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Federal funds put Gold Coast light rail extension back on track

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The Gold Coast’s’ controversial light rail Stage 3 to Burleigh, plagued by stalled contract negotiations and cost blowouts, has been nudged back on track after the Federal Government tipped in an extra $126 million.

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The extra costs takes the total of the 6.7km tram link from $709 million towards $1 billion, with the State Government confirming they will still need to add in extra money to get the project mobile.

State Transport Minister Mark Bailey said the blowout, which followed initial projections contained in a 2018 business case that was now wildly out of date, was largely due to an increase in labour costs.

“What we’re seeing is an infrastructure boom across Queensland, so we’ve seen the unemployment rate drop by nearly a whole percent in the last few months,” Bailey said.

“The cost of labour is going up because the jobless rate is going down, so that’s a really good problem to have.”

“Yes, there has been an increase in costs but we are committed to this project happening.”

The extra funding will be included in next week’s federal budget and will take the Morrison Government’s share of the project from $269 million to $395.6 million, surpassing the current $348.5 million State contribution.

Gold Coast City Council is also funding $91.5 million of the project.

Federal Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher said government had put its hand back in its pocket to help the Gold Coast continue reducing congestion on its under-pressure road network.

“We’re here as a partner to get the project delivered,” Fletcher said.

Bailey said negotiations were still underway to get construction on the Broadbeach to Burleigh link of the light rail started this year.

He said public transport including light rail was vital to cope with Queensland’s burgeoning population.

“What we’re seeing is 88% of net migration over the next few years is projected to be in people coming to Queensland and we’re already seeing that happening, so we’ve got to deal with population growth and build the infrastructure to move people around,” he said.

“Light rail has been an incredible success story on the Gold Coast.”

Bailey also defended the public consultation and business case into a new transport network on the Sunshine Coast.

Sunshine Coast Opposition MPs this week attacked the council’s mass transit options analysis report containing a range of options from small public transport upgrades to a light rail system between Maroochydore and Caloundra.

The plans to reinvent the region’s transport network aim to combat growing congestion costs anticipated to blowout to around $3 billion a year over the next two decades.

Costs for the proposed transport options range from $880 million to nearly $2.7 billion, with the council insisting that the federal and state governments would have to do the heavy lifting on the funding.

“I think it’s really unfortunate that self-entitled local MPS want to tell the community what to think,” Bailey said.

“The community needs to drive this.”

 

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