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Article from Brisbane Times, click here for the original story.

The state Labor government has known since 2005, "if not before", that 2016 would be the crisis year for Brisbane's rail services, Shadow Transport spokesman Scott Emerson said yesterday.

However Brisbane will not get a new river rail crossing until 2020 and the government is counting on timetable improvements and extra carriages to bridge the gap.

Major rail studies and former premier Peter Beattie had made it clear that Brisbane needs a new river crossing of its rail lines by 2016.

Brisbane's only CBD river rail crossing is the Merivale Bridge at South Brisbane. The city's second crossing is at Indooroopilly's Railway Bridge.

But the Cross River Rail project won't be completed for another nine years. This was confirmed in the draft environmental impact statement released on Tuesday, though made public in February by Premier Anna Bligh.

However that timeline is against the advice of the government's own rail planning.

The 2016 deadline is made clear in the 2008 Inner City Rail Capacity Study which said:

"Capacity constraints on this part of the network mean that one new two-track corridor will be required by 2016 and another two-track corridor by 2026.

"This includes one corridor (or two additional tracks) from the south by 2016, and another corridor (or two additional tracks) from the west by 2026."

The two tracks to the south are now being developed as the Cross River Rail project, which is waiting on funding from the federal government.

As premier in April 2005, Peter Beattie said: "Estimates suggest the Merivale Bridge and CBD rail tunnels will approach capacity by 2016."

Last night the state government said it would have to rely on timetable improvements and extra rail carriages to cope with the increasing public transport demand until 2020.

Transport Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk was not available for interview.

Mr Emerson said it was clear the underground rail project was needed by 2016 and that the project would not be ready until 2020 "at best".

"What we have now is a plan that will not deal with the crisis by 2016 and is, in any case, unfunded," Mr Emerson said.

Morning peak train passengers have increased from 53,000 in 2008, to 63,000 in 2011 and are predicted to increase to 80,000 by 2016.

Mr Emerson would not detail the Liberal National Party's plan to address the problem if it won office at the next state election.

He would not say whether the LNP backed the existing Cross River Rail project.

"We recognise that there is a problem that is rapidly approaching," Mr Emerson said.

"That is the crisis in terms of crossing the river at the Merivale Bridge - we are very much aware of that - and we recognise that by 2016 every report says that is the crisis year.

"There needs to be a solution to deal with that."

LNP leader Campbell Newman initially backed Cross River Rail in July 2010, then in March called for it to be scrapped and replaced with an inner-city subway system, linked to busways.

In March Ms Palaszczuk said this would not solve the core issue of the extra river rail crossing.

Rail Back on Track spokesman Robert Dow said work should have started in 2011, as the government first suggested in 2009.

"Our point of view is that they should be digging tomorrow, because we've seen the urgency in getting that capacity to the network," Mr Dow said.

"We have almost reached capacity in the morning peak – there's a little bit of room, but not much," he said.

"There's a little bit more room in the afternoon peak.

"But with the projected loadings over the next two years they are going to hit the wall at 2016.

"And there is going to be no more room for capacity growth during the peaks."

Mr Dow said the crucial question was what will happen between now and 2020 when the Cross River Rail opens, if funding sources can be identified.”

The 18km proposal includes 10 kilometres of underground tunnels and four new underground rail stations.

The Cross River Rail project report says it could boost the number of trains through the CBD from 84 trains per hour to 132 trains per hour, "in its ultimate mode of operation".Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Brisbane's only river rail crossing was the Merivale Bridge.

Tony Moore September 1, 2011 - 5:35AM