Topics: Fast rail between Brisbane and Gold Coast – including extending the line from Varsity Lakes to the Gold Coast Airport
Julie Clift: Speaking of roads, if the Gold Coast had a fast rail connecting us to Brisbane, would it get you off the M1? We’ve been promised an upgraded heavy rail system for years, so will the Federal Government’s pledge of $8 million for a business case actually push this project forward? Karen Andrews is the Federal Member for McPherson, she’s also the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. Good morning.
Karen Andrews: Good morning, how are you?
Julie Clift: I’m well. What can you tell us in terms of the details around this $8 million announcement?
Karen Andrews: So what the Liberal National Government has committed to is to fund a business case, $8 million to fund a business case to look at fast rail between the Gold Coast and Brisbane, and also looking at extending the rail line south from Varsity Lakes through to the Gold Coast Airport.
Julie Clift: So $8 million, as you said, for a feasibility study. Before we talk more about what’s on offer, the actual business case itself, it’s one of five business cases being flagged. So I guess given that we’ve been teased for many years with promises of fast rail and rail extension to the airport, what are the chances of this business case actually going ahead?
Karen Andrews: The business case will absolutely go ahead. So we’ve committed the funding for that to happen federally. So we’re ready to hit the start button on that. The business case is the first step. So what we’ve got to look at is the route, the needs of transport, whether it’s going to be an extension of heavy rail south from Varsity, whether we’re looking at fast rail all the way through. They’re important questions that need to be answered. We’ve also got to look at what the capacity of the current rail lines will be and what we need to do to make sure that this happens. I’m confident that the business case will stack up. We know that the rail line needs to be continued south, it needs to get to the Gold Coast Airport. So that’s the first part, but we also know that people spend a lot of time commuting from the Gold Coast through to Brisbane. So people who want to live on the coast but need to work in Brisbane, they’re spending on rail about 74 minutes each way travelling. Fast rail will reduce that commute time down to about 32 minutes. That’s an enormous savings, that’s an hour saving a day, five hours of travel time saved a week. It will also get people off the M1 because the fast rail and rail options will become a viable alternative.
Julie Clift: As you said there, 32 minutes. Certainly for people sitting on the M1 at the moment, that would sound very appetising – the idea of getting on a train and saving all that time, but as you mentioned, there’s a whole lot of hurdles to go ahead, to go through before it could happen. You mentioned $8 million federally, what are you expecting the state to match? You’re saying this will go ahead, but isn’t this- wouldn’t it be dependent on state funding as well?
Karen Andrews: Well I’m sure that the State government understands that there are significant transport issues in South East Queensland and enormous transport issues between the Gold Coast and Brisbane. So I’m confident that they will come on board to take the next serious step, which is to develop the business case. So I’m very confident that the business case will go ahead and that will give us all the information we need to do the planning for the future.
Julie Clift: You’re saying you’re confident they’ll go ahead. Are you hoping they’ll match you with $8 million? What are you expecting them to step forward with?
Karen Andrews: Look, so Minister Alan Tudge who’s responsible for delivering this from the federal government’s infrastructure point of view, has indicated that he’s looking for funding from either the private sector or from the state government. It’s very likely that the private sector is going to look at this as an opportunity as well for development. So we’re open to the way that this proceeds, but I would hope that the state government does recognise, particularly on the Gold Coast, that something needs to be done to extend heavy rail and to move people quickly between the Gold Coast and Brisbane and they’ll come on board.
Julie Clift: 20 past 7, 91.7 ABC Gold Coast, speaking with Karen Andrews, the Member for McPherson, she’s also the Minister for Industry Science and Technology. The idea that if the state government matched the funding, the business case will go ahead then. People no doubt, possibly waking up this morning, feeling that perhaps there’ll be this, something cynical about this pledge given that an election is looming. Do they have the right to feel cynical?
Karen Andrews: Look, I hope they don’t because I’ve been very clear as the Federal Member for McPherson that my priority was to get the M1 widened south, through to Tugun. I’ve delivered that money, that work is now underway. I committed to Light Rail, I delivered that money so that is continuing, the federal government is funding the upgrade through to Burleigh Heads, and I said that I will then move on to heavy rail and I am doing just that.
Julie Clift: Speaking of Light Rail, perhaps again, people perhaps surprised this morning, waking up thinking that the focus was going to be on the Light Rail extension, whereas now you’re talking about heavy rail and the extension to the airport. Why the focus on heavy rail as opposed to Light Rail?
Karen Andrews: There’s already a lot of community discussion happening about which is the best route for the Light Rail to take to get through to the airport. I’m committed that we will get Light Rail through to the airport. It’s really now an issue as to whether or not Light Rail is connected from Burleigh Heads to Varsity Railway Station and people commute to the airport from there, or whether it travels down the Gold Coast Highway through Palm Beach. And I know there’s a lot of residents who are concerned about the impact on Palm Beach. But these are the sorts of things that will need to play a part in the feasibility, the business case that the federal government is funding for heavy rail. So we’ll need look at transport options on the southern Gold Coast.
Julie Clift: And finally, the facts that there is- this is one of five business case, you said that from your end the business case is going to go ahead. But even if the business case goes ahead, we’re still up against other areas in Australia regarding fast rail. So again, no guarantees even if this proves to be feasible that this will go ahead?
Karen Andrews: I have worked for this for a number of years so I’m confident that we will be able to proceed with this. We’ll get the business case happening. We’ll look at what the impacts are going to be, the best way forward, and then I will be doing everything I can to make heavy rail happen on the southern Gold Coast.
Julie Clift: Good to speak with you this morning.
Karen Andrews: It’s a pleasure.