A month after his surprise win as Australia's prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull is reversing his predecessor's policy on transit funding with a $95-million commitment to a 7.3- kilometer light-rail extension in the Gold Coast area of Queensland, which will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Urban infrastructure projects top the agenda for the new PM, an investment banker and former telecommunications minister who defeated Tony Abbott on Sept. 14. In an Oct. 10 announcement, Turnbull said he would support rail project investment based on "merits." Among those competing for federal support are Western Australia's $1.35-billion Perth Rapid Transit; Sydney's $1.15-billion light rail; Queensland's estimated $3.2-billion River Rail core project; and Victoria's Melbourne Metro, estimated at up to $8 billion. "We expect consistency in the Australian government's focus on infrastructure, with significant federal funding devoted to road and rail freight projects," said Ian Shepherd, CEO of Sydney designer GHD.
Municipal officials also pledged $55 million to the Gold Coast line, but it was not clear how much Queensland would commit toward the hundreds of millions of dollars in project funding still needed or what other public-private approaches would be used. Richard Wankmuller, CEO of Brisbane engineer Cardno, noted Turnbull's keen interest "in how the entire marketplace, not just the government, can mobilize the $50 billion required to enhance infrastructure across the country."
The Gold Coast project website says three contractors are short-listed to build the line, with a selection set for early next year. The project is expected to create 1,000 construction jobs. Turnbull also created a new ministry for cities and the built environment and a ministry for small business—moves welcomed by Australia's construction-industry executives to boost a domestic economy reeling from declines in mining and oil prices. Megan Motto—CEO of Consult Australia, which represents consulting firms—said, "The new regime outlines a robust stimulus package."