Preliminary design contract awarded for southern NSW sections of Inland Rail

The contract to carry out reference design and accompanying primary approvals documentation on two sections of the Inland Rail project has been awarded.

WSP Australia will carry out the work on the Albury to Illabo and Stockinbingal to Parkes sections, said project director Melvyn Maylin.

“A range of investigations will be delivered under the new contract, including ecological and geotechnical surveying, as well as scrutiny of impacts to cultural heritage, noise, air quality and utilities,” he said.

“This is an important step in progressing these two enhancement projects in southern New South Wales.”

The two sections have been combined together due to their similarities, reducing time and cost.

“The benefits of combining the two Inland Rail projects into the same service provider package is that both sections are enhancement projects in existing rail corridors, rather than new construction,” said Maylin.

“By nature, they are similar types of work and this approach will lead to cost effective and efficient project delivery.”

Work on the two sections with a combined length of 358km largely involves upgrading the current rail line to enable double stacked freight trains to run on the future route. Specific works will include increasing vertical clearances around bridges and new crossing loops.

The 37km section of new track from Illabo to Stockinbingal is still in the reference design stage.

The two sections have been identified as needing to progress by the NSW government, which handles planning approvals.

“The Albury to Illabo section has been classified State Significant Infrastructure by the NSW Government, and is currently in the process of an Environmental Impact Statement approvals pathway,” said Maylin.

“As for the Stockinbingal to Parkes project, the environmental assessment will be through four Review of Environmental Factors (REFs).”

The tenders for the first packages of construction work will follow reference design and planning approvals. This is expected in late 2021.

Tweed Heads

Tender for Tweed light rail feasibility study to be announced before end of 2020

The NSW government will announce the successful tenderer for a feasibility study for light rail in Tweed Heads before the end of 2020.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said the study would fulfil an election commitment.

“The NSW Liberals and Nationals committed $1 million at the last election to investigate the potential for light rail in the Tweed, and I’m pleased to say we are delivering on that commitment,” he said.

“The study will see NSW identify a suitable five-kilometre corridor for a future light rail extension from Coolangatta to the Tweed, while Queensland will investigate the corridor to the north.”

The study follows a Memorandum of Understanding between the NSW and Queensland governments that was signed earlier in 2020 to assess the public transport needs for the region that straddles the NSW and Queensland border.

Local member Geoff Provest said that the study would also look at connecting a future light rail line to other forms of transport.

“The study will also look at how other forms of transport, including buses, cycling and walking could be integrated and improved if the Gold Coast light rail is extended south of the Queensland border.”

The basis for a successful tenderer comes from the shortlisted consultants identified in the Queensland government’s expression of interest for the Tugun to Tweed multimodal corridor study.

The Queensland government recently announced the successful tenderer for the construction of Stage 3 of the Gold Coast Light Rail. Once that stage is complete, extending the line to Burleigh Heads, work on Stage 4 to the Gold Coast Airport at Tugun is expected to begin, pending a business case for the line.

Further studies will look into east-west connections to the light rail spine, with additional light rail lines a possibility.

Community groups such as the Northern River Railway Action Group have pushed for a rail connection from the existing out of service heavy rail line which extends from Casino to Murwillumbah to Tweed Heads with the potential to link to a future heavy rail extension to the Gold Coast airport.