For a Better Brisbane

Connecting SEQ 2031

The beginnings of a huge shift in transport thinking are underway. The Connecting SEQ 2031 draft plan was released a few months ago and is open for consultation until the 26th November. For those interested in Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) or sustainable transport solutions, the opportunity for your voice to be heard will close soon.

This plan signals a break with the idea that South East Queensland will be forever locked into a cycle of car-dependency and that only palliative measures can be taken to improve the situation.

As with any plan, there will be strengths and weaknesses. Strong points include the decisive move to rail based transport. South East Queensland is gifted with one of the largest commuter rail systems in the world (by length), but sadly it is underutilised. The advantages of heavy rail–  high-speed, tracks stretching over the entire region, high-capacity, labour and cost efficiencies make it the ideal fit for South East Queensland’s growing needs. The Cross River Rail will be absolutely essential. A frequent network of bus services over the entire region will also greatly improve transport.

Some of the weaknesses of the plan include the uncertainty over funding, the absence of a plan to deal with busway capacity, the metro proposal and, yet again, the complete absence of Light Rail options for Brisbane. The earlier 1997 plan dismissed Light Rail as “too costly”, unfortunately since then Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and now the Gold Coast have all built and extended their LRT systems or have LRT systems in initial construction stages. LRT is also being considered in Perth and Hobart. Perhaps Brisbane will be the last state capital in the country to consider LRT?

A plan to deal with the capacity of the busway system, particularly the South East Busway and the capacity of the CBD to take more buses is also absent. At certain points along the South East Busway there are now buses roughly every 20 seconds or below in peak. While functional now, it is highly questionable whether simply adding more and more buses will cope with future demand all the way to 2031 under the current working philosophy. And is it really cost-efficient, fuel-efficient and labour-efficient to run such a large number of single buses directly into the city each with their own operator?

The proposed metro also seems questionable. Is it really a necessity for Brisbane? Brisbane is not Paris, London, New York, Tokyo or Berlin. The service proposed mainly serves the inner city area which is already saturated with transit options. The real problem is out in the car-dependent suburbs where people have fewer transit options where rising living costs threaten to make long distance commuting unaffordable.

The main ingredient of a metro isn’t fancy trains, stations or technologies. The main ingredient of a metro is high frequency. By upgrading the heavy rail network, a metro-style system can be created from existing rail assets at a fraction of the cost of a brand new system and rapidly. Coupled with Light Rail and improved bus options, this blog believes that the proposed metro system is probably not required. Although upgrading busway corridors to metro may be one idea to look at. The merits of a metro will feature in future posts.

Video is © The State of Queensland (Department of Transport and Main Roads) 2010. The Connecting SEQ 2031 website and video is at

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