Light rail as a means for inner-city transit is undergoing a renaissance across Australia. Introducing a new mode of public transport, light rail projects can become catalytic agents for urban renewal. Unable or reluctant to deliver light rail infrastructure, Australian governments have turned to the private sector; entering performance-based public-private partnerships (PPPs) to design, construct, operate, and maintain systems. Purported benefits include better value-for-money, reduction in government risk, innovation and efficient use of assets. Governed by rigid contractual clauses and tight delivery programs, PPP deeds are designed to minimise design modifications. Light rail projects in urban areas, however, are intensely complex and subject to unforeseen conditions; they are also city-building exercises. Are performance-based PPPs therefore, an appropriate model to deliver light rail infrastructure? To contribute to this pressing question, this paper examines the PPP between the State of Queensland and GoldLinQ Pty Ltd for stage one of the Gold Coast Light Rail. It investigates whether initial planning, design and ‘city-building’ objectives were delivered; and discusses perceived impacts of the performance-based PPP.