EOI for Victorian section of Inland Rail released

Expressions of interest (EOI) are now open for the design and construct contract for the Tottenham to Albury (T2A) section of Inland Rail.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has begun the EOI process as part of the early contractor involvement procurement process.

The contract will cover the design and rebuilding of bridges, civil works and track lowering, in addition to overhead wiring, signal gantry installation, and track slews along the existing North East rail line from Beveridge to Albury.

“We’re asking contractors to express their interest in the works, especially those with experience delivering a program of complex road and rail infrastructure in regional locations, with a value in excess of $200 million,” said ARTC general manager projects Victoria Ed Walker.

The announcement signals that work is getting underway on the Victorian section of the Inland Rail project. The entire project from Melbourne to Brisbane has been broken up into 13 projects, with Tottenham to Albury being the only Victorian segment of the project.

Once complete, the project will allow double for 1,800m long double stacked freight trains to run on the existing North East rail line. The current EOI covers works on stage one of T2A from Beveridge to Albury while a decision on where a new intermodal terminal on the outskirts of Melbourne will be located is finalised.

Construction is expected to commence in 2021 with the line becoming operational in 2025.

Walker said this would have benefits for freight operators and the wider community.

“Inland Rail will cut over ten hours and 200 kilometres off the transit from Victoria to Queensland for freight, and provides a direct connection to Queensland, bypassing the heavily constrained route through Sydney and the circuitous route via the NSW North Coast.

“A recent EY report into Inland Rail Regional Opportunities estimated that Inland Rail will boost the Victorian Gross Regional Product by up to $4.6 billion over a 50-year operating period, on top of the positive impacts during the construction period,” said Walker.

Tender documents can be submitted until 5pm on July 13. Dual early contractor involvement contractors will be shortlisted by August 2020 and a final selection will be made by early 2021.

Work on existing line continues
Over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend upgrades on the existing North East line passed a major milestone, with over 150,000 tonnes of ballast dropped on the line.

The $235m program of works has also seen 105km of tamping, 50km of reinstated drainage, 17 level crossing renewals, 6 bridge deck replacements, and 4 pedestrian crossing renewals completed.

Walker said that a key focus of the works is on their benefit to the local community.

“A key focus of the North East Rail Line upgrade is to ensure regional centres in North East Victoria directly benefit and we are proud that 38 local suppliers including 20 North East Victorian and 18 businesses from Melbourne are already contracted to work on the multi-million-dollar project.”

Victorian Intermodal freight hub seeking a developer and operator

Development Victoria (DV) is seeking a developer and operator of the Ballarat intermodal freight hub terminal.

The Victorian Government is requesting expressions of interest to develop the intermodal freight hub on the Ballarat to Ararat railway line which is part of the Ballarat West Employment Zone (BWEZ).

Development Victoria said the BWEZ will allow freight and logistics enterprises to have exceptional access to road, rail, and aviation infrastructure. The freight network will link Melbourne, regional and rural Victoria, Adelaide and the ports of Melbourne, Geelong, and Portland.

It is proposed that the successful respondent will take on design and delivery risk, demand and operational cost risk, manage the commercial return based on these risks and the services provided.

Operational arrangements are likely to be effected through a lease agreement with VicTrack.

Federal government funding of $9.1 million was provided in the 2014 federal Budget for the development of the facility. Potential additional funding from the State via DV will be made available if required.

There is some flexibility around the physical configuration of the Facility to allow for rail siding (either linear or loop), and it is expected that the successful respondent will have operational access to the connected rail stub and associated signalling which will be delivered by the State up to the eastern boundary of the Facility connecting from the main-line.

The civil works for Stages 1 and 1B of BWEZ are complete with a large percentage of land having been sold. 

The head of Rail Freight Alliance has publicly said Victoria will only benefit from the proposed intermodal freight hub once the Murray Basin Rail Project is complete.

The Murray Basin Rail Project (MBRP) is improving key freight centres in Victoria and encouraging competition and private investment in the rail freight network.

MBRP stated that an increased axle loading will allow higher volumes of product to be safely freighted across the network, allowing trains to carry up to 500,000 more tonnes of grain each year.

The first stage was completed in 2016 and freight trains have returned to the Mildura line and to the reopened Maryborough to Ararat line. V/Line crews are working to finalise and bed in the track to complete stage 2 of 3 for the project.

Catherine King, federal member of Ballarat and shadow minister infrastructure, transport and regional development said the BWEZ facility is located alongside existing road and rail infrastructure, enabling the freight hub to connect with more locations.

“A truck will be able to come in straight off the Western Highway and either head in to a manufacturer or connect up with the rail line and deliver products further afield,” she said.

“The prospect of future infrastructure upgrades to the adjoining Ballarat Airport site will open up even more opportunities across the Ballarat region, but this will only come with support from governments at a state and federal level.”

Respondant registration closes on March 3 and EOI submission must be made by March 13, closing at 3pm.

Auckland metro rail seeking new operations contractor following network boom

As Transdev Auckland’s contract to provide metro rail services comes to an end, Auckland Transport (AT) is seeking industry participants to operate the city’s metro rail passenger network from 2021.

Mark Lambert, executive general manager of integrated networks, said AT is now undertaking a tendering process for a future rail franchise agreement, with Expressions of Interest (EOIs) now open.

 “We have the determination to reinvigorate the region’s rail services. With the City Rail Link to be completed in 2024 and the other recent rail upgrades just announced by central government, the future of Auckland rail is very bright,” he said.

AT are moving towards a more integrated operating environment for rail services, this will see the incoming rail operator having greater responsibility and control for service delivery for the next phase of rail public transport growth in Auckland.

Last year public transport patronage totalled 103.2 million passenger boardings.

“We have made great progress in reinvigorating passenger rail in Auckland with the system now carrying 22 million passengers per year, with growth of 5 per cent in the past year,” Lambert said.

An AT Metro train services spokesperson said that figure is the highest rate ever of train patronage.

The first three of Auckland’s new trains have arrived and are currently being tested and certified, allowing larger trains to run during the morning and afternoon peak times.

The remaining 12 new trains will arrive before the end of the year, bringing the fleet to a total of 72.

Peter Lensink, Transdev Auckland’s managing director, said the increasing passenger numbers are also a reflection of the work being put in by the company’s train crew, on behalf of AT.

“Aucklanders want to get to their destination safely, on time, and in the care of highly-trained and friendly staff,” Lensink said.

Mayor Phil Goff says investment in infrastructure and improvements to services are encouraging the strong growth.

“Our record investment in transport infrastructure and services has seen public transport patronage grow at more than five times the rate of population,” he said.

The current rail operating contract for Auckland metro train services has been in place since 2004.

Following the evaluation of EOI responses received, AT will shortlist participants, who will be invited to respond to the RFP process for the Auckland Rail Franchise.

The contract is expected to be awarded in February 2021.