A fast rail connection tipped to cost almost $10 billion is one of two options, both appearing to bypass Nambour, preferred by a consortium pushing for high-speed rail.

The options were revealed in secret briefing documents from a report presented to stakeholders on a site tour of the region in July, 2019.

Nine short-listed options for North Coast Connect were compiled, with two recommended as worthwhile pursuing.

The two options put forward for progression focused on connecting Maroochydore to Brisbane.

The North Coast Connect project was launched in 2018 with a pitch to slash travel times from the Coast to Brisbane to 45 minutes.

Fears Nambour's fast rail dream has become ghost train

The project was being driven by a corporate consortium of Stockland, KPMG, Urbis and Smec, and backed by a group of Queensland MPs including Member for Fairfax Ted O'Brien.

The project steering committee included the SEQ Council of Mayors, Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast and Brisbane councils as well as the private sector.

Recent SEQ Council of Mayors mapping published showed a proposed fast rail corridor from Beerwah heading east along the CAMCOS corridor, with Beerwah to Nambour remaining on the Citytrain corridor.

North Coast Connect was initially pitched as a plan to deliver fast rail services from Nambour and Maroochydore to Brisbane, with a connection to Nambour in five years and Maroochydore in 10 years.

The two preferred options, estimated to cost between $5.42 billion - $5.85 billion and $9.13 billion - $9.49 billion respectively, both relied on upgrades on the North Coast Line as far north as Beerwah, with the existing track to remain in place from Beerwah to Nambour.

A new track would be built from Beerwah along the CAMCOS corridor to Maroochydore, servicing Stockland's Aura community at Caloundra South, with other proposed stops at Caloundra, Kawana and Maroochydore, and onto Sunshine Coast Airport in the second preferred option.

VISION: A map of a possible future fast rail network in the southeast, showing no fast rail corridor to Nambour.
VISION: A map of a possible future fast rail network in the southeast, showing no fast rail corridor to Nambour.

Both preferred routes also included plans for a 700m stretch of tunnel through Little Mountain.

Project objectives included in the July, 2019 briefing were the "realisation of land-use development objectives including urban densification and greenfield development" as well as improved transport efficiency and sub-one hour travel time between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.

Money train: Light rail investigation nears $12m

Demand for commuter trips from Moreton Bay and the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane was forecast to increase by about 62 per cent by 2041.

The briefing papers cited a minimum journey time of two hours between Nambour and Brisbane during morning peaks, despite the preferred options not delivering new or upgraded tracks from Beerwah to Nambour.

"Without intervention, the transport network will be unable to support regional growth," the document stated.

Member for Fairfax Ted O'Brien was understood to have requested from Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge a briefing from the National Faster Rail Agency on the full details of the North Coast Connect business case, including what was handed over to Infrastructure Australia for Evaluation.

It was understood probity advisers had been appointed to oversee the business case development process.

Fairfax MP Ted O'Brien. Picture: Patrick Woods
Fairfax MP Ted O'Brien. Picture: Patrick Woods

A spokeswoman for Stockland said the company's role in the business case "has now concluded and the final business case is subject to consideration by governments".

"Any inquiries related to the North Coast Connect business case can be directed to the Federal Government," the spokeswoman said.

An Infrastructure Australia spokeswoman confirmed the organisation was currently evaluating the North Coast Connect business case, having accepted it for evaluation in August.

The spokeswoman cited the Infrastructure Australia website, which said the North Coast Connect proposal included a "new dedicated track along the existing North Coast Line between Brisbane and Beerwah, and a new rail corridor to connect coastal population centres including Maroochydore and Caloundra to the North Coast Line".

The National Faster Rail Agency website stated the detailed business case "investigated options for a spur line from Beerwah to Maroochydore, upgrades along the existing corridor from Beerwah to Brisbane and a range of faster rail speeds".

Nambour Chamber of Commerce president Timothy Smith said the business community was demanding the town be added back into plans for the proposed fast rail corridor.

He said the recent mapping which showed Nambour not included in the fast rail corridor had sparked outrage, and ignoring Nambour in fast rail plans would "represent breathtaking short-sightedness".

"Nambour is a thriving business and cultural hub for the Sunshine Coast, and that's only set to intensify as our population expands," Mr Smith said.

Stockland’s Caloundra South development Aura is set for a stop on the proposed fast rail line, according to the preferred options. Picture: Patrick Woods
Stockland’s Caloundra South development Aura is set for a stop on the proposed fast rail line, according to the preferred options. Picture: Patrick Woods

"To exclude Nambour from the fast rail network is to ignore the vital part our town plays in the expansion of the Coast's population and economy over the next 50 years and beyond.

"Our community is crying out for a more efficient connection to Brisbane, and a high-speed rail network will facilitate this and also allow for more visitation not only to our part of the Sunshine Coast but provide for a way of decongesting the road network on the coast by way of the bus / rail interchange in Nambour."

New council boss has major transport wins to name

He said the Chamber would launch a campaign to have Nambour reinstated in considerations.

The consortium's two preferred options were forecast to slash travel times from Roma St to Caloundra to 58 minutes and 43 minutes and from Roma St to Maroochydore to 67 minutes and 57 minutes.

The two options had average speeds of 103km/h and 114km/h and maximum speeds of 190km/h and 240km/h respectively.

Further analysis revealed a time saving on one of the preferred options from Caboolture to Beerwah of more than 11 minutes compared to current Queensland Rail peak period travel times and more than 12 minutes from Petrie to Caboolture on the other preferred route.

Both options were proposed to be operated by Queensland Rail, services running every half-hour in peak periods and hourly in off-peak periods.

There are fears Nambour station could be left off the map when it comes to a fast rail service to the Sunshine Coast. Picture: John McCutcheon
There are fears Nambour station could be left off the map when it comes to a fast rail service to the Sunshine Coast. Picture: John McCutcheon

Details of possible staging of each of the preferred options was also documented.

Connections from Beerwah to Caloundra (2024-2027) and Caloundra to Maroochydore (2027-2029) were the first two stages of both proposals, while the final stage of the second preferred option was to connect Maroochydore to Sunshine Coast Airport (2035-2036).

The potential for public-private partnerships was also raised as part of the staging section of the briefing papers, with the CAMCOS aspect of the route offering "potential for PPP delivery as an early stage".

That was in part due to the connection it would provide to major employment and residential catchments of Caloundra South, Kawana and Maroochydore, although the Caboolture to Beerwah stretch provided the greatest time saving per dollar spent according to the modelling.

Package sizes of between $1 billion - $4 billion were understood to be considered the best option by contractors for a staged delivery.



REVEALED: What killed hundreds of fish at Lake Alford

Premium Content REVEALED: What killed hundreds of fish at Lake Alford

“Whilst the sight of dead wildlife can be confronting it is not altogether...

Gympie bank’s $1.5 million transformation marks new era

Premium Content Gympie bank’s $1.5 million transformation marks new era

Construction is well underway on a new $1.5 million banking hub to bring its branch...

24 Gubbi Gubbi placenames of Gympie region revealed

Premium Content 24 Gubbi Gubbi placenames of Gympie region revealed

BIG READ: Some places have held on to their origins or traditionally recognised...