Labor’s $1.2 Billion Light Rail Election Commitment

Artist's impression of light rail transit in the fortitude valley

Urban rail is now shaping up to be the key deciding issue of next month’s Brisbane City Council election with both Labor and Liberal lord mayoral candidates announcing billion dollar urban rail projects for the inner city.

On Sunday, Rod Harding announced his $1.2 billion costed plan for a new light rail line which would link UQ to Newstead.

A potential second stage would go from the CBD, to Suncorp Stadium, out to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, down to Woolloongabba and the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Map of Labor’s inner city light rail plan

“This was never going to be a single-line project,” he said.

“This is bigger than that – it’s transformational change.”

The proposal which can be downloaded in detail here, entails a similar funding model to the Gold Coast Light Rail which comprised of combined funding from local, state, federal governments as well as the private sector.

Rod Harding released this video explaining the plan:

BRISBANE’S FUTURE IS CALLING: Modern light rail will transform the way our city moves and help drive the public transport culture Brisbane is calling out for. More people on public transport means less congestion on our roads.

Posted by Rod Harding for Lord Mayor on Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mr Harding said the cost of $133 million per kilometre was based “benchmarked against the Sydney light rail experience”.

According to Harding’s Connecting Brisbane’s Future Transport Plan:

Assuming an initial route of 9km, the potential capital cost is $1.2 billion based on the highest cost of construction in Australia ($133 million per km for the Sydney Light Rail). This is a conservative approach but provides a prudent basis for considering the potential cost, noting that this will need to be confirmed as part of the business case.

The issue of river crossing also needs to be further investigated, including whether the Victoria Bridge can accommodate light rail. There will also be operating costs, depending on the method of delivery. These will need to be negotiated with the State Government given that the system will be integrated with the go card network and revenue is collected by the State Government through TransLink. This will be considered as part of the planning process. 

Aditionally, according to the plan, a Harding Labor Administration would commit up to $120 million towards building the initial route, which is approximately 10 per cent of the estimated capital cost as well as $20 million for the initial business case.

Infrastructure Australia has recently identified Brisbane’s proposed Cross River Rail as a priority project, however despite this Mr Harding said he was confident he would be able to extract even more money from the federal government for the Queensland capital.

The plan also details reasons why Light Rail is more beneficial than bus transit.

  • The ability to support initial and future patronage. The length and capacity of light rail can be increased to meet demand. Light rail vehicles can be between 27-45m in length and can carry between 160-320 passengers per vehicle.
  • High levels of consistency, reliability and comfort given that they operate within their own corridors and also on a fixed track.
  • Value for money on a whole-of-life basis. Given the ability to expand capacity to meet future demand, the number of light rail vehicles required will be significantly less over time than say using buses (which would need to run more vehicles at higher frequency to achieve the same capacity).
  • Lower local emissions emitted from light rail vehicles.
  • A proven technology with more than 100 light rail systems in operation around the world that demonstrably achieve capacities of 100,000+ passengers per day within existing road environments.

The transport plan details a high level timeline of project conception to construction and delivery, with Rod Harding pledging on Sunday that the first stage of light rail construction would occur within his first term of council administration.

Connecting Brisbane’s Future Plan


  1. Can we afford to give up the surface space, with such a large anticipated growth in walkers in the CBD over the next few years. A key long-term solution to CBD Public Transport congestion should offer alternative routes for passengers that are not destined for the CBD, but who must currently travel via the CBD. Capacity would therefore become available on radial CBD routes as non-CBD-bound travelers bypass them.

    More details:

  2. If they do build this, it needs to be elevated or underground.

    The or not option (surface) means it would take away valuable real estate in terms of walkers in the CBD, would cause massive congestion if they were to use existing road space and would also be disruptive to buses (which be bound for the outer suburbs not just inner city based).


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