Proposed Feasibility Study for a Fraser Island Light Rail

Proposed Feasibility Study for a Fraser Island Light Rail between Kingfisher and Eurong Resorts with stops at Lake McKenzie (Boorangoora) and Central Station

1st October 2015

Throughout its 44-year history FIDO has always operated on a shoe-string and we don’t intend to abandon our thrift ethic as a result of a very generous bequest made by the late Barbara Winkley.  FIDO intends to use the bequest wisely and as Barbara (who never splashed her money about) would wish use it. We plan to address one of the most difficult issues now confronting Fraser Island, making visitation sustainable.

FIDO has already entered into discussions with the cash-strapped Queensland Government on how we could help finance a feasibility study as a precursor to the development of a light line on Fraser Island that could stop the movement of sand sediment stirred up by 4WD vehicles on the roads.  When it rains heavily thousands of tonnes of sand get driven down those roads that gets washed down those roads, gouging out cuttings that are growing ever deeper. Some of the transported sediment is filling lakes and smothering vegetation.  This can’t be allowed to continue indefinitely.  If we can stop wheels from stirring up the sand by putting vehicle wheels on steel rails, we can stop the continuing degradation of Fraser Island.  This will be a marvellous legacy for Barbara if a sustainable tourist transport system on Fraser Island can be achieved.

Early estimates suggest that a full feasibility study may cost $300,00

Having achieved so much for Fraser Island (K’Gari) in the past FIDO cannot sit idly by and watch this degradation of this World Heritage site to continue indefinitely.  We are now in a position to help address this problem.

Six stages for the study

The Feasibility Study would not proceed past any of the sis stages without agreement to proceed being reached,

Stage 1 — Resolving Objectives and developing agreement for study

It is anticipated that this would result in a Memorandum of Understanding between Fraser Island Defenders Organisation and Queensland Government on what the study aims to achieve and on a mutually agreed outcome.

FIDO is prepared to fund the Feasibility Study through subsequent stages to the limit of the Barbara Winkley Bequest if the conclusion of the Study finds a light rail:

  • Is economically feasible?
  • Can solve a critical environmental problem to provide sustainable tourism?
  • Does it follow a route acceptable to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service? and
  • Is acceptable to the traditional Butchullas holders of Native Title?

If these questions are positively answered the Queensland Government will call for Expressions of Interest from the private sector to build and operate a light rail along a route and guidelines identified and accepted in the Feasibility Study.

In calling for the Expressions of Interest the Queensland Government would outline acceptable terms and conditions under which a light rail would be approved to operate in the Fraser Island section of the Great Sandy National Park.

It is possible that the objective may be altered by mutual agreement in the light of new information and new technology evolving as the Feasibility Study proceeds and the MOU should cater for that.

FIDO should know the maximum amount that it is prepared to commit to this project by the time that this Memorandum of Understanding is concluded.

Route to be assessed

The indicative route to be assessed

Stage 2 — Pre-feasibility study

FIDO has already had two prior assessments for a light rail and feasibility carried out by GHD, consulting engineers.  GHD also carried out an investigation of light rail for the QPWS as part of the “Sustainable Transport Management Study” in 2003.  Following a presentation on light rail presented by David Jehan to the First Fraser Island “20-20 Vision” Conference in 2004 by David Jehan there was a meeting of the QPWS, David Jehan from Downer Engineering, Gary Smith of Kingfisher, the Executive Director of QPWS and FIDO to discuss the options for a light rail.  Some preliminary costings were suggested but there was an agreement that to operate feasibly the route would need to go directly from Kingfisher to Eurong incorporating Lake McKenzie (Boorangoora) and Central Station on the line.

FIDO would fund the cost for this pre-feasibility study to be carried out by an independent consultant mutually agreed on by FIDO and QPWS a consultant (agreed to by QPWS) to brief the meeting on the key issues that need to be resolved to proceed on to the Feasibility study.  The engaged consultant should be an experienced project manager who would be the first choice to follow through other stages of the Feasibility Study if the prefeasibility study indicates that further stage/s is/are justified.

GHD who have so far carried out three relevant studies to this project.  The “Tourist Tramway Study” in 1991 concluded that it would have then been viable if 83, tourists paid $11.06 for the return trip each year from Wanggoolba Creek to Eurong.  GHD’s Draft Prefeasibility Study in 1999 looked at a different route, namely operating from Bogimbah Creek to Poyungan Valley.  This was following pre-existing light rail routes not on the main tourist agenda.  It concluded with recommendations summarized in the attachment.  “Sustainable Transport Management Study” in 2003 by GHD focussed heavily on the environmental impact of the existing transport system and examined six alternative modes of travel on Fraser Island including light rail

Stage 3 — Consultation with all key stakeholders

This stage would allow the project manager to outline the findings of the Pre-feasibility study at a round table of key stakeholders including representatives of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service FIDO, Kingfisher Group and the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation and possibly Queensland Transport to establish respective objectives and requirements of each group for a Feasibility study.  It would assess the reactions and the responses and clarify what each stakeholder required if the project were to go ahead.  It is anticipated that tenure would be a key issue both across the National Park and in the private land where the two termini are to be located (probably close to the Kingfisher wharf and Eurong Resort land).

The consultation may require more than one meeting but FIDO would fund this consultation process as it is vital to resolve the key issues here before moving on.

Stage 4 — Impacts on other stakeholders

Stage 4 requires Kingfisher and Butchulla cooperation for the Study to progress forward.

The project manager would need to consider and report on the impact of other Commercial Tour Operators and how their licence arrangement can be reconciled with the proposed light rail that may conflict with their existing rights.  The other stakeholders include the Department of Environment and Heritage protection and the commonwealth that have responsibility of protecting Fraser Island’s Outstanding Universal Value.  For example, Wanggoolba Creek barge landing may become unusable if the channel is not dredged and this is in a Ramsar and World Heritage area.  Questions such as alternatives for other stakeholders if the line is built need consideration.

This stage might also consider the question of the transport of freight and whether the rail line should service both freight and passengers and other relevant options.   There are likely to be issues that cannot be resolved without a being able to access confidential commercial information.

This stage would be funded by FIDO.  If it the study concludes that the above issues can be resolved the Study would move to Stage 5.

Stage 5 — Establishing an acceptable route and cultural and environmental impacts

The costs can’t be calculated unless the exact route is known and agreed upon.  It is necessary to have a precise route on which to carry out the requisite cultural heritage assessment and environmental impact assessment of the route.  This involves both engineering and environmental studies to justify the project.  It would also need to take into account the impact on other traffic movements including level crossings etc.   It would need to satisfy the requirements for Native Title approval

This stage would be funded by FIDO.   If it the study concludes that the above issues can be resolved the Study would move to the final stage.

Stage 6 —Assessment of the economic feasibility

If the route chosen is acceptable to the identified key stakeholders the project the final stage is to consider the issues of financial feasibility and operational requirements that would make the project acceptable to all stakeholders.  It would help shape the Queensland Government’s criteria to be spelt out in the tendering process such as the duration of the lease and the tenure of the route and any concessions the route might carry.

Only after the conclusion of Stage 6 would there be any commitment to calling for the Expressions of Interest for the private sector to build and operate the light rail service between Eurong and Kingfisher Resorts.