedSEQ, the SEQ Council of Mayors' strategy for fast rail in south east Queensland.It is estimated it would cost $16.9 billion for a ‘60-minute region’ or $28.8 billion for the ‘45-minute region’ with trains travelling at speeds of up to 160km/h.
Travel times into Roma Street station would be 21 minutes from Ipswich, 38 from Gatton, 46 from Withcott and 52 from Toowoomba for the fastest option.
Infrastructure Australia predicts congestion will cost the south east Queensland economy $6 billion a year by 2031.
The SEQ mayors talked up the huge economic benefits the transport project would provide.
They predict the faster 45-minute fast rail network would create 4,464 jobs a year with a peak of 87000 job a year at the height of construction over a 20 year period.
It would inject $12.6 billion into the economy directly from the creation of these jobs, according to the mayors.
A detailed business case is required to fully capture the full economic impact of the project.
The Federal Government has committed $8 million to investigate fast rail between Brisbane and the Gold Coast and another $15 million to explore passenger rail between Brisbane and Toowoomba.
A new ReachTEL poll found 90 per cent of the more than 2000 people quizzed backed such a project for the region.
Ipswich mayor Teresa Harding said a fast rail network would be a game changer for Ipswich, which is the fastest growing region in Queensland.
“This could be one of these projects which really kickstarts our economic recovery and improves our lifestyle,” she said.
“We have a growing population and the traffic congestion does really continue to be a major challenge for our region and the people of Ipswich.
“This rail network can create tens of thousands of jobs across a 20-year delivery while addressing the challenges of our growing region.
“It’s a massive thing for all of south east Queensland. We can see now the issues not having proper rail or roads.
“Imagine if it only takes 24 minutes, or 21 minutes (for the 60-minute option) to go from Ipswich station to Roma Street. How fantastic would that be?”
RAIL Back On Track spokesman Robert Dow said the project was “the sort of vision” that Queensland needed.
“We think the best option will be to use the existing rail corridor out to Calvert, which is west of Rosewood, and then use that Inland Rail corridor to get up to Toowoomba,” he said.
“I understand that the corridor is wide enough for a separate rail line for fast rail.
“We’ve got an existing quadruple railway track basically out to Darra.
“What it would need though is a triple line between Darra west (junction) and Calvert.
“They’d probably need to put in a third railway line. There is probably room in the corridor to do that.
“There have been plans in the past to put a triple line between Darra west and Redbank.
“What they might have to do is look at extending that additional railway line out to Calvert so they can have plenty of track capacity to run these trains express from Brisbane to Ipswich.”
The passionate Goodna public transport advocate said it was certainly achievable.
“What’s obviously going to be the big issue is going to be the cost,” he said.
RAIL Back On Track spokesman Robert Dow.“I think if they try to put a new corridor for the fast rail between Brisbane and Calvert, it would be prohibitively expensive.
“When you look at the Ipswich corridor, it’s got the capacity it just needs that additional line to make it a triple from Darra west out to Calvert.
“Once that’s done, everything is quite achievable. It’s a matter of funding and competing with the priorities which will be the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.
“Queensland Rail holds the Australian speed record with one of the Electric Tilt Trains at over 200km/h.
“They can certainly achieve the speed that we’re talking about on the 3.6 inch gauge.”
This article first appeared on www.couriermail.com.au
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