WA seeks RFPs for Midland Station relocation project

The request for proposal (RFP) process has begun for the Midland Station relocation project.

Part of the Metronet suite of works, the project will involve decommissioning and demolising the existing Midland Station and the construction of a new station between Helena Street and Cale Street.

The project will be procured through an alliance model.

The relocated station will enable a connection to the new Bellevue Depot and railcar assembly facility, where Perth’s new fleet of railcars will be constructed and maintained. Extensions to the rail network will also allow for future extensions of the Midland line.

The new station will also better connect the public transport network with the Midland Gate Shopping Centre and Midland Health Campus, said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

“For many years now we have focused on reinvigorating Midland into a thriving commercial and residential centre, and a new Midland Station will be a big part of that,” she said.

New forecourts will be constructed and the relocated station will allow for future mixed-use developments. The level crossing at Helena Street will be removed and replaced with a new crossing at Cale Street.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said the project would boost the local economy.

“We are seeing activity ramp up at a time when WA needs infrastructure spending to boost the economy and create jobs as we come out of COVID-19.”

Local federal Member for Hasluck Ken Wyatt said the new station would enable connections for the wider community.

“The new station will make it easier for people coming from the hills and foothills to access the rail line,” Wyatt said.

“This will make a big difference for all members of our community, especially those who use public transport to get to work or school.”

Local businesses are invited to register on the projects’ Construction Businesses Register to be on the list of potential local suppliers provided to the successful contractor.

Budget should target new projects and upgrades: ARA

New projects and upgrades to existing technology should be considered for funding as part of the federal budget, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Caroline Wilkie has said.

With the budget to be handed down on October 6 and early announcements already coming out, Wilkie said that rail was ready to contribute to Australia’s economic recovery.

“There is a significant pipeline of rail investment that could be fast tracked to generate more jobs and opportunity to support our economic recovery,” said Wilkie.

“This is work that will make a difference right now while leaving a lasting legacy for the cities and towns that benefit from new rail projects.”

A number of rail projects are awaiting federal funding to take the next step. The Melbourne Airport Rail Link will proceed once final funding from the federal government confirmed, as can the resumption of the Murray Basin Rail Project, with a business case sitting with Canberra.

In addition to new construction, funding for technology upgrades such as the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s Advanced Train Management System, would provide long term benefits. Infrastructure upgrades such as level crossing removals are another way the federal government’s funding to rail would conitrbute to wider economic outcomes.

“At a time where we desperately need more people in jobs and more certainty for those rebounding from the economic hardships of the pandemic, we need to see more projects started sooner to build the country back up again,” said Wilkie.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack has indicated that major infrastructure projects will be part of the 2020 budget, however no particular projects have been tipped yet. The federal government has indicated that money allocated to the states for infrastructure will be needed to be spent quickly and may be a condition of further funding.

reality modelling

Webinar: Leverage reality modelling for linear infrastructure projects

The use of infrastructure digital twins within the road and rail industry is continuing to gain momentum. The starting point of creating a digital twin is capturing the digital representation of the physical asset, its digital context. This process can involve reality data being captured from many different systems and devices, from planes, drones, and handheld cameras to terrestrial laser scanners and mobile mapping systems.

This webinar will explore how Bentley’s reality modelling solutions can help you capture, manage, analyse and share this real-world digital context to accelerate decision making during the design, construction and operations phases of large-scale civil infrastructure projects.

In this webinar learn about:

• The benefits of reality modelling for Road and Rail
• How to capture, manage, analyse and share your reality data
• Insights from existing local and international industry use cases
• Live Q&A with local reality modelling experts.

Register for the live webinar here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_EUYrlSHbRwKnKSWmzWe67Q.

Metro Trains Melbourne providing pathways for overseas-qualified engineers

Five engineers from refugee and asylum seeker background have begun their Australian professional journey with Metro Trains Melbourne in 2020.

The Engineering Pathways Industry Cadetship or EPIC program provides pathways for qualified engineers from refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds to work in Australia.

Metro Trains in partnership with the Level Crossing Removal Project has placed five cadets this year in major transport infrastructure projects.

Metro’s Executive Director – Projects Peter Gleeson said the EPIC program enables those with overseas qualifications to contribute to Victoria’s Big Build.

“The EPIC program gives people pathways to further their engineering careers – with on-site experience, a recognised qualification, and exposure to some of the biggest transport projects the state has ever seen,” Gleeson said.

“There’s never been a better time to be part of the infrastructure transformation across our city, and with a huge demand for engineering skills, these cadets will only go from strength to strength.”

The EPIC program overcomes a significant barrier for those with engineering qualifications that were achieved overseas. Only those with qualifications from a select number of countries are recognised in Australia, leading to many with engineering qualifications who could contribute to the rail skills pipeline working outside of their field.

In a 2011 report, Perspectives on Migrants, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that 65 per cent of all recent migrants had a non-school qualification before arriving in Australia, however only a third of these had their overseas qualification recognised.

One of the cadets, Mayat Mnayrji, has worked on the South-Eastern Program Alliance for stations and VicTrack interface.

“The EPIC program is really fantastic, giving overseas engineers the opportunity to get more work experience and improve themselves, as well studying a very useful course.”

Ilab Qassab, who holds a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering (power and machine) from the University of Mosul, in Iraq, has been based in the Metropolitan Roads Program Alliance, working with the rail team.

“I am very proud to be one of the EPIC program cadets. This program gave us a great opportunity to start our career in Australia and achieve our goals as we came from other countries.”

In addition to an Australian qualification, cadets also gain valuable work experience on major projects. In the ABS report, 64 per cent of recent migrants said that a lack of Australian work experience or references was a barrier to their employment. Ali Firwana, originally from Gaza, Palestine holds a Bachelor of Industrial Engineer and is working as a combined services route site engineer on the Frankston Line.

“Having work experience and industry-focused education is incredibly useful, and I am learning new things on a daily basis with Metro.”

Gleeson said the work of the cadets is invaluable for Victoria’s infrastructure pipeline.

“These five cadets have been doing fantastic work for Metro to help shape the Victorian government’s Big Build, which is transforming our public transport network.”

Halfway there on 75 level crossing removals around Melbourne

Over half of the 75 level crossings planned for removal by 2025 in Melbourne have been taken out.

The 38th crossing was removed as part of works on the Frankston line in August. The most recent crossing to go were at Charman and Park roads in Cheltenham and Balcombe Road in Mentone.

The next level crossings to be removed and get the project closer to the 75 target will be on the Upfield line, as work there progresses and the current blitz finishes in November. Crossings at Bell Street, Munro Street, Reynard Street, and Moreland Road will be removed.

While removing the crossings has been a key goal of the project, there have been many other associated benefits for commuters and the local community. So far, 20 stations have been renewed through upgrades, and three stations have been added as part of the Mernda Rail Extension.

Safety has also been a key goal. At the planned for removal level crossings, 30 people have lost their lives and there have been 800 near misses since 2005.

Travel times are already seeing improvements, with time spent in traffic cut by half in some areas where level crossings have been removed.

Finally, new open spaces and pedestrian and cycling connections have been created, with the newly elevated rail lines sometimes serving to protect and shade new play areas underneath. The newly created open space is equivalent to 14 MCGs and the length of the new walking and cycling paths stretches over 45 kilometres. In Cheltenham, the former station building has been repurposed as a community facility in Cheltenham Park. The heritage listed station building will be a multi-purpose facility in plans put forward by the Bayside City Council.

While COVID-19 restrictions have been in place at all construction sites, the Level Crossing Removal Project has continued throughout the pandemic, keeping 5,000 workers in jobs and on site. Since construction began in 2015, 44 million hours have been worked across the project.


Captured by value: Finding the funding for faster rail

To make fast and high speed rail possible in Australia, governments are looking for new methods of funding.

In the mid 1990s, the CSIRO was looking to sell its defunct McMaster Farm. The Commonwealth research agency no longer needed the animal research field station located on the outskirts of south-western Sydney. The federal government put the 350-hectare property on the market, and two brothers banded together to purchase the site, paying $3.5 million, about $10,000 per hectare. While reports at the time indicated the price was lower than the going price for agricultural land, the location’s heritage was continued and the site was used for farming.

Only two years later, the federal government came back to the site at Badgery’s Creek. This time buying a portion of the farm back off the brothers for $175m, 50 times the price per hectare. What had changed?

Head out to the former farm today and the fields, cross-crossed with creeks have been changed. Major pieces of equipment and machinery are turning over soil to build the foundations for the new Western Sydney Airport. The brothers bought the land next door. The rest of the land that wasn’t purchased back by the federal government has now been bought by property developers and the expected windfall for the brothers is rumoured to be half a billion dollars. For an investment on $3.5m, the brothers have made a return of over 140 times. Their last name? Medich.

Federal parliamentarian and chair of the Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities, John Alexander has been using this example into a recent parliamentary inquiry entitled Options for Financing Faster Rail. What frustrates him about this is that we’ve seen it all before, particularly with the construction of the North West Rail Link, now Sydney Metro North West.

“What we saw at Castle Hill where people sold their houses for 40 and 50 times their value that will be nothing compared to what will happen when previously rural lands are made into high rise development or urban development.”

Badgery’s Creek is where history is repeating itself. With not only the airport, but also the rail corridors confirmed, the NSW and federal governments are investing billions of dollars into infrastructure for the Aerotropolis and private landowners are reaping the benefits.

“With the last announcement of the government, which was surprising, $11.5bn going into bringing the Metro rail forward to St Mary’s and seven train stations, those landowners around those train stations will have the ultimate uplift and we have failed on our investment of our taxpayers money to get a fair share of that,” said Alexander.

There is no suggestion of anyone, landowner, developer or government, having committed any crimes.

What Alexander and the committee have set out to do, is find out what is the fair return for the increase in land value brought about by rail infrastructure.

“If you try to search what is fair when the taxpayer puts in $11.5bn into one project and someone puts in $3.5m and walks away with half a billion, of that $500m uplift what should have the taxpayer got as their fair share of that? That’s the question that we need to be answering.”

The current inquiry is the third of a series of inquiries into how the federal government can get a better return for the investment it makes in infrastructure. To do so, a method of value capture is needed, in order to tax the windfalls that private property owners gain from public infrastructure investment. This would then support the funding of infrastructure and communities.

“The prime goal is to provide a sustainable, affordable supply of housing for generations to come and to do that you’ve got to have a plan of infrastructure that facilitates that settlement,” said Alexander.

The committee’s first report, Harnessing value, delivering infrastructure found that all governments had not adequately planned for the future.

“Harnessing value, delivering infrastructure explored what needed to be done that had been absent, that had been overlooked by both sides of governments at all levels. There had been an absence of planning and an absence of capitalising when governments have invested taxpayers monies,” said Alexander.

Other observers have noted examples of this lack of planning not just in NSW. Cameron Murray is a Queensland-based economist who quantified the value returned to private landowners near the Gold Coast Light Rail line.

“I wanted to demonstrate that this occurs in general and put a number to it, because it’s very hard to get a good idea of the value to everybody in aggregate. You might think if we put a train station here and that shopping centre owner got some value, but everybody in the area gets a benefit and so looking at all these property sales data allowed me to add that all up.”

Murray found that the increase in property sales prices, as an indicator of change in land value, showed that the construction of the light rail line increased property values by $300m in the 1,324 plots of land within 400 metres of a light rail station. If this increase was captured, it would be equivalent to 25 per cent of the capital cost of the light rail line.

Taking these results and applying them to new rail lines, particularly faster and high speed rail, Alexander sees a way forward for debates over high speed rail in Australia.

“It’s a golden age for rail, faster rail and high-speed rail, and most people who discount high-speed rail and say it shouldn’t happen simply don’t know what the purpose of it is. It’s a simple equation, once you can say that the uplift in the value of the lands that will be created by high-speed rail can fund the additional cost that it takes to go from regular rail to high speed rail then it is a deal. It’s making money, you do it.”

Using the value uplift in land as the key commercial indicator, rather than the commercial operation of the service can make high speed rail a much more attractive proposition.

“If you’re just going to charge the ticket retrieve the cost of the construction and operation from the traveller, that will not stack up commercially. If you look at what is the purpose of high-speed rail, other than moving people from A to B, from Sydney to Melbourne, but a position of creating megacities and having areas that would have been outside of a commutable time, when delivered by high speed rail, you bring places like Gosford and the Southern Highlands to within 15 minutes of the CBD of Sydney, Goulburn and Newcastle within 30 minutes, it is an absolute game changer.

“When you look at Melbourne the opportunities are even more vast. There’s five fast and high-speed rail lines going out of Melbourne that will create an incredible megatropolis and reduce road traffic into the city but produce a number of satellite cities that would be linked by faster and high speed rail and commutes of less than half an hour.”

In addition to the federal inquiry, the NSW Productivity Commission is also conducting an inquiry into infrastructure contributions. In response to questions, the Productivity Commission said that as it was in the phase of listening to stakeholders it would be premature to offer a position.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has prepared a submission to the inquiry, and CEO Caroline Wilkie said that good planning processes can make the most of infrastructure investment and save governments billions of dollars.

“Australia’s increasing infrastructure needs will mean governments alone will not be able to deliver every project that is required to meet future demand. We support value capture mechanisms that allow governments to share in the benefits of significant land value increases that result from their investment in infrastructure. As with all things, it is important cost recovery is applied equally,” she said.

Private property owners close to major transport infrastructure have seen property values increase substantially. Image credit: RailGallery.com.au

Murray has proposed two ways of implementing value capture, the first being a land tax.

“A land value tax that you revalue every year, that automatically raises money from every capital investment made by the government or raises more money when there’s a boom and less money when there’s a bust.”

Both NSW and Victoria have mooted switching from stamp duty to a broad land tax and have raised these ideas with the federal government. Another method, Murray suggests is to allow property owners to buy denser zonings.

“If you have a new rail station, and you say, ‘We’re going to densify this corridor.’ What you do is you charge landowners for the additional air rights to take advantage of that new zoning and density that you’ve facilitated.”

Alexander is instead proposing a form of capital gains tax on land that is impacted by infrastructure and rezoning. The tax would be triggered by a change in zoning. This would overcome the ad hoc nature of current developer contributions, raise a more significant amount than stamp duty, and create a fairer outcome.

“It shouldn’t be the developer that pays the outrageous price for the land, and then has to pay the developers contribution to develop it, it’s the person who makes the windfall through no effort of their own, simply by owning land that is now going to be rezoned and going to be the beneficiary of taxpayers funding.”

The tax would be collected by the federal government, which would create the master plans with state governments. State government would provide the infrastructure and local councils would determine local-level land use.

“The federal government collects the uplift, quarantines it and then hypothecates it to the state for distribution for the infrastructure.”

Currently, the National Faster Rail Agency (NFRA), which is developing business cases for fast rail to Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney with state governments and the private sector. As part of these business cases, the NFRA considers funding and financing options, such as private sector contributions and value capture opportunities.

“Matters such as funding and financing and opportunities for value capture from sources such as land value uplift to supplement project funding are considered in line with this framework,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

The spokesperson however directed detailed questions regarding value capture mechanisms to the Infrastructure Project Financing Agency (IPFA). Formed in 2017, IPFA “supports the Australian government in making commercially astute decisions on nationally significant infrastructure projects and programs through the provision of independent, whole-of-government commercial and financial advisory services”.

After email inquiries to the publicly available email contact went unanswered, Chris Allen, managing director, transport and industry, responded to a LinkedIn message noting that “as there is not a consistent view on value capture and its implementation across the Commonwealth, we do not think that it’s appropriate for IPFA to provide its views or comments outside of government at this time”.

In its joint submission to the Options for Financing Faster Rail inquiry, the National Faster Rail Agency and IPFA wrote that “examples where value capture made major contributions to funding cost are defined by unique characteristics, such as significantly higher population densities than regional Australia”. The submission noted the case of transcontinental railroads in the United States in the late 19th century, and Hong Kong rail operator MTR’s Rail plus Property model.

In London, the extension of the Northern Line, a £2.5bn ($4.56bn) project, was entirely funded through a levy on development in the Nine Elms district and business rates revenue. Alexander also points to the Korean method of funding high-speed rail. There, the government owned corporation that constructs and operates the line provides half of the funding for the line. It can then take 100 per cent of the value uplift inside a determined development precinct next to the proposed stations. The national government, which provides 50 per cent of the funding, takes 50 per cent of the value uplift of land adjacent to the development precinct.

“I think it’s a structure that’s not far off the mark,” said Andrews.

There is another model, however, that is closer to home. In the ACT, where all land is owned by the government, 75 per cent of the increase in the value of leasehold land is captured by the territory government.

“Imagine if you got 75 per cent of the uplift of that $500m,” said Alexander. “That would’ve left $375m that would have gone towards the cost of the infrastructure, and the investor, for only putting in $3.5m, would have made $125m. Not doing too badly at all.”

Murray has done the sums on how much more money governments around Australia would raise if they followed the ACT example.

“If you scale that to the relative prices and quantities of new dwellings that are built in NSW, Victoria, and Queensland you get roughly $19bn per year in revenue, if they had the ACT system.”

With a number of faster rail projects at the business case stage and future projects in the pipeline, there is a need for governments to come up with a solution.

“Before the project is announced, before the zoning is announced, you’ve got to have your value capture legislation through Parliament,” said Alexander.

“We talk about, ‘We’re all in it together.’ That means everybody who is the beneficiary pays and it’s to the benefit of the taxpayer because you can then literally look at all infrastructure being funded in this way, relieving our general revenues, simplifying our taxes, simplifying the role of developers, and making our growth sustainable and creating affordable housing for all.”


Watch tunnelling reach the halfway mark on Melbourne Metro Tunnel

Tunnelling is halfway complete on the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, with two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) reaching significant milestones.

On Saturday, TBM Meg broke through at the new Parkville station cavern. Less than 24 hours earlier TBM Millie finished its tunnelling journey from Anzac Station to South Yarra.

In total, the TBMs have excavated 364,000 cubic metres of rock and soil so far. Over 30,000 concrete segments have been laid to line the walls of the tunnels.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the breakthroughs were evidence of the dedication of the team involved.

“To reach the halfway mark of tunnelling and to have two major breakthroughs in successive days just shows how hard crews have been working to keep building major infrastructure Victorians will benefit from,” she said.

TBM Millie’s cutterhead will be removed via a crane and transported to the Anzac Station site. The rest of the machine will be pulled back through the tunnel and turned around to head towards Town Hall station with the cutterhead reattached later this year.

TBM Joan is about to be relaunched from Parkville Station to head towards the State Library, and TBM Meg will follow shortly after.

All TBMs have been employed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with workers limited on site and subject to strict safety protocols to ensure the project could continue.

“We thank all the workers who have been adhering to health and safety guidelines to make sure we can continue this fantastic project,” said Allan.

Once complete, the twin tunnels will increase capacity through the core of the Melbourne network by providing new stations and more trains.

“The Metro Tunnel Project is just one of the pipeline of major projects that will continue to drive our economy and create jobs as we rebuild in the coming months and years,” said Allan.

Watch footage of the breakthroughs below.


National Infrastructure Summit speakers and agenda announced

As Australia looks to invest in infrastructure as a way to build the country’s economy out of the COVID-19 crisis, the National Infrastructure Summit has arrayed some of the most significant leaders in this space to discuss the opportunities ahead.

Opening the virtual conference on day one, October 14, will be NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who is looking at an expanding rail infrastructure pipeline in the state, with new Sydney Metro lines recently funded and moving ahead in the contract process.

For a federal view, day two will be opened by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack. With the conference taking place days after the delivery of what the federal budget, which is widely expecte to include more infrastructure spending, McCormack will highlight these commitments as well as other projects such as Inland Rail that are always underway.

The program also includes discussions between Romilly Madew, CEO of Infrastructure Australia, Marion Terrill, Transport and Cities Program Director, Grattan Institute, and Cathal O’Rouke, who will pick over what impact COVID-19 has had on the infrastructure sector.

With logistics impacted by new trends during COVID and the acceleration of others, Dean Dalla Valle, CEO of Pacific National, and Maurice James, managing director of Qube will be joined by Marika Calfas, CEO of NSW Ports and Brendan Bourke, CEO of the Port of Melbourne to analyses these changes.

Alan Tudge Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population and NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey will give ministerial addresses, followed by a Q&A.

Other panels include a focus on infrastructure funding and post-pandemic transport.

This year, the conference will be delivered virtually via online events platform Brella. The platform will provide an opportunity for networking and viewing speaker and sponsor information.

For more information, click here: https://www.nationalpolicyseries.com.au/afr-national-infrastructure-summit/.


First rail dedicated contractor joins Australian Owned Contractors

The Australian Owned Contractors (AOC) group has announced that Martinus Rail has joined the collection of mid-tier contractors.

Martinus is the first company to join AOC that is solely focused on rail infrastructure projects.

CEO and managing director Treavan Martinus said that it was more important than ever that investment in infrastructure flowed to local contractors.

“The Australian construction industry has always played an integral role helping bolster the economy during uncertain times,” he said.

“With the Australian government expected to inject more than $100 billion to deliver various infrastructure projects across Australia, there should be more pressure for them to delivered by Australian companies to keep profits here, rather than offshore.”

AOC, led by CEO Brent Crockford, advocates for major infrastructure projects to be delivered by companies that are majority Austrlaian-owned.

“All AOC members are united in the fight to push change to procurement processes for our largest taxpayer-funded projects,” Crockford said.

“Across the country multi-billion-dollar tender packages are bundled to favour big foreign owned Tier One construction firms and this needs to end.”

AOC has called for large infrastructure projects to be broken up into smaller packages to allow a greater number of firms to bid for projects and for industry sustainability criteria to be applied to major public infrastructure projects.

With rail projects expected to play a large part in post-COVID-19 stimulus plans, Crockford said that procurement for these big-ticket items should be reformed.

“If we are to have any hope of growing domestic skills and allowing Mid-Tier Australian-owned businesses to grow and evolve into our new leading Tier One players, then we need practical action to reform procurement on major projects to encourage more work and less barriers for our Mid-Tier contractors.”

Martinus said that the benefits of a locally owned contractor meant that more money stayed within Australia.

“One hundred per cent of our profits are reinvested into the Australian economy and being Australian owned, we continue to invest in our growth – both in terms of capability and capacity – to deliver Australia’s largest infrastructure projects,” he said.

“We are looking forward to working with the AOC to advocate for change and in turn safeguard the Australian economy for future generations.”


Dual roadheaders excavating Cross River Rail tunnels

Two roadheaders are excavating tunnels underneath Brisbane to carve out the route of the future Cross River Rail.

The addition of the second roadheader enables more rock to be excavated each day, with 55 metres of tunnel already excavated at a rate of 1.5 metres each a day.

The over 100 tonnes roadheaders have set out in different directions from the Woolloongabba site. Beginning from the station cavern, one is heading north underneath Vulture Street, and the other is tunnelling south towards the South East Busway.

Blasting is also being conducted at the site to speed up excavation works.

To allow for the excavated rock, including volcanic Brisbane Tuff and conglomerates forming the Neranleigh Fernvale rock that sits under the Brisbane CBD, to be removed from site, a spoil shed built by a local contractor has been constructed at Woolloongabba. By the time excavation is complete, over 132,000 cubic metres of rock and soil will have been excavators. So far, 70,000 cubic metres has been removed.

When complete, the station box shaft will be 32 metres deep, with the future 220 metre-long platform sitting 27-metres below the surface.

Later in 2020, tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will arrive at Woolloongabba. The TBMs are currently being refitted in Brisbane after having completed work on the Sydney Metro project. The TBMs will excavate the twin underground tunnels to the north from January next year. This will speed up tunnelling progress as each can carve out 20-30 metres of tunnel a day.