More than $2bn of Brisbane’s Cross River Rail will be a PPP

Queensland is rolling ahead with the rail project despite Infrastructure Australia saying its costs are ‘likely to exceed its benefits’.

The Queensland government will procure part of the Cross River Rail project, a high-priority infrastructure scheme for Brisbane, as a PPP.

The decision flies in the face of a July assessment from the country’s independent infrastructure advisory body, Infrastructure Australia, which argued that the project’s costs are “likely to exceed its benefits”. The advisor said it found the rail patronage growth projections and estimated project benefits “unrealistically high”, after it reviewed the project’s business case.

The Cross River Rail project, with an estimated cost of A$5.4 billion ($4.29 billion; €3.6 billion), comprises a 10.2km rail line connecting Dutton Park and Bowen Hills, with twin underground tunnels and new underground stations. It aims to ease congestion and improve connectivity within the central business district of Brisbane by offering a second rail river crossing. 

The construction of the tunnel and four new underground stations, as well as a section of rail surface works, accounting for more than half of the project cost, will be delivered as a PPP, as will the rail integration and systems work of the project. 

Early work on the project, which is fully funded by the government budget, is now under way as local construction companies – Advanced Temporary Fencing in Yalata and Arbor Operations in south-east Queensland – have secured contracts, according to Annastacia Palaszczuk, the state premier. Geotechnical investigations will also start soon along the project’s corridor, she added. 

The state government estimated that, with the project in place, there will be 90,000 people travelling each day in the morning peak hours by 2036.