As a regular user of the South Bank railway station in inner Brisbane, I have been waiting and hoping for the promised upgrade to eventuate and make that part of my day all the better.
I patiently walked and worked around it through the long and agonising construction period, literally through rain, hail and shine, dust, grit and howling wind. Now, with mid-summer upon us for the third time since July 2016 when more than one website trotted out the same fantastical story about upgrades and major improvements at South Bank Station on Brisbane’s rail network, I am still waiting.
I would like to be more positive about the upgrade, but as work seems to be coming to a conclusion, this is a big ask. Back in 2016, Brisbane Development dot com noted:
“…one of Queensland’s largest transit oriented developments is set to deliver major improvements with an estimated $6 million upgrade to the existing train station late this year.
With over 60,000 passengers passing through on a weekly basis, South Bank is one of Brisbane’s busiest train stations and now set to form a key feature of the new $600m mixed-use Southpoint’s dining and retail precinct…”
It’s now over two years and $600,000,000 later, and maybe some of the promised $6million for the station upgrade is still in the kitty, but it’s not looking good for the 60,000 passengers who must struggle through this place out of necessity rather than choice.
The promised design enhancements to the “station’s layout and customer facilities, resulting in improved public safety, accessibility and overall appearance” listed in press releases at the time, and the reality, are currently a bit different.
- The installation of two new escalators, staircase and lift, providing direct pedestrian access from Southpoint’s Grey Street retail and dining forecourt to the station platform. True, these items have been installed, but getting to the base of the escalators from anywhere else in South Brisbane or Southbank as a pedestrian, including from the station’s other two platforms, or from the Goodwill Bridge, involves a major detour around the transit oriented development and past the new commercial tenancies. And then the escalator whisks you into a raging wind tunnel and deposits you onto the bleak platform. Something tells me that whoever signed off on the ‘improvements’ has never used this station, nor any other form of public transport infrastructure, ever.
- A new feature station entry linking to Southpoint’s upper ground retail and dining level, emphasised by a sub-tropical designed glass awning structure and an open area under. Pardon me? If that means hot and glary in summer and freezing and windy in winter – the upgrade has nailed this one. See images.
- A new ticketing office, staff facilities and public toilet amenities. Too many public interface problems to mention here – I just want to get through this list before I get much older!
- Widening of pedestrian pathways for increased user-friendliness and traffic flow. Woo hoo. But user-friendly for who? The widened Vulture Street and Tribune Street footpaths now have broad driveway crossings – all the better for pedestrians to spread out as they patiently queue in the sun, wind and rain, to give way SUV drivers and supermarket delivery trucks entering the TOD’s multi-storey carparks.
- New digital timetable and event update monitors. These have been thoughtfully placed on free-standing frames that occasionally provide a shred of shade. Unfortunately, the monitors can’t be read when it is sunny, and for some frustrating reason they display the north-bound train information, in duplicate, on the south-bound platform.
- Extra comfort and shade protection with a proposed new awning and seating structure. State of the art-of-how-not-to provide commuter rail passenger comfort.
Passenger needs are way down the list in this upgrade. A regular station user who posted “is anyone else bewildered by the just-completed Southbank Station upgrade?” on Reddit Brisbane last year, put it succinctly: “how is this better for anybody”?
There may be more work to come on Platform One at South Bank, but it will be cosmetic and unlikely to be able to repair the built in flaws. If this is the best we can expect from one of Queensland’s “largest transit oriented developments” then we have a long way to go in realising the social, economic and environmental benefits of TOD. It’s high time for Queensland Rail and other government agencies to get on board with the liveable city concept and demand better quality outcomes for the whole community in the public spaces under their control. Otherwise, it’s just development.