Australia’s Gold Coast Tram

Gold coast 1

As the Horgan government seems to be on snooze control, transit issues, except for the E&N (more on that in a future post) which continues to rot away, a look at Australia’s Gold Coast tram is in order.

A modern tramway that defies the current dated thinking in BC and metro Vancouver.

Stage 1

In 2009, the Queensland Government committed $464 million to the Gold Coast Rapid Transit (GCRT) project, supplementing $365 million committed by the Federal Government and $120 million provided by Gold Coast City Council.

In June 2011, the GoldLinq consortium comprising Bombardier Transportation, Downer EDI, Keolis, McConnell Dowell and Plenary Group was awarded the contract to build and operate the Gold Coast light rail line for 18 years under a Public Private Partnership.

In August 2012, the cost of the initial 13 km (8.1 mi) section was estimated at $1.6 billion.Construction began on the Gold Coast University Hospital station shell in July 2010. In late 2010, early roadworks began in Broadbeach and Southport.

By November 2013, much of the work was complete with the southern section at Broadbeach being the only section of trackwork to be completed. Testing commenced on the northern section of the line in October 2013. The line opened on 20 July 2014, with a free travel day, before normal operations began on 21 July.”

The system had significant impact on property both directly and indirectly in the corridor. A total of $170 million was allocated for property resumptions. The Queens Park Tennis Club and Southport Croquet Club were both relocated.

Stage 2

Gold Coast University Hospital, the original northern terminus and the only underground station in the system.

After the successful opening and operations of Stage 1, the Queensland Government announced in February 2016 with plans to extend the light rail line from the University Hospital to the Helensvale railway station, providing a connection with the Gold Coast railway line that connects the city with Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland. Financial commitment from the state and federal governments needed to progress with the extension was finalised in late 2016. The new extension includes 7.3 km (4.5 mi) tracks and 3 new light rail stations, with Helensvale being the new northern terminus for the line. Construction commenced in 2016 with plans to be completed in time for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April 2018. Construction finished early, ahead of schedule with passenger services commencing in December 2017.

Stage 3

The Queensland Government, in conjunction with the Gold Coast City Council and the Federal Government, announced the plan to extend the light rail line 6.4 km (4 mi) south, from the existing Broadbeach South station to Burleigh Heads. Completion is estimated to be in 2024. Stage 3B, a further extension to Coolangatta, is expected to commence after Stage 3 is completed.

The extension to Burleigh Heads is to be built by Queensland State Government, with the City of Gold Coast and the Federal Government contributing funding. The preliminary business case was completed in February 2018. Eight new light rail stations were proposed. It is estimated that the extension will cost approximately $670 million,[18] with construction commencing in 2022 and taking three years to complete.

Stage 4

The Gold Coast City Transport Strategy 2031 supports a future expansion to Coolangatta via the Gold Coast Airport. The 14 km (8.7 mi) extension of the light rail line from Burleigh Heads station would continue south along the Gold Coast Highway, passing through the southern suburbs of Palm Beach and Tugun, before terminating at the airport.

Gold coast tram crossing a highway

Gold coast tram crossing a highway  Photo: LRTA

Please notice the Gold coast Tram crossing two multi lane lane highways, which in BC would be deemed by politicians, bureaucrats and engineers, impossible to do!


A Bombardier (now Alstom, Flexity tram.

A Bombardier (now Alstom, Flexity tram.

Based on Bombardier’s highly successful FLEXITY family of light rail vehicles that combines proven technology with continuous improvement and innovation, the Gold Coast tram has been specifically styled by Bombardier’s Industrial Design team in Brisbane to include a wave motif on the cab front. The tram is 43.4 m long and 2.65 m wide with seven modules for higher capacity and better passenger flow.  Maximum capacity is 309 persons.  These trams also feature the most powerful air-conditioning system for this class of tram, suitable for Australia’s hot summers.

gold coast Schematic


5 Responses to “Australia’s Gold Coast Tram”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Did a tiny bit of math. The cost of each stage is as follows. Stage 1 $1.6 Billion (Aus), Stage 2 $1.041 Billion (Aus) and Stage 3 $1.205 Billion not $670 Million, I will explain the big price increase in a minute, it’s not bad research by Zwei. That’s $3.846 Billion (Aus) or roughly, $3.44 Billion in Canadian dollars for 26.7 km of line including all costs (like vehicles and a new satellite storage yard). Like many large Australian cities, The Gold Coast (technically part of Greater Brisbane but politically independent), has seen land price increases that would put Vancouver and Toronto to shame, so subways with large below grade stations aren’t going to happen. A large above grade viaduct separating locals from their beloved beaches, really not going to happen, unless the planners and engineers have no other choice. Especially, if the planners of said structures want to continue breathing, the Aussie’s love, I say again, love their beaches, both the swimming and surfing varieties, cutting access physically and or visually to those beaches isn’t going to be considered a positive thing in a city known as “The Gold Coast”.

    Don’t blame Zwei over the research gaff. Infrastructure prices all over the world but especially the English speaking world, have been rising steadily due to non or pre construction risk related management or maintenance costs as well as inflation of construction material costs. I’m quite sure at one point it was $670 Million (Aus) but an almost doubling in the price can easily happen when non or pre construction costs finally get added into the mix. The engineering and construction cost you save in a surface LRT line gets penalized by higher risk management costs.

    Zwei replies: It makes using existing railway rights of ways even more financially expedient.

  2. Haveacow says:

    Oh yes, Stage 4. The 13.2 km line extension has a planned cost of roughly $165-175 Million per km (Aus), or a total of $2.31 Billion (Aus). This is in line with the per km cost and inflationary increases that the other line stages have seen. All costs are in Austrailian dollars:

    Stage 1, $122 Million/km
    Stage 2, $143 Million/km
    Stage 3, $163 Million/km

    When and if Stage 4 is built the people of Gold Coast, Queensland (population 679,129 in 2018) will have a 40km long LRT line with a total cost of $6.1 or $6.2 Billion or $5.6 Billion Canadian dollars. Again compare and contrast with the cost of the Skytrain. Remember they had only 1 commuter rail line before all this rapid transit began opening in 2014. All this rail rapid transit development has occurred since the Vancouver Winter Olympics ended.

  3. Haveacow says:

    My 14 year old daughter also reminded me that you have to like an LRV painted yellow and purple with little yellow mustaches painted on the nose of the vehicle. Yes Mackenzie, it’s not yellow and purple it’s saffron and periwinkle! I stand corrected.

  4. Bill Burgess says:

    Zwei’s world:

    “…SkyTrain…costs up to ten times more than light rail to install…has less capacity than light rail…” (from his previous post).

    Real world:

    Evergreen Line (Skytrain):
    10.9 km for $1.4 billion = $128 mil/km, excluding? cost of cars, etc.
    Annual Boardings: 10.3 million weekday boardings (2019) projected from the 39,500 in Sept.
    Average operating speed, 50 km/hr, headways 3-10 min.

    Gold Coast (Light rail): 26.7 km for $3.4 billion to stage 3 = $127 mil/km, all? costs.
    Annual ridership 10.7 million (2018-19, at stage 2)
    Average operating speed 27 km/hr, headways 7-30 min

    The above figures do not provide an ‘apples to apples’ comparison. They were gleaned from a very quick search. But it was enough to indicate that some of Zwei’s comparisons are off by orders of magnitude.

    Zwei replies: Nice try. the quote: “SkyTrain…costs up to ten times more than light rail to install…has less capacity than light rail…”, came from the 1982 TTC, ART Study comparing ICTS (SkyTrain) with LRT. The Gold coast Tram was all “Greenfields construction, which includes inflated land costs.

    TramTrain is being built today, at a cost of under $10 million/km.

    Hang on your hat because the Expo Line extension to Langley may top $5 billion (that damn inflation) for 16 km. By comparison the Gold Coast LRT cost CAD $5.6 billion for 40 km.

  5. Haveacow says:

    Translink’s own information is quoting $400 Million per kilometer for a surface right of way, as the price for a new Skytrain line extension. So I guess Bill Burgess is right, it is indeed an apples to oranges comparison, the Gold Coast LRT Line is actually affordable enough to build, where Skytrain isn’t.

    @Bill Burgess, there’s a reason Translink has started to so heavily promote real BRT service because they can’t afford a Skytrain anymore for the small numbers of new passengers it will actually attract on any of the future planned rights of way. The BRT, now and Skytrain, later approach is definitely going to morph into BRT, now and Skytrain, will see.

    The story about the Surrey to Langley Skytrain extension is getting so difficult to promote, the province of B.C. has separated the new yard (OMC #5) from the rest of the project because it keeps the extension’s ever increasing cost to the level of what the whole project was last year. It was probably the provincial government’s idea for Translink to raise its borrowing limit so it can contribute something to this project.

    All those under used freight rail lines and nobody at Translink seems to want to negotiate a possible LRT like, EMU or DMU operating agreement, very sad. Even the busiest freight line in Canada, the CP main line near its intermodal and container facility in western Montreal has only an average of one freight train per hour.

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