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Heavy Rail

Updated May 13, 2024

 

 Heavy rail to Caloundra (Stage 1) to become a reality

On Monday May 13th 2024, the Federal Government announced it will co fund the construction of Stage 1 of a heavy rail passenger line from Beewah to Caloundra bringing the total funding for the project to $5.5b.    This follows the announcement on February 25th 2024, from the  Queensland Government that they would co fund a staged implementation plan for the project.    Stage 1 of the project (Beerwah to Caloundra) is estimatd to cost $5.5 to $7 billion.  The Queensland Government committed $2.75billion dollars for stage one with the balance now being funded by the Federal Govenment.  Construction is estimated to commence in 2026 and be completed in time for the 2032 Olympics.  There is currently no time frame or funding committment for when the balance of the project to Maroochydore CBD will occur.

The business case for the project was completed in December 2023.  It undertook detailed engineering work for the complete 37.8km of track and estimated the total cost at $12billion.  

In March 2024 the State Government released a summary of the Business Case (Click here to read the full summary)

In a press release on March 7 2024, The Queensland Government stated:

  • A summary of the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line project business case has been released publicly.

  • The business case recommended staging the project. The first stage would see over half of the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line built before 2032.

  • Technical details released in the business case summary outline the challenges and complexities considered when developing the cost estimates and delivery timeframes for the project.

 

The Queensland Government has published a summary of the business case for the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line, releasing new details about the project. The summary includes further information about the technical solution, construction challenges and cost estimates.

The proposed line to Maroochydore is 37.8km of new dual track, narrow gauge rail line through greenfield and highly urbanised environments.

Other features include:

  • Approximately 17 kilometres of rail is raised including viaducts and 24 bridges, to minimise flooding and environmental impacts, and to pass over local and arterial roads.

  • A 1.2 kilometre tunnel at Little Mountain to minimise environmental and community impacts.

  • Six new stations at Nirimba (Aura), Caloundra, Aroona, Birtinya, Mountain Creek and Maroochydore with an upgrade also planned for Beerwah station.

  • Relocation and protection of major utilities such as power, water and sewer.

  • Construction in constrained urban environments.

Project cost estimates have also been released for each stage, with construction to Birtinya expected to cost approximately $8.4 billion and construction to Maroochydore approximately $12 billion.

The summary document confirms that construction of the full 37.8 kilometre rail line to Maroochydore would take at least a decade. It also shows that unless the line was built in stages, none of the stations would open to passengers prior to 2032.

The business case recommends a staged delivery of the rail line. Staging takes into account the length of the corridor, affordability and market capacity. Building in stages will not only open sections of the rail line years earlier, but creates a progressive pipeline of thousands of local jobs and helps ease construction impacts on the local community.

The business case tested staging to both Calounda and Birtinya by 2032, ultimately recommending staging to Birtinya. Although recommended, the summary notes the complex construction and engineering activities in building to Birtinya, presenting risks to the project cost and timeframes, which could prevent the rail line opening by 2032. Delivery alone between Caloundra and Birtinya is another 7.5km, including 4km of track on viaducts and 6 bridges, and building a 1.2km tunnel.  Based on this advice, the Miles Government has committed to delivering Stage 1, including building rail to Caloundra by 2032, protecting the revised alignment to Maroochydore, and further planning, environmental investigations and design. The corridor to Caloundra requires zero homes to be resumed.

Stage One also includes going to market to test the risk to construction timeframes and costs, for the section from Caloundra to Birtinya. If fully funded, in partnership with the Australian Government, Stage 1 would see at least 19km built prior to 2032 – more than half the rail line.

Stage 1 is expected to cost between $5.5 billion to $7 billion, with cost estimates to be finalised following further design development, market engagement and procurement.

 

Stage 1 works are expected to commence in 2026, targeting completion by 2032. 

 

The full business case cannot be released as it contains information that is commercial in confidence.  Releasing the full business case would prejudice the procurement process, and could influence commercial negotiations.

Fast facts:

  • The Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line is a proposed 37.8km rail extension between Beerwah and Maroochydore to increase public transport opportunities and improve connectivity to Moreton Bay, Brisbane and beyond.

  • Stage 1 will deliver 19km of rail between Beerwah and Caloundra (over halfway), with possible delivery of Birtinya by 2032 pending procurement activities and advice from leading engineering construction companies.

  • The business case evaluated technical requirements for the full rail line including 7 stations (including a proposed future station at Beerwah East), 17km of structures, a 1.2km tunnel at Little Mountain and 2 new stabling facilities. 17km of elevated structures accounts for over 40% of the corridor.

  • The business case has determined an optimal realignment of the corridor between Beerwah and Maroochydore, which enables rail speeds of up 160km/h. The current trains can and do travel 140km/h, their maximum speed.

  • The realignment aims to minimise environmental impact and reduce curves in the line to allow for faster train speeds. The new corridor will be protected in 2024.

  • Over 80% of community feedback received during community consultation in 2023 was supportive of the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line project, helping inform the business case.

Light Rail

Updated 15 December 2023

 

TMR Announces Rapid Bus Transit as the preferred transport option for our Coastal Corridor. 

 

Light Rail is finally dead!

Finally some common sense has prevailed!  On Friday 15 December 2023, the Queensland Government announced they will drop light rail for the Sunshine Coast.  The Sunshine Coast News reported:

"The Department of Transport and Main Roads has announced the preferred vehicle option for a major public transport project in the region.

Following a rigorous process, bus rapid transit has been identified as the likely choice for Sunshine Coast Public Transport.  The decision marks a major milestone for the project during its 12-year history and essentially puts to an end to the alternative option, light rail.

Sunshine Coast Public Transport is expected to improve connections from Maroochydore to Caloundra, and link with the proposed Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line service.

The selection of bus rapid transit means rubber-tyred vehicles would operate on a dedicated right-of-way basis that provides an exclusive separated route from other road traffic for the sole use of public transport.

Technologies are continually evolving with several variations of the bus rapid transit vehicle type emerging within the market, such as trackless trams, which operate on rubber wheels and follow line marking on the road surface.  The move puts to rest an alternative option for light rail, which was also under consideration, and eliminates community concerns about overhead wires, fixed steel tracks and noise."

This represents a huge win for the Sunshine Coast Community but the fight is not over.  We have to continue to monitor how TMR plan to implement Rapid Bus Transit.  TMR are saying rapid bus transit will run on a dedicated right of way down the centre of the road.  We do not want them to make it a psuedo light rail .  The beauty of rapid bus is its flexibility. A dedicated right of way means lane removal, side street blockages and increased traffic congestion.

A fixed right of way also gives developers certainty.  

According to what Council sent out this week, they are planning to locate over 60% of the new population out to 2041, in the coastal corridor. That is an extra 102,000 people in an area that currently has about 80,000 people!! Light Rail is gone but high-rise is not!  Public consultation on the new SCRC 2024 Planning scheme is expected in the 2nd half of 2024.   

We will continue the fight !

Sunshine Coast New 2024 Planning Scheme

 

Updated Dec 16, 2023

On December 12, 2023 the SCRC released an update on the new Planning Scehme.  They said:

What’s been happening?

After carefully considering all feedback received during the preliminary consultation phase of the project and consulting with a range of internal and external technical experts, Council has been undertaking the intensive process of drafting the new planning scheme.

 

This phase of the project has now finished and in December 2023, the draft planning scheme was formally submitted to the State Government for the purpose of a State Interest Review.

What is a State Interest Review?

The State Interest Review is a mandatory process Council must follow when preparing a new planning scheme. The State Government undertakes a review of the draft planning scheme to ensure State interests are reflected. 

What happens next?

Once the State Interest Review has been completed, the draft planning scheme will be put on formal public display. This will provide the next opportunity for you to have your say on the content of the draft planning scheme and identify matters of interest to you. This is anticipated to occur in the second half of 2024, noting that the timing of the State Interest Review process is outside of Council’s control. 

They also referenced the results of their preliminary consultation (Click here to view) undertaken in March 2022.  In this document they state:

"How much growth is planned for the coastal corridor?

 

The population in the coastal corridor extending from Maroochydore to Caloundra is expected to grow because that is where many people wish to live and because many jobs and services are currently located or planned to be located there. Council is proposing a balanced approach to accommodating future growth and is not proposing that all of our region’s forecast growth is accommodated within the coastal corridor. Aligning with state and regional planning policy, the new planning scheme will seek to accommodate at least 60 per cent of our forecast growth within existing urban areas (including in and around our major centres as well as in urban villages – or nodes – along the coastal corridor). The remainder of our forecast population growth is proposed to be accommodated in greenfield areas (including Palmview, Caloundra South [Aura] and, in the future, Beerwah East)." p11

Our population is projected to grow by  approximately 170,000 people out to 2041.  60% of this means an additional 102,000 people are being planned into our Coastal Corridor.  The population of this corridor now is approximately 88,000.  Thats double the amount of people we have living in the corridor now.  There is only one way to fit these people in and that is to go up, yet SCRC say they are not planning high-rise!  

When the new planning scheme is available we will provide details of how and where you can object. 

Background

Preliminary Public consultation on the SCRC new Planning Scheme for the region occurred in March 2022.  Results were finally released in September 2022.  (Click on link above to view).  Council said this was their "largest and most successful engagement project.”

 

Over 8000 people provided feedback.  In particular there were over 6,000 surveys completed and a further 375 written submissions.  The feedback report makes it clear, the community did not support Council’s proposed densification along the Mass Transit Corridor.

 

There was a very clear message delivered to Council re concerns about building heights, increasing densities, parking and maintaining the character and feel of what exists today.   

 

In their report, SCRC state:

“Issues and concerns raised will be carefully considered in drafting the local plan area provisions, allocating zones and nominating maximum allowable building heights in different localities, particularly in relation to: 

• potential increases in density or height along key corridors and urban villages (or nodes) in the Kawana Waters and Mooloolaba–Alexandra Headland local plan areas.

• possible areas for additional low-medium density residential development in Beerwah – Landsborough, Coolum – Peregian, Mooloolaba – Alexandra Headland, Mooloolah Valley and North Shore local plan areas."

 

MTAG would like to congratulate everyone who participated in this consultation.  It is an example of how collectively we can effectively deliver a clear message to Council and hopefully have Council reflect this thinking in the planning for our future.  

 

Summary of Feedback

Top five planning priorities:

-Protecting the natural environment and green spaces

-Maintaining building heights within set limits

-Improving our region’s resilience to climate change

-Retaining local character

-Providing parks and open space.

 

 

Top eight community concerns:

-Potential increases in density or building height along key transport corridors in the coastal corridor between Maroochydore and Caloundra, particularly in the Kawana Waters and Mooloolaba – Alexandra Headland local plan areas 

-Potential areas for additional low-medium density residential development (duplexes and town houses) within some existing suburbs

-Conversion of some rural residential or rural land to urban residential uses 

-Resilience to flooding 

-Improving design outcomes 

-Preserving the character and identity of each of our local communities 

-Maintaining existing larger urban and rural residential lot sizes to preserve local character 

-Traffic congestion and parking associated with growth and change. 

What’s Next in Council's Process?

Council is currently at Step 4 in the process as shown below.   The draft plannning scheme is now with the Queensland State Government fo State Interest Review.

 

The next time we will get to have a say is in Step 5 which is anticipated to be sometime in the second half of 2024. 

Planning scheme stage.jpg

Updated 1 November 2023

 

TMR Announce Light Rail and Rapid Bus Transit as the only 2 options for the Coastal Corridor. 

The TMR website says they have narrowed the mass transit options down to Rapid bus and Light Rail. They further say  both options are very similar and which ever one is chosen, it will be run on a dedicated "right of way" along the coastal route. This means fixed infrastructure down the middle or sides of the roads and interruption to motor vehicle traffic as right of way at intersections is given to the mass transit vehicle.

 

How many times do we need to tell the SCRC and TMR we do not want fixed infrastructure and light rail along our beaches?

TMR state the route is to have 18 stations which will be approximately 800m apart. SCRC have previously stated they planned to put high rise buildings (up to 6 storeys) 400m around each station! That is back to back high rise along our coastal stretch facilitated by TMR's chosen mass transit option. Below is the route and station locations.

Station Locations.jpg

TMR's website says:

"Options under investigation

As a result of the process described above, bus rapid transit and light rail have been progressed for further investigation.

  • Bus rapid transit

    Bus rapid transit vehicles run on rubber wheels on the road surface within dedicated lanes.

    Bus rapid transit vehicle technologies are continually evolving with several variations of this vehicle type emerging. This includes vehicles like trackless trams, which operate on rubber wheels and follow line marking on the road surface. Technologies like this are rapidly developing and changing. TMR will monitor the market to determine if other variations present a suitable outcome.

  • Light rail

    Light rail vehicles operate on a fixed track and are typically driven electrically, with power potentially drawn from an overhead electric line.

    Wireless light rail vehicle options are being explored, however, the extent to which overhead wires may be required on the corridor will be determined in part by the power requirements for the vehicle between charging locations.

Both bus rapid transit and light rail share several similarities and the same goal of transporting a large number of passengers to key destinations, in a reliable, frequent, sustainable and accessible way that accommodates the region's growing needs well into the future.

Key to these benefits is the provision of a dedicated right-of-way."

Updated October 19 2023

Queensland Government Releases

"Southern Sunshine Coast Public Transport Strategy"

 

After over a year of silence, the Queensland State Government released its "Southern Sunshine Coast Public Transport Strategy" in June 2033,  This is based on the draft strategy that was put out for public consultation early in 2022.

 

So what does it really say? Have they listened? And is it really any different to what the Sunshine Coast Regional Council (SCRC) put out in their Options Analysis in 2021 which favoured light rail and high rise along our coastal corridor?  Have we advanced at all since 2021?

 

Our summation of the Strategy:

  • Not a lot has changed.

  • The bigger picture is the same as what was outlined in the SCRC Options Analysis in 2021.

  • High rise development along the coastal corridor is still at the heart of the strategy document.

  • Whilst light rail along the coastal corridor is not specifically mentioned, it is also not ruled out.

  • Electric buses are specifically mentioned and identified for use on the "Key Connectors" (mostly East/West routes).

  • Reference to "staging" the execution of the strategy is made but no indication of what this staging looks like is given.

  • Heavy/passenger rail along the CAMCOS corridor is identified in the strategy but no commitment to delivering it is made. It also indicates it too would be delivered in stages.

  • At the end of the day the report states it will come down to the findings of the two business cases currently underway to determine what does or does not go ahead.(($6million Sunshine Coast Direct Line Business Case (heavy/passenger rail) due for completion this year and the $15 million Sunshine Coast Public Transport Project Detailed Business Case (Coastal Corridor Maroochydore to Birtinya) not due for completion until 2025)).

  • So whilst we now have a definite "strategy" provided by the Queensland Government, we still have no idea of the timing or commitment to delivering it nor what mode of transport we are likely to get along our coastal corridor.

 

Key Highlights of the Strategy:

  • Looks out to 2041.

  • Says it is a "package of public transport initiatives" that will be delivered in stages over time.

  • Concentrates on 4 key areas:

  • Western Corridor

  • Centre Corridor (CAMCOS)

  • Coastal Corridor (Maroochydore to Caloundra)

  • Key Connectors 

  • Says it does “not specify a preferred public transport mode (i.e. rail, bus or light rail) on corridors, nor does it plan specific services". 

 

The western corridor is an inter-regional freight and passenger line, connecting coastal Queensland between Brisbane and Cairns. Rail is identified as the mode of transport.

 

The centre corridor (previously called CAMCOS) is to enable medium and longer distance trips connecting the economic centres of the Sunshine Coast and delivers a fast, reliable and direct link to the western corridor at Beerwah. Passenger rail is identified as the mode of transport. Its implementation is to be "staged".

 

The coastal corridor will enable local, intra-regional travel with access to key coastal tourism, health and business precincts and to the centre corridor. No mode of transport is identified other than it is to be "Rapid Service High frequency with partially separated priority". Its implementation is to be "staged" commencing with improved public transport between Maroochydore and Birtinya.

 

The key connectors include trips to and between major centres and areas of strategic importance that are not directly connected by the western, centre or coastal corridors. The key mode of transport is identified as predominantly electric buses.

 

Other things of note:

  • No strategy for the Northern sections of the Sunshine Coast is identified. TMR says the Southern Section was chosen because it is "home to the majority of the Coast's population and employment". 

  • Light rails is not specifically identified as a solution for the Coastal Corridor but it is not ruled out either. 

  • The report states that by 2041 almost all buses on the Sunshine Coast will be zero emissions. 

  • The report specifically says that " more infill development will be inevitable and bring change" . It also says "infill development can be encouraged through the provision of high-quality public transport and enabled and managed by local planning controls". 

  • High-rise along our beach corridor is still part of the plan

 

Click here to view the Strategy

_edited.jpg

Where are we in the Mass Transit Process?

 

We are heading toward the end of the process but still a long way from seeing anything actually delivered.  The options have been narrowed to one, Rapid Bus Transit, and the Detailed Business Case is due for completion mid 2024.  This Business Case will then be used to determine the cost of constructing and operating the Rapid Bus system.  For the project to be impletmented it will require funding from the Federal Government, the State Government and likely, the Sunshine Coast Regional Council.  It may also involve money from private enterprise.  The process of acquiring funding is a lenghthy one and could take years.  At the moment no levels of government has committed any money to implement this project.  There is no guarantee this project will ever be delivered.  We will have to wait and see.

 

Background

On 20 October 2021, the Sunshine Coast Regional Council (SCRC) voted to endorse the Sunshine Coast Mass Transit Options Analysis Report and to have the CEO advance it to the State Government (TMR) for the preparation of the third and final stage, the Detailed Business Case (DBC). The DBC was budgeted to cost $15million which was to be jointly funded by SCRC and TMR. It was estimated it would be completed by mid to end of 2023.  The revised completion date is now mid 2024.

 

Since the Council handed the Options Analysis to TMR, the following has occurred:

1. $5m of funding has been provided by the Federal Government reducing SCRC and TMR's commitment to $5million each.

2. The Memorandum of Understanding between TMR and the SCRC was finally signed in March 2023.

3. TMR has expanded the project and renamed it "Sunshine Coast Public Transport" (SCPT) Project

4. TMR conducted their own public consultation on their 'Draft Southern Sunshine Coast Public Transport Strategy",  in March 2022. 

5. TMR are simultaneously running a $14million study looking at the Camcos Corridor, Beewah to Maroochydore (Sunshine Coast Direct Rail Line), expected to be complete end of 2023.

6. TMR has retained external consultants to complete Detailed Business Cases for:

a) Sunshine Coast Mass Transit Project (, (Due for completion mid 2024) and

b) Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line.  (Due for Completion October 2023)

7. TMR ran public consultation on 4 of their key transport projects for the Sunshine Coast region in August 2023.  These projects were:

  • Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line

  • Sunshine Coast Public Transport Project (Previously Light Rail)

  • Mooloola River Interchange

  • Kawana Motorway

8. TMR announced in mid 2023 they would form community Stakeholder Interest Groups (SIG) to sit across all public transport projects currently under investigation on the Sunshine Coast.  They stated the primary objectives of the SIG's were to:

  • share local knowledge between community stakeholders and TMR and project teams

  • Test ideas and appproaches and act as a "sounding board" for the project teams

  • encourage the development of a collegiate and coaperative relationship between TMR and stakeholders to understand issues that affect the community.

  • act as a conduit to the broader community to share information and generate understanding about the projects within the terms of SIG's.

9. TMR announced in November 2023 they had narrowed the options for the Sunshine Coast Public Transport Porject down to only 2: Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail.  Another round of public Consultation was done.

10. TMR announce Light Rail is dead and they will progress to further investigation of Rapid Bus Transit only.

 

MTAG has been appointed to the SIG and attended two meeting.  Based on these two meetings it is questionable how much influence the SIG will have into the two business cases.  

 

Despite having already spent over $12 million on the project and committed a further $5million on funding for the DBC, the SCRC has gone silent on the project, with minimal updates to the Council's website and no Community updates given.  It is our understanding DTMR are now running both projects but with input from the SCRC.  

Timing?

MTAG has been advised that the SCPT project is running well behind the timing the SCRC originally proposed. Estimated completion of the Detailed Business Case (orginally mid to late 2022) is now estimated to be mid 2024. Implementation timing after that is unknown.

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