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As a consulting partnership of three you have each been asked by a government led transit consortium called GoldTransit to assess three options for major transit projects on the Gold Coast to assist in their decision making. Each of you will prepare a comparative assessment paper that assesses one of the three major civil engineering transit project options, and then compares it with the other two alternatives in a coordinated manner.

Needs Definition

The Light Rail Transit (LRT) system is a fully electric transport mode that uses a railway across a highly populated area or city. They are generally made in various types specifically for their rapid speeds and thus fall under the mass rapid transit category. Several rails may be used within the design area so the authorities in charge can provide proper service delivery through the LRT system in the city. The figure 1 below shows the proposed network of the Sand Tram.

Figure 1: Proposed SandTram Route

The aim of implementing LRT system is for the benefit of the residents in such a way that, utmost priority will be given to ensure that the system does not have a pronounceable effect on the surrounding environment (Dorsey, 2016). The LRT trains would be moving at 70 km/hour and consequently, arrival times at the different stations within the rail network would be reliable and convenient. This may result into more public transportation users being attracted to it and the reduction of congestion within the city.

Moreover, the design of the LRT system factors in a high carrying capacity, a challenge that the city’s transport authorities desires to confront. The system meets the need for the service of delivery within the city while minimizing on land use (GCLRS, 2002).

Initial Plan:

The idea of constructing the system was initially introduced in the Gold Coast City Council Transport Plan back in 1996. This proposal was made after a few years of research and careful assessment. In 2002 the federal and Queensland governments were able to raise $650,000 to finance the Gold Coast LRT system’s feasibility study. The draft summary containing the findings was presented in 2004 (Potts, 2016).

The overall authorities in the planning process are the two governments represented by the GoldTransit consortium with the inclusion of professionals including GoldLinQ Pty Ltd, Plenary Group, Downer EDI, Bombardier Transportation, McConnell Dowell and Keolis are the private parties that are involved in the design, construction and operation of the LRT system (Gold LinQ, 2013).

The expected planning process would most likely include a feasibility study, comparison of various alternatives, detailed analysis and selection of the best option, detailed system design, system test and evaluation, construction, maintenance and retirement.

Figure 2: Design Steps Followed.

The process of procurement for the stage 3 of the Gold Coast Light Rail project after the feasibility study and design includes, pre-qualification of the parties, companies or institutions that will be invited to tender, the invitation to tender, bidding and selection of the best alternative, award of tender i.e. presentation and signing of the contract by the selected bidder and all other relevant parties, development of a franchise-letting timetable, project handover and implementation (construction, operation and maintenance).

Life Cycle

Owing to the fact that this is a public infrastructure project, the procurement process will have to be conducted by an authority under the Queensland and federal governments under the GoldTransit consortium. This is the Queensland government ministry of infrastructure in collaboration with the federal government’s infrastructure docket. The firms awarded the task for the first and second stages were Gold LinQ group which was contracted to operate the rail and this includes Keolis and Downer (KDR) to operate and maintain the rail and Bombardier Transport and McConnell Dowell who jointly designed and constructed the rail (GoldLinQ, 2013). Subsequently, the third stage of the GoldLinQ system would still most likely involve the parties above.

In such a project, the resources involved would be funds for construction, human professional support from the design to the operation, available land and a good communication system.

The design component for this system are similar to that of a highway or rail system and those would include Intelligent Transport Systems design, information and communication system design, station building architecture, landscape architecture, rail design, tunnel and bridge design, and power supply system design etc.

The design professionals who would most likely be recruited in this project include, ICT professionals, system engineers, structural engineers, urban and regional planners, geotechnical engineers, transport engineers, architects, landscape architects, railway design engineers, materials engineer and landscaping professionals etc.

The Gold Coast Light Rail project would require CAD detailing software, rail design software, geographic information systems software, transport modelling software, structural design and modelling software and geotechnical modelling software etc. (Newman, 2009).

Table 1 Design Aspects of the Gold Coast Light Rail System (Sand Tram)

Design Element

Actor/s Responsible

Design Tools

Design Instruments

Structure (bridges, stations, culverts etc.)

Structural Engineer

Structural design and modelling software, CAD.

· AS 5100: Bridge Design Code and Supplements and Amendments

· AUSTROADS - Guide to Bridge Technology – SET

· AS 3600-2001: Concrete structures

Geometric vertical design of the railway network

Highway Engineer

Civil design and modelling software, CAD.

Austroads Guide to Road Design Series

Design of the power supply system

Electrical Engineer

Electrical design and modelling software, CAD.

· AS 7664: Railway Signalling Cable Routes, Cable Pits & Foundations

· AS 7722: EMC Management

· T LR EL 00001-7 ST

Overall environmental friendliness and sustainability.

Environmental Engineer

Modelling and statistical software

BDP Environment Design Guide

System design of the transport network including the railway and its complementary networks.

Transport Engineer

Modelling and CAD software as well as document tools.

· Guide to Traffic Engineering Practice

· AS1742.7: Railway Crossings

Design of the entire engineering infrastructure relationship

System Engineer

Modelling and CAD software as well as document tools.

· T MU AM 06006 GU: Systems Engineering Guide

· T MU AM 06006 ST: Systems Engineering Standard

Design of the information communication systems

Network Engineer

CISCO, Linux and other network modelling software

· AS 7718: Signal Design Process Management

· T LR SC 08001 ST: Rail Signalling Principles for Light Rail Networks

Design of the subsurface elements

Geotechnical Engineer

Geotechnical modelling software and CAD.

AS 1726: Geotechnical Site Investigations.

Testing and design of construction materials

Materials Engineer

Modelling and CAD software as well as document tools.

Materials Testing Manual

Aesthetic design of the station buildings


ArchiCAD and rendering software.

· NCC BCA Volume 1 and 2

· AS 1100.301-1985: Technical drawing - Architectural drawing

Geometric lateral design of the railway network

Geospatial Engineer

ArchGIS and other GIS software

AS 3100/05-01: Technical Standards Volume 1 Part 1 "Geometric Road Design Standards and Practice Guidelines"

Geometric design of the railway components

Railway Engineer

Modelling and CAD software as well as document tools.

· AS 7635: Track Geometry

· T LR TR 10000 ST: Light Rail Track Requirements

Aesthetic design of the landscape

Landscape professional

ArchiCAD and rendering software.

NCC BCA Volume 1 and 2.

Town planning

Urban and regional planner.

Modelling and CAD software as well as document tools.


The project option’s development would fall under the responsibility of the Queensland government’s fronting organization, GoldTransit. The consultants and contractors in this case would work with the ministries as employees to design and implement the project.

The phases of development of the project would include the design and detailing which includes the companies hired to do this in collaboration with the project engineers for the two ministries. Construction would follow and as the same group of companies has an 18 year tender, they would design and construct the railway. From there, operation and maintenance would follow under the aforementioned company (MacDonald et al., 2010).

The resources required for each stage include:

  • Design: modelling and CAD detailing software, research manpower, design codes and regulatory documents.
  • Construction: plant equipment, labour, specialized trade tools and funding.
  • Operation and maintenance: skilled labour, ICT systems support.

For the new rail to be compatible with the existing stages, the delivery has to be such that it includes both prior systems in the testing phase. The contract signed by GoldLinQ remains valid for 18 years and as the train is required by 2018, the same companies involved in the design, construction and maintenance of the earlier stages would apply.


As such, the delivery process would include the GoldTransit consortium handing over the project to Gold LinQ for implementation. In the collaboration, Bombardier Transport and McConnell Dowell would initially take up the design and construction then deliver it to KDR for testing and full operation.

The general operations and maintenance would be solely the responsibility of the Gold LinQ group which is the main contractor. Having completed the first two stages, it is most likely that they would receive the tender again (GoldLinQ, 2013).

Operation activities include ticketing, scheduling, communications operations, station operations e.g. security and customer information etc. The maintenance activities include repairs of units, parts and components of the rail, repainting, servicing the equipment and regular monitoring for issues.

In the initial stages of the design, the Gold Coast Light Rail transport system had a design life of 50 years which would commence in 2011. This is practical as the city is bound to grow and this growth would progress outwards necessitating a bigger network rather than abolition of the existing network. However, the growing population statistics may see to the expansion plans necessitating a total upheaval of the rail in preparation of a new one in the next 30 years e.g. for bridge expansion or rail gauge changes.

At the moment, no retirement plan has been specified in the current Gold Coast Light Rail plan but consideration would be given to its retirement in favour of a faster and higher capacity train in the future.

Civil engineering research is constantly being carried out and this does not only include civil engineers but supporting and complimenting disciplines too including but not limited to environmental, geotechnical, geospatial mechanical and electrical engineering, surveying and geology too.

As civil engineering research continues breaking new ground, new technologies and systems are discovered to help do the work easier. As such, it is probable that the research would help create a more sustainable transport system that would incorporate other disciplines in energy saving and environmental conservation. A better transport network could be discovered highlighting the inadequacies of the current one. Also, a modification in the gauges could be recommended. All this, would if uncovered before the 50 years are over could cut the life-cycle short. At present, the plan has factored in a daily ridership of 44,230 people, among who 20% - 45% are expected to be tourists and the rest, residents, for a design life of 50 years.


Following the discussion in the project life cycle analysis, the sub-disciplines involved in the design and construction of the project include:

Preliminary design: System engineering and transport engineering would be necessary at this stage. The system design would enable for a multidisciplinary study and interrelation while the transport engineering would enable for the development of models for the system and evaluation. These would be provided by the GoldTransit consortium (GoldLinQ, 2013).

Detailed design: When designing the physical components of the railway, railway design would fall under both highway and structural engineering which have guidelines for railway design. Bridges, stations and other structures would fall under structural engineering too. Geotechnical engineering is necessary in the study and design of the load transfer to the ground too. Surveying too is necessary for assisting in the lateral profile design. Environmental engineering is mandatory in the design of a sustainable system and environmental friendly system (Hoffman, 2008).

The project stewardship as seen in the life cycle analysis is under the Gold LinQ company which is a group of companies operating under a contract with the federal and state government. This conglomerate carries out its oversight responsibilities via the companies under it as described above. It has been responsible for designing, delivering and managing the transport system. The GoldTransit consortium takes up the client and governmental oversight authority responsibility having planned the system and tendered it.

As it stands, the stewardship of the LRT system is under an 18 year contract while system has been constructed for a 50 year working life. Therefore, the steward companies are susceptible to evaluation and appraisal periodically which means that the responsibility could be given to a different company if they were found unsuitable.

At the moment, both the steward company Gold LinQ and the GoldTransit as the client have their technical personnel at the ready. The contractor’s engineers design and maintain the system and its components while the government’s engineers are mostly responsible for the oversight and quality control.


The light rail system is a huge investment whose total costs by far surpass the current alternatives. It is arguable that the system would be uneconomical for short distances or stretches when compared to the other alternatives. However, the system in the city is an economical advantage as it would be extensive connecting various stations that are far apart from each other while guaranteeing reliable and record journey times.

Design Aspects of the Gold Coast Light Rail System

In doing this, a lot of money is saved by individuals who’d pay more in the other systems. The attractiveness of the benefits also guarantee a regular and high ridership in comparison to the other means suggested meaning that the earnings would be enough to recover project costs within a similar timeframe as the other means. Another advantage would be the boost in commercial property price around it. Table 2 below shows the estimate economic analysis.

Table 2: Economic analysis of the Gold Coast Light Rail

Benefit Item 

Cost Item


1. Vehicle Operating Cost Saving


1.Total infrastructure cost



2. Avoided Road Development Saving


2. Total fleet cost



5. Transit System Uplift


3. Total staff cost



3. Property Values Uplift (WEB)


4. Total externality cost



4. Tourism Uplift (WEB)






Net Present Value Including WEBs

$1091M + -$656M= $435M


Benefit Cost Ratio Including WEBs

$1091M /-(-$656M)= 1.67


Net Present Value Excluding WEBs

$415M + -$435M= -$20M


Benefit Cost Ratio Excluding WEBs

$415M /-(-$435M)= 0.954


As indicated by Brown and Werner, there is a chance of the LRT system affecting the travel behaviours of the riders both for the positive and negative. First, the opening up of places thanks to good connectivity would bring about more social interaction between people. The train would help improve the aesthetic appearance of the city and preserve a culture around the transportation system. I would also provide some prestige to the areas it traverses thereby even increasing the land market value (Brown and Werner, 2009).

The LRT system is bound to be a more comfortable method of travel than the others. This would provide riders with more comfort options at a cheaper price. Subsequently, this would make the economic aspect justifiable as indicated above.

However, the LRT system also promotes poor human behaviours which would lead to obesity and unfitness. The large crowds, cheapness of the railway system and its expansiveness is bound to encourage the petty crimes in the transport system too. Some areas which looked better without the railway in place may suffer the reduced aesthetic value.

The sustainability value of the LRT system is unparalleled as it has minimized both noise pollution and the carbon emissions. This makes ideal for neighbourhoods where minimal disturbance is required. It also adopts electric energy which is a step up from fossil fuel energy. Although electric energy I still dependent on fossil fuels, it is greener and innovations are being carried out to suggest sustainable energy generation.

The LRT system would be funded heavily by the state and federal governments. As such, political government support is necessary. There are instances where different political parties support different projects and would do their best to sway their supporters into their direction. This system has also been met with similar challenges and as it stands, it would need to sound convincing enough to the different political demographics.

Table 1





Need for Initiative


· High carrying capacities.

· Faster travel times.

· Reduced traffic congestion

· Less environmental impact.

Initial Planning

Idea conceived by Gold Coast City Council Transport Plan in 1996.

Planning conducted by GoldTransit while implementation done by GoldLinQ.


Requires 14 different professions, supporting design software, standards, codes and guidelines.


This is to be done by GoldTransit with GoldLinQ most likely being awarded.


The development is to be conducted by GoldTransit and GoldLinQ and would include design, construction and operation.


After planning, GoldTransit is to deliver it to GoldLinQ for implementation.


Operation includes ticketing, scheduling, communications operations, station operations e.g. security and customer information etc.


Maintenance includes repairs of units, parts and components of the rail, repainting, servicing the equipment and regular monitoring for issues.


Life Cycle is 50 years but is subject to evolving technology.

Civil Engineering System

This would be inclusive of both preliminary system design and conceptual overall design.

Initiative Stewardship

As the GoldTransit consortium is the client, GoldLinQ is to take stewardship under the 18 year contract over a 50 year design life.

Economic Values (including Project Cost Assessment)

Net Present Value Including WEBs = $435M

Benefit Cost Ratio Including WEBs = 1.67

Net Present Value Excluding WEBs = -$20M

Benefit Cost Ratio Excluding WEBs = 0.954

Social Values

· Promoting social interaction between people.

· Improved aesthetic appearance of the city and preserved culture around the transportation system.

· Increasing the land market value.

· More comfortable to riders.

· Promotion of poor human behaviours e.g. obesity, unfitness and petty crime.

Sustainability Values

Minimization of noise and air pollution.

Political Values

Mixed reactions are expected as it is heavily funded by the government.


The LRT system is technically feasible. As a large coverage of the network might be built in free underutilized areas, the process of land acquisition may be significantly improved by the low prices. The project conveyance starting from the preliminary design to maintenance can be projected almost accurately. In addition to that, it is also socially, politically and sustainably viable. However, the financial analysis suggests the costs are too high and this may put a huge strain on the state budget.

My design is not recommendable because, while it may it may be economically justifiable, the overall cost of implementation and running will be very steep. Unfortunately, the time taken to recover the costs will be long and therefore subject to inflation and increasing cumulative costs.

Net Present Value Including WEBs = $435M

Benefit Cost Ratio Including WEBs = 1.67

Net Present Value Excluding WEBs = -$20M

Benefit Cost Ratio Excluding WEBs = 0.954


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