Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman may have a good idea in recommending that the Government scrap the Cross River Rail project and consider a new Brisbane subway system instead:
Brisbane’s stalled $8 billion cross river rail project should be scrapped and replaced with a Barcelona or Paris-style metro system, Lord Mayor Campbell Newman has demanded.
The state government in January delayed its cross-river rail plans, which would involve construction of a new 18-kilometre north-south railway line, 9.8 kilometres of which would be in a tunnel.
Arguably, Mr Newman’s proposed subway would better target Brisbane’s high density inner city suburbs than Cross River Rail.
Cr Newman said the existing project was designed to provide more capacity to run trains from the Gold Coast through to the Sunshine Coast and tackle a bottleneck at the Brisbane River.
“A different way of looking at this is to say to QR, settle down, we’re going to have it run two semi-separate systems,” he said.
“Instead of putting $8 billion into cross river rail we could for between $3 and $4 billion total, get 40 kilometres of inner-city subway in Brisbane, with probably at least 25 to 30 stations, using the technology that was put forward in Barcelona.
“We can have that to service the CBD and the high growth areas of the inner six or seven kilometres of Brisbane, the high growth urban renewal areas.”
The Lord Mayor’s proposal is worth consideration by the Government, as it could potentially encourage more people to use public transport. In the interests of improving public health and reducing obesity – which is very costly to our community – it is worth investing in public transport facilities within walking distance of significant population clusters.
For example, as noted in this October 2010 US Treasury report on infrastructure, a new light rail system in Charlotte, North Carolina resulted in a reduction in obesity in the local community, partly because people walked further each day if they caught public transport. As summarised by US Treasury:
…the use of light rail to commute to work is associated with a nearly 1.2 point reduction in body mass index as well as an 81 percent reduction in the odds of becoming obese over time.
While a subway is different from light rail, we’d nonetheless expect similar health benefits, as subway riders in Brisbane’s inner city would likely walk to and from the subway each day. Of course, it could be a lot more costly than the Lord Mayor expects (his $3-4 billion estimate seems low to me), but his proposal is certainly worthy of a feasibility study.