Category Archives: Brisbane underground railway

Is road widening loosening our belt to cure obesity?

This is the route proposed for a Brisbane Underground Railway Circle Line.Circle line

Please consider some alternatives that would reduce dependence on roads.

Brisbane Circle Line 050219

Martin Knox




Boundary Street, West End, Brisbane

With immigration and population growth, an influx of knowledge workers is demanding inner-city housing to suit their inner-city work and lifestyle need. Investors are buying in adjacent suburbs, residents are having to move over and students are moving out. But a gentrified suburb could soon decline from fashion. Knowledge worker jobs could be devolved from the CBD to satellite centres (see article below). Residences that preserve value best will offer authentic lifestyles and counter the lifestyle destruction.


Ask your federal candidate for a BTA

Brisbane car drivers delayed by worsening road congestion are well aware that spending on roads, parking, bridges and tunnels is futile and endless. The city needs a comprehensive public transport solution. Could Queensland’s Federal political representatives urge the Queensland Government, of a Brisbane Transport Authority, to integrate 3 levels of government and 6 modes of travel? Could this underground railway system be compared with the alternatives by the new BTA?
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Circle line


Circle line

Circle Line Media Release 050219

Martin Knox
February 12th, 2019


1.A focussing paradigm is that any citizen residing within a 30 km radius of City Hall, should be able to walk not more than 20 minutes, cycle, catch a bus, train or ferry within 20 minutes, or drive from home and park, to wanted destinations, or catch within 20 minutes: a public transport service to any wanted city destination with few changes of carriage within a reasonable total journey time, arriving and returning without suffering from congestion, crowds and delays at any time of day.

2.The Queensland State Government’s policy standard is that 90% of dwellings are within 400m of an existing or planned public transport stop, but only 61 percent have one (2). Only 12 per cent of Brisbane homes have access to a bus or train stop with services running at least every half hour – the worst of all Australian capital cities.

3.The challenge in creating an integrated transport strategy is to coordinate 6 modes of transport (walk; cycle; ferry; bus; rail; car) managed by 3 levels of government Commonwealth (funding); State (roads, bridges, tunnels); City Council (buses, ferries, cycling, pedestrians); in an area approximately 60 kms in diameter; with a population expected to live, work, study and recreate, increasing to about 5 millions by 2050 and 7 millions by 2070.


4. Transport Hubs are where passengers board or leave transport for origins and destinations throughout wider catchment areas.  There is need to integrate as many as possible of the six different transport modes of foot, bicycle, bus, train, ferry and air transport. In Brisbane at Southbank, a de facto hub has grown like topsy, more as a congested river-crossing bottleneck, than as a premeditated hub providing: location sharing, user convenience, and technological efficiency.

  1. South Brisbane has become a de facto hub whose deficiencies will be exacerbated rather than relieved by cross-river rail and Metro buses.Southbank Gardens, QPAC and the museums, can be reached by car and by small buses, as well as by active transport. For those who come by car, the road congestion and parking situation is already difficult. The planned underground bus station at Southbank panders to the few travellers for whom the hub would be a destination, rather than to the many who journey across the city in transit north or south, who will be delayed by stopping at Central, Roma Street or Southbank Metro. Developments planned seem to provide more for workers at Southbank or in the CBD, rather than for the rest of the population.
  2. The map of rail and metro planned for Brisbane has routes radiating from the CBD like the spokes of a wheel (1). The spokes are not evenly spaced and large tracts of suburban Brisbane are under serviced by public transport. People have not been able to travel by public transport into the hub and have gone to alternative destinations, or used cars. Only 5 per cent of Brisbane’s working population walked or cycled to work – and only 14 per cent used public transport (2).
  3. The prominent spokes from the hub radiate from Southbank approximately along two axes: cross-river underground rail with twin 5.9 km tunnels from Dutton Park past Roma Street, emerging, then continuing a further 4.3 kms northeast parallel to and not far from existing rail, also duplicated from Roma Street. The area between these parallel lines seems relatively over-serviced compared with places northwest and southeast that are distant from rail services.  Metro 1 and 2 buses from near Boggo Road also add to the duplication of services along this transport corridor. For people travelling this route there is good flexibility but it is at a cost to people at places not serviced who want rail and metro access or who would like rail and Metro access to diverse destinations.
  4. Apart from these lines crossing to make an X near the Victoria Bridge, Brisbane has nointegrated public transport system beyond existing rail and local buses. The heart of the bottleneck, Victoria Bridge, has an excellent busway system. There is little provision for cycling and walking. People who are distant from the axes of the X would have to drive in a car or cycle safely to a station and park. More and better integrated rail and bus stations are needed to reduce car parking pressure near existing stations.Very considerable journeys could be required and extensive provision of inexpensive parking is needed. A September 2018 survey of parking in Australian capital cities found the most expensive was Brisbane’s (7).
  5. Of most concern is that current development trends and population forecasts in high density residential zones indicate infrastructure shortfalls and congestion from ill-informed or badly intentioned planning. BCC’s has planned city growth with “concentric circles development”, a superseded theory that ignores sectoral growth theory explaining current developments and trends in communications and transport technologies. Fastest growth is planned in inner ring areas like South Brisbane and West End, with a combined 25 year growth of over 40,000, while the immediately adjacent Highgate Hill has been allocated negligible growth.10. Passing near Boggo Road are all 4 sections of the Metro and Cross River Rail currently under development. This convergence raises the question: Why haven’t the routes been diversified to give more of the population public transport options? The predominant City planning mentality seems to have been to cover up the hurt, by expensive and short-sighted duplication, rather than facing up to necessary surgery. Because the buses and railways are operated by independent organisations, an integrated solution is being prevented.


  1. Islands of high density development within metropolitan Brisbane have been proposed to improve transport logistics and achieve economies of infrastructure scale. Geoffrey West in his book ‘Scale’, Penguin Press, 2017, reports research showing that doubling of city size increases per capita infrastructure costs by 20.85= 1.80 or 90% of double. Comparing a conurbation of 100,000 persons with 20 suburbs of 5,000, per capita infrastructure costs would be 100.85= 7.07 or 71%, a significant saving. In a sprawling city like Brisbane, high density development of satellite urban centres, like the nominated Transport Oriented Development (TODs), could save infrastructure costs. It could be that people in larger cities get less infrastructure, like parks, so the saving may be due to diminished lifestyles.12. Better ‘traveller-drainage’ from the Brisbane residential ‘catchment area’ would require more than the current 4 spokes radiating outwards. One solution could be to develop additional spokes outwards to suburban hubs, developed like palmate fronds, subdividing in a cascading fractal pattern, creating polycentric suburban clusters,pockets of synergistic dense development, in a larger metro area.
  2. Polycentric Brisbane is underway, with nomination of TODs: Indooroopilly; Chermside; Yeerongpilly; Garden City; Carindale; airport. Several other locations are being considered for TODs, possibly without any plans to interconnect them with other TODs or to connect them by express services to the CBD.


14.Public transport provision by the 3 levels of government has been separate, partial, fragmented, conflicted and heavily biased towards cars, roads and intensive growth of a CBD. Recent planning has been aimed at temporary relief of congestion consequences from earlier palliative planning, whereas surgery was needed. An integrated transport strategy (ITS) is proposed to be developed and implemented by a new unitary authority, a Brisbane Transport Authority (BTA), to be established under the auspices of the three levels of government. A single organisation is essential to achieve logical, economical and efficient integration of public transport provision for the public good. It could be relevant that London’s Circle line was delayed for a decade by bickering between private railway companies who prevented an integrated solution. Could Brisbane’s three levels of government do better? This would require State Government legislation.

  1. Reappraisal is required of the future of Brisbane’s CBD, as a centre for enterprises needing city-wide, regional, state, national and international audiences. Cultural, educational, medical and recreational pursuits could be located in the CBD, with devolution of some commercial activities to satellite cities and home working. Transport funding should be allocated fairly to citizens residing at all locations in Brisbane. Active transport modes, walking and cycling, have been neglected. Duplication of rail and metro highlighted above is not a sufficient long term solution for a much-enlarged city. Further funding of a congestion hub at Southbank should be declined, with city growth suppressed until an Integrated Transport Strategy is planned and implemented.


  1. A log-jam in centralised planning has resulted in a de facto transport hub at Southbank. A new Brisbane hub is required to move the growing number of passengers across the Brisbane river, removing the burden of connectivity from the Boggo Road to Roma Street transport corridor and from the Southbank bottleneck nexus. An underground railway circle line, like London’s Circle Line, is proposed to replace it, functioning as a router, forwarding travellers for the different parts of their journeys.
  2. A circular rail route is the shortest way to connect a population, providing close access and enabling trains to run in opposite directions, doubling service frequency. Without corners, trains can run fast and with minimum friction and maintenance. As circle line diameter is increased, cost increases with circumference but the population served increases at a similar rate, even allowing for thinning residential density. As a result, benefits per resident from an underground railway do not diminish with increasing radius. The constraint on size of the circle is availability of capital. Extra dollars spent on a wider circle would not have diminishing return on investment.
  3. The alternatives are compared in Table 1 below. Routes are shown in maps (7) and (8).

Alternative A, do nothing, has 25 pre-existing railway stations mostly aligned along a SW-NE corridor having a small catchment poorly accessible by active transport, with congested roads and expensive car parking.

The Circle B passes through the nominated Transport Oriented Development centres. Circle B would have 26 underground stations including the 6 TODs already nominated. These could grow as satellite cities accessed by active transport, expressway feeders, local bus services, or by car, with parking available. Brisbane people would be able go to anywhere in the city, boarding anywhere along a 52 kms circumference and having to travel no further than 26 kms (halfway around) on quick trains before transferring to active transport or to a local bus service.

Circle B provides infrastructure for future development. It passes through some low density residential areas. London’s Metropolitan line pushed out into the countryside in search of commuters and pioneered new suburbs like Wembley, with recreational developments, opening in 1863, when London’s population census was 3 millions, similar to the Brisbane area today. It has 34 stations along 67 kms. Only 15% of the track length is underground and most was constructed by cut and cover under arterial roads, using brickwork arches. Today’s efficient boring machines could make tunnelling relatively cheaper.

Circle B would transport many times more passengers than F, the smallest diameter CBD circle line considered. It could be developed in stages shown below.High population density developments would be concentrated at 7 satellite city locations having public transport connections. Visitors to Brisbane City centre, or to anywhere in the City, could travel to a satellite, park and ride quickly to near their destination.

Circle C is about 7 kms in diameter, smaller in diameter than B. Compared with Circle B, it would not connect directly with the satellite TOD centres and would not enable a polycentric global city to develop. Expressways to the CBD would serve fewer travellers. Circle C would be of less value in routing travellers.

D is about the same diameter as C but has an irregular shape and corners. The circular route of Circle C is preferred to minimise maintenance and maximise speed. D has several established overground railway stations, but there may not be much advantage to the underground railway passing beneath surface stations.

BURL Alternatives D, E and F, proposed in 2010, have most of their stations, pre-existing and new, in central Brisbane, where car parking is oversubscribed and roads congested. A much smaller population would be able to access the underground. Many people would live too far away from the stations to walk and be unable to park their cars.

Alternatives D, E and F would merely postpone emancipation of the outer City residents who do not have access to public transport. They underlie existing overground infrastructure and would not permit much City growth. These alternatives would exacerbate road congestion and parking problems. Alternative D transports to and from the area of the old City. Alternative E abuts the river, whereas F surrounds the CBD. The hub functions of these alternatives are not as routers, like B and C.

Circle B could be developed in stages to serve the city into the distant future. Stages could be as follows.


1 Connect TODs to CBD with expressway Metro buses
2 Build underground stations at TODs
3 Construct overground sections of Circle line
4 Construct underground sections of Circle line
5 Commence Circle line train services.


Expressway connections from the TODs to the CBD could be by driverless Metro buses. Circle line train services could possibly commence as early as Stage 3, with driverless trains on sections of the circuit as these are completed.


  1. Circle Line B would have a cost comparable with the 47 projects budgeted at $62 billions under the SEQ People Mass Movement Study (6). Of the largest 20, half are for development of regional rail and the other half for regional motorways. The Circle Line would complement development of the regional rail and motorways. These rail and road connections radiate from Circle B, which could gather, distribute and deliver passengers as a feeder within and around Brisbane and as a hub preventing congestion at the City centre.


  1. An underground railway will stop public funding for widening and duplication of roads. To deal with road congestion and parking shortages, there must be less travel by car. With Circle Line B, the $650 millionKingsford Smith Driveroad widening might not be necessary now nor again in the future.




  1. An underground railway Circle Line B is proposed to be the distributing hub of an integrated system. Melbourne has grasped the nettle with a proposed staged 90 kms $50 billion underground railway development (3).



22.Investment in some recent Brisbane road tunnels is compared below.





COST $Billions
M7 6.7 $4.8
Clem 4.8 $3.2
Legacy Way 4.6 $1.5
Total tunnels 16.1 9.5













  1. If Australia’s population is going to potentially spill into cities like Brisbane, now is the time to start future-proofing to support population growth and avoid problems such as heavy transport and traffic congestion that bigger cities like Melbourne and Sydney are currently facing.’ (Gunn, 2)

The decision makers who have willed Brisbane’s growth, should now will and fund the means to maintain lifestyles by planning an underground railway Circle Line B. It would connect many residents who do not have access to public transport, to all parts of the city, without having to travel into the city centre.



Share this paper with others. Communicate your interest in a Brisbane underground railway to maintain yours and others lifestyles in a growing global city. Contact political, government and other stakeholders. Request a Brisbane Transport Authority is legislated to prepare an Integrated Transport Study. It won’t happen overnight but it could happen.


Martin Knox

BSc Hons (Chem Eng) Birmingham University, UK.

MSc (Management Science) Imperial College, London University, UK.

Employment: oil exploration, mining, planning, teaching, writing.

Interests: government, development, resources, energy, water, land-use, transport.


For further details please contact Martin Knox.

Mobile 0411 041 209




Alternative A is existing planned development without underground rail

Alternative B is the blue Circle Line proposed.

Alternative C is the green Circle Line proposed.

Alternatives D, E and F are 3 alternative underground routes proposed in 2010 by BURL (4)

‘Satellites’ are seven Transport Oriented Development Centres which have been nominated:

Indooroopilly, Chermside, Airport, Yeerongpilly, Carindale, Mt Gravatt, Enoggera.

  Circle route colour NA Blue Black Green Blue Red
1 Circle line diameter, kms 0 16.4 6.8 7 5 4
2 Total number of stations on circle 0 26 11 13 10 8
3 Pre-existing railway stations on circle 0 5? 2 5 3 4
4 Stations in existing SW-NE corridor 25 0 7 5 3 3
5 Stations with express access to CBD 2 7 2 1 2 1
6 Circle distance to existing Central Station, km 0 7 2 2 0 1
7 Circle distance to existing Roma Street, km 0 6 2 1 1 0
8 Circle distance to Southbank, km 0 6 1 0 1 0
9 Satellite centres directly connected 6 7 0 0 0 0
10 Satellites having express access from CBD 6 7 6 6 6 6
11 Circle stations at satellites 6 27? 0 3 3 3
12 Circle stations with parking area available 0 27 0 0 0 0
13 Circle furthest distance from City limits 30 21 26 26 27 28
14 Tunnels length, km 0 20 21.4 22 16 13
15 Overground length, km 0 31.6 0 0 0 0
16 Construction cost $billions 0 30 20 20 15 14

C0nstruction costs are notional and are not to be relied on.





(7) Brisbane Underground Rail Loops, proposed 2010.

Green – C; Blue – D; Red – E.

  1. Brisbane City Suburbs Map, with proposed Circle Line Alternatives B (blue) and C (black). Satellite city stations at the red dots are at 6 Transport Oriented Development centres nominated by BCC for Chermside, Airport, Carindale, Garden City, Yeerongpilly and Indooropilly. Enoggera was added for aesthetic reasons.