Harnessing the rail boom to improve safety outcomes

There is a concerted effort underway across the rail industry in Australia to leverage the current investment in the rail sector to improve safety outcomes.

Speakers at the 20th annual Rail Industry Safety & Standards Board (RISSB) Rail Safety Conference 2020 highlighted that with the many major projects occurring concurrently around Australia, there is the opportunity to reset and improve when it comes to safety.

John Langron, rail safety manager Sydney Metro outlined how this is happening in practice on Australia’s largest public transport project. With construction underway on the CBD and South West portion of the project, new safety practices and methods are being implemented and normalised to improve overall safety culture.

While Langron noted that on such a high visibility project there is an expectation that the project will provide safer outcomes, the size of the project is also an opportunity. In the construction phase, Sydney Metro has implemented processes that are “a step above a normal maintenance job” said Langron.

These include daily preliminary checks before starting work, including drug and alcohol testing and verification of workers’ qualifications.

On major worksites such as at Central Station, large concrete barriers have been erected to separate work sites and the live rail environment, which also reduce dust and noise pollution for passengers on the adjacent platforms.

Ways of working have shifted too. Sydney Metro has instituted a prohibition on lookout protection working and conducted on-track works under local possession authorities (LPA). Through forward planning and collaboration with Sydney Trains, this has ensured that works are done on time at a higher level of safety.

Changing safety culture however takes more that physical and administrative controls. As Langron pointed out, with a new project a new culture can be established with the formation of the organisation. There is an “Opportunity for creating the culture that Sydney Metro wants” said Langron.

The culture from the top then sets the standard for within the organisation and the principle contracts and rail transport operators that Sydney Metro interacts with. Having had this experience of working alongside Sydney Metro, Sydney Trains has now shifted to doing more routine maintenance tasks during night time when no trains are running, according to Langron.

construction

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crews

Crews closing in on new stations, track, roads from Cheltenham to Mentone

Crews are over halfway to completing the largest ever level crossing removal blitz in Victoria.

Since May 23, up to 1,700 people have worked to remove three level crossings and construct two new stations between Cheltenham and Mentone. On 24-hour shifts, the crews are over halfway through the 64 day construction blitz before trains return to the Frankston line on Monday, July 27.

The concerted work effort has required a phalanx of machinery and equipment, with 180 large pieces of plant and the largest mobile crane in Australia deployed to the project, coming in at 750 tonnes.

200,000 cubic metres of soil have been removed from the worksites, with 50 trucks carrying away the spoil every hour. Other materials required include over 6,800 tonnes of steel reinforcing and 15,000 cubic metres of concrete.

Work has begun on laying the 25,000 tonnes of ballast needed for the new rail tracks, as well as the start of signalling and overhead wire works. Concurrently, trench walls are being reinforced and stations buildings are platforms are in the process of being constructed.

As of late June, 480 tonnes of rail and over 20km of overhead wiring are still to be brought on site.

New stations are only a month away, with Mentone Station scheduled to open on Friday, August 3, and Cheltenham Station on Friday, August 17.

The intersection of Talbot Crescent and Toorak Road has been reopened. This intersection was closed to make way for the Toorak Road level crossing removal and was moved west of the rail bridge, aligned with a new pedestrian crossing across Toorak Road.

Landscaping is currently continuing, while play and exercise equipment is now open. Nearby traffic lights have been synchronised to allow pedestrians to cross safely and cyclists to cross without dismounting. The signals will also improve traffic flow.

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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.”

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.

Inland rail continues major construction with added safety measures

Inland Rail’s construction is continuing along with other major construction projects, with the safe delivery of freight and transport infrastructure a high priority.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has implemented additional public health and safety measures on national rail infrastructure projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development said he has the confidence that all necessary precautions are being taken to protect workers and the communities in which they operate.

“Now more than ever, we need these essential construction services and the economic stimulus to continue, not just to keep people in work, but to ensure we’re in the best place possible to build momentum when we see through this global health crisis,” he said.

“Additional measures put in place by the ARTC and its contractors to protect the health and safety of workers and the local community mean we can continue to deliver projects, such as the transformational Inland Rail.”

McCormack said everyone relies on the freight network to deliver the essential supplies such as food, medicine, and medical equipment, which are critical now more than ever.

“I thank the freight and construction workers who are essential to maintaining our supply chains and laying the ground work for Australia’s freight future,” he said.

More than 1,700 people have worked on Inland Rail since construction began, including 667 locals on the Parkes to Narromine project.

McCormack said the economic injection from this project has been immense with $89 million spent with local businesses and 97 local businesses engaged as suppliers.

More than 165,000 tonnes of ballast has been laid and one million tonnes of earthworks completed since the first sod was turned in Parkes in December 2018.

A total 70km of the 103-kilometre Parkes to Narromine section of Inland Rail is now complete, with final ancillary work under way.

Mathias Cormann, finance minister, said Inland Rail will deliver a $16 billion boost to gross domestic product during construction and the first 50 years of operation.

“Inland Rail will support 5,000 jobs in New South Wales and we are already seeing the benefits of this in Parkes and the surrounding region, with a boost to employment and supplier contracts flowing from construction,” he said.

Cormann said the government is committed to Inland Rail to build Australia’s freight capability and meet increasing demands.

“We are very happy that this vital work can continue safely,” he said.

“It is important that we progress these long-term infrastructure projects to create jobs for Australians, sustain economic activity and to support the recovery on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis.”

Civil contractors have “significant capacity” to support economy

Civil contractors are prepared to make significant investments in employment, if government infrastructure projects are fast tracked.

According to a new survey from the Civil Contractors Federation (CCF), Australia’s civil construction industry has the capacity to restart the nation’s economy following restrictions imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

According to Chris Melham, CEO of CCF, there is an opportunity for smaller companies to get involved.

“The survey results demonstrate civil construction companies, particularly those operating at the tier 2, tier 3, and below have significant capacity to assist the federal government achieve its goals of supporting the economy and to keep people employed during these unprecedented economic conditions,” said Melham.

The survey gained responses from 228 companies across each state and territory, and while respondents noted that COVID-19 had a negative effect on their business, 74 per cent said they had a capacity for projects of up to $10 million. 17.5 per cent indicated a capacity to start projects between $10 and $50m, and 8.3 per cent said they were ready to begin projects worth more than $50m.

The CCF highlighted that this meant there was a great capacity for firms to begin work on smaller projects, or larger ones broken down into separate works packages. In its recommendations, the CCF encourages the federal government adopt a procurement policy that disaggregates major project to allow tier 2 companies to tender through joint venture arrangements.

The CCF also recommended that the federal government bring forward the 10-year $100 billion infrastructure investment fund and use debt to increase the fund’s size.

“It is important however that these projects are spread across as many tier 2, tier 3 and below companies across Australia to ensure widespread benefits can flow from any stimulus investment, particularly in rural and regional communities where infrastructure investment can deliver a significant multiplier effect to those local economies in the form of employment, training and community spending,” said Melham.

“The survey sends a powerful message to the federal government that the civil infrastructure sector is ready to lead the economic recovery if governments inject more money into the sector for new projects.”

The survey and recommendations follow the CCF calling upon the federal government to do more to support the smaller tier 2 and 3 civil construction companies, who have sat above the financial threshold measures announced so far. In a statement on April 3, Melham noted that in the absence of worker retention measures, civil contractors need to have their outstanding claims paid.

“The industry’s viability and that of its workers during COVID-19 relies on prompt payment by public procurements agencies and I therefore urge the federal government to develop a ‘supplier payment policy’ for all public bodies involved in federally funded civil infrastructure projects and to impose that policy as a matter of urgency.”

CCF recommended that the policy involve the immediate payment of invoices, the continuation of normal payments even if service delivery is disrupted until June 30, supporting supplier cash flow, and reviewing tender requirements.