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Urban rail news in brief - July 2015
Inland rail a trifecta for Toowoomba region: mayor
AN UNDERGROUND freight tunnel will be carved through Brisbane's southside as part of an ambitious $5 billion plan to build an alternative rail line connecting the Queensland capital to Melbourne.
The Coalition will today announce $300 million in funding over three years to finalise plans for the 1800km inland track which promises to revolutionise freight movement in the eastern states.
Central to the project is 25km of new track between Acacia Ridge in Brisbane's southwest and the Port of Brisbane - mostly underground.
It comes just a day after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd revealed his own multibillion-dollar plan to relocate Australia's major naval base to Brisbane.
Mr Rudd has also trumpeted multibillion-dollar plans for high speed rail, that would eventually link Brisbane to Sydney and Melbourne.
The pitch to Queensland voters will create 3000 jobs a year from 2016, take dirty freight trains out of suburban areas and free major road arteries from heavy trucks.
The plans target several of Brisbane's key marginal seats around the port including Brisbane, Bonner, Moreton, Lilley and Kevin Rudd's Griffith.
Because of the geographical challenges and rapid advances in tunnelling technology, the State Government believes the best option is to put most of it underground, surfacing at the Gateway Motorway.
The $5 billion project - due to be completed by 2026 - includes updating existing train tracks, and building three new tracks from Yelarbon to Oakey, Rosewood to Kagaru and Acacia Ridge to the port.
For years the project has been on the drawing board, with the Port of Brisbane previously signalling interest in a freight line to Melbourne.
The Coalition funding announcement is also expected to take some of the heat off the Federal Coalition for its refusal to match Labor in allocating money for the Cross River Rail project.
The State Government has promised to contribute $467 million to the project.
Transport Minister Scott Emerson said the tunnel would have multiple benefits for southeast Queensland such as freeing up capacity for passenger services on the Ipswich and Beenleigh lines and taking controversial coal trains out of southside suburbs.
"Obviously the overall project has immense benefits in terms of getting trucks off our roads, getting more freight on to rail and alleviating some of the issues of having trains going through the suburbs," Mr Emerson said.
Planning will take up to three years followed by a 10-year construction period for a proposed delivery date of 2026.
Once completed, the line will be able to carry 25 million tonnes of freight a year - the equivalent of up to 812,000 B-double truck movements.
Federal Coalition deputy leader Warren Truss said there was already strong private sector interest in the $5.139 billion project spearheaded by the Port of Brisbane Corporation.
" Clearly this will mean a faster journey for freight between Melbourne and Brisbane avoiding the necessity to take trains in and out of Sydney," he said.
The funding announcement is also expected to take some of the heat off the Federal Coalition for its refusal to allocate any money for the Cross River Rail project.
"We acknowledge the Cross River Rail is an important project," Mr Truss said yesterday.
"The issue is whether the Commonwealth should be spending money on urban public transport or the interstate rail network and in particular the freight network.
Mr Emerson said the project had been around for many years but now was the "right time for it to be delivered".
This article first appeared on www.couriermail.com.au
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