Benefits of Brisbane's Cross River Rail 'overstated': Infrastructure Australia

INFRASTRUCTURE Australia has finalised its independent evaluation of the Queensland Government's current business case for Cross River Rail, with the assessment finding that the benefits of the proposed project are overstated and likely to be outweighed by the costs.

"We have reached the conclusion that the benefits of the proposed project, as set out in the business case, are significantly overstated, and that the costs of the project as currently presented are likely to exceed its benefits," Infrastructure Australia Chief Executive Philip Davies said.

Artist's impression of Woolloongabba Station
Above: Artist's impression of Woolloongabba Station / Queensland Government.

"Based on a thorough evidence-based analysis of the business case, we have found that the rail patronage growth projections and the estimation of project benefits are unrealistically high."

Cross River Rail is a 10.2-kilometre link from Dutton Park to Bowen Hills, with 5.9 kilometres of tunnel under the Brisbane River and CBD. It includes four new underground stations at Boggo Road, Woolloongabba, Albert Street and Roma Street, and an upgrade of Exhibition station.

In its 2017-18 Budget, the Queensland Government announced it was fully funding the project, with an allocation of $2.8 billion over the forward estimates and a further $2.6 billion to be committed in future budgets.

Map of proposed alignment of Cross River Rail
Above: Map of proposed alignment of Cross River Rail (click to enlarge).

Mr Davies said Infrastructure Australia first raised concerns with the Queensland Government about the business case for Cross River Rail in July 2016, adding that the issues have not been fully addressed.

"Infrastructure Australia regularly assesses business cases for nationally significant projects as part of our role as an independent advisor to governments. The assumptions that have been used to justify the benefits in the Cross River Rail business case are well in excess of those we have seen for comparable projects," Mr Davies said.

"For example, the projected rail patronage growth in the business case is 7 times faster than actual growth in Brisbane over the last decade and 2.5 times that of comparable projects in larger Australian cities."

Infrastructure Australia has determined that Cross River Rail will remain on the Infrastructure Priority List, however the current proposal cannot be added to the list of projects with an approved business case at this time.

"We would welcome the opportunity to consider a revised business case from the Queensland Government addressing our concerns about the assumptions and projections used in the business case. A revised business case should also quantify potential benefits from land use change and urban renewal expected to result from the proposed project, and potential benefits from better integration of Brisbane's rail and bus networks," Mr Davies said.

"Infrastructure Australia has long supported the strategic need for improvements to public transport and additional capacity across the Brisbane River into the CBD. However, based on the assumptions and projections underpinning the current business case, the timeframe for this need remains unclear.

"We are committed to working with the Queensland Government to evaluate and prioritise proposals for nationally significant infrastructure." Mr Davies said.

The evaluation of the business case for Cross River Rail is available from the Infrastructure Australia website at <http://infrastructureaustralia.gov.au/>.

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