Sunshine Coast Mass Transit Project Update
Infrastructure minister reveals timeframe to build long-awaited coastal railway line
The Federal Government says construction of a passenger railway line from Beerwah to the coastal strip must start in 2023 to be completed in time for the Olympic Games in 2032.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher told Sunshine Coast News it would take nine years to build the long-awaited heavy rail, historically known as CAMCOS.
Mr Fletcher was visiting the Sunshine Coast on Tuesday as part of the federal election campaign and ramped up pressure on the State Government to co-fund the project.
He revealed figures from the confidential business case for what has been dubbed ‘North Coast Connect’ showing the total cost of building the line from Beerwah to Caloundra and Maroochydore would be $2.913 billion.
That figured was scaled up to $3.2 billion to take a “conservative approach”.
Mr Fletcher released the costing after Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey accused the Morrison Government of plucking a figure “out of thin air” when the Coalition promised funding in the budget.
The Federal Government committed $1.6 billion — half of the cost of the project — in March which Mr Fletcher said was the single-largest commitment to transport infrastructure in the federal budget.
Mr Fletcher said the Federal Government would not consider covering the full cost itself and called on Mr Bailey to pledge that the State would pay for the other 50 per cent.
“For this rail line to support the growth of the Sunshine Coast and to be delivered in time for the Olympics, the Queensland Government needs to come to the table and commit to this project.”
He said the 600-page business case estimated a nine-year timeframe which included 3.5 years of planning and design and five years of actual building.
Mr Fletcher said if the State Government came to the table, early work could begin right away, including more “granular” designing and procurement of a project partner.
“We need to get moving on this quickly if we are going to get this done for the Olympics,” said Mr Fletcher.
He said the timeframe was based on similar heavy rail projects in Australia such as the Redcliffe Peninsula Rail Line which opened in 2016.
However Mr Bailey again rubbished the Federal Government’s costings and said the Queensland Government would wait for the results of a separate joint $6 million planning study underway.
Mr Bailey said the Morrison Government’s own advisory body, Infrastructure Australia, had rejected the North Coast Connect business case as “weak”.
“That’s why the Palaszczuk Government sought agreement from the Federal Government to ensure proper planning was done.
“We have a joint $6 million planning study underway. We’ll maintain faith with that process and make a decision based on a robust assessment from that work.”
Meanwhile, when asked if the Federal Government would also support a separate light rail project on the Sunshine Coast, Mr Fletcher would not be drawn.
The State Government is currently developing a detailed business case for a Mass Transit System, sought by Sunshine Coast Council, along the coastal strip which could be light rail, trams or electric buses.
Mr Fletcher would not say whether he believed a heavy rail line from the hinterland was more important to the region than light rail in the urban corridor.
“Our focus is on heavy rail and that’s what we’re making a funding commitment for,” he said.
“I’m focused on committing to heavy rail.
“I think heavy rail is critical for the Olympics and people having access to public transport and connectivity to Brisbane.
“It’s going to be significant in shaping growth and the future the Sunshine Coast and that’s why it’s nationally significant.”
Mr Fletcher said he hoped to reach a construction agreement with the Queensland Government.
Sunshine Coast Mass Transit Project Update
Posted on 15 Mar 2022 | Source: Sunshine Coast Council
Council is planning for the future so the lifestyle and environment we all enjoy can be maintained as we grow.
Between 2016 and 2041 it is projected that the Sunshine Coast population will increase by around 200,000 people. To maintain our lifestyle and amenity, we will need more sustainable transport options. This will enable us to efficiently connect people to jobs, recreation, tourism, services and education.
Based on experience, much of the growth is expected to occur in the coastal corridor between Maroochydore and Caloundra.
A mass transit system – whether it be based on bus or rail – can help manage the effects of growth. It can provide an alternative, sustainable mode of travel that is frequent, reliable, convenient and comfortable. Importantly, it can also reduce our dependence on private car travel.
Mass transit is one of many transport solutions that our region will need in the future. It will be part of a wider integrated transport network connecting local bus, heavy rail and active transport infrastructure.
Mass transit is a smart way to maintain a sustainable future for the Sunshine Coast. It will support jobs, tourism and a stronger economy. It will also create better connections between key destinations, help reduce growth in traffic congestion, promote more vibrant neighbourhoods and support greater housing choice.
Mass transit fast facts
- Five options have been recommended to be further considered for the mass transit solution as part of the Detailed Business Case analysis.
- Mass transit can move more people with less vehicles.
- Mass transit will support targeted redevelopment opportunities compatible with our existing character. These may be close to key centres or transit stations.
- Mass transit will link to major centres and other travel modes.
- Mass transit on the Sunshine Coast is an important consideration for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic games.
- The Sunshine Coast coastal corridor will grow with or without mass transit based on current trends.
- As we grow, adding more cars to the road in this corridor will worsen congestion.
- A mass transit system can provide a viable and efficient alternative to private vehicle travel for local trips.
- Mass transit will support our $2.7 billion tourism industry. It will enable visitors to efficiently and affordably connect our key centres and our events, accommodation and lifestyle hubs.
- The Options Analysis confirmed the problems and opportunities and identified five options to be progressed to the Detailed Business Case.
- The Detailed Business Case will confirm the best solution for the local area and whether the project proceeds or not.
- The delivery of mass transit will require the Queensland Government to fund the majority of the capital and all of the operating costs.
- The Australian Government may provide significant capital funding. While only a small proportion of capital could be provided by council.
- Council endorsed the Mass Transit Options Analysis 20 October 2021. The Queensland Government is now leading the Detailed Business Case in partnership with council.
Our region is growing. We need to protect our enviable lifestyle as it grows. A high-quality, integrated mass transit system is an essential part of our plan to be Australia’s most sustainable region: healthy, smart, creative by:
- reducing our high reliance on cars
- providing an alternative travel option to beat growing road congestion
- better connecting our key centres and attractions
- providing more inclusive and accessible transport
- supporting the 74% of Sunshine Coast trips that are local (under 10km)
- being more environmentally friendly and reducing carbon emissions
- moving more people with less vehicles
- supporting our $2.7 billion tourism industry
- limiting the spread of development into our natural areas
- supporting job creation close to where people live
- enabling more liveable, coastal neighbourhoods
- creating more walkable neighbourhoods.
Mass transit options
Building just one element of the transport master plan won’t solve the transport challenges facing our region. An integrated transport network is required that caters for more trips by public and active transport. This is the best way to protect the lifestyle and environment we enjoy into the future.
Transport planning is a long-term process. We won’t see the plan come to life for several years but we must keep moving toward sustainable and efficient transport as our region grows to over 500,000 residents. Council is not responsible for the detailed planning, delivery and operation of a new mass transit system. Council is responsible for planning the future of the region and managing growth in a sustainable way. That’s why we undertook the initial phases of the business case for mass transit.
By 2041, without shifting people to sustainable transport, we risk:
- 830,000 extra car trips on our roads each day
- Traffic congestion and lost productivity costing up to $3billion a year (currently estimated at $500m per year)
- Significant impacts on our liveability and natural environment.
Heavy rail vs mass transit
The heavy rail connection along the CAMCOS corridor will be suitable for traveling longer distances with less stops. While the local mass transit system will enable travel along shorter distances with more stops. The integration of the systems will enable greater connection across the Sunshine Coast. It will provide an easier and more convenient sustainable travel option.
Did you know that 74 percent of car trips made in the Sunshine Coast are local and under 10 kilometres?
Staging the Mass Transit system.
A regional mass transit system has to be delivered in stages. A staging plan is proposed based on the need to service the largest travel markets first, and to arrest the rate of urban expansion by supporting the urban consolidation policies already endorsed in the existing planning strategies.
An initial priority in the implementation of the public transport solution would be a local mass transit system in the northern part of the Sunshine Coast Urban Corridor, extending from Maroochydore City Centre to Sunshine Coast University Hospital at Birtinya. This part of the system is considered a priority because the area it would serve contains the Sunshine Coast's greatest concentration of population, jobs, facilities and services and is already experiencing growing traffic congestion.
Of equal importance will be the regional rail connection in the CAMCOS corridor linking the Maroochydore City Centre to the heart of South East Queensland.
Mass Transit Project progresses to the next stage
Sunshine Coast Council has given the green light to push ahead with its Mass Transit Project, but will emphasise to the State Government that there was “strong” opposition to light rail in the community.
At a marathon special meeting on Wednesday afternoon, councillors voted 8-to-3 to progress to the next stage, referring the project to the State Government to complete a Detailed Business Case.
The State would then decide which of the five transport options — high-quality bus corridor, trackless trams, light rail with wires, and wireless light rail — was the best “value for money”, however, the council would retain “a strong degree of influence”.
Once funding was secured from State and Federal Governments, work could start on Stage 1 from the Maroochydore CBD to Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH), by 2025, taking up to three years to complete around 2027.
Cr Winston Johnston moved an amendment to the motion, which was passed, to note that there had been “strong” community opposition to light rail with wires. A majority of councillors supported the amendment in order to send a clear message to the State Government.
However, the mass transit system would not be the only transport solution pursued on the Coast, with the regional rail CAMCOS proposal that has been on the cards for 20 years considered just as important, plus improving the bus network.
Council’s urban growth program director, James Coutts, told councillors that mass transit was only stage 1 of a broader Master Plan that included pushing for upgrades to the Beerwah to Nambour rail line, advocating the CAMCOS corridor and rolling out a high frequency bus network.
Cr Joe Natoli failed to have light rail removed from the list of options over community concerns the tracks, wires and poles would ruin the ambience of the beach between Maroochydore and Alexandra Headland.
He told the meeting that people from those suburbs were not against fixing traffic problems but were worried light rail would pave the way for highrise along the beach where “the sky’s the limit”.
A number of councillors raised concerns about light rail specifically, but said they felt the Coast needed to stay on the road of exploring all transport options before making a decision on which was best.
The meeting also heard some councillors’ views that certain public campaigns against light rail had been spreading “misinformation” and “scaremongering”.
Councillor Ted Hungerford said light rail was his least preferred option of the five but a decision had to made on facts not emotion and fear.
“What disappoints me is community opinions that are built on fear and emotion mislead and deceive and do not make for good decision-making,” said Cr Hungerford.
Deputy Mayor Rick Baberowksi said congestion on the Coast was spiralling and mass transit offered a solution, not only to traffic but the housing crisis.
“Mass transit means more housing options — not highrise — but mass transit can be part of the solution to the housing crisis,” said Cr Baberowski.
He said the results of the council’s public feedback revealed most suburbs were in favour of a mass transit system.
“If anything this survey demonstrates that even in the face of large co-ordinated campaigns largely on misrepresentation, most Sunshine Coast suburbs support the process moving forward.”
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The meeting heard that none of the LNP state MPs who had been publicly fighting against the mass transit project had accepted the mayor’s invitation for a private briefing on the project.
Mayor Mark Jamieson said the Coast had been working on a mass transit proposal since 2011 after inheriting the legacy from previous councils (before amalgamation) that did not work together to plan for traffic growth.
In those days, light rail was the only option.
Cr Jamieson said State and Federal governments had also failed the Coast, which was why the council was “standing up for our constituents” and finding a way to keep people moving.
The mayor repeated an often quoted statistic that the Sunshine Coast now has the second-highest ownership of cars in Australia, behind Perth.
Without a mass transit system that enabled and encouraged people not to drive, he said the arrival of 200,000 news residents over the next 20 years would choke the region.
Mayor Jamieson said Wednesday’s meeting was not about making a final decision on the type of mass transit system the Coast would have, but giving the green light to explore all five and select the best.
He added that he did not accept the LNP’s “sermons” that the Coast had to choose between mass transit and CAMCOS.
“What we are considering today is an Options Analysis. We’re not deciding on what type of transport solution should be delivered to the Sunshine Coast.
“We’re not deciding the final route for whatever is eventually delivered. We’re not rejecting CAMCOS, as I’ve said earlier, there’s no competition.
“And we’re not proposing any amendments to the Planning Scheme.
“What we are doing is receiving the results of the analysis of the five options considered, receiving the results of extensive community engagement for which our officers should be commended for conducting.”
Cr Maria Suarez said light rail was not her preferred option but the Coast needed a solution that would save people time and money.
She raised concerns about residents in her division having to catch two modes of transport, first catching a bus to the mass transit nodes.
“I don’t support the entire report but I do feel we need to take the next step and take fate into our owns hands,” she said.
Councillors Jason O’Pray, Joe Natoli and Christian Dickson voted against the motion.
Thousands have their say on Mass Transit options
23 June 2021 | Source: Sunshine Coast Council