Infrastructure Australia has retained Cross River Rail as a High Priority Initiative on the Infrastructure Priority List. This rating recognises that the emerging problem of rail capacity into and through Brisbane’s CBD is a nationally significant infrastructure problem which will need to be addressed. Infrastructure Australia has not included the current proposal for Cross River Rail as a Project on the Infrastructure Priority List at this time.
Infrastructure Australia considers 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 would welcome the opportunity to consider a revised business case which addresses our concerns with benefit estimation, and clarifies the estimated timeframe for the emerging capacity problem. 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.
The Cross River Rail proposal is a response to strong growth in rail patronage in the decade up to 2011. Continued population increase over coming decades, together with jobs growth centred on the inner city, is expected to drive increased demand for trips to and from Brisbane’s CBD. This increased demand is expected to exceed the capacity of the current rail connection into and through Brisbane’s CBD at some point in the late 2020s-early 2030s. The proposed project would address this emerging problem by constructing a new 10.2 km rail line, including 5.9 km twin rail tunnels, through Brisbane’s CBD from Dutton Park in the south to Bowen Hills in the north. This would provide a third track pair through the CBD, providing substantial additional capacity into and through the city. The proposed project includes new underground stations at Boggo Road, Woolloongabba, Albert Street and Roma Street, and upgraded stations at Exhibition and Dutton Park.
The proponent’s stated benefit-cost ratio for the project is 1.4, with a net present value of $1,877 million (2016 business case, $2015, 7% real discount rate, P50 cost estimate, excluding wider economic benefits). Infrastructure Australia has material concerns with key aspects of the business case.
These include concerns about:
· patronage projections, with and without the project. These are far in excess of rates of growth previously achieved in Australia over an extended period, including during times of high population and economic growth
· quantification of the project’s projected benefits, which appear to substantially overstate the benefits expected to accrue to road users
· benefit growth projections for the project, particularly beyond the modelled years. These are far higher than those for relevant benchmark projects
· the timing of the project, given evidence that the flow of benefits from the project in its initial years of operation would be very low.
The 2016 business case does not include analysis, currently underway, of the potential land use change and urban renewal benefits likely to be generated by the project. It also does not include analysis of potential benefits likely to emerge from better integration of Brisbane’s rail and bus networks, reflecting work undertaken in the first part of 2017.