Gloves off over tunnel

There’s a stoush brewing between Queensland’s Transport Minister and Brisbane’s Lord Mayor over a proposed bus tunnel

Gloves off over tunnel
Gloves off over tunnel

By David Goeldner | December 6, 2011

Claims that Brisbane’s Victoria bridge between the city’s CBD and the Southbank entertainment and business precinct is overcrowded with buses, and that a separate bus-only bridge and bus tunnel needs to be built has been panned by Queensland’s Transport Minister.

Brisbane City Council unveiled its ‘Suburbs 2 City’ Buslink plan at its weekly civic cabinet meeting this week, revealing the project would start at Southbank with a bus-only bridge next to the Victoria bridge, then dip into a tunnel on the CBD side and surface 3.6 kilometres away at Fortitude Valley.

The project has been estimated to cost $2.5 billion dollars.

Although Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Graham Quirk says his council would fund a $2 million feasibility study, its budget could not cover the cost of building the tunnel, drawing fire from Queensland Transport Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk claiming the council’s plan is the resurrection of an old idea that failed to gain traction four years ago.

Palaszczuk says the bus tunnel plan would not address Brisbane’s transport needs, adding that bus congestion in the city’s CBD would be fixed with the revised cross river rail project.

""We're happy to look at Council's proposal and work with them as we have done for several years to find transport solutions for Brisbane as part of the southeast," she says.

"(But) all of those joint planning studies have pointed to rail as the way of the future to shift ten times what buses can."

A revised business case for the Cross River Rail project was currently being finalised while the Commonwealth Government considered the State Government's submission for funding to Infrastructure Australia.

"Cross River Rail represents a public transport revolution for the south-east," Palaszczuk says.

"It has the capacity to move up to 120,000 people into the inner city in the two-hour morning peak period – that's the equivalent of a 30-lane motorway."

But Quirk rejected the Cross River Rail project as being the solution to reducing bus travel times and traffic congestion across Brisbane.

"While the State Government is planning the Cross River Rail project, it is an $8 billion project and most believe it is a pipedream because of its cost," he says.

"Also it will not address Brisbane’s bus needs."

Quirk says the feasibility study would investigate the project’s best alignment but early investigations suggested the proposed Suburbs 2 City Buslink could come off the existing South-East Busway at South Brisbane and continue under Melbourne Street.

From there it would cross the river and continue under Adelaide Street linking to the existing busway network and join in ‘on-street’ at Wickham and Ann Streets, Fortitude Valley.

Quirk says the feasibility study would take approximately 18 months to complete.

"Council cannot fund this project and nor is it our responsibility – this is a State Government responsibility – but I know that this infrastructure is needed and as a city government, I think we should be prepared to contribute towards it to help make it happen but this would need to be negotiated through," he says.

Quirk says in the coming years, busways, bus stations and Brisbane’s inner-city streets will reach capacity causing traffic congestion, unreliable travel times and safety issues.

"We need to address traffic congestion which costs Brisbane businesses and residents about $1.3 billion per year," he says.

"An improvement to the public transport network will mean shorter travel times for people and less time commuting to work or school creating a better work life balance."

Quirk countered the Cross River Rail project, which would run as a branch line tunnel under parts of the existing Brisbane to Gold Coast rail line, by pointing to broader cross-city benefits of the proposed Suburbs 2 City Buslink.

He says the council’s tunnel project would allow bus services from all areas across Brisbane to access the CBD with reduced travel time.

"Buses could travel between South Brisbane and Fortitude Valley in just 11 minutes and avoid 13 sets of traffic lights," Quirk says.

"Passengers travelling to and from southern suburbs could save 28 minutes on their journey, the eastern suburbs could save 23 minutes, the northern suburbs could save 21 minutes and the western suburbs could save 15 minutes."

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