Just three years ago, trams were a foreign concept in Queensland, but now the Gold Coast is bustling with light rail activity.
The existing light rail along with the construction of Stage 2, and the planning for Stage 3 has turned into a burgeoning new industry for the region.
Stage one of the light rail program took ten years to come to fruition, including four years of construction; eventually opening to commuters in July 2014.
The 1.2 billion dollar program encompasses a thirteen kilometre track running from the Gold Coast University Hospital, through Southport, Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.
Gold Coast Council describes the project as the largest transport program ever undertaken on the Coast, and the only light rail in existence in the state.
14 million people rode the G;Link tram system in its first two years of operation, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Now Stage Two is taking form, with the Southport to Helensvale stretch built and into the trial phase.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited the site shortly after the maiden voyage earlier in the month, describing the transport network as a “legacy”.
“Once Stage 2 is complete locals and tourists alike will have a smooth, one-transfer journey between Brisbane and the Gold Coast’s most iconic destinations,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Testing will be ongoing for several months, with the project still on track to open in time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in April.
There are hopes eventually the entire Gold Coast will be connected seamlessly by light rail in the next 15 years.
GoldlinQ CEO Phil Mumford said work is already well underway on developing the next stage of the project.
“Stage 3 will start after the Games, and that’ll extend the light rail from it’s current stop at Broadbeach down to Burleigh Heads,” Mr Mumford said.
The Queensland Government has committed 5 million dollars to yet another stretch of rail connecting the southern network to the Coolangatta Airport by 2020.
Talks are also on to incorporate the Coast’s two biggest sporting stadiums; AFL’s Metricon Stadium in Nerang, and NRL’s C-Bus Stadium at Robina into the plans within the next 13 years.
The transport system is inspiring other Councils to consider the move, with Canberra’s one billion dollar light rail network expected to begin operation later this year.