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Powering ahead at Gawler

The electrification of the rail network through Adelaide from the suburbs of Gawler to Seaford is the biggest rolling stock project in South Australia for years.

The Australian and South Australian governments are jointly funding the $715 million modernisation of the Gawler rail line to deliver a faster, cleaner and more reliable service. Once complete, the electrified line will support increased capacity and future growth for development along the rail corridor and in northern Adelaide.

The South Australian State Government is delivering the project as part of an alliance with ACCIONA (formerly Lendlease Engineering), meaning a collaborative approach will be taken to complete the works.

With a project of this magnitude, the contractors had no hesitation in picking overhead hi-rail electrification specialists Manco Rail for the bulk of the works.

ACCIONA purchased two high rail elevated work platforms (EWPs) from Manco Rail. In addition, Manco Rail has a sub-contractor agreement with ACCIONA for one year to supply nine high rail elevated work platforms, two high rail scissor platforms, two high tension wiring units and one hi-rail Hiab truck, plus a fitter on the project.

The equipment is being used for the delivery of the overhead wiring scope, installation of electrification structures, cantilevers, auxiliary wiring and catenary and contact wires.

Boasting 15 categories of electrification and construction maintenance equipment and uniquely bespoke solutions, Manco Rail is renowned for providing customers with the very best equipment and protection for achieving their projects.

Manco Rail National Fleet Manager Rob Di Naccio said the company had been engaged in the Gawler project for the past 12 months, supplying equipment as well as the electrical cables to transmit electrical energy to locomotives for the 42 kilometres of rail.

“Through decades of experience, our know-how in the rail industry has provided projects with the perfect rail electrification equipment. Manco Rail Hire has the competence to provide full turnkey solutions all tailored to suit the project demands,” he said.

“At Gawler, Manco Rail has provided a number of EWPs, as well as boom lifts, bucket trucks and scissor lifts. We’re up to 15 now.

“We use specialised line tensioner units to feed the length of the track, with the overhead lines primarily catenary contact systems.”

Catenary wires are kept in mechanical tension because the pantograph – the apparatus mounted on the roof of an electric train to collect power through contact with the overhead line – causes mechanical oscillations in the wire, and the wave must travel faster than the train to avoid producing standing waves that would cause wire breakage. Tensioning the line makes waves travel faster, and also reduces sag from gravity.

“We have a big fleet of specialised gear at the site to carry out and maintain this project to its completion,” Di Naccio said.

“This includes flat bed crane trucks, forklifts and various transporters.

“Manco Rail Hire is a one-stop shop for any rail project. Our solutions not only cover equipment but solutions for the operation of the equipment that ensures its operation at the highest level for hire term.”

The benefits of an electrified Gawler line include:

  • clean and green high performance trains delivering an improved customer experience
  • better reliability and safety
  • encourage people to take public transport and leave their cars at home

The scope of works entail:

  • electrification of the Gawler rail line and Dry Creek Railcar Depot
  • pedestrian level crossing enhancements
  • acquisition of 12 additional three-car electric trains (introduced in stages following completion of the electrification works)
  • replacement of the signalling system (including Automatic Train Protection provision)
  • fencing of the rail corridor for improved safety.

Originally planned to be completed by the end of the year, the process has been hampered by COVID.

The South Government has prioritised frequent engagement with community and industry for the project and said it would facilitate information sessions as much as possible to enable face-to-face communication.

While the completion of the project is up in the air – it is now expected to be in early 2022 – one thing that is certain is that Manco Rail will be there for the duration.

“We’re here to ensure the electrification goes off without a hitch,” Di Naccio said.

This includes being part of the testing process, in which the equipment is turned on and operated as part of the installed system.

This involves switching on the technology which detects trains approaching level crossings and stations, and generally manages safe train movements and electrical power supply.

Test trains are used to ensure the system is operating safely. This is the final phase of work completed before passenger services can recommence.

This process is required to ensure the system is correctly configured and the integrity and correct operation of the safety critical systems is assured.

The different stages include:

  • connecting the new substations to the rail network to provide power for the electric trains
  • testing and switching over control of the new signalling system, that will control the network
  • testing the power feeds to the electrification infrastructure.

The testing and commissioning works will occur with small crews accessing equipment within the rail corridor, with Di Naccio’s team monitoring the performance.

The Gawler rail line will be energised ahead of the return of passenger services, which means all electrification infrastructure, including overhead wires and their fittings should be considered live and carrying electrical current before the line opens to passenger services.

An ACCIONA spokesperson said Manco had provided a wide range of plant options to deliver the highly specialised overhead wiring construction works that were required.

“Their ability to meet the latest specifications and certification requirements enabled our equipment to be quickly certified on the rail network. The further on-site support with a fleet fitter allocated to the project ensured minimum downtime when equipment needed attention,” the spokesperson said.

Di Naccio said that other projects Manco Rail was involved in across the country included the Melbourne Level Crossing Removal project, the Cross River Rail line in Brisbane, and various other pantograph and maintenance works in Sydney.

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