FROM THE COURIER MAIL, 10/11/21
Written by Hayden Johnson
The Prime Minister’s special envoy on the Olympics has demanded southeast Queensland’s existing passenger train network be expanded into Maroochydore’s CBD as a compromise to high-speed rail.
Sunshine Coast LNP MP Ted O’Brien is calling on the State Government not to “squander the next few years” in the lead up to the 2032 Olympic Games and commit to building the heavy rail new line, after Infrastructure Australia found the long-touted fast-rail project did not stack up.
The track would be expanded from Beerwah into Maroochydore under the ambitious plan.
“We know the Queensland Government won’t agree to start building a new fast rail network between Brisbane and Maroochydore so let’s not squander the next few years arguing about it and getting nothing done,” he said.
“I propose the Queensland and Australian governments discuss an initial step of building a heavy-rail line between Beerwah east and the Maroochydore CBD.
“This new line can be built as an extension to the existing heavy rail network so long as it’s designed to accommodate the possibility of fast rail in the future.”
There are calls to build a heavy-rail line between Beerwah east and the Maroochydore CBD Picture: Brad Fleet
Fast rail between Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast was touted as a major project which could be delivered ahead of the 2032 Olympic Games which secured support from the Commonwealth Government.
However, with Infrastructure Australia finding the project was not viable and the State Government reluctant to build a rail line that won’t fit its existing rollingstock trains, the heavy-rail expansion is emerging as a major compromise.
Mr O’Brien said it was essential the expanded line was straight and wide enough to facilitate high-speed rail in the next two decades.
“This is a pragmatic solution … it is an interest-based proposal that will satisfy the interests of the state,” he said.
“It moves us towards the fast rail network vision but it doesn’t deliver on it.”
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, the state’s Olympics Minister, said her first priority for the Games was ensuring legislation establishing the organising committee passes parliament.
Under International Olympic Committee rules the committee must be legislated by December 21.
Mr O’Brien, who last month ruffled feathers within his own party by publicly criticising a perceived power grab by Ms Palaszczuk over the Brisbane 2032 organising committee, said the “clock is ticking” for the state and federal governments to start planning major infrastructure projects.
“Speed counts, the next 18 months are the most important for ensuring we create a lasting legacy from the Games,” he said.
The Queensland and Commonwealth Governments have agreed to a 50-50 funding split to build major infrastructure ahead of the 2032 Games, despite relations between the two remaining tense due to the management of Covid-19.
Mr O’Brien said the two levels of government must strike deals on major Olympic infrastructure projects and allow the private sector to follow with its investment.
“The planning and construction of these pieces of infrastructure takes years – we must start moving quickly,” he said.
“Our job should be to make the big decisions on infrastructure then get out of the way.
“Give the private sector certainty and comfort.”
Council of Mayors South East Queensland first launched an ambitious bid for the Olympic Games in 2015 to use it as a catalyst to accelerate infrastructure investment and economic development.
Its studies have found by 2031, the combination of population and employment growth will significantly increase transport demand across the region and by 2041 all major road corridors will be over capacity.
Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner. Picture: Peter Wallis
Council of Mayors analysis found the existing levels of planning and investment “does not keep up with the projected population growth and future transport demand” and has launched a Let’s Get Moving campaign to highlight the need to start planning for the Games.
“The Mayors of South East Queensland put our state on this journey to hosting the 2032 Games because they recognised it was a unique opportunity to get all levels of government working together to deliver for our region,” Council of Mayors chair and Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said.
“Now the Games are locked in, we need to start developing a detailed plan on what investment and infrastructure we will need to ensure the Games deliver an economic and social dividend for all residents.”
Mr Schrinner said the committee needed to start “asking ourselves questions about the Games’ experience of visiting spectators, athletes and officials as well as how this infrastructure can continue to deliver for a growing region”.
“For example, if you’ve got tickets for gymnastics at Chandler in the morning and beach volleyball at Broadbeach in the afternoon, is it possible to build the infrastructure necessary so spectators can have this experience? And does making these investments deliver long-term benefits for residents and visitors so they can continue to travel around our region faster and safer?,” he said.
“This is what we mean when we talk about legacy and what makes the opportunity of the Games so exciting.”
Ipswich City Mayor Teresa Harding said transport infrastructure was one of the main benefits to focus on.
“We need the transport infrastructure to not only help athletes and spectators move around our region, but also to help local residents get to work and back home to their families safer and faster,” she said.