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Offline ozbob

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Article: Fresh hope for new tracks
« on: January 19, 2009, 08:02:53 AM »
From the Courier Mail click here!

Fresh hope for new tracks

Fresh hope for new tracks
Article from: The Courier-Mail

Chris Hale

January 18, 2009 11:00pm

QUIETLY behind the scenes, Brisbane is theoretically going through a mini-revolution in transport and urban planning governance.

While other departmental restructures have offered little meaningful improvement so far, it is the current redesign of Queensland Rail, that 150-year-old giant of Queen Victoria's Industrial Age, that offers most hope. A more viable business model for rail probably would see infrastructure ownership split from the operation of trains. It would see coal and freight business split from passenger services. And it may even see regional passenger rail services divided from urban trains into a different company.

A dedicated rail public transport provider running exclusively on inter-city or regional legs, for example, may provide something beyond the existing services available.

Most advanced metropolitan regions operate with a distinction between inter-city regional express services, suburban commuter rail, urban metro-style rail and the supporting modes, usually trams and buses.

A generational leap in transport quality here could eventuate through greater differentiation between and expansion of each of these transit tiers in Brisbane, its vast suburbs, the Moreton Bay region and beyond.

Obviously the tiers would remain integrated and planned coherently. Expansion and improvement of railways at whatever level would be linked to urban and economic development on the ground, and to the creation and rejuvenation of well-designed, compact, green neighbourhoods and centres. This approach may require going beyond the regional plan's promotion of only minimal density increases around key transit nodes.

New infrastructure and service options should include a metro rail option, a high-performance inter-city rail express, targeted expansion of commuter rail, and new investigations into light rail applications at key cities throughout the region.

A three-line or four-line metro system for Brisbane's inner and middle suburbs should be part of a serious two-year or three-year scoping phase. A regional inter-city express rail plan needs to link centres and airports on the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast with key northside and southside Brisbane stations, a CBD super station and possibly with Brisbane airport.

Long-shelved commuter rail links to Springfield and Redcliffe should be back on the agenda, while even Hamilton, with its large-scale development future, should be seen as a rail network expansion opportunity.

Light rail should be built quickly on the Gold Coast, with planning initiatives investigating options for expanding beyond the initial single-line configuration. It is also a strong option for intra-regional travel at cities such as Ipswich.

A modern light rail network linking central locations in Ipswich with key centres around the sub-region could actually provide the amenity, convenient lifestyle, and urban renewal magnetism to make the mooted population shift attractive and likely. When cities like Strasbourg, with a similar population and less growth can do quality light rail, so can Ipswich.

The infrastructure funding puzzle remains to be solved ? but the answer is perhaps also linked to the future configuration of Queensland Rail.

The necessity of retaining a large ownership stake in rail infrastructure will mean that government needs to divest itself of holdings in other aspects of QR's vast portfolio of operational areas.

Divestment offers some major opportunities to the community, who are the stakeholders and owners. Firstly, it allows new ownership to come in and hopefully to wed the cream of local skills with a best-practice international model.

An Asian or European passenger rail operator could buy into the newly formed regional, suburban or metro companies, bringing a more nuanced and successful business approach.

The community could retain some shareholding stake. Divestment also offers funds back to the community, which ethically and logically should be redeployed to develop better infrastructure and a new paradigm in metropolitan and regional transit networks.

While recent years have seen the vast bulk of transport capital funds going to road expansion, a new, more sustainable model could see all funds from changes to the QR structure reinvested into better public transport and rail outcomes ? the metro lines, stations, new rail links, freight hubs, light rail options and Sunshine Coast-to-Brisbane-flyers that seem to be needed. Inevitably, congestion charging also needs to come into the mix of any generational improvement to transport standards.

By addressing public transport comprehensively a picture emerges of a rapidly changing metropolitan landscape. Rather than looking at 20 year-plus horizons, initiatives need to deal with what is required in the medium term, while also providing innovative funding options.

Chris Hale is an urban economist with The University of Queensland Centre for Transport Strategy.
Half baked projects, have long term consequences ...
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Offline mufreight

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Re: Article: Fresh hope for new tracks
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2009, 06:42:40 PM »
While Mr Hale has compiled a story seeking headlines the unportunate part is that practiality got lost somewhere, the division of other rail systems and privatisation simply has not worked overall.
As an entity QR remains the only government operated system in this country, the only divisions should possibly be a network company which owns constructs and maintains all assets below rail, two operating legs on for freight and one for passenger operations, divisions beyond that point are needless and lead to turf wars between the divisions and operational inefficiency.
Let the bean counters and theroists keep there noses out of the practical operation of what is the most efficient state railway system in the country.


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