roadheaders

Dual roadheaders excavating Cross River Rail tunnels

Two roadheaders are excavating tunnels underneath Brisbane to carve out the route of the future Cross River Rail.

The addition of the second roadheader enables more rock to be excavated each day, with 55 metres of tunnel already excavated at a rate of 1.5 metres each a day.

The over 100 tonnes roadheaders have set out in different directions from the Woolloongabba site. Beginning from the station cavern, one is heading north underneath Vulture Street, and the other is tunnelling south towards the South East Busway.

Blasting is also being conducted at the site to speed up excavation works.

To allow for the excavated rock, including volcanic Brisbane Tuff and conglomerates forming the Neranleigh Fernvale rock that sits under the Brisbane CBD, to be removed from site, a spoil shed built by a local contractor has been constructed at Woolloongabba. By the time excavation is complete, over 132,000 cubic metres of rock and soil will have been excavators. So far, 70,000 cubic metres has been removed.

When complete, the station box shaft will be 32 metres deep, with the future 220 metre-long platform sitting 27-metres below the surface.

Later in 2020, tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will arrive at Woolloongabba. The TBMs are currently being refitted in Brisbane after having completed work on the Sydney Metro project. The TBMs will excavate the twin underground tunnels to the north from January next year. This will speed up tunnelling progress as each can carve out 20-30 metres of tunnel a day.

Fast rail vision for South East Queensland

Mayors from South East Queensland are renewing calls for a fast rail network linking major cities in the region.

The collection of mayors, which covers 10 local government areas from the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast and out to Toowoomba, is advocating for a fast rail network that would operate at speeds in excess of 160km/h.

This would contribute to the collective’s vision of a 45-minute region, where city to city trips could be completed in 45 minutes.

The Mayors argue that reducing travel times between the nodes of the region would boost economic growth and reduce reliance on private vehicles. A compromise 60-minute region could also generate similar benefits, but with a cheaper price tag.

The Council of Mayors estimate that a 60-minute region would allow for connections between the Brisbane city centre to hubs such as Loganlea within 22 minutes, Ipswich in 24 minutes, and Caboolture in 35 minutes.

The plan also targets rising congestion, and notes that in doing nothing, congestion will cost the region’s economy $6 billion by 2031.

Fast rail would also tie together the region’s four international airports in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba, enabling increases in visitation and spending. With the region bidding for the Olympic Games in 2032, a fast rail network is seen as needed to move spectators during the event.

The Council of Mayors note that the current Citytrain network is no longer able to service the region’s needs with an average running speed on the latest fleet, the New Generation Rollingstock of 60km/h.

“At these speeds, Citytrain is too slow to offer commuters in the outer rings of South East Queensland a reason to leave their cars behind and use public transport,” write the Mayors.

Rail advocacy group Rail Back on Track welcomed the group’s proposal, noting that current infrastructure was not up to scratch.

“The SEQ Citytrain network is over tasked and cannot provide fast rail services as is,” said Robert Dow, administration for Rail Back on Track.

The Council of Mayor said that now was the time to act. ‘

“The Queensland Government has the option to kickstart the exploration of Fast Rail now and use it as a smart investment for the state’s economic recovery – or miss this opportunity and know that the Queensland economy will pay a hefty price for it in years to come.”

ETCS

Upgrading the heart of the Brisbane’s rail system

The implementation of ETCS on the South East Queensland network highlights the many benefits of modern signalling systems.

In major capital cities, transport operators are looking to get more and more out of their assets as populations grow and the demand for sustainable mobility increases. In many cases, the rail systems that have formed the backbone for public transport have been upgraded with new, modern signalling systems to bring trains closer together and increase the frequency and volume of services.

Brisbane has been no exception and is currently beginning the implementation of European Train Control System (ETCS) as part of the Cross River Rail (CRR) project. However, as Simon Cook, project director ETCS at CRR highlights, there is more than one reason why modern signalling is being rolled out.

“The interesting thing with ETCS and this project is that it is delivering a range of benefits for different people and organisations,” said Cook.

Cook lists three main goals for the system, safety, capacity and reliability, which reflect the priorities of the different agencies involved in the project.

“For Queensland Rail safety and reliability would be the top two things, for the Department of Transport and Main Roads – who is the project sponsor and has responsibility for the overall network and how to manage the patronage increases – capacity and reliability are front of mind.”

When addressing the goal of safety, the deployment of ETCS on the Brisbane network, both in the newly constructed tunnel and on the inner-city network between Northgate and Milton stations, allows for a major upgrade in safety systems.

“The current signalling has been in place for a long time, so bringing in a modern signalling system with automatic train protection is really important as the number of trains and customers on the network increases,” said Cook.

Cook highlights that reducing the occurrence of signals passed at danger (SPADs) is one example where the network will directly benefit.

“A SPAD is very disruptive as well as having potential safety implications and it’s one of the key safety metrics of railways. “If you’ve got automatic train protection so the train will brake to prevent overspeed or avoid exceeding movement authority, then that’s an absolute gamechanger and with a good train management system and an in-cab signalling system for drivers then it’s a smoother, more reliable journey for customers as well.”

To address the second goal of capacity, the deployment of ETCS is about futureproofing the Brisbane and South-East Queensland network.

“The Queensland Rail network hasn’t seen the same level of growth over the past five years as other states, but it has lifted over the last year. ETCS and the CRR project has been put in because of the really big growth that’s forecast in patronage on the Gold Coast line and the Sunshine Coast line.”

Based on 2019 census figures, the City of Brisbane and the Gold Coast added the largest number of people for any local government area in Australia.

The final goal is reliability, an area where Cook highlights Brisbane’s rail network can become more efficient and meet international benchmarks.

“There are ageing assets on the network and you could just keep replacing like for like but the deployment of ETCS was a really good opportunity to bring assets up to a new standard to really drive up some increases in performance and reliability.”

Ultimately, ETCS will allow for automatic train operation through the new tunnel, simplifying one of the most complex parts of the South East Queensland rail network. Ensuring reliability here will lead to benefits on other lines.

“What we don’t want to do in Queensland is end up with a situation where we’ve got a range of bespoke signalling systems, so we are really keen to stick to a standardised approach spreading across our network and operators, and that’s the reason for selecting ETCS,” said Cook.

FIRST DEPLOYMENT
The ETCS project officially roared to life at the tail end of 2019 when Hitachi was announced as the successful tenderer for the ETCS systems. The $634 million project was initially a standalone upgrade to the network under the auspices of Queensland Rail, however in 2018 the project was moved to the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority, and is now one of three works packages, along with the Tunnels, Stations, and Development project and the Rail, Integration and Systems project.

According to Cook, ETCS sits alongside the two other packages, and while construction has begun on CRR, ETCS has begun its staged approach to implementation.

“Signalling is the absolute heart of the railway system and any change to that system is going to be potentially disruptive for customers, for maintenance crews who have to learn completely new equipment, and for rail traffic crew and signallers who have to learn a completely new system. You don’t take that on lightly, and the change task is probably bigger than the technology task so the way that we’re going about it is a staged approach.”

The first program of testing will be carried out on the Shorncliffe line. The line was chosen to be a test track due to its lower patronage and separation from the rest of the network. Preparations are underway to fit out Queensland Rail’s 160 and 260 series trains.

“We are finalising the preliminary design for the Shorncliffe line and starting off detailed design next month for the first fleet of trains,” said Cook.

“The idea with using the Shorncliffe line as a pilot area is that we can test our trains there along with the other technologies that we’re going to see in the tunnel at opening. Platform screen doors are another bit of equipment that will be new to the Queensland Rail network so we can either simulate or even install small sections of platform screen doors on the Shorncliffe line and check the integration with the trains and the signalling all work.”

DELIVERING FOR THE END USER
Cook says that for him and his team within the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority (CRRDA), their aim is to ensure the systems that Hitachi provides fit with the Queensland network.

“For me as project director and my team, we’re fairly agnostic over the actual technology, but we’re here to deliver the right system at the right time for Queensland Rail and for the DTMR.”

This has been done so far through the colocation of the CRRDA and Queensland Rail teams and operational readiness work beginning at the outset.

“Operational readiness lessons are something that we picked up from looking at other projects,” said Cook. “You can’t start too early on that. You need to really understand the whole change that’s going to come to the railway through this, so a lot of effort is on focusing on training package, design, consultation with the train crew and signallers on what the changes will mean for them, and of course looking forward to the design for the rest of the network.”

Although there are no other operational examples of automatic train operation over ETCS on passenger rail in Australia, Cook has looked to overseas project for lessons about ensuring that the CRRDA is not only looking from an engineer’s perspective but an end-user’s view of how the system will work.

“I’ve spent a bit of time learning about Thameslink in the UK, which did take a bit of settling down, but there are certainly a few really good takeaways there from an operational perspective; understanding how they worked with their train crew, the teething troubles they had and understanding how train drivers and other operational staff will really interact with the system.”

Queensland Rail have contributed to the design of human factors along the project, and will continue to take on board the views of front line staff.

“At the end of the day they’re the people that will be driving these trains and they’re the people that will be controlling the signalling, so it has to be right for them,” said Cook.

Plans to remove level crossing in Carseldine, Brisbane fully funded

Plans to remove another level crossing in Brisbane’s suburbs have been backed by funding from all levels of government, with work to begin in 2021.

The Queensland state government will contribute $128 million to deliver the plans to remove the Beams Road level crossing near the Carseldine train station in Brisbane’s north. The federal government is contributing $50m and the Brisbane City Council $70m.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that the plan would outline designs to reduce congestion and increase safety.

“Every time that boom arm goes down at the Beams Road level crossing, that means more time for people waiting in traffic.”

Local MP Bart Mellish said that the plan would also cover improvements to the station precinct and surrounding area.

“There are also opportunities ahead to build new public spaces and upgrade the road network as part of Carseldine Urban Village, so this project will build on that and transform how are community connects.”

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said that a business case for the level crossing removal will be completed early next year, with construction to start later in 2021.

“With funding committed in Brisbane City Council’s budget and federally, we have a solid commitment to upgrade roads, remove the rail level crossing and build more parking spaces at Carseldine train station,” he said.

Designs for an expanded park n’ ride at Carseldine station have already been finalised and work will begin on that project before the end of 2020, said Bailey.

The announcement of funding for Beams Road is in addition to level crossing removal projects at Boundary Road, in Coopers Plains, and Lindum.

Local rail advocacy group Rail Back on Track welcomed the news that these level crossing will go, however cautioned that with increases in frequency once the Cross River Rail project is complete, more crossings will have to go.

“A potential catastrophic situation awaits as frustrated motor vehicle drivers are tempted to race boom gates,” said group administrator Robert Dow.

“Unless there is a commitment from both sides of the political fence to step up the rate of level crossing elimination (grade separation) there will be increasing impacts on the road transport network and the reliability and safety of rail itself.”

The group called for a commitment to remove two or three level crossings a year and the establishment of an authority similar to the Level Crossing Removal Project in Victoria.

Lindum level crossing

Federal-state study identifies improvements to dangerous level crossing

A study into a notorious level crossing and station precinct in Brisbane’s east has attracted community input, with 300 surveys completed and 180 ideas shared in an online feedback portal.

The input was garnered as part of a community feedback process into the Lindum Station Precinct Study. Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said that the community feedback would inform the final design outcome.

“We will be looking at a range of options for the level crossing, including at-grade solutions or alternative locations,” he said.

In 2019, a woman was killed at the level crossing and the crossing has been a source of community and commuter frustration as it crosses a major regional road.

Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey said it was essential the community was involved in the station precinct’s redesign.

“Lindum Station and its surrounds are a crucial part of the local community. That’s why it’s vital we prioritise the community as part of the study.”

Bailey said that a new station, crossing, and precinct would safely cater for commuters, road traffic, nearby businesses, and create active transit connections.

Member for Bonner Ross Vasta said a range of options are being considered.

“Options to be explored to improve safety for motorists and pedestrians include grade separation, upgrading the existing level crossing and relocating the level crossing,” he said.

“The project will also consider station and parking upgrades.”

Community feedback will inform the development of a technical study, which will identify the best way to make the improvements to the station precinct.

The study is jointly funded by the federal and Queensland governments, with the federal government having committed $85 million to the construction of an upgrade to the Lindum Rail Crossing.

Roadheader gets to work on Cross River Rail

Tunnelling has officially begun on Cross River Rail, with the first roadheader assembled and digging out underneath Roma Street.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the occasion marked a major step for the Brisbane rail project.

“Above ground demolition has also been underway for several months at the site of the new station – but today is a huge milestone for this project as we start tunnelling for the first time,” she said.

“This is just the beginning of the underground works, with 5.9 kilometres of twin tunnels and four underground stations to be excavated in total.”

The roadheader was assembled at the site, 18 metres below ground, and is beginning to excavate the 280m long station cavern.

Now underway, the roadheader can excavate up to 50 tonnes of rock and soil an hour, with disruption protected by the acoustic shed at ground level, which stands five storeys high and is 60m long.

Local Queensland company QMW was involved in the manufacture of the roadheader, supplying the cabs. The locally made cabs and remaining five pieces were lowered into the shaft with a gantry crane and then put together underground.

The 22 metre long and 115 tonne roadheader is the first of two machines that will be working at Roma Street.

As work underground progresses, more and more people are working at the various Cross River Rail sites. Already 1,800 people are employed as part of the project, with the total expected to reach 3,000 when the project is at its construction peak in two years.

State Development Minister Kate Jones said that the project is critical to Queensland’s economy.

“Multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects like Cross River Rail are vital to Queensland’s economic recovery following COVID-19,” she said.

“Coronavirus has had a huge impact on our economy. But we won’t let it derail Queensland’s largest infrastructure project.”

Once complete, Cross River Rail will include 5.9km of tunnels and four underground stations. Roma Street station will be 27 metres below ground and replaces the former Hotel Jen building and Brisbane Transit Centre.

Currently, one floor a week of the Hotel Jen is being demolished.

1,800-strong workforce on site for CRR construction

A workforce of 1,800 people has been continuing to progress the Cross River Rail project, even as social distancing measures have been in place to limit the spread or outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

A pedestrian bridge at the Roma Street site has been removed, and demolition is continuing of the former Hotel Jen building.

Demolition of two blocks in the Brisbane CBD has also been finished. The blocks will allow for the construction of a new station at Albert Street. There, piling works and the construction of an acoustic shed are underway as work begins on the underground station box.

Piling works for the dive site at Woolloongabba for the tunnel boring machines are also completed. Excavation of the launch area will now get underway.

Work has also started on the northern tunnel portal, between Roma Street and Exhibition stations.

Piling at Boggo Road is also making strides, with 100 out of the 150 piles installed for the station box.

According to a statement from Cross River Rail the continuation of work during the COVID-19 restrictions has had a wider effect on the Queensland economy, with manufacturers and construction supply companies benefiting from works not being halted. Subcontractors carrying out works on each of the sites have also directly benefited.

Safety precautions and social distancing measures have been in place at all sites, with extra hygiene protocols adhered to.

Rail a major component in $50bn Qld infrastructure spend

Rail had the largest growth in funded infrastructure in Queensland in 2020, according to the recently released Queensland Major Project Pipeline (QLDMPP) report.

A joint initiative of the Queensland Major Contractors Association (QMCA) and the Infrastructure Association of Queensland (IAQ), the report outlines the total pipeline of major infrastructure projects, adding up to over $50 billion of planned, funded, and in construction works.

QMCA CEO, Jon Davies was enthused about the pipeline.

“We are delighted to see significant growth in the pipeline, with works totalling $50.6bn scheduled between 2019/20 and 2023/24.”

While the largest sector is the resources and heavy industry sector, the $6.68bn worth of announced projects in that sector are not yet funded.

“However, there is still an element of risk around the total figure as $23.2bn of work is not funded at this stage. This is mostly down to planned resources and energy projects which take considerable time to plan, fund and gain approval,” said Davies.

The rail project pipeline increased by $1.74bn in funded projects and $1.03bn in unfunded projects from the 2019 to 2020 version of the report, with multiple large rail projects in the state receiving funding.

“Overall there are reasons to be optimistic, with many major projects such as Inland Rail, Cross River Rail, Brisbane Metro and upgrades to the M1, Bruce Highway and essential water infrastructure developments beginning in earnest.”

Geographically, the projects in the QLDMPP report were largely concentrated in south-east Queensland, with 40 per cent of all funded work there.

Larger projects were receiving a greater share of funding and announcements, with 70 per cent of projects by 2023/24 being valued above $500 million.

Emerging challenges could include a skills shortage in the road and rail sectors, however opportunity could come in the form of the mooted 2032 SEQ Olympics bid, which would require projects such as faster rail links between Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, and Ipswich to be advanced prior to the games.

The four projects shaping Australia and New Zealand

Four “nation shaping” projects are contributing to Australia and New Zealand’s substantial infrastructure pipeline. Their project directors gave overall updates on these major transport projects at AusRAIL PLUS 2019.

CROSS RIVER RAIL

While Queensland has enjoyed significant population growth in recent years, nearly 90 per cent of that growth has occurred within South East Queensland (SEQ). This region is expected to further increase its population by around 1.5 million over the next twenty years.

Cross River Rail will address a major bottleneck within this region. As such, it is Queensland’s highest priority infrastructure investment and the government has allocated $5.4 billion towards the project.

Currently, there is only one inner-city crossing over the Brisbane river and just four inner-city stations. Cross River Rail will unlock the bottleneck by providing a second river crossing, therefore doubling the capacity of the network and allowing more trains to run more often, as well as integrating with roads and bus services to enable a turn-up- and-go public transport system across the whole of SEQ.

The project incorporates a 10km rail line from Dutton Park to Bowen Hills, which includes 5.9 kilometres of twin tunnels under the Brisbane River and the CBD, with four new underground stations. A new European Train Control System (ETCS) signalling system is also being delivered to improve safety and assist in managing capacity constraints in the network. Numerous station upgrades between the Gold Coast and Brisbane and three new stations at the Gold Coast end the network are also planned.

Cross River Rail Authority’s program director David Lynch says early works have now been officially completed, though these are relatively small in the overall scheme and context of the project.

“Our procurement processes are essentially complete as of the end of October, and construction is now underway across all three packages, with four to five years of construction and commissioning ahead,” Lynch said.

“All major work sites have now been handed over to the contractors.”

The mammoth project will be delivered under three major infrastructure
packages of work: the Tunnel, Stations and Development (TSD) public-private partnership (PPP); the Rail, Integration and Systems (RIS) alliance; and the European Train Control System (ETCS).

The TSD PPP will deliver the underground section of the project, including the tunnel from Dutton Park to Normanby and the construction of four new underground stations. It includes the associated mechanical, electrical and safety systems, such as vertical transportation for passengers at underground stations, above and underground track work, tunnel portals and dive structures, traction power systems and rail operation and control infrastructure. The package also includes a property development opportunity above Albert Street station.

It will be delivered by the PULSE consortium.

The RIS “UNITY Alliance” will deliver the design, supply and installation of the supporting rail system, including rail civil and electrical works, rail operation systems and controls, as well as rail signalling and communications work. The alliance will also deliver accessibility upgrades to six suburban stations. The alliance will be responsible for the integration of Cross River Rail into Queensland Rail’s train network.

The ETCS signalling system will be introduced to enable increased capacity
on the network. It will be rolled out over several stages starting with a pilot program on the Shorncliffe Line in 2022 with early works commencing in late 2019. As part of these early works, trains and tracks will be fitted out with ETCS equipment which sends continuous data about the position, direction and speed of trains and enables the system to calculate a safe maximum running speed for each train. The ETCS will be delivered by Hitachi Rail STS.

Cross River Rail is being delivered with the help of Project DNA, the CRRA’s Project Digital Network Approach.

“It is a complete digital twin of the Cross River Rail project. Now, we are currently working in the space of 3D and 4D, but developing additional dimensions as we move forward.”

Lynch explains how the digital twin was developed, “where previously we built separate systems and models, here we’re using a common data environment.”

“Essentially, it is one model with multiple applications to be used by multiple
teams, so whether in the space of project delivery, program controls, communications and engagement or future precinct and planning and delivery, we’re using the one integrated model.”

The model is built in three layers according to Lynch, the first being the Building Information Modeling (BIM) at the core of the model.

“The second layer gives us geographic information system (GIS) mapping, which enables us to move from the 2D into the 3D environment, while the third layer uses the unreal gaming engine to provide an interactive and virtual reality experience.”

The collaborative approach enabled by Project DNA helps in the design, construction, management and operation of the assets built, says Lynch. It will also improve the on- time and on-budget delivery of the project.

The first stage of demolition for the Cross River Rail has commenced and Cross River Rail is now well into the delivery phase. An 85-metre tower crane will be used to bring down three buildings at the Brisbane Transit Centre site. Each building will be demolished level by level, which will take up to a year.

METRONET

A historic lack of investment into public transport resulted in the significant sprawl of Western Australia’s capital city, particularly north-south along the coast. This is why the Metronet initiative, the single largest investment in Perth’s public transport, is about unlocking the latent capacity within the existing network, according to executive director of Infrastructure, Planning and Land Services Owen Thomas.

Thomas says that, ultimately, the initiative will close to triple the capacity of the existing network through targeted investments, including a high capacity signalling system and more trains.

Metronet is the state government’s long- term plan, equally focused on transport infrastructure as on land use outcomes, which will see new communities created as a result of investment. The underpinning target is a 45 per cent increase in dwellings near high frequency transport infrastructure by 2031. As part of delivering against that, the state’s Department of Communities, which largely delivers social housing, is targeting their investment program around specific Metronet sites as part of a social and affordable housing package.

Fundamentally, the initiative involves the creation of 72km of new railway, up to 18 new stations, the removal of eight level crossings, the replacement of the ageing A series rail car fleet and acquisition of an expanded fleet of 246 new C-series railcars, and the optimisation of nearly 5000 hectares of land.

According to Thomas, the most significant and challenging aspect of the project is the implementation of the communications- based train control (CBTC) across the network.

The final business case for the system is currently under consideration. According to Thomas, once it is rolled out, the signalling system will enable more frequent services, every 4 minutes in peak.

Through early works, Thomas says that his transport infrastructure team, working in conjunction with the station precincts development team, have found that it will take $20-$25 million for other enabling infrastructure, such as utilities, to be delivered at the stations.

“We’ll likely see the rail infrastructure delivered within four to five years from the project commencement, but regarding the longer-term outcomes, we will not see many of the station precinct developments on site until up to 15 to 30 years away. So, one of the key challenges is how to incrementally stage those outcomes so that you get the long-term benefits you want but don’t have a sterile station environment from day one.”

In late December, “NEWest Alliance” was awarded a major Metronet contract
for $1.25bn, to deliver the Yanchep Rail Extension and the Thornlie-Cockburn Link. The consortium comprises CPB Contractors and Downer, who will start construction work in mid-2020.

The project will add 17.5 kilometres of rail to connect the Armadale and Mandurah lines through existing stations at Thornlie and Cockburn Central. The new link will include two new stations at Ranford Road and Nicholson Road.

The Thornlie-Cockburn Link will be the first east-west connection between rail lines on the Perth network. It will involve replacing a pedestrian level crossing with a footbridge, duplicating the Canning River Rail Bridge, and modifying the Ranford Road Bridge.

The Yanchep Rail Extension will deliver the last proposed section of the Joondalup Line, from Butler to Yanchep, along a 14.5km route. It will public transport journey times by at least 30 minutes to and from the city.

It’s estimated that by 2031, the Thornlie- Cockburn Link and Yanchep Rail Extensions will serve a population catchment of 400,000 people.

Downer EDI was named as the preferred proponent to build the major rail components at one of Metronet’s level crossing removal projects, at Denny Avenue.

This level crossing removal will be delivered through two design and construction contracts and will include raising more than 800 metres of track and associated infrastructure to enable a new road underpass.

Early works on the project began in 2019 with geotechnical testing, demolition of buildings and removal of a number of Railway Avenue trees. Utility relocation will start in early 2020.

Also in late December, Jacobs was named the preferred proponent to create the business case for the removal of the other six level crossings on the Armadale Line. Preliminary planning identified the potential for more crossings to be included in the project scope.

“[2020] is shaping up to be a defining year for Metronet construction. Perth will have six Metronet projects under construction at once, creating thousands of local jobs and opportunities for local business,” said premier Mark McGowan.

The other major Metronet contract, to deliver the main works for the Morley- Ellenbrook Line, will not be announced until late 2020.

The Morley-Ellenbrook Line will connect the north-eastern suburbs to the broader rail network and is the signature Metronet project. It will include 21km of rail, new stations, two underpasses to allow the rail line to enter and exit the Tonkin Highway median, associated infrastructure to connect to the existing line, road and bridge reconfiguration works and integration across other projects.

Due to the complexity of the Morley- Ellenbrook Line project, the works are divided into four packages, including the Bayswater Station Upgrade (to be awarded in early 2020), the Tonkin Gap project (civil and structural works to allow access in and out of the Tonkin Highway, to be awarded in mid-2020), the forward works and the main works.

The forward works will be delivered under a series of standalone contracts, managed by the PTA and will include geotechnical field investigations, survey works, and the relocation and protection of the in-ground and overhead services of both the PTA and third-party assets.

Main works will be delivered through a competitive alliance contract. It will include the design, construction and commissioning of rail track, systems and five stations. This will include bulk earthworks and retaining, structures, grade separations, roads and drainage.

CITY RAIL LINK

From transferring 14, 000-tonne historic buildings to new foundations to avoiding volcanic lava flows, the Auckland City Rail Link (CRL) project has been one of the more challenging transport infrastructure projects in the Australian/New Zealand pipeline.

Similar to other jurisdictions however, Auckland has had a significant population increase. Since 2010, Auckland’s population has risen by 50 per cent.

“We were at a stage where the road network was unable to cope,” City Rail Link’s CEO, Dr. Sean Sweeney, said.

When a new station was built in 2003, it took until 2014 for the line to be electrified and new rollingstock provided. This resulted in the doubling of patronage numbers.

“That passenger growth has continued ever since and City Rail Link has an ever-increasing need for public transport.”

Construction towards the $4.4bn project officially commenced in 2018 with preliminary works ongoing since 2016. Its scope consists of the construction of twin 3.5 km long double-track rail tunnels underneath Auckland’s city centre, between Britomart Transport Centre and Mount Eden Railway Station.

Two new underground stations will be constructed at Aotea and Karangahape. Britomart will be converted from a terminus station into a through station and Mount Eden Station will be completely rebuilt with four platforms to serve as an interchange between the new CRL line and the existing Western Line. Wider network improvements are also part of the project.

It is slated for completion by 2024.

“Similar to Sydney and Melbourne, we’ve got some form of a loop. The Western line and the Southern line converge at one railway station with the Eastern line, so all of Auckland’s rail traffic goes into the Britomart station and then basically stops there so that the trains get backed up, full or not,” Sweeney said.

“Essentially, what City Rail Link is seeking to do is make Britomart a through station and extend the line back up to the rail network so you can run trains in both directions. Then, by enabling longer, nine car trains, with longer platforms, we can triple the capacity of the rail network.”

This means increasing capacity from 14,000 pph to 54,000 pph into the CBD, allowing for a train every ten minutes in peak.

“By our calculations that’s the equivalent of 16 lanes of traffic into the city centre in peak,” Sweeney said.

This will double the number of people within 30 minutes of NZ’s biggest employment hub, bringing with it significant commercial and residential opportunities around stations.

Though early works commenced in 2016, Sweeney explains that about 10 years ago a forward-thinking Auckland mayor decided to start the project without funding from central government.

“This project had quite an unusual start. The mayor realised that to make Britomart a through station someone had to start building tunnels underneath the city, so Auckland council went out and started construction without central government support which was a very brave thing to do.

“They managed it with a whole range of contracts and multiple contracting types, which made it a little bit confusing but it was what they had to do to get going, and it’s gotten off with different forms of construction, bored tunnels, cut and cover tunnels, etc. There’s a really complex grade separation into existing railway lines.”

One of the challenges for the project is that Auckland is built on volcanoes “some of which erupted as recently as 800 years ago, which is very recent geologically”.

“So, to try and avoid some of the recent lava flows we built an incredibly complex geological model. We used the information that was available to us to plot the safest route. We used this model to locate the top striations, so to avoid some of the most recent lava flows. That was a very complex investigation and we have made that model available to the bidders.”

Another challenge is the current size of the infrastructure pipeline across a number of sectors in Australia and New Zealand.

Over an eighteen-month period, Sweeney tracked the pipeline from $80bn in September 2017 to more than double that in August 2018, and then $220bn in February 2019.

“I’ve never encountered this extent of growth and the way that this complicates what we have to do and the effect it has on our market is a real stretch. Certainly, historically New Zealand has built very little in 20 years and so, even getting major international contractors to take us seriously and come and bid for us was a big piece of work.”

However, early works are now “pretty much completed” according to Sweeney.

Moving forward, the agency has wrapped up the outstanding works – including the remaining tunnels, stations and rail systems infrastructure, as well as the related wider network and tracks – into one contract, Contract 3, to be delivered by a “Grand Alliance”.

The alliance consists of: Downer, AECOM, Tonkin + Taylor, WSP Opus, Soletanche Bachy, and Vinci Construction.

In October 2019, the demolition of thirty empty buildings demolished near the Mt Eden railway station began. This will ensure space for the construction of the southern portal for the City Rail Link’s twin tunnels. The cleared site will be used as a staging area for a Tunnel Boring Machine and other machinery.

The first phase of this demolition is due to be completed in March 2020 , and is being managed by the alliance.

MELBOURNE METRO

During January, works towards Melbourne’s metro tunnel ramped up with crews working throughout the month to excavate the final section of the tunnel’s entrance and make room for the new track which will connect existing lines to the tunnel.

The crews will complete major concreting works at the tunnel entrance, pouring the final sections of the tunnel roof slab and installing the tunnel support structures.

“It’s now two years since we signed the contract and we’re well up and running at seven construction sites along the alignment,” Tunnel and Stations package director at Rail Projects Victoria, Linda Cantan, said.

As package director Cantan has overseen the procurement and contract negotiation for the $6bn package to build five new underground stations as well as the tunnel itself. She is responsible for managing the contract throughout construction.

A number of companies are building the tunnel, and construction is split across several work packages.

Early works to relocate services and prepare the construction sites were delivered by John Holland KBR. New tunnels and stations are being built through a Public Private Partnership, named the Cross Yarra Partnership consortium which includes: Lendlease Engineering, John Holland, Bouygues Construction and Capella Capital. Yarra Trams will deliver tram infrastructure works.

Rail systems including signalling and systems integration work will be provided
by CPB Contractors and Bombardier Transportation, while a consortium comprising John Holland, CPB Contractors and AECOM will deliver rail infrastructure works including the tunnel portals and realignment of existing rail lines.

The project is projected to be complete by 2025.

“We’re creating is a dedicated rail line between Sunbury and Dandenong. People ask why a dedicated rail line, by taking capacity out of the city loop we free up extensive capacity through the rest of the rail network.”

The Melbourne Metro Rail Project includes twin nine-kilometre rail tunnels between South Kensington and South Yarra and five new underground stations.

The project will take three of the busiest train lines (Cranbourne, Pakenham and Sunbury lines) through a new tunnel under the city and thus free up space in the city loop to run more trains in and out of the suburbs.

“We have 4 tunnel boring machines doing our tunnelling, which were launched from our two logistics sites at North Melbourne and Anzac Station. Meg and Joan are travelling out to the west at the moment.

“Joan has travelled 470 metres out of north Melbourne, and we’ve had to negotiate the city link viaduct under the Mooney Creek. Meg has gone about 137 metres. We’re also travelling along all of the rail network, so extensive work is needed to make sure we’re doing that in a safe way. To date progress has been very good and in fact the grand settlement has been better than predicted.

“On the eastern side of the alignment, we have Millie and Alice who will launch early next year. They’ve been delivered to Domain, beside Anzac station, and will launch in the first half of 2020. They will be heading out to the eastern portal, then be retrieved and brought back to be relaunched and head towards the city.”

“We’re in quite a narrow corridor and have retaining walls to build to ensure that there’s no settlement of the existing tracks, but we’re working in a very tight environment to create those exits and entrances to the tunnel structures. The PPP is constructing a shaft in that area for the TBM retrieval early in 2020.”

“We’re developing these stations for ten car, high capacity metro trains, which will be procured under a separate PPP. As such our construction boxes are about 250 metres long and the width, depending on the station, about 25 to 30 metres,” Cantan explains.

The Eastern tunnel entrance stops beyond South Yarra station as there is not enough room in the corridor.

“What we’re trying to do here is to put another two train lines in a very congested corridor, where we have multiple train lines coming in from the South East.

“This is another area where we have our Rail Infrastructure Alliance working alongside the PPP. The PPP can build their shaft, that will be used for the extraction of the TBM, right next to where the Rail Infrastructure Alliance are doing the cut and cover structure.”

“We’re now underground in a lot of locations so I keep saying to people: be patient with us because we don’t open till 2025, but we’re now underground, tunnelling, excavating and starting the build out of our stations,” Cantan concludes.

Councils join push for Brisbane-Toowoomba passenger rail

Multiple levels of government are now working to get travellers on trains between Brisbane and Toowoomba.

Three councils between Brisbane and Toowoomba have formed an Alliance to advocate for rail in connecting the two cities.

The Ipswich to Toowoomba Passenger Rail Alliance, made up of the Lockyer Valley Regional Council, the Toowoomba Regional Council and the Ipswich City Council, has also invited industry representatives to join the grouping.

“Toowoomba is Australia’s largest inland non-capital city, yet has no meaningful passenger rail link, so this is an opportunity we cannot miss,” said Toowoomba Regional Council Mayor Paul Antonio.

In the 2018-2019 federal budget, the Australian government committed up to $15 million to a Business Case for passenger rail between Toowoomba and Brisbane. The line would pass through Ipswich and the towns of Gatton, Grantham, and Helidon, before reaching Toowoomba.

While irregular services currently operate between Toowoomba and Brisbane, the narrow gauge line limits the productivity of the line, as does its steepness.

The federal government’s business case will investigate upgrading the existing line to enable frequent commuter passenger rail services and integrating passenger services in freight corridors.

The trio of councils want the local community to be included in any final decision, said Lockyer Valley Regional Council Mayor Tanya Milligan.

“We want to ensure our local communities are adequately included in the business case, so we’re seeking active involvement from key sectors across Council regions in that process.”

A future rail line would benefit the communities it passes through, said Antonio.

“Faster regular passenger rail between Brisbane and Toowoomba via Ipswich is vital for the future of the wider region, especially in providing reliable access to employment, tertiary education, specialist health services and tourism opportunities.”

Already, Lockyer Valley Tourism are onboard with the Alliance, and the council will be looking for other participants.