Road Connectivity

Advance Cairns calls on the Queensland Government to invest in key projects in road connectivity in Far North Queensland as part of our continued push to diversify the economy and build a resilient future for the region. This submission marks the first phase of Advance Cairns’ advocacy ahead of the 2024-25 Queensland Budget.

Key projects for road connectivity include the Captain Cook Highway, Cairns CBD to Smithfield, upgrade (C2S), Cairns Western Arterial Road, Redlynch Connector to Captain Cook Highway Duplication (CWAR), Kuranda Range Road and the Savannah Way (Gulf Section).

An integrated and efficient road transport network is critical for economic stability and growth in Far North Queensland (FNQ), a region of 380,000km² which includes some of the nation’s most remote communities.

The region’s inland roads and Cairns’ access to the northern beaches and Tablelands play a vital role in enabling the productivity of northern Australia and the contribution to the national economy through improved connectivity to southern markets.

Growth in population, employment, tourism and freight volumes coupled with the increasing importance of food security, means safety and capacity requirements on these roads will only be exacerbated.

Investment in FNQ’s road connectivity is crucial to avoid nationally significant productivity losses, to connect rural and remote communities and to ensure continued regional and state economic development.

Captain Cook Highway, Cairns CBD to Smithfield, upgrade (C2S)

An integrated and efficient road transport network is critical for economic stability and growth. Population growth in FNQ and the Cairns northern beaches in particular, calls for an immediate response with this corridor plagued by accidents, lengthy delays and bottlenecks.

The road network provides vital access to the region’s resident population of more than 285,000 (with up to 50,000 tourists during peak holiday season) ensuring accessibility to health, education, community services, and trade. Due to continued population growth, FNQ’s road transport system faces increasing pressure – which is particularly evident on Cairns’ northern beaches.

Meeting the growing demand for freight has strained existing infrastructure, impacting on transport costs and service levels across the supply chain.

Recommendation

The Queensland Government ensures the master planning for the Captain Cook Highway (Cairns CBD to Smithfield upgrade) be finalised as a matter of urgency by the end of 2023.

The Queensland Government allocates $225m towards the Captain Cook Highway (C2S) over three years from 2024-25 in accordance with the Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program 2023-24 to 2026-27.

Cairns Western Arterial Road, Redlynch Connector to Captain Cook Highway Duplication (CWAR)

Upgrading CWAR is essential to connecting Cairns’ freight routes with the region’s premier agriculture producing areas (Tablelands, Cape York Peninsula, and Mossman), while also meeting demand for daily commuter traffic.

The effectiveness and safety of the road transport network in and around Cairns will continue to be adversely impacted until the CWAR is fully duplicated from Redlynch to Smithfield and in line with an upgrade of major intersections. A total investment of $300m has been made by the Australian and Queensland Governments on an 80:20 basis to duplicate from Redlynch Connector Road to Captain Cook Highway.

It is now imperative that the Queensland Government commits to the balance of funding and that planning for the duplication work is completed as soon as possible.

Recommendation

The Queensland Government ensures construction of the Cairns Western Arterial Road (Redlynch Connector to Captain Cook Highway duplication) commence no later than mid-2024.

The Queensland Government allocates $190m towards the Cairns Western Arterial Road (CWAR) over three years from 2024-25 in accordance with the Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program 2023-24 to 2026-27.

Kuranda Range Road

The Kuranda Range Road (Kennedy Highway, Cairns-Mareeba section) links Smithfield with Kuranda and is the main coastal gateway to the Tablelands, Cape York Peninsula, and the Gulf Savannah. It is a critical link for commuter, commercial, and visitor traffic in FNQ and a vital strategic corridor linking the Atherton Tablelands, North Tropical Coast, and Cape York to the Cairns Airport and seaports.

The Kuranda Range Road underpins the commercial viability of primary industry producers and exporters in the region in providing access to markets through the Cairns air and seaports, and road links to southern markets.

In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in traffic demand due to growth in tourism, freight movement, and residential development on the Tablelands, particularly following the recent opening of Cairns’ Regional Trade Distribution Centre (RTDC) at the Cairns Airport.

Recommendation

The Queensland Government commits $20m of the Australian Government’s $210m investment to undertake a preliminary evaluation and detailed business case for an alternative route.

The Queensland Government works with the Australian Government to amend the National Land Transport Act 2014 to extend the national highway designation from its current terminus at the intersection of Captain Cook and Kennedy Highways to the intersection of the Kennedy Highway and the Mulligan Highway.

Savannah Way (Gulf Section)

The Savannah Way, spanning 3700km from Cairns in FNQ to Broome in Western Australia, crosses 15 national parks and five World Heritage areas. This route, ranked among Australia’s top 10 road trips, generates $69.8m annually for the Gulf region, with 38% of travelers commencing their journey in Cairns.

The 888km Gulf section from Forty Mile Scrub to the Northern Territory border requires pavement upgrades, bitumen sealing, and other enhancements. In 2019, the Australian and Queensland Governments allocated $62.5m for road upgrades through the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative.

Completing this project over 10 years with annual investments will bolster local road networks and enhance safety for heavy vehicles and tourists, benefiting remote towns like Croydon, Burketown, and Doomadgee.

Recommendation

The Queensland Government supports the sealing and improved flood resilience of the Gulf section of the Savannah Way by providing project funding, and that allocation of funds be distributed to the controlling Local Government Authorities in equal portions over a 10-year period from 2024-25 onwards.

This submission marks the first phase of Advance Cairns’ advocacy ahead of the 2024-25 Queensland Budget.

Last updated: 17 November 2023

2024-25 Queensland Budget Submission

View the full list of projects and policies that feature in our 2024-25 Queensland Budget Submission.