QLD BUDGET '10-11: Budget battles busways, bridges + bottlenecks


Queensland Budget allocates $7.3b to roads and transport infrastructure and services – including $1.026b in subsidies for public transport operators

QLD BUDGET '10-11: Budget battles busways, bridges + bottlenecks
Bligh budget battles busways,

By David Goeldner |
June 9, 2010

The 2010-11 Queensland Budget has allocated a "massive" $7.3 billion to roads and transport infrastructure and services – including $1.026 billion in state government subsidies to public transport operators, up almost 15 percent on the previous year.

The increase in subsidies to bus, rail and ferry services, provided to operators through the TransLink Transit Authority, is based on forecast patronage growth of around 1.6 percent to 188 million in the coming financial year.

Much of Transport Minister Rachel Nolan’s portfolio allocation of $4 billion, up $400 million from last year, will go towards expanding and upgrading the rail network in southern Queensland and building several new stations and park ‘n rides.

By far the largest budget item on the Minister’s list is a rail-link project from Darra to Springfield in Brisbane’s south-west.

"The $646 million, 10-kilometre extension of the rail line to Springfield will provide one of our fastest-growing regions with high-quality public transport for the first time," Nolan says.

The first stage of the project will finish in 2011 with a new station at Richlands and space for 650 cars.

Although buses to feed the rail stations are promised, a spokesperson for the Transport Minister says the issue of tenders for the ‘special new bus service’ hasn’t yet been considered.

"It’s too early to speculate which bus operator will service the new rail facilities at Richlands and Springfield," the spokesperson says.

The transport budget also includes $50 million for 220 new buses, catering for growth and replacement vehicles on the TransLink network.

Queensland Bus Industry Council President Graham Davis says the rail link is a good idea, he is concerned at the lack of detail in the Budget for bus service growth.

While Budget papers show government subsidies to public transport operators will rise by 15 percent in 2010-11, they do not detail the allocations to individual modes.

They do note the ‘number of vehicle service kilometres in contract areas" serviced by buses is forecast to increase by 3.2 percent to 95.85 million in the coming financial year – although there is no similar comparison for trains and ferries.

Davis says there should be funding for services to alleviate the current overloading problems.

"Money is needed to improve areas where running times need to be fixed, certainly there are areas out the west of Brisbane that need their running times resolved," he says.

"How much longer can we ignore overloading – it’s good to have new buses but you need money to have drivers behind the wheel and run them."

Davis says the Budget has some detail on new bus funding, but the fact service growth is not featured is cause for concern.

"How is the growth plan for buses being funded – I can’t see it," Davis says.

He adds it is now a case of ‘wait and see’ what TransLink does with its 2010-11 allocation.

"I don’t believe there’s room for optimism because there’s been no indication of funding for service growth in the Budget.

"I don’t see it, and my concern is that it will be light on."

What is clear in the Budget is Premier Anna Bligh’s determination to get some projects finished.

That includes busway extensions, with $197 million for the Enoggera Creek to Kedron line and $150 million to the Buranda to Coorparoo line.

Road works also receives a boost, with $3.3 billion going on upgrades across the state, including fast-tracking the Ipswich motorway with a further $550 million for the Dinmore-Goodna section – a noted traffic bottleneck.

The Redcliffe peninsular might also get its second bridge sooner with a further $315 million to finish the Houghton Highway bridge duplication.

At Mackay, $148 million will be used to fix another local bottleneck – the Forgan Bridge – the main city centre access point from the heavily populated northern suburbs.

Main Roads Minister Craig Wallace describes these projects as ‘bridge mania’.

"We’re also keeping our foot very firmly on the pedal to complete Australia’s biggest road and bridge project with the completion of the Gateway upgrade project, as part of the government’s $2.5 billion investment into the Gateway corridor," he says.

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