Brisbane-to-Sunshine Coast rail link locked in for Olympics with $5.5b funding

Brisbane-to-Sunshine Coast rail link locked in for Olympics with $5.5b funding
  • PublishedMay 13, 2024

A critical rail link between Brisbane and the beaches to its north is now locked in with a total of $5.5 billion secured from the state and federal governments.

The Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line will be 19 kilometres long from Beerwah to Caloundra in its first stage.

But long-term planning remains for the line to travel north along the coastline and then into the central business hub of Maroochydore.

Trains to cut commute by 45 minutes

Federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine King has announced the Commonwealth will bring its contribution to $2.75 billion and match the funding promised by Queensland premier Steven Miles in late February.

A map shows a railway on the Sunshine Coast.
The project has been on the books since the late 1990s.(Supplied: Queensland Government)

“We’re investing [an additional] $1.15 billion making sure the Sunshine Coast has the infrastructure it needs to connect it to opportunities in a faster, more reliable way,” Ms King said.

“Once complete, the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line will save commuters up to 45 minutes, with journeys from the new Sunshine Coast stations to Roma Street station taking around 45 minutes less than driving in peak hour.”

A high-up view of a housing estate, with mountain in background
The rail line will have stations linking into suburbs of Caloundra West, where 50,000 people are expected to live by 2050.(ABC Sunshine Coast, Owen Jacques)

Premier Steven Miles said the rail may also lead to more houses being built in an area notorious for its shortages.

“The heavy rail connection will also allow us to unlock tens of thousands of additional homes,” Mr Miles said.

“Homes that can allow us to relieve the pressure on supply, which we know is driving up prices,” he said.

Rail race for the Olympics

Mr Miles has previously said the Beerwah and Caloundra line could be ready for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics and Paralympics, but only with support from the Commonwealth.

Crowds of people on the sand and in the water at the beach on a sunny day
The new line will link Brisbane visitors and tourists to the Sunshine Coast’s renowned beaches.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Bree Dwyer)

The plan has been on the books since the late 1990s but never funded for construction.

In early 2022, the Morrison government vowed to pay $1.6 billion to develop the rail line to Maroochydore, to be matched by the state, but its budget never passed parliament due to the coming election.

While the funding was maintained by the incoming Labor government, the amount was too little to fund the whole project.

The state government estimates the first stage to Caloundra will likely cost between $5 billion and $7 billion.

New line will ‘anchor’ future rail

Ms King and Mr Miles said the decision to build the line in stages, and not all at once, was under advice from the project’s business case.

“The business case said that if you tried to build it all the way to Maroochydore, all at once, you would have no trains operating for at least 10 years,” he said.

“It would cost billions and billions of dollars more dollars that are not funded by the Australian Government.

“What we have here is a fully funded, well planned project that we can get underway on and start working on.”

Rail presser
The Federal Government has pledged an additional $1.15bn toward the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line(ABC Sunshine Coast: Bree Dwyer)

Caloundra MP Jason Hunt said the first part of the line would be an “anchor” for the rest.

“This a once in a generation funding infrastructure transport announcement,” he said.

He said the first stage to Caloundra would include 19km of track, 10 bridges, an overpass over the Bruce Highway, and about 7km of elevated rail over wetlands.

“The construction phase can now get ahead in 2026, to be completed by 2032.

“It’s a massive piece of work.”

Deputy Opposition Leader and Coast MP Jarrod Bleijie said not building the line to Maroochydore ahead of the Olympics amounted to a broken promise.

“Maroochydore and Kawana will miss out, and Caloundra will be consigned to a car park,” he said.

Transport and Main Roads director-general Sally Stannard said to expect 500 parking spots at each station along the new Caloundra line.

“Transport modelling shows us that’s the right amount to get started, they wouldn’t be full, there would be ample spaces for people to park,” she said.

TMR Director-General Sally Stannard
Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads Director-General Sally Stannard(ABC Sunshine Coast: Bree Dwyer)

Trains will ‘revolutionise’ Coast transport

Rail advocate Jeff Addison said he welcomed the locked-in funding that would “revolutionise” travel for residents and visitors to the region.

“We’re the only region of our size that doesn’t have a rail line that goes into its heart, and this will start that process,” he said.

“It means people will be able to come from the Gold Coast and Brisbane and get close to our beaches.

“It’ll revolutionise transport here on the Sunshine Coast.”

A man standing on the platform of a regional railway station
Rail advocate Jeff Addison says the fully-funded rail plan will “revolutionise” transport on the Sunshine Coast.(ABC News)

Mr Addison said although it was only the first stage, people would be able to catch a train most of the way to 2032 Olympic and Paralympic venues on the Coast.

He said he hoped trains would travel every 15 minutes to ensure they are well used by commuters between Brisbane and the Coast.

“If rail is fast, frequent, and affordable, people will use it,” Mr Addison said.

“At the moment. It’s not really fast, certainly not for people up on the Sunshine Coast.

“So this will go a long way towards improving that”

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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