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The Queensland government’s flagship $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project has been referred to the Auditor-General over claims it can not deliver the additional trains it has promised.
Rail infrastructure expert David Bannister, who made the referral, said three urgent changes needed to be made by March to allow it to be efficient in the long-term.
The planned new Roma Street Cross River Rail station.
Mr Bannister worked on the project with Queensland Rail from 2009 to 2016 and has compared changes made to the plans in July 2019 with Cross River Rail’s 2017 business case.
“When I compared the July 2019 changes to the 2017 business case, and I looked at the service plan that was possible on the track layout they had provided, it became really obvious that this was a fundamentally flawed way of trying to connect Cross River Rail into the network,” Mr Bannister said.
He said the 2019 changes, CRR's fourth iteration, added no extra trains from north coast rail services while adding four trains an hour from all lines running north-south through Brisbane.
Mr Bannister said that was not apparent to average Queenslanders because the project team had not published a service plan for the project.
While extra capacity was added to the Ferny Grove line, most population growth was on the Sunshine and Gold Coast fringes, he said.
"Cross River Rail will provide a capacity increase to the north coast line services of between 0 per cent and 25 per cent, and effectively no increase in service frequency overall," Mr Bannister said.
"For the lines with low growth and low patronage, the Ferny Grove and Shorncliffe lines, capacity increases of 250 per cent and 125 per cent, respectively, are being provided."
Mr Bannister referred the project to the Auditor-General last month after receiving no reply to his research from Queensland's Co-ordinator General, or the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority.
Changes needed to Cross River Rail project, according to David Bannister
The Queensland Audit Office said it would publish a report on transport issues "in December 2020, or early 2021".
Cross River Rail is designed to work by adding a third underground link to Brisbane’s existing Main and Suburban lines.
CRR's 2019 track layout changes shift everything that arrived on Brisbane northside on the Main line - the Redcliffe Peninsula, Caboolture and Sunshine Coast – to the Cross River Rail line, Mr Bannister said.
“So all that North Coast line traffic, instead of going straight ahead, turns right at the Mayne yard and goes through Cross River Rail, so all those trains from the North Coast line are just re-routed,” he said.
Brisbane's existing rail track capacity
David Bannister: "While Cross River Rail may be able to cater for 48 trains per hour, it will not increase the overall usage of the network by this much due to the way it is configured."
“It means they have gone from a 24 trains per hour corridor to 24 trains per hour corridor, so where the growth was required – the North Coast line – they actually don’t get any."
A Cross River Rail Delivery Authority spokesman said Mr Bannister's issues were investigated and rejected.
"The new Cross River Rail line will have capacity for 24 trains per hour in each direction," he said.
"That will in turn allow more trains to run more often across the entire south-east Queensland rail network."
Some lines run only eight trains an hour, meaning there was existing capacity for expansion in the network, the spokesman said.
He said the July 2019 final design for Cross River Rail was approved by Queensland's Coordinator-General.
"The independent Coordinator-General has approved the Cross River Rail project proceeding to its final design and Queenslanders can have a high level of confidence that the project’s design and planning is robust," the spokesman said.
"Mr Bannister’s submission was considered as part of the project’s approval process.
This article first appeared on www.brisbanetimes.com.au
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