Monday, April 16, 2012

Gold Coast Rapid Transit - not half-baked!

Cavill Avenue artists impression    Source: GoldLinQ
As most of the readers of this blog will already be aware of, BrizCommuter is not amused by the number of half-baked and short sighted rail infrastructure projects that occur in SE Queensland. Examples, being the Salisbury to Kuraby section being triplicated when it should have been quadruplicated, lack of electrification on the 4th track between Corinda and Darra, and the Ferny Grove Line duplication being split into two projects. It is thus very refreshing to see that the plans for Gold Coast Rapid Transit (GCRT), the Gold Coast's Light Rail project appear to relatively well planned.

The GCRT will have termini at Gold Coast University Hospital and Broadbeach. Terminus design can be a major constraint for rail operations. Many of Brisbane's long removed tramways only had a low capacity single track at the terminus. Thankfully, the two (hopefully) temporary termini have 2 platforms, and the trams reverse in multiple sidings beyond the station. This allows for a very high frequency to be run if necessary. It also means that at times of service disruption, multiple trams can be temporarily stored at each terminus. It also allows for more operating flexibly and delay recovery.

Usually there are no single track sections. However, for a few weeks of the year during the bogan car racing fest there will be one single track section. The length of this section should not long enough to cause any major operating issues (as long as there no speed limits through the switches such as on Adelaide's tramway).

Instead of building short trams, and then extending at a later date, relatively long trams have been built for opening. The 43.5m Bombardier Flexity 2 vehicles can carry 309 passengers, and of course surfboards. The tram is of the modern 100% low floor design.

Unlike some North American light rail systems where service frequency is rather lame, the GGRT will run half-decent frequencies from day one, utilising 14 trams. Daytime frequency will be every 7.5 minutes, which is a turn up and go service. Early morning and evening (after 7pm) service will be every 15 minutes. There is also an all night service in Friday and Saturday night which will run every 30 minutes. Lets hope that there is security staff on these services!

BrizCommuter would like to see the GCRT extended as soon as possible to Helensvale to allow for connections with the Gold Coast Line. This would make it easier for Brisbanites to access the beaches, conference centre, and casino by public transport. It would also make it easier for Gold Coast citizens to access Brisbane without having to resort to driving.

A thorn in the side of the GCRT is the current anti-light rail publicity - mainly from disrupted business owners, bus rapid transport fans, and rev heads. Recent press reports show that those against the GCRT are in the minority, and with construction well under way only an idiot would stop things now (although there are no lack of idiots in QLD politics). BrizCommuter had little sympathy for the affected business owners. If your business is unique, and can stand out from the crowd (in products or customer service), then your customers should cope with having to walk a little further around some barricades. If your business is not special enough that customers vote with their feet, then maybe you need to try a bit harder? There have not been mass business wipeouts during light rail construction in Europe. Also, have the whinging business owners thought about the benefits of having a light rail system on their doorstep from 2014? BrizCommuter is however concerned how Gold Coast drivers (who don't exactly have the best reputation for road manners) will cope with light rail.

BrizCommuter expects that the opening of the GCRT in 2014 will start to turn the tide towards public transport in the Gold Coast.

Gold Coast Rapid Transit website:


  1. Not half baked??? Try living on the Gold Coast.

    Even the council now realises that the entire system MUST connect to heavy rail (as you pointed out), and that realisation has come after planning and construction has commenced. That sounds half-baked.

    The hospital car parking was taken away months before track development started with no alternative planned or offered. I've helped disabled people struggle up Nerang street to get the hospital. Official letters from the hospital warn that parking is “hell” due to light rail works. That sounds half-baked.

    Another plan council has is that residential buildings near the light rail won't need as much parking, even though there is no evidence to support this from light-rail enabled cities. That sounds half-baked.

    Another plan is that no specific transit parking is required. Instead council has designated existing shopping centres as transit parking. This is in spite of the fact that these car parks are already reaching 100% capacity during holiday periods. Also, previously free shopping centre parking on the GC is already converting to paid parking because of the light rail. Again, that sounds half-baked.

    Finally, the construction has been done to minimise cost, but NOT to minimise congestion. They have dug up long sections and then leave it for months while they work on other sections. Areas of Broadbeach are causing traffic delays while also growing grass. Would it have been that much more expensive to leave off digging up the Gold Coast highway until just before construction of that section could start?

    So it isn't just bad publicity pushed by business people, the anti-light rail push is coming from the residents. Residents that have been actively fighting this poor planning. The cost didn't help either - per km it's more expensive than maglev fast trains.

    I love trams and light rail and frequently use Melbourne and Sydney systems. I really hope that the light rail is a successful addition to Queensland public transport, I hope that it expands on the Gold Coast and I hope light rail makes a return to Brisbane. But the planning has been, and continues to be, very poorly done, lacking much in the way of common sense. They got some of the planning right – line placement, speed, stops and integration with busses – but the rest has been a shambles.

    1. I guess the anti-light rail push coming from the residents and business, is really saying lets have a road tunnel running from say Southport to Surfers and who cares for increase congestion, pollution and costs for business, residents and visitors for years to come?

    2. I'm sure you're not upset with the planning now. As they always say, short term loss for a long term gain. People are always focused with what is going on NOW rather than thinking ahead about the FUTURE. Yeah sure, of course there was going too be an increase in congestion whilst the construction was occurring as roads were being ripped up and detours were in place and there is no way around that. But now that the light rail is now open, it has helped significantly reduced congestion as more people turn to using public transport as their first option of travel. It's a shame people don't see long term benefits with fantastic projects like this.


All comments are reviewed before being published, and it may take a few days for comments to appear. If comments do not add to the conversation, or are just plain stupid, they will not be published.