Southern Rail Tunnel
Feasible Alternative to 4-Lane Kuranda Range Highway
This option has been presented to the Queensland government and Department of Main Roads years ago but has not been considered or commented on.
Features of the proposed southern rail tunnel:
new high-speed rail link from Cairns to Mareeba, using existing railway stations
about 16-20 km of single lane tunnel with a 2km passing section in the middle and double rail track above ground allows for high capacity (several hundred thousand people per day)
drive on/off carriages for vehicles including B-doubles
bike & ride carriages allowing people to sit in the same carriage where they stow their bike or motorbike for easy commuting
ouble storey passenger carriages for high capacity
electric motors and regenerative breaking eliminate expensive ventilation and reduce energy requirements and environmental impact
triple gauge rail can be used to allow high speed trains as well as existing ones
excavated material can be used for coastal transport corridor above 1000 year flood level
one of the possible alignments:
omparing the road option (blue) with the proposed rail alignment (yellow – dotted where underground) makes the savings in time and energy very obvious.
Note that without the above ground section crossing the highway, tunnelling all the way to the short tunnel on bottom left, would require ~23km of tunnel, just as in the A$750 million Swiss project.
Southern rail tunnel advantages compared with planned 4-Lane-Highway
reducing the distance between Mareeba and Cairns by about 15km will provide significant savings in time and vehicle running costs to all users - about 500 million dollars over 10-15 years (@10,000 VPD) - much more with rising oil prices. For trucks or cars coming from (or going to) down south this saving would increase to over 25km (with a loading facility at Whiterock or further south)!
15-20 years of traffic delays during construction for either
existing rail or road users, a significant inconvenience and
financial cost to all users if 4-lane highway would be built. These
delays would effectively negate most or all so-called “incremental
benefits” until the “upgrade” is completed.
similar tunnels in other countries have been planned and built in 5-10 years compared to 15-20 years for the 4-lane highway
an extra access to the Tablelands is valuable in case of emergencies or failure of any one access - three is always better than two
reliable and affordable access to the Tablelands in case of astronomical oil prices
a tunnel starting at White Rock will provide Cairns with a safe and reliable evacuation route without having to get people over flood-prone country. It could also serve as emergency shelter in case of a category 4 or 5 cyclone.
Rail is much safer than road, especially if heavy trucks are involved on steep gradients
CO2 emissions will be significantly reduced due to less distance, electrification and regenerative breaking
minimal impact on the World Heritage Area and the visual amenity of the Cairns scenic rim
no clearing is needed for exploration drilling since the route follows existing powerline
that existing high voltage powerline can be shifted into the tunnel to remove this scar from the landscape
no light pollution at night illuminating a large part of the McAllister range as we would get from the 4-lane highway
system is fully scalable by adding more carriages or trains,
a 2km passing section in the middle of tunnel or even a second
allows Kuranda Range Road to be closed to almost all heavy trucks
the existing range road with some extra overtaking lanes and without heavy freight will probably have 2-3 times the present capacity (4-6 times present usage) - and will keep it's charm for tourists
with ~30 minutes travelling time to Cairns (double as fast than by road) development can feasibly happen in the Mareeba area rather than the environmentally very sensitive Kuranda/Koah area with obvious benefits to both
when the airport will have to be shifted to the tablelands due to demand or rising sea levels we will already have a high-speed train connection to Cairns.
A single rail tunnel with 2km internal passing section can shift up to 500,000 people a day - 10 times the amount of people that the 4-lane highway can
the project can be financed with the help of private money and a fee can be charged to users avoiding the problem of other roads, schools, hospitals etc suffering because of funding going to the 4-lane highway
In Switzerland a 23km rail tunnel has been built for about 750 million AUS$ including a 2km passing section, rail, all fittings and two trains (Rhätische Bahn, Switzerland)
Seeing that the 4-Lane-Highway is already costing close to 700 million dollars and expected to end up costing over one billion, the Southern Rail Tunnel looks like a much better and more sustainable option!
see www.takesteps.org for more information B2f2_v3