I’ve spoken in this place before about the need to ensure that planning is advanced for the extension of the heavy rail from Varsity Lakes to Coolangatta airport. This is the public transport infrastructure that our community wants and needs. In a recent survey, more than 85 per cent of residents said the heavy rail should be a priority. In 2019 the coalition provided $8 million in funding for a business case for funding fast rail from Brisbane to the Gold Coast and to explore extending the heavy rail from Varsity Lakes to Coolangatta airport. There were two parts to the funding: part A, the business case into Logan and Gold Coast faster rail, was delivered back in 2021, and the funding has been allocated and planning is underway for the addition of extra tracks between Kuraby and Beenleigh; part B, the study into the extension corridor from Varsity Lakes to Coolangatta, seems to have been shelved or put on the backburner by the Queensland state government. The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads website states:
We are undertaking a review of the preserved Gold Coast heavy rail corridor between Varsity Lakes and Gold Coast Airport.
This seems to have been the case for some years.
Last August—a full year ago—I wrote to the Queensland state transport minister asking for an update on the progress of this review. His response was a non-answer that TMR ‘has preserved a rail corridor between Varsity Lakes and Gold Coast Airport as part of its long-term vision.’ I also wrote to the federal minister for infrastructure and transport more than a year ago asking that she request an urgent status report on the study for the extension of heavy rail for which federal funding was provided. Her response didn’t even mention heavy rail but focused on planning work for stage 4 of the light rail. I then lodged questions in writing in the House in June about the funding that was allocated and what its progress was. The minister’s response, received just last week, was:
… the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads continues to review and protect the preserved rail corridor consistent with the Queensland Government South East Queensland Regional Transport Plan 2021.
No advice was provided on the status of the study that was funded in 2019 or when we will see any step towards planning.
The heavy rail extension is the public priority transport infrastructure project for the people of the southern Gold Coast. We deserve some answers on when the state and federal governments will continue the planning for this very much needed project.