THIRTEEN consortia which submitted bids for the Briztram light rail line in Brisbane (RG 6.98 p371) had their applications returned unopened at the end of July. Incoming Queensland Premier Peter Beattie feels that light rail is ’19th century technology’ and he wants something ’futuristic’ to celebrate the next millenium.

What he is likely to get, of course, is absolutely nothing. Whilst the aim is still to build a line along the selected route - minus the cross-river section from West End to the University of Queensland - the postponement has effectively thrown away a federal funding contribution. Prime Minister John Howard had allocated A$65m to the A$225m project as Brisbane’s share of the A$1bn Federation Fund to celebrate the Millenium, but following the volte face he will give the money to a more appreciative recipient.

Beattie has written to Howard pleading for the funds to be held. But the Prime Minister’s office insists that the grant falls automatically; any new scheme would have to reapply and be considered on its merits. As other cities have discovered in the past, proven technology in the hand is worth more than any number of innovations on the drawing board. o