Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tony Abbott's freight tunnel will not help peak commuters!

Port of Brisbane Line at Park Road.  Source: Google Maps
With one and a half weeks to go until the 2013 federal election, Cross River Rail is finally starting to become an election issue. Tony Abbot has flagged a $5b 25km rail freight line, mainly in tunnel from Acacia Ridge to the Port of Brisbane, and an Ipswich rail freight bypass (Southern Freight Rail Corridor) from Rosewood to Kagaru. The former would be planned to open by 2026. These are both part of an inland Brisbane to Melbourne rail project, something has been planned for some time. BrizCommuter is not going to question the need for this tunnel to get freight off the roads. However LNP state transport minister Scott Emerson has stated that this project will help commuters by "freeing up capacity for passenger services", and BrizCommuter questions whether this is the truth. Lets take a look:

These two rail freight projects will allow freight trains to avoid conflict with passenger trains between Salisbury and Park Road (Beenleigh and Gold Coast Line) and Corinda to Rosewood (Ipswich and Richlands Line).

Salisbury to Park Road - this dual gauge track is used by freight off-peak, with a freight embargo taking place during the peaks when it used by Gold Coast Line trains. Abbott's freight tunnel will allow freight trains to run in the peak. However, as the capacity of this rail corridor is restricted through the CBD (e.g. Merivale bridge crossing) in the peak period, then removing freight trains will not help at all with increasing peak train services from the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, and Cleveland Lines. This is a problem that can only be ultimately solved by Cross River Rail, which Abbott is refusing to fund. Off peak, the freight tunnel may allow Gold Coast trains to overtake Beenleigh Line trains on this section, potentially allowing for a reliable 15 minute off-peak Gold Coast and Beenleigh Line trains (in conjunction with some other minor infrastructure projects).

Corinda to Rosewood - this is commonly used by coal trains running, which then travel via Tennyson and the previously mentioned section to access the Port of Brisbane. Again, there is a freight embargo during the peak period. The Ipswich and Richlands Lines already run approx. 16tph in the am peak, with a maximum capacity through the city of approx. 18tph to 20tph with current signalling. It is likely that by the mid to late 2020s this rail corridor will reach maximum capacity, and Abbott's freight tunnel will not help matters as there is already no freight during the peak. As per the previous example, the freight tunnel would allow for reliable 15 minute off-peak services to both Richlands and Ipswich (the latter being an express service). However, it is possible that this service could be operated now, just less reliably.

This rail tunnel also does not solve the issue with freight travelling North - South through the CBD, and limited capacity of the North Coast Line which parallels the Bruce Highway. It seems that Tony Abbott's priorities lie with inefficient and environmentally unsustainable road traffic along this important transport corridor.

To conclude, Tony Abbott's freight tunnel may help improve off-peak frequencies on SE Queensland's rail network, but will not help peak commuters at all. This rail freight project should not seen as an alternative to Cross River Rail.

Courier Mail article:
Southern Freight Rail Corridor:

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