New procurement process for Inland Rail contracts

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) will speed up and de-risk the procurement process for Inland Rail in a new procurement and packaging plan.

Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller said the plan was developed in response to feedback from industry.

“Industry has clearly sent a message that Inland Rail needs to work more closely with project proponents to accelerate project tenders, maximise opportunities to participate and de-risk procurement processes. Doing so will deliver the greatest benefit for government, industry and small and medium regional businesses,” he said.

The plan will provide to industry opportunities on a number of projects, and the ARTC is currently seeking registrations of interest in civil works packages on three sections, Narromine to Narrabri, North Star to Border, and Border to Gowrie.

The procurement plan will cover other sections of Inland Rail, including:

  • Albury to Illabo
  • Illabo to Stockinbingal
  • Stockinbingal to Parkes
  • Narromine to Narrabri
  • North Star to NSW/QLD Border
  • NSW/QLD Border to Gowrie
  • Kagaru to Acacia Ridge and Bromelton

Wankmuller said that the project has opportunities for large and small businesses.

“By investing now and getting tenders out faster, this mega-project is offering tender packages ideally suited to a range of suppliers and contractors, big and small,” he said.

“Inland Rail is also being predominantly delivered – 90 per cent – in regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland away from the overheated metropolitan infrastructure markets meaning there is greater opportunity for regional Australia to reap the rewards.”

Chief Executive of the Australian Contractors Association Jon Davies said the procurement approach improve social and economic benefits that come from investment.

“It has never been more important for industry and Clients to work together collaboratively in order to efficiently deliver projects and leverage their social and economic benefits”, he said.

“We welcome ARTC’s new approach to procurement and our members look forward to working with ARTC and the Inland Rail team as these new opportunities arise in coming months.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the works packages would spread the benefit of the project.

“Inland Rail’s construction is providing a boost for local businesses and communities at a time it’s most needed,” said McCormack.

“By dividing this nation-building project into smaller parts, more local businesses can bid for this valuable work, contributing to Australia’s future.”

Construction of the Parkes to Narromine section was recently completed, and a contract for the construction of Narrabri to North Star is expected in the coming weeks.

Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Maintenance of Hunter network a reminder of level crossing safety

Level crossings in the Hunter network are undergoing maintenance to improve safety for trains and motorists.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is carrying out the works during a shutdown of the network from Newcastle to Ulan and Turrawan.

From September 22 to 25, 1,000 workers will conduct 500 maintenance jobs not limited to level crossings. These will include upgrading 3,500 metres of track, replacing 13,200 metres of rail, and regularly scheduled maintenance activities.

ARTC General Executive Hunter Valley Network Wayne Johnson said the level crossing work was in addition to regular maintenance.

“In the upcoming rail shutdown, in addition to our regular maintenance work, level crossings will be getting some special attention with tamping being carried out on 34 level crossings,” he said.

“A tamping machine is used to pack (or tamp) the track ballast under railway tracks to make the tracks more durable. The base of the level crossing is replaced and stabilised to improve the geometry of the track and this also helps improve the surface so vehicles will experience a smoother ride as a result.

“Tamping the levels crossings allows safer access across the railway crossings for vehicle traffic.”

Level crossings, of which only 21 per cent nationally are active, are a critical safety concern for the rail industry, and Johnson warned motorists of the consequences of not driving safely near level crossings.

“Tragically, every year too many people lose their lives in level crossing collisions, while there are more than 1,000 ‘near misses’ each year – the difference between a fatal collision and a near collision can be just seconds,” he said.

“With a bumper grain season ahead, we can expect high volumes of freight trains coming from the central areas of the state, so people need to be vigilant with level crossings in the regional parts of New South Wales.”

Maintenance is expected to finish on September 25.

Port Botany

Tender released for Port Botany Rail duplication

The design and construct tender for the Port Botany Rail duplication has been released to the three shortlisted contractors.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), which is leading the project, has released the documentation to CPB Contractors, Laing O’Rouke Construction Australia, and John Holland, who were shortlisted in January.

Once complete, the $400 million federally funded project will allow for more freight to be transported to and from Port Botany via rail, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“The Botany Rail Duplication will upgrade and duplicate the current single freight rail track between Mascot and Botany to increase the capacity of Sydney’s freight rail network while bolstering operational efficiency, flexibility and reliability for freight customers,” he said.

“This will create more than 400 jobs during construction and provide a welcome boost to all the hard-working local businesses who use the rail line to get their products to markets.”

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the project would enable a reduction in trucks travelling through local roads in Sydney.

Australia’s freight requirements are set to grow significantly over the coming decades. While this is great news for the industry and the Australian economy, it will place increasing pressure on our roads,” he said.

“I look forward to this transformative project getting underway so that Sydney, New South Wales and our national supply chain can reap the benefits.”

The Cabramatta Loop Project tender, which will allow freight trains to pass each other on the Southern Sydney Freight Line, will be released separately.

The Port Botany Rail duplication project was recently approved by the NSW government in its fast track process.

The project was also added to the Infrastructure Australia Infrastructure Priority List in August, 2020, recognising the need for greater freight rail capacity to and from Port Botany.

Super possession to enable maintenance on regional NSW lines

Major rail works will be carried out during a possession of NSW regional lines from Saturday, September 5 to Monday, September 7.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) will be conducting the works, which include rail maintenance and enhancement works from Albury to Moss Vale and Cootamundra to Parkes.

Known as the annual ‘super possession’, the rail lines in both regions will be shut down over the weekend for yearly maintenance work.

ARTC general manager of asset management – interstate Brian Green described the works that would take place.

“This year’s works include track re-railing, resurfacing and reconditioning, as well as level crossing upgrades, track ballasting, turnout maintenance and bridge maintenance,” he said.

Preparatory works have been underway since August 29 and demobilisation is expected to continue until September 11.

Green said that ARTC works to ensure that as much is done as possible during the shutdown period.

“ARTC makes the most of these short windows to carry out jobs in a planned approach that minimises the impact of major works on train operations and reduces the potential for unplanned downtime on these sections of the rail corridor.”

Passenger services are being replaced by coaches and those in the community are advised to be aware of extra vehicles.

“Our work teams will endeavour to minimise any noise and disruptions the works may cause,” said Green.

“We also ask people in communities close to the rail corridor to be cautious during the shutdown period and keep an eye out for increased vehicle movements in and out of work sites.”

Extra measures are also in place to limit the chance of any spread of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 requires ongoing vigilance in many aspects. The health and safety throughout the works is of critical importance so we have ongoing strict hygiene protocols in place to minimise potential risks to the community and the teams involved in the maintenance shutdown,” said Green.

“All of the combined frontline teams continue to practice social distancing and minimising interactions with the local community. For example, where we previously we would have door knocked to inform nearby neighbours of the upcoming works, we will do a letterbox drop of information flyers instead.”

Rail line at Port Botany. Photo: Sydney Ports Corporation / Brendan Read

Botany duplication and Cabramatta loop approved

The NSW government has given planning approval for the Botany Rail Duplication and the Cabramatta Passing Loop.

Both projects will be delivered by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) with shortlisted contractor expected to be invited to tender shortly, Peter Winder, group executive Interstate Network at ARTC.

“These two landmark projects will encourage a shift in freight share from road to rail, to help rail carry more of Sydney’s freight growth and associated traffic congestion and support growth in the containerised freight task and port-shuttle rail services between Port Botany and intermodal terminals such as at Enfield, Moorebank, Minto and Chullora.”

The project will allow for freight trains up to 1,300 metres in length to pass between Cabramatta and Warwick Farm and enable Port Botany to handle increasing freight loads by rail, said Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance.

“As the state’s largest container port, the efficient operation of Port Botany is critical. Forecasts predict a whopping 77 per cent increase in the amount of freight it handles from 14.4 million tonnes in 2016 to 25.5 million tonnes by 2036.”

The dual projects were one of a number of NSW rail projects that received fast-tracked planning approvals. According to Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole the projects will allow more freight to be carried by rail.

“These projects are crucial because more freight is moved on rail lines and congestion is busted with fewer trucks on our roads,” he said.

“This project will not only provide new rail infrastructure but will inject around $400 million into the economy and create around 500 local jobs during construction.”

The Cabramatta Loop will be completed by mid-2023 and the Botany Rail Duplication will be completed by late 2024.

Australian Logistics Council CEO Kirk Coningham welcomed the announcement.

“Duplicating the remaining 2.9-kilometre single track section of the Botany Line between Mascot and Botany and constructing a new passing loop on the Southern Sydney Freight Line at Cabramatta will inject greater efficiency and capacity into the freight network and help to meet NSW’s growing freight demands,” he said.

“The delivery of these projects by the Australian Rail Track Corporation will further encourage freight owners to transport more containers by rail and will build on significant investments NSW Ports has already made to increase port-side rail capacity.”

Hunter Valley Coal Network

Major works during shutdown on Hunter Valley Coal Network

The ARTC will carry out major works to renew track and infrastructure on the Hunter Valley Coal Network during a shutdown.

Maintenance work will include replacing an almost 100 year old bridge at Qurindi over the Jacob and Joseph Creek.

The original steel bridge was built in 1927 and will be replaced with a new 85-metre long steel bridge.

ARTC group executive Hunter Valley Wayne Johnson said work had been underway for some time already.

“The Quirindi works have been underway since last October with significant earthworks, concrete piling and concrete preparation now complete,” he said.

“It’s a huge undertaking to remove the existing steel bridge and then to install by crane 28 precast concrete bridge girders and a new steel walkway and access stairs.”

Across work sites on the Hunter Valley Coal Network from Kooragang Island in Newcastle to the Ulan region, the ARTC will attempt to minimise wastage by reusing spoil. The excavated materials will be reused on the project or diverted through local waste recyclers.

“We did the first trial in March this year where spoil was screened, crushed and tested for suitability to use for a rail reconditioning project and we used it again successfully during the May shutdown for the reconditioning of 240 metres of track,” Johnson said.

“For this shutdown, recycled material will be used to recondition 330 metres of track.”

From August 3-7 work will be carried out on 100 separate points around the network from Muswellbrook to Narrabri. In addition to bridge replacement work at Quirindi, bridges will be renewed at Gunnedah, along with replacing 270 transoms on the Aberdeen bridge. 1,850 metres of track formation will be upgraded while preventative and routine maintenance tasks are undertaken.

Between Kooragang Island and Ulan works will commence on August 4 and finish on August 6. 700 workers on 400 jobs will complete works such as laying 10 kilometres of new track, upgrading 450 metres of track formation, ballast replacement of 450m of track and the initiation of major construction works on the Muswellbrook bridges replacement.

Re-railing projects improving freight productivity and commuter reliability

Two re-railing projects being carried out by the Australian Rail Track Corporation are almost complete, ensuring a smoother ride for passengers and a more reliable freight network.

A $40 million project to re-railing the line between Goulburn and Sydney through the Southern Highlands is almost complete, while a $252m re-railing of the line between Adelaide and Tarcoola almost finalised.

Both projects used Australian-made steel from Whyalla in the manufacturing of the rails.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the benefits of the project from Goulburn to Sydney would be welcomed by businesses and passengers.

“The ARTC’s re-railing project has made improvements along the Southern Highlands line, meaning commuters and freight will have more reliable, better-quality journeys,” he said.

“This will provide a welcome productivity boost for our national supply chain at a time when it’s needed more than ever, particularly for the Australian businesses using the rail line to get their products to markets.”

The $28m Stage 2 of the project will be going to tender in the coming weeks.

The line from Goulburn to Sydney is part of the national freight route linking Melbourne and Brisbane, via Sydney.

The section of rail from Adelaide to Tarcoola is also an important link, tying the eastern states to Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said that works on these national links were vital.

“Safe and efficient freight networks are critical to the national economy and to all Australians, particularly as our hard-working freight operators continue to deliver our Australian goods to consumers and international markets,” he said.

On the Adelaide to Tarcoola section, all that remains of the project is the replacement of the old timber sleepers with concrete ones, with a final contract for this element of the project expected to be awarded this month.

Once complete, heavier interstate freight trains will be able to operate faster over the section of track. Moving from 47-kilogram per metre rail to 60-kilogram per metre rail will allow for 25 tonne axle load limits.

In total, for the 600 kilometres of track 70,000 tonnes of steel was needed, requiring 38,000 welds at the Port Augusta depot and almost 10,000 welds in the field. 3.5 million rail clips were required, along with 1.75 million rail pads. 440km of line was tamped, including 60 turnouts.

According to federal member for Grey Rowan Ramsey, the scale of the project from Adelaide to Tarcoola allowed Whyalla steel manufacturer Liberty to boost local steel manufacturing.

“The investments in staff and skills on this project ensured Liberty was able to secure further contracts with the ARTC to deliver steel rail to the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail Program and the Goulburn to Sydney re-railing program.”

NSW Farmers and CWA launch legal action on Inland Rail

The NSW Farmers and the Country Women’s Association of NSW have begun legal action against the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) regarding its handling of the Inland Rail project.

The two organisations have appointed a law firm to raise concerns about the ARTC’s hydrology modelling. NSW Farmers Inland Rail taskforce chair Adrian Lyons said that flood modelling was causing concerns.

“We are using this opportunity to demand the ATRC engage in a productive manner with affected landholders,” he said.

“We have also stressed the need for transparency around the key documents underpinning the proposed route, particularly the hydrology modelling which to date has caused consternation in our members.”

Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller said that the infrastructure project has had ongoing engagement with NSW Farmers for the past two years.

“We were able to come to agreement on land access protocols and principles and we have published the answers to all their questions in the past.”

Of particular concern is the stretch of rail between Narromine and Narrabri. The Environmental Impact Statement for that section is currently being finalised for submission to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and the ARTC will be meeting with all affected landowners between June and September.

“We have met with over 100 of the farmers and landowners that we are working with collaboratively to deliver Inland Rail between Narromine and Narrabri in the past couple of months,” said Wankmuller.

“Those are productive meetings, that will ensure that we can build Inland Rail to the highest standards while mitigating the impacts on those farmers.”

Lyons said that NSW Farmers had recommended to members to not engage with ARTC.

CWA of NSW CEO Danica Leys said that the engagement could extend to other sections of the project.

“Currently, our legal correspondence is focused on the Narromine to Narrabri stretch of the rail route, but our aim is that any positive developments would be mirrored in other parts of the infrastructure.”

Wankmuller said that ARTC would continue to work with farmers.

“Working with farmers is the best way for us to ensure that we can mitigate their impacts and deliver Inland Rail to the highest standards.”

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.