Brisbane City Council Completely Reshapes Brisbane Metro Plan

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Artist's impression of bi-articulated glider style bus vehicle. Source: Supplied.

The Brisbane City Council has fine-tuned its plans for the Brisbane Metro Subway System in order to overcome some critical operational issues that it had experienced with the previous design.

The newly unveiled system is a complete departure from a metro style track-based rubber tyre system.

Under the new plan, 60 bi-articulated glider-style buses will run along two lines linking Eight Mile Plains to Roma Street busway stations and Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital to University of Queensland Lakes busway stations.

The vehicles will use 21 kilometres of the existing busway infrastructure with frequencies of one vehicle every three minutes in peak times and 90 seconds between Roma Street and the Gabba precinct with an aim to slash travel times by up to 50 per cent.

There will be two interchange stations connecting with the new Cross River Rail at Boggo Road and Roma Street Busway stations.

Drawing of updated high frequency bus plan

In the process of overhauling the proposal, the project’s forecasted cost has been reduced by around $500 million with the final cost expected to be less than $1 billion.

Cr Quirk said the expanded project was developed in response to extensive consultation with a focus on better integration of the Metro with the State Government’s Cross River Rail.

“Metro services will be expanded to the suburbs and will help address Brisbane’s existing congestion and capacity issues with a fast and reliable public transport service to keep Brisbane heading in the right direction,” he said.

“People’s journeys from the suburbs to the city and home again will be faster with journeys between Buranda and King George Square 50 per cent faster in the afternoon peak and 30 per cent faster in the morning peak.

“Right now, buses carry two out of every three public transport trips in Brisbane. Our existing bus infrastructure is already at capacity in a number of areas and cannot cope with the continued forecast growth of our city.

“The Metro improves the CBD amenity by removing 125 buses from the CBD in the morning peak hour.

“It provides a better solution for Brisbane that redirects buses to the suburbs, integrates with the proposed Cross River Rail project and connects our key knowledge and health hubs.”

Cr Quirk said the Metro would boost the capacity to carry up to 22,000 passengers per hour in the morning peak which includes existing services such as the BUZ, Rocket and CityGliders. Most other services will be truncated or rerouted with more services in the suburbs.

Under the new plan, a new underground station will be built at the Cultural Centre and the Victoria Bridge to be converted into a transit-only green bridge.

The new bi-articulated buses are said to have a passenger capacity of 150 people with upgrades to occur at each of the 18 busway stations to enable commuters to swipe on and off at the busway stations and ensure faster journey times.

Example of Van Hool ExquiCity bi-articulated buses

Cr Quirk said Council would undertake community consultation during the next several weeks on this preferred option before finalising a preliminary business case in May.

Key facts

  • A new underground bus station at Cultural Centre
  • Upgrades to 18 existing stations, Interchange opportunities at 11 locations
  • Some existing bus routes will continue along the busways
  • Converts Victoria Bridge to a transit-only green bridge for proposed Metro and bus services
  • About 60 new bi-articulated glider vehicle with the capacity to carry up to 150 passengers
  • New depot facility for glider vehicles at a location subject to further investigation
  • High-frequency services as often as every 90 seconds
  • Boosts capacity of the busway up to 22,000 people per hour in the morning peak
  • Removes up to 125 buses from CBD streets and maintains CBD accessibility
  • Redirects buses to provide more services to the suburbs
  • Estimated cost of less than $1 billion.
  • Construction expected to take 4 years.


The Brisbane City Council has changed the previous track-based metro plan to instead introduce larger bi-articulated buses which will run frequently like a metro would, along the dedicated busway.

The fact of the matter is that the proposal is not a ‘metro’, it is a super-bus or upscaled City Glider route with one new underground station and the removal of traffic lanes on the Victoria Bridge.

While this un-sugarcoated fact or perceived ‘downgrade’ to bi-articulated buses may give the impression of a watered down project, this is by no means a bad thing. The previous plan involved shutting down the whole busway system for a rubber tyre track-based metro. This style of metro can be seen in Paris, which has numerous rubber-tyred metro lines.

The difference between our busway lines and Paris’ Metro lines is that our busways cannot cater for Paris’ larger 8+ car metro carriages, some of which can hold up to 932 people each, like this Alstom MP14 Metro. It would require a huge investment to transform our busway’s gradients, station length and sharp turns into a line which would be capable of matching the capacity of Paris’ 932 passenger metro.

Simply put, this is a cost efficient way of solving a bottleneck issue on the Victoria Bridge and Cultural Centre which has been plaguing the busway system for years.

Spending less on improving mass transit for areas which already have access to mass transit is fine, provided funds are reinvested towards long-term infrastructure such as an East-West MRT line, previously suggested on which would open up Brisbane suburbs which currently have limited or no access to rail or mass transit infrastructure.

Brisbane will have to wait to get an underground metro rail line with actual trains instead if buses, however – baby steps.

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  • The original plan was interesting. I was for it. This is stupid… they’re just fancier buses… We already have buses. This IS watering down the project. It didn’t have to be as grand as the Paris metro, there could’ve been less carriages the stations and gauges need not to change. It’s ruined: and just when I thought Brisbane was getting something.

  • Not the East-West link we were hoping for, but nonetheless a, albeit small, step in the right direction.

  • Brisbane’s future is buses , no point pretending we’re a LRT/metro city. Busways arent configured for high capacity metro services so there would be significant capital investment for little benefit. We already have the makings of a world class BRT network so lets focus on improving and expanding that rather than having a hodge podge of modes operating on half baked networks.

  • This downgrade is disappointing As I was hoping this could have been the start of a subway for Brisbane. After living in Europe and seeing how unreliant big cities are on cars(hardly anyone ownes a car) to living in a city that is so reliant on cars. Buses no mater what you call them aren’t the solution, subways are. And, if anyone one wants to argue that Brisbane doesn’t have the population than look at the many smaller cities that have subways successfully eg. Stockholm.

  • Complete folly. More busses.

    This will not solve anything and will only add to the problems we already have; that being way too many busses and not enough high density rail transport solutions.

  • This is not new infrastructure. Just bigger buses replacing smaller buses.
    Why not save the $1b and put it in the pot for the East West MRT line? Brisbane needs additional infrastructure to alleviate the looming population growth problems.
    Unfortunately this is Quirk’s politics in action with an election looming. The man is a politician not a leader / visionary / not the right man to take Brisbane forward.

  • Well this is certainly a step in the right direction. The previous metro proposal was a joke.

    That said, lets look at precisely what this new proposal is – an upgrade of routes 66 and 111 to CityGlider standards, plus articulated buses.

    The most frustrating part of this proposal is that if they implemented forced interchanges at many of the busway stations (as proposed), this would remove most of the traffic on the Victoria Bridge anyway. So then there’s no real need to spend $1 billion on the grade separation, which really is a nice-to-have.

    Instead, let’s do all of this work aside from the grade separation, pump the remaining $900 million dollars into Cross River Rail and then get started on planning an actual metro system, similar to what’s been proposed here.

  • So the LNP took a ‘metro’ plan to the council election that was obviously not going to work (ie. had to regrade the entire busways & couldnt turn the corners) to counter a ALP LR proposal… talk about a rushed knee jerk reaction from the ‘do-the-absolute-minimum-LNP-council’

    • I would put money on it that the LNP were planning to announce light rail, then Labor got in first – so they quickly changed it to ‘metro’ without actually seeing if it was possible.

      That said, I think the Greens had the best transport policy at the last election.

      • The greens always have the best policies. Anythings possible when you have unlimited funds at your disposal.

        • Actually at the last election, the Greens’ policy was to reconfigure the routing of buses introduce more CityGlider routes – Far cheaper than the metro or light rail proposals.

  • I don’t think this is a bad idea.
    Metros are for moving commuters to and from the CBD, and buses are to move commuters from varieties of local locations to the regional metro stations or vise versa. This will reduce the amount of unnecessary needs for buses to travel into the CBD, and increase the commuting density by collectively accumulate the loose commuting needs towards one or two major mass transit line(s).
    Yes, Brisbane will also in need of a West-East Metro Link, but that doesn’t mean those 2 lines are completely useless. As for those who claim buses would be enough for Brisbane, can you go and check out the number of buses lining up on Victoria Bridge during the rush hour? That is totally ridiculous.

  • I don’t think this is a bad idea.
    A plan made to a growing city should be in a long term vision, either population growth or employment growth should be considered, how it will be looks like in 50 years or 100 years, and how this thansport capacity will be fine with this growth. we need to split some traffic into underground in the future, and not only in CBD and inner city area, starting from Eight Mile Plains is brilliant, it is risiculous on the morning M3, by reducing the own transport using, and use public tansport instead, it help change our environment as well and reduce the noise and polution, definitely next generation benifits from this. and with a co-opration with East-West line and cross river rail, it is a big idea for Brisbane, a big growth starts from thinking big, which is good. To a right direction!!

  • Take a look at Adelaide’s O-Bahn tracked busway. Over 30 years ago this excellent system was built and it’s riders love it. Faster than trams and their train system (untill recent rail electrification). Still popular and extended this year. Before any reader here comments negatively, take a look via youtube “Adelaide O-Bahn”. An excellent transit system that could use modified Van Hool bi-articulated buses that run on O-Bahn tracked busways an regular roads. Take a look!!

  • Sorry but light rail is the best way to go. Take a look at Manchester their system keeps on growing because the public are using it as the best way to get around the city. Unfortunately we had politicians 60 years ago who just wanted cars on the road and look at the mess now. Every city in Europe either has retained their light rail or re-introduced it, look at Paris they are putting miles of new track down. A good light rail system will carry hundred of commuters quickly and efficiently. Los Angeles is a good example of how not to develop a transport system. They have built 6 lane freeways which are 6 lane car parks 24 hour a day. In the 1950’s they had 1500 miles of light rail which was purchased by General Motors and Firestone, closed down and the track ripped up, the city should demand these two companies put it all back!

    • And Brisbane had one of the largest tram networks in the country up until 1969. It was ripped up so as to flood the city with one-way streets that have turned into snarling traffic sewers and formula one tracks!

  • This looks more like an evolution of the current Busway than a ‘metro’. I think the current ‘Glider’ name should be used as it is more authentic and local. ‘Metro’ sounds pretentious. Burying the Cultural Centre station is a good idea as that has always been awful and dangerous. It would be good to have more busses deployed to the outer suburbs too rather than all banked up on the Victoria bridge. The proposed three car articulated busses do look the same size as the new three car trams here in Melbourne. These are very good at moving large crowds out of the CBD at peak times, better than the old single car trams anyway.

  • And Brisbane had one of the largest tram networks in the country up until 1969. It was ripped up so as to flood the city with one-way streets that have turned into snarling traffic sewers and formula one tracks!

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