Transport infrastructure investment needed to decrease congestion

Investment in transport infrastructure is cutting congestion in Australia’s major cities, but in Sydney and Melbourne there is still more to do, highlights research from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) and Uber.

IPA and Uber have used anonymised ride share data from Uber up to the final quarter of 2019 to measure peak travel times in Australia’s four largest cities and have found that as major transport projects come online, travel times are being brought under control.

Despite all cities seeing population growth, congestion has largely plateaued, with travel reliability maintained. IPA chief executive Adrian Dwyer put this down to the opening of new transport links.

“With the insights of Uber’s data, we can see that before COVID-19 hit, ambitious levels of investment in infrastructure and real-time travel information were starting to bear fruit.”

To maintain or reduce congestion levels, further investment in rail and public transport infrastructure will be needed, the IPA found. In Brisbane, commuters from the outer ring suffered most, but were better off compared to their counterparts in other cities.

As Brisbane continues to grow, rail projects will be key to keeping the city moving.

“The major pipeline of new projects like the Cross River Rail and Brisbane Metro are likely to further improve travel times when they open in the coming years,” said Dwyer.

In Perth, where commuters spent the least amount of time in traffic, recent increases confirm the need for major rail projects such as the Metronet works program. General manager of Uber Australia and New Zealand Dom Taylor said that investment needed to continue in public transport.

“We want to work with cities to ensure we have the infrastructure and policies in place to tackle congestion. These include continuing to invest in public transport and road infrastructure, promoting shared modes and technology, and managing network demand to alleviate congestion.”

Sydney and Melbourne commuters, particularly those travelling from the fringes of the city did not benefit from a plateau or lowering of travel times, and in fact saw an increase in time spent in traffic. This reaffirmed the need for major rail projects, said Dwyer.

“Sydney Metro, WestConnex, and other major transport upgrades will help release the valve on Sydney’s congestions when they open in the coming years.”

Similarly in Melbourne, where peak travel delays and reliability worsened, major projects are hoped to alleviate this congestion.

“The good news is the major pipeline of new projects like the Metro Tunnel, the North East Link, and the West Gate Tunnel are all likely to further improve travel times when they open in the coming years,” said Dwyer.

Planning process accelerates over a billion dollars of NSW rail projects

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes is accelerating three major rail projects as well as development above the new Crows Nest Metro Station and around the CBD and South East Light Rail.

Stokes said that moving projects such as the $700 million Inland Rail from Narrabri to North Star, the $273m Botany Rail Duplication, and the $115m Cabramatta Rail Loop would enable the state to economically recover from coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The fast-tracked assessment program is a key part of the NSW Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan as we continue to get shovel-ready projects out the door to keep people in jobs and keep the economy moving.”

The proposal to revamp of Central Station as part of the Western Gateway project will also be accelerated. Transport for NSW is proposing new planning control to enable the development of a technology centre adjacent to the rail corridor.

All projects will be determined by August 14, 2020.

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie welcomed the announcement by Stokes.

“It is good to see the NSW government recognise the significant community benefits rail delivers by accelerating these projects,” she said.

“Infrastructure investment will be the cornerstone of our economic recovery and sustainable, long term rail projects will form an important part of that.”

Completion of the Inland Rail section as well as the Port Botany duplication and Cabramatta passing loop will improve NSW’s freight rail network, enabling further growth and reducing trucks on roads in Sydney and regional NSW.

Rail’s role to play in activating development in other precincts has been recognised in the proposal to increase building height and floor space controls near the light rail line in Kingsford and Kensington. In Crows Nest, Sydney Metro is proposing to increase the building height and floor space controls to enable development above the new station.

“This is a great example of improved project approvals processes making a real difference for businesses, jobs and the people that depend on them,” said Wilkie.

public transport

Construction underway across Auckland public transport network

The New Zealand government is investing in building and renewing public transport infrastructure in Auckland to boost the local economy and improve rail services.

The Puhinui Interchange is one of four projects that will receive funding as part of the national government’s transport infrastructure package. Transport Minister Phil Twyford said the upgrades would ensure the projects are finalised on time.

“By investing in the under construction Puhinui Interchange and Stage One of the Ferry Basin Redevelopment project, we are protecting jobs and making sure these important projects can continue. Both are expected to be completed next year.”

Other projects include upgrades to improve bus services and active transport links said Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

“By investing in public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure, not only are we helping people leave the car at home, we are reducing emissions and tackling climate change,” said Genter.

In addition to working on the Puhinui Interchange, Auckland Transport is also upgrading Papakura Station to rectify water leaking into the lift shafts which caused the lifts to often be out of service.

Works at the southern Auckland station will include new roofs and canopies, and a small concrete wall at ground level. Construction is expected to begin before the end of July and completed by mid-October.

At the Karangahape station site in central Auckland, construction has begun on the City Rail Link station, the deepest in New Zealand.

The first of 28 panels for the diaphragm walls are being constructed, which are the first permanent sections of the station.

Once finalised, the station will be 30 metres deep, the deepest of the underground stations built as part of the City Rail Link project.

Once the walls are complete, a roof and supporting columns will be built, and then the station’s platforms and concourse will be built.

Dale Burtenshaw, deputy project director for the Link Alliance, said that the construction process has been designed to minimise disruption.

“Working top-down like this will reduce the impact of construction at street level in a busy part of the city like K Road,” he said. “At the same time, using a hydrofraise allows us to operate close to other buildings without disturbing those buildings. We’ve also fitted mufflers to the machine to reduce noise levels for our neighbours.”

Morley Station

WA developing concept master plan for Morley Station

The West Australian government is using the construction of a new station and rail line as a way to guide development in Morley. The government is working with local residents and businesses to develop connections between the future Morley station and the surrounding area.

Over 200 residents and businesses have given their feedback, which has shaped the Morley Station Precinct Concept Master Plan, which is being developed in consultation with the City of Bayswater. Once complete, the master plan will guide planning and infrastructure delivery around the station.

Morley is a new station that will be located on the Morley-Ellenbrook line, being built as part of the Metronet project. The station is the first on the line that begins at Bayswater station.

According to WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti, the construction of a new rail line allows for a rethink of the development of the surrounding suburbs.

“The significant investment in the Morley-Ellenbrook Line provides the opportunity to continue to grow the Morley Activity Centre as an important social and economic hub for the north-east corridor.”

A high-frequency bus service will link the station to the Morley Galleria to provide access to shopping and services.

Morley MLA Amber-Jade Sanderson said that the plan would also shape private investment in the area.

“This concept plan will provide vision and clear direction for the private sector and help stimulate much needed new investment in the commercial precinct,” she said.

“We want the many private land holders to develop their land for the revitalisation of Morley.”

The plan will inform the development of a local structure plan, which will go into more depth on infrastructure, zoning, and development to complete the design vision.

Work is on track to award the contract for the construction of the line later in 2020, with two shortlisted proponents, Ellenbrook Alliance (CPB Contractors and Downer EDI) and MELconnx Consortium (Laing O’Rouke Australia Construction).

Elevated rail preferred for Inner Armadale Line

Up to six level crossings between Carlisle and Beckenham will be replaced with a rail bridge to improve safety and ease movement in the area.

As part of the works, Wharf Street level crossing was to be removed or replaced with an elevated rail option, however a third option is now being considered, involving rebuilding Queens Park station. The option to close the Wharf Street crossing is no longer being considered.

The WA government is continuing to seek feedback of the final design.

West Coast

West Coast to Christchurch line to be upgraded

New Zealand will spend $13 million to upgrade the rail line between Christchurch and the West Coast.

The funding will go towards improving the resilience of the rail line, which was closed for over a month after a 100-metre slip at Omoto in October 2019. KiwiRail will conduct the upgrades, which will involve the installation of drainage and strengthening the hill side at Omoto.

NZ Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said the project was critical to ensure resilient and reliable connections to the West Coast.

“The rail line to Greymouth brings more than 80,000 tourists into the region each year and gets the equivalent of 50,000 truckloads of exports to port. It’s a vital part of the regional economy.”

Regional Economic Development Under-Secretary Fletcher Tabuteau said that the program would benefit the local economy during construction and once complete.

“The work at Omoto will also support about 20 local jobs. It’s important that the West Coast sees maximum benefit from government investment. Not only does the Omoto work give certainty for the future, KiwiRail is focussed on using West Coast civil contracting firms and suppliers to carry out the work wherever possible.”

KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said he was delighted that funding had been secured.

“Everything we can do to make rail freight more reliable helps New Zealand lower its emissions, helps make KiwiRail more sustainable, and reduces truck numbers on the country’s roads,’ he said.

“Every tonne of heavy freight delivered by rail results in 66 per cent fewer emissions than the equivalent freight being carried by road, so KiwiRail is working hard to encourage companies to make that shift.”

Horizontal drains between internal layers of hillside will remove water, and in-ground piles/retaining structure will tie the top sliding layer and the bottom layer of the hillside together.

Work is expected to be finished in 2021.

Delivering technological innovation in Australia

Omada Rail Systems is bringing exciting and innovative technology to the Australian rail industry.

Through a strong focus on youth development and carefully selected company partnerships, Omada Rail Systems is capable of delivering globally recognised technology across Australia. Omada is partnered with two UK based companies, Gioconda Rail and KeTech, both of which are renowned for taking the first step and pushing technological boundaries. Through their usual services of signalling design, systems integration, testing and commissioning, and telecommunications engineering, Omada is capable of introducing these technologies into Australia.

The directors at Omada are committed to working with their team to identify and implement process innovations. With the promise of providing clients with the best value for money, the Omada leadership understands that a focus on quality and efficiency is key. The company has a growing reputation for delivering high quality work and going the extra mile to ensure the client’s satisfaction. This is largely due to a strong work ethic and philosophy of teamwork, allowing for a fast and safe turnaround of projects. Omada has outlined a plan to further increase capacity for delivering larger projects by implementing efficient processes and resources; backed by bringing in additional quality engineers to the team.

Omada interlocking simulator
Omada is building an inhouse relay interlocking system and test panel, to demonstrate signalling design and testing fundamentals. This project is designed to be predominantly worked on by Omada’s graduate engineers, allowing them to further develop their knowledge of signalling design principles. Once complete, this will serve as a platform for high quality inhouse training for all of the current Omada engineering team and for future graduate intakes. With this project targeting completion early in 2021, Omada believes this unique project will set them well above the pack.

Gioconda
Omada and Gioconda joined forces more than 12 months ago, with the mutual goal of enhancing asset management, signal sighting, and driver briefing activities in Australia. Gioconda services stem from their base specialties of railway filming and 3D modelling.

Gioconda’s services include:

  • Railway filming
  • Video asset mapping
  • BIM and 3D visualisation and modelling
  • Signal sighting
  • Driver briefing and training packages

A powerful tool and process for inspecting the railway as part of design, Gioconda’s asset mapping tool has sparked a great deal of interest from Australian companies looking for more effective methods of asset management. Gioconda have previously delivered multiple projects for Metro Trains Melbourne such as a virtual signal sighting and driver briefing package for the Mernda project and a driver briefing package for the Burke Road Grade Separation project. Omada and Gioconda have brought this technology to many major operators through presentations, with high levels of interest. According to Omada director Luke Craven, “The Gioconda software is a remarkably efficient and powerful tool. By bringing the railway into the office, it has massive benefits with regards to safety and cost.”

KeTech
KeTech has been at the forefront of real time information systems for 20 years and, like Omada, has recently experienced substantial growth. Providing real-time passenger and driver information systems, KeTech’s team offer their clients a reliable, fully integrated information system.

KeTech’s products and services include:

  • Passenger information systems
  • Customer information systems
  • Connected Driver Advisory Systems (C-DAS)
  • Driver-only operated CCTV system

With a strong focus on being one step ahead, a passion to challenge the impossible and meticulous attention to detail, KeTech is set well above its competition. KeTech is able to combine its passenger, customer and driver information systems to work in unison, as a universal information system (UIS), capable of providing passengers and operators with live updates and information such as arrival and departure times, seat allocations, platform alterations, toilet availability, and much more. Designed to vastly improve customer experience, operational efficiency and support a safer journey, KeTech’s UIS is truly ground-breaking. Omada and KeTech’s leaders are closely aligned in their desire to bring this technology into Australia. With operators constantly looking to improve customer satisfaction figures and operational efficiency, KeTech’s products are a proven solution.

The three companies previously shared an exhibition stand at AusRAIL PLUS 2019 and have since seen a great deal of interest from Australian based companies. If you would like to find out more about Omada Rail Systems, KeTech, or Gioconda visit: https://www.omadarail.com/services/

Rail Manufacturing CRC

Closure of Rail Manufacturing CRC leaves room for R&D investment

The Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) held its last event on June 25 and officially closed on July 1 leaving a gap in the Australian rail industry’s research and development landscape.

Established in 2014, the Rail Manufacturing CRC has left a legacy in the form of new products for commercialisation, including passenger information systems installed at Wynyard Station in Sydney and prototypes of supercapacitor control systems and composite brake discs.

Stuart Thomson, Rail Manufacturing CRC CEO, said that more work needs to be done to build off the centre’s successes.

“New models of cooperation between industry and researchers, individual state governments and the Commonwealth Government will need to be explored. A national strategy for rail and rail innovation would be a great impetus for ensuring a future innovative rail sector.”

Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), said that the CRC’s work is already having an impact.

“The Rail Manufacturing CRC has worked alongside rail manufacturers and operators to deliver new technology and innovation that will make a real difference to the industry,” said Wilkie.

“The CRC’s collaborative focus has delivered some great results and the team can be very proud of its record of achievement.”

With the CRC now closed and no immediate plans for a replacement, Wilkie notes there is more need than ever for support for collaboration between industry and research organisations.

“New funding is now essential to keep the focus on technology and innovation in rail.”

Thomson said that with the current levels of investment in rail, there is an opportunity to grow local manufacturing.

“There is a need to strengthen the domestic rail supply chain. By providing incentives for SMEs to invest in research and development, and encouraging global suppliers currently not investing in local innovation or local supply chains to invest in the long term future of the local rail sector, this will create future advanced manufacturing businesses and employment opportunities.”

As the Australian rail industry adopts digital technology and smart systems, this investment should be supported with local research and development.

“Technology will play an increasing role in the rail industry and continued investment is essential to make sure Australia remains at the forefront of innovation,” said Wilkie.

“It is more important than ever that this work continues as the industry prepares for new growth.”

Projects conducted by the Rail Manufacturing CRC have been highly regarded, with the Dwell Track technology winning the CRC Association’s annual Excellence in Innovation award. In addition, projects have led to industry implementation, with CRRC, Bombardier, and Downer having already put the projects to work.

In a recent interview with Rail Express, Thomson said that the CRC was able to design research that met the needs of industry.

“The industry has faced, and will continue to face, infrastructure and innovation challenges in Australia. By developing research projects and teaming up experts to support the industry, we are ensuring innovation meets industry’s needs and requirements to deliver the transformational change required in the rail sector.”

Projects completed by the Rail Manufacturing CRC can be found here: https://www.rmcrc.com.au/.

Inland Rail independent flood panel members announced

The federal and Queensland governments have announced the members of the independent Inland Rail flood modelling review panel.

The five members are Mark Babister, Tina O’Connell, Ferdinand Diermanse, Steve Clark, and Martin Giles.

The panel will analyse flood modelling done by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), after local landholders on the Condamine River floodplain raised concerns with the modelling.

Babister will chair the panel and is the managing director of specialist water engineering firm WMAwater. O’Connell, Clark, and Giles are also from independent water engineering consultancy businesses. Diermanse is an expert researcher at Dutch applied research institute Deltares.

“We have now finalised the members of the independent panel of international experts and their terms of reference,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“Collectively they have more than 130 years’ of experience and will use their knowledge to analyse existing flood modelling and the proposed engineering solutions against national and state guidelines and industry best practice. This process is independent of the ARTC.”

The review by the independent panel follows a comprehensive design process for the section from the Border to Gowrie. AECOM and Aurecon provided an analysis of corridor options in 2016-2017 which was overseen by an independent project reference group. Arup and SMEC reviewed compliance of the flood modelling and hydrology reports against industry standards.

The Southern Darling Downs Community Consultative Committee had John Macintosh from Water Solutions provide quality assurance of the already undertaken work.

“The rigorous approvals process put in place by the Australian and Queensland governments means that before a sod is turned the project has undergone robust and transparent analysis, including independent community feedback and multiple layers of expert peer review,” said McCormack.

“The panel will test and provide expert advice on all existing flood models to ensure that they are fit-for-purpose while the ARTC continues to progress the design, consultation and approvals processes required to get construction underway. The panel is not tasked with reviewing alignment options.”

The independent panel was a precondition of the agreement between the federal and Queensland government signed in 2019. Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey said that the final results and evaluation will ensure that floodplain and river crossings meet state and national engineering requirements.

“The panel members’ conclusions will also inform the Queensland Coordinator General’s assessment of ARTC’s draft Environmental Impact Statements for this state. The findings of the panel will be publicly released once their work has been completed.”

Roadheaders

Roadheaders meet at future Town Hall station

A significant milestone has been reached on the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project, as three roadheaders meet at what will be the site of the new Town Hall station.

The three roadheaders have been at work creating the cavern and pedestrian connections between the new station and Flinders Street and Flinders Quarter.

“This is a huge milestone for this important project, bringing Melbourne another step closer to a turn up and go rail system, while keeping our construction workers safely on the job,” said Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan.

The new Town Hall station will be one of two interchange stations between the Metro Tunnel and the existing City Loop, with the other being at State Library/Melbourne Central.

When complete, the new station will be 33 metres deep and longer than a city block.

“We’ve made such amazing progress, we now have deep underground a new station entrance at Federation Square, the length of the future station platform and come out at the new entrance at City Square,” said Allan.

The three roadheaders have been working from three different launch sites. The first was launched late last year from City Square and began tunnelling under Swanston Street for the main station cavern. The second roadheader launched under Federation Square and will create the passenger connection between Flinders Street station and Town Hall. The third roadheader excavated the connection between Flinders Quarter and the station.

Each machine weighs up to 118 tonnes and has been working 25 metres below ground level. The cutterheads can cut through rock three times harder than concrete.

Once the roadheaders have finished excavating the stations, the tunnel boring machines will create the twin tunnels between the future Town Hall and State Library stations. All four tunnel boring machines are currently making their way underground towards the CBD.

The project is on track to have trains running through the new tunnels by 2025.