The Queensland government has has criticised Infrastructure Australia after it issued what the state says is an error-riddled evaluation of the Cross River Rail project.
In its evaluation of the $5.4 billion project, IA found its benefits were overstated and called for another business case to be drawn up, addressing a number of concerns.
But Transport Minister Jackie Trad said 23 “unsubstantiated opinions, assertions or errors” in the evaluation were proof the federal body was not serious about assessing the project.
In particular, Ms Trad took issue with IA’s claim that patronage figures meant the project wasn’t needed in the short term.
“Their analysis is based on mistakes and assumptions that are clearly false,” she told reporters on Wednesday.
“What they are telling Queenslanders is Cross River Rail shouldn’t be built until we reach a crisis on our network, until we see patronage figures increase to 150 per cent.”
Ms Trad said the mistakes and assumptions in the evaluation ranged from incorrect data to mislabelling the Brisbane suburb of Highgate Hill as “Hill Gate”.
Griffith University, Engineers Australia and RACQ also criticised the evaluation.
Matthew Burke, from Griffith’s Cities Research Institute, said patronage figures for southeast Queensland’s rail network had been “artificially” slowed for about 15 years.
Professor Burke said factors including the southeast busway, rising fares and lower than expected international student numbers had slowed growth, but that would change.
“We are poised for a significant leap in patronage,” he said.
“We’ve seen it in the other cities, and particularly when you see investments like what is proposed here, we will see a steep increase in patronage if we move forward with this project.”
RACQ’s Paul Turner said reducing road congestion would only happen if more people took the train, which would rely on the construction of Cross River Rail.
Ms Trad said while disappointing, the evaluation didn’t close the door on the federal government contributing some money towards the project.
“I absolutely believe … a future federal government will come on board with this project, because the benefits for the southeast Queensland region are enormous.”
Infrastructure Australia released a statement late on Wednesday saying it had been waiting for the state government’s feedback on the “draft” evaluation before it was published.
Queensland’s Liberal National Party opposition said it agreed with IA that the figures used by the government didn’t stack up.