Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Aura, or Black Hole?

More urban sprawl - going somewhere here
The huge Aura (previously known as Caloundra South) residential development on the Sunshine Coast has recently been announced. This new town will eventually house 50,000 people, a considerable portion of which will be commuting the long distance to Brisbane.

In the UK, when a large number of new towns were built, they were all built on train lines with at least a 30 minute frequency train service. Unfortunately in backwards SE Queensland, new towns and urban sprawl continues to be built with no train line. This forces residents to rely on cars, causing increasing road congestion as commuters travel to and from Brisbane. Springfield has only recently received its train line, and North Lakes will get a train line in 2016. Flagstone doesn't look like it will get a train line for decades, "in the middle of nowhere" Yarrabilba will never see decent public transport, and now Aura is looking like it will be train-less public transport black hole for a long time. High frequency bus services in these new towns also fail to materialise, just look at Springfield's poor bus services.

So what is the problem with Aura's public transport?

  • Sunshine Coast Line duplication - successive governments have failed to duplicate the Sunshine Coast Line beyond Beerburrum and Lanesborough. This limits both peak frequency and off-peak frequency (shared with freight trains) on the Sunshine Coast Line. Currently there is no date set for duplication, and no funding for this duplication. 
  • CAMCOS (Caloundra and Maroochydore Line) - again, successive governments have failed to build this line which would serve The Sunshine Coast in a much more useful manner than the current Sunshine Coast Line which mainly serves hinterland villages. CAMCOS would actually pass through the Aura development. CAMCOS currently has no date set for construction, and no funding. 
  • Caboolture Line capacity - this line currently runs 18tph, 2 kph short of it's maximum capacity. Adding Moreton Bay Rail Link (MBRL) to the mix in 2016 will result in more overcrowded trains. Improved signalling (ERTMS Level 2), more trains, and improved turn back/stabling facilities would allow for a 20% improvement. After that, the expensive Trout's Rd (Northwest Transportation Corridor) would be required to add more train capacity from Caboolture and the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane. 
  • It does not appear that the developer has been forced to pay for rail infrastructure to serve its development (unlike UK and European development policy). 
  • The lack of the above, will result in car reliance in Aura, and thus more congestion on the already congested Bruce Highway. 
What is the solution?
  • Developer funding - the developers of any new towns or urban sprawl need to be forced to pay a considerable amount towards rail infrastructure, as occurs in the UK and Europe. 
  • Government funding - both state and federal governments need to play catch up in public transport funding, to avoid the spiral of wasteful road funding. 
  • Urban planning - a bit late here for Aura, Yarrabilba, and Flagstone - but urban planning in SE Queensland needs to be based around sustainable short distance commutes, not unsustainable urban sprawl and long distance commutes. 
It is now down the Queensland state government, and federal government to decide whether Aura will either be a public transport black hole, or whether a great opportunity to invigorate the Sunshine Coast's public transport system will be realised.  

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