Sunshine Coast Council today endorsed a strategic business case for a new mass transit system to cater for a growing region.
The strategic business case for a mass transit system to service the Sunshine Coast identifies continued strong population growth and the need to reduce reliance on private vehicle transport as key challenges to be addressed if the liveability of the Sunshine Coast is to be maintained as the region continues to grow.
The strategic business case supports the need for a high quality integrated public transport system, providing frequent and reliable services as a key driver for reducing car dependency and to support urban consolidation within the existing Urban Footprint and thus reduce the potential for urban sprawl.
Mayor Mark Jamieson said addressing the Sunshine Coast’s road, rail and public transport needs was crucial to securing the future liveability and prosperity of the Sunshine Coast.
“While the public transport network is the responsibility of the State Government, our council has had to forge ahead with planning and assessment of potential solutions if our community is to gain access to the public transport services the region needs, given the population growth we are experiencing now and will continue to experience into the future,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“The strategic business case demonstrates that a mass transit system needs to cover the most urbanised parts of the region and connect to the North Coast Rail Line at Beerwah.
“It also shows that a major investment like this will need to be delivered in stages.
“The strategic business case found 74 per cent of all our trips are local and under 10 kilometres in length, so this needs to be addressed first.
“A better integrated and more convenient public transport system would cater for many of those local trips, thus reducing the growth in private vehicle movements.
“To do that, public transport has to be reliable, frequent, easy to understand and use – so people choose it over car travel.
“The business case indicates the logical first stage of the new system would be from Maroochydore to Kawana, via the coastal corridor through Mooloolaba and Birtinya.
“While past studies undertaken by council and widespread community engagement activities in 2012, 2014 and 2018 have suggested light rail is the best mass transit solution for local travel, this will be looked at again, along with other mass transit options as part of the next phase of the process.
“At this stage, there is no confirmation that light rail will be the eventual mass transit solution as we want to ensure all viable options are considered,” Mayor Jamieson said.
Transport Portfolio Councillor Rick Baberowski said this has been a journey for this council and if we get this right we can preserve the quality of life in this region long into the future.
“After significant research and preliminary planning, we are now on a strategic pathway which places us in a partnership with State and Federal Governments.
“We have started the three-staged planning process that will lead us potentially to the right outcome,” Cr Baberowski said.
“We want to ensure the process is as robust as possible and the technology ultimately used works for our community.
“As such we will look at every technology – the tried and tested and the new and emerging technologies to ensure they are functional, feasible and will stand the test of time.
The next phase will be to finalise the preliminary business case, which is already underway and will be brought to council early next year.
A detailed business case will then be prepared by the end of 2021 – in partnership with the Queensland Government.
The Queensland Government has already agreed to contribute up to $7.5 million, to be matched by council, to support the development of the detailed business case.
The Strategic Business Case has highlighted that achieving the aspirations and maintaining the liveability of the region will require a multi-faceted approach which includes:
- A major improvement to mass transit to provide an integrated network to connect the major activity centres with where people live and linking this to Brisbane;
- Containment of urban sprawl within the existing Urban Corridor. A coordinated strategy to accelerate urban consolidation and infill development that encourages the majority of development and population growth in the existing Urban Corridor in order to reduce car dependency and the amount of travel required; and
- An ongoing program to boost local employment and industry development in areas close to the mass transit solution, to enable residents to live closer and have better access to where they work.
Mayor Jamieson said the strategic business case is the first major step in building the case to encourage and secure Queensland and Commonwealth Government investment in the project.
“These things take time – but if you don’t start them, you can never finish them,” he said.