The first steel has been laid for the future Sydney Metro City & Southwest line. Read more
Tracklaying on the new Sydney Metro line from Chatswood to Marrickville will begin soon, with tracklaying to begin in early 2021.
Over 4,000 tonnes of Australian railway steel has been delivered ahead of tracklaying and flashbutt welding will be carried out before the rail is moved into the tunnels.
Other rail systems such as traction power, rigid overhead conductors, and drainage ventilation systems, emergency evacuation and monitoring equipment will be installed by the line-wide contractor Systems Connect.
John Grant, Systems Connect construction manager, said that the complex project required specialised equipment.
“Systems Connect has commissioned custom-designed equipment by Australasian manufacturer, Manco Rail. Specialist plant was commissioned that can operate within the tunnel profile efficiently, safely and to a high standard of emissions, including air and noise,” he said.
The consortium has endeavoured to use automation wherever possible. Part of the track laying systems, such as the sleeper grab straddle, are radio remote controlled. Other equipment in use includes specially converted wheeled excavators, with material handling booms, automatic rail threading units, and rail carrying dollies. A sleeper-laying trailers equipped with sleeper grab straddle, a rail threader trailer, tug units and track guidance system fitted to the above equipment are also in use.
As the project adjoins operating rail networks, possession and access is coordinated months to years in advance.
“Our goal is to ensure that all works are delivered safely and to schedule so train services can resume as normal after the possession,” said Grant.
The combination of planning and equipment is enabling a staged approach to tracklaying, where track and tunnel fit out are completed in sections from between 800 metres and three kilometres in length.
An automated approach will be used from Chatswood to Victoria Cross, underneath North Sydney, and from Marrickville to Martin Place. For these sections, the custom-made Manco equipment will be used.
For the section underneath Sydney Harbour and from Barangaroo to Martin Place, a manual method using small wheeled loaders placing sleepers and rail threading will construct the track.
Recycled materials will also be used throughout the project, with crushed glass used for bedding, haunch, side, and overlay material instead of sand at the Sydney Metro Trains Facility at Rouse Hill. Recycled plastic cable troughing is used in place of galvanised steel.
Working collaboratively with a customer, Manco have been able to design and deliver a bespoke solution customised for the rail projects of today.
In Australia and New Zealand, perhaps the most distinctive feature of the major rail infrastructure projects is that on the whole, they are hidden from view. Whether it be the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane, the new Sydney Metro lines, the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, or in Auckland, the City Rail Link, the major elements of the new rail lines are deep underground.
Installing track, wiring, and associated systems many metres below ground level requires new thinking when it comes to the equipment and plant needed to build the new rail lines.
Steven Waugh, power systems manager – transport and technology at UGL Limited is more aware than most of the intricacies involved in some of these projects. UGL is working on both the Line-wide works for the Sydney Metro as part of the Systems Connect joint venture and the rail integration and systems contract as part of the UNITY Alliance joint venture on Cross River Rail. In these projects innovative equipment is required to respond to current needs.
At the time of writing, Waugh is just a week away from receiving delivery of a new combined scissor lift platform and wire manipulator from Manco Rail. The bespoke piece of equipment was designed in partnership between UGL and Manco specifically for the requirements of modern rail projects, the first being the need to limit exhaust fumes when working in confined tunnels.
“Instead of retrofitting old plant, we went with a new truck that has the best emissions controls available,” said Waugh.
More significantly, however, Waugh is just about to complete the process of working with Manco to develop a unique platform that will be put to use on projects such as Sydney Metro and Cross River Rail.
“The combined scissor platform and wire manipulator is going to be ideal for wire runs or traction wiring runs. We will be able to do wire retrievals and install new catenary and contact wire.”
Bringing together what would normally be two separate pieces of equipment will enable Waugh to tackle the complexities of current projects.
“The wire manipulator is for when you’re running wires so you can get your staggers right as you run the wire out, but then a scissor platform can do things like install sections, insulator switches, and doing bigger jobs all at once with a number of people on a platform.”
The platform mounted onto the back of a hi-rail truck is extendable, to allow for more people to work on the platform at one time.
“The platform is designed to be quite large so that we have a number of people on it at once and safely do all the things we need to do,” said Waugh.
To meet UGL’s specifications, Manco designed a platform which, when raised can expand horizontally.
“This enables us to work safely in tunnels and to install equipment on the side of the tunnels. This is quite a bespoke unit that Manco did for us, to our specifications, so that we can have it as a multipurpose unit.”
Unlike standard catenary wires, electric trains running through tunnels draw their power from beams mounted into the ceiling of the tunnel and it’s here that the large platform comes in handy.
“In the tunnel it’s a rigid bar conductor so the length of that platform allows us to have two people on each end of the bar, installing it into the roof. That would be very impractical with a normal elevated work platform (EWP),” said Waugh.
Being a “multipurpose unit” has other efficiencies, particularly when getting equipment in and out of tunnels is easier said than done.
“It takes time to bring machines in and out, because these things on rail only move at 15km/h. Doing one thing with one machine then bringing another machine in takes a significant amount of time.”
For example, even in surface-level wire installation, Waugh has seen rail authorities which have one machine with a pantograph for mounting the overhead wire, and a second EWP for measurement.
“They’ve got two machines doing the same job that we can do with one machine, so that’s where I think we can start to get efficiencies because of the multiple things we can do at once.”
Another advantage of the unit that Manco have designed is its flexibility. The equipment can be reconfigured by an operator for the job at hand.
“It’s modular too,” said Waugh. “I could get a forklift, take that whole scissor platform off and, because it sits on container-type pins, put a flat tray on it and use it as a hi-rail truck, then I can transport materials. That’s the beauty of it, I could drop on another module on it, even a concrete agitator, or another module that is a smaller, Manco EWP.”
THE OUTCOME OF COLLABORATION
The flexibility, multipurpose nature, and instant applicability of the platform is a result, in part, of the close and collaborative relationship that UGL and Manco had throughout the design and build process.
“The process and collaboration were great, they listened to what we wanted and then worked through that,” said Waugh.
An OEM based in New Zealand with branches in Australia, Manco was able to quickly respond to the needs of UGL and come up with a solution that met their requirements.
“They’ve been doing this for a long time, and they were able to listen, which was the key piece.”
In addition, Manco knew the environment that UGL was operating in, and was able to suit the design of the platform to fit the safety requirements of various rail access regimes in Australia.
“There are some challenges that come with a thing like this, where you’ve got moving platforms and multiple uses,” said Waugh. “One particular one area was ensuring the safety railing will met the legislation and all the requirements in terms of safety and testing that. With Manco, that was just something that we worked through, it didn’t take very long and they came up with the designs.”
When the project neared completion, Waugh and a colleague visited the Manco workshop in New Zealand in person to finalise all details so that the equipment would be ready for delivery. The ease of being able to connect further simplified the process.
“Obviously it’s better to be geographically closer but there’s a couple of other advantages; there’s the collaboration on the engineering, and then being able to get out of us what we want and turn that into what it is,” said Waugh. “Then there’s also the testing and engineering part and the certification part and that’s been a bigger part than even I expected. Having local people that can do that testing, that are familiar with all the different rail networks, and assist with getting that certification done has been helpful.”
Manco was able to work with independent certifiers to ensure that the unique solution met all of UGL’s requirements to work on rail networks around Australia.
“These engineers know what the requirements are, and they ensure that the machines are tested correctly and can provide the test results to meet those requirements.”
Ultimately, Waugh said that the new platform will be an asset to UGL’s fleet. “It was designed for the work UGL is involved in and so we can see how it will benefit those major projects because of its multifaceted capabilities. We see it as something that will be an asset to the project and give us some great productivities,” he said.