Martin Place Station caverns completed ahead of schedule

The station caverns for the future Martin Place Metro Station have been completed, six months ahead of schedule.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance visited the site of the future station, 28 metres below ground and said that the completion of the caverns was a milestone in the delivery of the new Metro line.

“In a few short years, Sydney’s new driverless trains will be running through the heart of the city every few minutes – a fast, new, reliable and safe railway extending from the Metro North West Line,” said Berejiklian.

Constance said that with the shape of the future station coming together, critical infrastructure will be delivered soon.

“This is an extraordinary milestone: excavation, tunnelling and caverns completed – next stop is laying tracks and building the new station which will service the heart of the Sydney CBD,” said Constance.

Nine tunnels to allow commuters to access the station have been built as part of the station’s design. These connect from the station entrances as well as to the existing Martin Place station where passengers can connect to Sydney Trains services.

Under construction for the last two years, the station is located underneath Castlereagh and Elizabeth streets and are 220 metres long and 14 metres wide. Tunnel boring machines Nancy and Shirl arrived at the stations in October 2019 before continuing on the future line.

A total of 126,000 tonnes of rock were excavated to create the two caverns and 5,500 tonnes of steel and 21,5000 tonnes of concrete have been used to create the stations.

Tracklaying is expected to commence in early 2021.

Sydney Metro part of mental health awareness campaign

Sydney Metro workers have been part of the launch of a new initiative to reduce suicide in the construction sector.

MATES Stronger Together aims to drive cultural change in the construction industry, highlighting the shared responsibility that colleagues have for each other’s mental health.

“We know that construction workers are at significantly greater risk of suicide than workers in other industries, sadly a worker takes their life every two days,” said Constance.

“2020 has been one hell of a year, so it’s particularly important at the moment to do everything we can to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of our workers.”

The launch of MATES Stronger Together. Image credit: Sydney Metro

Six times the number of construction workers killed in workplace accidents take their own life, with 190 workers dying from suicide each year. Young workers are particularly at risk, with young workers in construction twice as likely to die from suicide as other young men.

MATES Stronger Together is run by MATES in Construction, a partnership between building companies, unions, employer grounds and mental health organisations.

Sydney Metro chief executive Jon Lamonte said that this year was a reminder of the importance of connection.

“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s just how much we can take ‘connectedness’ for granted and how important our social connections really are,” Mr Lamonte said.

“Our ‘mates’ really do play an important role in preventing suicide in this industry.”

The program will provide practical tools for workers in the construction industry to identify warning signs and act, said MATES in Construction CEO Brad Parker.

“The goal is to create strong networks of support on construction projects across the country, with workers looking out for those suffering from suicidal thoughts and having the confidence to talk to them and connect them with the help they need.”

If you, or someone you know, is thinking about suicide or experiencing a personal crisis or distress, please seek help immediately in a life-threatening situation by calling 000 or seek support though one of these services:

Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511

Optimism in infrastructure sector on post-COVID future

There is broad optimism in the infrastructure sector that the pipeline of work will continue and the shocks felt during COVID will not be long lasting.

Speakers at the National Infrastructure Summit highlighted that while there were some short term impacts during the height of COVID-19, the sector has largely been able to continue and is looking towards future projects.

CEO of Infrastructure Australia, Romilly Madew, summarised that the sector’s response to COVID-19 by setting up COVIDsafe worksites, cutting off access to overseas and interstate staff, and some supply chain issues meant a drop of 50 per cent in productivity during the peak COVID-19.

However, unprecedented collaboration between senior officials in the public and private sector meant that sites remained open in Australia, unlike in other jurisdictions, which ensured optimism and that there was flexibility around meeting contractual obligations that prevented projects from grinding to a halt.

This focus on ensuring business continuity and optimism was echoed by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who said that during the pandemic the state government’s focus was ensuring works could continue.

“Not only are we a COVID safe environment to operate but one of the few places where business continuity is assured,” Berejiklian said. “I think we can feel optimistic about the future of the infrastructure pipeline in NSW.”

What shape the infrastructure pipeline will be was a point of discussion, particularly following the federal budget. Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said the government’s focus was on projects that could begin in the next 12-18 months, and that was why there were no new mega projects in this year’s budget.

Despite this, Marion Terrill, transport and cities program director at the Grattan Institute, noted that the size of the infrastructure pipeline is still growing, with the amount of work underway in the public sector having doubled over the past five years, and the average size of projects is twice the value of projects over the previous five years.

The shift to smaller projects and upgrading existing assets such as roads and rail lines also reflected an uncertainty about what travel patterns will look like once Australia emerges from COVID-19, said CEO of Infrastructure Victoria, Michel Masson. Masson said the large transport projects which were popular up to COVID-19 may not be the right projects if demand changes.

Amid these larger trends, infrastructure builders and operators were dealing with their own challenges. CEO of Pacific National Dean Dalla Valle noted that state government regulatory changes to allow high performance vehicles through city centres to access ports was undermining the goals of these governments to shift more freight onto rail. Resetting the imbalance in fees and charges between road and rail freight would ensure that infrastructure assets are more efficiently used, with benefits for the wider community.

infrastructure

National Infrastructure Summit speakers and agenda announced

As Australia looks to invest in infrastructure as a way to build the country’s economy out of the COVID-19 crisis, the National Infrastructure Summit has arrayed some of the most significant leaders in this space to discuss the opportunities ahead.

Opening the virtual conference on day one, October 14, will be NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who is looking at an expanding rail infrastructure pipeline in the state, with new Sydney Metro lines recently funded and moving ahead in the contract process.

For a federal view, day two will be opened by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack. With the conference taking place days after the delivery of what the federal budget, which is widely expecte to include more infrastructure spending, McCormack will highlight these commitments as well as other projects such as Inland Rail that are always underway.

The program also includes discussions between Romilly Madew, CEO of Infrastructure Australia, Marion Terrill, Transport and Cities Program Director, Grattan Institute, and Cathal O’Rouke, who will pick over what impact COVID-19 has had on the infrastructure sector.

With logistics impacted by new trends during COVID and the acceleration of others, Dean Dalla Valle, CEO of Pacific National, and Maurice James, managing director of Qube will be joined by Marika Calfas, CEO of NSW Ports and Brendan Bourke, CEO of the Port of Melbourne to analyses these changes.

Alan Tudge Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population and NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey will give ministerial addresses, followed by a Q&A.

Other panels include a focus on infrastructure funding and post-pandemic transport.

This year, the conference will be delivered virtually via online events platform Brella. The platform will provide an opportunity for networking and viewing speaker and sponsor information.

For more information, click here: https://www.nationalpolicyseries.com.au/afr-national-infrastructure-summit/.

Tender process begins for Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport

A call for registrations of interest has kicked off the tender process for the construction of Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport.

Prospective tenderers are invited to put forward their interest in delivering 10 kilometres of twin metro railway tunnels. The tunnels will stretch from St Marys to Orchard Hills and between the Airport and Aerotropolis.

The tunnels will form part of the new rail line which will connect Western Sydney Airport with the city’s rail network at St Marys, via Orchard Hills and Luddenham.

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said construction is close to starting.

“Construction starts later this year on a project that will become the transport spine for the Western Parkland City,” Constance said.

“The new railway will link residential areas with jobs hubs and connect travellers from the new airport with the rest of Sydney’s public transport network.”

The project has also confirmed the station locations at St Marys, Orchard Hills, Luddenham and the two airport stations. A stabling and maintenance facility is planned for an area adjacent to the alignment south of Orchard Hills. Two services facilities will be built within the alignment, one at Claremont Meadows and another at Bringelly.

With locations confirmed for the stations, the nature of the line is beginning to shape. At St Marys, the new station underneath the existing Sydney Trains station will enable interchanges between the Sydney Metro line and the existing rail network.

The stations at Orchard Hills and Luddenham would support future residential and commercial development.

Two stations will be at the airport itself, with one at the Airport Business Park and one at the Airport terminal.

A final station will be built at the Aerotropolis, which would be the commercial heart of the Western Sydney Aerotropolis.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Sunday the station would be the core of a new city.

“Where we are standing today will become a major new transport interchange, right in the heart of the future central business district for the Western Parkland City.”

The automated metro line will be controlled from a facility at Orchard Hills where train stabling and maintenance will occur.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said with construction beginning before the end of 2020, the project will soon be delivering benefits.

“This city-shaping investment is being fast-tracked to help our economy recover from COVID-19 and deliver a major stimulus right in the heart of Western Sydney,” said Tudge.

“Western Sydney residents will reap the benefits of this investment well before the first train leaves the station.”

The future line will not only include tunnels but elevated viaducts and at-grade rail.

The station locations come as the NSW Planning Minster, Rob Stokes rezones 6,500 hectares of land around the future airport to allow for the development of the Aerotropolis.

The rezoning includes the Aerotropolis Core, which will be rezoned for mixed use, as well as the Northern Gateway, which covers mixed use around the Luddenham train station site and enterprise zoning surrounding that.

Planning documents indicate future rail links between the Aerotrpolis Core and Leppington and further south towards Macarthur.

“Today’s approval lays the foundations for the transformation of 6,500 hectares of land into a thriving metropolis with new homes, jobs and public spaces supported by a new, world-class Metro line,” said Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres.

Sydney Train

Build trains locally and create thousands of jobs: Weld Australia

There is the potential for thousands of jobs to be created in Australia and to support the country’s economic recovery from COVID-19 if more trains were built locally, according to CEO of Weld Australia, Geoff Crittenden.

Reforming procurement practices in Australia would have deep benefits for local and national comments, said Crittenden who leads Weld Australia, the peak body for welders in Australia.

“State government rail procurement practices that support local welders and fabricators would create thousands of jobs, supporting local families and local economies in a post COVID-19 world. It would facilitate technology transfer and drive some of the world’s most innovative research and development,” said Crittenden.

The call for local manufacturing follows the NSW government’s dismissal of the talents of local rail manufacturers, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying that Australians were “not good at building trains” and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance train manufacturing does not exist in Australia.

While Crittenden highlighted that Australia and NSW has a heritage of building technically advanced train fleets, he also pointed to the potential for future improvements.

“With a long-term procurement commitment from the state governments, rail industry manufacturers would have the confidence to reinvest in their own capabilities, strengthening the industry from within. This type of business innovation strengthens businesses and creates new and better jobs, which together support a move to higher living standards. Innovation investment by business is crucial to our ongoing prosperity. It would make Australia home to a world-leading rail industry, with the capability to build and export superior quality trains.”

Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Senator for Western Australia Louise Pratt said that Commonwealth funding should be directed towards local manufacturing, including rail.

“As COVID-19 has highlighted how sensitive we are to global supply chains and as unemployment is rising, particularly in regional areas, now more than ever we need a plan for manufacturing which includes rail.”

With an extensive local maintenance and repair industry, the cost of whole of life support means that it makes sense to build more trains locally, according to Crittenden.

“If our state governments adopted a nationally consistent procurement process that considered whole of life costs and prioritised local content, not only would it create thousands of jobs, it would deliver better quality public transport. Locally fabricated trains would adhere to all relevant Australian and international Standards, reducing expensive rework and repair. Cheap imports from overseas often cost more in the long run,” he said.

Having more consistent procurement standards between different states would improve the competitiveness of Australia-based manufacturers, highlighted Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie.

“We have long been calling for a national procurement process for rail manufacturing to give the industry greater scale, promote efficiency and create more local jobs which are supported by advanced manufacturing techniques from industry.”

In a tendering framework released in May, the ARA said that greater harmonisation of specifications was one area that would reduce the cost of tendering in Australia.

Berejiklian criticised for NSW train manufacturing comments

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been criticised for comments that local manufacturers of rollingstock are not up to scratch.

On Wednesday, August 26, Berejiklian said at a media conference, “Australia and New South Wales are not good at building trains, that’s why we have to purchase them.”

The comments drew immediate push back from the NSW Labor party, with deputy leader Yasmin Catley saying that NSW should be investing more in locally manufactured public transport vehicles.

“Instead of running down our local industries at press conferences, Gladys Berejiklian should be giving them the opportunity to build our new ferries and trains,” Catley said.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance backed his leader’s comments, reportedly estimating the cost difference at 25 per cent more for locally manufactured trains, due to higher energy, labour, and raw material costs.

“I think most people know the car industry, the train industry, in terms of manufacturing here in Australia; we don’t have it, and there’s a reason for it,” said Constance.

Following these remarks, the NSW Labor leader, Jodi McKay announced that Labor would introduce a NSW Jobs First Bill, which would require tenderers on government contracts to support NSW jobs and industries.

The dispute has come as NSW puts the first of its second order of Chinese-manufactured Waratah Series 2 trains into service. The Korean-made New Intercity Fleet, which are replacing the Western Sydney-made V-Set and allowing the Newcastle-made H-Set to enter suburban service, are also in the early testing stage.

CEO of the Australasian Railway Association Caroline Wilkie said a national procurement process would enable locally-built trains to become more competitive with their overseas counterparts.

“The NSW Government’s procurement choices have eroded the manufacturing sector and make it harder for local operators to compete,” said Wilkie.

“Better coordination with their counterparts in other states and territories would see more trains manufactured locally and improve efficiencies and cost profiles across the life of the asset.”

Wilkie noted that only looking at the upfront cost of purchasing rollingstock ignored the cost of lifecycle support, and a whole of life cost approach should be taken.

In 2019, the Western Australia government signed an agreement with Alstom to manufacture 246 railcars in Bellevue, in eastern Perth. The contract will see at least 50 per cent of the railcars built locally and 30 years of maintenance. Announced in December 2019, the contract was $347 million under the $1.6 billion budget.

Wilkie said that with overseas trade and travel limited due to COVID-19, the value of local manufacturing was greater than ever.

“A nationally consistent procurement process would benefit both state government purchasers and the rail manufacturing industry itself,” she said.

“The NSW government says it is open to working with other state governments and industry to strengthen and standardise procurement processes – it’s now time for them to act.”

Face masks strongly encouraged on NSW public transport

Face masks are now encouraged for passengers on NSW public transport.

The change to strongly encouraging mask wearing came on Sunday, August 2, with NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant recommending masks be worn in indoor settings where physical distancing is hard to maintain, such as on public transport.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that physical distancing is still the main goal.

“People should continue to maintain their physical distance – it is our most effective weapon. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t maintain your physical distance you should wear a mask,” she said.

“It is critical the community understands masks should be used in conjunction with other measures, and not as a standalone measure.”

People are still advised not to travel on public transport if they are sick and to maintain good hygiene.

While masks will not be enforced on public transport, Transport for NSW is strongly recommending passengers wear masks.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson also said that updated mask guidelines have been issued for staff.

“Transport for NSW has made face masks available for customer facing frontline staff and is strongly recommending these masks are used at work.”

While masks were made mandatory in Melbourne on July 22, no other Australian jurisdiction has enforced a similar measure. Social distancing is also not mandatory on public transport in NSW, however heavily encouraged and promoted through the “no dot, no spot” campaign.

CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Caroline Wilkie said that the rail industry thanked those who were wearing masks.

“Wearing a mask helps save lives and keeps our rail workers safe as well,” she said.

“We welcome the public support for those on the front line as they keep working to support the rest of us.”

Passenger volumes on NSW public transport were beginning to increase in May and June. Sydney Trains recorded a low of six million trips in April, while June recording 13,754,000 trips. Since the start of July, however, trips on the entire NSW public transport network have begun to decline again, by around 9 per cent.

Prior to COVID-19, in June 2019 32 million trips were taken on the Sydney Trains network.

Capacity increase on NSW transport network from July 1

NSW has moved to increase the capacity on its public transport network.

In May, Transport for NSW (TfNSW) rolled out a “no dot, no spot” campaign to indicate where it would be safe for commuters to sit or stand while travelling on public transport. This led to cuts to capacity, with 32 people permitted in a train carriage.

From July 1 more dots will be added to trains, light rail vehicles, and metro carriages and capacity will increase to about half of full capacity, said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

“The health advice has now allowed us to increase capacity on the public transport network from 1 July.”

The NSW government is continuing to advise passengers to travel outside of peak periods or avoid public transport where possible, however Berejiklian said that the increase in capacity would be of particular benefit to those who work in the Sydney CBD.

Berejiklian said that the response of TfNSW has been “world class” due to the combination of technology and behavioural tactics.

“I don’t know anywhere else in the world that has those indicators for customers but also the apps and the on demand services that let people know what is happening on their service in real time,” said Berejiklian.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that with the new configuration would allow 68 people on a Waratah train, 40 on a light rail vehicle, and 65 on a metro carriage.

Patronage has risen from 580,000 people to 870,000 in the past month, and with the configuration from July 1 there will be capacity for up to 1.3 million passengers.

Capacity will also increase on the regional network, with regional NSW TrainLink services now able to take up to 34 people per carriage.

Constance said that people should walk or cycle for short trips and that marshals would continue to direct people on trains and platforms. Trains are being cleaned three or four times per day.

Constance also thanked commuters for their kindness and understanding while the COVID-safe measures have been in place.

Industry welcomes Sydney Metro funding

The new Sydney Metro line to Western Sydney airport will lead to long term benefits for the rail industry and the wider economy said Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA).

“It will not only create jobs to support our post COVID-19 recovery, but will also generate new opportunities for business and industry in years to come.”

The injection of an extra $3.5 billion from the state and federal government to get the project underway in 2020 was announced on Monday, June 1.

“This is exactly the kind of jobs creating infrastructure investment the country needs right now and we are pleased to see this important project getting underway this year,” said Wilkie.

Western Sydney Airport Chair Paul O’Sullivan said that the new rail line will be essential to ensuring the airport’s economic impact.

“Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport will not only ensure that the Airport is connected to the city’s rail network, it will complement the Airport’s ability to create economic growth and opportunities for the region, creating jobs for the people of Western Sydney and providing new ways for people to get around.”

When making the announcement on June 1, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that the line will be opened at the same time as the airport, in 2026, a goal that Wilkie welcomed.

“A direct rail connection from day one only strengthens the case for the airport precinct as the region seeks to attract more businesses to western Sydney as part of the development,” Wilkie said.

“This gives the region the best chance of making the most of the opportunities the airport precinct presents.”

NSW Labor has supported the project, however noted that local content must be prioritised.

“NSW businesses must be given priority in supplying construction materials and services to build this important rail link,” said NSW Labor deputy leader Yasmin Catley.

Wilkie said that the investment now would pay dividends for years to come.

“Investment in rail projects like this one provides much more than just a short-term boost as part of our recovery,” she said.

“This is a great example of state and federal governments working together to make sure economic stimulus measures deliver tangible and lasting benefits to our communities.”