THE Gold Coast tram network is ready to roll to the next stage after new Prime Minister and public transport advocate Malcolm Turnbull gave in-principal support to fund the expansion.
Tenders are open for the next stage connecting the Gold Coast University Hospital station with the heavy rail at Helensvale with the work expected to be completed before the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The news comes a week after Moncrieff MP Steve Ciobo indicated that the federal government would seriously consider funding the second stage, although he made it clear it would only proceed if the economic case stacked up.
Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad says recent discussions with the federal government has shown a 'genuine willingness' to proceed with the next stage of the light rail network.
"The Queensland Government now has the confidence to move Gold Coast Light Rail stage two to the next stage of the procurement process, which is the formal request for tender.
"Although we don't yet have an agreement with the Turnbull Government, I believe we are very close to securing a contribution that would allow this project to be built in time for the Commonwealth Games.
"We already have strong support for the project from the City of Gold Coast, which has committed $55 million in cash and $3.5 million in-kind support towards stage two, and promising signals from the Commonwealth which enable us to take this next step."
Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss has indicated the federal government still plans to analyse the business case in detail before committing to the project.
"Since receiving the business case we have been in a position to explore the opportunities and discuss the options with the Queensland Government," Truss says.
"I am confident that armed with the relevant information we can now move to reach a positive outcome quickly.
"The Australian Government is already investing more than $13 billion to build the modern transport infrastructure Queensland needs for the 21st century and we are committed to ensuring projects deliver the long-term gains the community expects."
The 7.3km extension will run west along Smith Street and then north along the M1 before connecting to Helensvale Railway Station. It is considered the cheaper option than the proposed route running along Olsen Avenue and Brisbane Road.
Light rail operator GoldLinQ is finalising the expressions of interest and tender process with bids closing at the end of December.
Construction is expected to take a little over two years and create 1000 jobs.
The timetable is still tight to meet the Commonwealth Games deadline with the event to be held in April 2018.
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has described the second stage of the light rail as a 'legacy project' for the city.
"Our city is on the eve of significant growth and prosperity," Tate says. "By linking light rail with heavy rail will allow Brisbane's 1.2 million residents easy access to our city via public transport-importantly, it will take vehicles off the M1 in both directions."
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