Brisbane revives Cross River rail project 07 Apr 2016

Peter Kenyon, TunnelTalk

Brisbane is to establish a Cross River Delivery Authority to source funding for the latest reincarnation of a critical 10.2km rail link.

Fig 1. Cross River alignment"style="width:200px
Fig 1. Cross River alignment

At least three previous plans to deliver much-needed extra rail capacity across the Brisbane River that splits the Australian city in two have been investigated and subsequently axed for political reasons.

The latest version – announced by the Queensland Government yesterday (April 7) – involves construction of a 5.9km tunnel under the river and the CBD, plus five new stations, to link the city’s northern and southern rail networks (Fig 1). Previous proposals that incorporated bus lanes inside the tunnel have been dropped.

The Queensland Government said in a statement released yesterday (April 7): “The previous Cross River Rail proposal was given ‘ready to proceed’ status by Infrastructure Australia in 2012 and 2013 and the critical need for this project continues to grow.

“The new Cross River Rail alignment has been selected from a careful analysis of over 100 design options, building on the planning from previous underground proposals. It provides superior inner-city capacity and connectivity to the north and south.”

Technical investigations, including more than 40 geotechnical drilling tests in the Brisbane River itself, plus a further 100 tests throughout the corridor, have already been completed as part of previous project planning. These have informed the development of the new Cross River Rail alignment.

The project is now earmarked as “the Queensland Government’s highest priority infrastructure project,” and it already features in a national priority list of transit programs drawn up last year (2015) by the national government’s transportation agency, Infrastructure Australia.

With no major rail infrastructure investment in inner city Brisbane since 1996, and no new inner-city river crossings since the construction of the Merivale Bridge in 1978, there is significant pressure on the congested inner city network. Currently there is only one rail crossing of the Brisbane River, which means that by 2021 there will be no capacity to add new services to a city that is doubling in population every 30 years.

Merivale Bridge is Brisbane’s only rail river crossing
Merivale Bridge is Brisbane’s only rail river crossing

The first Cross River Rail proposed an 18km link from the Bowen Hills to Salisbury, providing connectivity to the south, but was considered to deliver minimal benefits for the northern suburbs at a significant anticipated cost of more than A$8 billion.

The latest proposal is estimated at A$5.2 billion, and the Queensland Government is now completing a business case for presentation to the national government later this year. The state government anticipates an 18-month procurement phase pending planning approvals and funding arrangements, followed by a five-year construction period beginning in 2018.

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