A second stage of a light rail project that will bring huge economic benefits and link Brisbane to the Gold Coast in time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games has been approved, after a relentless campaign by the Gold Coast Bulletin.
Extending the Gold Coast’s light rail line to the heavy rail station at Helensvale, which connects to Brisbane’s CBD and airport, has long been planned but funding and a definitive time frame to complete the project had been difficult to secure.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a long-time supporter of light rail, signed off on stage two this week.
The Gold Coast Bulletin began its campaign as soon as stage one was completed last year, with the paper referencing light rail an average of 12 times in every edition since last July.
Phil Mumford, the chief executive of GoldLinQ, the company operating the light rail system, said the paper was crucial in bringing the project to fruition.
“If the Bulletin hadn’t started that campaign it wouldn’t be happening, I’m dead certain of that,” Mr Mumford said.
“It was a great strategy at the right time and its persistence paid off.”
Editor of the Gold Coast Bulletin Catherine Webber identified the importance of completing the light rail project and commissioned two independent surveys that found 82 per cent of locals rated the project as their highest priority for the city.
Kathleen Skene, a senior reporter following the project, said the results of the survey were astounding and confirmed the need for the paper’s campaign.
‘We had never seen any single project have such public support right across the board – the top leaders of business down to everyday punters wanted to see this done’ – Kathlene Skene.
“We had never seen any single project have such public support right across the board – the top leaders of business down to everyday punters wanted to see this done. It was an absolute no brainer, getting the light rail connected to the heavy rail,” Ms Skene said.
“(The outcome) underscores that newspapers still have, not just the same influence, but a bigger influence than we’ve ever had before. We’ve got more readers than we’ve ever had before and there are few other organisations that can do what a newspaper can do.”
Throughout its 454 day campaign, the Gold Coast Bulletin published statements from influential figures across the tourism, health, development, education and media sectors that highlighted the benefits of the project and the critical nature of completing before the Commonwealth Games.
Since opening in June last year, the 13km first stage of the light rail line has seen 6.18 million trips made in its first year and brought a wave of urban renewal and new development project approvals along the line.
“There are very few people on the Gold Coast who won’t benefit from the stage two connection, even if it is just in terms of the development projects that it will start,” Ms Skene said.
The funding for the project had hit an impasse between federal and state governments prior to Malcolm Turnbull taking over the prime ministership.
“I think that the local members themselves didn’t have the data we had access to and I think they underestimated the public support for the extension,” she said. “So we were able to put it out there and present it so that they had no doubt as to what their voters wanted them to do.”