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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Premier Anna Bligh and Federal Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig today officially turned the first sod on the $949 million Gold Coast Rapid Transit project with Transport Minister Rachel Nolan.

They joined Gold Coast Mayor Ron Clarke to inspect early works in the jointly Federal, State and Council funded project.

Ms Bligh said Leighton Contractors are onsite and have started preliminary works on the Gold Coast University Hospital Station - a key part of the $949 million project.

"During the next three and a half years, the Gold Coast Rapid Transit project will generate 6,300 jobs," Ms Bligh said.

"The work starting today includes the construction of the floor, roof and walls that will support the future station structure and associated road works in Parklands Drive.

"The Station shell is being constructed in two stages to integrate with the Gold Coast University Hospital construction and to avoid disruption when the new 750-bed tertiary teaching hospital is operational.

"Project modelling estimates that by 2016 there will be approximately 7, 000 passenger movements per day at the Gold Coast University Hospital Station so what we see here today is a vital part of this vital project start to come to life."

The Premier said the Gold Coast University Hospital Station made up the bulk of the early works stage (Stage 1) of the Gold Coast Rapid transit project.

"We are currently assessing a shortlist of three consortia for the operator franchise, or stage 2 of the project, and expect this to be appointed in March 2011," she said.

"The Gold Coast Rapid Transit project will transform the Gold Coast. It will open up new parts of the city and encourage residential and retail developments along the line."

Premier Bligh said that when trains start using the new light rail line in 2014, the 13 kilometre corridor will service the two Gold Coast hospital locations.

"The 20,000 plus student population of Griffith University, the Southport medical precinct and the fast growing commercial, retail and recreational centres of Southport, Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach will also benefit," she said.

"The Federal Government, State Government and local council are working together to deliver this important public transport infrastructure for the rapidly-growing Gold Coast."

Senator Ludwig said Gold Coast Rapid Transit was an exciting $949 million nation building project.

"The Gillard Labor Government's record investment in nation building infrastructure has made iconic projects like this possible," Mr Ludwig said.

"The commencement of construction today is proof that we have delivered on our commitments. Federal funding for the Gold Coast Rapid Transit project was announced only last year, and here we are today getting on with the job of building infrastructure.

"This project is the largest public transport infrastructure project ever undertaken on the Gold Coast.

"It will generate construction jobs today and support employment on the Gold Coast over the long term through increased business and tourism opportunities.

"Importantly, the Gold Coast Light Rail project will support sustainable transit oriented development in areas along the corridor."

Ms Nolan said the project will change the way people move around on the Gold Coast.

"Light rail will connect neighbourhoods, community centres and retail areas - access to these areas will be possible without cars," she said.

"When completed, the below ground light rail station will be open sided, have two platforms and provide an impressive new entry to Griffith University.

"It will provide easy access for students, staff, patients and visitors to the university and hospital.

"Over the next few weeks, work on the station shell will ramp up with excavators, bulldozers and bored piling machines beginning the heavy duty work.

"Over 550 bored piles will be put into place progressively, using a staged approach to minimise traffic and pedestrian disruption.

"It's incredible to think that over the course of the project more than 18 000 tonnes of dirt will be removed as part of the construction process - that's enough dirt to fill more than seven Olympic size swimming pools."

Gold Coast Mayor Ron Clarke said the new light rail was an important part of long-term planning for a first-class public transport system in the city.

"The Gold Coast is currently Australia's sixth largest city, with more than half a million residents and 10 million visitors annually, and it continues to attract new residents," Cr Clarke said.

"By 2031, the city is expected to be home to almost 790,000 people, and they will require major urban infrastructure."

"Light rail will be a catalyst for city building, integrated land use and the urban transformation which we will need over coming decades.

"Importantly, it will give our residents something those in many other cities take for granted - a real alternative to road-based transport.

"It will integrate with a much-improved bus system, provided by TransLink in partnership with the city."

Traffic on Parklands Drive between Olsen Avenue and Alumni Place will be reduced to one lane in each direction during construction works.

This traffic arrangement is a permanent change between Alumni Place and University Drive that is required for future precinct-wide development.

Media contact: 07 3224 4500