7 months ago


Building stage two When

Building stage two When stage one of the Gold Coast light rail project opened between Broadbeach South and Gold Coast University Hospital via Surfers Paradise and Southport on 20 July 2014 (see September 2014 RD, from page 30) it was always intended that it would be part of a larger network linking Helensvale railway station through to Coolangatta. However, at the time of the stage one opening political attitudes towards funding stage two were mixed. As previously mentioned in this magazine the then Liberal National Party (LNP) Premier, Campbell Newman, told the Gold Coast Bulletin on 23 July 2014 that he supported linking the light rail line to heavy rail but said people had to convince the Gold Coast City Council that they wanted the tram system extended. However, the Member for Surfers Paradise and then Education Minister in the Newman Government, John-Paul Langbroek, said any promise to extend the line for the Commonwealth Games in 2018 would be ‘irresponsible’ as the extension may not be completed within four years. From contract awarding in December 2015 it was completed in almost exactly two years. A poll conducted by the Gold Coast Bulletin prior to the stage one opening indicated that only one of the Gold Coast’s eight Queensland Parliamentary Members (Michael Hart, LNP, Burleigh) supported the light rail expansion. However, after the stage one opening the LNP Member for Southport, Rob Molhoek, said he would be contacting the Southport Chamber of Commerce to organise a petition supporting extension of the light rail. At the time there was also skepticism in some quarters that stage one would attract sufficient patronage to warrant any light rail expansion. However, stage one carried 6.28 million passengers in 2014/15, 7.68 million in 2015/16 and 7.97 million in 2016/17. After just two years operation the G:Link was carrying the equivalent of the Gold Coast’s permanent population of just under 600,000 each month. Since the light rail opened there has been a 25 per cent increase in public transport usage (tram and bus) on the Gold Coast. These figures were well above initial expectations. Following the unexpected election of the Palaszczuk Labor Government in January 2015 the new administration expressed support for constructing stage two subject to the Federal Government and Gold Coast City Council providing funding. The Council was supportive but the question of Federal funding remained unresolved. Despite this, on 6 August 2015, the Queensland Government announced it was progressing with plans for the second stage of the Gold Coast Light Rail (Stage 2). GoldLinQ was instructed to proceed with a call for expressions of interest for the extension and six submissions were received. As mentioned earlier the change of Prime Ministers in September 2015 gave hope of some Federal funding and in October an announcement was made by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the Gold Coast that the Federal Government would contribute $95 million. As mentioned previously, the Queensland Government contributed $270 million and the Council $55 million. In the same month the Queensland Government instructed GoldLinQ to proceed to a Request for Tender stage and three organisations were invited to submit bids – John Holland, Leighton Contractors and GamesLinQ – a joint venture between Downer EDI Works and BMD Constructions. In December 2015, just three months after the final tenders were received, the contract was awarded to CPB Contractors, the new name for Leighton Contractors. Construction commenced in July 2016 with a target date for completion of early 2018. Included in the contract was the supply of four additional Bombardier Flexity 2 trams from the company’s Bautzen plant in Germany. These are identical to the original fleet of 14 trams and they were delivered in September and October 2017. Each seven-section 43.5 metre long car can seat 80 and has a total capacity of 309 passengers. Top speed is 70 km/h. They are the longest trams ever used in Australia. Aided by generally good weather and, unlike stage one, fewer encounters with underground utilities, construction had reached the stage that the final track weld was carried out at Helensvale station on 31 July. A major aspect of the civil engineering works was the removal Bombardier Flexity 2 No. 10, travelling from Helensvale to Broadbeach South, is about the leave the southern end of the ballasted track section and diagonally cross the Olsen Avenue/Parklands Drive/Wintergreen Drive intersection on Sunday, 17 December. The 750 V DC feeder cables from the Arundel substation, which is just out of sight to the right, can be seen attached to the right hand traction overhead pole and the support arm to reach each of the overhead wires. The signage warning wayward motorist who might stray on to the tracks can be seen. The Parkwood Family Park, through which Biggera Creek flows, creates a rural backdrop. 38 RAILWAY DIGEST

of around 84,000 tonnes of rock beside the Smith Street Motorway at the end of Uplands Drive to reduce the hillside by about 18 metres and achieve the previously mentioned grade of around 1 in 14. On 9 November 2017 ‘ghost running’ involving trams operating to the planned timetable but without passengers commenced (see December 2017 RD, page 14). Trackwork was installed by Sydney-based Martinus Rail using 49 kg/m and 51 kg/m rail supplied by Austrian company Voestalpine. Martinus Rail also was the track contractor for the Redcliffe railway and is currently engaged in Victoria’s Murray Basin gauge standardisation project. Austrak, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Laing O’Rourke Group, supplied the concrete sleepers and Just Track operated an unusual ‘ballast train’ comprising a Western Star hi-rail truck and two former El Zorro-owned ballast wagons as reported on page 17 of the September 2017 RD. Brisbane-based Wired Overhead Solutions erected the overhead wiring using hi-rail trucks. There are four substations, using Siemens equipment, on the extension to supply the 750 V DC traction power supply. They are located at Arundel (at the commencement of the open track section near the intersection of Olsen Avenue and Wintergreen Drive), Parkwood (on opposite sides of the line) and approaching Helensvale. The second substation at Parkwood ensures adequate power is available for trams climbing the 1 in 14 grades alongside the Smith Street Motorway. GoldLinQ Pty Ltd is contracted by the Queensland Government for the design, construction, operations and maintenance of the Gold Coast light rail system. The consortium comprises Downer EDI, Keolis, McConnell Dowell, Bombardier and Plenary Group. On to Burleigh Heads …….. and Tweed Heads? During the previously mentioned final track weld at Helensvale on 31 July 2017 Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that her government would provide $5 million towards developing a business case for stage 3A of the light rail line from Broadbeach South to Burleigh Heads in collaboration with the Gold Coast City Council. This section would be seven kilometres long, have seven stations and require around four additional trams. The Council had already allocated $600,000 for a feasibility study in to the southern extension in early 2016. Stage 3 is designated as Broadbeach South to Coolangatta via the Gold Coast International (Coolangatta) Airport but it has been divided in to two stages in recognition of the size of the project, its estimated $1.54 billion cost and engineering issues south of Burleigh Heads including traversing the headland itself and crossing Tallebudgera and Currumbin Creeks. The Council has indicated it would contribute around $160 million for stage 3 but funding would again be required from the Federal and Queensland Governments. Stage 3A has been estimated to cost around $600 million and no firm funding arrangements have yet been put in place. In February 2017 the New South Wales Government announced it would investigate the possibility of extending the light rail line from the Queensland border to Tweed Heads and in October that year the state’s Roads Minister, Melinda Pavey, and Transport Minister Andrew Constance, released Future Transport 2056, a draft strategy which outlined possible improvements for NSW regional transport. Amongst the proposals to be investigated are “light rail/mass transit connections” at Tweed Heads. The proposed stage three terminus is at Coolangatta’s shopping centre, which is largely located on the site of the former railway station served by the Tweed Heads line. It closed beyond Nerang in 1961. However, the major shopping centre for Coolangatta is at Tweed Mall, 450 metres across the border in NSW. The importance of Tweed Mall as a shopping and public transport destination is illustrated by the fact that Gold Coast bus services terminate over the border at the Mall, not at Coolangatta, and the Tweed Mall is located in TransLink’s fare zone seven. The Tweed Mall is also the starting point for bus services to destinations to the south such as Banora Point, Murwillumbah and Kingscliff. Earlier light rail plans prepared for the Queensland Government and Gold Coast City Council by consultants GHD in 2007 had mentioned a terminus at the Tweed Mall for stage three. • Coomera Helensvale • Harbour Town Runaway Bay The Spit Gold Coast Griffith University University Parkwood • Hospital • • Nerang • Street Southport Parkwood • • • Southport South East Queen • Street • Broadwater Parklands • Main Beach • Nerang • Surfers Paradise North • Cypress Avenue • Cavill Avenue Surfers Paradise • Carrara • Northcliffe Stadium • Florida Gardens Neranwood ©2018 BB/ARHSnsw Bond Robina Universtity • Varsity • Lakes QUEENSLAND t Currumbin Valley • Broadbeach North • Broadbeach South Nobby Beach Miami Tallebudgera • Burleigh • Heads Elanora • NSW Gold Coast light rail - stage 1 Gold Coast light rail - stage 2 Gold Coast light rail - stage 3A (precise route to be determined) Gold Coast light rail - stage 3B (precise route to be determined) Existing heavy rail line (double track) Proposed heavy rail extension PACIFIC OCEAN b s N • Tugun Coolangatta • Tweed Heads Tweed Heads South Apart from stage 3 there have been a number of other proposals for expanding light rail on the Gold Coast, including the previously mentioned Harbour Town line. These include three east-west orientated lines: from Broadbeach to Nerang railway station, Nobby Beach to Robina railway station and Burleigh Heads to Varsity Lakes railway station. A 2.6 kilometre $200 million line from Main Beach, just north of Surfers Paradise, northwards to The Spit has also been proposed with funding possibly coming from developers. Although some of these proposals may never reach fruition it is clear that the success of the existing light rail line has prompted calls for extension to other areas of the city. However, not everyone has embraced light rail. Just as there was opposition to stage one, especially in Surfers Paradise, some residents in Burleigh Heads are opposed to the light rail concept or the proposed location of a Burleigh Heads station with some expressing concern that the foreshore may be spoiled. When the Gold Coast hosts the Commonwealth Games in April it is estimated that more than six million additional trips will be made across the city’s tram and bus network. The Commonwealth Games village, expected to accommodate 6,600 athletes and officials, is located near the Griffith University tram station and the light rail line will also support transport to competition venues at Southport, Broadbeach and Labrador. The Gold Coast light rail is generally regarded as a very successful application of the mode with its tram priority over and segregation from road traffic plus easily accessible, high-capacity trams being key ingredients for its success. The Commonwealth Games will provide an opportunity for the line to be showcased to a world-wide audience. Special thanks to GoldLinQ for their assistance in preparing this article. FEBRUARY 2018 39

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