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Railway_Digest__February_2018

The ‘G 2’ is an

The ‘G 2’ is an early opener In contrast to the late and controversial delivery of two other south-east Queensland rail projects, the Redcliffe railway and New Generation Rollingstock EMUs, stage two of the Gold Coast light rail (known as the G:Link or simply the ‘G:’) opened ahead of schedule on Sunday, 17 December 2017. Originally it had been planned to open the 7.3 kilometre extension from Gold Coast University Hospital to Helensvale station in January or early February, but successful testing of track, power supply and the four new trams ordered for the extension, plus sufficient driver training, allowed an earlier opening. The opening celebrations commenced with the 5.29 am departure of the first public tram from Helensvale station. Bombardier Flexity 2 No.05 had the honour of providing the first service. Despite the early Sunday hour around 60 people were on board and the event was well covered by media outlets. Free travel was provided over the entire 20 kilometre line from Helensvale to Broadbeach South for the day. During the morning passenger loadings gradually built up with many people travelling to Helensvale station for the opening celebrations. ‘Show bags’ were distributed at Helensvale and the two new intermediate stations, Parkwood and Parkwood East, while food stalls, musicians and face-painting added to the festive atmosphere at Helensvale. Ironically, there were no trains to Helensvale on the opening day as Queensland Rail had planned trackwork for the Gold Coast line well ahead of the light rail opening. Given that the extension, like the original line from Gold Coast University Hospital to Broadbeach South, was funded by all three levels of government, it was not surprising that a large gathering of politicians would be at the ceremony, led by GoldLinQ CEO Phil Mumford. John Witheriff, the chairman of the GoldLinQ consortium that has constructed and operates the G:, highlighted the long hours put in by GoldLinQ management and staff to open the line ahead of schedule. He reminded the gathering that the line was built in just 21 months from the letting of a contract to CPB Contractors (formerly Leighton Contractors) in March 2016. He also commented that when there appeared to be a change in the Commonwealth Government’s attitude to funding the extension (an oblique reference to the change of Prime Ministers from Tony Abbot to Malcolm Turnbull in September 2015) there was frantic behind-the-scenes work to ensure Commonwealth funding became available. Deputy Premier, former Transport Minister and newly-appointed Treasurer, Jackie Trad, officiated at the proceedings along with new Transport Minister, Mark Bailey. Ms Trad had been heavily involved in the funding negotiations for the extension in her former role as Transport Minister. The Federal Government was represented by Steve Ciobo, Member for Moncrieff and Minister for Trade and Investment and Stuart Robert, Member for Fadden. Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate and Queensland Transport Director-General Neil Scales were also in attendance. Representatives from Keolis (part of the GoldLinQ consortium) and Marubeni Corporation attended from France and Japan respectively. Marubeni Corporation is a GoldLinQ equity partner. The opening speeches were of a bi-partisan nature, emphasised by the fact that Steve Ciobo was previously reported by the Gold Coast Bulletin as being opposed to a special Commonwealth funding allocation for stage two and that newspaper’s pro-light rail campaign, but at the opening he indicated he was a strong supporter of light rail. The value of having the three levels of government funding the project was emphasised – something that would possibly only happen in Queensland where local government bodies are generally far bigger than elsewhere in Australia. The $420 million project was funded by the Queensland Government ($270 million), the Australian Government ($95 million) and the Gold Coast City Council ($55 million). The opening of the extension well before the Commonwealth Games, to be held on the Gold Coast in early April, was highlighted, and reference was made by Mayor Tate that planning is underway for stage 3A of the light rail project – from Broadbeach South to Burleigh Heads. Following the speeches, the politicians signed several surfboards commemorating the opening (something quintessentially ‘Gold Coast’), posed with a ribbon and then boarded the ‘official’ tram, No. 17, along with a large number of members of the public and media for the ride to Gold Coast University Hospital and Broadbeach South (the southern terminus). Trams operated at 10- minute intervals as per the normal Sunday timetable applying between 7.00 am and 7.00 pm and healthy passenger loads were noted until late afternoon. According to the Gold Coast Bulletin more than 40,000 passengers were carried on the 34 RAILWAY DIGEST

Pages 32 and 33: The southern section of the 7.2 kilometre stage two of the Gold Coast light rail line is located beside the Smith Street motorway, the main road from the Pacific Motorway to Southport and Surfers Paradise. This Monday, 19 December view shows a southbound tram on the left-hand track approaching the island platform at Parkwood East station while the one on the right is climbing the approximate 1 in 14 grade on its way to Helensvale. The line’s top speed of 70 km/h is allowed on this section. Looming in the background are high rise buildings at Southport which helped provide the stimulus for constructing light rail on the Gold Coast. Left (page 34): The first rays of sun on Sunday, 17 December catch Bombardier Flexity 2 tram No. 05 as it awaits departure from Helensvale at 5.29 am to operate the first public service on the 7.2 kilometre extension of the Gold Coast’s light rail line from Gold Coast University Hospital to Helensvale. Around 60 passengers, including media representatives, were on board for the historic journey. The tram is standing at the light rail station’s island platform while in the left background the island platform for Queensland Rail’s station can be seen. opening day and the newspaper’s headlines the following day, “It’s a Trampede” and “Bring on stage three” summed up the interest in the light rail extension and the pro-light rail stance of the city’s newspaper. In contrast to the celebrations the previous day, the first revenue tram (No. 13) to traverse the extension departed an almost deserted Helensvale station at 4.59 am on Monday, 18 December with just two passengers. However, three early-risers boarded at Parklands and gradually passenger numbers built up as the day progressed. Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey and Assistant Minister for Tourism Industry Development, Meaghan Scanlon, (who had won the Gold Coast electorate of Gaven from the Liberal National Party in the 25 November 2017 Queensland election) made the journey by light and heavy rail from the Gold Coast University Hospital to South Bank in Brisbane during the morning. Observations at Helensvale during the day revealed that passengers for the tram service came not only from ex-Brisbane trains as would be expected, but also from trains heading north from Varsity Lakes, the Gold Coast line terminus, as well as from park-and-ride patrons at Helensvale. This appears to indicate that the new extension will be used as much for local Gold Coast trips as journeys to and from Brisbane. Travelling along the extension – gauntlet track and heavy grades A traveler surveying the extension in the northerly direction will depart the former northern light rail terminus at Gold Coast University Hospital’s semi-underground station and, at the northern end of the platforms, cross the pedestrian crossing linking the two platforms. As part of the project ‘walk/don’t walk’ traffic signals have been installed to protect the crossing, which has limited visibility for trams approaching around a curve from the north in the underground section. Almost immediately, just prior to the climb to the surface, trams encounter an interesting piece of trackwork in the form of turnouts on each track marking the start of a section of gauntlet double track. The gauntlet track continues up the ramp to ground level and then one pair of rails in each track continues as the ‘main line’, crossing diagonally over the intersection of Olsen Avenue and Parklands Drive/ Wintergreen Drive. The other pair of rails curves to the right and continues alongside Olsen Avenue as a double track siding before becoming single track and terminating a few hundred metres from the junction. GoldLinQ told Railway Digest that gauntlet track was used to avoid installing turnouts on curves on the ramped section. The tracks along the ramp are laid on top of a concrete slab and, although the track is not enclosed in concrete, grooved rail is used. A grade of approximately 1 in 14 (seven percent) is encountered climbing up the ramp to the junction – illustrating the ability of light rail applications to surmount grades that would not generally be used for heavy rail. The siding will serve two purposes. It can be used to terminate and store trams clear of the main line during busy periods or service disruptions. Secondly, a GoldLinQ spokesperson told Railway Digest it would provide a ‘connection for a potential future extension’. This is a reminder that the alternative option for the stage two extension was to proceed north via Olsen Avenue to the large direct factory retail outlet known as Harbourtown, located on the Gold Coast Highway (Brisbane Road) at Biggera Waters, and then west alongside the Gold Coast Highway to Helensvale. There was support for the Harbourtown route, which would have served a large residential area as well as the retail venue but the route via Parkwood is faster, was cheaper to build and involved no street-based track (there are just two motor vehicle level crossings) and fewer resumptions. In September 2017 Harbourtown General Manager Gary Webb said that he would like to see light rail serve the retail facility which now has 240 stores. Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad addresses the assembled crowd at the official opening of the Gold Coast light rail line stage two at Helensvale on Sunday, 17 December. On her left are several surfboards, which were signed by the politicians after the ceremony, while in the right background is tram No. 17 which conveyed the official party, media and members of the public along the new line. Standing in front of the surfboards and facing the crowd is GoldLinQ CEO Phil Mumford. FEBRUARY 2018 35

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