DONE DEAL: When trams will begin running to Burleigh Heads

WORK will start immediately on Stage 3A of the light rail with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to today announce an extra $157 million to secure the tram to Burleigh.

The Commonwealth injection will end a funding stand-off with the State Government that threatened to derail the project.

Construction of the 6.7km track along the Gold Coast Highway from Broadbeach will start next year and create 760 jobs. Trams are expected to be travelling south by 2023.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce the funding today (AAP Image/Tim Marsden)
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce the funding today (AAP Image/Tim Marsden)

The Morrison Government will also announce another traffic congestion buster today, bringing forward $45 million in funding for the Pacific Motorway upgrade from Varsity Lakes to Tugun.

Mr Morrison told the Bulletin: "We want these road and rail projects delivered as quickly as possible so Queenslanders can benefit from better infrastructure.

"But importantly we want to boost the economy now by bringing forward more than $440 million in federal funding on top of the nearly $3.8 billion we will spend across the state over the next 18 months.

Artist impression of Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A route
Artist impression of Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A route

"Our investment in Gold Coast light rail will help bust congestion and ensure local residents get home sooner and safer."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk thanked Mr Morrison for "listening" in recent talks.

"The Gold Coast light rail is one of our proudest - and most popular achievements. Securing this better deal for the Coast - on the M1, on light rail, on heavy rail - is a huge win. I always say we work best when we work together and here's the proof," she said.

Stage 3A’s route.
Stage 3A’s route.

The Bulletin has fought vigorously for light rail Stage 3 since 2015, immediately after its reporting secured the announcement to build Stage 2 from Parklands to Helensvale.

The Federal Government injection means it will contribute $269 million to the $709 million project, the same funding percentage it committed for Stage 1. The State Government will tip in $351 million and council $89 million.

Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A will terminate at Burleigh Heads station (Pictured)
Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A will terminate at Burleigh Heads station (Pictured)

State Government-led consultation found 86 per cent of Coast residents wanted Stage 3A, and 91 per cent supported Stage 3B, from Burleigh to the airport at Coolangatta.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey told the Bulletin: "It's brilliant news. It's a massive infrastructure injection. I'm excited about it. There's been some regular talks between the Federal Government and the Palaszczuk Government about getting new funding for infrastructure, and accelerating infrastructure as well. Top of the list for us was light rail Stage 3A."

Transport Minister Mark Bailey Picture: Jerad Williams
Transport Minister Mark Bailey Picture: Jerad Williams

Mr Bailey said the Government had prioritised the business case for 3A after the 2018 Commonwealth Games and it was "ready to go".

"It's a three-year build. You have to build while keeping the highway open. Construction will start in 2020. The last stage (two) was a greenfield site offline and we could build quickly. This one will be more challenging, but that's fine, Gold Coasters have been wanting it, it's great that we have it.

"We will be spending another billion dollars on the upgrade of the M1 to Tugun. It's infrastructure on steroids on the Gold Coast."

Mayor Tom Tate. Picture: Lawrence Pinder
Mayor Tom Tate. Picture: Lawrence Pinder

Mayor Tom Tate admitted he was "so excited that I can't slow down" after being briefed on the funding.

"I love it when all three tiers of government come to together. Reflecting on it, this is the first transport infrastructure project in Australia that the three tiers of government funded, that was Stage 1, and now we're up to Stage 3A. It sets the pattern for being an exemplar for the rest of Australia."

The Mayor admitted there would be, with highway construction, some "short-term pain".

"What we have to do is minimise that and let people know of the time frame of the program," he said.

Cr Tate applauded the work of Coast Federal LNP MPs who had been conducting "effective lobbying" in Canberra.

McPherson MP Karen Andrews said she had "fought hard alongside my Coalition colleagues" for the M1 expansion from Varsity Lakes to Tugun,

"It's a real vote of confidence in our city, which will have tremendous flow-on effects for business in a time where we need it," she said.



Timeline: The Light Rail Stage 3A saga

* December 2017: Light rail Stage 2 launches, sparking immediate calls for Stage 3 to be funded.

* September 2018: $112 million federal funding proposal for tram extension revealed by Gold Coast Bulletin in major budget leak.

* October 2018: Prime Minster Scott Morrison played coy on whether the government would follow through on the funding commitment.

* November 2018: Mr Morrison visits Gold Coast and confirms funding for Stage 3A.

* December 2018: Results of State Government and council business case reveals mass support for extension.

* January 2019: Final light rail deal declared to be "imminent".

* March 2019: Then-Opposition Leader Bill Shorten confirmed Labor would match funding but Transport Minister Mark Bailey said it was not enough.

* April 2019: Gold Coast City Council prepares for emergency meeting to consider extra funding to end impasse. Mayor Tom Tate sensationally revealed the project had stalled sparking an election funding battle between the state and federal governments.

* May 2019: Science Minister Karen Andrews proposes shortening the Burleigh route to make it cheaper and without requiring more funding. The Morrison Government is re-elected.

*August 2019: The State Government announces it will commit $351 million to the Broadbeach to Burleigh link.

* November 2019: Light rail Stage 3A finally gets the green light after the Federal Government increases its stake on the project from $112 million to $269 million.