Gold Coast Rapid Transit: Light Rail

Project Context

Authority: Gold Coast City Council
Area: Gold Coast City, QLD, Australia
Project: 13km 16 Station light rail
Mode: Light Rail, dedicated corridor
Cost: 949 Million AUS (2011)
Value Capture: Global metropolitan wide levy

Overview

The Gold Coast rapid transit is a 13km light rail with 16 stations, and supporting east/west feeder buses.
This is the initial stage of a planned eventual 40 km network of rail which has been marked for completion over the next 25 years1. Once complete the entire network will service just short of a Million residents, reach most of the business activity centres, and link tourist hot spots 2. The light rail will be a city shaping project, and is seen as key to meet and support the growth demands in one of Australia’s fastest growing areas 3.

Impacts of development

The stage 1 route targeted key institutions including Griffith University, the University Hospital, 20% of regional employment, and several tourist centres. The light rail opened in July 2014 and has experienced better than expected uptake, with passenger numbers continuing to grow. Part of the success has been attributed to the speed due to the dedicated light rail corridor, attractive and well located stations, and comfortable carriages, which also have the capacity to carry surfboards. Enabling the train to carry surfboards was done to deter residents from vehicle ownership and to maximise the project benefits by have people use the train for both commuting and recreation; surfing is the most popular recreational activity in the region 4.

Value Capture Mechanism

The project is a public private partnership, with a build and operate contract being awarded to GoldLinQ a consortium. Funding for the project was provided by three levels of government, the Federal government $365m, the QLD state $464m, and the Gold Coast council $120; the latter’s commitment being partly funded by a metropolitan wide levy. This levy is an attempt to capture the private benefits of the project and use these for financing; a form of value capture 5.

Lessons learned

The levy was deeply politicised and was not well explained through the consultation and development process. The levy is also not ring-fenced and there is no commitment in using it to fund future stages of light rail 6. The levy’s link to actual increases in property value is poor, and with low buy-in for the levy, future transit development in the region has been jeopardised and the full benefits of the light rail may not be realised.

References

  1. Railway-Technology. (N.D.) Gold Coast Rapid Transit System, Australia.
  2. Gold Coast City Council. (2013) Gold Coast City Transport Strategy 2031: Technical Report. Gold Coast, Australia: Gold Coast City Council.
  3. Mepham, D., & Grennan, P. (2012). City Building. In Gold Coast Rapid Transit: Lessons learned. Gold Coast, QLD: Queensland Government.
  4. Stay, P., & Griffin, M. (2015). Are we Witnessing Light Rail Establishing a New Form of Linear Transit Oriented Development for Australian Cities? 2015 AITPM National Conference Paper and Presentation.
  5. Gold Coast City Council. (N.D.). Gold Coast, Australia: Gold Coast City Council.
  6. McIntosh, J., (2012). Presentation of Australian and international projects as case studies to the Doncaster Rail Project. Perth, Australia: Curtin University.