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Direct to Caloundra

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Direct to Caloundra

Stage 1 of a much-anticipated dual-track rail project to the Sunshine Coast is not expected to include two major centres.

The state government has committed an initial $2.75 billion to deliver Stage 1 of the Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line project, which would see a 19km dual track built from Beerwah to Caloundra.

But while the connection to Caloundra could be operational by 2032, it appears hopes of building it to Birtinya and Maroochydore before then have been dashed, with delivery to those destinations to be part of future stages.

The initial commitment of $2.75 billion will require matched funding from the federal government to enable construction to Caloundra by 2032.

The federal government has $1.6 billion on the table for the project, but Sunshine Coast News reported in January it would further examine the details amid fears of a cost blow-out.

The ‘funding envelope’ for Stage 1 is expected to be between $5.5 billion and $7 billion, with final costs to be confirmed at the completion of the procurement phase. A ‘funding envelope’ is an approach taken on other similar projects around the world, allowing costs to be finalised when contracts are executed.

The business case for the project has been submitted to Infrastructure Australia for assessment.

Premier Steven Miles made the announcement of the funding commitment recently.

“A direct rail connection to the Sunshine Coast will unlock thousands of homes in the growing Sunshine Coast region and accelerate the release of new, affordable developments,” Mr Miles says.

“Without the rail line, that development would bring an unmanageable level of congestion to the local road network, making this connection essential for new housing to be brought forward.

“The Direct Sunshine Coast Rail Line is another record investment in Queensland’s rail network from our government, building on the multibillion-dollar rail revolution currently underway (through Cross River Rail).

“With better, more connected rail options available, we hope commuters will leave the car at home, reducing congestion and lowering transport emissions on the path to net zero.”

In a post to social media, LNP Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace criticised the revised plan for delivery of the project.

“Despite decades of promises, studies and an historic funding commitment, Labor has essentially waved the white flag on the Sunshine Coast Rail from Beerwah to Maroochydore, pinning its construction to even more federal funding,” he says.

“Nearly two years since we secured $1.6b for a costed, long-touted and bipartisan project, we find out that it’s doubled in price and is cynically set to finish in Labor-held Caloundra.

“When you dither, delay and deride, you blow out budgets andcripple communities.”

The line from Beerwah to Caloundra would be the longest spur line in the South-East Queensland passenger network. It’s claimed the heavy rail will make a trip to Brisbane from the Sunshine Coast at least 45 minutes faster than a car, with trains able to reach speeds of 140kmh on some sections of the track.

It’s expected that Stage 1 of the project will support 2200 jobs in the region.

The Coast is one of the fastest-growing regions in the state and is forecast to be home to 600,000 people by 2046.

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