Light rail project gears up to get Sunshine Coast on board

15 November, 2011
Author: Charles Hodgson

Today is the historic moment when a broad cross section of key individuals will commence the planning for the Sunshine Coast light rail project.

The Sunshine Coast Council has established a dedicated light rail team to oversight the delivery of the project. The man charged with spearheading the project is internationally experienced transport planner, Ken Deutscher, who has been involved in many major transport initiatives in south east Queensland, including connecting SEQ 2031 and the establishment of the Gold Coast Rapid Transit Project.

Ken emphasised that this is very much a project of today which has the power to shape the future of the Sunshine Coast.

“It’s no good waiting 15 or 20 years and then thinking about our population growth – whether you want it or not, it’s coming. Decisions we make today are very relevant to the way we’ll live and our ability to protect our lifestyle choices,” Ken said.

During today’s workshop, keynote presenters, with specialist expertise in transport development and planning will provide informed input on the opportunities and benefits of light rail, considered by council to be the benchmark of public transport options for the Sunshine Coast.

In her opening remarks, Integrated Transport Portfolio Councillor Griffin will outline the council’s resolve to deliver a sleek, modern light rail system to the Coast, ideally within the next decade.

“We are done with plans that never get delivered. We are focused on developing our own vision for what is needed on the coast. We will develop a realistic and practical implementation strategy, backed by sound economic, social and environmental proof, that light rail has a key role to play in protecting the lifestyle and values of the Sunshine Coast for current and future generations,” Cr Griffin said.

“It would provide a major economic catalyst and provide for a real transport alternative to our almost complete car dependence.

“Light rail is future proof…it runs on electricity, not oil, emits no air pollution at the source, and the electricity it uses generates much less carbon per passenger kilometre than car travel.

“Do nothing is not an option. We need to act with foresight and vision. The Sunshine Coast is the 10th largest city in Australia and must have state of the art public transport. We need to plan and make provisions for change.

There will be half a million people here in 2031, and growth won’t stop there—it is essential to start planning now.

“We are committed to a strong and fruitful partnership with the Queensland Government but it is not good enough to leave it all up to them—we have a responsibility to shape our future and with community and business support I believe we will succeed.

“The Gold Coast started their light rail project in 1998. It was launched by a Mayor, Gary Baildon, not a state or federal minister, though it is now a project jointly funded by all three levels of government.

“Their council didn’t just wait for the possibility of better transport. They created the opportunity more than a decade ago by actively planning and orienting their city for the launch of a light rail network. It is a credit to that drive and foresight that light rail will become a reality on the Gold Coast in 2014.

“Here on the Sunshine Coast there seems to be the opportunity for light rail to be the backbone of a much larger and more attractive public transport system, connecting people to key locations such as town centres, shopping plazas, offices, hospitals, the University and the Airport.

“Light rail is the most versatile of all public transport modes. It can run in its own corridor, share roads with general traffic, or run through a pedestrian mall for a short distance, so it gives maximum flexibility in designing routes and integrates with existing business and leisure precincts,” Cr Griffin said.

Insights and findings from today’s workshop will be used to further develop the Task Force development and consultation process and form the basis of the plan and process needed to introduce light rail on the Sunshine Coast.