Ripley demands own rail line

NEEDED NOW: The fastest growing region in the country needs access to rail now.
NEEDED NOW: The fastest growing region in the country needs access to rail now. Rob Williams

RIPLEY residents need access to effective and affordable transport, sooner rather than later.

That's the message from the developers of major residential precinct Ecco Ripley who have joined calls from civic leaders for work to start on Ipswich's rail line expansion now.

The Labor State Government maintains it will build the promised extensions to the rail network, including two new stations at Ripley; Ripley North and Ripley Town Centre.

No date has been set and no budget allocated, however, the land for a future passenger line has been preserved since 2009.

Ripley is among the fastest growing suburbs in the state and in 2013 was designated by the State Government as a priority area for development, destined to be home to 120,000 people.

By the time the State Government commits money to extending the rail lines to Ipswich's boom suburbs of Redbank Plains and Ripley, the city's transport infrastructure needs will have passed the point of crisis.

Those were the fears expressed last month by some of Ipswich's civic leaders during the year's first council meeting.

There were nods of agreement from around the chamber as Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli referenced the QT's front page from January 16 - with the headline Running Late, revealing the State Government had no plans to carry out the rail line extensions until 2024, at the earliest.

"(The QT) could have easily substituted that for the headline Too Late,” Cr Antoniolli told the chamber.

"The State Government needs to move as quickly as possible to address public transport needs in the fastest growing area of southeast Queensland.

"If we wait six more years to start, there will likely already be an additional 30,000 people living in those suburbs.

"Every train trip translates to hundreds of cars off the roads.”

According to Ipswich City Council's annual planning and development report, the top five areas for residential development in 2017 included Springfield Lakes, South Ripley, Ripley and Bellbird Park, where a total of 1229 new homes were built.

Those suburbs also rank in the council's top five suburbs for new lots created and new lots approved.

In 2020, two new schools will open in the Ripley Valley, according to a Labor election promise, catering for population growth. A third school will be built in Springfield.

But the corresponding transport infrastructure has not been prioritised by the State Government which says the extensions to the rail line, including adding stations at Ripley, Flagstone and Redbank Plains, won't be built until after 2024, once the inner city Cross River Rail project has been finished.

Already more than 500 homes have been built in the Ecco Ripley community.

Ripley Town Centre development manager Taku Hashimoto said Ripley and the surrounding area was on the cusp of some of the most significant projected population growth in Queensland and even Australia.

"The corridor between Ipswich and Springfield is already experiencing a rapid pace of growth and that will only continue well into the future, so this will require a focus on public transport solutions, including rail transport, in a timely manner,” Mr Hashimoto said.

"The Queensland Government has specifically highlighted the Ripley region as a Priority Development Area (PDA) and is forecasting an ultimate population of 120,000 people over the next 20 years.

"Early provision of rail line service in this area is critical to support the growth agenda in the Ripley region.

"As the Ripley region continues to develop, and as future stages of Ripley Town Centre come to fruition, we want the community to have affordable transport choices that improve people's access to services, employment and avoid social isolation, particularly for youth, seniors and other non-drivers.”

Last year, 183 new homes were built in Ripley housing 545 people, according to Ipswich City Council's Planning and Development Annual Report Card. A further 301 homes were built in South Ripley, housing 956 people.

The $1.5 billion Ripley Town Centre will be the beating heart of the $500 million Ecco Ripley community.

Developer Sekisui House has proposed a state-of-the-art transit hub at the Ripley Town Centre.

Without a shift in government long-term planning, that won't include a rail line until 2031.

At the Labor Party conference last year, two motions which outlined specific time frames on the extensions of the Ipswich rail lines were rejected and never made it to the floor for discussion.

Instead, the party accepted two vague motions that, without explanation, tie the fate of Ipswich residents' transport option to the inner-city Cross River Rail project.

Labor MP for the new seat of Jordan, covering Springfield, and bordering Redbank Plains - the fastest growing suburb in Queensland - Charis Mullen repeated Deputy Premier Jackie Trad's comments from last year.

She said the government had consistently said it would build the rail extension to Redbank Plains and Ripley.

"This cannot happen without Cross River Rail unclogging the bottleneck in the city, allowing construction of vital connections and delivering extra services,” Ms Mullen said.

"Cross River Rail is the catalyst for expansion of the rail network.”

The Queensland Times has asked for a detailed explanation on how the inner-city Cross River Rail project impacts the extension of the existing Ipswich lines in relation to this story and previous stories.

The State Government has not responded to our media enquiries.

Vocal rail advocate Robert Dow has dismissed the government's claim, saying the rail extensions could and should go ahead before the completion of Cross River Rail.

Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington said the Labor Government should get on with building the Cross River Rail and stop using it "as an excuse not to consider any other projects”.

Ripley Today

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