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It’s a big promise, but in five years time Brisbane’s CBD will be transformed.
From Queen’s Wharf to Brisbane Live, the transformed 45ha Victoria Park – Brisbane’s answer to New York’s ‘’Central Park’ – to the new QPAC theatre and trendy West Village, the world-class bars, cafes, restaurants, hotels and retail hugging of the river along North Quay all the way to the Story Bridge: The state’s capital is a mix of massive projects, construction sites, maps, plans, pledges and promises. But they seem to be coming together, with thousands of jobs already filled and the promise of more to come at a time when they couldn’t be more needed.
Literally underpinning the new Brisbane is the Cross River Rail and its 5.9km of tunnels and stations deep under the central business district.
Its builders say the twin tunnels beneath the Brisbane River will unchoke the southeast’s rail network, meaning more trains more often from every corner of the network.
It will mean sports fans can work in the CBD and be walking through the gates of the Gabba in minutes, head over to Brisbane Live for entertainment or simply know they will wait no longer than five minutes for a train to turn up and shuttle them home to the Gold Coast, Ipswich, Logan or – slightly longer – to the Sunshine Coast.
Look forward five years, he says, and “Cross River Rail and the Brisbane Metro have not only made it easier to move around – they’ve also sparked a renaissance of inner-ring centres such as Woolloongabba, Dutton Park, Herston and Albion. Brisbane Airport’s second runway and the cruise ship terminal have opened the way for many more international visitors.
“But it’s not just about the billions of dollars worth of new infrastructure.
“There’s also a tremendous flow-on effect from this construction boom that has created thousands of jobs.”
Mr Davies said construction was the second largest employer in Queensland this year, accounting for nearly 10 per cent of the overall workforce (almost 250,000 people).
“It is the third largest contributor to the Queensland economy ($27b) and supports almost 80,000 businesses from sole traders to mum and dad businesses, subcontractors, planners, designers and contractors,” he said.
“Every dollar spent on construction projects has a multiplier effect.
“It directly results in increased employment by those contractors engaged to do the work, increases demand for goods and services required to build the project and results in increased personal spending by all the newly employed workers. This in turn leads to increased employment throughout the broader economy.”
This is not the first time Brisbane has built itself out of an economic hole, Davies said.
“In 1928, as the Great Depression began to cripple the economy, Brisbane City Council commissioned its first major capital project that would today be called a ‘’mega project’’ – the Grey Street Bridge (which was later renamed the William Jolly Bridge).
“Then Lord Mayor William Alfred Jolly had formed the “Cross River Commission’’ three years earlier, appointing leading engineer Roger Hawken as chair to investigate new river crossings. The Grey St Bridge opened in 1932 just as unemployment across Australia peaked at 32 per cent.
“Meanwhile the ‘’Hawken Plan’’ included another, bigger better bridge downstream – the Story Bridge that would catapult Brisbane out of the economic doldrums and become a symbol for the city for decades to come.
Mr Davies said work began on the Story Bridge in 1935 in the midst of the Depression. During the five years of construction it was a massive employer, creating 400 jobs at its peak.
“At the same time the Hornibrook Highway, the longest bridge in the Southern Hemisphere, was being built,” he said.
“From crisis comes opportunity and we need to use this to become more responsive, to remove red-tape and streamline inefficient planning and procurement processes.”
The Courier-Mail in conjunction with the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority is presenting a series looking at the project and what it will bring to the state.
Construction of the project is pouring $2.8 million a day into the Queensland economy – jumping to $4 million a day as it ramps up even further through the second half of the year – and currently employs 1800 people across eight sites, peaking at more than 3000.
The 10.2km railway line will run from Dutton Park to Bowen Hills and include 5.9km of twin tunnels under the river and Brisbane CBD, as well as four new underground stations at Boggo Road, Woolloongabba, Albert Street and Roma Street.
There will also be upgrades at other stations.
INCREDIBLE TRANSFORMATION OF ROMA ST STATION
State Development Minister Kate Jones said the new Roma St “grand central station” concept was part of using new projects to get the most out of existing transport infrastructure.
“Cross River Rail won’t just unlock a bottleneck at the core of our rail network and allow more trains to run more often, it will integrate with new roads and new busways to create a new, turn-up-and-go transport system that benefits the whole of South East Queensland,” Ms Jones said.
“It won’t just make it quicker and easier to catch the train. Cross River Rail will take thousands of cars of the road and make it easier and less stressful to travel.
“There will also be great flow-on benefits for local businesses. It will be easier to get to the cricket, easier to get to the footy and easier for tourists to get up and down the Coast to spend money locally.”