The Gold Coast is Australia’s sixth largest city with a population of approximately 590 000 in 2017 that is expected to increase to almost 1 million by 2041. This future growth needs to be accommodated by reducing car dependency and traffic congestion in order to protect the character and lifestyle of the city.
The Gold Coast Light Rail (GCLR) is part of a high-capacity public transport system that will connect the Gold Coast, ease traffic congestion and support the growth of new employment opportunities. It consists of a light rail corridor from Helensvale to Coolangatta. With Stage 1 and Stage 2 now complete, Stage 3A is bringing further connectivity to the network.
The completion of Stage 1 of the project in 2014 saw 21 000 people a day choosing to use the system in the first three years of operation. Vehicle movements have continued to decrease throughout the light rail corridor since the start of tram operations. Gold Coast Highway, south of Ada Bell Way, has seen a significant reduction of 44.6% between 2015-16 and 2016-17.
Stage 2 was completed in December 2017 as vital infrastructure in providing transport for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. Over the 11 days of the Games, 100 000 people used the service a day, nearly four times the normal daily average. Since Stage 2 opened, light rail patronage has increased by 33 per cent and has grown to over 10.5 million trips in a year.
Aurecon was appointed Technical Advisor for both GCRT Stage 1 and GCLR Stage 2, which included the development of the reference design and associated technical documentation, business case support, procurement support, managing the D&C design review process on behalf of the State, technical advice and support, and providing project management and site surveillance services.
In April 2018, Aurecon was once again appointed technical advisor for the GCLR Stage 3A detailed business case to undertake the development of the reference design and associated technical documentation, as well as to provide the State Government with business case development support.
Community engagement was an integral part of the planning process for this next stage. A month-long survey was conducted among Gold Coast city residents which attracted over 2000 respondents with additionally over 500 people taking part in market research. 58% of respondents who completed the online survey were in support or not against the light rail extension, while more than three-quarters of residents and businesses supported the proposed future stages of light rail and could see the big picture of extending the system.
Stage 3A will connect Burleigh Heads to Broadbeach and result in the extension of the existing GCLR network from Helensvale Station. This stage involves a 6.7 kilometre track, 8 new light rail stations and will require 5 new light rail vehicles. It will also benefit pedestrians with upgrades to footpaths and additional signalised pedestrian crossings, improving safety along this part of the highway.
GCLR Stage 3A has many transport, economic and environmental benefits. Congestion is anticipated to be reduced further, with many car trips per day being removed from the road network. It is also estimated that this project will create about 500 local jobs a year in the construction phase and 54 jobs during operations, producing over $1.2 billion in economic benefits.
Subject to the project securing fair-funding commitments from three levels of government, construction for this project is expected to start in 2020 with operations commencing in 2023.