Questions over new coast rail line plan

February 26, 2024 10:16 am in by

The State Government is committing an initial $2.75 billion to deliver Stage 1 of the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line project, which includes protection of the updated rail alignment all the way to Maroochydore.

The first stage will see a 19 km dual track built from Beerwah to Caloundra.

Staged delivery will see the line ultimately run to Birtinya and Maroochydore. This will deliver faster rail to the Sunshine Coast, with trains able to reach speeds of 140km per hour on some sections of the track.

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The Government said the Beerwah to Caloundra stage could be operational in time for Brisbane 2032, subject to a matched funding agreement from the Federal Government.

The Commonwealth has previously committed $1.6 billion to the project but will need to find another $1.1 billion if it’s to proceed.

The former Transport Minister, Mark Bailey, told me in an interview last June that the Government was committed to building the 36km line all the way to Maroochydore and that it would be completed in time for the 2032 Olympics.

With the line not going past Caloundra it means Olympic facilities at Kawana and Alex Headland and the athlete’s village in the Maroochydore city centre won’t have a rail service.

The Opposition and rail commuter advocates have slammed the move.

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Deputy Opposition leader and Kawana MP, Jarrod Bleijie, said it is a broken promise that fails to deliver a commitment for legacy infrastructure that was included in the original bid for the Games.

Mr Bleijie said with the rail terminating at Caloundra it will create traffic chaos on the southern end of the coast and risks never being completed all the way to Maroochydore.

He said if the Opposition wins the October State election it will commit to building the line to Maroochydore in time for the Olympics.

Rail Back On Track spokesman, Jeffrey Addison, said the project was promised by Premier Peter Beattie in 2005 at a cost of $1 billion.

He said the latest proposal is frustrating and continues the lack of commitment by all levels of government to rail on the Sunshine Coast

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Meanwhile, modelling shows most of the population growth that will see an estimated 600,000 people living on the coast by 2046 will be concentrated along the first stage of the rail line, around Caloundra South (Aura).

Stage 1 of the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line will be a significant enabler for new housing, including supply for 50,000 people at Caloundra South and up to 100,000 people at Beerwah East.

It’s expected the initial stage of the project will accelerate the delivery of more than 3,000 affordable and diverse homes already planned within the region.

The funding envelope for Stage 1 is expected to be between $5.5 billion and $7 billion, with final costs to be confirmed at the completion of the procurement phase.

Premier Steven Miles said “a direct rail connection to the Sunshine Coast will unlock thousands of homes in the growing Sunshine Coast region and accelerate the release of new, affordable developments.

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“Without the rail line, that development would bring an unmanageable level of congestion to the local road network, making this connection essential for new housing to be brought forward.

Labor’s Member for Caloundra, Jason Hunt, said “expanding the South East Queensland rail network with this direct line will benefit Queenslanders well into the future.

“This rail line will connect people on the Sunshine Coast to Moreton Bay and Brisbane for work, medical appointments, sporting and cultural events.

“We are committed to maintaining the liveability of the Sunshine Coast region. Direct Sunshine Coast Rail will help to support sustainable growth that ensures that we spend less time in traffic, and more time doing the things that we love,” Mr Hunt said.