The Queensland Government will need to spend $142 billion over the next six years converting the state’s narrow-gauge rail network to the standard gauge measure if it is to meet the demands of the Andrew Bolt Report recommending the urgent upgrade.
The scathing report, released through News Corp Australia media outlets, has called for immediate action “if Queensland ever hopes to be taken seriously and Brisbane ever wants to host an Olympic Games”.
“No city has ever been awarded the Olympics with a rail network that looks like it belongs in a fun fair or sideshow alley,” Bolt’s report warns.
The project will be the largest infrastructure spend in Australia’s history and the Queensland Government will have to slash education and health spending to pay for it.
The two-tabloid-page report caught the Palaszczuk Government by surprise, especially as it had not commissioned it in the first place.
“Still, it would be political suicide not to implement the report’s findings even though the next state election is several years away,” a spokesperson for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said. “If the Andrew Bolt Report says it needs to be done, then done it will be.”
Andrew Bolt in his report, published in the Sun-Herald and Daily Telegraph, said that on a recent trip to Queensland he had been “embarrassed and humiliated” to see the state’s narrow three-foot, six-inch gauge rail network in action.
“No wonder the rest of Australia views the Sunshine State as an emerging third-world colonial backwater,” Bolt wrote in his report. “A narrow gauge begets a narrow mind.”
“When you think about it, that piddling little gauge is almost the mirror image of Victoria’s magnificent five-foot, three-inch broad-gauge system.
“I’m not saying Queensland has to switch to that gauge but at the very least it must take immediate steps to move to at least the standard four-foot, eight-and-a-half inch gauge used in NSW and what any future fast-train network around the nation will be run on.”
A Queensland Treasury spokesperson said department officials had crunched numbers throughout the night when they realised the urgency of action being demanded in the Andrew Bolt Report.
About a quarter of the estimated $142 billion cost would be incurred moving one of the rails a further one foot, two-and-a-half inches from the other one, plus wider sleepers and extra ballast. “A lot of the Queensland long-distance network is single track, so that’s the easy part,” he said.
“The bigger expense will be in dual carriageways and in multiple track systems in the state’s capital. We’ll make platforms narrower where possible but the sideways expansion of multiple tracks will require some additional land acquisitions.
“And about a third of the $142 billion will go to new locomotives and rolling stock, although the NSW government of Gladys Berejiklian has offered a large number of superseded carriages (pictured) from the Sydney metropolitan network to get us started. She says they are in excellent condition and ‘track ready’.
“Going standard gauge will be a massive job and it will probably send the state government broke but if the Andrew Bolt Report says it has to be done as a matter of urgency and as Mr Bolt said: ‘it would beggar belief if it wasn’t’, then we’d be stupid not to commence remedial work immediately.”
The Bug understands the cost of the upgrade would have been much higher except for the revenue the Queensland Government hopes to raise from the sale of existing rolling stock to primitive, just emerging third-world countries in parts of Africa, South America and the disbanded Soviet Union that have more things to be embarrassed about than a shitty narrow-gauge railway that tourists openly laugh at.
Historical note: The colonial Queensland Government settled on a narrow gauge for the state’s railways after reasoning that with a state the size of Queensland, the narrower system would be cheaper as it would use less mileage of steel rails. The logic was somewhat flawed.