Is it time to mud off the Brisbane Subway?

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It was meant to be the subsequent huge factor after Cross River Rail, however the deliberate east-west Brisbane Subway has been largely forgotten.

Certainly, it barely entered the general public consciousness when it was first mooted in a 2010 south-east Queensland public transport plan, because the extra speedy Cross River Rail hogged the headlines.

Now, with the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Video games on the horizon, there are requires it to be positioned again on the agenda.

Tunnelling for the Cross River Rail.

Tunnelling for the Cross River Rail.Credit score:Toby Crockford

The underground hyperlink working between Toowong, West Finish, the CBD and Bowen Hills/Newstead, with future extensions to Bulimba, Hamilton Northshore and the Brisbane Airport, would have been a real metro system, with computerized practice companies working each 90 seconds.

It was uncosted, and no detailed planning was completed. However it was a giant characteristic of the Bligh authorities’s 2010 Connecting SEQ 2031 doc, which outlined a 20-year public transport plan for the area, the likes of which haven’t been seen since.

The idea for a Brisbane Subway, in response to Connecting SEQ 2031, was “a brand new separate community, with separate operations to present rail infrastructure” which might be designed to “help the anticipated development and growth of the internal metropolis”.

“The Brisbane subway will present a high-capacity, high-frequency distributor system connecting central metropolis locations and linking passengers from the bus and rail networks to locations not inside a cushty stroll of present stations,” the doc says.

“The precedence hall for supply by 2031 might be from Toowong to West Finish to Bowen Hills/Newstead. This hall might be underneath the CBD and intersect with present rail and busway stations.”

Simply this week, Brisbane dropped out of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s checklist of the world’s high 10 most livable cities, due largely to different cities’ COVID restoration.

However EIU International Livability Index head Upasana Dutt stated a part of that drop, from equal tenth to twenty seventh, was additionally on account of Brisbane’s infrastructure rating, which was comparatively low in comparison with different Australian cities.

“That is because of the metropolis scoring barely decrease when it comes to high quality of public transport and highway community,” she stated.

Planning for the Brisbane Subway was to begin in 2015, however the election of the Newman authorities meant Connecting SEQ 2031 was left to assemble mud.

Now, some say it’s time to wipe that mud off.


“The subway challenge was successfully the subsequent huge challenge post-Cross River Rail,” stated one former authorities official concerned within the creation of Connecting SEQ 2031.

“It was very speculative and had not been absolutely resolved, however the underlying logic is robust.

“An underground shouldn’t be an inexpensive resolution, as everyone knows from Cross River Rail right this moment, however it was actually a response to the constraints everybody is aware of are there.

“There are solely so many extra floor transport choices in a metropolis like Brisbane.”

Paul Lucas, a former transport minister and Cross River Rail Supply Authority chairman, was then-premier Anna Bligh’s deputy when Connecting SEQ 2031 was launched.

Lucas stated the upcoming Olympic Video games made the prospect of a Brisbane Subway, which he dubbed the “Meanjin Line”, extra engaging to potential buyers eager to take part in a public-private partnership (PPP) to ship the challenge.

Then-deputy premier Paul Lucas, pictured in 2009.

Then-deputy premier Paul Lucas, pictured in 2009.

“Devoted automated railway traces are a lot simpler to do once they’re not built-in with the remainder of the community,” he stated.

“These types of issues grow to be very potential whenever you do even have devoted traces that aren’t that aren’t topic to the interplay with the principle community.

“In most abroad nations, their stations have a number of traces, and other people stroll between them with escalators and issues like that, somewhat than having them linked with one another.”

Connecting SEQ 2031 cites the London underground and New York subway as examples of this technique.

Lucas stated tunnels overcame the disruption of floor traces, akin to the necessity to resume properties, and made them a pretty funding alternative for PPPs.

“I believe that there might be a excessive, excessive diploma of curiosity, significantly once they’re underground and also you’re not disturbing anybody on the floor,” he stated.

Public transport advocate Robert Dow, from commuter foyer group Rail Again on Observe, counted himself as a fan of the subway proposal.

Dow stated the upcoming 2032 Olympics, and a brand new prime minister with a historical past of backing public transport initiatives, meant it was time for the Queensland authorities to place the subway again on the agenda.

“Possibly with the change of [federal] authorities, they could have sufficient braveness to resubmit the enterprise case as a result of if [the federal government] can pop up $2 billion, which is sort of cheap whenever you take a look at what the opposite states are getting,” he stated.

“Now, in the event that they $2 billion, that may be very useful for eradicating some stage crossings, upgrading the Sunshine Coast line and doing a little preliminary work on a correct subway.”

Transport Minister Mark Bailey was not accessible for an interview, however stated in a press release the Palaszczuk authorities had “no plans” to construct the subway.

Connecting SEQ 2031 is an ideal instance of the visionary work of Labor state governments on public transport in south-east Queensland,” he stated.

“…The Palaszczuk authorities is delivering on lots of the key initiatives recognized on this draft report.

“This consists of Cross River Rail, Sunshine Rail duplication, Kuraby to Beenleigh duplication, Gold Coast gentle rail from Broadbeach to Burleigh, new stations at Pimpama, Hope Island, and Merrimac, plus main station accessibility upgrades throughout the community.”

Lucas stated the federal government was proper to prioritise the initiatives that the completion of Cross River Rail allowed, however funding choices for the subway needs to be explored.


Following the 2012 election of the Campbell Newman-led LNP authorities, the subway plan laid dormant for 4 years earlier than it was resuscitated within the 2016 federal election, when it fashioned a part of the Greens’ federal pitch to voters.

Beneath the Greens’ plan, nevertheless, the start line would have been Indooroopilly somewhat than Toowong and it could have handed underneath the College of Queensland at St Lucia. It could then go to West Finish, Kangaroo Level, Teneriffe, Bulimba and Hamilton, bypassing the CBD.

Newly elected Ryan MP Elizabeth Watson-Brown, the Greens’ federal transport and infrastructure spokesperson, stated the idea needs to be again on the agenda.

New Greens Ryan MP Elizabeth Watson-Brown says its time to revive the Brisbane Subway.

New Greens Ryan MP Elizabeth Watson-Brown says its time to revive the Brisbane Subway.Credit score:Jamila Toderas

“Cross River Rail might be completed quickly, and game-changing public transport initiatives take years to ship. The place is the planning for what’s subsequent?” she stated.

“We must always give folks residing each in internal and outer suburbs the liberty to go away their automobiles at house, or keep away from the expense of proudly owning a automotive.”

Dow stated the subway’s advantages have been clear.

“It would present novel mass transit in an east-west/west-east route, throughout pretty dense residential and exercise suburbs,” he stated.

“It would take strain off the floor highway system, it’ll take strain off the floor rail system.

“It’ll make cross-suburban connections quite a bit simpler and being high-frequency mass transit, it’ll be very, very profitable.

“Frequency is crucial consider getting folks to make use of public transport.”

The Brisbane Airport Company would additionally welcome one other mass-transit choice for the precinct.

The privately run Airtrain, with its increased passenger prices, solely companies the airport terminals, whereas most precinct staff labored off-terminal.

“We’d welcome any mass transit system that supplied higher connections from the airport precinct to town,” a BAC spokesperson stated.

“At the moment, 24,000 folks a day come to work on the Brisbane Airport precinct, and that quantity goes to develop to greater than 60,000 folks by 2040.

“In the mean time, the overwhelming majority of these folks come right here by way of a automotive as a result of there isn’t a common mass transit system exterior of the Airtrain to the terminal.

“Gaining access to the airport each for work and likewise for journey goes to grow to be a problem if automobiles are the one viable different.”

As for the associated fee, which might little question be within the billions, there was a minimum of one potential saving.

A spokesman for the Cross River Rail Supply Authority stated the tunnel boring machines (TBMs) used to assemble that rail challenge may very well be repurposed.

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“The TBMs are lifted piece by piece out of the bottom, moved to a storage space after which assessed by our contractors to see which elements might be refurbished and used on future tunnelling initiatives,” he stated.

“This implies we don’t know simply but precisely which elements might be re-used or the place, however now we have been assured there’s a excessive probability of each TBMs being put again to work on future initiatives.”

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