Future of Brisbane transport 'underground: Bligh

By: Graham Gardiner

The Queensland Government has unveiled sweeping plans to modernise Brisbane's public transport network - including an underground rail network to

The Queensland Government has unveiled sweeping plans to modernise Brisbane's public transport network - including an underground rail network to be built under the city over the next two decades - to help the south-east corner cope with unprecedented inner-city population growth.

Speaking at today's Leadership Queensland conference in Brisbane, Premier Anna Bligh says it is essential plans are fast-tracked to rethink the State capital's transport network as Queensland gears up for massive growth, including a doubling of the population over the next 50 years.

Plans include an international-standard underground metro rail network similar to the London tube and the Paris Metro.

The critical short-term step in the new public transport plan will be delivering the first, $8 billion stage of Brisbane's Cross River Rail, a vital piece of infrastructure for the whole region that will unlock suburban heavy rail expansion.

"It's a simple formula - more people means more cars on the road. Every day there are 920 000 trips to the inner city - in 20 years, that will spike to more than two million trips a day and if you consider that today 80 per cent of all travel is by car, these are figures we cannot ignore," Bligh says.

By 2016 Brisbane’s passenger rail network will be at capacity, according to the Premier.

"Every single train from Brisbane's south must cross the Merivale Bridge to enter the city. Without a second river crossing, not a single extra service from Beenleigh, the Gold Coast, Cleveland or future cities like Springfield will be able to enter the city," she says.

"Cross River Rail is about increasing capacity at the heart of the network to break what will be a bottleneck. The feasibility study into Cross River Rail is well under way. Next year, we will release the proposed route for consultation and an environmental impact statement."

With the population in the inner ring set to grow by about 50 percent or an extra 90,000 residents over the next 25 years, Bligh says the Government must look "outside the square and under the earth".

"I realise there have been discussions about a return of trams and light rail to our city streets, but outside of our Busways, which were designed to accommodate light rail if needed, the time for trams in the CBD is over," she says.

"That's why along with plans to boost to heavy rail capacity, we also need to start planning for an underground metro system, linking Toowong, West End, the City, Newstead, Bowen Hills, Bulimba and Hamilton North Shore."

With major transport infrastructure projects previously focused on the Busway network, today marks great progress for regional planning, according to Bligh.

"The south-east Busway is done. The Northern Busway is almost half complete and three-quarters of the Eastern Busway is still to come," she says.

"So, if rapid metro is to part of our transport future, the time to talk about it is now."

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