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Railway_Digest__February_2018

An interesting feature

An interesting feature of the Gold Coast light rail line stage two is the use of gauntlet track on the ramp leading from Gold Coast University Hospital station to street level and the junction for a siding. GoldLinQ says the gauntlet track avoids the need for the moving parts of the turnouts to be located on the curved section of the underground track. The track to the left leads to the siding where trams can be stored for special services or during service disruptions. It could also form the start of the proposed line to Harbourtown. In this Sunday, 17 December 2017 view tram No. 10, adorned in all-over advertising for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, passes the junction for the tracks to the siding. Grooved rails are used on the ramp section, mounted on pads attached to the concrete slab. The tram is about to re-join fully enclosed concrete track to cross the Olsen Avenue/Wintergreen Drive/Parklands Drive intersection. The use of all-over advertising on many of the GoldLinQ trams has been the source of much criticism given that it obscures passenger views on a line used by many tourists. The tram running time from Gold Coast University Hospital to Helensvale station is 11 minutes for a distance of 7.3 kilometres while the route via Harbourtown would be approximately nine kilometres. After crossing the Olsen Avenue and Parklands Drive/Wintergreen Drive intersection, with the traffic signals in the form of ‘T’ signals normally giving priority to trams providing they approach the intersection at low speed, trams enter private right-of-way on open ballast track. Plain rail (without grooves) on concrete sleepers is used for the rest of the extension except at stations and level crossings where concrete enclosed track is employed. The tracks curve to take up an alignment beside the Smith Street Motorway, the main road access from the Pacific Motorway to Southport and Surfers Paradise. The line then crosses Biggera Creek and a signaled level crossing for a bikeway that has been relocated beside the tracks along most of the alignment beside Smith Street. Trams then climb to the first of two intermediate stations, Parkwood East, where an island platform is provided. This station serves an adjacent residential area on the northern side of the alignment and is a ‘walk-up’ station with no car parking provided. The tracks then climb a hill which required heavy earthworks to widen the cutting already in place for the Smith Street Motorway. Nevertheless, a grade of approximately 1 in 14 is encountered but thanks to an adequate power supply and the performance of the Bombardier Flexity 2 trams, the climb is made effortlessly to the ridge where Uplands Drive is located before descending to Parklands station where an emergency crossover is provided just before the station. Side platforms are used at this station, which is intended to be a park-and-ride site with a large car park accommodating 1,000 vehicles provided on the southern side of the Smith Street motorway. Access from the car park to the station is currently via a signalised pedestrian crossing but, in a late addition to the project, a pedestrian bridge with stairs and lifts is being provided over the busy motorway. It is expected to be completed in the first quarter of this year. However, easy pedestrian access is provided on the northern side to the Parkwood residential area. Northbound trams departing Parkview encounter a signalised level crossing at busy Napper Road (again tram priority signals are provided) before the line curves to the north to proceed along the eastern side of Queensland Rail’s Gold Coast line. Coombabah Creek is crossed and the tracks then proceed north beside the heavy rail line to reach Helensvale station. Between Parkwood and Helensvale two sections of concrete enclosed track are encountered – the first around one kilometre north of Parkwood adjacent to the Arundel Springs housing development east of the line and the second approximately one kilometre south of Helensvale where another residential development known as The Surrounds is being marketed. These concrete track sections mark the locations of future stations. It is interesting to note that one option considered as an alternative to taking the light rail to Helensvale station was to terminate the line at a new heavy rail station at Parkwood. The construction of an extra station on the Gold Coast line at Parkwood was not favoured by the Queensland Government so Helensvale has become the interchange station with the advantage that the light rail also serves the large shopping centre at that location. Approaching Helensvale station trams encounter, in the best of tramway traditions, a scissors crossover to access an island platform. 36 RAILWAY DIGEST

The terminating tracks are protected by friction buffers provided by German-based company Klose Train Stop Systems. Interestingly, the tram platform faces are numbered four and five, the two heavy rail platforms are numbered one and two while provision has been made for a platform three to serve an extra heavy rail track should it be provided in the future. There is space on the eastern side of the heavy rail platforms for such a track. The light rail station, which is linked by a covered overbridge with stair and lift access to the heavy rail station and its island platform, features toilets, a tram driver and customer service staff meal room, tram, bus and train departure indicators and a 400-vehicle car park and bicycle parking facilities. On the western side of the heavy rail station the existing bus interchange is currently being rebuilt with the bonus of covered pedestrian access being provided from the station to the pedestrian crossing leading to the Westfield shopping centre. Just south of the scissors crossover on the eastern side of the running lines is a short track-machine siding that is currently disconnected but can be reconnected to provide access for track maintenance machines such as ballast tampers when the time comes for the ballasted track to be tamped. Beside the siding is a roadway where track machines can be unloaded from road vehicles. In line with the practice on the existing Broadbeach South to Gold Coast University Hospital line all stations on the extension are compulsory stops and each is provided with real-time departure indicators, departure announcements, ticket/go card top-up machines, bike racks, water bubblers and a local area map and travel information. Timetables and fares Virtually the same tram timetable that was in force for the existing line also applies to the extension. On weekdays services operate every 15 minutes from 5.00 am to 7.00 am, then every 7.5 minutes (in practice the public timetable on the TransLink web site shows a seven/eight-minute interval service) to 7.00 pm and back to 15 minutes until midnight. Weekend services are identical except that trams run every 10 minutes between 7.00 am and 7.00 pm. However, all-night services on Saturday and Sunday mornings, operating every 30 minutes, continue to be only provided between Gold Coast University Hospital and Broadbeach South. The last Saturday and Sunday night departure from Helensvale is at 1.45 am. When service frequencies are being built up trams run empty from the depot to Gold Coast University station and then take up passenger service to Helensvale station. Conversely, service buildup in the southbound direction is undertaken by running trams empty the short distance from the depot to the first stop south of the depot at Queen Street, Southport where they take up public service to Broadbeach South. When service frequency is being reduced (for example when the headway is switching from 7.5 minutes to 15 minutes in the evening) trams from Helensvale to be taken out of service terminate at Gold Coast University Hospital and then continue empty to the depot. In the northbound direction trams from Broadbeach South to be taken out of service when the frequency is being reduced terminate at Gold Coast University Hospital and, using the spring-loaded crossover (formerly used by all trams before the Helensvale extension was opened) to reverse and run empty back to the depot. Thanks to tram priority over road vehicles and segregated track the running time between Gold Coast University Hospital and Helensvale is 11 minutes, irrespective of the time of day. The two bus routes that linked Gold Coast University Hospital to Helensvale at the time of the stage two opening were the 709 and 710. The route 709 operated via Harbourtown and was scheduled to take 22 to 25 minutes while the route 710, which runs via Parkwood, is scheduled for 20 to 22 minutes so the light rail extension effectively halves journey times. It is interesting to note that on Boxing Day traffic congestion in Brisbane Road (Gold Coast Highway), partly related to the Harbourtown retail centre, was delaying the route 709 and other bus routes passing Harbourtown by up to 25 minutes. From 8 January the route 709 was abolished as it duplicates the light rail service. The running time for the entire line from Helensvale to Broadbeach South is 45 minutes in both directions. The light rail extension (and indeed the entire line to Broadbeach South) lies within TransLink’s fare zone five. One zone full-fare travel using a go card costs $3.20 during peak periods and $2.56 in off-peak periods while a single paper ticket (the only paper ticket type now sold on the TransLink network) costs $4.60. Visitors to the Gold Coast (and the Sunshine Coast from December 2017) can purchase a go explore card which allows travel on trams and buses (but not trains) within the Gold Coast for $10.00 a day. Go explore cards can be reloaded for up to 10 additional days. Travel does not need to be on consecutive days and cards are valid for one year. In line with the current practice on the existing light rail line, travellers on the extension using go cards tap on and off on the platforms rather than on trams. Tram drivers are not involved in fare collection but GoldLinQ customer service staff and TransLink revenue protection officers regularly patrol trams. Heading for Helensvale on Sunday, 17 December, GoldLinQ’s No. 09 is rolling across the Napper Road level crossing at Parkwood station before rejoining ballasted track which curves to the north and then parallels Queensland Rail’s Gold Coast Line to Helensvale. FEBRUARY 2018 37

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