Most extensive community consultation in WA public transport history shapes final station design

The new designs of the future Bayswater station in Perth have been updated after the most extensive community consultation in the history of transport projects in Western Australia.

Online surveys, community events, briefings, presentations, enquiries and community reference groups contributed feedback on the station’s initial design.

As a result of those inputs, escalators were added to the station, which previously only included stairs and lifts.

Architectural elements were also tweaked due to community feedback. More colour, and texture were added, and streamlined shaping was added to the structures, as well as the public spaces and landscaping.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the station’s design was a product of its community.

“Today’s new designs reflect the feedback provided by the Bayswater community,” she said.

“The new designs are a great outcome for the local community and public transport users, drawing on both local rail heritage and the natural world that surrounds it.”

Finished designs mimic the metal fluting on train carriages and the ripples of the nearby Swan River.

At the High Wycombe station, community consultation will also shape the station, with young people from the Kalamunda area to collaborate with an established artist for an art piece that will stretch across a 40m-long wall at Ibis Place.

High Wycombe is one of the new stations constructed as part of the Forrestfield-Airport Link project, and the youth-led art piece is designed to foster positive interactions between young people, Perth’s public transport workers and infrastructure.

WA public Transport Authority (PTA) spokesman David Hynes said the art was part of the Right Track program.

“Building a positive relationship between ourselves and our young passengers is a win for everyone on the Transperth network, and collaborations like this go a long way to achieving that,” he said.

“By its nature public transport infrastructure can produce a few of these large blank walls, so when it’s appropriate to do so it’s great to involve the local community – in this case local youth – in making the space their own.”

Construction in Parramatta CBD underway ahead of revitalisation efforts

Major works in the centre of Parramatta have begun, bringing the new light rail line from Westmead to Carlingford one step closer.

Work on Church Street in the city centre, also known as ‘Eat Street’ due to its diversity of restaurants and cafes, has commenced.

Crews will remove the existing pavement and road surface to conduct deep excavation and moving or replacing underground utilities such as water, gas pipes, and telecommunication services.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that the project was moving ahead to bring the new light rail line closer to completion.

“We know the community is eager to see this light rail built and we will be working hard over the next five months to make the most of this time,” he said.

The works will involve a micro-tunnelling machine that will reduce noise and impact compared to street-level work. The machine will move up to 10 metres a day.

“Our construction timetable together with innovative engineering techniques will see this precinct through to a fantastic new light rail network that will bring passengers into the heart of Parramatta,” said Constance.

The winter works program will be sped up to ensure that as much is done as possible before a construction grace period from 1 November until February 1 so that locals and visitors can return to the alfresco dining precinct during the summer.

Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee said that to stimulate business activity during this period, the government will be sponsoring precinct activation works.

“We’re pleased to give businesses certainty that hoardings will come down at the beginning of November, giving everyone a break from construction,” said Lee.

“This is in addition to the many other ways we’re proudly supporting Eat Street.”

Initiatives include installing colourful shadecloth and hoarding, an app to attract patrons, a shop local competition, and business support programs.

Community getting involved in shaping rail projects

Community members are having their say in the identity of rail projects around Australasia.

In New Zealand, City Rail Link has announced that its tunnel boring machine (TBM) will be named after Dame Whina Cooper, who campaigned for social justice and land rights for Māori in New Zealand. Chief executive of City Rail Link Ltd Sean Sweeney welcomed the choice.

“We were looking for the name of a New Zealand woman who inspired – brave, compassionate and fearless – and all those outstanding leadership qualities are well and truly represented by the very remarkable Dame Whina Cooper.”

Dame Whina Cooper was one of three women who were shortlisted to inspire the name of the TBM and the final decision was made by a poll that attracted 3,500 votes. The two other women who were nominated were Margaret Bradshaw, an Antarctic scientist, and the world’s first elected openly transgender Mayor and Member of Parliament, Georgina Beyer.

“I am grateful to all New Zealanders for their support and their nominations and votes, particularly at a time when we were all grappling with a pandemic. I would also like to thank Dr Bradshaw and Ms Beyer for allowing their names to be considered for our TBM,” said Sweeney.

The TBM will arrive on site in October, and will be reassembled at the Link Alliance project site at Mt Eden. The TBM will excavate two 1.6km tunnels from Mt Eden to Aotea Station.

In Western Australia, over 2,400 community members were involved in the future of Cockburn Central Station Tower.

After the removal of the controversial Cockburn Faces artwork in October 2019, the Cockburn community was asked to select a new use of the tower. Options included a new artwork, clock, digital screen, or the return of the faces.

After a month-long survey, 43 per cent opted for a new piece of artwork, and 37 per cent preferred an analogue clock.

“The community has spoken and, with almost half of the votes going for new artwork, our attention will now turn towards selecting an appropriate piece for the tower,” said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

The WA Public Transport Authority will release a tender for the new artwork for a local WA artist in the coming months. Jandakot MLA Yaz Mubarakai said the site is significant for the local community.

“Thousands of motorists and train commuters see the Cockburn Tower every day so it’s important they’ve been able to have their say and the most popular option has been selected.”

Inland Rail awards $80,000 in scholarships

Four regional students have been awarded scholarships valued at up to $20,000 each as part of the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) Inland Rail scholarship program.

The four students from regional Queensland are the first to be awarded scholarships under ARTC’s Inland Rail Skills Academy.

The scholarships for the University of Southern Queensland will provide the four students with support from Inland Rail as they continue their studies at the university.

In announcing the scholarships, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the Inland Rail Skills Academy was investing in Australia’s youth.

“Along with 16,000 jobs created during Inland Rail’s construction, this is a long term investment in young people and a commitment to support jobs and skill development through the delivery of Inland Rail,” McCormack said.

“Every person trained through Inland Rail will have skills and expertise to take back to their communities, wherever they are in Australia, which will help boost local economies.”

The ARTC’s scholarship program is open to undergraduate students living in areas close to the Inland Rail route, giving financial assistance of $5,000 per year to study with a total value of up to $20,000 each.

Mathias Cormann, minister for finance said that beyond the $16 billion boost from its construction, Inland Rail can add another $13 billion in value to gross regional product over its first 50 years, depending on the conditions to invest along the rail line.

“It’s good to see the Inland Rail Skills Academy doing their part to build the workforce capability that will attract and retain investment to regional Australia and boost economic output for the long-term,” he said.

“It’s fantastic that Inland Rail is providing financial support to regional students who might struggle to afford tertiary education – giving them the opportunity to graduate into fulfilling careers and give back to their communities,” Geraldine Mackenzie, University of Southern Queensland’s vice chancellor said.

Awardees of these Queensland scholarships include Sophie Boon, Samuel Butler, Rebecca Hallahan, and Braidyn Newitt.

Rebecca Pickering, ARTC’s Inland Rail director for community and environment said the academy was keen to support students by providing opportunities for them to graduate into careers, which add value to their local regions.

“These scholarships and the employment opportunities they unlock will act as a catalyst for positive change in many regional communities along the Inland Rail alignment. And we are delighted to partner with the University of Southern Queensland in support of our locals,” Pickering said.

Inland Rail to boost regional Australia by $13.3b

Regional communities across Australia are set to benefit from $13.3 billion in gross regional product due to the Inland Rail project.

According to an eight month study by EY, Inland Rail can add up to $13 billion in today’s terms to the value of goods and services produced over its first 50 years of operation.

The report was undertaken throughout 2019 and released by the Deputy Prime Minister in March 2020. The report builds on the projected 16,000 jobs and $16 billion boost to the national economy outlined in the 2015 Inland Rail Business Case

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development said Inland Rail is going to draw industry to regional Australia where the enhanced freight rail network will connect companies and consumers both domestically and internationally

“What the EY report is assessing is the additional benefit to communities from the opportunities that arise for local businesses and people from the completion of Inland Rail,” he said.

“For example, it might be a cereal manufacturer whose freight costs drop by 30 per cent allowing the employment of additional staff, or it might be the expansion of regional processing that takes advantage of Inland Rail’s lower cost and greater capacity and connectivity.”

EY looked at case studies, international examples, and local knowledge to determine the potential for investment, employment and growth along, and beyond, the alignment.

“The benefits of this project are going to be felt across generations. Right now, young people from regional areas are directly benefiting from working on Inland Rail’s construction including the 656 locals who have worked on the project in the Parkes region and the more than $75 million spent with local businesses,” he said.

“Inland Rail gives these communities new ways to grow and rebuild with better connections to interstate and international markets, new jobs and a stronger case for attracting public and private investment,” he said.

Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister said the first wave of developments are taking shape.

“We are very confident that many other regional towns in and around the Inland Rail corridor will secure further significant investment, development and job creation opportunities for their towns on the back of this exciting project,” Cormann said.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communication said in a statement that this work was tested with industry, governments, and communities with the study team heading to Narrabri, Toowoomba, Wagga Wagga, and Wodonga to get people’s views. 

That input shaped the forecasting and tested the study’s early findings. 

“We thank the communities, industry groups and local government who helped shape this work with local data and evidence,” the department stated.

The report followed another week of speculation on the impact of flooding on the regional rail link’s route via the Condamine floodplain. Shadow Member for Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Development Catherine King said that the government needs to consider hydrological modelling commissioned by farmers close to the alignment.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) released a statement standing by its own modelling, which it said showed that the selected route is the right one.

“The science tells us there is no premise to change the route based on flood modelling and the economics tells us that this route was the most viable, cost effective option,” said ARTC Inland Rail chief executive Richard Wankmuller.

Local concerns have been incorporated into the design of the route, said Wankmuller.

“It’s important governments and the community have confidence in the engineering and science that allows countries like Australia to deliver world-class infrastructure.”

As part of the deal signed between the federal and Queensland governments which gave the Border to Gowrie section the go-ahead, an international review panel will review the floodplain modelling.

Inland Rail to meet with community in regional NSW

Members of the community have the chance to learn more about the progress of planning for Inland Rail between Narromine to Narrabri (N2N).

Local community members, landowners, and businesses will be able to engage with the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) throughout five community sessions being hosted by Inland Rail across the alignment between March 9 and 13.

Inland Rail will share more about the work conducted to date to refine the proposed N2N route.

Rebecca Pickering, ARTC Inland Rail director community and environment said work is happening to help inform the build for the 300KM of new track.

“Our work to date to progress the future alignment between Narromine to Narrabri has included more than 12 months of engagement with the community, environmental and hydrology studies, and early engineering design work,” she said.

“Through these methods we have been able to refine the alignment study area from between 2-5 kilometres wide to around 150 metres to 400 metres wide.”

Pickering said the aim of the community drop-in sessions are to understand more about the environmental planning and consultation work and learn about the future opportunities for the community.

“Community consultation and engagement is vital to the success of Inland Rail. We are committed to leaving a positive legacy by ensuring the community benefits from the project through initiatives like jobs and local spend during the construction phase, the Community Sponsorships and Donations program and training and support of local businesses,” she said.

“Large-scale infrastructure projects such as Inland Rail are a catalyst for growth — they boost economic development and investment, bring jobs and opportunities to local businesses and communities, a hopefully welcome boost in challenging times of drought.”

Afternoon and evening sessions will be held between March 9 and 13 in Narrabri, Barradine, Gilganda, Curban and Narromine.

“This will provide an opportunity for everyone to stay informed and updated on the progress of the alignment to date. No registration is required for these sessions,” Pickering said.

Rooty Hill station upgrades increase accessibility

Station upgrades have been completed at Rooty Hill Station, in Western Sydney.

The station, located on the Main Western Line, now has four new lifts to make each platform accessible. Family accessible toilets have also been installed on each platform, said a transport for NSW spokesperson.

“The upgrade also includes a new pedestrian footbridge with new stairs to each platform, larger platform canopies for better weather protection and upgrades to CCTV and lighting to improve customer safety and security,” said the spokesperson.

In addition to the work on the station, a new commuter car park, with 750 car spaces, 16 accessible spaces, 10 motorcycle spaces, and 10 electric vehicle charging spaces, opened in early January.

Power for the vehicle charging ports will be locally sourced.

“The power requirements for these facilities are supplemented by sustainable features built into the car park design, including a rooftop solar system with 1140 solar panels. These also efficiently operate the car park lights and lift,’ said the TfNSW spokesperson.

Included in the upgrades are artworks produced by the local Aboriginal community, and pavers have been installed with the handprints of 450 school children from the local area.

The station’s heritage as the original terminus of the Western line’s extension to Blacktown, and its subsequent role in Sydney and NSW’s rail heritage is acknowledged in the station’s footbridge.

The upgrades to Rooty Hill station are part of TfNSW’s wider Transport Access Program, which is making stations more accessible around the state.

Inland Rail grants $4000 to a men’s cultural group in QLD

Over $55,000 in community donations from Inland Rail will be granted to groups across the whole rail corridor in regional Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

The Maibin Jaihilah Yahgilah men’s cultural group from Beaudesert, Queensland will receive $4000 in the third round of the Inland Rail Community Sponsorships and Donations program.

The funds will be used for the completion of an amenities block on a five-hectare site that has significant cultural ties to Mt Warning (Wollumbin) and the Mununjali people dating back thousands of years.

Rebecca Pickering, Inland Rail Director of Engagement, Environment and Property said more than $180,000 has already been allocated in the first three rounds of the program to help communities through a range of events, projects and activities.

“We congratulate successful recipients for this round which include sporting groups, schools, men’s groups, and Indigenous Cultural Groups. Funded projects represent a diverse range of initiatives such as upgrading community facilities, skills building in the areas of STEM education and inclusive events,” Pickering said.

Sharne Iselin, president of the Maibin Jahyilah Yahgilah men’s group said they meet every month to discuss challenges and barriers and how to overcome them.

“The work we do is really important and sadly it’s something that is badly needed in today’s society. We do all we can to support our community empower and strengthen local Mununjali cultural values and principles,” Iselin said.

The next round of funding applications for the program is now open and eligible groups can still apply for funding of between $1000 and $4000 for their project or service by Friday 31 January.

Inland Rail said in a statement that applications are encouraged from individuals and organisations in regional centres along the corridor, to ensure regional areas receive maximum benefit.

People are invited to visit the Inland Rail website to apply for a donation and for further information on the program.

Community projects spread the benefit of Inland Rail

Inland Rail’s impact on the communities it serves will not only come in the form of rail services.

The project announced 19 initiatives from laptops to Dolly Parton to improve the wellbeing of the communities which the project interacts with.

The announcement is the third round of the Inland Rail Community Sponsorships and Donations program, and includes over $55,000 for schools, community groups, and associations in regional Queensland, NSW, and Victoria.

Director of engagement, environment and property for Inland Rail, Rebecca Pickering outlined the project’s rationale.

“A key commitment of Inland Rail is to leave a positive legacy along the rail corridor and the Community Sponsorships and Donations program is just one example of how we seek to ensure regional communities benefit from this unique project,” she said.

Over $180,000 worth of grants covering events, projects, and activities, have been announced so far.

The next round of funding is now open, and groups can apply for funding of between $1,000 and $4,000 until Friday, January 31.

“These grants are in addition to the support Australian Rail Track Corporation is providing to bushfire impacted communities which includes raising funds for the Bushfire Crisis Appeal and encouraging volunteering by employees,” said Pickering.

Grants in this round went to projects including the Narromine Dolly Parton Festival, the purchase of tools for the Gundy Men’s Shed, five laptops for Forbes Public School, and the Mitchell Community Multicultural Festival.