Western Sydney Airport Metro line to begin construction this year

An extra $3.5 billion will be invested by the NSW and federal governments for the Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport line, with construction to commence before the end of 2020, announced Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“Construction is already well underway on the airport, and later this year works will start on this new Metro service which will link the suburbs of Western Sydney to the rest of Sydney,” said Morrison.

Morrison made the announcement of extra federal funding alongside NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

“This project is moving forward, through the hard work that has been carried out by the Federal, New South Wales and local governments over the past year,” said Berejiklian.

“The opportunities this mega project will provide are vital as our economy recovers from the financial impact of the COVID-19.”

The line will include six metro stations, including two at the airport, one at the terminal and another at the business park. Stations will also be built in the Western Sydney Aerotropolis, Orchard Hills, and Luddenham. An interchange station will be built at St Marys to connect the line with the rest of the Sydney network.

The 23km line is expected to cost $11bn and is scheduled to open in 2026 in time for the opening of Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that the metro line will be at the centre of the under-development region.

“This new metro railway line will become the transport spine for the region, connecting travellers from the new airport to the rest of Sydney’s public transport system.”

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said that the project would support the wider economy.

“This project will support 14,000 jobs, bringing new opportunities for the people of Western Sydney, closer to home,” he said.

“It represents an economic stimulus in the middle of Western Sydney, supporting jobs for electricians, carpenters, plumbers, tunnellers, surveyors, crane and forklift operators and truck drivers.”

team

New team to track occupancy and facilitate social distancing on Sydney Trains

Sydney Trains has a new team who will be monitoring CCTV and passenger data to reduce crowding on the network.

Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance announced the new team, which will encourage physical distancing on the transport network.

“This dedicated team of 80 people will be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Sydney Trains network. Every day teams will monitor 11,000 CCTV cameras and utilise new real time app technology to monitor patronage numbers and help facilitate physical distancing across the rail network,” he said.

Transport for NSW secretary Rodd Staples said that the new team is in addition to preventative measures on platforms and in carriages.

“Last week we launched the ‘No Dot, No Spot’ campaign to help customers physically distance and there has been an extra 132,000 hours of cleaning since March, with regular deep cleans and hand sanitiser units being rolled at 163 staffed stations,” said Staples.

The NSW government has been encouraging commuters to stay off public transport unless they must use it, and has announced pop-up carparks and cycle lanes to facilitate alternative travel arrangements.

Although patronage levels remain low, there have been some increases as restrictions begin to lift. Trains are limited to carrying 32 per cent of their regular capacity.

Sydney Trains chief customer officer Suzanne Holden said that the new team would trial innovative approaches based on data collected around the network.

“I could not be more proud to lead a team of people who have spent long hours innovating and finding solutions to transport problems we have never experienced in our lifetimes. New features we have created for loading data technology and this new pilot program is setting the standard for the rest of the country.”

Contracts announced for More Trains, More Services infrastructure upgrades

The NSW government has announced the two successful tenderers as part of the next stage of construction on the $4.3 billion More Trains, More Services upgrades.

The Next Rail partnership of John Holland and Jacobs will fulfil the contract between Central and Hurstville, and Transport for Tomorrow – made up of Laing O’Rouke and KBR – will work from Mortdale to Kiama. Each contract is worth about $300 million.

The program of works includes upgrades to rail infrastructure such as stabling yards, signalling, track, station platforms, and power supply on the South Coast, Illawarra and T8 Airport Lines.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that the works would enable better services on each line.

“The work will support the introduction of new suburban and intercity trains and allow us to deliver more frequent train services, with less wait times and a more comfortable journey for customers on the T4 Illawarra, T8 Airport and South Coast lines,” he said.

“We’re prioritising these lines because they are among the busiest on the network, catering for 440,000 trips in a typical day, which is around one third of daily rail customers.”

Construction will begin in the middle of 2020 and be completed ahead of the service improvements, which are scheduled for late 2022.

Passengers will see a 20 per cent increase in peak services on the T4 Illawarra Line, with space for up to 3,600 more travellers, equivalent to an extra three services an hour in the peak from interchanges such as Hurstville and Sutherland. There will be a 60 per cent increase on the T8 Airport line at the International, Domestic, Mascot, and Green Square stations with the capacity for an extra 2,400 passengers.

On the South Coast Line station platforms will be lengthened to accommodate the 10 car trains of the New Intercity Fleet trains as well as an extra off peak service each hour between Wollongong and the Sydney CBD, bringing frequency to a train every 30 minutes.

Constance said that the work will allow for an employment boost across a number of professions, including engineers, trades workers, and apprentices.

“Today’s announcement means we are keeping people in work and creating about 350 direct new jobs and around 200 indirect jobs located either in Sydney or on the South Coast.”

NSW Transport Minister announced run in Eden-Monaro by-election, then pulls out

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has said he would make the move from state to federal politics, and only 24 hours later withdrawn the bid.

Constance was to contest the seat of Eden-Monaro, on the NSW South Coast, which covers his state electorate of Bega. The Labor candidate is Kristy McBain, who is the current Bega Valley Mayor. The resignation of Labor MP Mike Kelly triggered the by-election. Kelly stepped down for health reasons.

Constance had already told the public that his time in state politics was limited. Following the NSW bushfires in early 2020, Constance took an extended period of leave after his home in Malua Bay was almost destroyed by fire. At the time, Constance had said that once the recovery was complete he would resign from politics.

In a statement on May 6, Constance said he had “unfinished business” in the transport portfolio.

“I want to deliver crucial life-saving reforms in road safety and a safer, cleaner future in public transport.”

Constance was appointed to the position of Transport Minister in 2015, following the NSW state election that year. Constance was previously Treasurer for the year prior.

Since becoming Transport Minister, Constance oversaw the roll-out of the Sydney Metro project. The delivery of the project kicked off in 2015 shorty after Constance became Transport Minister and the proceeds of the power privatisation scheme could be used to fund the new rail line, although construction had begun in 2013. The line became operational in May 2019.

Other projects that have been progressed during Constance’s time as Transport Minister include the More Trains More Services signalling and timetable upgrades, and the associated Digital Systems Program.

While Constance has drawn praise for the Metro Northwest line, a controversial project during his time as Transport Minister has been the Sydney CBD and Southeast Light Rail. Construction had commenced in 2015 and while major construction was initially expected to be completed in 2018, the line did not open until late 2019. The fall-out between the NSW government and the Altrac consortium also led to legal disputes costing hundreds of millions of dollars. In April 2020, the final branch of the line to Kingsford was opened.

EIS for Sydney Metro West released, Rydalmere station dropped

The NSW government has released the first environmental impact statement (EIS) for Sydney Metro West, scrapping a proposed station at Rydalmere.

The EIS provides more detail on the route which will connect the Parramatta and Sydney CBDs. The EIS covers the section from Westmead to the Bays Precinct.

A separate EIS will be released for the section from the Bays Precinct to the Sydney CBD, with the location of a station in the CBD still to be confirmed. A station in Pyrmont is still listed as “optional”.

With the removal of the optional station at Rydalmere, the distance between consecutive stations Parramatta and Sydney Olympic Park would be between eight and nine kilometres, depending on the alignment. Most metro systems globally have an average distance between stops of between 1.2 and 1.3km.

The EIS outlines where the main works will be undertaken for civil construction works, including tunnelling, and excavation for stations. Major work sites will be established at Westmead, Parramatta between Macquarie Street and George Street, Clyde – where a stabling facility will be built, Burwood North, and the Bays Precinct. Two tunnel boring machines will each begin at The Bays and Westmead, with all four being extracted at the site in Sydney Olympic Park.

Releasing the EIS, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that Metro West is a “once in a century” project.

“It’s been almost 100 years since the Harbour Bridge transformed Sydney. Now this underground Metro is going to be the modern day game changer for our city, serving us for decades to come.”

The EIS proposes to ease the pressure on the existing heavy rail system from population growth in Western Sydney, which is forecast to grow to 3.2 million people by 2036, by diverting commuters from the T1 Western Line, T9 Northern Line and the T2 Inner West and Leppington Line.

The EIS estimates a drop in customer numbers at some of Sydney’s busiest stations. It finds that there will be a 32 per cent fall in customer numbers on the T1 Western Line at Parramatta by 2036, a 36 per cent reduction at Strathfield, and a 35 per cent reduction at Redfern. This will cut crowing by roughly 30 per cent at North Strathfield, Strathfield, Redfern, and Burwood stations.

In addition, Sydney Metro West proposes faster travel times between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD, with services targeted to take 20 minutes. The line will also increase the number of services, from 56 trains an hour to 116, increasing capacity from 65,440 customers an hour to 157,600 customers.

The NSW government has released an expression of interest for contractors to deliver the twin tunnels between Westmead and The Bays.

NIF being tested under its own power on NSW network

NSW’s New Intercity Fleet (NIF) is undergoing testing under its own power, in a significant step forward for the regional rail fleet.

Minister for Transport Andrew ConstanceNIF inspected the new trains.

“When the trains first arrived, on-track testing involved using a locomotive to haul the carriages. What we’re seeing today is a really exciting milestone because they’re now travelling around the network under their own power,” said Constance.

Further testing on the Sydney Trains network will calibrate the systems for local operation.

“Over the next few months you’ll see more of these trains on the network as we progressively test all train systems including Automatic Train Protection, passenger door systems, passenger information, CCTV, ride comfort as well as the maximum speed of 160kph,” said Constance. “We’ll also be using this time to familiarise the train crew with the new operating systems and technology on board.”

The trains have been previously criticised by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) for a feature which locks the train if the doors are open.

The fleet will serve regional centres in the Central Coast, Newcastle, South Coast, and Blue Mountains and upgrades to infrastructure and stations along the track are part of the delivery of the new fleet, said Minister for Regional Transport Paul Toole.

“These are modern trains featuring the latest technology, so we need to ensure we upgrade the infrastructure on the network to accommodate them.

“Work is also continuing on sections of the Blue Mountains Line, which will enable customers living between Springwood and Lithgow to experience a new train for the first time since the last of the V-Sets were introduced in 1989.”

The purpose-built maintenance facility for the trains at Kangy Angy on the NSW central coast is also progressing, said Toole.

“This work, along with the construction of the new maintenance facility at Kangy Angy, has helped to create around 1600 local jobs.”

Work progressing deeper underground for Metro at Central Station

While Central Station is left largely without commuters as Sydneysiders work from home or self-isolate, work has been progressing on the new underground station beneath Central in preparation for the Sydney Metro CBD and Southwest.

Work on the 27 metre deep metro station box is currently 10 metres below the surface, with 6,000 tonnes of crushed rock is being excavated each week.

To remove the rock from construction of the metro station as well as the new Central Walk an 80m long, six-metre-wide construction tunnel has been built under Central Station.

Central Walk will connect the two underground metro platforms with to light rail, suburban and inter-city trains, as well as buses.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that the state is lucky that work is continuing on this project despite the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We are very fortunate that major transport infrastructure projects like this continue to be delivered.”

While extra work is underway to take advantage of the drop in people passing through Central, Sydney’s busiest station, the extra tunnel parallel to Central Walk has been built to minimise disruptions to train services.

“This six metre wide construction tunnel runs parallel to Central Walk and allows excavated crushed rock to be removed without impacting trains and customers,” said Constance.

Construction has also entered two ‘ghost platforms’, platforms 26 and 27, that were constructed for the Eastern Suburbs Railway line to Bondi and the Illawarra but were never used. 17 rooms will utilise the platforms to provide communications and power to Sydney Metro.

Central Walk is scheduled to be open to the public in 2022 and the new metro line in 2024.

The current workforce of 5,000 is completing the project out of a total workforce of 50,000.

“The upcoming Sydney Metro West project will support 10,000 direct and 70,000 indirect jobs while construction of the Metro North West Line created more than 20,000 jobs,” said Constance.

EoIs released for Sydney Metro West

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has announced that the Sydney Metro West is progressing to the next stage.

“Sydney Metro is now in a position to progress procurement with the release of the expressions of interest,” said a Transport for NSW (TfNSW) spokesperson.

The announcement covers tunnelling work for the Metro West line, which would connect the Sydney CBD and Parramatta in 20 minutes, via the Bays Precinct, and Sydney Olympic Park, and then terminate at Westmead. The contract covers two twin tunnels of almost 50 kilometres, first announced to industry in October.

“Industry was asked to register their interest in October 2019 and 21 national and international participants worked with Sydney Metro to refine the tunnelling procurement strategy and scope of works,” said the spokesperson.

The two tunnelling contracts will comprise twin tunnels from Westmead to Sydney Olympic Park, and from Sydney Olympic Park to the Bays.

Companies listed as responding to the initial register of interest on the NSW government eTendering site include Boygues Construction, CPB Contractors, FCC Construcción, McConnell Dowell, and Obayashi Corporation.

“The process also allows new parties to request access to the EOI documentation,” said the spokesperson.

Tunnel boring machines are expected to begin in 2022 and construction will lead to a number of jobs across Sydney, said Constance.

“Now more than ever, infrastructure projects like Sydney Metro West support jobs, communities and the economy – Sydney Metro West will create more than 10,000 direct new jobs and 70,000 indirect jobs, with thousands of these jobs being generated by these new tunnelling contracts,” said Constance.

The Western Sydney Business Chamber welcomed the announcement for its potential to stimulate the city’s economy.

“I have no doubt that Sydney Metro West will be our ‘Hoover Dam’ project – a massive construction project over many years that put thousands of people to work and will stimulate economic activity across the route,” said David Borger, executive director of the Western Sydney Business Chamber.

Borger encouraged the NSW government to proceed with other rail projects, such as Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2.

“Western Sydney’s infrastructure deficit is going to be a key way that we build our economic recovery and get our people back to work. The best thing the NSW Government can do is push forward with its transport plans and get building as soon as possible.”

The construction of Sydney Metro West is to support the forecast the 40 per cent more train trips required in the next 15 years. In addition to stations at Westmead, Parramatta, Sydney Olympic Park, the Bays Precinct, and a yet to be finalised location in the Sydney CBD, there are confirmed stations at North Strathfield, Burwood North and Five Dock, with optional stations at Rydalmere and Pyrmont. A stabling and maintenance facility will be built at Clyde.

“We need to be going full steam ahead on this project so that we are ready to get digging as soon as possible. I encourage the NSW Government to resolve the issues of the outstanding station locations at Rydalmere and Pyrmont as soon as possible,” said Borger.

Rail bridge replaced within five days in Sydney

An old rail bridge was demolished and a new one installed within five days at Castlereagh St. in the suburb of Penrith in Sydney’s west.

The work was carried out within five days, according to NSW’s state minister for transport and roads Andrew Constance, who said crews worked around the clock to reopen Castlereagh Road by New Year’s Eve.

“Crews worked hard to carefully take out the old bridge, which included removing rail tracks and signals, sections of the existing embankments and the old bridge supports.

Around 200 workers were part of the crew to replace the old rail bridge with the new one.

Concrete and steel, weighing up to 5000 tonnes, was removed to allow crews to rebuild embankments and install rail tracks and signals.

The new reinforced concrete rail bridge is almost 40 metres long and weighs around 2800 tonnes and will enable crews to widen the road.

Once complete in late 2020, the Mulgoa Road/Castlereagh Road upgrade will provide increased road capacity for expected future growth in the Penrith region.

According to Constance, specialist equipment from Belgium made the rail bridge installation process easier, essentially allowing the new bridge to slide into place.

Sydney’s light rail opens

PICS: NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, transport minister Andrew Constance and Sydney’s lord mayor Clover Moore officially opened the L2 Randwick Line light rail service from Circular Quay to Randwick early on Saturday morning.

Rail Express was in attendance to travel on the first tram down George Street, Sydney CBD’s main boulevard, since trams last travelled the route in 1958.

By Sunday afternoon 115,000 customers had used the service which operated on average every 6-8 minutes, according to Transport for NSW. These patronage figures are about three times the daily patronage of the Inner West Light Rail.

“The trams should never have been taken out! So we’ve put them back in, but there’s no footboards on this one, so there’s no riding them on the side,” minister for transport Andrew Constance said.

Frank Ayrton, who had worked as a conductor on the old network which was ripped up by 1961, was among the the first to ride the first service down George Street, alongside Constance, Berejiklian and Moore.

He told Rail Express his job included walking along the outside of the trams to collect fares from those riding on the footboards.

“One hand was for the money, the other hand for the tickets and all you had to hang on with was your elbow,” Ayrton said.

Berejiklian took the opportunity to address the delays to the project: “I just want to say to everyone in the community:  thank you for your patience. The people of NSW, whether you live, work or come to visit Sydney, you’ve been extremely patient with us, so thank you.”

“Literally thousands of men and women have spent many hours assiduously over the years to make this a reality, they’ve started a major network and made a network which is changing our city and transforming our state, and I’m excited to see the light rail form a broader part of our transport network. The young people here today they’ll grow up knowing that we had a city that’s integrated, that’s modern, that’s looking to the future,” Berejiklian said on Saturday morning.

Secretary of TfNSW Rodd Staples also addressed the challenges. “Whether you’ve been involved in the original conception of this service, whether you’ve been involved in building it, whether you’ve been a community member or a business member, whether you’re a tram spotter, while you’ve had a long way – it’s fantastic to be here with you today to celebrate the commencement of this service.”

“The city has been a construction zone over the last couple of years…and something that you won’t know though is that during construction, I found out that we had a secret helper. Gladys’s father, Mr Berejiklian, would quite often go into the city and find a construction zone and talk to the workers, and then report back to the premier about how things were really going,” Constance joked.

The ALTRAC consortium – Alstom, Transdev, Acciona and Capella – delivered the integrated system. The 12km network was delivered under a turnkey PPP model, which included the design and supply of 60 Citadis X05 Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs), power supply equipment including over two kilometres of twire-free ground-based power supply, energy recovery substations – HESOP, signalling, communications, depot equipment and a 19-year maintenance agreement.

The 60 LRVs will be able to move up to 13,500 commuters per hour (6,750 in each direction) during peak times once fully operational, according to Alstom.

As part of the contract, the consortium has also taken over the operations and maintenance of the existing Inner West Light rail (IWLR) that connects Sydney’s inner west with the Pyrmont peninsula, Darling Harbour and the southern CBD.

“This new Light Rail system will transform Sydney and provide a step change in the city’s public transport capability and reliability while protecting the aesthetic appeal of the CBD and improving sustainability of the overall transport network,” managing director for Alstom in Australia & New Zealand Mark Coxon said.

Opening day issues included a driver braking suddenly, with one man falling down on the packed tram. The service was briefly delayed while the driver was replaced.  A tram also lost power later in the afternoon, which necessitated all trams be stopped for thirty minutes.

In response, ALTRAC held a conference in the afternoon to address the issues, saying additional customer resource officers were deployed on the ground, stops were being monitored on CCTV and crowd management crews, heavy tows and police were stationed throughout the network.

“It’s been a bumpy day,” chief officer light rail operations Transdev Australasia Brian Brennan said.

“Tram failures do occur, it’s reality, but it has been an outstanding success today.”

More than 200,000 km of testing has been carried out on the line during testing while the 100 drivers have each undertaken 190 hours of training, however introducing customers on real journeys presents different challenges.

As capacity grows on the network and customers become more accustomed to the system, journey times will further improve as the L3 Kingsford Line opening approaches in March 2020, according to the state government.


Frank Ayrton, conductor before Sydney’s original tram network was torn up in the 1960s.


Trams were packed on the first day of services.