NSW government seeks project managers for first fast rail routes

The NSW government has released two tenders for project management services for fast rail, suggesting that the first two routes for the state will be Sydney to Canberra and Sydney to Newcastle.

The tenders, available via the NSW eTendering site, outline that successful tenders will conduct the scoping phase investigation and deliver the final business case for the fast rail program.

“The NSW government’s commitment to develop a blueprint for the delivery of a fast rail network is a major piece of state-shaping work,” said a NSW government spokesperson. “This transformative vision will seek to link regional centres to each other and Sydney.”

In previous documents outlining the scope of the NSW government’s fast rail strategy, four routes had been identified; Sydney to Newcastle, Sydney to Canberra, Sydney to Nowra via Wollongong, and Sydney to Orange. The current tenders are the first fast rail tenders released publicly, indicating that the NSW government my be prioritising the routes to Canberra and Newcastle.

Each project will undergo the Infrastructure NSW Health Check, which requires demonstration of evidence of confidence in a project’s development. The scoping phase also includes an interim project definition report which will define the project’s interim ‘reference case’ based on the needs assessment, options development, and options assessment through the strategic business case.

The second phase of the tender covers the final business case of the project. This will involve delivery of a final business case that builds on the findings from the strategic business cases and scoping phase investigations. Tender documents outline that “a new approach will be needed” for the final business case to meet NSW Treasury requirements and Fast Rail Program objectives.

“Central to the success of the Final Business Cases will be the consideration of wider economic and social impacts, alongside traditional transport benefits.”

The release of these tenders highlights that fast rail projects in Australia are moving forward. At a national level, the National Faster Rail Agency has put forward 50:50 funding for fast rail businesses cases with state governments and the private sector, including the Sydney to Newcastle business case. Funding has already been committed to faster rail between Melbourne and Geelong.

Improving connectivity between Newcastle and Sydney was also a priority initiative added to Infrastructure Australia’s Infrastructure Priority List in 2016.

The NSW government has also launched the ‘A fast rail future for NSW’ strategy, with a plan to be delivered by Andrew McNaughton and an expert panel. The plan is reportedly complete, but has not yet been released.

Sentinel Safety

Sentinel Safety brings the latest AI technology to protect pedestrians in the rail industry

The risk of injury and near misses for workers around mobile plant and machinery is always a concern during the construction and maintenance of railways where separation of people and plant is not possible. To date, most hazard prevention technologies involve a tag-based system or administrative controls which are not always the most comprehensive solution to the dynamic rail maintenance and construction environment.

Developed over three years by an in-house team of Brisbane-based engineers, PRM Engineering Services have produced the Sentinel Vision A.I. pedestrian detection system, for the specific safety requirements of the rail industry. The system uses the latest in artificial intelligence and pedestrian recognition to detect when a pedestrian is in a machine’s blind spots or enters hazardous zones near mobile machinery, warning both the operator and the pedestrian.

Working in real-time, the Sentinel Vision A.I. system incorporates multiple cameras, that are mounted to mobile machines such as wheel loaders, excavators, and on-track vehicles with as many or as few cameras installed as needed to cover blind spots and assist the operator in identifying people around the machine. Sentinel Vision A.I. is the first pedestrian detection system to alert both the operator and pedestrian. This innovation has been found to cause long-term behavioural change in pedestrians working around mobile plant and machinery. Sentinel Vision A.I. uses a unique voice alarm system to ‘talk’ to the pedestrian, cutting through the beeps and buzzes that that workers hear on sites every day.

The system has been trialled by several top tier rail authorities with positive results and many have reported that when people are alerted by the voice alarm, behavioural change and greater awareness of risky behaviour around mobile plant is achieved. Ideally, over time, Sentinel Vision A.I. will be activated less as people have learnt not to walk in front or behind active vehicles, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.

The system takes images from the detection cameras and then processes the information through an A.I. neural network to determine if there is anything that looks like a person, or part of a person, and if there is, it triggers internal and external alarms. Detection zones are customisable and determined with an easy to use drag and drop interface, and an additional option of pre-warning zones.  The system has been trialled and used in a range of different operating environments and environmental conditions with positive feedback.

Sentinel Vision A.I. is one of a number of innovative products developed by PRM Engineering Services. Part of the PRM Group of companies, which has been providing safety systems and equipment to the rail industry for over 20 years, PRM Engineering Services designs bespoke safety and control systems that meet the unique needs of operators. Through our partnerships and experience gained in the rail and heavy machinery industries, PRM Engineering Services’ range of Sentinel Safety systems were developed to meet the changing safety and risk management requirements of rail authorities.

The Sentinel Safety range also includes several Height and Slew limiters used throughout the rail and construction industries to allow safe operation around powerlines and within confined spaces. The Sentinel Height and Slew limiters have been used by rail authorities Australia wide for a several years and can be retrofitted to any machine with articulated booms.

Based on this experience PRM has also recently released additional optional features including HV detection and RFID for attachment recognition. By combining the functionality of our widely used Sentinel Height and Slew limiters with a patented Sentinel HV Aerial Module, the system can ensure safe operation around powerlines from the moment the machine is turned on. The system prevents the machine moving within the exclusion zone around powerlines and motion-cut valving prevents the machine from moving closer while allowing the operator to direct the machine away from the electricity source.

The Sentinel Height and Slew limiters are perfect for the safe operation of excavators, loaders, skid steers and backhoes when working under overhead powerlines, in and around bridges and inside tunnels and can be installed on new and old machines alike. The Sentinel Height and Slew limiters also have are range of rail specific systems to the meet the machine safety requirements of multiple rail authorities and councils.

PRM Engineering Services are passionate about safety and have a long-standing heritage of safety system design and installation since 2002. With experience in the rail and earthmoving industries, PRM Engineering Services have become integrators and developers of a number of unique safety and control systems that meet customer requirements. These projects have ranged in scope from customisations of height or slew systems through to full redesign of control systems for on-track rail vehicles. Along with our team of talented engineers, the PRM Group of companies can also assist with the installation or modification of electrical, hydraulic, and control systems for heavy machinery, enabling PRM Engineering Services to offer end-to end innovative and customised solutions to our wide range of customers.

Find out more at: https://www.sentinelsafety.com.au/.

RFP process begun for new Lakelands station

Contractors have been invited to submit proposals for a new station at Lakelands, south of Perth.

Western Australia Transport Minister, Rita Saffioti, announced the Request for Proposal Process (RFP) had begun on May 4.

“This is an important step in making the Lakelands Station project a reality, delivering better access to Metronet for local residents.”

The contract will cover the design and construction of the station, involving two platforms, a bus interchange, carpark, and associated facilities. The RFP is part of the competitive early contract involvement process.

Part of the Metronet project, the station will be located on the Mandurah Line, with access off Lake Valley Drive, south of Perth. The new station is hoped to ease congestion at Mandurah and Warnbro stations.

“The station will take pressure off the nearby existing stations, and provide commuters with access to bus services and lockable cycling facilities,” said Saffioti.

“There is currently 23km of empty track between Mandurah and Warnbro stations – this station will mean residents in Lakelands, Madora Bay and surrounds will soon have greater access to public transport at their doorstep.”

Funding will be split between the federal government, which will commit 80 per cent of project funds, and the WA state government, which will contribute the remainder.

Construction will begin in early 2021 and the station is scheduled to be operational in 2023. Estimates published on the Metronet website state that 2,300 passengers could use the station in 2023, and 3,500 by 2031.

Since the opening of the Mandurah Line in 2007, the site of the future Lakelands station was reserved.

Planning for another station at Karnup is continuing.

Morley-Ellenbrook Lin

Morley-Ellenbrook Line gets IA tick

Infrastructure Australia has added the Morley-Ellenbrook Line to its Infrastructure Priority List.

The decision by the federal government’s independent infrastructure advisory body signals that the project, which is part of the Metronet program in Western Australia, is of strategic importance. Infrastructure Australia found that the project will improve transport options, reduce car dependency and ease traffic congestion, said chief executive, Romilly Madew.

“We know one of the key areas to accommodate Perth’s growing population over the next 10 years will be the corridor that connects Ellenbrook to the Perth CBD.”

Infrastructure Australia calculated that the project had a cost-benefit ration of 1.2, providing $430 million in economic benefits for the wider community.

The recognition of the project’s importance comes after two contractors were shortlisted for the construction of the line in April and early work on upgrades to Bayswater station have begun.

WA Premier, Mark McGowan, said that the recognition of the project’s importance comes from the public transport that it will introduce to north-eastern Perth.

“The Ellenbrook line is the signature Metronet project, when complete it will be a game‑changer for the north eastern suburbs,” he said.

Enabling road infrastructure works on the Tonkin Gap highway will soon begin, which will pave the way for the rail line, said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

“We are working to fast track the Tonkin Gap upgrade, which will include rail enabling works down Tonkin Highway, with construction on this project expected to start in coming months.”

Saffioti also highlighted that the project will allow for transport-oriented development around the new stations.

“Infrastructure Australia has found the Morley-Ellenbrook Line has strategic value, will improve connectivity and transport links, while improving liveability by encouraging development around stations and unlocking economic potential of the area.”

The 21-kilometre line will include stations at Morley, Noranda, Malaga, Whiteman Park, and Ellenbrook, with the option to build a future station at Bennett Springs East. The federal government is contributing $500 million to the line, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack welcomed Infrastructure Australia’s determination.

“This announcement shows exactly why the Australian Government has committed $2.5 billion for network-shaping METRONET projects in Western Australia, which involves 70 kilometres of new heavy passenger rail and up to 18 new rail stations,” McCormack said.

“This includes our $500 million commitment to the jointly funded Morley-Ellenbrook Line project which will create jobs and support economic growth.”

A number of construction projects are continuing as part of the Metronet project around WA.

“This year alone we have six Metronet projects underway, plus the construction of our Bellevue Metronet railcar facility, creating thousands of local jobs and supporting local businesses,” said McGowan.

Saffioti noted that these projects are stimulating local economies.

“Metronet projects will be a key part of our post-COVID economic recovery, providing opportunities for local businesses and creating thousands of local jobs.”

EIS for Sydney Metro West released, Rydalmere station dropped

The NSW government has released the first environmental impact statement (EIS) for Sydney Metro West, scrapping a proposed station at Rydalmere.

The EIS provides more detail on the route which will connect the Parramatta and Sydney CBDs. The EIS covers the section from Westmead to the Bays Precinct.

A separate EIS will be released for the section from the Bays Precinct to the Sydney CBD, with the location of a station in the CBD still to be confirmed. A station in Pyrmont is still listed as “optional”.

With the removal of the optional station at Rydalmere, the distance between consecutive stations Parramatta and Sydney Olympic Park would be between eight and nine kilometres, depending on the alignment. Most metro systems globally have an average distance between stops of between 1.2 and 1.3km.

The EIS outlines where the main works will be undertaken for civil construction works, including tunnelling, and excavation for stations. Major work sites will be established at Westmead, Parramatta between Macquarie Street and George Street, Clyde – where a stabling facility will be built, Burwood North, and the Bays Precinct. Two tunnel boring machines will each begin at The Bays and Westmead, with all four being extracted at the site in Sydney Olympic Park.

Releasing the EIS, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that Metro West is a “once in a century” project.

“It’s been almost 100 years since the Harbour Bridge transformed Sydney. Now this underground Metro is going to be the modern day game changer for our city, serving us for decades to come.”

The EIS proposes to ease the pressure on the existing heavy rail system from population growth in Western Sydney, which is forecast to grow to 3.2 million people by 2036, by diverting commuters from the T1 Western Line, T9 Northern Line and the T2 Inner West and Leppington Line.

The EIS estimates a drop in customer numbers at some of Sydney’s busiest stations. It finds that there will be a 32 per cent fall in customer numbers on the T1 Western Line at Parramatta by 2036, a 36 per cent reduction at Strathfield, and a 35 per cent reduction at Redfern. This will cut crowing by roughly 30 per cent at North Strathfield, Strathfield, Redfern, and Burwood stations.

In addition, Sydney Metro West proposes faster travel times between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD, with services targeted to take 20 minutes. The line will also increase the number of services, from 56 trains an hour to 116, increasing capacity from 65,440 customers an hour to 157,600 customers.

The NSW government has released an expression of interest for contractors to deliver the twin tunnels between Westmead and The Bays.

Digital engineering becoming more important than ever

While digital engineering has long been touted as the next technology that can create, manage, and utilise data for infrastructure development, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought it even more into focus.

With workforces forcibly distributed as remote working directives took effect, the value of having a rich virtual building information model (BIM) to enable seamless collaboration across physically distanced workforces has never been clearer.

Consulting company GHD has already exploited the value of digital ways of working in many projects, and recently in its work on the Forrestfield-Airport Link project – part of the Metronet project in Perth – within the Salini Impregilo and NRW Joint Venture.

According to GHD’s Rail Design Lead on the project, Martin Harle, using digital tools such as BIM, geographic information systems (GIS), analytics, coding, and automation, the team was able to eliminate clashes between different models by coordinating design through one model.

“Using this technology we are able to automate clash checks across multiple complex disciplines, highlighting design coordination issues in real time,” he said. “It helps to pre-empt and resolve potential construction problems during the design process, rather than dealing with unexpected issues as they occur on site.”

Avoiding duplication and replication, the BIM system enables costs to be reduced at the design phase. This not only improves processes at the construction site, but also enables suppliers to have a clearer idea of the concepts their assets will be working in.

“So far, on the Forrestfield-Airport Link, rail track and overhead line equipment has been designed and modelled 8.5 times faster and 1152 hours have been saved in automating 180 Navisworks exports,” said Martin.

Incorporating digital tools early on in the construction of a project can also lead to efficiencies once the project is operational. At the end of the design and construct phase, asset information can be handed over to the operator to promote ongoing efficiency.

The insights that GHD has gathered from this project have been used to advantage on other projects, including the Sydney Metro. And the lessons have wider implications through the Digital Engineering Code of Practice which will be applied nationally through the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB), which GHD helped design. GHD BIM lead – Western Australia and co-author of the code Belinda Thompson, said the benefits of the code are broad.

“By adopting Digital Engineering processes, increasing the accuracy of information and automating the data exchange processes, we can improve safety, reduce risk, achieve greater cost certainty and improved sustainability.”

The full Digital Engineering article can be found here: https://www.ghd.com/en/about-us/digital-engineering-in-action-driving-change-in-delivery-of-rail-projects.aspx.

Catenary for Forrestfield-Airport Link: Digital Engineering used in Safety-in-Design. Credit: GHD.

A resilient freight network is key in times of uncertainty

In her column, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association Caroline Wilkie highlights that Australia’s rail freight network is facing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic but its importance now is greater than ever.

Australia’s population is forecast to double by 2070, reaching almost 45 million people. This growing population requires an increased allocation of goods, adding pressure on our existing freight networks to deliver. According to the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, Australia’s freight task is expected to grow by over 35 per cent between 2018 and 2040, an increase of 270 billion tonnes, bringing the total volume moved to just over 1,000 billion tonne-kilometres.

The role of rail freight is critical in meeting this future demand and maintaining our international competitiveness. The Value of Rail study commissioned by ARA in 2017 highlights that a one per cent improvement in freight productivity could generate $8-20 billion in savings to the national economy over 20 years. Rail freight provides a cost-effective, safe and environmentally sound solution for reducing congestion from heavy vehicles on urban, regional, and interstate roads. Just one freight train alone can take 110 trucks off our already congested roads and rail is up to nine times safer than road freight. In light of these significant benefits, the ARA is working with governments and industry on behalf of our members to get more freight on to rail, and to improve the efficiency and productivity of Australia’s rail freight supply chains. Achieving modal shift to rail is critical to increasing economic growth, improving the liveability of our cities and supporting regional communities.

Delivery of the Inland Rail project is an important step in achieving this. This nation building project will see a 1,700km freight rail line directly connecting Melbourne and Brisbane, via Toowoomba, Parkes, and Albury. The route will utilise approximately 1,100 km of upgraded existing track and 600 km of new track in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria. Most importantly though, it will bypass the heavily congested Sydney network and bring rail freight travel times between Melbourne and Brisbane down from 33 hours to less than 24 hours. This is a game changer and will make rail freight much more competitive over long haulage routes.

In a period of economic uncertainty, the Inland Rail project is bringing a much needed boost to the economy. Construction is already underway on the Parkes to Narromine project and planning is well advanced on a number of other sections. Approximately $747m has already been spent, with much of this spend being injected into rural communities.

Inland Rail has been in the public domain for over fifteen years. It is also one of the most heavily studied projects in recent Australian history, having been through an extensive consultation, planning, route analysis, engineering and costing process.

We are aware of issues that have been raised in relation to flooding of the Condamine crossing in Queensland.

Without a doubt, the project is receiving the best possible expert advice and can manage these issues using tested and proven mitigation measures. These issues need to be worked through carefully and collaboratively, but they should not delay the delivery of the project.

The delivery of Inland Rail is a start, but more must be done. Investment in rail freight delivers enormous benefits in the long term. Improved supply chain connectivity and productivity benefits the economy and the environment and helps provide resilience in the face of emergencies like to COVID-19 pandemic.

The current crisis has just reinforced the importance of a highly productive and efficient supply chain. This unprecedented event has challenged our supply chain like never before, but our rail freight members continue to ensure that essential goods such as canned food, toilet paper, and cleaning products are moving across the country and to customers.

When state border crossing restrictions came into force in later March, the ARA wrote to state and the Commonwealth transport minsters to ensure rail freight was considered an essential service and exempt from border restrictions.

However, the stark difference between road and rail freight regulation is never more apparent than it is during times like these. Regulation by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has a focus on both safety and productivity, whereas the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR’s) remit is purely safety-related.

The ARA have long held the view that we must take a national approach with all modes working together to deliver an integrated freight market. However, this approach can only work if all modes operate from a level playing field with equal treatment in terms of access pricing, government policies, and the role of productivity in regulation.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, trucks were able to have curfews lifted to extend delivery windows in NSW and Queensland. However, due to the nature of our infrastructure and the shared tracks of passenger and rail networks, our industry does not have the same flexibility. As a result, we must look for other solutions to improve the productivity of rail freight.

Rail freight operators are committed to the highest levels of safety compliance but are routinely challenged by Rail Safety National Law (RSNL) derogations that exist, most notably the differing fatigue management requirements in NSW and Queensland, and the different drug and alcohol management requirements in NSW.

As I outlined in my March 2020 article, these inconsistent, state-based regulatory requirements go against the objective of national regulation and add costs to rail freight without any proven safety benefit. The ARA believes that multiple layers of often conflicting regulation impacts rail freight productivity.

A modern, risk-based approach to rail safety that focuses on productivity will improve our supply chain resilience and unlock significant economic and environmental benefits for the whole country.

Three more level crossings scheduled for removal by July

Three more level crossings are set to go by July on Melbourne’s Frankston line.

In an update to the project, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan highlighted that level crossings at Park and Charman roads in Cheltenham, and Balcombe Road in Mentone will be gone by mid-year.

Additionally, the new Kananook Train Storage Facility is scheduled to open in early May while construction on the new Carrum station and open spaces continues.

“We’ve worked really hard with our construction partners to ensure we can get this vital work done that will deliver more trains, more often – whilst protecting the safety of our workforce and supporting local jobs,” said Allan.

In addition to these three level crossings, work will also begin on site offices and work areas at Edithvale, Chelsea, and Bonbeach to remove five level crossings and build three new stations, making it one of the largest combined works blitzes in the Level Crossing Removal Project.

“This will be the biggest level crossing construction blitz we’ve ever done, but the disruption will be worth it,” said Andrews.

The nine-week blitz will begin in late May, with one extra week added to allow for physical distancing and other health and safety measures to be implemented. More than 1,700 workers will be employed across the sites in south-east Melbourne to build the new rail trenches and roads over the rail line.

After trains return to the line in July, finishing works at the new Cheltenham and Mentone stations will continue, with both stations expected to open in August.

The works are part of a $3 billion investment in the Frankston Line, which involves the removal of 18 level crossings and 12 new stations. The line will also benefit from the Metro Tunnel construction, as trains on the Cranbourne/Pakenham line will not share the track with Frankston line trains from South Yarra, enabling a 15 per cent increase in capacity on the Frankston line in peak periods.

Work resumes on all CRL sites

Construction on the City Rail Link (CRL) in Auckland has resumed.

On-site activity was temporarily halted for five weeks during the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown in New Zealand, however all six CRL sites are now operating. These sites are located in the middle of the Auckland CBD at Britomart, Albert Street, Karangahape, and Mt Eden, as well as at Ōtāhuhu.

Although construction may have been halted, off-site work could continue, enabling what CRL Ltd chief executive Sean Sweeney called a “strong and safe” return to construction.

“The prep work completed at our sites during the past week together with planning and design work done from home by our backroom teams during the lockdown will all contribute to a successful return to work.”

Other rail projects across New Zealand have also resumed, with KiwiRail workers returning to sites including the Kaikōura rebuild and the Wellington metro upgrades. Transport Minister Phil Twyford acknowledged the efforts of the rail and construction sectors.

“I’d like to thank the industry, Waka Kotahi, City Rail Link Ltd and KiwiRail for their efforts which will see well over 1,000 construction workers back on the job this week. For example, the Kaikōura rebuild will see around 450 road and rail workers back to work, City Rail Link expects 400 workers back this week, and Transmission Gully and Pūhoi to Warkworth will ramp back up to hundreds of workers at each.”

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said works would soften the economic impact of COVID-19.

“We’re putting our money where our mouth is and getting people back to work day one of Alert Level 3 so we can get money into the pockets of businesses and workers sooner.”

At CRL sites 200 workers are on site on the first day, Tuesday, April 28, and numbers will go up to 400 by the end of the week.

“Our priority is the safety of our construction teams and the wider community.  At morning start-up and toolbox meetings workers will be briefed about stringent new health and safety protocols before they make a successful start to their shifts. Those rules cover things like access to sites, safety and protection for themselves and their workmates, and sanitation and cleaning regimes. We’ll be applying the protocols diligently,” said Sweeney.

Rail has been targeted as a way for the New Zealand economy to recover after the lockdown, with multiple projects put forward by local governments and the NZ Greens pushing for further work on the country’s regional rail system. According to Sweeney, CRL has a role to play in this.

“Given the project’s size and the contribution it can make, getting back to work quickly will be a significant and important contribution to the revival of the New Zealand economy.”

Similar to other projects in Australia, CRL is looking to take advantage of lower traffic levels to get ahead of schedule.

“It is our priority to keep the community, and relevant organisation and stakeholders informed if there are any changes,” said Sweeney.

Two more tunnel boring machines in the ground under Melbourne

The construction of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel has reached another milestone, with all four tunnel boring machines (TBM) now in operation.

TBM Millie, named after Victoria’s first female MP, Millie Peacock, is excavating the 1.7km tunnel between Anzac Station and the eastern entrance to the Metro Tunnel at South Yarra, while TBM Alice, named after wartime medical hero Alice Appleford, will soon begin on the second under St Kilda Road in the next weeks.

The first two tunnel boring machines had reached Anzac station from the west and are now creating the twin tunnels from Arden Station to Parkville station. There, the excavation of the station box was completed earlier in April.

Other works currently progressing at excavations under Swanston and Flinders streets to create the Town Hall station central cavern. The tunnelling for the twin tunnels under the CBD at the new State Library station, will begin later in 2020.

During these construction works, and with the building of rail infrastructure deemed an essential service, extra safety precautions are in place, said Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan.

“The Metro Tunnel team are doing an amazing job finding practical, safe ways of working, so we can continue building this urgently needed project in challenging circumstances.”

As states begin to lift coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, the continuation of infrastructure construction such as the Melbourne Metro Tunnel will be key for economic recovery, said Allan.

“Just as we’re facing an unprecedented health challenge, we’re facing an unprecedented economic challenge too. Our Big Build will be vital as we recover after the pandemic has passed.”