New procurement process for Inland Rail contracts

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) will speed up and de-risk the procurement process for Inland Rail in a new procurement and packaging plan.

Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller said the plan was developed in response to feedback from industry.

“Industry has clearly sent a message that Inland Rail needs to work more closely with project proponents to accelerate project tenders, maximise opportunities to participate and de-risk procurement processes. Doing so will deliver the greatest benefit for government, industry and small and medium regional businesses,” he said.

The plan will provide to industry opportunities on a number of projects, and the ARTC is currently seeking registrations of interest in civil works packages on three sections, Narromine to Narrabri, North Star to Border, and Border to Gowrie.

The procurement plan will cover other sections of Inland Rail, including:

  • Albury to Illabo
  • Illabo to Stockinbingal
  • Stockinbingal to Parkes
  • Narromine to Narrabri
  • North Star to NSW/QLD Border
  • NSW/QLD Border to Gowrie
  • Kagaru to Acacia Ridge and Bromelton

Wankmuller said that the project has opportunities for large and small businesses.

“By investing now and getting tenders out faster, this mega-project is offering tender packages ideally suited to a range of suppliers and contractors, big and small,” he said.

“Inland Rail is also being predominantly delivered – 90 per cent – in regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland away from the overheated metropolitan infrastructure markets meaning there is greater opportunity for regional Australia to reap the rewards.”

Chief Executive of the Australian Contractors Association Jon Davies said the procurement approach improve social and economic benefits that come from investment.

“It has never been more important for industry and Clients to work together collaboratively in order to efficiently deliver projects and leverage their social and economic benefits”, he said.

“We welcome ARTC’s new approach to procurement and our members look forward to working with ARTC and the Inland Rail team as these new opportunities arise in coming months.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the works packages would spread the benefit of the project.

“Inland Rail’s construction is providing a boost for local businesses and communities at a time it’s most needed,” said McCormack.

“By dividing this nation-building project into smaller parts, more local businesses can bid for this valuable work, contributing to Australia’s future.”

Construction of the Parkes to Narromine section was recently completed, and a contract for the construction of Narrabri to North Star is expected in the coming weeks.

Rail a major component in $50bn Qld infrastructure spend

Rail had the largest growth in funded infrastructure in Queensland in 2020, according to the recently released Queensland Major Project Pipeline (QLDMPP) report.

A joint initiative of the Queensland Major Contractors Association (QMCA) and the Infrastructure Association of Queensland (IAQ), the report outlines the total pipeline of major infrastructure projects, adding up to over $50 billion of planned, funded, and in construction works.

QMCA CEO, Jon Davies was enthused about the pipeline.

“We are delighted to see significant growth in the pipeline, with works totalling $50.6bn scheduled between 2019/20 and 2023/24.”

While the largest sector is the resources and heavy industry sector, the $6.68bn worth of announced projects in that sector are not yet funded.

“However, there is still an element of risk around the total figure as $23.2bn of work is not funded at this stage. This is mostly down to planned resources and energy projects which take considerable time to plan, fund and gain approval,” said Davies.

The rail project pipeline increased by $1.74bn in funded projects and $1.03bn in unfunded projects from the 2019 to 2020 version of the report, with multiple large rail projects in the state receiving funding.

“Overall there are reasons to be optimistic, with many major projects such as Inland Rail, Cross River Rail, Brisbane Metro and upgrades to the M1, Bruce Highway and essential water infrastructure developments beginning in earnest.”

Geographically, the projects in the QLDMPP report were largely concentrated in south-east Queensland, with 40 per cent of all funded work there.

Larger projects were receiving a greater share of funding and announcements, with 70 per cent of projects by 2023/24 being valued above $500 million.

Emerging challenges could include a skills shortage in the road and rail sectors, however opportunity could come in the form of the mooted 2032 SEQ Olympics bid, which would require projects such as faster rail links between Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, and Ipswich to be advanced prior to the games.