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Cross River Rail spells end of the line for Ekka heritage features

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The $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project has to end somewhere. But it just so happens that it’s northern-most station will pop up in the middle of the old Brisbane Exhibition Grounds, laden with heritage projections and cultural icons.

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The $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project has to end somewhere. But it just so happens that it’s northern-most station will pop up in the middle of the old Brisbane Exhibition Grounds, laden with heritage protections and cultural icons.

The inner suburb of Bowen Hills has been the subject of much development activity, partly due to the main station being one of only four stops servicing all train lines. The Cross River Rail project, however, involves an upgrade of the nearby seasonal Exhibition station, in the heart of the Ekka, to fuel its transformation into an all-year-round venue.

The showgrounds date back to 1876, and primarily host Brisbane’s annual show, bringing the country and city together. Merging the old and the new, however, has proved a challenge.

The planned 165m long and 15m wide platform is a tight fit, next to the main arena, and has already required the removal of two mature fig trees that shaded visitors, along with an overpass, fencing, billboards and a cattle wash area. The entire 10km project, which goes under the Brisbane River to Dutton Park, is due for completion in 2024.

A new report submitted to the Heritage Council shows the project will also require the demolition of listed structures at the showgrounds including old brick toilet blocks, the pedestrian underpass (an infamous Ekka bottleneck), a cattle underpass and original timber and corrugated iron fencing. More fig trees have also been identified for removal, along with the Vet’s Office and Quarters and non-listed structures including Affleck House and a permanent hot food stand.

“In approaching the concept design of Exhibition Station, it was critical to consider the context of the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds and the civic role the station plays in this emerging precinct,” the report states.

“The station seeks to maximise its visibility from all key approaches and public spaces, improving exposure of the new public transport asset. This visibility is important in ensuring residents, workers and visitors alike appreciate the convenience CRR provides. The centralised location intentionally seeks to strengthen all key connections rather than prioritise one connection over another. It is also recognised, however, that the need to make the station visible must be balanced with the need to respect the heritage setting of the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds.”

The Council, which needs to consider developments by government, will take submissions on the plans until March 20.

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