Staff Writer

North East Rail Line early works progressing

Investigation work has commenced towards the $235 North East Rail Line Upgrade project in Victoria, after the contract was awarded to John Holland last week.

Ninety kilometres of the 500 kilometres of track have been walked and site assessments are now underway. Site walks started at Albury and will continue south towards Melbourne.

According to ARTC, a team of up to five John Holland and Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) project staff will be walking all 500 kilometres of track by mid-January, in preparation for the major works commencement in the new year.

Findings will inform site assessments about how  impacts to the community can be minimised.

Since October, early works have thus far included: 85 kilometres of tamping, the removal of over two kilometres of mudholes, and distribution of 6,500 tonnes of fresh ballast. Both tracks at the Summers Road level crossing in Springhurst have also be renewed.

“With our main works contractor in place, progress on the track upgrade will start to ramp up in the new year,” ARTC’s general manager for Victoria Projects Ed Walker said.

“Not only will people start to see increased activity in the rail corridor, but also John Holland and ARTC personnel out and about in local towns and businesses.”

Waterloo station. Artists impression: Transport for NSW

NSW awards key Sydney metro station contract

John Holland and Mirvac will deliver the Waterloo metro station under a $299 million contract awarded by the NSW Government.

The contract includes the new Waterloo Station and an integrated development above it, drawing on both companies’ expertise in major transport infrastructure and community-oriented development and design.

The “Waterloo Metro Quarter” will comprise of five building envelopes including three towers and two mid-rise buildings above and adjacent to the station. The project is expected to be completed around the time Sydney Metro City & Southwest opens in 2024.

The residential part of the development will include five per cent affordable housing and 70 apartments for social housing. Two new public plazas will be built at Cope Street and Raglan Street.

“Drawing on our recent experience in delivering Sydney Metro Northwest, we are excited to deliver not only a landmark station, but also a revitalised precinct for the community,” John Holland CEO Joe Barr said.

“This project will transform Waterloo and improve community spaces in the inner city for generations to come. Our integrated team has worked together across development, investment and complex transport infrastructure to create an urban renewal project that will make commuting easier, create jobs, and improve community facilities.”

Mirvac CEO and Managing Director Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz said that the “vision for this precinct extends beyond the bricks and mortar; we will be a long-term investor in Waterloo and we are wholly committed to realising the potential of this site to help drive meaningful social renewal and enduring value for the broader precinct.”

“The ability to deliver a progressive, urban development of this calibre, is underpinned by our wealth of experience at the forefront of the industry, together with our unique end-to-end capability.

“We have finely honed our approach to place making, design and construction over 47 years, and this, together with our thorough understanding of how our customers live, enables us to create thriving communities that support and enhance people’s lifestyles.”

Cross River Rail demolitions begin

The first stage of demolition for the Cross River Rail has commenced, Cross River Rail minister Kate Jones announced on Wednesday. The demotion of the Brisbane Transit Centre will make way for the planned Roma Street transport interchange.

Cross River Rail is now well into the delivery phase, and demolition is a large part of the works. An 85-metre tower crane will be used to bring down three buildings at the site, including Hotel Jen, the East Tower, the West Tower and then the podium they sit on. Each building will be demolished level by level, which will take up to a year.

According to Cross River Rail Authority’s program director David Lynch, speaking at the AusRAIL event in early December, the Roma Street station is “Brisbane’s primary intermodal connection.”

“It is also the next natural extension of the CBD area and a prime redevelopment site. It is the site of the proposed Brisbane Live,18, 000 seat stadium – the business case of which is currently under government consideration,” Lynch said.

Market sounding for Brisbane Live will kick off in early 2020, and according to a government spokesperson will “trigger even stronger investment appetite in the new Roma Street precinct.”

According to the Cross River Rail Precinct Strategy, Roma Street is set to become “the western gateway to the City’s premier cultural and entertainment offerings.”

“While the precinct benefits from its proximity to a range of destinations, there is still significant potential for growth in lifestyle and knowledge industries including greater professional office space, stronger physical links east to the CBD and west to Caxton Street and the Suncorp Stadium,” according to the strategy document.

As such, the Cross River Rail project’s focus at the site will be to facilitate it as the key arrival destination for the central CBD, and the western gateway to the City’s premier cultural, leisure and entertainment offerings

This will include significant upgrades to the station interchange for CRR, Metro and bus services.

Construction crane. Photo: Jim Wilson

NAIF appoints Chris Wade as CEO

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), a $5 billion lending organisation, has appointed senior investment official Chris Wade as its new chief executive officer.

NAIF was established in 2016 to finance projects through the governments of the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia in order to achieve growth in the economies and populations of northern Australia.

Wade will join NAIF as CEO from 20 January 2020, replacing inaugural CEO Laurie Walker. Wade has experience in investment businesses across sectors such as infrastructure, renewable energy and property and has held director roles at a range of infrastructure bodies, according to the NAIF. He is also on the Board of the Infrastructure Association of Queensland.

“Chris has enjoyed an extensive career in infrastructure related roles and we believe he possesses the right competencies to take NAIF forward into our next exciting phase of developing and supporting key infrastructure investment across northern Australia,” NAIF chair, professor Khory McCormick, said.

“As an organisation we collectively achieved much during Ms Walker’s three-year tenure, particularly since the Mandate changes which resulted in greater finance assessment flexibility.”

“With a number of important deals at advanced stages and NAIF moving to enhance the transformational and iconic project aspects of its operations, this is an exciting time for NAIF and for the North. We are delighted that Chris will lead the organisation’s highly committed and skilled team in this next period when NAIF’s delivery of ever-increasing public benefit will be realised.”

“Chris’s combination of infrastructure experience, financial acumen and executive leadership skills form a compelling combination for steering the organisation through the exciting times and opportunities ahead.”

“I am confident that Chris’ experience in the areas of infrastructure, property and renewable energy will bring a fresh perspective to the work of the NAIF and help maintain the momentum we are seeing with projects reaching key milestones,” minister for resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said.

According to the minister, $1.93 billion in NAIF investment decisions and conditional approvals have been made across 17 projects which are forecast to create 4,600 jobs, with total public benefit forecast at $4.6 billion.

Projects supported by NAIF are diversified across different sectors, including ports, airports, tourism, education, social infrastructure, agriculture, resources and renewable energy.

NZ National party proposes more transport authorities

New Zealand’s opposition party, National, is proposing a shake-up of transport governance, by establishing regional transport authorities for both Wellington and Canterbury as well as the accelerated rollout of integrated ticketing.

“It is unacceptable that people have been using bank cards and phones to pay for London’s Tube since 2004 but train users in Wellington still pay with coins and cardboard tickets,” the party’s transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said.

“National is proposing to accelerate the rollout of integrated ticketing nationwide.”

The proposal was made in the party’s Transport and Infrastructure discussion document, released on Monday.

“National is proposing new regional transport authorities in Wellington and Canterbury that will have sole-charge over public transport, as well as cycling, parking and roading.”

“We believe public transport governance is too fragmented in this country, with opaque accountability and no clear delineation of which agency is responsible for each part of the network. This is diluting the quality of service for commuters.”

“I think everyone would agree the current transport model is not perfect, it’s far from perfect, and we’ve seen that with the rollout of the bus changes over the course of the last year.”

“The bus fiasco in Wellington has indicated that the shared responsibility and the divided responsibility and accountability lines has not really worked.The city council blaming the regional council, the regional council blaming the city council and when that kind of expired they all put up their hands and blamed the New Zealand Transport Agency, and that’s just not tenable.”

The party says, if elected, they will introduce a revenue-neutral congestion charge in major cities to help manage the flow of traffic.

“By charging for travelling at certain times and/or on certain routes it encourages commuters to find alternatives, such as travelling earlier or later, taking a different route or getting out of the car and taking public transport,” the document says.

Project update: Cross River Rail

Cross River Rail is Queensland’s largest ever public transport project. The Cross River Rail Authority’s program director David Lynch provided an overall project update at AusRAIL PLUS 2019.


While Queensland has enjoyed significant population growth in recent years, nearly 90 per cent of that growth has occurred within South East Queensland (SEQ). This region is expected to further increase its population by around 1.5 million over the next twenty years.

Cross River Rail will address a major bottleneck within this region. As such, it is Queensland’s highest priority infrastructure investment and the government has allocated $5.4 billion towards the project.

Currently, there is only one crossing over the Brisbane river and just four inner-city stations. Cross River Rail will unlock the bottleneck by providing a second river crossing, therefore doubling the capacity of the network and allowing more trains to run more often, as well as integrating with roads and bus services to enable a turn-up-and-go public transport system across the whole of SEQ.

The project incorporates a 10-kilometre rail line from Dutton Park to Bowen Hills, which includes 5.9 kilometres of twin tunnels under the Brisbane River and the CBD, with four new underground stations. A new European Train Control System (ETCS) signalling system is also being delivered to improve safety and assist in managing capacity constraints in the network. Numerous station upgrades between the Gold Coast and Brisbane and three new stations at the Gold Coast end the network are also planned.

According to Lynch, early works have now been officially completed, though these are relatively small in the overall scheme and context of the project.

“Our procurement processes are essentially complete as of the end of October, and construction is now underway across all three packages, with 4 to 5 years of construction and commissioning ahead,” Lynch said.

“All major work sites have now been handed over to the contractors.”

The mammoth project will be delivered under three major infrastructure packages of work: the Tunnel, Stations and Development (TSD) public-private partnership (PPP); the Rail, Integration and Systems (RIS) alliance; and the European Train Control System (ETCS).

The TSD PPP will deliver the underground section of the project, including the tunnel from Dutton Park to Normanby and the construction of four new underground stations. It includes all associated mechanical, electrical and safety systems, such as vertical transportation for passengers at underground stations, and above and underground track work, the tunnel portals and dive structures, traction power systems and selection rail operation and control infrastructure. The package also includes a property development opportunity above Albert Street station.

It will be delivered by the PULSE consortium, led by CIMIC Group companies: Pacific Partnerships, CPB Contractors, and UGL with international partners DIF, BAM and Ghella.

The RIS alliance will deliver the design, supply and installation of the supporting rail system, including rail civil and electrical works, rail operation systems and controls, as well as rail signalling and communications work. The alliance will also deliver accessibility upgrades to six suburban stations. The alliance will be responsible for the integration of Cross River Rail into Queensland Rail’s train network.

The RIS alliance, or “UNITY Alliance”, includes: CPB Contractors, UGL, AECOM and Jacobs, and partners HASSELL, RCS Australia, Acmena, Martinus Rail and Wired Overhead Solutions.

The ETCS signalling system will be introduced to enable increased capacity on the network. It will be rolled out over several stages starting with a pilot program on the Shorncliffe Line in 2022 with early works commencing in late 2019. As part of these early works, trains and tracks will be fitted out with ETCS equipment which sends continuous data about the position, direction and speed of trains and enables the system to calculate a safe maximum running speed for each train.

The ETCS will be delivered by Hitachi Rail STS, including Hitachi, Ansaldo STS and Systra.

A major component of the way in which Cross River Rail is being delivered is Project DNA, what Lynch explains refers to the CRRA’s Project Digital Network Approach.

“It is a complete digital twin of the Cross River Rail project. Now, we are currently working in the space of 3D and 4D, but developing additional dimensions as we move forward.”

The approach was inspired by lessons learnt from other projects, “where it’s been identified that having a fully integrated and holistic model very early in the process would have been of great advantage.”

Lynch explains how the digital twin was developed, “where previously we built separate systems and models, here we’re using a common data environment.”

“Essentially, it is one model with multiple applications to be used by multiple teams, so whether in the space of project delivery, program controls, communications and engagement or future precinct and planning and delivery, we’re using the one integrated model.”

“The approach we took to this was actually to develop this model before contracts were awarded.”

The model is built in three layers according to Lynch, the first being the Building Information Modeling (BIM) at the core of the model.

“The second layer gives us geographic information system (GIS) mapping, which enables us to move from the 2D into the 3D environment, while the third layer uses the unreal gaming engine to provide an interactive and virtual reality experience.”

The collaborative approach enabled by Project DNA helps in the design, construction, management and operation of the assets built, says Lynch. It will also improve the on-time and on-budget delivery of the project.

TfNSW launches Freight Data Hub

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) launched the Freight Data Hub on Monday. The hub is intended to help businesses and governments make better operational and investment decisions supported by data with freight forecasts, performance, and other statistics.

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) says that timely and accurate information about freight movement is essential to effective policy reform and infrastructure investment decisions.

“TfNSW is to be congratulated for its leadership in launching this Freight Data Hub, and providing industry and the community with fresh insights into the way freight is moving around NSW, and freight performance at key trading gateways,” ALC CEO Kirk Coningham said.

However, the initiative depends on industry participants contributing their data sets in order to deliver beneficial outcomes. Being able to visualise how freight moves through the supply chain, the prioritisation of investment on key freight routes, and the identification of bottlenecks and other challenges that inhibit efficient freight movement will enable better decision-making.

“Importantly, the project will also build industry confidence that data can be shared in a manner which provides useful information to industry and governments, but still protects commercially sensitive information relating to individual operators and customers,” Coningham said.

“In the lead-up to the release of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy earlier this year, there was widespread acknowledgement that improving the quality and quantity of data available regarding freight movement was essential. This thinking drove the Federal Government’s decision to allocate $8.5m to design and pilot a National Freight Data Hub.”

In early November, the federal government announced a National Freight Data Hub with a total $8.5 million commitment. Of that, $5.2 million will go towards the design of, including arrangements for data collection, protection, dissemination and hosting. The remaining $3.3 million will go towards the establishment of a freight data exchange pilot to allow industry to access freight data in real time and a survey of road usage for freight purpose.

Inaugural National Faster Rail Agency CEO appointed

The inaugural chief executive officer for the National Faster Rail Agency (NFRA) has been appointed, the minister for population, cities and urban infrastructure, Alan Tudge, announced on Monday.

Barry Broe will commence at NFRA on January 6 and will serve as CEO for an initial five-year term. Broe will be coming into the role after seven years as coordinator-general for the Queensland government.

“Broe has spent over 40 years in major project, transport and public sector infrastructure delivery including over 17 years at executive or CEO level. He has direct local and international experience in rail and planning,” according to a government spokesperson.

He has held senior roles across government agencies, including with Brisbane City Council as divisional manager Brisbane Infrastructure, with Transport for London as director of transport planning and policy, and with Queensland Transport as director transport planning South East Queensland, according to his LinkedIn page.

Broe’s role as Queensland’s coordinator-general involved assessing and approving major infrastructure projects, oversight over projects in designated “state development areas” to promote economic growth, and ensuring that communities near large resource projects benefited from the construction and operation of those projects.

The NFRA was created five months ago, in July this year, to support the delivery of the government’s 20-year Faster Rail Plan, which includes $2 billion for faster rail between Melbourne and Geelong and eight regional to capital city business cases along the eastern seaboard.

“Faster rail networks are crucial to easing congestion pressures in our cities and shaping Australia’s future as our population grows,” Tudge said.

“Investing in faster rail will create jobs and bust congestion, giving time back to commuters and enabling more people to live in our regions while working in our cities.”

The NFRA will work in partnership with state and territory governments and private industry to develop the rail infrastructure between major cities and key regional centres necessary to for the project. The agency will have an Expert Panel to provide advice on faster rail related matters including existing faster rail project business cases, new potential faster rail corridors, future developments across networks and infrastructure requirements and priorities.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) congratulated Broe on the appointment.

“Mr Broe has a strong reputation of achievement and we welcome his appointment to deliver faster rail in Australia,” ARA chairman and acting CEO Danny Broad said.

“It will be critical that the Agency, under Mr Broe’s leadership, recognises the need to invest in existing and new lines to stretch Government dollars and provide a faster rail service offering that meets the needs of the Australian population.”

The ARA, however, pointed out that not all faster rail projects require brand new rail lines.

“Faster rail can be achieved through upgrades and modifications to existing rail infrastructure, such as passing loops, new signalling systems and level crossing removals.”

The industry association said that its member companies have identified a number of smaller projects that can deliver faster rail solutions without the expense of investing in new rail lines and trains.

“The ARA also looks forward to discussions with the Agency about long term plans to acquire the corridor for Brisbane to Melbourne High Speed Rail,” Broad said.

KiwiRail conducts major work blitz on Auckland, Wellington networks

KiwiRail is replacing sleepers, tracks and turnouts on the Auckland commuter network over the Christmas and New Year period, as part of a holiday work blitz, while further maintenance work will also go ahead across the Wellington passenger rail network.

In Wellington, the work includes installing the foundations for 60 new masts for the overhead power lines in the busiest part of the network – the approaches to Wellington Railway Station.

“Replacing the masts is not an easy task. Building new foundations for each of these requires a three-metre-deep hole. The masts date as far back as 1938, and need to be replaced,” KiwiRail’s chief operating officer capital projects David Gordon.

“It is just not possible to carry out that work while commuter services are running.”

“Already the network is delivering more than 14 million commuter trips a year to the 500,000 plus people who live in the region,” Gordon said.

“That is predicted to grow, and this work is needed to make that happen.”

“We’ll be taking advantage of the holiday lull, when passenger demand is down, to shut down big parts of the network and give our teams safe access to work on the line.”

KiwiRail is working on sites spread from the Wairarapa to the Hutt Valley and Porirua. Work includes building underpasses, upgrading level crossings and barriers, replacing rail and sleepers, and improving slope stability and drainage, along with the foundation work.

The work blitz is possible due to nearly $300 million that the government has slated to go towards modernisation and upgrades, alongside the usual annual maintenance.

Nearly 150 KiwiRail and NZTA staff and contractors will work on the Wellington line upgrades, while nearly 170 KiwiRail staff and contractors will take on the Auckland commuter network.

Auckland’s Western line will be closed to allow for works to replace sleepers, track and turnouts – which allow trains to change tracks – at several locations.

The Southern line and Eastern line will be closed south of Westfield for Otahuhu third platform work and the Puhinui interchange, track work and sleeper replacement between Papakura and Pukekohe. This includes four level crossings along the Western line and one on the Southern line.

“Working at level crossings also causes disruption to road networks, so it makes sense to take advantage of the holidays when both rail and road networks are quieter. This way we can carry out a lot of work with minimal disruption to commuters and road users,” KiwiRail executive general manager operations Siva Sivapakkiam said.

“Auckland is a busy network, with nearly 200,000 commuter services a year, and 246 freight services a week. That means a lot of wear and tear on the network. The maintenance we do now will help reduce delays and increase reliability in the future.”

Sydney’s light rail opens

PICS: NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, transport minister Andrew Constance and Sydney’s lord mayor Clover Moore officially opened the L2 Randwick Line light rail service from Circular Quay to Randwick early on Saturday morning.

Rail Express was in attendance to travel on the first tram down George Street, Sydney CBD’s main boulevard, since trams last travelled the route in 1958.

By Sunday afternoon 115,000 customers had used the service which operated on average every 6-8 minutes, according to Transport for NSW. These patronage figures are about three times the daily patronage of the Inner West Light Rail.

“The trams should never have been taken out! So we’ve put them back in, but there’s no footboards on this one, so there’s no riding them on the side,” minister for transport Andrew Constance said.

Frank Ayrton, who had worked as a conductor on the old network which was ripped up by 1961, was among the the first to ride the first service down George Street, alongside Constance, Berejiklian and Moore.

He told Rail Express his job included walking along the outside of the trams to collect fares from those riding on the footboards.

“One hand was for the money, the other hand for the tickets and all you had to hang on with was your elbow,” Ayrton said.

Berejiklian took the opportunity to address the delays to the project: “I just want to say to everyone in the community:  thank you for your patience. The people of NSW, whether you live, work or come to visit Sydney, you’ve been extremely patient with us, so thank you.”

“Literally thousands of men and women have spent many hours assiduously over the years to make this a reality, they’ve started a major network and made a network which is changing our city and transforming our state, and I’m excited to see the light rail form a broader part of our transport network. The young people here today they’ll grow up knowing that we had a city that’s integrated, that’s modern, that’s looking to the future,” Berejiklian said on Saturday morning.

Secretary of TfNSW Rodd Staples also addressed the challenges. “Whether you’ve been involved in the original conception of this service, whether you’ve been involved in building it, whether you’ve been a community member or a business member, whether you’re a tram spotter, while you’ve had a long way – it’s fantastic to be here with you today to celebrate the commencement of this service.”

“The city has been a construction zone over the last couple of years…and something that you won’t know though is that during construction, I found out that we had a secret helper. Gladys’s father, Mr Berejiklian, would quite often go into the city and find a construction zone and talk to the workers, and then report back to the premier about how things were really going,” Constance joked.

The ALTRAC consortium – Alstom, Transdev, Acciona and Capella – delivered the integrated system. The 12km network was delivered under a turnkey PPP model, which included the design and supply of 60 Citadis X05 Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs), power supply equipment including over two kilometres of twire-free ground-based power supply, energy recovery substations – HESOP, signalling, communications, depot equipment and a 19-year maintenance agreement.

The 60 LRVs will be able to move up to 13,500 commuters per hour (6,750 in each direction) during peak times once fully operational, according to Alstom.

As part of the contract, the consortium has also taken over the operations and maintenance of the existing Inner West Light rail (IWLR) that connects Sydney’s inner west with the Pyrmont peninsula, Darling Harbour and the southern CBD.

“This new Light Rail system will transform Sydney and provide a step change in the city’s public transport capability and reliability while protecting the aesthetic appeal of the CBD and improving sustainability of the overall transport network,” managing director for Alstom in Australia & New Zealand Mark Coxon said.

Opening day issues included a driver braking suddenly, with one man falling down on the packed tram. The service was briefly delayed while the driver was replaced.  A tram also lost power later in the afternoon, which necessitated all trams be stopped for thirty minutes.

In response, ALTRAC held a conference in the afternoon to address the issues, saying additional customer resource officers were deployed on the ground, stops were being monitored on CCTV and crowd management crews, heavy tows and police were stationed throughout the network.

“It’s been a bumpy day,” chief officer light rail operations Transdev Australasia Brian Brennan said.

“Tram failures do occur, it’s reality, but it has been an outstanding success today.”

More than 200,000 km of testing has been carried out on the line during testing while the 100 drivers have each undertaken 190 hours of training, however introducing customers on real journeys presents different challenges.

As capacity grows on the network and customers become more accustomed to the system, journey times will further improve as the L3 Kingsford Line opening approaches in March 2020, according to the state government.


Frank Ayrton, conductor before Sydney’s original tram network was torn up in the 1960s.


Trams were packed on the first day of services.