Just about all the proposals I have seen for enhancing Brisbane’s PT network fall into 2 categories

(1) expand into new outer suburban areas (and if necessary enhance CBD capacity to cope)
(2) put something clever (e.g. light rail) up the inner city corridor between West End and the Valley.

I would like to put in a plea for those missing people. People like me who live in the middle suburbs, who are not far enough out to benefit from the suburban rail and busway networks as they currently stand, and are not high profile inner city ‘renewal’ areas. Instead we have to put up with congested roads complete with buses stuck in congestion.

This past Monday as my ”express” bus edged down in the inside lane of Musgrave Road in Red Hill I counted no fewer than 7 local buses stationary in traffic in the outside lane. Many of these buses had standing passengers.

These people are trying public transport but I fear that as road improvements (such as Hale Street Bridge and the Western Link) come on line, will switch back to car.

I’d like to make a special plea for this corridor. I believe that something has to be done to provide a dedicated public transport facilities for the Waterworks Road corridor. What I would love to see is a light-rail based solution. It would be expensive and would involve tunnelling, but I think it is needed. I rather fancy something like the SF “Muni” solution: light rail that runs in a tunnel in the city centre and where needed plus median running on the street where there is room.

Imagine it, something whizzing past and under traffic from Ashgrove Village, under Red Hill, down and around Latrobe Terrace Paddington and onto the City, the Valley, Newstead, maybe under the river to Bulimba. The possibilities are endless.

It’s not going to happen. The planners won’t buy it because we don’t deserve PT because we don’t live in high density housing units, and the engineers are too busy building road tunnels – supported by politicians who should know better.

Oh well…

On Wednesday I posted a set of pictures, and asked which ones were from a so-called ‘metro’ and which ones weren’t.

This is what they were:

1. A high end ‘light rail’ system, the Tyne and Wear Metro
2. High capacity electric ‘heavy’ railway, the Berlin U-Bahn
3. Lightweight diesel railcars (‘Pacers’) from the West Yorkshire Metro
4. High capacity electric ‘heavy’ railway, the original Paris Metro
5. High capacity electric ‘heavy’ railway, the District Line of the London Underground
6. A high end ‘light rail’ system with city centre tunnel, the Docklands Light Railway (also in London)
7. A bus from the Adelaide metro (which also features some diesel railcars on a rather run-down railway network)

The Berlin and the two London examples aren’t called ‘metro’. All the others are. Looks can be deceiving!

(My offer of a half-mark was for recognising that the District Line began its life as the Metropolitan District Railway! I have also noticed that the Berlin U-Bahn web page refers to it in English as “metro”. I don’t recall hearing the term used in Berlin myself)

Obviously I picked this list for a point, and not just because they are all systems I have ridden on. The dictionary definition that is simply ‘an underground railway like the one in Paris’ isn’t enough on its own: West Yorkshire and Adelaide don’t have underground parts to their ‘metro’, and in London it’s always ‘the Underground’ or more often ‘the Tube’, never ‘the Metro’.

As a professional transport planner, I have had to deal with various demands for a ‘metro’ for Brisbane. When I sat down with a rail engineer we discovered that we had very different ideas about what defined a metro. He immediately thought big and bulky like the London Underground; I thought fast and flexible like DLR or Tyne and Wear. It was just what we were used to. What we agreed on, though, were:

  • It’s a railway
  • It serves a city
  • It offers a frequent service
  • It is high capacity and probably has lots of standing room on board
  • It has closely spaced stations for maximum coverage
  • It is preferably designed with lots of doors for fast loading and unloading
  • It serves in part a distribution function (not just a home-work commute function)
  • It is a marketing term

(Brisbane Central) is this a metro?We agreed that it would probably be underground for at least part of its route because this was the only way it would serve the inner city area. We also agreed that the Brisbane Citytrain system already shows many characteristics of a metro, and with improved vehicle design (for faster loading and unloading) and more frequent services (especially in the off peak) it probably ought to be called one.

What we also agreed upon was that Brisbane doesn’t need a totally new independent underground rail line or loop of the London Underground or Paris Metro type: it simply doesn’t have the population numbers or city size and shape to make it worth while. Certainly, any attempt to curtail Citytrain’s operations at the city fringes and make people transfer to a metro for their final destination (‘like London’) is a very bad idea – and bad history to boot.

As the inner areas of Australia’s capital cities increase in population through densification and urban renewal, there will be a need for improved public transport. Except for Melbourne (where the trams still have much potential) this is going to mean new dedicated facilities. I personally feel that there is much benefit in exploring the ‘lightweight’ metro of the Tyne and Wear or DLR model as a complement to the existing suburban railways, rather than trying to copy London or Paris.

Metro appears to be the transport buzz word of the moment:

Brisbane Courier Mail:
Designer advises Brisbane to go underground for metro rail

Sydney Morning Herald:
Bye heavy rail, now for a north-west metro

The “Eddington Report” from Melbourne:
melbourne metro -‘new generation’ rail tunnel (warning PDF)

But what is a metro anyway?

The dictionary defines it as


• noun (pl. metros) an underground railway system in a city, especially Paris.

So, quickly now, which of the following is doesn’t have “metro” anywhere in its name? (I’ll accept two or three in the answer)


2. (please excuse gratuitous picture of me)






Answers next time – and with it some rational discussion on why it matters.

(for images 1, 4, and 6 I am indebted to Wikimedia Commons, and in particular photographers Chris McKenna and “Pline”)