Engineering, Passenger Rail

Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel to be finished a year early

Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel project will open a year earlier than initially planned, according to the Victorian government.

The newly released tunnels and stations public-private partnership contract indicates that the project’s twin tunnels and five new underground stations will be complete by September 2024, allowing track and signalling work – which will connect the tunnels to existing rail corridors – to be finished by the close of 2025. The project was initially slated to be completed in 2026.

“The Metro Tunnel is ahead of schedule, creating thousands of jobs and giving hundreds of apprentices a head-start on their careers,” premier Daniel Andrews said.

“This project will create space to run more trains, more often, right across Melbourne. We’re getting it done.”

The $6 billion tunnels and stations contract was signed in December last year with Cross Yarra Partnership – a consortium of Lendlease Engineering, John Holland, Bouygues Construction and Capella Capital – while the $1.1 billion contract for the rollout of high-capacity signalling in the Metro Tunnel was signed by a partnership of CPB Contractors and Bombardier Transportation.

The high capacity signalling will allow the new fleet of 65 High Capacity Metro Trains – being delivered by a Downer/CRRC team – to run from Sunbury to Cranbourne and Pakenham, through the new Metro Tunnel, at two-to-three trains per minute.

State transport minister Jacinta Allan hit out at the opposition’s suggestion – made just after the signing of the contracts – that, if voted into government, it would consider altering the project so that it linked the busy South Yarra Station with the twin underground tunnels.

“The biggest risk to this project is the Victorian Liberals who have said they will renegotiate this contract – delaying the project for years, costing billions and stopping more trains running more often,” Allan said.

The Greens, too, have voiced their support of connecting a revamped South Yarra interchange to the Metro Tunnel, saying its inclusion was the only way to realise the “full benefits” of the project.

However, the government’s Melbourne Metro Rail Authority has rated the economic case for building the interchange and integrating it with the tunnel project as “very poor” – stating that the cost and the level of disruption would outweigh any benefits.

The government estimates that 7,000 jobs will be created by the Metro Tunnel project, which industry and employment minister Ben Carroll said would include 791 apprentices, trainees and engineering cadets who will work on the tunnels and stations package.

“We’re making sure Victorian apprentices, trainees and engineering cadets reap the benefits of our massive pipeline of major projects like the Metro Tunnel which are putting local jobs and businesses first,” Carroll said.