Contracts awarded for track and systems works on CRL

Two contracts have been awarded for the delivery of works for Auckland’s City Rail Link.

Known as C5 and C7, the contracts have been awarded to delivery consortium Link Alliance and are within the existing project budget.

C5 primarily involves the connection between the new line from Britomart, via Aotea and Karangahape, to the existing line at Mt Eden. Where the CRL meets the North Auckland Line at Mt Eden, the twin track split into two branches, eastbound and westbound, said Francois Dudouit, project director for the Link Alliance.

“This requires changing the vertical alignment of the NAL tracks and partially the horizontal alignment, meaning replacement of tracks and overhead line equipment (OHLE) on more than 1km of the North Auckland line,” he said.

“It also requires retaining walls to transition from the existing NAL track level to the CRL line – a 3.5 per cent slope. More than 1,000 piles, diaphragm and sheet pile walls will be needed to build these retaining structures and the two cross-over structures to connect to the NAL upmain.”

Road and pedestrian bridges at a number of level crossings will also be built, including at Normanby Road, Fenton Street, and Porters Avenue, to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety.

The C7 contract covers the Systems Integration, Testing and Commissioning components of the CRL project. These include trackslab, track, overhead line, signalling, control systems, communications systems, control room fit-out and building work, and trackside auxiliaries. Work also includes integrating the new line and systems with the legacy systems on the Auckland rail network.

Dudouit said that work to connect the various components of the project is already occurring.

“Integration of the C5 and C7 teams into the Link Alliance is well underway across multiple workstreams including civils, programme and cost control. Early works such as utility relocations and establishing single-line running are already taking place as part of an integrated programme to deliver the City Rail Link to Aucklanders in 2024.”

As these elements of the project require involvement from various stakeholder from the current network, such as the transport authority, Auckland Transport, close working relationships have been established.

“KiwiRail and Auckland Transport, and their supply partners, are formally engaged for the City Rail Link project through stakeholder partnership agreements. On a day-to-day basis, staff from both Auckland Transport and KiwiRail work in the Link Alliance offices to maximise collaboration opportunities, as part of an established interface and relationship management programme,” said Dudoit.

Karangahape

Tunnelling works progress at Karangahape station site

Tunnel mining has begun at the site of the future Karangahape Station with a large excavator brought in to create a 15 metre long connection to the caverns of the future station.

Machinery is digging out the short tunnel from the temporary access shaft, 18 metres deep.

Dale Burtenshaw, deputy alliance director for Link Alliance said the connection would be critical.

“This connection is short, but it will become an important and busy ‘construction artery’ for us providing access for people, machines and material,” he said.

Once the 9.5 metre wide and 8m high arch-shaped tunnel is excavated a roadaheader will finish the connection before beginning to dig out the station platform tunnels.

“It’s a clear sign of work ramping up. Our focus is very much on welcoming the Tunnel Boring Machine at Karangahape Station at the end of next year on the first leg of its journey from Mt Eden,” said Burtenshaw.

When complete, Karangahape will be New Zealand’s deepest underground station at up to 35 metres underground. The station will be 217 metres long to accommodate nine-car trains.

Here the tunnel boring machine will arrive after carving out the twin tunnels from Mt Eden Station.

To ensure construction and earth mining noises are limited, a unique acoustically insulated noise enclosure will encase the access shaft.

“The noise enclosure is a bit like a silencer on a car, reducing the impact of construction at street level in a busy part of the city around Karangahape Road,” Burtenshaw said. “The enclosure muffles construction noise and gives us the flexibility to work longer hours to get the job underground done without disturbing neighbours living and working around us.”

Other work such as the installation of reinforced concrete panels are also underway along with utilities relocation. Plunge columns through the centre of Beresford Square are also beginning to be installed to support floor slabs during construction.

TBM handed over for work on Auckland CRL

The City Rail Link (CRL) project in Auckland, New Zealand, has officially accepted ownership of its tunnel boring machine (TBM).

The machine has been assembled in Guangzhou, China and after a number of tests is ready to be shipped to New Zealand, said Francois Dudouit, project director for CRL’s tunnels and stations delivery consortium Link Alliance.

“The TBM successfully underwent more than 500 tests to make sure everything works as it should. There is now great excitement that we are ready for the next step – to bring the TBM to Auckland.”

The TBM has been designed to meet the unique challenges of tunnelling under Auckland, where it will dig the tunnels, transport the excavated spoil, and install the concrete panels that will line the tunnels.

“It is a unique, world class machine – an underground factory – purpose built to carve its way through Auckland’s sticky soil,” said Dudouit. “Just about everything that moves was tested to make sure it can do the transformational job it’s been designed for.”

While the CRL project has been slightly hampered by restrictions on travel for key personnel, and the delivery of the TBM was delayed due to the factory closing in China, the successful handing over of the TBM demonstrates that the project can continue during COVID-19, said Sean Sweeney, chief executive of CRL.

“The successful factory assessment tests and the handover of the TBM to the Link Alliance is a very clear and strong indication that the CRL project can meet critical milestones in a Covid-19 world.”

The TBM will carve out the twin, 1.6km-long tunnels between Mt Eden and central Auckland where it will connect with tunnels from Britomart. Delivery is expected in October and it will begin tunnelling in April. Each tunnel is expected to take nine months to complete.

The TBM will be named in honour of Māori rights champion Dame Whina Cooper.

public transport

Construction underway across Auckland public transport network

The New Zealand government is investing in building and renewing public transport infrastructure in Auckland to boost the local economy and improve rail services.

The Puhinui Interchange is one of four projects that will receive funding as part of the national government’s transport infrastructure package. Transport Minister Phil Twyford said the upgrades would ensure the projects are finalised on time.

“By investing in the under construction Puhinui Interchange and Stage One of the Ferry Basin Redevelopment project, we are protecting jobs and making sure these important projects can continue. Both are expected to be completed next year.”

Other projects include upgrades to improve bus services and active transport links said Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

“By investing in public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure, not only are we helping people leave the car at home, we are reducing emissions and tackling climate change,” said Genter.

In addition to working on the Puhinui Interchange, Auckland Transport is also upgrading Papakura Station to rectify water leaking into the lift shafts which caused the lifts to often be out of service.

Works at the southern Auckland station will include new roofs and canopies, and a small concrete wall at ground level. Construction is expected to begin before the end of July and completed by mid-October.

At the Karangahape station site in central Auckland, construction has begun on the City Rail Link station, the deepest in New Zealand.

The first of 28 panels for the diaphragm walls are being constructed, which are the first permanent sections of the station.

Once finalised, the station will be 30 metres deep, the deepest of the underground stations built as part of the City Rail Link project.

Once the walls are complete, a roof and supporting columns will be built, and then the station’s platforms and concourse will be built.

Dale Burtenshaw, deputy project director for the Link Alliance, said that the construction process has been designed to minimise disruption.

“Working top-down like this will reduce the impact of construction at street level in a busy part of the city like K Road,” he said. “At the same time, using a hydrofraise allows us to operate close to other buildings without disturbing those buildings. We’ve also fitted mufflers to the machine to reduce noise levels for our neighbours.”

Puhinui

Contract awarded for Puhinui station interchange main works

A joint venture has been selected to complete the NZ$46.6 million ($43.4m) Puhinui station interchange.

McConnell Dowell and Built Environs will construct the bus and rail interchange.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said that the project, estimated for completion in 2021 is responding to the needs of the surrounding area.

“The Puhinui Station Interchange will guarantee reliable and convenient connections for bus and train commuters and help ease congestion,” he said.

“The project will also provide jobs and stimulate the economy to bring forward recovery from the recession caused by COVID-19.”

Early works including foundations, columns, and lift shafts have already been completed, and the next steps involve the installation of the concourse bridge deck, stairs, and the steel superstructure.

New Zealand Transport Minister Phil Twyford said that the interchange will enable better access to Auckland airport.

“When the upgrades to SH20B/Puhinui Road and the Interchange are complete, any Aucklander with access to the rail network will have a fast and convenient 10-minute bus connection to the airport.”

Aotea station ground breaking

A major step in the construction of Aotea station, underneath central Auckland, has taken place.

Twyford joined Goff turned on a 90-tonne ground cutting machine, known as a hydrophraise that will make way for the station’s walls.

The 15 metre deep station, part of the City Rail link project will change the way people get into Auckland, said Goff.A

“When it opens, CRL will double the number of people able to travel into and through the city centre, carrying up to 54,000 people an hour during peak times. The project will create a better Auckland, reducing traffic congestion and transforming our city centre into a vibrant place to spend time in.”

Twyford said that a milestone such as this was even more significant as construction had been impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown.

“Initiatives like extending working hours has allowed the project to quickly ramp up construction momentum after the Covid-19 lockdown and allows us to celebrate today’s milestone for a project that will deliver so much now and in the future.”

With the hydrofraise now turned on, excavation work to allow for diaphragm walls to be constructed can soon begin.

Once complete, Aotea is expected to be the busiest station in New Zealand, with trains arriving up to every 10 minutes. The station will be the connection point between tunnels to Britomart and Karangahape station, which will then link to Mt Eden and the wider rail network.

“CRL is a huge project helping to provide much needed stimulus to the economy and guaranteed jobs,” said Twyford.

benefit

NZ rail projects benefit from fast-track legislation

Rail networks in Auckland and Wellington will benefit from faster approvals in a bill introduced to parliament in New Zealand.

The bill names 11 projects that will benefit, three of which are rail projects. The first is the upgrade to Britomart station in downtown Auckland which will enable City Rail Link to operate at full capacity once services begin.

The next project is the electrification of the Pukekohe line from Papakura and the construction of three rail platforms. Auckland Metro services will then be able to terminate at Pukekohe, decreasing emissions from transport and avoiding the need to change to diesel-hauled services.

The third project is a suite of small projects across the Wellington Metro network known as the Wellington Metro Upgrade programme. These projects include upgrading drainage and stations, new tracks and storage yards, as well as the creation and operation of a gravel extraction site. Once complete, the works will increase passenger and freight capacity between Masterton, Levin, and Wellington.

If passed, the projects will be assessed by Expert Consenting Panels, which will place appropriate conditions on the projects, allowing them to proceed.

“Accelerating these projects will create opportunities for more employment and a boost to local economies,” said Environment Minister David Parker.

The bill also includes the provision for KiwiRail to undertake repair, maintenance, and minor upgrade works on existing infrastructure within the rail corridor as a permitted activity. This would mean the state-owned enterprise would not need a resource consent.

The fast-track law will exist for a limited time and will self-repeal in two years.

Utility relocation works underway on CRL
Workers on Auckland’s City Rail Link are currently having to contend with what the project terms a “spiders’ web” of utility networks underneath city streets.

At the site of the upcoming Aotea station, a gas main threatened to disrupt construction works, said Link Alliance site engineer Abhi Amin.

“That pipe wasn’t in our scope – not buried below the service lane where we thought it would be. Its location was exactly where we didn’t want it to be – in the ceiling right in the way of our planned piling for a diaphragm wall to support the new station,” said Amin. “Shifting it quickly became a critical part of the construction programme.”

Scissor crossing and new trains in preparation for City Rail Link

A new scissor crossing has been installed at Mt Eden, in Auckland, to allow trains continue running while work on the City Rail Link continues.

The crossing was installed in an around-the-clock operation over the New Zealand Queen’s Birthday long weekend to minimise disruption to commuters, said KiwiRail COO Todd Moyle.

“To complete this job we needed over 80 hours of train-free track access to install the new track system.”

The scissor crossing was built offsite and then installed over the weekend.

“It took seven days to build and had to be craned into position. Sitting on 6m long concrete sleepers that span two tracks the new track was installed in 11 different sections – the heaviest being over 25 tonnes or the equivalent of two single decker buses,” said Moyle.

With the crossing now in place, the City Rail Link builder, Link Alliance, can progress work at Mt Eden where the new tunnel will connect with the existing rail network and the Western Link. The work is crucial for the success of New Zealand’s largest infrastructure project, said Dale Burtenshaw, deputy project director for Link Alliance.

“It means that a single line can run through Mt Eden while we undertake construction in the rail corridor for the new rail trenches and redeveloped station. We’ll be able to complete our construction safely while train users continue their journeys past Mt Eden.”

Moyle described how the new crossing would work.

“It is part of preparing Auckland’s network for the City Rail Link opening in 2024. By removing a pinch point and creating more flexible track use, the scissor crossover will allow trains to switch tracks when travelling in either direction and is critical to improving reliability as train frequency increases.”

New trains for Auckland
Auckland Transport has welcomed the arrival of the first of 15 new trains.

Built by CAF, the new trains are largely similar to those already in operation, with changes to door operation to reduce station wait times and new internal detailing.

Following the COVID-19 lockdown, Auckland is seeing a return to public transport with patronage back up to 50 per cent of normal levels, and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the new trains will respond to increased demand.

“It’s great to see the new trains in service, they will help with increasing demand as we return to business as usual across the city.

Chief executive of Auckland Transport Shane Ellison said that the trains will add capacity alongside the City Rail Link project.

“We know that patronage on the rail network keeps growing, thanks to the success of the original fleet. These trains will help with added capacity as the network grows until the City Rail Link is completed.”

Adding value

City Rail Link has redefined sustainability for the delivery of rail infrastructure projects.

The importance of embedding sustainability into a rail project from the outset may seem like an addition to the many other concerns that beset a rail infrastructure project in its early stages. However, incorporating sustainability outcomes at the beginning can have a significant impact. Even when taking the asset’s 100-year lifecycle – excluding traction power – into account, the embodied carbon in materials and use of energy in construction make up 47 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. (this figure comes from the first two contract packages – C1 and C2 – of Auckland’s City Rail Link (CRL).

From the formation of City Rail Link Limited, the crown entity jointly funded by Auckland Council and the New Zealand government, sustainability was core to the project, said Liz Root, principal sustainability advisor to the project. At the start, sustainability was on par with the other major elements of the project when Root joined the project six years ago.

“We were relatively small team of discipline project managers, all as peers, and sustainability was one of the things that we as a project were doing,” said Root.

Having come from the building and construction industry, Root was familiar with the array of codes, guidelines, and ratings, which could certify a building and construction project’s sustainability, but in moving to infrastructure, there was not the same kind of background understanding of the importance of sustainability in a project’s delivery. Early conversations in the project team focused on what sustainability meant for an infrastructure project. Although this could be seen as a disadvantage, for CRL this meant that the project team could redefine sustainability to be appropriate for their context.

New Zealand has a commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and Auckland Council has a target of zero waste to landfill by 2040. Root and the sustainability team used these goals to help define the project’s own sustainability objectives.

‘We are using the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA)’s Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) framework as a verification tool. It was a case of working with our wider project team to really understand if we just carried on as we were, where might we sit, where might our sustainability performance fall, and where can we stretch ourselves?” said Root.

These discussions were occurring as the first two contracts, C1 and C2, were progressing to early contractor involvement (ECI). Now, as the C3 stations and tunnels contracts are underway, sustainability has been embedded in the project.

“The journey has continued, and our thinking has evolved and enabled us to build an enhanced suite of requirements and expectations into the contracts,” said Root.

CRL has five focus areas within its sustainability strategy – reducing resource consumption, zero waste to landfill, social outcomes, Mana Whenua outcomes, and governance and reporting. Having begun from defining what sustainability means for the project, having these target areas within the IS framework can enable the project to provide measurable outcomes on sustainability, something that Root describes as an evolution for sustainability in infrastructure.

“Ten to fifteen years ago, sustainability was seen as full of tree huggers and hippies, and as something that was an expense, and for me, it’s been really important that the work we do is really tangible and that we calculate and demonstrate the benefits of what we’re working to do,” said Root.

“That is where the IS framework comes in. We’re setting ourselves targets in this space and challenging ourselves to reduce our footprint, to reduce our waste and here’s an independent industry body that can verify the work that we’re doing.”

Concept design of the interior of CRL’s Karangahape station incorporating traditional Māori designs and narratives.

WORKING TOWARDS OUTCOMES
While the IS Framework is an important part of CRL’s sustainability strategy, Root highlights that the tool itself is not the goal.

“I’ve worked with rating tools in the built environment and infrastructure in the UK, Australia and NZ, with mixed feelings, and from a sustainability practitioner point of view, the rating tool is not really the end point, you want to deliver better outcomes, and deliver the project as efficiently and effectively as you can.”

This approach led to CRL using the ISCA verification tool to quantify outcomes.

“We want a particular performance in the IS rating to demonstrate that we’re at a particular level in our sustainability performance. We’ve already said resource consumption and zero waste to landfill are really important so we’re going to focus our contractors on those parts of the tools, as well as the additional criteria around those areas, and ensure that it gets verified at the highest level of performance.”

Another area for CRL was making sure that the project reflected Mana Whenua cultural principles. While in NZ, under the Resources Management Act (RMA), projects such as CRL are required to engage with local Māori iwi or tribes. Since 2012, CRL had adopted a more in-depth form of collaboration with eight iwi in the Auckland area. This partnership has been structured through the Mana Whenua Forum, which is formalised in the project’s legally binding consent conditions. With CRL having adopted the IS Framework, Root was invited to present to the Forum on the project’s sustainability focus.

“At these types of presentations, people normally politely listen to what you’re saying and ask you the odd question or nod along. At the Mana Whenua Forum, I mentioned using the IS Framework, and it was not the polite nods and smiles and the odd question it was – I’m paraphrasing – ‘What are you thinking using an Australian framework?’” said Root.

“Australians are not known for their reputation of engaging well with their Indigenous people, so I came away from that meeting thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’ but it was really the start of something fantastic. It was the start of numerous conversations, numerous hui [meetings] where I was sharing detail on the IS Framework, and actually going into some of the technical nuances around the criteria. It was a two-way process where Mana Whenua shared their world view.”

These discussions have led to the project embracing Māori principles of Kaitiakitanga, which covers ensuring the welfare of the people and the environment, while also fulfilling spiritual and emotional responsibilities to the environment and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Māori view of the interconnectedness of living and non-living things. These principles then informed an adaptation of the IS Framework, which is one of the first in the world to incorporate indigenous cultural values. Within the project, the positive relationship with Mana Whenua has led to the design of stations and surrounding precincts incorporating cultural narratives. The project won international architectural awards for doing so, while also defining a process by which other projects could more deeply engage with their social and cultural context.

“Now other projects might use the same process that we used to engage with their local iwi around how their cultural considerations could be incorporated. The precedent that we set is a process of collaboration,” said Root.

CRL’s collaboration with iwi through the Mana Whenua Forum provided another lens to analyse the project, in a similar way to how the sustainability team are able to appraise work on CRL. As Root describes, having these lenses can add value to an infrastructure project.

“We are really trying to do things better, more efficiently, and more effectively. It’s a slightly different lens and some of the value is actually maybe a different way of thinking.”

Rather than an add on, sustainability within the CRL has been a tool for the project to achieve better outcomes.

“I don’t think we’re ever trying to tell an engineer how to do their job, but instead we are saying can you achieve the same outcome with a bit less waste. For example, those temporary piles that we’re designing, is that something that can get removed afterwards for reuse rather than being buried?”

With sustainability sitting at the top as an overarching goal for the project, part of the challenge is to ensure this thinking percolates down into the contractors and subcontractors who carry out the project. Root has been enthused to see this happening at all levels of the project.

“They’re suddenly doing a rejig of the C1 office space as the project changes and I’m there ready to ask that question again, ‘What are you going to do if you don’t need the desks or the chairs anymore?’ and they’ve already connected with a community group and it goes to charities to help them with their office space.”

Materials salvaged from office blocks and factories being demolished for the project have been shipped to the Pacific Kingdom of Tonga for re-use, and one of Auckland’s last remaining 19th century cottages was saved from demolition and transported to a new site 70 kilometres away.

Achieving this, however, begins at the most fundamental level, highlighted Root.

“It starts with procurement.You make it really clear in your contract what you want and, having worked in construction in the past, some of the contractors would think we don’t actually need to worry about sustainability because the client doesn’t check. We, CRL, have been a team that cares. We care about the reporting and if you look at our statement of intent and our statement of performance expectations, which are our governance documents, we report to our sponsors on sustainability outcomes.”

Just as the project looks to deliver 100 years of safe, electrically powered mobility for Auckland, the project’s scale means that in construction, it can have many generations of impact.

“We’re trying to share the learnings and talk about what value has been created so that other people can see the value in delivering infrastructure sustainably, creating a new ‘normal’. With the scale of CRL, we’re also impacting a significant portion of the infrastructure supply chain and seeing them upskill. Making it easier for the supply chain to deliver things more sustainably is a positive legacy for CRL, with benefits for the contracting industry and the wider community as well,” said Root.

CRL

CRL stepping-up after COVID-19 lockdown

Construction sites in central Auckland will be working double shifts to complete the City Rail Link (CRL) as quick as possible.

From Monday, May 18, working hours at the Mt Eden and Karangahape will be extended to up to 16 hours per day, from 7am to 10pm Monday to Friday and 7am to 7pm on Saturday.

Although essential back-office work was able to be completed while New Zealand’s level 4 restrictions prohibited site access, CRL chief executive Sean Sweeney said that the project has changed.

“I think we have come out of the lockdown pretty well – apparently faster than most projects – but one thing is certain, COVID-19’s legacy means CRL is now going to be a very different project than it was two months ago.”

The scale of the project, as the largest transport infrastructure project ever undertaken in New Zealand, has meant that the full restart of the project has a wider impact on the economy.

“This project plays a key role in the economic recovery post-COVID-19. The scale of CRL means there is so much we can do right now and into the future to create much needed jobs and to help get the economy pumping again,” said Sweeney.

“Operating two shifts on a site means more people working and more money in their pockets to go and spend locally.”

Currently, 40 key workers are stuck overseas and have been unable to travel to New Zealand, however the project is seeking to be classified as an essential service to enable the workers to come to New Zealand.

“If we able to persuade the Government to support our request, those CRL workers overseas together with their skills should find it easier to get to New Zealand,” said Sweeney.

While the project remains on track, some other delays have been caused by the arrival of the boring machine pushed back until late 2020, with tunnelling to begin in early 2021. The lockdown’s full effect on costs and project timings is being investigated.

“That work will take several months, and the outcome will depend on the health of the economy, how our suppliers here at home and overseas are faring, and on international efforts to curb COVID-19,” said Sweeney. “CRL is important for Auckland’s future and the measures announced today are an important first step to keep to our timetable and to our budget.”