Residents call for rail link extension to Withcott
WITH public transport across the region emerging as an election topic, one Grandchester resident is asking when the work to upgrade the rail line between Grandchester and Withcott will begin.
Darras Hancock said the former Queensland Government commissioned an in-depth study into upgrading the rail line to Gowrie Junction, near Toowoomba in 2002.
"It was a very in-depth report, and engaged a range of specialists, including a transportation psychologist, to investigate the possibilities and ramifications of the project," Mr Hancock said.
The study developed a new line for the railway, straightening out many of the bends used by the current goods and long- distance passenger services.
New stations were also identified for Grandchester, Laidley and Gatton, with the rail line to move north of the current route through Laidley and
pass close by the Laidley Cultural Centre.
"This was in fact seen as the ideal location for a new Laidley station."
Mr Hancock said under the plan, the existing line would remain in place, but would be used only by heritage-style services, including the heritage-listed Queen Victoria Tunnel.
"Grandchester has plenty of history as far as rail goes, it was the first line in Queensland, between Ipswich and Grandchester, yet it is the last line to be upgraded it seems."
With a career in transport and heavy engineering, Mr Hancock said there is plenty of work to be done, however it is "not impossible".
"When the previous rail service was removed in 1992, it was on the grounds that there was not enough electric power in the system to run trains out here."
However, Mr Hancock said progressive upgrades to the power distribution system, and the recent announcement of a rail car manufacturing and maintenance program for nearby Wulkuraka meant that argument was no longer valid.
"It is ludicrous that Toowoomba is 100 kilometres to Brisbane, but there is no rail connection.
"The Warrego Highway is a national freight route, not a commuter route, but it is now carrying a lot of commuter traffic."
Mr Hancock said the main need is for the upgrade of the section between Grandchester and Helidon or Withcott, which would also re-introduce the option of rail as a method of carting produce into Brisbane.
"The line runs straight into Rocklea, put it in fridge containers here, by morning the containers are in the markets being unloaded, and come back empty to be refilled the next night."
With the Bremer Valley set to house a more than 100,000 people under regional plans, Mr Hancock said the upgrade to the rail is a necessity to provide a way of the district coping with the planned population growth.
"This project needs to be done."