Menu

$150m a km: What blowout means for tram’s future

 

THE ballooning cost of the Gold Coast light rail system has sparked fears future stages and major infrastructure projects will be rendered unaffordable.

The stalled 6.7km Broadbeach to Burleigh tram extension was put back on track after the federal government intervened with a $126 million lifeline last week, but the project will now cost more than $1 billion to deliver, with the state also chipping in more than $200 million.

With stage 3 now set to cost more than $150 million a kilometre, both supporters and critics of the system say they are concerned about the spiking costs.

Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3 is back on track.
Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3 is back on track.

EXCLUSIVE: GREEN LIGHT FOR GOLD COAST CABLEWAY

But both the state government and Gold Coast City Council say they are fully behind the project.

Bonney MP Sam O'Connor, a strong supporter of the trams, said he feared for the future of the tram network

"There's been very little explanation about how it's gone up by hundreds of millions of dollars in a matter of months," he said.

"That's a huge amount of money and it makes you wonder how they're going to build our city's other major and urgent project, the Second M1, for anywhere near the $1.5 billion in confirmed Federal-State funding.

Sam O'Connor. Picture Glenn Hampson
Sam O'Connor. Picture Glenn Hampson

"The federal government shouldn't have had to put up this extra $126 million but I'm glad they did, though because of the blowout the state government is now spending over $205 million more than they previously said they would."

The federal funding, to be included in Tuesday's budget, came after the Bulletin revealed in April that the deal to build the 6.7km tram link had not been signed, forcing the state to admit the project would be delayed and cost significantly more.

State Transport Minister Mark Bailey, Federal Minister Paul Fletcher, Mayor Tom Tate, and Federal MP Angie Bell announced the new tram funds last week. Picture Glenn Hampson
State Transport Minister Mark Bailey, Federal Minister Paul Fletcher, Mayor Tom Tate, and Federal MP Angie Bell announced the new tram funds last week. Picture Glenn Hampson

Stage 3, which will include eight stations terminating at Burleigh Heads, will now cost more than $1 billion to build, up from the original $709m.

The extra funding will see the federal government's commitment to the project jump from $269m to $395.6m.

The state government has committed $553.95m while the council is putting forward $91.5m.

State Transport Minister Mark Bailey and Mayor Tom Tate say they are fully committed to the future of light rail on the Coast. Picture Glenn Hampson
State Transport Minister Mark Bailey and Mayor Tom Tate say they are fully committed to the future of light rail on the Coast. Picture Glenn Hampson

Transport Minister Mark Bailey said the state was more committed than ever to completing the coastal strip and ruled out any thoughts of delivering a cut-priced system.

"Stage 4 is a matter for the future. Stage 3 is absolutely as projected, we have done all the consultation. It's now just about finalising the contracts," he said.

"It's about a three-and-a-half year build but there will be a huge flow-on effect for local businesses, restaurants suppliers and manufacturers.

"It will be a massive injection of confidence into the Gold Coast economy."

Revelations of the contract stalemate sparked warnings from political and business leaders that the delays would endanger the completion of Stage 4 to the border in time for the 2032 Olympic Games.

Mayor Tom Tate rides the tram. Picture Glenn Hampson
Mayor Tom Tate rides the tram. Picture Glenn Hampson

Mayor Tom Tate said council would not give up on the light rail.

"Building large scale infrastructure never gets cheaper to build than today. It only gets more expensive," he said.

"That's why I have long said that it makes economic sense to have contracts issued, and secured, for the next stage of light rail as one stage is completed.

"I encourage both tiers of government to strongly consider having stage 4 ready for a build contract, as stage 3 is finished.

"Our council has committed to business case funding for stage 4 and I would be willing to work with council to ensure our forward funding model accommodates this."

$126M FUNDING BOOST FOR BROADBEACH TO BURLEIGH TRAM EXTENSION

CONSTRUCTION of light rail Stage 3 will begin this year after the state and federal governments swooped in with a $126 million lifeline to get the Broadbeach to Burleigh extension back on track.

The federal government announced a $126 million extra funding commitment on Friday afternoon. It will cover a cost blow out after negotiations stalled between the state government and contractor John Holland Group.

The state government will also chip in extra funds - understood to be around $200 million - to get the Broadbeach to Burleigh tram extension across the line. 

The federal funding, to be included in next week's budget, came after the Bulletin revealed in April that the deal to build the 6.7km tram link had not been signed, forcing the state to admit the project would be delayed and cost significantly more.

Stage 3, which will include eight stations terminating at Burleigh Heads, will now cost more than $1 billion to build, up from the original $709m.

Paul Fletcher. Picture: Peter Clark
Paul Fletcher. Picture: Peter Clark

FIRST LOOK: BURLEIGH HEADLAND REVAMP

 

Federal Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher said the urgent intervention was necessary to allow the Gold Coast to continue reducing congestion on its under-pressure road network.

"This additional funding brings our total commitment to Stage 3 of the light rail to $395.6m and demonstrates our government's continued commitment to helping deliver what is the most significant transport infrastructure project ever carried out on the Gold Coast," he said.

Gold Coast Bulletin, Friday April 16, 2021: How the Bulletin broke the story.
Gold Coast Bulletin, Friday April 16, 2021: How the Bulletin broke the story.

"This stage of the project is expected to directly support 760 jobs while also improving the speed, reliability and service frequency of the light rail system, and helping to further bust local congestion."

The extra funding will see the federal government's commitment to the project jump from $269m to $395.6m.

The state government has committed $553.95m while the council is putting forward $91.5m.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey confirmed the state government will also chip in extra funds to get the tram extension across the line.

Mr Bailey could not confirm the size of the cash top-up but it is understood to be around $200 million.

The State's original contribution to the project announced in 2019 was $350 million, but according to a joint statement issued by Mr Bailey and Mr Fletcher today, it will now be $553.95 million.

The Transport Minister blamed increased labour costs as the reason for the blowout.

"A lot has happened since the business case and costs have risen since them. That's just the reality," he said.

"The economy has changed and we have to cut our cloth accordingly.

"Stage 3 is definitely going to be happen."

Mr Bailey said negotiations were still ongoing with John Holland Group, the contractor the government selected last year.

Revelations of the contract stalemate sparked warnings from political and business leaders that the delays would endanger the completion of Stage 4 to the border in time for the 2032 Olympic Games.

The extra funding was secured in recent weeks after a flurry of 11th-hour lobbying from local MPs to ensure the project got back on track and completed in 2024.

Angie Bell. Picture: Jerad Williams
Angie Bell. Picture: Jerad Williams

Moncrieff MP Angie Bell pushed for the extra funding and said it would play a key role in decongesting the city's southern streets.

"Stage 3 is a critical project that will include eight new light rail stations, upgraded pedestrian and cycling facilities, and an upgraded bus and rail interchange at Burleigh Heads Station," she said.

"This will provide better access to jobs, schools, shopping, services and recreational facilities."

The Bulletin has fought vigorously for light rail Stage 3 since 2015, immediately after its reporting secured the announcement to build Stage 2 from Parklands to Helensvale.

Mayor Cr Tom Tate said the securing of a deal was "huge" for the city.

"It underscores the benefits of all three tiers of government working together," he said.

"Light rail is our city's public transport spine. Having this funding certainty also means we can continue our investigations into the vital east-west connections that will feed off the main light rail corridor. It's a great day for our city."

andrew.potts@news.com.au

 

 

 

 

Originally published as $150m a km: What blowout means for tram's future



‘I want to go home’: Man denies tracker allegation

Premium Content ‘I want to go home’: Man denies tracker allegation

Police are alleging a man tampered with his GPS tracker in an attempt to remove it...

Schools tackle clear and present vaping danger

Premium Content Schools tackle clear and present vaping danger

Incidence of vaping among students continues to rise

State-run nursing homes running short on time, staff

Premium Content State-run nursing homes running short on time, staff

Shocking figures reveal a shortage of aged-care workers