Fast train dream takes massive step with Federal funding

9th March 2018 7:16 AM

BREAKING: A FORTY-five minute train ride from Maroochydore to Brisbane has moved a massive step closer to reality with Federal funding secured to develop a business case.

The North Coast Connect project, which The Daily can reveal is exploring aspects of both North Coast rail duplication and the CAMCOS corridor, was named as one of only three projects around the country to receive access to a $20 million cash stash.

The other projects backed were a NSW Government proposal for rail from Sydney-Newcastle and Consolidated Land and Rail Australia's Melbourne-Greater Shepparton rail proposal.

Fairfax MP Ted O'Brien was hopeful a business case could be signed off in 12-18 months.

A four-player consortium of KPMG, Smec, Urbis and Stockland will be tasked with delivering on the business case, once the remaining half of the business case funding can be secured to match the Coast's about one-third share of the $20 million.

The balance of the business case funds are envisaged to come from either the state or local government, private sector, or a combination of the sectors.

The vision is to have fast rail servicing Brisbane-Nambour within five years and Brisbane-Maroochydore within a decade.


FAST RAIL: The project would see transport from the Coast to Brisbane take just 45 minutes.
FAST RAIL: The project would see transport from the Coast to Brisbane take just 45 minutes. Courier Mail

Once the business case is completed, Infrastructure Australia would assess the proposal, before determining how much of a slice of the national $10 billion rail fund to serve up for the North Coast Connect project.

The proposal would slash travel times from about two hours down to 45 minutes, increasing passenger capacity on new trains capable of reaching speeds of more than 160kmh.

New stations would be created on the Beerwah-Maroochydore line while towns like Nambour would be revitalised and freight capacity increased.

Mr O'Brien said early plans were for the Brisbane-Nambour stretch to be split into two stages, which would be developed concurrently with some overlap.

The first stage would include upgrades to the 64.5km of rail line from Brisbane-Beerburrum, as well as an upgrade of the 40km from Beerburrum-Nambour, including duplication of the North Coast Line.


Palmwoods Train station, Palmwoods.  Photo Che Chapman / Sunshine Coast Daily
UPGRADES: Upgrades will be coming to a number of Coast stations including Palmwoods Train station, Palmwoods. Che Chapman

The second stage touches on the long-touted CAMCOS corridor, creating a 40km 'spur line' of new track from Beerwah-Maroochydore, with new stations to be created.

"An enormous amount of work has already been done on this (through previous business cases)," Mr O'Brien said.

"We need to leverage all that material."

The North Coast Connect proposal was one of only three out of 26 submissions around the country to secure Federal funding and Mr O'Brien applauded The Daily's efforts in helping drive the case for funding consideration.

Fisher MP Andrew Wallace was equally ecstatic with the progress, after large-scale community support for the project.

"This planning study is the first stage in getting our community the rail upgrades we need for our future growth," he said.

Mr O'Brien said many of the details would be finalised in the business case process, but he expected the new line would service Stockland's Caloundra South community.


Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull MP at the Caloundra RLS with Ted O'Brien MP and Andrew Wallace MP.
EXCITED: Fairfax MP Ted O'Brien. Patrick Woods

He said future growth and development sites may also be identified as a result of the business case process, but it was too soon to know whether land at Halls Creek, Beerwah East or the broader Inter-Urban Break between the Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay would be identified.

"We've got a long way to go on this," Mr O'Brien said.

He'd been buoyed by positive talks with the State Government and believed the project fit alongside Cross River Rail and was not in opposition.