Transportation Planning Casebook/Cross-River Rail



Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project is a 10.2km heavy rail project that is currently under construction.  It is intended to be a primarily underground single line railway that connects core parts of Brisbane together allowing for better connections into and out of the CBD and reducing road congestion with its new nine-car trains which allows for almost double the capacity of existing railway networks from the south into the CBD.  The current plans entail the upgrade of eight existing surface stations, the construction of three brand new surface stations, and four underground stations[1].  Initial cost projections for the plan first made in 2012 was $4.5 billion, however as the project commenced, projected costs raised to $5.4 billion for upfront construction in 2017.

The current railway network in South-East Queensland (SEQ) has been deemed insufficient for its current population and does not serve a critical role in transport across the area, as such the Cross River Rail is intended to alleviate the issues that currently face the existing network.  The modernised design of the rail combined with the renovation of existing stations and entirely new stations will allow it to be better integrated with existing bus networks.  The currently existing roads across SEQ are deemed to be at capacity, costing the state $2 billion per year, with no alternatives as the existing rail network is constrained by its age and lack of capacity. The Cross River Rail is also set to allow faster connections from further away from the city centre, allowing for more urban development that still has fast access to major business points across SEQ[2]. By forming the connection from the CBD to areas further south is intended to boost economic growth, by allowing easy access to core business centres, provide reliabile travel as the scale of the project will allow up the 24 trains on the line and serve as the first step in improving Brisbane's rail network by boosting the core of the problem, before ideally expanding outwards and improving the network further away from the centre.

Currently the project is still under development, the construction is projected to finish in late 2025 and after safety and maintenance checks are completed, public services are expected to commence in 2026.  The project is being delivered by a partnership of three different private sector groups each covering a separate portion of the project[3].  The Tunnel, Stations and Development (TSD) is set to deliver the underground tunnels, stations and all related mechanical and electrical components and systems, Rail, Integration and Systems (RIS) will develop and design the integration of the project to the existing railway lines and supporting railways, while also providing the complete renovation of Exhibition station and announced in 2019, the building of six brand new stations.  The final group is the Sequence Alliance, combination of Hitachi Rail, Queensland Rail and the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority (CRRSA), who is set to deliver the European Train Control System (ETCS) which is a new experimental signalling system for the rail line that is intended to improve safety and capacity for carriages on the network.

Annotated List of Actors

Stakeholder Type of Stakeholder Interests/Concerns
Queensland State Government (Labor Party) QLD Government Party
  • The Cross River Rail Project will contributes to the Shaping South-East Queensland (SEQ) long term vision, which details the government’s long-term goals in the region, to accommodate and enhance the area for a growing population, by providing greater access into inner Brisbane and the CBD.
  • The commitment to the delivery of the Cross River Rail was key in securing the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane, with major upgrades to existing infrastructure required for a rail system that is to transport millions of tourists in 2032, increasing its appeal as a major city in Australia both domestically and internationally.
  • Over the 5 year construction period, a total of 7,700 jobs will be created through the duration of the project for the people of Queensland, supporting the Labor party’s policy of a investing in the state for the people, supporting a strong economy with jobs and opportunities for all[4].
Queensland Liberal National Party QLD Government Party
  • The LNP proposed the second iteration of the Cross River Rail project in 2012. However, due to funding disagreements with the Federal Government, they were unbale to progress further with the project and were voted out of power in 2015. The construction of the Cross River Rail however, may require upkeep, maintenance and support from the LNP should they come back to power in future elections.
Department of Transport and Main Roads QLD Government Department
  • The Department of Transport and Main Roads will be responsible for ensuring users understand the changes that are happening and will occur upon completion of the project, including changes to the existing public transport network by monitoring travel patterns and adapting the network to the existing patterns, and how the city will change through the construction years to accomodate for this change.
  • The Department will be responsible for overseeing the ongoing maintenance and operation of the network upon completion of the Cross River Rail project. The safety and smooth running of the network during the testing phase is vital to ensure the least amount of changes and potential shutdowns in the network upon completion.
  • After initial operation of the Cross River Rail, The Department will be required to look into how users are using the new services, and making changes as necessary, especially in the lead up to the Olympic Games in 2032, an estimated 6 years after opening of the network.
CIMIC Group (including CPB Contractors, UGL, Pacific Partnerships) & International Partners (DIF, BAM and Ghella) Private Companies
  • The CIMIC Group are the main contractors executing the project and revenue to the Group is estimated to be half of the project value (revenue estimated at $2.7 billion), with finalisation at contract execution over the coming months[5].
  • As maintenance servicer of the over 10km stretch of railways, over a set 24 years, UGL will be expected to continue earning revenue over a long term period[5].
  • The securing and successful delivery of this major project in Queensland for these contractors help retain and secure their reputation and name as leading construction companies for future projects in Australia, and internationally.
Queensland Companies and Businesses Private Companies
  • Local companies and businesses run by the people of Queensland will benefit directly from the construction of the Cross River Rail, with direct interaction and business conducted with local companies. Over 1,500 Queensland companies, either as subcontrators or suppliers have directly benefitted from the project so far[4].
People of Queensland Local Residents
  • Those living through the CBD on the routes of new rail lines, and stations across 16 work sites, will be impacted by the 8 year construction period, with work conducted through the night on some days, including heavy noise and truck movements.
  • Easier and more efficient accessibility into the CBD will provide for greater opportunities through the CBD and around the outer suburbs of Brisbane, in terms of jobs and education.
  • The people of Queensland will receive an estimate of $1.41 in return for every dollar invested[6].

Timeline of Events


Proposal and Planning Stage

Time Event Significance
2007 SEQ's Inner City Rail Capacity Study This study revealed that the South East Queensland region required a new rail bridge by 2016 to help Merivale Rail Bridge cope with increasing passengers and overcrowding [7].
26 February 2010 2010 Cross River Rail Proposal was application lodged with the Coordinator General [8] To address the issue identified in 2007 before 2016, Anna Bligh (Labor Party)'s Government proposed the 2010 Cross River Rail Proposal. This proposal included longer length rail and was estimated to cost $7 Billion. This is more than the 2017 final project proposal of $5 Billion[2].
June 2010 2010 Cross River Rail Proposal assessed by Infrastructure Australia [9]. Infrastructure Australia Assessment approval was needed for partial funding of the project. In the assessment Infrastructure Australia put the project status at "Real Potential" [9].
28 July 2010 Project Approved by Coordinator General [8] The project was approved but with conditions of protecting heritage listed buildings [10]. After passing public consultations, the project was planned to begin construction in 2013.
February 2011 2010 Cross River rail delayed Extreme flooding over the summer of 2010 to 2011 led to funds being allocated to a $5 Billion damage bill for public repairs. The Cross River Rail project was hence delayed by an estimated 2 years to 2015 [11].
2012-2013 Infrastructure Australia approves Cross River Rail Following Campbell Newman (Liberal National)'s government coming into office the project was scaled down and assessed by Infrastructure Australia as "ready to proceed" [12]. In this proposal construction was to begin in 2015 and complete in 2021 but the project didn't begin due to budgeting disagreements across the Federal and state government [13].
December 2012 Coordinator General provides report on EIS This provided approval to the project in its scaled down 2012 state [8], but also acknowledged that the project was on hold awaiting approval from the Queensland State Government particularly regarding funding.
18 November 2013 BaT (Bus and Train) Project officially application lodged with the Coordinator General [14]. Newman government changed the previous Cross River Rail plan to introduced the Bus and Train (BaT) project. This was different to the earlier Cross River Rail Project as it both decreased costs, length of rail and also proposed the incorporation of buses [15].
2014 BaT goes through process to received approval. Across the year Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) are released and public consultation occurs [14]. This project received strong community opposition for its public private partnership model of funding [15].
February 2015 Annastacia Palaszczuk (Labor) comes to office [16]. Change in leadership will lead to changes to the project again.
June 2015 BaT abandoned and original 2012 Cross River Rail plan returned to [7]. The bus component of BaT is abandoned as Palaszczuk argue that the buses are not supported by most Public Transport officials as the better option. Focus is returned to the railway and trains [17].
June 2016 CRR Detailed Business Case 2016 The CRR detailed Business Case 2016 was completed by the Queensland Government and was submitted to the Australian Government. This updated the previous 2012 plan to reflect 2016 conditions [2].
August 2017 Business case for Cross River Rail released Infrastructure Australia concluded that the benefits of the project were "overstated" in the business case - in particular projected ridership to be overestimated. The project was placed as a part of the "Infrastructure Priority List" but is included in the list of projects with approved business cases [18].
September 2017 Project begins construction process. The project commenced accepting expressions of interest for construction from September 2017 [19] funded by the Queensland Government [19]. It was provided an initial contribution of $5.4 Billion from Public Private Partnership [20].

Construction and Projected Completion

Time Event
September 2017 The project commenced accepting expressions of interest for construction from September 2017 [19].
2019 Contracts were awarded to TSD PPP, RIS Alliance and European Train Control System [19]
January 2020 Construction Commenced [19].
2021 Tunnelling successfully completed [21].
31 March 2023 Additional $848 million of State Government funding was provided to the project for pressures of COVID, severe weather and affects of the war in Ukraine [20].
2025 Construction is expected to complete [21]
Early 2026 New line is to open and be operational [21]

Route and Stations of the Cross River Rail


Underground Stations

Station Details
Boggo Road Station
  • 19m below surface
  • Estimated to have 23,000 daily passengers by 2036[22]
  • Forecasted to be SEQ's second busiest transport interchange
Woolloongabba Station
  • 27m below surface
  • Estimated to have 18,000 daily passengers by 2036[22]
  • Easy access above to The Gabba, major sport stadium hosting a range of events with a capacity of 42,000 people[23]
Albert Street Station
  • 31m below surface
  • Estimated to have 67,000 daily passengers by 2036[22]
  • Located in the CBD, significantly, the first new station in the CBD for over 100 years
Roma Street Station
  • 27m below surface
  • Estimated to have 46,000 daily passengers by 2036
  • Futreproofing for access to proposed Brisbane Live entertainment arena, with an estimated arena capacity of 18,000[24]

Policy Issues


Queensland Government Strategic Objectives: SEQ Rail Connect

SEQ Rail connect is the Queensland Government's 5-10 year rail strategy for improving accessibility to key precincts and increasing the capacity of the rail network. Cross-River Rail is the centrepiece SEQ Rail Connect providing the necessary infrastructure to meet the demands of State Government Policy. The key objectives of SEQ Rail connect are [25]:

  1. Provide faster and more frequent rail services across the South East Queensland rail network.
  2. Provide better access to key precincts in Inner Brisbane and easier connections between rail lines at key stations.
  3. Improve safety by delivering infrastructure upgrades to stations, track alignments and by introducing new technology at Cross-River Rail stations.
  4. Encourage development of precincts around Cross-River Rail stations.
  5. Make rail travel more accessible by implementing a simpler electronic ticketing system.
  6. Prepare Brisbane's rail system for the demands of the 2032 Olympic Games.

Environmental Policy

The Cross River Rail Project is obliged to meet the requirements of its Environmental Policy as per the following legislation:

  1. Cross River Rail Delivery Authority Act 2016
  2. Environmental Protection Act 1994
  3. Queensland Heritage Act 1992
  4. State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971

As a result of these requirements, the project will adopt an environmental strategy in accordance with the Australian Standard ISO 14001. The project must identify all environmental risks at every stage of the project and implement management strategies to mitigate potential impacts. The project's environmental policy must be visible to all project stakeholders[26].

The Project's environmental policy has led to the creation of the "Cross-River Rail Outline Environmental Management Plan (OEMP)" [27]. The OEMP presents the sub-plans for the following identified environmental issues:

Environmental Policy Identified risks
No. Enivronmental Risk
1. Water Quality
2. Air Quality
3. Acid Sulfate Soil
4. Erosion and Sediment
5. Noise and Vibration
6. Spoil Placement
7. Waste Management

Sustainability Policy

Cross River Rail is obliged to pursue sustainability initiatives as directed by the following policies:

  1. Cross River Rail Delivery Authority Act 2016
  2. Queensland Procurement Policy 2018

The project is thus obliged to deliver infrastructure that is constructed using sustainable processes and designed to meet the demands of a changing environment. As part of the sustainability policy, the project is also must be responsive to and consider local indigenous heritage during construction. [28]

In response to the requirements of sustainability legislation relevant to the project, the following sustainability initiatives are being undertaken on the Cross River Rail Project [29]:

  1. Macro-synthetic fibre reinforcement for pavement (eMesh)
  2. Crushed recycled glass sand for bedding under pavements
  3. Recycling of spoil and waste created from construction
  4. Use of low carbon concrete made from reused waste materials
  5. Laying of low carbon composite rail sleepers.



Throughout the life-time of the project different proposals and methods of completing the objective of increasing rail access across the Brisbane River were made. Each proposal promised varying benefits and costs that were balanced in decisions to proceed or abandon projects. Politics particularly had a significant impact on the decision with the BaT project being introduced when the LNP was voted into office and then abandoned by the Labor party when the LNP party was voted out [7].

2010 Cross River Rail


In this proposal the project included:

  • An 18km rail line including 9.8km tunnelled under Brisbane's CBD and river.
  • Proposed underground system of two single-track tunnels.
  • 3 new underground inner-city train stations [9].
  • Major and minor upgrades to 4 existing stations [30].
  • Estimated capital cost of $8.2 billion[31].

This proposal was tasked with the objective of increasing rail access across the bottleneck point of the river which had been identified to reach maximum capacity by 2016 [2]. The Federal Government provided $20 million in the feasibility phase of the 2010 project, as part of the 'Building Australia' Fund established in 2009 for the development of the nationwide infrastructure[32].

Initially planned to be approved and completed before 2016 it was delayed due to funding reallocation to repairs from extreme weather [11]. Newman who was Lord Major at the time already voiced his disapproval of the expenses required for this rail project suggesting a Subway alternative instead for the same cost [33].

2012 Cross River Rail


At this stage the proposed project included:

  • A 10km rail line.
  • Proposed underground system of two single-track tunnels.
  • 3 new underground inner-city train stations.
  • Forms the first stage of the full project.
  • Estimated capital cost of $4.4 billion [12].

This proposal was a scaled down version of the 2010 proposal in attempt to gain funding. This proposal by the Liberal Nationals government in power at the time sought out 80% of the initial capital cost from the Federal Government[34]. The project was labelled as a 'Top Priority' by Infrastructure Australia (IA)[34] and the proposal was approved as "ready to proceed" but delayed by funding disagreements between state and federal government [7].

Bus and Train (BaT) Project

Brisbane's 2012-2013 Proposed Bus and Train Tunnel

The proposal included:

  • 5.7km bus and train tunnel connecting under the Brisbane CBD [14].
  • The two tunnels were replaced by plans for a single tunnel which accommodated 2 rail tracks and 2 bus lanes (see adjacent figure) [7].
  • 2 new underground stations.
  • Estimated capital cost of $4 billion [7].

The incorporation of buses into the project was in attempt to address bus crowing problem on Victoria Bridge [15]. The proposal built upon the previous Cross River Rail case and Brisbane City Council's Suburbs 2 City bus project, which both amounted to a total of $8 billion, much greater than the proposed $5 billion BaT project[35].

The Newman government abandoned the 2012 Cross River Rail proposal in favour of this change, with the project progressing to 'threshold status' by Infrastructure Australia in 2014 [2]. When the Palaszczuk government was voted in in 2015, this project was abandoned again on the basis of buses being less efficient for solving the original bottlenecking problem [17].

2017 Business Case


At this stage the proposal includes:

  • 10.2 km rail line including 5.9km tunnelled under Brisbane's CBD and river.
  • proposed underground system of two single-track tunnels.
  • 4 new underground inner-city train stations.
  • Estimated captial cost of $5.4 billion, building upon upon the 2016 Business Case to address policy changes that occurred since 2016. Main differences were the incorporation of the European Train Control System (ETCS) and concerns of the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR), specifically the reduction of the total length of the project from 18km down to 10.2km and a shortening of the necessary tunneling from 10km down to 5.9km. Benefits were also recalculated to consider the Fairer Fares Package [2].

This version of the Brisbane Cross River Rail is the final, approved version of the plan and is currently being constructed as of 2024.

Overall Influences on Narrative


As can be noted from the history of proposals for the Cross River Rail Project significant disagreements were voiced by opposing politicians on the funding and extent of works to be completed. Severe weather events or external factors such as COVID also caused delays and issues in the construction and deployment of the project. Disagreements between state and federal governments over funding also significantly delayed the project from coming to fruition.

Discussion Questions

  • What are other options that could be provided instead of building CRR or BaT - in particular to solve the bottlenecking issue highlighted in the video?
  • Do you think the changing government had an overall positive or negative impact on how the CRR plan was deployed? Can you think of alternate ways in which the negative impact of changing government on infrastructure planning could be minimised?
  • When dismissing the BaT model, the Palaszczuk government argued that the addition of Buses was less supported by transport professionals than having more space for trains. Do you think removing the Bus component from the CRR was a good idea? Do you believe that there is an answer to whether buses or trains are better in general for public transport?
  • The original 2007 report predicted that overcrowding on rail crossing Merivale River would be a problem by 2016. It is currently 2024 and the CRR is still in construction. How do you think projections of population and public transport usage influences infrastructure planning?

Additional Readings and Information

  • - Short video covering the current path of the Cross River Rail, outlining the new and renovated stations, and briefly showing off some benefits of its construction, such as ease of access to universities and common business centres.
  • - Short video visualising how the growth of Brisbane and its surrounding area has led to a bottleneck between work opportunities and transport opportunities from those away from the capital, ideally an issue the CRR, BaT and future transport projects would resolve.

Reference List

  1. "Cross River Rail Stations and Routes". Cross River Rail. Retrieved 2024-04-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. a b c d e f Building Queensland (2017). "CROSS RIVER RAIL BUSINESS CASE" (PDF). State Development Queensland. Retrieved 2024-04-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. "Cross River Rail Project Overview". Cross River Rail. Retrieved 2024-04-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. a b "Frequently Asked Questions". Cross River Rail. Retrieved 2024-04-25.
  5. a b "Cross River Rail Tunnel, Stations and Development package". Retrieved 2024-04-25.
  6. "The Race to Build a $6.3BN Railway for the Olympics". Retrieved 2024-04-25.
  7. a b c d e f Moore, Tony (2015-03-06). "BaT tunnel scrapped as government looks for different cross river rail line". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 2024-04-22.
  8. a b c Queensland Government State Development and Infrastructure (2020-11-12). "Cross River Rail Project". State Development and Infrastructure. Retrieved 2024-04-25.
  9. a b c Infrastructure Australia (April 2011). "2010‐2011 Project Assessment Brief" (PDF). Infrastructure Australia. Retrieved 2024-04-24.
  10. Australian Government: Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (28 July 2010). "Notification of Referral Decision - not controlled action if undertaken in a particular manner". Australian Government: Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Retrieved 2024-04-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. a b Writer, Staff (2011-02-01). "QLD Gov delays Cross River Rail". Rail Express. Retrieved 2024-04-24.
  12. a b Infrastructure Australia (2013). "2012-2013 Assessment Brief" (PDF). Infrastructure Australia. Retrieved 2024-04-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. Moore, Tony (2013-05-14). "No movement on Cross River Rail". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 2024-04-22.
  14. a b c Queensland Government State Development and Infrastructure (2020-11-13). "Underground Bus and Train Project". State Development and Infrastructure. Retrieved 2024-04-24.
  15. a b c Moore, Tony (2014-09-01). "BaT tunnel could still change: Newman". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 2024-04-24.
  16. Robertson, Joshua (2015-02-13). "Annastacia Palaszczuk new premier of Queensland after Labor wins 44 seats" (in en-GB). The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. 
  17. a b Tunnels and Tunnelling (5 June 2015). "Cross River Rail bus component dumped by local government". Tunnels and Tunnelling. Retrieved 2024-04-25.
  18. Infrastructure Australia (27 July 2017). "Evaluation of the current business case for Cross River Rail". Infrastructure Australia. Retrieved 2024-04-22.
  19. a b c d e "Cross River Rail - Infrastructure Pipeline". Retrieved 2024-04-24.
  20. a b "Frequently Asked Questions". Cross River Rail. Retrieved 2024-04-25.
  21. a b c "Construction". Cross River Rail. Retrieved 2024-04-24.
  22. a b c Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named :5
  23. Press, Australian Associated (2023-11-24). "Brisbane’s Gabba to be demolished after 2025 Ashes and rebuilt as part of ‘East Bank’ precinct" (in en-GB). The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. 
  24. jurisdiction=Queensland; sector=government; corporateName=State Development, Infrastructure (2021-05-19). "Brisbane Live Entertainment Arena – Roma Street Project". State Development and Infrastructure. Retrieved 2024-04-26.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  25. "SEQ Rail Connect (Department of Transport and Main Roads)". Retrieved 2024-04-24.
  26. "Environmental Policy" (PDF). Cross River Rail. December 2019.
  27. "Outline Environmental Management Plan" (PDF). Cross River Rail. June 2020.
  28. Sustainability Policy. Cross River Rail. 2019.
  29. "Five sustainability initiatives reducing Cross River Rail's carbon footprint". 26 October 2022.
  30. CrossRiverRail (October 2010). "Reference Design Overview" (PDF). Cabinet Queensland Government. Retrieved 24 April 2024.
  31. Moore, Tony (2013-07-13). "Brisbane CBD's new underground station revealed". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 2024-04-26.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  32. Hurst, Tony Moore and Daniel (2010-07-15). "Election year support for cross-river rail". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 2024-04-25.
  33. Volger, Sarah (2011-03-11). "Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman wants cross-river rail project dumped for a subway system". The Courier Mail. Retrieved 2024-04-25.
  34. a b "Cross river rail top national priority" (in en-AU). ABC News. 2012-07-13. 
  35. "LNP delivers unique transport solution". Ministerial Media Statements. Retrieved 2024-04-25.