Rail duplication goes nowhere while pollies squabble
PRESSURE is mounting for immediate action on the long-awaited duplication of the North Coast Rail Line from Beerburrum to Nambour.
Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson has listed a very fast train link between the Coast, Brisbane and the Gold Coast as essential to managing people movement in the state's south east and One Nation's Steve Dickson has declared duplication to Nambour would be a priority if it held the balance of power after the next Queensland election.
Federal MP Andrew Wallace has urged the Palaszczuk Government to immediately contact federal transport minister Darren Chester to seek a slice of $10 billion in funding now available from the Commonwealth in the National Rail program.
"This is a great project, and it needs to be funded," Mr Wallace said.
"The ball is now in the State Labor Government's court. I call on the State Labor Government to get in touch with Minister Chester's office today, right now, to identify the North Coast rail duplication as a high priority project and begin a planning process to get this funded and delivered as soon as possible."
Deputy Premier and Minister for Transport Jackie Trad said the Rail fund would not be distributed for two years and even then it would only be "a paltry $200m, which we must compete with other states for".
"It is very hypocritical for the Member for Fisher to be demanding something of us when there is not a cent in the Turnbull Budget for the duplication or in fact for any rail project in Queensland," Ms Trad said.
"If Mr Wallace took a look at the Budget papers he would see that no money from this Rail fund will be distributed for two years.
"If Mr Wallace is too afraid to pick up the phone to his federal colleagues to lobby for funding from their own rail fund, then I can assure him I am not afraid and will keep doing his job as well as mine.
"We fully appreciate that this is an important project for the Sunshine Coast and we will continue the discussions we have been having with the federal government about delivering this project."
Mr Wallace said rail duplication was expensive with the cost of the Beerburrum to Lansborough stretch now out to $750m and the final stage to Nambour like to cost $1 billion.
"The money is there," Mr Wallace said. "It's now up to the Palaszczuk government to get off its backside and bid for the project, but I don't think it will.
"My view is they don't want to spend money on the Sunshine Coast."
Mr Wallace said he had lobbied hard for the project speaking three times in parliament of the need for duplication and by taking Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester to Landsborough to show him the single track laid in the 1890s.
Rail advocates say the Sunshine Coast had been dudded by the federal government's failure to allocate specific funding in the budget for duplication of at least the Beerburrum-Landsborough section of the North Coast line.
Rail Back on Track campaigner Robert Dow said given the line's role as part of the National Freight Network it was reasonable to expect funding would have been forthcoming given strong representation by Sunshine Coast federal MPs.
Mr Dow said Bruce Highway money on its own would not solve south east Queensland's transport crisis.
He said it would simply lead to the call for more lanes in five years time.
"The North Coast line has a 19th century alignment and is struggling to get passengers and freight through," Mr Dow said.
He said the Cross River Rail in Brisbane was never going to receive money in the Federal budget because it was only a third tier priority with Infrastructure Australia.
Another advocate, Jeff Addison said the business case had already been done to justify construction through to Nambour.
Fairfax MP Ted O'Brien said he definitely wanted to see duplication of the rail link to Nambour and promised any State Government push would have the 100% of Coast-based federal Members of Parliament.
State Labor Tibrogargan candidate Brent Hampstead said the continued snubbing of the North Coast Rail Line was a clear sign the Federal LNP Government had no commitment to public transport.
"It's one thing for Andrew Wallace to be in Canberra nodding his head during the budget speech, but we are shaking our heads at the lack of rail funding for our fast-growing community," Mr Hampstead said.
"No funding for the North Coast Rail equals another year of lost opportunity."