By 2036, the population of South East Queensland (SEQ) is predicted to hit five million people. That’s an increase of 1.5 million in less than 20 years. This makes SEQ one of Australia’s fastest growing regions. But it also presents some challenges for the transport system.
That’s where transformational initiatives like the Queensland Government’s Cross River Rail Project can play a part in providing extra capacity to help ease the pressure on the system. More than 80 per cent of the ‘new’ 1.5 million people – or about 1.2 million – will live outside of the central Brisbane Local Government Area (LGA). In other words, they will live about 45–60 minutes from the CBD, where homes are more affordable, and the lifestyle suits their wants and needs.
But, almost half – 45 per cent – of the new jobs will still be created inside the Brisbane LGA. And this means more people than ever before will need to travel to, from and through Brisbane every day.
The population and jobs growth is a great story for the River City but it also means SEQ has to invest now in the infrastructure it will need to keep the region moving.
Grand plan to remove bottleneck
The SEQ public transport network was largely conceived in the 1940s and since then it’s really only the new Moreton Bay Rail Line that’s been added to the network as a major new trunk line. In 1978, when the Merivale Bridge was opened, connecting the south and north sides of the Brisbane River for the first time for train movements, rail patronage boomed, growing by an average of 6.7 per cent in ten years.
But now the system is nearing capacity with that single river crossing and the fact that all lines run through the same four stations near the city, combine to create a bottleneck at the core of the network. This means it’s very difficult to run more trains or improve network services. With a burgeoning population, that spells trouble.
The Cross River Rail Project includes the construction of 5.9km of twin tunnels under the Brisbane River and the CBD; the installation of 10.2km of new rail lines and integration to the existing rail network; new stations, and a new rail signalling system.Because the new tunnel will pass under the Brisbane River, it effectively gives a clogged CBD rail network a form of bypass surgery. Unlocking this blockage at the heart of the network allows more trains to run more often, and integration with new roads and bus services will help to create a turn-up-and-go public transport system set to benefit the whole region.
The project also includes the construction of four new, high-capacity underground stations including one in Albert Street, in the very heart of the CBD. A further eight stations above ground in Brisbane will be upgraded and three brand new stations will be built at the Gold Coast, the fastest growing sector of the rail network. The improved public transport services and facilities not only helps the state capital evolve as a world-class city, but improves connectivity across the region.
Contractors awarded and delivery milestones
Cross River Rail is much more than just a rail project. The planning and development of the precincts surrounding the new underground stations will trigger urban renewal in the inner-city. It will boost the economy and generate thousands of jobs. Around 450 apprentices will learn their trade and launch their careers working on this landmark project for Queensland.
It’s full steam ahead for the project as it continues to achieve all of its major milestones. Following a rigorous procurement process, major contractors were announced in April with the CIMIC Group led PULSE consortium set to deliver the construction of the tunnels and stations, while the Unity Alliance will work closely with the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority and Queensland Rail to deliver the Rail, Integration and Systems package. Hitachi will provide the final package of work, the European Train Control System, which removes the need for trackside signals and provides greater efficiency and safety on the rail network.
In getting to this point, the project has been through an extensive early works program. The Cross River Rail construction site at Woolloongabba, just across the road from the world-famous Gabba Stadium, has been completely cleared in preparation for its new station and will act as the home base for tunnel boring machines. Meanwhile, a new coach terminal has just opened at the Roma Street station on the fringe of the CBD, making way for the demolition of its former home, the Brisbane Transit Centre. Demolition work on the Brisbane Transit Centre – also referred to as the “ugliest building in Brisbane” – is set to begin at the end of the year.
Complete digital twin forms innovation approach
Graeme Newton, Chief Executive Officer for the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority, said the project would be a huge game-changer for SEQ.
“We are setting a new standard for major infrastructure delivery, through ground-breaking and industry-changing levels of innovation in design, construction and project management,” Mr Newton said.
One of the innovative approaches that is being used behind the scenes is a powerful tool the team calls the Project Digital Network Approach or ‘Project DNA’. The complete digital twin of the project captures an exhaustive range of information and displays it in 3D – from BIM designs and GIS data through to full photorealistic renderings of future construction, including tunnels, stations and their wider precincts. It is used by a variety of teams within the Delivery Authority to plan and execute the project, from engineers and planners through to program controllers and even stakeholder engagement teams.
Project DNA also has the potential to move beyond 3D and help users to visualise and track the project against time, cost, operations, and maintenance. In other words, it is a 7D tracking and delivery tool that will be one of the first of its kind in the world.
With innovation underpinning Cross River Rail, Mr Newton knows Cross River Rail is on the right track to achieve big goals.
“We know this project is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to leave behind a transformational legacy for Queensland. Public transport travel as we currently know it will change forever and shape the region through new city precincts.Ultimately it will improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike,” Mr Newton said.