Tweed Heads

Tender for Tweed light rail feasibility study to be announced before end of 2020

The NSW government will announce the successful tenderer for a feasibility study for light rail in Tweed Heads before the end of 2020.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said the study would fulfil an election commitment.

“The NSW Liberals and Nationals committed $1 million at the last election to investigate the potential for light rail in the Tweed, and I’m pleased to say we are delivering on that commitment,” he said.

“The study will see NSW identify a suitable five-kilometre corridor for a future light rail extension from Coolangatta to the Tweed, while Queensland will investigate the corridor to the north.”

The study follows a Memorandum of Understanding between the NSW and Queensland governments that was signed earlier in 2020 to assess the public transport needs for the region that straddles the NSW and Queensland border.

Local member Geoff Provest said that the study would also look at connecting a future light rail line to other forms of transport.

“The study will also look at how other forms of transport, including buses, cycling and walking could be integrated and improved if the Gold Coast light rail is extended south of the Queensland border.”

The basis for a successful tenderer comes from the shortlisted consultants identified in the Queensland government’s expression of interest for the Tugun to Tweed multimodal corridor study.

The Queensland government recently announced the successful tenderer for the construction of Stage 3 of the Gold Coast Light Rail. Once that stage is complete, extending the line to Burleigh Heads, work on Stage 4 to the Gold Coast Airport at Tugun is expected to begin, pending a business case for the line.

Further studies will look into east-west connections to the light rail spine, with additional light rail lines a possibility.

Community groups such as the Northern River Railway Action Group have pushed for a rail connection from the existing out of service heavy rail line which extends from Casino to Murwillumbah to Tweed Heads with the potential to link to a future heavy rail extension to the Gold Coast airport.

Contractor announced for Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3 construction

John Holland has been nominated as the preferred contractor to deliver stage three of the Gold Coast Light Rail.

The $709 million joint local, state, and federally funded project, will extend the light rail line to Burleigh Heads from its current terminus in Broadbeach.

John Holland prevailed as the successful contractor over two competing joint ventures, one of CPB Contractors and Seymour Whyte Constructions and another between Fulton Hogan and UGL.

Stage three is expected to be completed in 2023 and adds eight stations and 6.7km of dual track to the network.

The Gold Coast light rail line has successfully increased public transport usage along the corridor, and was heavily patronised during the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Bailey said extending the line further south would improve on these figures.

“We’ve seen more than 50 million trips taken on light rail since it first opened, which shows just how hungry Gold Coasters and visitors to the city are for better public transport.”

Construction will come at a time when Queensland is looking to get people into job, particularly in areas such as the Gold Coast where tourism-reliant businesses have seen less demand due to COVID-19.

“Because Queenslanders have managed the health response of COVID-19, it means the Palaszczuk Government has been able to get on with the job of creating jobs and continuing the state’s plan for economic recovery,” said Bailey.

“For businesses and people on the Gold Coast that means building that all-important light rail connection between the city’s north and centre towards the south.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the project would support more local jobs.

“Light rail on the Gold Coast is already a key local employer, supporting about 800 operational jobs, and the extension to Burleigh is expected to support more than 760 construction jobs.”

Keolis Downer will continue to operate the extended line.

construction

A new look at rail construction: Martinus’ plant department

Martinus’ in-house approach is de-risking rail construction.

Having stepped up from a product supply business into a rail construction outfit, the young upstart of the Australian rail construction industry decided three years ago to head out on its own with the purchase of major multi-million-dollar pieces of machinery.

“The business has only been delivering construction projects for around eight years,” said Martinus chief operating officer Ryan Baden. “For the first part of five years, we would be relying on other people’s plant and equipment to do the final piece, mainly tampers, regulators, and flash butt welders. We had grown to a position where it was only the large, tier one contractors that had these pieces of equipment and we were now competing with them.”

To de-risk construction projects it was working on, Martinus made the decision to purchase the plant, machinery, and equipment and recruit their own team to overhaul and maintain the growing fleet.

“It’s essentially about de-risking project delivery and overall business risk ,” said Baden. “We control all the pieces of the puzzle; we recruit all of our own labourers, engineers, and supervisors, plus our strong financial position and current project pipeline means we can significantly invest in our own plant and machinery.

“Our next goal was to purchase our own ballast trains – that has really changed everything for us, it solidified our end vision of having the largest fleet of specialised rail equipment in Australia, all the while ensuring we were well equipped to deliver upcoming projects and maintain full control of logistics and maintenance.”

For any major rail construction project, having a few pieces of bright yellow kit is not enough by itself, there needs to be a level of logistical and rail safety knowhow to ensure that the kit is fully operational, at the right place, and at the right time.

“In the past, particularly for the product supply side of the business, we were using freight forwarders and received good service, but the plan for some time has been to bring it all inhouse.”

As the fleet grew, so did the team. Martinus hired logistics manager Jason Gibson who has previously worked for a large mining company. The vertical integration of Martinus’ supply chain has worked before and is now even more enhanced by their inhouse experts.

The value of these investments was realised straightaway, said David Van Hoos, national plant and asset manager for Martinus.

“The first tamper we secured was mobilised as part of the Gold Coast light rail project Stage 2. We were able to quickly bring it up to site specification and employ our own operators and fitters, we gained flexibility to adapt to program changes and minimise any potential interruptions or delays that may have occurred relying on external suppliers.”

With the successful implementation of the first piece of major plant and several large- scale projects in the pipeline, it made good business sense to create a standalone plant department dedicated to servicing their own rail projects. This has also increased Martinus’ capacity and capability to become a consistent and reliable interface on major rail and civil construction projects.

“What we’ve found is clients are looking to de-risk themselves around interfaces on sites,” said Baden. “In the past, clients would bring us in to deliver the track, someone else to complete the overhead wiring, and another contractor for signalling – that’s three different interfaces for them to manage. With extensive rail knowledge and strong project management skills, the next step to further add value for our clients was bringing in subject matter experts to handle the overhead wiring, signalling and comms as part of the Martinus team.”

Martinus’s The continuous track laying machine has been built locally.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF A RAIL-DEDICATED PLANT DEPARTMENT
Having established the plant department, the team under Van Hoos’ leadership has grown to include a maintenance team of 15 fitters, project managers, engineers and support staff.

“Our fitters are key to the success of the plant department, we’ve selected them based on their industry experience, but to build on that experience we’ve also recruited electrical and mechanical apprentices to build a diverse and well-rounded team for the future,” said Van Hoos. “It’s great to be able to invest in the younger generation and teach them everything we know about rail.”

Rather than swelling in size for each individual project, the team at Martinus are employed full-time to ensure that the business can deliver on any of the major projects it is engaged on. Being solely focused on rail has contributed to the energy and enthusiasm in the workshop, said Van Hoos.

Supplementing the skilled tradespeople are local suppliers, when needed. Currently, Martinus is constructing the Carmichael Rail Network (CRN), in Central Queensland, and has just engaged a local Mackay business in a $1 million contract to fabricate the metal framework for the supply consist behind Martinus’ tracklaying machine. Staying in touch with locals has also come in handy as border restrictions have limited the movement of people across Australia and New Zealand. Martinus have engaged Harsco to build two continuous track lifters (CTL), who are local to Martinus’ main plant department in Brisbane. The CTLs are being fabricated and manufactured locally.

“The border restrictions have also forced us to look outside of the rail industry to build our team,” said Van Hoos. “We have employed members from the military, electricians from the automotive industry, and fitters from the mining sector all led by experienced industry leaders – this diverse mix adds another level of knowledge and bring a unique set of skills to our team.”

“With travel restrictions in place, it’s been a great advantage to have Harsco close by as we’ve been able to have regular progress visits and factory acceptance testing at Harsco’s workshop. Any issues can be resolved very quickly, and seeing the production in the workshop first-hand has also been a bonus.”

Not only has Martinus invested in machinery, but also the people needed to operate and maintain it.

MULTIGAUGE AS STANDARD

While the CRN and another project that Martinus is currently working on, the Forrestfield Airport Link are narrow gauge, the team are mindful that having dedicated narrow gauge plant and equipment will limit where it can work in Australia, New Zealand, and internationally.

“We operate an international rail business that works across three different gauges and probably about 20 different railway networks. Van Hoos and the in-house rollingstock engineers work closely to ensure that our build specification enable us to move the machinery around safely, quickly and efficiently,” said Baden.

In terms of the equipment that Martinus has purchased, which in addition to ballast wagons and the continuous track lifting machine also includes a sleeper laying machine, a track laying machine, four tampers and four ballast regulators, six flash butt welders among other pieces of plant, all are designed to be used across multiple projects.

“When purchasing plant, be it new or second-hand, we have been focused on gauge convertible plant which ensures the flexibility from one project to the next,” said Van Hoos.

Being able to move between standard and narrow also allows Martinus to work on shorter jobs on metropolitan networks.

“Soon, we will be taking delivery of 40 ballast wagons, two continuous track, six flash butt welders on hi-rail trucks – all brand new, gauge convertible equipment ready to go,” said Van Hoos.

This fleet is complimented with six locomotives that Martinus purchased from KiwiRail.

“It was perfect timing for Martinus that KiwiRail were renewing their current locomotive fleet. The gauge and specifications of the locos were aligned to our requirements for CRN” said Van Hoos. “These locomotives will be used for construction only to haul our ballast and sleeper wagons.”

While the fleet sets Martinus up for any number of projects around Australia and New Zealand, as the past year has shown, there are any number of unpredictable events that could occur in the meantime and require new thinking to ensure projects get over the line. In New Zealand, where Martinus has a contract to provide flash butt welding services to its Woburn depot and around the network. Of course, getting people there has not been possible so Van Hoos has come up with a unique fix.

“We’ve come up with a solution to train a local operator via video link under the supervision of our project team in New Zealand. One of our Australian based operator/fitters has been providing non- stop online training for carefully selected Martinus fitters and operators in New Zealand. This initiative has allowed us to continue on despite travel restrictions and resulted in minimal delays to KiwiRail’s re-railing projects.”

Martinus is ready to look at rail construction in a different way.

Demolition makes way for Gold Coast light rail

The demolition of a service station in Burleigh Heads has been completed, allowing construction to commence on the new Burleigh Heads station for the extension of Gold Coast Light Rail.

Stage three of the project will lengthen the line to terminate at Burleigh Heads and the project is getting closer to awarding the tender for major construction of the line.

Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey said that to assist businesses along the line a targeted program will manage the impacts of construction.

“There will be plenty of construction happening, which is why we want get in now before they start laying down the tracks to engage meaningfully with businesses to see how we can support as the next stage of light rail is built,” said Bailey.

Chairman of operator GoldlinQ John Witheriff said that the project was close to awarding the tender for the main construction works on the $709 million stage three.

“The review panel is now undertaking an extensive in-depth process to ensure value for money and the best engineering and construction solutions are delivered.”

Once complete, the extended light rail line will enable further transport improvements along the north-south spine of the Gold Coast.

“The Gold Coast has benefitted tremendously from light rail, with more than 50 million trips already taken, cutting traffic on Scarborough Street at Southport by 47 per cent and increasing pedestrian movement to Pacific Fair Shopping Centre by 180 per cent,” said Bailey.

“Once complete, we’ll see trams travel all the way from Helensvale to the sands of Burleigh beach for commuters, families and tourists, providing a long-term benefit for the city’s businesses, hotel and tourism operators, and of course the hundreds of ongoing light rail jobs.”

The demolition is part of preparatory works that are progressing as the state and local governments look to finalise details of stage four, which would connect the line to the Gold Coast Airport.

Tram leaving Broadwater Parklands on the Gold Coast Light Rail

Go-ahead for business case for Gold Coast Light Rail stage four

The Queensland and Gold Coast governments will jointly fund the business case for stage four of the Gold Coast Light Rail line.

Stage four, previously known as stage 3B, would see the light rail line extended for 13 kilometres from Burleigh to the Gold Coast Airport at Tugun, at the southern tip of the Gold Coast.

The $7 million business case would be funded in a 50/50 split between the state and local governments, said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

“This business case will support the next critical steps needed to push major transport investments on the Gold Coast forward which is vital for Queensland’s economic recovery,” the Premier said.

“This is about building a pipeline of projects that can continue to support and create jobs, boost our economy and improve transport for locals, particularly those living on the southern end of the Gold Coast.”

City of Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said that the connection would provide the public transport backbone for the region.

“It will result in a 40km public transport spine linking key employment, transport, health and education nodes, with an opportunity to also connect with the growing northern New South Wales economic region,” he said.

As part of the business case, options for future spur lines on east-west corridors will be investigated, and whether these should be served by light rail or feeder buses.

Currently, the Gold Coast light rail ends at Broadbeach. Stage 3A, which would extend the line from Broadbeach to Burleigh Heads, is awaiting the final announcement of the chosen contractor to build the link. In February, three contractors were shortlisted, John Holland, a joint venture between Fulton Hogan and UGL, and a joint venture between CPB Contractors and Seymour Whyte Constructions. Construction is expected to begin in 2021.

Tate said that he hopes construction of stage four would begin once stage three is complete.

“Ideally we will finish Stage 3 and immediately break ground on Stage 4.”

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said that the community preferred an alignment which travelled down the Gold Coast Highway. Other options suggested taking the light rail line west and using the existing heavy rail corridor, however 87 per cent of local respondents wanted to retain the option of future heavy rail to the airport.

Land values increasing along Canberra light rail corridor

Light rail has delivered a significant uplift in land values along the corridor, a new report for the ACT government shows.

The Benefits Realisation Report, produced by Major Projects Canberra, showed that blocks alongside the light rail line had an average increase of unimproved value of 35.2 per cent. The average figure for the ACT during that period was 21.7 per cent.

ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel said that the light rail line was bringing growth to the capital.

“Canberrans can already see the broader economic and social benefits that light rail has brought to our city,” said Steel.

“This is a long-term infrastructure investment, and more benefits will continue to be realised and measured over the years and decades to come.”

Part of the review process also involved getting feedback from businesses that are located close to the line. According to a statement from the ACT government, these businesses saw an increase in revenue, footfall, or access for customers and staff as a result of the light rail.

Steel said that the learnings from the report will inform future delivery of the project as Stage 2A from the City to Commonwealth Part progresses, and Stage 2B connects the light rail to the southern suburb of Woden.

“There are lessons to be learnt from every project, and the lessons from stage one will help better support our local businesses for stage two,” said Steel.

“Construction on major projects can be disruptive but we will be enhancing our communication with those affected by future projects and will better advising them about construction schedules and plans.”

The data from the report highlights how increases in land value can be used to justify, and potentially fund, rail infrastructure projects. In the business case for the Canberra Light Rail, the ACT government found that other light rail lines resulted in an increase in property value of up to 20 per cent, a figure not found with new bus routes.

Research conducted at the University of Queensland found that along stage one of the Gold Coast light rail line, land values increased by 7.1 per cent higher than otherwise. Research and findings such as these have been used to justify value capture mechanisms for the funding of transport infrastructure, and in the case of the Gold Coast, the Gold Coast Council instituted a levy on property owners to partly fund the light rail line.

The Benefits Realisation Report also found that light rail construction drove employment figures.

“Stage 1 of light rail created 4750 jobs, with 75 per cent being local sustainable jobs. Stage 2 of light rail will also have an important role to play in supporting more construction jobs and supporting the ACT’s economic recovery,” said Steel.

So far, the Canberra light rail has increased public transport usage in the city, with 4.2 million trips by public transport in the 12 months since the project was finished.

“From the very beginning of operations light rail has proved itself as a huge success, with the project coming in under budget and seeing an immediate jump in public transport patronage,” said Steel.

Tram leaving Broadwater Parklands on the Gold Coast Light Rail

Preparation works continue for Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A construction

Queensland’s Department for Transport and Main Roads (TMR) is preparing the ground for the construction of Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A.

Ahead of a wining tenderer being appointed, TMR workers have been fencing off areas at Broadbeach to build a construction compound.

Signalling the importance of rail infrastructure projects such as Gold Coast Light Rail to the state’s post—coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the project would create hundreds of jobs.

“Light rail on the Gold Coast is an important local employer, supporting about 800 operational jobs with this next stage to Burleigh expected to support more than 760 jobs.”

Earlier in April, the Gold Coast light rail system passed the 50 million trips milestone, and by extending the line further south, more people are hoped to use the service.

“This next stage is vital to not only creating more jobs, but also connecting the southern Gold Coast to the rest of the line and getting more people onto public transport into the future,” said Palaszczuk.

The operator, GoldlinQ, has shortlisted three contractors to build stage 3A. Announced in early February, those contractors are John Holland, a joint venture between Fulton Hogan and UGL, and CPBSW, a joint venture of CPB Contractors and Seymour Whyte Constructions.

Member for Gaven Meaghan Scanlon said that these works will enable the successful contractor to begin immediately.

“By getting started now, we’re paving the way for major works to start on the next stage as soon as possible once the construction contract is awarded.”

Measures are in place to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed during the construction works, for the benefit of both workers and the community, said Scanlon.

“The plans outline social distancing and other protective measures covering workers, as well as safeguards for the community during these challenging times.”

In addition to the construction compound, borehole testing and site investigations are taking place at night along the Gold Coast Highway.

The $709 million Stage 3A is jointly funded by the local, state and federal government, which have contributed $92m, $351m, and $269m, respectively.

Route identified for Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3B

Stage 3B of the Gold Coast Light Rail project may travel along the Gold Coast Highway, as the results of the Queensland government’s Gold Coast Highway (Burleigh Heads to Tugun) Multimodal Corridor Study indicated this was the preferred route of the next stage of the project.

The proposed alignment will not conflict with the preserved heavy rail corridor to the airport, said Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Mark Bailey.

“The current preserved width of the heavy rail corridor next to the M1 means we can’t accommodate future extensions of both light rail and heavy rail along that route,” said Bailey.

“Directing light rail along the highway protects the M1 rail corridor for its principal use as a future heavy rail connection to the airport.”

Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the plan for the future extension of the light rail at Gold Coast Airport on Saturday, March 7.

“I want the Southern Gold Coast to benefit from light rail just as the Northern Gold Coast has,” she said.

“Connecting light rail to the airport is also really important for a 2032 Olympics bid.”

While the final details of the route alignment are not confirmed, Bailey indicated that running the light rail down the highway would allow for greater patronage.

“The Gold Coast Highway route would travel close to where people already live, work and go to the beach and service popular destinations including the Burleigh Heads village, Palm Beach village, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Southern Cross University, Tugun, Bilinga and importantly the Gold Coast Airport,” he said.

Gold Coast City Council Mayor Tom Tate also welcomed the proposed route.

“This is great news confirming what we already knew and what the community has told us they want,” he said.

Congratulations to the State Government for undertaking this work now so that detailed planning can get underway as soon as possible.”

The proposed route alignment will be subject to community consultations. Previous suggestions that the light rail would pass through Palm Beach attracted community opposition.

CEO of Queensland Airports Limited, Chris Mills, highlighted that the route identified in the study is supported by the operator of the airport.

“We have long advocated for the light rail to the airport and our preference has been for it to follow the Gold Coast Highway. We are pleased to hear that is the direction that has been recommended by this study,” he said.

“About 6.5 million people come through Gold Coast Airport each year and the vast percentage are leisure travellers, so we need an efficient and easy public transport linkage that accommodates visitors to the city and local residents well into the future.”