Dual multimillion dollar contracts awarded for rail upgrades in south east Melbourne

Two contracts have been announced to begin work on improving rail connections in south east Melbourne.

The Level Crossing Removal Project announced that the duplication of the Cranbourne Line between Cranbourne and Dandenong will be carried out by two alliances.

The first alliance will bring together McConnell Dowell, Arup, Mott MacDonald, and Metro Trains Melbourne, for the section of track between Dandenong and Lynbrook. This contract will also involved the removal of the Greens Road level crossing in Dandenong South.

The second alliance will complete the track duplication between Lynbrooke and Cranbourne. This alliance comprises Laing O’Rouke, Jacobs, and Metro Trains Melbourne. The grouping will also build a new Merinda Park station and increase the size of the car park at Lynbrooke Station.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the work formed part of a larger suite of works.

“With 11 level crossings already removed along the Cranbourne line, we’re getting on with delivering better services to more people in Melbourne’s growing south east.”

Works on the line duplication, new station, and level crossing removal will be completed by 2025 and allow for a future rail extension to Clyde. Services will be able to run up to every 10 minutes and once the Metro Tunnel is complete, new high-capacity trains will be able to transport 121,000 extra peak hour passengers per week on the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines.

“The Cranbourne Line Upgrade is just one of a suite of major road and rail projects easing congestion, improving safety and making journeys more reliable in the south-east,” said Member for Cranbourne Pauline Richards.

According to program director, Steve Brown, the authority has been looking to get started on these major works.

“These projects are a huge priority for us, and we’ve been working hard to make sure they can start as soon as possible.”

In a separate announcement, the Level Crossing Removal Authority advised that a level crossing in Melbourne’s major commercial and industrial area will be removed in mid 2020 with the construction contract signed.

The contract will be delivered by an alliance of Fulton Hogan and Metro Trains Melbourne.

Early works to begin the South Gippsland Highway, Dandenong South level crossing removal are set to start soon.

The level crossing will be removed and replaced with a road bridge over the rail line.

Early works will include site establishment on South Gippsland Highway and underground services relocation.

Major works in mid 2020 will involved the construction of the new road bridge and the replacement of the busy intersection at South Gippsland Highway and Princes Highway with a fully signalised T-intersection.

A level crossing removal project (LCRP) spokesperson said LCRP will work to minimise local disruptions or community impacts while these works take place. 

Inland Rail to boost regional Australia by $13.3b

Regional communities across Australia are set to benefit from $13.3 billion in gross regional product due to the Inland Rail project.

According to an eight month study by EY, Inland Rail can add up to $13 billion in today’s terms to the value of goods and services produced over its first 50 years of operation.

The report was undertaken throughout 2019 and released by the Deputy Prime Minister in March 2020. The report builds on the projected 16,000 jobs and $16 billion boost to the national economy outlined in the 2015 Inland Rail Business Case

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development said Inland Rail is going to draw industry to regional Australia where the enhanced freight rail network will connect companies and consumers both domestically and internationally

“What the EY report is assessing is the additional benefit to communities from the opportunities that arise for local businesses and people from the completion of Inland Rail,” he said.

“For example, it might be a cereal manufacturer whose freight costs drop by 30 per cent allowing the employment of additional staff, or it might be the expansion of regional processing that takes advantage of Inland Rail’s lower cost and greater capacity and connectivity.”

EY looked at case studies, international examples, and local knowledge to determine the potential for investment, employment and growth along, and beyond, the alignment.

“The benefits of this project are going to be felt across generations. Right now, young people from regional areas are directly benefiting from working on Inland Rail’s construction including the 656 locals who have worked on the project in the Parkes region and the more than $75 million spent with local businesses,” he said.

“Inland Rail gives these communities new ways to grow and rebuild with better connections to interstate and international markets, new jobs and a stronger case for attracting public and private investment,” he said.

Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister said the first wave of developments are taking shape.

“We are very confident that many other regional towns in and around the Inland Rail corridor will secure further significant investment, development and job creation opportunities for their towns on the back of this exciting project,” Cormann said.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communication said in a statement that this work was tested with industry, governments, and communities with the study team heading to Narrabri, Toowoomba, Wagga Wagga, and Wodonga to get people’s views. 

That input shaped the forecasting and tested the study’s early findings. 

“We thank the communities, industry groups and local government who helped shape this work with local data and evidence,” the department stated.

The report followed another week of speculation on the impact of flooding on the regional rail link’s route via the Condamine floodplain. Shadow Member for Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Development Catherine King said that the government needs to consider hydrological modelling commissioned by farmers close to the alignment.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) released a statement standing by its own modelling, which it said showed that the selected route is the right one.

“The science tells us there is no premise to change the route based on flood modelling and the economics tells us that this route was the most viable, cost effective option,” said ARTC Inland Rail chief executive Richard Wankmuller.

Local concerns have been incorporated into the design of the route, said Wankmuller.

“It’s important governments and the community have confidence in the engineering and science that allows countries like Australia to deliver world-class infrastructure.”

As part of the deal signed between the federal and Queensland governments which gave the Border to Gowrie section the go-ahead, an international review panel will review the floodplain modelling.

Sydney business community want more funding for Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2

David Borger, executive director of the Western Sydney Business Chamber said Stage 1 of Parramatta Light Rail is at risk of being a “white elephant” due to funding concerns for future stages of the line.

The Western Sydney Business Chamber is urging the NSW government to allocate funding in the NSW budget to get the next stage of the Parramatta Light Rail ready for construction.

Borger said the NSW government committed to building a Parramatta Light Rail network and the business community don’t want to see Stage 1 put at risk of being a “white elephant because the NSW Government has shelved the next stages”.

“We understand that Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 is awaiting an ‘investment decision’ by the NSW cabinet. My message to government ministers is give the project the green light and let’s get on with connecting Sydney’s central city with its surrounding suburbs,” he said.

Borger said stage 2 of Parramatta Light Rail ticks so many boxes when it comes to a good public transport project and it builds on the taxpayer investment in Stage 1.

In a Business NSW’s NSW Budget Priorities report, released as a pre-budget submission this month, Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 is listed an infrastructure priority.

Business NSW executives stated in the report that Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 has reached the point in its development where further meaningful work needs to be sustained by a government commitment to move forward with the project.

“This budget should allocate funding to allow the next stage of project development to be completed, with an eye to moving towards construction as Stage 1 is completed,” Business NSW executives said.

Infrastructure Australia has also noted the importance of public transport to Parramatta CBD, but Business NSW executives said the next major deliverable that can improve matters has been stuck in a holding pattern since the completion of early business case development.

Connecting hubs of major activity at Parramatta and the Sydney Olympic Park, and joining up the heavy rail, Metro and ferry transport networks, Light Rail Stage 2 serves a fast-growing part of the city. 

Borger said the true value of light rail is when it is a network.

“The NSW Government may very well be needing some economic stimulus projects towards the end of the year. Getting Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 shovel ready would be a common sense decision,” he said.

A spokesperson for Parramatta Light Rail said a final Business Case for the second stage of Parramatta Light Rail is currently being considered by the NSW Government, with an investment decision to follow.

Planning work is currently being further developed and informed by consultation with the community, stakeholders, other NSW Government agencies and transport projects including Sydney Metro West.

In October 2017, the NSW Government announced the preferred route for the second stage of the Parramatta Light Rail, which will connect Stage 1 and Parramatta CBD to Ermington, Melrose Park, Wentworth Point, and Sydney Olympic Park.

It will have 10-12 stops over a ten-kilometre two-way track, with travel times of around 25 minutes from Sydney Olympic Park to Camellia, and a further eight minutes to Parramatta CBD.

Metronet Airport Central Station now 70 per cent completed

The construction of Metronet’s Airport Central Station in Perth is 70 per cent complete with the first roof modules installed last week.

The first girders of Airport Central Station’s 137-tonne steel roof structure have been craned into place, with the steel fabricated locally by Naval Base company Pacific Industrial Co.

The $1.86 billion Forrestfield-Airport Link is jointly funded by the Australian and Western Australian governments and will deliver a new rail service to the eastern suburbs of Perth – with three new stations at Redcliffe, Airport Central and Forrestfield.

Rita Saffioti, WA Transport Minister said that, until now, the construction of Airport Central Station has been largely underground with significant excavation undertaken to build the three-level railway hub.

The roof modules will be craned into place over a three-month period, before specially designed sheeting is installed.

“While most works to date have been largely hidden, construction of this massive roof structure marks a new phase in above-ground construction for this project – an architectural milestone,” Saffioti said.

The roof installation comes as TBM Grace, the first tunnel-boring machine, finishes its work, having broken through into the Bayswater Station dive structure on February 18.

TBM Sandy is expected to break through towards the middle of the year to complete the project, and by end of their three-year journey, the machines will have travelled eight kilometres each.

At Skybridge level, the steel frame for the link between the station entry and the 280-metre-long elevated walkway has been constructed with travelators and information screens installed.

WA Premier, Mark McGowan, said about 2,000 jobs have been created on this project alone, with more than 700 people currently employed, and 70 jobs created as part of the Skybridge project.

“The Forrestfield-Airport Link is an important part of Metronet and when it opens next year it will provide an accessible public transport link for thousands of Western Australians and tourists,” McGowan said.

Additional $44m investment to fast track Lockyer Valley Inland Rail

The Australian federal government has invested an extra $44 million to the Inland Rail II Program (II Program) to fast track improvements.

The Lockyer Valley Inland Rail connection is one of four projects selected to be fast tracked part of the II Program.

The additional investment will assess the costs and benefits of various additional connections to the national freight rail network.

This will include investigating ways to build industry and supply chain resilience and improve market access for farmers and manufacturers through enhanced connection to Inland Rail.

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development said the impacts of fire and drought in the Lockyer region mandated an investigation of possible expansion of the network

“Farmers and producers need to know they have access to a reliable, interconnected, national freight network that will deliver their produce to markets when and where it is needed.

McCormack said the Lockyer Valley, located between Ipswich and Toowoomba in South East Queensland, is traditionally one of Australia’s strongest horticulture producing regions and under the II Program, strategic business cases will identify opportunities to support more productive rail-based supply chains at regional centres and help build capacity on key country rail lines.

Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance said he is very happy the Lockyer Valley component under the Infrastructure Investment Program would be fast tracked.

“Better freight connectivity and efficiency helps drive stronger economic growth and will maximise the returns for our national productivity which we know Inland Rail will deliver,” Cormann said.

“Transport costs are a significant overhead for Australian businesses which inevitably are then passed on to consumers. By maximising the community and business connections to Inland Rail, our investments to improve the interface with existing infrastructure ensures more people can enjoy high quality competitively priced and locally grown produce.”

Mark Coulton, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communities and Local Government said enhancing supply chain efficiencies means more money stays in the pockets of local producers, building more resilient communities and industries. 

“Inland Rail provides the opportunities for cost savings, with the fast and reliable freight transport option placing our products on supermarket shelves across Australia and beyond our shores,” Coulton said.

Inland Rail to meet with community in regional NSW

Members of the community have the chance to learn more about the progress of planning for Inland Rail between Narromine to Narrabri (N2N).

Local community members, landowners, and businesses will be able to engage with the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) throughout five community sessions being hosted by Inland Rail across the alignment between March 9 and 13.

Inland Rail will share more about the work conducted to date to refine the proposed N2N route.

Rebecca Pickering, ARTC Inland Rail director community and environment said work is happening to help inform the build for the 300KM of new track.

“Our work to date to progress the future alignment between Narromine to Narrabri has included more than 12 months of engagement with the community, environmental and hydrology studies, and early engineering design work,” she said.

“Through these methods we have been able to refine the alignment study area from between 2-5 kilometres wide to around 150 metres to 400 metres wide.”

Pickering said the aim of the community drop-in sessions are to understand more about the environmental planning and consultation work and learn about the future opportunities for the community.

“Community consultation and engagement is vital to the success of Inland Rail. We are committed to leaving a positive legacy by ensuring the community benefits from the project through initiatives like jobs and local spend during the construction phase, the Community Sponsorships and Donations program and training and support of local businesses,” she said.

“Large-scale infrastructure projects such as Inland Rail are a catalyst for growth — they boost economic development and investment, bring jobs and opportunities to local businesses and communities, a hopefully welcome boost in challenging times of drought.”

Afternoon and evening sessions will be held between March 9 and 13 in Narrabri, Barradine, Gilganda, Curban and Narromine.

“This will provide an opportunity for everyone to stay informed and updated on the progress of the alignment to date. No registration is required for these sessions,” Pickering said.

Services to resume following fatal XPT derailment

Normal operations are set to return on the North East line in Victoria following the fatal XPT derailment at the Wallan loop last week.

An Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) spokesperson said operators advise that freight and passenger services will resume soon as repair works to damaged sections of the Wallan loop are almost complete. 

“Teams of up to 70 people at a time have been working around the clock to make the rail line available for freight and passenger rail services,” the ARTC spokesperson said.

Operators advised that subject to regulatory checks, services may start back on track from Thursday evening. Freight services are expected to resume first with passenger trains to follow. 

Rail services will resume after the relevant approvals from the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR).

The carriages of the train involved are being moved progressively back to Sydney, and rail works have included replacing 300 sleepers, laying 20 lengths of rail and 800 tonnes of ballast, as well as undertaking signalling works which are in their concluding stages.

John Fullerton, CEO of Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) visited the site on Thursday 27 February to thank rail staff working to repair the extensive damage to the track.

“A week ago, we lost two much-loved members of the rail family. This accident devastated families, friends, and colleagues, as well as an industry that prides itself on safety, and everyone wants to understand what happened and what actions need to be taken to prevent it ever happening again,” Fullerton said.

“For ARTC, our focus has been four-fold for the past week: cooperating with investigations underway, supporting our staff and contractors, working alongside emergency services and NSW Transport to safely remove the train, and repairing the track so it is available again for use.

“I would like to take this opportunity to give my heartfelt thanks to the teams of staff who have worked hard in tragic circumstances to undertake these tasks.”

A fire destroyed the Wallan signal box three weeks ago and caused  signals to be out of commission in the area along the section of the derailment.

The investigation will examine whether live signal testing by ARTC had been occurring along the track at the time of the derailment.

V/Line utilises sections of track where the derailment occurs and bans live testing of signals while services are still running.

The Herald Sun reported that senior Victorian transport sources said that running trains through the track where signals were not bagged increased risk, and the way they had been marked with a cross tied together with plastic was a “disgrace”.

An ARTC spokesperson said they have been providing full support to investigators from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), ONRSR and the Victorian coroner.

The ATSB will release a preliminary report in about a month, while the final report coming in about 18 months.

Gold Coast Light Rail to begin construction to Burleigh Heads

Infrastructure Australia has announced Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A as a priority project in 2020 and major construction works are set to begin by mid-year.

The Infrastructure priority list (IPL) has recognised the largest number of  infrastructure proposals of national significance on record.

In August last year, IA added Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A project to the Infrastructure Priority List as a Priority Project. This was confirmed on the in our latest edition of the Infrastructure Priority List on Wednesday, 26th February. 

Infrastructure Australia said this project, known as Stage 3A, would replace existing bus services between Broadbeach South and Burleigh Heads with light rail services and implement a complementary urban renewal and economic development strategy in the corridor.

The strategic case depends on the project’s ability to shift travel from cars to light rail. 

$709 million in funding was locked in by the federal government in late November last year.

This follows the Morrison Government’s increased investment by $157 million, and the state government’s $351 million and council’s $92 million spend on the project.

Stage 3A is now progressing toward construction this year, with three proponents shortlisted to build the light rail extension to Burleigh Heads.

GoldlinQ, who currently operates the light rail, announced on February 3 that they will now invite the three proponents to proceed to the ‘request for tender’ phase.

GoldlinQ Chairman John Witheriff said each of the shortlisted tenderers was highly experienced construction contractors. GoldlinQ board met on Friday 31 January to complete the EOI phase and confirm the shortlist for tender.

“EOI submissions include leading Australian and international contractors and the responses were of a very high standard,” Witheriff said.

“The request for tender period will start immediately and continue for several months to ensure the successful contractor can deliver value for money and minimise disruption during construction.”

 Witheriff said the request for tender phase would conclude in May 2020 with the intention of appointing a preferred contractor in the second half of 2020.

Stage 3A is due for completion in 2023.

KiwiRail chief executive calls on NZ government to boost the “rundown” network

Greg Miller, KiwiRail Group chief executive said there is far greater demand for rail services than the group is able to supply.

In his address to the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee on the Land Transport (Rail) Legislation Bill on February 20, Miller explained why 92 per cent of freight in New Zealand does not travel by rail.

“The reason is simple. Our rail lines and our freight systems are so run down that it has taken a huge level of commitment from both the Government and from our team to start moving the company into a position where it can return to profit,” he said to the committee.

The NZ Ministry of Transport stated that the objective of the Land Transport (Rail) Legislation Bill is to implement a new planning and funding framework for the heavy rail track network owned by KiwiRail. 

Miller said the draft New Zealand Rail Plan plays an important role in KiwiRail’s turnaround plan.

“The draft NZ Rail Plan lays out a pathway for sustainable planning and funding that will allow rail to play the important role it should in the country’s transport system,” Miller said.

Miller said the group has failed to meet demand into growth due to historic short term decisions that have seen cost cutting resulting in lack of drivers, locomotives, wagons and fully usable track.

“We have had no capacity for market reclamation,” he said.

Miller said to the committee that KiwiRail’s strategy to return to profitability and deliver a good return to our shareholders is threefold. We aim to run more services, get the equipment we need to be able to grow capacity, and put in place the technology that will enable us to track freight, profit, and loss centres.

Miller also addressed road sector concerns, telling the committee the draft New Zealand Rail Plan is a way to return rail to complement road. 

“Freight moved by rail results in 66 per cent lower carbon emissions than freight moved by road. Rail freight is not just efficient long distance. Every one of our customers has a lens on the environmental impact and incorporates these benefits into every rail decision made,” he said.

“With increasing freight volumes, growing road congestion and maintenance costs and the need to meet emission reduction targets, rail is a critical part of our transport system.”

This follows Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Transport Committee agreement to reduce transport-generated regional carbon emissions and invest more funding for regional rail on February 20.

Roger Blakeley, transport committee chair said the committee agreed to strategic priorities for the 2019-22 triennium.

One of the key performance measures for these targets is the contribution to a 30 per cent reduction in regional transport-generated carbon emissions by 2030.

“Contributing to the regional target of a 40 per cent increase in regional mode share from public transport and active modes, [rail] will be the major contributor to a reduction in carbon emissions,” Blakeley said.

On Tuesday KiwiRail welcomed the NZ government decision to use the Provincial Growth Fund to invest $9.6 million in the Kawerau Container Terminal (KCT).

Miller said KiwiRail’s role will be to build the new rail siding and to run week-day train services beginning in 2021 between Kawerau and Port of Tauranga.

“The siding opens the way for containerised exports to travel directly to Port Tauranga from Kawerau,” he said.

 “Export containers from Norske Skog, Sequal Lumber, and Waiu Dairy will underpin the new train service as well as creating capacity for other exporters in the region.

“This is part of road and rail working together in a much more integrated way, improving efficiency and saving costs.”

The project is expected to take about 18 months to complete.

Concern over toxic soil to be dumped at a V/Line rail yard

$172.9 million V/Line stabling yard development could potentially be used as a temporary holding site for contaminated soil with possible carcinogens PFAS and asbestos.

The Wyndham Vale rail yard is set to be occupied by V/Line as a maintenance and storage space to replace the Footscray train stabling site which is being removed as part of the West Gate Tunnel works.

The $6.7 billion project requires 2.3 million tonnes of soil to be relocated offsite. The 82-hectare government-owned site in Melbourne’s west is being considered by officials following a meeting with Wyndham Council this week.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) are raising concerns for the health and safety of rail workers if the soil was dumped next to the V/Line rail yard.

Luba Grigorovitch, Victorian Secretary of RTBU wrote in a letter to state Government officials on Monday that she is “deeply concerned” the toxic soil would pose a huge risk to workers and residents.

Grigorovitch told Rail Express that she is demanding confirmation from the government whether soil would contaminate the air conditioning systems of the Geelong-Melbourne trains, which run directly alongside the site.

The state secretary for the union said they’ve been inundated with calls from concerned V/line workers. 

“Our members don’t want to be operating alongside contaminated soil,” she said.

“This government seems to be infamous for passing the buck. We’ll be  undergoing full safety audits and testing before giving the ok for our members to be working at the site.”

The new facility is designed to meet interpeak stabling needs for V/Line trains operating on the regional rail network, while also ensuring there is capacity to house additional trains in the future.

The project will involve construction of a stabling yard, driver facilities and a bypass track connected to the Geelong line, which will allow trains to access the facility without delaying passenger services.

38 new VLocity carriages are arriving to the V/Line network early this year and there are concerns that there isn’t enough facilities for the growing network.

V/Line stated in 2018 that stabling capacity would be exceeded by March 2019.

The Age obtained an internal V/Line document under freedom of information laws, reporting that “the rail yard was needed to run a greater number of services on the network and to operate new trains reliably”.

According to the internal document, the lack of maintenance infrastructure will continue to impact on performance and shortages will impact V/Line’s reliability.

A government spokeswoman told the Hearld Sun that if Wyndham Vale was a temporary site it would not disrupt rail operations.

“Transurban and its builder are working with project parties to find a long-term solution to manage the rock and soil from tunnelling – no decision has been made,” she said.

Department of Transport spokeswoman said operations of the stabling facility will not be compromised.

“While a decision on where to temporarily hold soil from tunnelling for the West Gate Tunnel is yet to be made, the land in question is outside the Wyndham Vale stabling facility so if the site was ever used it would not impact the timing or operations of the new stabling facility,” she said to The Age.

The Wyndham Vale rail yard is metres away from proposed housing estates and four planned schools.

Treasurer Tim Pallas and member for Werribee said on air during a 3AW interview that it won’t be a long-term containment.

“Any suggestion that there is going to be long-term containment or toxic facility is just nonsense,” Mr Pallas told 3AW.

“What is proposed at Wyndham Vale is essentially a short-term place where it is isolated from the environment and if it is ever used – it may well not ever be used – it’s only if you can’t get access to the long-term facility.”

The stabling project is funded by the state government and is still under construction and set to open in the coming months.