It may have had plenty of problems with the concept in Opposition, but Queensland’s Campbell Newman government is adamant that a new $1.2 billion light rail system for Gold Coast commuters won’t run late on its delivery after it nominated Monday 21st July 2014 as the official start date for the new service.
Intended to reduce transport congestion in one of the country’s fastest growing cities, the new public transport addition has been in the design and construction works phase for the past three years and will finally offer commuters an integrated public transport system that connects timetables between buses, trams and trains.
According to transport authorities the tramway’s debut will kick off with a free service on the first day of service followed by paid services that will max out at just over $4 for Go Card holders wanting to travel the light rail’s full run.
However the journey to make light rail a reality in Queensland has been a long one. The imminent opening follows an extensive public works project that was first proposed in 1998 as part of the Gold Coast City Council’s Transport Plan.
That was followed by a joint Queensland Transport and council feasibility study that developed plans for a possible light rail or bus rapid transit system in 2004.
But it wasn’t until 2011 that the state government finally selected a developer and operator called GoldLinQ, which was brought in under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model.
The project has been jointly funded by the state and federal governments and the council, consisting of 14 trams and 16 stations servicing a 13-kilometre route through the heart of the city.
The rollout is a big deal for the image of the Gold Coast as a grown-up metropolis because it puts the highly-urbanised area on par with Sydney and Melbourne which already have well patronised tram and light rail services that have a higher capacity than buses.
Other cities including Canberra, Newcastle, Adelaide and Perth are similarly grappling with putting in their own light rail services as a way to speed travel times and ease congestion.
Proponents of light rail as viable public transport option point to the stimulus the infrastructure can provide.
Even before the new Gold Coast system opened, it has proven to be beneficial to the local economy because of the GoldLinQ consortium’s spend of $530 million with local businesses for labour and materials, which came from 400 suppliers since construction began in early 2012.
Queensland Minster for Transport and Main Roads Scott Emerson said the eagerly awaited date of its opening follows confirmation that all parties are satisfied that the light rail is ready to go.
“As a government we have a strong plan to get more people on to public transport and light rail provides an easy-to-use, frequent service ensuring a bright future for anyone traveling in and around the Gold Coast,” Mr Emerson said.
He said trams will run every seven-and-a-half minutes, to Southport, Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.
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