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Budget blowout on the cards for Gold Coast Airport light rail

written by Jake Nelson | April 9, 2024

An artist’s impression of the future light rail around Gold Coast Airport. (Image: Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads)

The planned light rail connection to Gold Coast Airport could cost almost three times more than estimates, the Queensland government has revealed.

Stage 4 of the Gold Coast light rail, a 13-kilometre stretch linking Burleigh Heads to Coolangatta via the airport, was previously estimated at $2.7 billion, but now is expected to cost up to $7.6 billion, with Gold Coast City Council expecting to foot 11 per cent of the final bill.

Queensland Transport Minister Bart Mellish said the cost estimates came from a preliminary business case, with a final cost to be established by a detailed business case “as is appropriate for a project of this complexity”.

“It does have an estimated cost of $4.4 billion, with a cost range that is $3.1 billion to $7.6 billion,” he told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

“We will move to a full business case and this is a priority project but we have to see what the cost will be before we jump in feet-first.


“When we are talking about the business case, it is important to have eyes wide open about what we are going into. It has a good cost-benefit ratio.”

According to Mellish, the government wants the project completed by the 2032 Olympics, with the bridges over Tallebudgera and Currumbin Creeks expected to be the biggest cost difficulties. The government is looking to complete a detailed business case by the end of next year.

“The full business case will begin soon and is an 18-month process, which is long, but it will nut into the geotechnical detail of where the tram will cross the road and how we do the creek crossings,” he said.

“Stages 1-2 have been really well-received and we are keen to see Stage 3 completed. The benefits this will bring to the southern Gold Coast will be substantial.”

Gold Coast Airport is the sixth-busiest in Australia and the largest of four airports owned by Queensland Airports Limited, which also owns Longreach, Mount Isa and Townsville Airports.

Its draft Master Plan, released last month, envisions a mixed-use precinct including a plaza with access to both light and heavy rail.

The airport in 2022 completed a $260 million expansion of its southern terminal, which doubled its footprint by 30,000 square metres.

Additionally, the airport was last year chosen as the third operating base for low-cost carrier Bonza, which flies from the Gold Coast to Albury, Bundaberg, Cairns, Darwin, Gladstone, Launceston, Mackay, Melbourne (Avalon), Melbourne (Tullamarine), Mount Isa, Mildura, Rockhampton, Townsville and the Whitsunday Coast.

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