OPINION. Imagine a brand new high density suburb being constructed for over 24,500 new residents, being used as an Olympic Village and only to learn that it will rely on bus and city cat services in and out.
That is the plan according to the Queensland Government’s new Northshore Hamilton Vision, which is a master-plan document to guide growth for Brisbane’s newest inner city suburb.
Northshore Hamilton is shaping up to be one of, if not, Queensland’s most important high-density master-planned suburbs. The unbuilt, flat, riverside location which is arguably one of Brisbane’s only flood-proof riverside development areas, has slowly been developing its own identity.
Peripheral developments which have been constructed from the outside, inward of the massive Hamilton landholding include Brookfield’s Portside Wharf to the western side, and Fraser’s Hamilton Reach to the east have become successful showpieces for the middle ring suburb.
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The addition and subsequent expansion of the highly successful Eat Street Markets has further developed the suburb’s night time vibrancy. Add to it, the announcement that it will be the home of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Athletes Village, attracting tens of thousands of international visitors during the event.
The establishment of the Athletes Village in Northshore marks a substantial government-backed contribution of housing supply to Brisbane’s real estate landscape. This becomes all the more essential given the imperative to accommodate an estimated 500,000 additional residents within the Brisbane City Council area alone by 2046.
The Missing Link
A critical item that the vision doesn’t mention is, mass transit. Northshore Hamilton’s population is expected to swell to 24,500 people, accomodating an additional 14,000 dwellings. Expecting all of these new residents to commute to and from work in a banana bus, city cat or gridlocked traffic is an ill-thought-out plan given the opportunity at hand.
There are many governments worldwide that would never greenlight such a massive housing surge without concurrently developing essential rail infrastructure to serve as the backbone for residents’ daily commutes to work.
Hence, unless we desire Kingsford Smith Drive to evolve into Brisbane’s newest carpark, it is imperative that the government seriously evaluates the incorporation of rail into the Northshore Hamilton vision, especially crucial given the opportunity to create lasting legacy infrastructure for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.
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Line Extension Option
The most economically efficient option for introducing rail connectivity to the emerging Northshore Hamilton precinct involves duplicating and extending the Doomben Line.
According to rail back on track spokesman Robert Dow, a duplication and extension of the line would require no residential land resumptions and could carry an additional 30,000 people each hour.
This is a very cost effective investment and it makes absolutely no sense not to do itRobert Dow, Rail back on track
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Therefore, if the government was after a quick and cheap Northshore rail solution, this is it.
The choice of a cheaper Brisbane-Metro inspired bus rapid transit system, proves unsuitable for Northshore due to the constrained capacity of both the buses themselves and Brisbane’s arterial roads.
Furthermore, the absence of dedicated lanes for the BRT into the CBD poses additional challenges. In contrast, duplicating and extending the rail line would provide Northshore residents direct entry to the complete SEQ rail network, offering a vastly superior solution.
Brisbane Subway – A Real Rail Revolution for Brisbane
A more expensive option to connect Northshore to the rest of Brisbane’s inner-city is via a project originally conceived in 2010 by the then Bligh Government and published in the Connecting SEQ 2031 strategy document.
The Brisbane Subway project entails the creation of an underground East-West subway line, interlinking fast growing inner-city areas of Brisbane through a novel route intended to surmount the Brisbane River’s barrier. This endeavour would provide residents with fresh river crossings and transformative urban passages, notably encompassing the City-Newstead-Bulimba-Northshore zones.
• Ultra-high frequencies, with only 90 seconds needed between services for safe operations
• Closely spaced stations for higher accessibility
• Ability to turn more sharply and tackle steeper grades than the present suburban rail.
A new separate network, with separate operations to existing rail infrastructure. Supporting the expected growth and expansion of inner city Brisbane”.Connecting SEQ 2031
After the Newman-LNP Government took office, the Labor-conceived blueprint for the Brisbane Subway was put on hold, as the focus shifted to prioritising the Cross River Rail project after the LNP were defeated. Nevertheless, there is a widespread belief that once Cross River Rail is finalised, the Brisbane Subway will emerge as the subsequent phase in the progression of inner-city rail endeavours in Brisbane. This foresight primarily stems from its potential to introduce fresh connection pathways within the inner-city.
The plan was also adopted by the Greens who have recently won three inner-city Brisbane seats at the last federal election.
Ryan MP Elizabeth Watson-Brown, the Greens’ federal transport and infrastructure spokesperson, told the Brisbane Times last June that the concept should be back on the agenda with the starting point instead being at Indooroopilly rather than Toowong and pass under the University of Queensland at St Lucia and then travel onto West End, the CBD, Kangaroo Pt, Newstead, Bulimba and Northshore.
“Cross River Rail will be finished soon, and game-changing public transport projects take years to deliver. Where is the planning for what’s next? We should give people living both in inner and outer suburbs the freedom to leave their cars at home, or avoid the expense of owning a car.”Ryan MP Elizabeth Watson-Brown
Back in 2016, BrisbaneDevelopment.com ran an article about this very subway line, proposing stations in high-growth areas, most of which currently are not serviced by mass transit and rely on buses.
As the Olympics draw nearer, only nine years on the horizon, the Queensland Government must now take decisive steps to invest in railway expansion beyond Cross River Rail.
This urgency stems from the imperative to prevent Brisbane from succumbing to the anticipated surge in population growth within the upcoming decade. The question becomes: If not now, when?