The long-awaited proposal for faster rail on the Sunshine Coast has failed to take an important step forward because of a lack of commitment from the Queensland Labor Government. The North Coast Connect business case evaluation published today by Infrastructure Australia states that the project cannot be included on their Infrastructure Priority List because it is not clear “who will be responsible for delivery” and that they have “a number of concerns associated with the lack of State input”.
Gathering signatures for his heavy rail petition at the site of one of the proposed faster rail stations in Birtinya, Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace said that all was not lost for faster rail on the Sunshine Coast, but called on the Queensland Government to state a clear position on the project.
“Although this project did not make the priority list this time, Infrastructure Australia did acknowledge that the Sunshine Coast needs new infrastructure, including rail, to deal with our growing population and increasing congestion. Though a priority listing would have been a great step forward, I am told that the advice provided by Infrastructure Australia does not prevent the State and Federal Governments funding this project in the future. However, no progress will happen without a clear indication from the Queensland State Labor Government that they are willing to get behind the project.” Mr Wallace said.
“At this early stage of development it would cost the Palaszczuk Government nothing to get on board, acknowledge the importance of faster rail through Caloundra, Kawana and Maroochydore, and agree that if it goes ahead they will take responsibility for managing construction, just as they do with every other rail project in Queensland. We need that support for this project to progress, so I am asking Minister Mark Bailey today to let us know; do you support faster rail for the Sunshine Coast?” he said.
The North Coast Connect proposal, funded with $6.75 million from the Federal Government as part of its 20 year Faster Rail Plan, would see construction of faster rail from Brisbane via Beerwah and along the CAMCOS corridor with new stations at Caloundra, Kawana and Maroochydore. Travel times from the Coast to Brisbane would be cut to under an hour while trains would run every 30 minutes in peak periods. The proposal is strongly supported by local stakeholders, including the South East Queensland Council of Mayors.
“Sunshine Coast residents know that heavy rail on the CAMCOS corridor is a must-have for our community. The National Faster Rail Agency believes that Infrastructure Australia’s assessment has underestimated the long-term benefits of this project and I know that the Morrison Government remains committed to delivering faster and more efficient transport infrastructure. We are already investing $2 billion in faster rail from Melbourne to Geelong and the Minister has told me he will carefully consider the potential next steps for working with the Queensland Government to take this Sunshine Coast project forward. However, to make that happen we need to know whether the Labor State Member for Caloundra and the Palaszczuk Government are willing to come to the table.” Mr Wallace said.
Infrastructure Australia noted in its evaluation of the proposal, which was undertaken by a consortium of Stockland, Urbis, SMEC and KPMG, that “The North Coast Connect project is not currently identified in Queensland’s transport strategy and it is unclear how the proposal aligns with the Queensland Government’s passenger rail plans.”
“I believe heavy rail along the CAMCOS corridor through Kawana and Caloundra could form the centrepiece of our region’s recovery from COVID-19 and I hope that the Queensland Government will show today that they understand the transformative impact it could have. In the meantime, if you are a Sunshine Coast local like me who wants to see heavy rail on the Sunshine Coast then you can help out. Just visit my website and sign my petition to show your support for this project!” Mr Wallace said.
Sunshine Coast locals wishing to express their support for heavy rail on the CAMCOS corridor should visit www.sunshinecoastrail.com.au.
The Infrastructure Australia Project Busines Case Evaluation Summary for North Coast Connect is available at https://www.infrastructureaustralia.gov.au/projects/north-coast-connect