Brisbane is one of Australia’s fastest growing cities, which is creating lots of issues for the city. It is expected that the population of Greater Brisbane is going to rise to 2.95 million, while South Brisbane population is going to triple by 2031.
The Palaszczuk Labor government is anticipating the rise of population in Brisbane and has already started investing in infrastructural projects. Two major projects are a $5.4 billion second Cross River Rail to be constructed under the Brisbane River and a $944 million urban Metro service.
According to the premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, the projects will need to hire 7700 people and will start in the middle of 2019. Unfortunately, large transport projects involving government always attract the attention of the press.
The new rail fleet, which was paid $4.4 billion was two years late, it doesn’t conform with the disability laws, and it cost an extra $150 million. Furthermore, there was an inquiry later, adding $45 million to overall costs. Chris Hale, an urban economist and a transport strategist, believes that the Metro was not planned out properly. He said that they have come up with a word Metro like an election commitment, without planning what exactly they want to do.
Lately, there were many discussions about the logic behind the CRR project, which should add extra 10 kilometres of track, 5.9-kilometre tunnel and five new stations to Brisbane inner city rail network. Initially, this project was announced in 2007 by the Beattie Labor government and embraced in 2017 by the Palaszczuk government. Initial funding was $2.81 billion in four years, but this figure has grown to $5.4 billion.
Cross river rail project issues
The idea of constructing another cross-river rail project was not accepted well by LNP opposition and by the federal government. Expert reports claimed that both estimates of growing rail use and the passenger capacity of the network were overestimated.
Steve Dickson, One Nation’s Queensland leader, had criticised the project publicly, claiming that the IA found that the project is not needed until 2036. However, IA kept the project on their Infrastructure Priority List.
Dickson, however, wasn’t the biggest problem for the government. Feds decided to withheld funding; the opposition claimed that the project is eight months behind and the licence of one of the major building advocates was temporarily suspended because it failed to satisfy financial requirements.
Carried out improvements not relevant to the residents
Elizabeth Handley, the spokesperson for Brisbane Residents United, said that the decrease in quality of life of residents would be caused by loss of green space and an increase in high-density apartment buildings. She said that only half of the things that should be done was implemented, mostly what makes the developers money. However, they haven’t implemented anything that should make those developments liveable.
She believes that the best way to move people into high-density areas is to make those areas interesting for living. Handley also said that residents need open areas, for walking or sports, and not just a range of housing options.
The former Director of Planning, Environment and Transport at the City of Gold Coast, Warren Rowe understands big transport projects, like the CRR. He is sure that Brisbane needs a project like that. He said that the viability of a project like this should be assessed through benefits and costs, but he noticed that similar projects are often judged not only by transport benefits but other benefits, too.
He believes that the CRR transport benefits are not just for the CBD, but are in reality much broader. Rowe said that the impact will be network wide and that this project is the key piece of that public transport network.
CRR project is criticised because the public believes that only inner city people are going to benefit from it. The government, on the other hand, believes that all users of the network should benefit from CRR, because it will increase the capacity of the network.
What this project represents
Matthew Burke, associate professor at the Griffith University transport research team, said that the project has poor PR performance. He stated that there is a problem showing how this project can change accessibility and opportunity to future services, education and jobs. Furthermore, he believes that most of the people who will benefit from the projects are those living in Cleveland, Beenleigh and Gold Coast.
Burke said that people living in Gold Coast would be 20 minutes closer to Eagle Street Pier, Queensland Parliament building or QUT Gardens Point campus. Other significant changes of this project are less time needed going into the CBD and better location for the station at Albert Street.
Warren Rowe believes that the assessment of the viability of the project by IA might have been based on the wrong criteria. Stating that he doesn’t exactly know the details of their assessments, he finds that it is difficult to see what are the concerns of IA. It appears that they have assessed the CRR mostly on the transport outcomes, but this kind of project also has to satisfy requirements of providing more patronage and capacity.
Rowe said that the Queensland Government did significant modelling to underpin those assessments. However, he believes that IA used their figures when assessing these projects.
Skewed results of IA assessment
Director of the Cities Research Institute at Griffith University, Paul Burton, believes that the results of the assessment carried out by IA may have been skewed. He said that the cost-benefit analysis is not precise since everyone just comes up with outcomes by tweaking variables, combining scientific principles and political priorities.
Rowe said that the price tag of CRR is in line with similar projects currently ongoing in Australia. Perth’s public transport plan, even though with lower projected population growth, will cost $4.1 billion.
CRR faces more issues, like 91-storey high rise development on the route of the tunnel. Burton said that these issues would be outweighed by the benefits of the project.