Long wait for Gold Coast airport train

SOUTHERN Gold Coast residents could wait up to 20 years to catch a train to the airport after the first rail extension in more than a decade -- a three-minute journey -- was launched yesterday.

Premier Anna Bligh and Transport Minister Rachel Nolan opened the $324 million Varsity Lakes rail extension project with Burleigh MP Christine Smith.

"After more than two-and-a-half years construction and 1.5 million working hours, this project will open six months ahead of schedule," said Ms Bligh.

But southern residents have been given no timeframes or schedules for future projects, besides a promise to have a rail line to Coolangatta by 2026.

Ms Smith told The Bulletin she was confident it would happen despite having no idea when Tallebudgera and Elanora stations would be built.

Land has been purchased for Tallebudgera while land at Elanora is being considered. Estimates from the South East Queensland Infrastructure Plan and Program 2009-2026 show Elanora to Coolangatta would cost $700 million.

"As much as I'd like to see it continue it's not in this year's budget or next year's budget," said Ms Smith.

"But anything is possible."

Currumbin MP Jann Stuckey said it was a hollow promise from the State Government and it was cruel for residents that there were no timeframes because of the possiblity of house resumptions.

"I don't think one train station in a decade is anything to boast about," she said.

Varsity Lakes station, which is 4.1km from Robina station, will open to the public today as a new timetable is launched with an extra morning and afternoon service.

The project includes 4.1km of electrified track, a 300m rail tunnel, three new road-over-rail bridges and three new roads around the $25-million station.

Dixie Walker, who tested the new service yesterday, said he didn't think there was enough cover at the station for when it rained but enjoyed the ride.

"Once it gets to Coolangatta, or at least the airport, then it would be fantastic and a lot of people would use it," he said.

State Government-owned land around the new station will go out for tender this week for future development.

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