The divergent future of intermodal in Australia

While increasing freight volumes are putting pressure on infrastructure in some locations, elsewhere limited growth is leading to projects being deferred.

Intermodal terminals were described as the “essential building blocks” for overall rail- based supply chains, in a 2017 report by PwC, prepared for the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

In Australia, these foundational blocks are spread throughout the country. However, they are under varying amounts of stress. In the eastern states, capacity is becoming strained by increases in freight volume. In South Australia and Western Australia, there is considerable room to grow with the existing infrastructure.

These differences were highlighted in recent announcements by state governments, rail, and port operators.

In NSW, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is proceeding with works on the Botany Rail Duplication and Cabramatta Loop Projects to increase freight capacity at the congested Port Botany terminal.

In January, ARTC shortlisted three contractors for the two projects. For the Botany Rail Duplication project, CPB Contractors, Laing O’Rouke, and John Holland are shortlisted. For the Cabramatta Loop Project, ARTC has shortlisted Downer EDI, Fulton Hogan, and John Holland. The formal tender process will be undertaken in 2020 for both projects.

ARTC CEO and managing director, John Fullerton, noted that these projects will grow the potential of freight in Sydney.

“These major projects aim to improve rail capacity, flexibility and reliability for freight rail customers, encouraging more freight to shift from road to rail, and we are getting on with delivering these massive improvements.”

Both projects aim to increase rail capacity and service reliability to and from Port Botany, while increasing capacity across the Sydney freight network. According to NSW Ports’ 30-year Master Plan, 80 per cent of containers that arrive in Port Botany are delivered to sites closer than 40km away. Increasing freight rail frequency will allow for these containers to be moved to industrial and logistics sites in Western and South-Western Sydney.

“Improving freight performance at Port Botany is critical for the economic growth and prosperity of Sydney, NSW and Australia with the amount of container freight handled by the Port set to significantly increase by 77 per cent to 25.5 million tonnes by 2036,” said Fullerton.

“These two landmark projects will strike the balance between rail and road by duplicating the remaining single freight rail track section of the Botany Line between Mascot and Botany and constructing a new passing loop on the Southern Sydney Freight Line (SSFL) between Cabramatta Station and Warwick Farm Station to allow for freight trains up to 1300m in length.

“Once completed, the Cabramatta Loop Project will allow freight trains travelling in either direction along the Southern Sydney Freight Line to pass each other and provide additional rail freight capacity for the network.”

Work on the Sydney freight network will also increase rail’s share of freight, and alleviate congestion on the Sydney road network, highlighted Fullerton.

“Each freight train can take up to 54 trucks worth of freight off the road, tackling congestion and improving the everyday commute in Sydney.”

The Port of Melbourne is also looking at the potential to increase the volume of freight moved by rail from the Port to intermodal terminals in Melbourne’s north and west.

In late January, the Victorian government improved the Port operator’s plans to invest $125 million for the construction of a new on-dock rail.

The Port of Melbourne will introduce a $9.75 per 20-foot equivalent unit charge on imported containers and the funds raised from the charge will directly deliver new sidings and connections for the rail project. Improving rail access to the Port of Melbourne is a legislated condition of its lease, aiming towards a wider push to expand rail freight across Victoria.

The Victorian government said in a statement it is “also supporting the Port Rail Shuttle Network connecting freight hubs in Melbourne’s north and west to the port, new intermodal terminals planned at Truganina and Beveridge, new automated signalling for faster rail freight to GeelongPort and improvements in the regional rail freight network”.

“On-dock rail will make rail transport more competitive, cut the high cost of the ‘last mile’ and reduce truck congestion at the port gate – a big win for Victorian exporters delivering goods to the Port of Melbourne.”

Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said the project will increase the competitiveness of Victorian industry.

“The Port of Melbourne is a vital part of our multi-billion dollar export sector and agriculture supply chain and on-dock rail will make its operations more efficient for Victorian exporters – removing congestion at the port gate.”

The project is set to be completed by 2023.

DIFFERENT ROUTES IN SA

In contrast to these announcements, the South Australian government has decided to pull back from a plan to move greater volumes of freight via a new network named GlobeLink. An election promise from the Marshall government, in late January, the government announced that the project would be terminated, as the business case did not stack up.

The proposed project would comprise a road and rail corridor behind the Adelaide Hills, which would connect the National Highway and the rail link from Victoria to Northern Adelaide. The project would have also included an intermodal export park and freight-only airport at Murray Bridge.

The SA government commissioned KPMG to produce a business case for the project, which found that rail freight in the corridor would decline.

Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government Stephan Knoll highlighted that investment in rail freight would not be of economic value for the state.

“Particularly, with respect to the rail component, the report highlights that limited and declining volumes see limited relative economic benefit for the state,” he said.

“Therefore, with rail volumes unlikely to increase sufficiently in the future, the benefits of a new rail corridor are very marginal.”

The KPMG report found that the benefit cost ratios for the initial rail corridor is 0.08 – a value of 1 is where a project would break even.

The South Australian Freight Council (SAFC) welcomed the decision, with SAFC executive officer, Evan Knapp, highlighting that alternative projects would be a better fit for the state.

“The Freight Industry is both pleased and relieved GlobeLink will no longer go ahead, and that instead other options will be explored – we look forward to consultation on the new approach in due course.”

The report also suggested the potential of a new intermodal terminal south east of Adelaide, however Knapp pointed out that the terminal could go ahead without government investment.

“We understand that there is a proponent looking at it now and there’s no reason why that cannot go ahead,” he said. “Cancelling GlobeLink in no way impacts on that element at all.”

Of more benefit to the freight rail sector and the wider community in South Australia, would be the removal of level crossings in the Adelaide metro area, said Knapp.

“Currently we’re happy with the freight rail line, we do believe there is room for some work on level crossing removals towards Adelaide, particularly the level crossing on Cross Road, as you can imagine a freight train going through that crossing at a very slow speed and given their lengths of well over a kilometre does take some time and causes dislocation of a major road in South Australia.”

Dual multimillion dollar contracts awarded for rail upgrades in south east Melbourne

Two contracts have been announced to begin work on improving rail connections in south east Melbourne.

The Level Crossing Removal Project announced that the duplication of the Cranbourne Line between Cranbourne and Dandenong will be carried out by two alliances.

The first alliance will bring together McConnell Dowell, Arup, Mott MacDonald, and Metro Trains Melbourne, for the section of track between Dandenong and Lynbrook. This contract will also involved the removal of the Greens Road level crossing in Dandenong South.

The second alliance will complete the track duplication between Lynbrooke and Cranbourne. This alliance comprises Laing O’Rouke, Jacobs, and Metro Trains Melbourne. The grouping will also build a new Merinda Park station and increase the size of the car park at Lynbrooke Station.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the work formed part of a larger suite of works.

“With 11 level crossings already removed along the Cranbourne line, we’re getting on with delivering better services to more people in Melbourne’s growing south east.”

Works on the line duplication, new station, and level crossing removal will be completed by 2025 and allow for a future rail extension to Clyde. Services will be able to run up to every 10 minutes and once the Metro Tunnel is complete, new high-capacity trains will be able to transport 121,000 extra peak hour passengers per week on the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines.

“The Cranbourne Line Upgrade is just one of a suite of major road and rail projects easing congestion, improving safety and making journeys more reliable in the south-east,” said Member for Cranbourne Pauline Richards.

According to program director, Steve Brown, the authority has been looking to get started on these major works.

“These projects are a huge priority for us, and we’ve been working hard to make sure they can start as soon as possible.”

In a separate announcement, the Level Crossing Removal Authority advised that a level crossing in Melbourne’s major commercial and industrial area will be removed in mid 2020 with the construction contract signed.

The contract will be delivered by an alliance of Fulton Hogan and Metro Trains Melbourne.

Early works to begin the South Gippsland Highway, Dandenong South level crossing removal are set to start soon.

The level crossing will be removed and replaced with a road bridge over the rail line.

Early works will include site establishment on South Gippsland Highway and underground services relocation.

Major works in mid 2020 will involved the construction of the new road bridge and the replacement of the busy intersection at South Gippsland Highway and Princes Highway with a fully signalised T-intersection.

A level crossing removal project (LCRP) spokesperson said LCRP will work to minimise local disruptions or community impacts while these works take place. 

trams

One kilometre of track to be replaced on Melbourne’s Route 86

The Victorian government will replace over a kilometre of tram track in Melbourne from Saturday, March 21 until Monday, March 30.

The track on Plenty Road will be replaced to improve services on Route 86, said Minister for Public Transport, Melissa Horne.

“We’re getting on with these works so we can deliver better services for passengers to get them where they need to go.”

The $3 million worth of work will also involve the installation of 15 new power poles, in addition to underground cables and overhead wires.

To avoid extensive disruption, work will be carried out around the clock during the period, however buses will replace trams during this period between Miller/High Streets in Thornbury and the Bundoora terminus.

According to data released in 2018, Route 86 is the third busiest route in Melbourne’s tram network, and the work will improve the route for those who travel upon it, said Member for Bundoora, Colin Brooks.

“Route 86 is one of our busiest tram routes – these works will help deliver a safer and more reliable ride.”

Specifically, the track replacement work will take place on Plenty Road between the Metropolitan Ring Road, Bundoora, and Bell Street, Preston.

Trams will still run between Docklands and Miller/High Street.

While work is underway, Plenty Road between Pender Street and Bell Street will be closed to traffic in both directions from Saturday, March 21 until Monday, March 30. One lane will be closed between the Metropolitan Ring Road and Kingsbury Drive from Saturday, March 28 until Monday, March 30. Minister for Preston, Robin Scott, said that this should not stop locals from patronising businesses along the route.

“Businesses along Plenty Road will stay open while these vital works take place and we should all continue to support them as these vital works are delivered.”

Last minute calls for funding to save Overland

A Victorian MP is urging the state government to commit further funding to the Overland rail service that will stop running on March 31.

The South Australian government withdrew its funding in 2019 and for the past three months the Victorian government took over subsiding the service.

The 828km long service between Adelaide and Melbourne has been running since 1887. 

Stuart Grimley, Victorian leader of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party stated in a speech to parliament that Overland should be jointly funded by both Victorian and SA state governments.

However, if SA doesn’t agree to joint funding then the Victorian government should consider long term funding to guarantee the longevity of the service.

“Rail is vital for rural and regional towns,” Grimley said.

He is calling on the Minister for Public Transport, Melissia Horne to back the service to rectify perceived differences in funding between regional and metro projects, following investments in the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project, countless level crossing removals and forward planning on the Suburban Rail Loop. 

“No-one argues that these projects are not of significant importance, but we must be conscious of striking a better balance between funding for metropolitan and rural rail projects,” Grimley said.

With airports few and far between in the Wimmera area and buses not accessible for all those with physical impairments, a long-term rail transport option should be guaranteed.”

Grimley said he understands that there are a number of demands on the state budget in terms of rail already, however, they should not come at the expense to services in regional areas. 

“Given this, the action that I seek is for the transport infrastructure minister to commit to long-term funding for the Overland train service to continue,” he said.

A spokesperson from Journey Beyond said last year that Overland has consistently required government support, which has heavily subsidised significant ­operational costs to ensure ­affordability for commuters.

Edwin Michell, an aerospace engineer, told IN Daily that for $50 million or less, commissioning new, state-of-the-art tilting trains such as the Spanish-made Talgo XXI could save the line, as at present the service is too slow.

Talgo’s dual gauge capability will allow seamless operations on the broad-gauge suburban networks of Melbourne and Adelaide, as well as on the standard-gauge interstate railway, meaning no changes to the track would be required.

Michell said the current railway is well maintained and its concrete sleepers and heavy, continuously welded rail is well suited for high speed operations.

“Using the dual-gauge system to take the shorter broad-gauge route via Ballarat, instead of the current standard-gauge route via Geelong, would save a further half-hour,” Michell said to the IN Daily.

“Assuming a 25 per cent speed increase on the highly curved sections through the Adelaide Hills and on approach to Melbourne, and a 160km/h cruise speed through the long, flat and mostly straight run between Murray Bridge and Ararat, about 3.5 hours would be cut from the journey.”

Michell is calling on private sectors to take advantage of the Overland as a business opportunity.

He estimated to the IN Daily that annual revenue would be $33 million from an average fare level of $150 and financing costs of 5 per cent, interest on capital would be $2.5m and if track access were charged according to the ARTC’s present price schedule, such charges would come to about $1.8m per year.

“Therefore, the break-even level of direct operation and maintenance costs would be $28.6m, or roughly $0.17 per passenger-kilometre, O&M costs would need to be kept below $0.11 per passenger-km.” Michell said

“This should be achievable, even with no subsidy.”

At this stage, the Overland is set to retire by the end of the month. 

Light rail has ‘returned to the fabric’ of Australian cities

Danny Broad examines the state of Light Rail in Australasia, and reflects on his time as ARA CEO.

The ARA 2020 Light Rail Conference, held in Canberra on 4-5 March, heralds our inaugural industry rail conference for the decade. The conference was also Caroline Wilkie’s first event as ARA CEO.

As we commence a new decade, new ARA leadership and converge on our Nation’s capital for our annual light rail conference, I feel it timely to celebrate the renaissance of light rail in our regional cities, the nation’s capital, and recent rebirth in Australia’s largest city, Sydney, 50 years after its last tram lines were ripped up.

With light rail now in multiple major and regional cities around Australia, on the agenda in others, and Melbourne home to the world’s largest tram network, we can well and truly lay claim that light rail has returned to the fabric of Australasian cities, and regions.

Late last year saw the much-anticipated return of light rail operations to George Street in Sydney. The 12km route featuring 19 stops, extending from Circular Quay along George Street to Central Station, all the way to Randwick, significantly expands light rail in Sydney and was no small feat to deliver.

It now plays a key role transporting thousands of customers between the city and Sydney’s inner west and south eastern suburbs, building on the existing Dulwich Hill Line in Sydney’s West.

The network will be further expanded with the Kingsford Line which is scheduled to open in March this year. Like many light rail projects before it, I’m sure the pain felt during construction will soon be forgotten and the benefits of light rail travel through Sydney embraced.

Elsewhere in Sydney, construction has commenced this year for Parramatta light rail. Expected to open in 2023, it will be built in two stages to keep pace with the thousands of new houses and jobs being created in Western Sydney. Stage 1 will connect Westmead to Carlingford via the Parramatta CBD and Camellia with a two-way track spanning 12 kilometres. The currently preferred route for Stage 2 will connect Stage 1 and the Parramatta CBD to Sydney Olympic Park along a nine-kilometre route.

A key component in the strategy to renew the Newcastle CBD, Newcastle Light Rail commenced operations in 2017, with a six station 2.7km service running from the Central Business District to Newcastle Beach Park. The first fully integrated public transport network in Australia, the system was designed to turn around declining public transport in the city and has been a resounding success.

Operation of the 12km initial stage of the Canberra light rail, including 13 stops, commenced in April 2019 connecting the northern town centre of Gungahlin through Dickson to the Canberra city centre. More than one million passenger journeys were completed in the first three months, cementing the success of Canberra light rail. Following the success of this route, the ACT government is now progressing with the development of the second stage to connect the city centre to Woden. With the business case for Stage 2A endorsed, work has commenced on extending light rail from the city centre to Commonwealth Park. Like many light rail projects before it, Canberra’s light rail has spurred significant commercial and residential property development along its route. It will no doubt provide an interesting case study on light rail and its ability to rejuvenate and densify cities.

It could be argued that the Gold Coast led the resurgence of light rail in Australia. The initial stage of Gold Coast Light Rail that commenced operation in July 2014 runs from the Gold Coast University Hospital to Broadbeach South. Fast, frequent trams connect 16 light rail stations along a 13-kilometre route. The Stage 2 extension opened in December 2017 ahead of schedule and under budget, in time for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, establishing a vital connection from the existing northern light rail terminus to the regional passenger rail network. With federal and state government funding now secured for the long-awaited Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A from Broadbeach South to Burleigh Heads, following a competitive tender process, a contract for the design and construction of Stage 3A is expected to be awarded in late 2020.

Like Sydney and many other cities around the world, Adelaide phased out its tram network in favour of buses and cars in the 1950’s. Last year, the South Australian Government went to tender to privatise the operations of its heavy rail passenger network and is also contracting out the 16.5km tram operations, as part of an integrated bus-tram tender. Contracts are expected mid-2020.

As in many other cities around the globe, light rail has been on and off the agenda in Perth. As Perth’s population grows, its Metronet program will deliver up to 72 kilometres of new passenger rail and up to 18 new stations. During 2019 the Western Australian Department of Transport commenced early planning for an inner city light rail project.

Across the ditch, investment in transport infrastructure is also booming. The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) has committed to providing light rail between the City Centre and Māngere to Auckland’s northwest within the next 10 years. The New Zealand government has requested the New Zealand Transport Agency and Infrastructure New Zealand prepare refined proposals for this light rail rapid transit corridor and future network integration, for government consideration. When the government’s assessment process for the City Centre to Māngere Light Rail line is complete early next year, there will be a better understanding of the next steps for the City Centre to North West corridor.

Without a doubt the jewel in the crown of Light Rail in Australia is the Melbourne tram network, which dwarfs all others. It is indeed the world’s largest, with over 250km of double track, completing over 200 million trips annually, by 493 trams with over 1,760 stops. The network is being continually upgraded with a rolling program of new and consolidated tram stops, new substations, track upgrades, as well as maintenance and repairs on existing infrastructure. It is ubiquitous to Melbourne, Australia’s fastest growing city, and is successfully woven into the city’s fabric. It is one that we should all be truly proud of.

This is my last editorial for Rail Express as the ARA CEO. The next edition will be authored by our new CEO Caroline Wilkie who commences with the ARA in mid-February.

I’m immensely proud of the ARA team and their achievements over the last four years to support our members and all sectors of the rail industry. The numerous highlights are difficult to summarise, however a number of milestones come to mind including:

  • Publishing the National Rail Industry Plan and the Value of Rail reports to highlight the economic and social benefits that rail provides for our communities,
  • Publishing the BIS Oxford Economics Skills Gap Report that highlighted the skills and resources challenges facing our industry and advocating how government and industry can best address these,
  • Presenting with 12 senior rail executives to all Transport Ministers at the Transport and Infrastructure Council in August 2019 on the rail industry skills and resources challenges and gaining their support to develop an action plan with the National Transport Commission,
  • Progressing the Smart Rail Route Map and technology agendas,
  • Working with industry and governments to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.
  • Lodging countless submissions to parliamentary and government inquiries, advocating for rail, engaging with governments and industry to advance the Inland Rail project as well as the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy,
  • Supporting Rail Careers and the drive for a younger more diverse workforce through programs such as Future Leaders, Young Rail Professionals, the Women in Rail Pilot Mentoring Program, the formation of the Young Leaders Advisory Board (Y-LAB), and our work with careers advisers at careers fairs,
  • Holding hundreds of functions and events including conferences, training courses, networking dinners, lunches, seminars and forums to provide networking and knowledge sharing opportunities for our industry,
  • Growing the ARA’s membership to more than 150 companies,
  • Developing with the ARA board, Y-LAB and the ARA Team the ARA Strategy Map 2019 to 2024 to set the strategic direction over the next five years. This map details both strategic objectives and strategic outcomes that will provide a platform for Caroline and the ARA team to drive a supportive agenda for all sectors of the rail industry.

I’m very proud of these and other achievements of the ARA team and thank them, our former chairman Bob Herbert AM, the ARA board and all our ARA member companies for their continuing support.

I’d like to express my thanks also to Rail Express for its partnership with the ARA and continuing to produce quality digital and print rail news publications.

Rail has a bright future and I look forward to continuing to support the industry in my new role as ARA Chair.

RFI disagrees with Bellarine MP over Geelong fast rail

The Rail Futures Institute (RFI) has disputed comments made by the Victorian Minister for Police and Minister for Water Lisa Neville, whose electorate covers the Bellarine Peninsula and outer Geelong.

In comments reported by the Geelong Advertiser, Neville said that the only way fast rail can be brought to Geelong would be via the Werribee corridor.

RFI president John Hearsch said that their alternative proposal for services via Wyndham Vale, would cut the current 50 minute journey down to 35 minutes with trains running at up to 200km/h.

Under the RFI proposal, fast trains from Geelong would share the route from Sunshine to the city via new high speed tunnels built as part of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link. The Victorian government is yet to make a decision as to whether dedicated tunnels from Sunshine to the CBD will be built or whether airport trains, as well as regional trains from Geelong would share the Melbourne Metro Tunnel.

Hearsch noted that a separate new tunnel between Clifton Hill, the CBD, Fishermans Bend and Newport, known as Melbourne Metro 2 would allow for high speed trains from Geelong to travel on the Werribee corridor.

“However, MM2 is a massive project with twin tunnels each 17 km in length, seven or eight large underground stations, and two under-river crossings including one near Newport under the main shipping channel. Think of it as Melbourne Metro (MM1) doubled in scope, cost and time to construct. We have provisionally costed it at between $26 and $30 billion and consider it would take between 15 and 20 years to plan and construct from the time that Government starts to fund it,” said Hearsch.

The Victorian government has not committed to funding Melbourne Metro 2, however it has been included on long-term planning projects.

Hearsch also called for a more immediate focus on electrifying the Regional Rail Link tracks from Southern Cross to Wyndham Value to enable higher capacity electric trains.

“Geelong Fast Trains and a connection at Sunshine for a 10-minute journey to Melbourne Airport could both be operational by 2028,” said Hearsch. “This can only occur with a new tunnel under Melbourne’s inner west to unlock much needed capacity needed to provide quality rail services to regional Victoria and Melbourne’s west.”

Other bodies have joined concerted calls for the construction of a separate airport rail link, with the Committee for Melbourne chair, Scott Tanner, writing that plans for airport trains to use Melbourne Metro tunnels risk further exacerbating congestion issues.

Australia’s faster rail future

Faster rail forms part of the federal government’s strategy to deal with population growth and congestion. The National Faster Rail Agency’s acting CEO Malcolm Southwell discusses his agency’s work at AusRAIL Plus 2019.

Australia’s major cities are a key driver of the nation’s economic success and support the majority of the population in employment and economic growth. They are also growing, exponentially.

“Our population is expected to reach 33 million people by 2040, and most of those 6.6 new Australians will settle in our major capital cities,” acting CEO of the National Faster Rail Agency (NFRA), Malcolm Southwell, said at the AusRAIL Plus 2019 event held in Sydney.

“Around 64 per cent of us live in cities and we’re one of the most urbanised nations in the world. As such, we have issues with congestion, housing supply and affordability.”

Congestion costs are also expected to rise. According to Infrastructure Australia’s estimates, road and public transport congestion in the major cities will cost almost $40 billion by 2031, more than doubling from around $19bn in 2016.

Over 80 per cent of the estimated $21bn increase will occur in Greater Sydney, Greater Melbourne and south east Queensland.

A faster rail solution will go some way to alleviating population pressure in the cities. In comparison to other countries around the world, Australia has a relatively large land mass but low population density. While Australia has 3.2 persons per square kilometre, the US has 36. The UK has 275 persons per square kilometre, and Japan has 347.

“We’re not just about building fast rail in the hopes that it works, we’re taking an evidence-based approach,” Southwell said.

“Professor Andrew McNaughton of the UK, who is working with the NSW government on their faster rail plans, has publicly noted that reducing transit times to one hour or less is a particular sweet spot for improved access to higher paying jobs in capital city CBDs and increased economic development in regional centres.”

The Faster Rail Plan, which the NFRA is tasked with delivering, intends to better align future population growth by linking major cities and growing regional cities in order to take pressure off the cities and strengthen economic ties with regional areas.

With the December 2019 appointment of Barry Broe as inaugural chief executive officer of the NFRA, the agency is expected to ramp up its operations this year.

Southwell was acting CEO from the agency’s creation in July 2019 until January 2020. He spoke at AusRAIL to update the rail industry on the NFRA’s work to date and what to expect in the future.

So far, eight faster rail corridors have been identified, including: Sydney to Newcastle, Sydney to Wollongong, Sydney to Parkes (via Bathurst and Orange), Melbourne to Greater Shepparton, Melbourne to Albury-Wodonga, Melbourne to Taralgon, Brisbane to the Gold Coast, and Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast.

The NFRA will work in partnership with state and territory governments and private industry to develop the rail infrastructure necessary to accommodate a faster rail solution between major cities and key regional centres. It will develop proposals, examine routes and begin the process of corridor planning, acquisition and protection.

“We’ve started a conversation with states on the east coast about interoperability and standards of faster rail projects to avoid a repeat of issues around passenger services between jurisdictions,” Southwell said.

An expert panel will provide advice to government on faster rail related matters including existing business cases, new potential faster rail corridors, future developments across networks and infrastructure requirements and priorities. The panel will advise on staging and delivery options.

The NSW government has appointed Professor Andrew McNaughton to lead the panel. He has more than 45 years’ experience working on rail infrastructure projects, including the UK’s High Speed project.

The first three of the overall eight faster rail business cases have now been completed, the agency confirmed in January. The business cases for Sydney to Newcastle, Melbourne to Greater Shepparton and Brisbane to the regions of Moreton Bay and the Sunshine Coast are now being reviewed by the agency. NFRA will provide advice to government on the findings and its recommendations for next steps in the coming months.

These corridors and the remaining five, which are “progressing well” according to the agency, were identified based on the intention to support growing population movements.

For example, the agency’s first priority, to deliver faster rail between Geelong and Melbourne, will have major benefits for those living along the corridor, including quicker access to work and services in both locations, as well as greater choice around housing and less congestion.

“Geelong is one of the fastest growing regions, growing at a rate of around 2.7 per annum,” Southwell said.

“Transport connectivity between Melbourne and Geelong is constrained by existing infrastructure and rail investment has not kept up with population growth. These constraints have a range of flow on effects, including hampering regional development and increasing road congestion.

The agency acknowledges, however, that better connectivity could, in some circumstances, result in regional towns becoming dormitory suburbs for larger cities.

“We’re very much aware of these concerns and as part of our work we’ll look for the opportunities where faster rail can actually work for the economy and job markets in these regional towns. We’re actively talking to regional centres about the challenges and opportunities faster rail will bring to their economy.”

Southwell is adamant that faster rail will resolve population pressures if regional centres are made attractive.

“For example, lowering operating costs for enterprises in regional towns will attract businesses to the area. Faster rail will provide these businesses will labour markets in the capital cities and provide opportunities for economic development in regional towns.

“That effect is evidenced here in Australia. In Geelong, rail was instrumental in maintaining the attractiveness of the city following the large and sudden downturn in the manufacturing sector. Research and modelling work have shown that the emergence of strong employment centres has been able to attract service jobs, and that was greatly facilitated by an increase in efficient rail services.”

Faster rail services are capable of reducing travel time in the corridor even further, from an hour to closer to half an hour, and thus enable more commuters to travel along the rail corridor.

Another challenge the agency will need to soon resolve is cost.

“Studies conducted between 2010 and 2013 on a high-speed rail between Melbourne and Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane found that it would have an estimated construction cost of around $114bn in 2012-dollar terms.

“Noting current construction market pressures and inflation impacts, this figure will increase significantly in today’s terms and could be as high as $150 to $200bn.

“Whatever the amount, this is a significant cost, and obviously needs to be considered against all the other projects making up a core share of taxpayer’s funds.”

The Australasian Rail Association says that it supports the utilisation of innovative financing and funding mechanisms such as “value capture” development opportunities along rail corridors to help fund faster rail infrastructure.

“It will be critical that the Agency, under Mr Broe’s leadership, recognises the need to invest in existing and new lines to stretch government dollars and provide a faster rail service offering that meets the needs of the Australian population,” ARA chair Danny Broad said.

“In addition to supporting the establishment of new fast rail lines as a means to decentralise Australia’s population and support regional development, the
ARA highlights that optimising our existing networks cannot be overlooked,” the ARA’s Annual Report 2019 said.

“Faster rail can be achieved through upgrades and modifications to existing rail infrastructure, such as passing loops, new signalling systems and level crossing removals.”

Meanwhile, the NSW government says it will examine a range of funding options and smart staging, as part of the Fast Rail Network Strategy, to ensure the fast rail network provides value for money.

Each funding option considered as part of the strategy will be assessed based on the estimated cost of the project in light of economic and other benefits to the community, and complementary revenue- generating opportunities.

The state government says that international experience shows that fast rail networks can be delivered in stages, with each stage delivering immediate benefits.

NSW’s short- to medium-term focus will be on upgrades and the optimisation of existing rail routes, with dedicated track improvements such as junction rearrangements, curve easing, deviations, passing loops and level crossing removals on existing routes.

Its longer-term focus will be on a dedicated and purpose-built rail line, with new lines and routes, as well as new rolling stock.

According to Southwell, the national agency is cognisant that its work will affect the future of how people live.

“This is no simple task and requires debate and dialogue from all sides of the equation. We’re still very new but through ongoing conversations with our key stakeholders, including those in regional communities, we acknowledge that consideration needs to extend well beyond just building a new rail line and a train station,” Southwell said.

Councils call for increased services along Geelong line

Two councils west of Melbourne have joined together to call for investment in rail services to Geelong.

The Greater Geelong council passed a motion with the support of the Wyndham City council outlining the commitments that they see as needing to be made by state and federal governments.

The services are: two new electrified metropolitan rail lines to Melton and Wyndham vale, separate from the Geelong and Ballarat lines; increased track capacity between Sunshine and the CBD, investment in the Geelong and Ballarat lines, including electrification and fast electric regional trains; connecting the Wyndham Vale and Werribee lines; and a timeline and dedicated funding for the network.

“Fast and frequent rail services to Wyndham and Geelong have the potential to significantly impact the long-term liveability of our regions, opening up employment and education opportunities, and allowing our residents to spend less time on the train and more time with their loved ones,” said Mayor of the Greater Geelong council Stephanie Asher.

The calls follow demands made by other groups for a separate rail line between Sunshine and the CBD, to carry trains to and from the airport, and offers of extra funding from the private consortium building the line.

Similarly, the councils reject the alternative of putting airport trains on the current line.

“The proposal for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link reported to be under consideration would put extra trains onto already over-crowded tracks between the CBD and Sunshine. This would devastate the prospects of achieving desperately needed faster and more frequent services to Melbourne’s west and regional Victoria,” said Asher.

“Our trains are already slow and overcrowded, and will only get worse without action.”

Josh Gillian, mayor of Wyndham City council, echoed Asher’s concerns.

“We are in urgent need of an increase to existing services. Squashing more trains onto an already busy line will only prevent this from happening.”

Population growth along the Geelong rail line has increased to 131 per cent over the past five years, according to Gilligan this is higher than any other regional line.

“As our population continues to soar, we need other tiers of government to back us and deliver the infrastructure we need. We know that our trains are already full, especially at rush hour, forcing our residents to cram into carriages or wait for the next train.”

Currently, the Victorian government is investing $160 million in the Geelong Line, as part of the Regional Rail Revival project. This involves upgrades at Waurn Ponds, and Armstrong Creek.

The four projects shaping Australia and New Zealand

Four “nation shaping” projects are contributing to Australia and New Zealand’s substantial infrastructure pipeline. Their project directors gave overall updates on these major transport projects at AusRAIL PLUS 2019.

CROSS RIVER RAIL

While Queensland has enjoyed significant population growth in recent years, nearly 90 per cent of that growth has occurred within South East Queensland (SEQ). This region is expected to further increase its population by around 1.5 million over the next twenty years.

Cross River Rail will address a major bottleneck within this region. As such, it is Queensland’s highest priority infrastructure investment and the government has allocated $5.4 billion towards the project.

Currently, there is only one inner-city crossing over the Brisbane river and just four inner-city stations. Cross River Rail will unlock the bottleneck by providing a second river crossing, therefore doubling the capacity of the network and allowing more trains to run more often, as well as integrating with roads and bus services to enable a turn-up- and-go public transport system across the whole of SEQ.

The project incorporates a 10km rail line from Dutton Park to Bowen Hills, which includes 5.9 kilometres of twin tunnels under the Brisbane River and the CBD, with four new underground stations. A new European Train Control System (ETCS) signalling system is also being delivered to improve safety and assist in managing capacity constraints in the network. Numerous station upgrades between the Gold Coast and Brisbane and three new stations at the Gold Coast end the network are also planned.

Cross River Rail Authority’s program director David Lynch says early works have now been officially completed, though these are relatively small in the overall scheme and context of the project.

“Our procurement processes are essentially complete as of the end of October, and construction is now underway across all three packages, with four to five years of construction and commissioning ahead,” Lynch said.

“All major work sites have now been handed over to the contractors.”

The mammoth project will be delivered under three major infrastructure
packages of work: the Tunnel, Stations and Development (TSD) public-private partnership (PPP); the Rail, Integration and Systems (RIS) alliance; and the European Train Control System (ETCS).

The TSD PPP will deliver the underground section of the project, including the tunnel from Dutton Park to Normanby and the construction of four new underground stations. It includes the associated mechanical, electrical and safety systems, such as vertical transportation for passengers at underground stations, above and underground track work, tunnel portals and dive structures, traction power systems and rail operation and control infrastructure. The package also includes a property development opportunity above Albert Street station.

It will be delivered by the PULSE consortium.

The RIS “UNITY Alliance” will deliver the design, supply and installation of the supporting rail system, including rail civil and electrical works, rail operation systems and controls, as well as rail signalling and communications work. The alliance will also deliver accessibility upgrades to six suburban stations. The alliance will be responsible for the integration of Cross River Rail into Queensland Rail’s train network.

The ETCS signalling system will be introduced to enable increased capacity
on the network. It will be rolled out over several stages starting with a pilot program on the Shorncliffe Line in 2022 with early works commencing in late 2019. As part of these early works, trains and tracks will be fitted out with ETCS equipment which sends continuous data about the position, direction and speed of trains and enables the system to calculate a safe maximum running speed for each train. The ETCS will be delivered by Hitachi Rail STS.

Cross River Rail is being delivered with the help of Project DNA, the CRRA’s Project Digital Network Approach.

“It is a complete digital twin of the Cross River Rail project. Now, we are currently working in the space of 3D and 4D, but developing additional dimensions as we move forward.”

Lynch explains how the digital twin was developed, “where previously we built separate systems and models, here we’re using a common data environment.”

“Essentially, it is one model with multiple applications to be used by multiple
teams, so whether in the space of project delivery, program controls, communications and engagement or future precinct and planning and delivery, we’re using the one integrated model.”

The model is built in three layers according to Lynch, the first being the Building Information Modeling (BIM) at the core of the model.

“The second layer gives us geographic information system (GIS) mapping, which enables us to move from the 2D into the 3D environment, while the third layer uses the unreal gaming engine to provide an interactive and virtual reality experience.”

The collaborative approach enabled by Project DNA helps in the design, construction, management and operation of the assets built, says Lynch. It will also improve the on- time and on-budget delivery of the project.

The first stage of demolition for the Cross River Rail has commenced and Cross River Rail is now well into the delivery phase. An 85-metre tower crane will be used to bring down three buildings at the Brisbane Transit Centre site. Each building will be demolished level by level, which will take up to a year.

METRONET

A historic lack of investment into public transport resulted in the significant sprawl of Western Australia’s capital city, particularly north-south along the coast. This is why the Metronet initiative, the single largest investment in Perth’s public transport, is about unlocking the latent capacity within the existing network, according to executive director of Infrastructure, Planning and Land Services Owen Thomas.

Thomas says that, ultimately, the initiative will close to triple the capacity of the existing network through targeted investments, including a high capacity signalling system and more trains.

Metronet is the state government’s long- term plan, equally focused on transport infrastructure as on land use outcomes, which will see new communities created as a result of investment. The underpinning target is a 45 per cent increase in dwellings near high frequency transport infrastructure by 2031. As part of delivering against that, the state’s Department of Communities, which largely delivers social housing, is targeting their investment program around specific Metronet sites as part of a social and affordable housing package.

Fundamentally, the initiative involves the creation of 72km of new railway, up to 18 new stations, the removal of eight level crossings, the replacement of the ageing A series rail car fleet and acquisition of an expanded fleet of 246 new C-series railcars, and the optimisation of nearly 5000 hectares of land.

According to Thomas, the most significant and challenging aspect of the project is the implementation of the communications- based train control (CBTC) across the network.

The final business case for the system is currently under consideration. According to Thomas, once it is rolled out, the signalling system will enable more frequent services, every 4 minutes in peak.

Through early works, Thomas says that his transport infrastructure team, working in conjunction with the station precincts development team, have found that it will take $20-$25 million for other enabling infrastructure, such as utilities, to be delivered at the stations.

“We’ll likely see the rail infrastructure delivered within four to five years from the project commencement, but regarding the longer-term outcomes, we will not see many of the station precinct developments on site until up to 15 to 30 years away. So, one of the key challenges is how to incrementally stage those outcomes so that you get the long-term benefits you want but don’t have a sterile station environment from day one.”

In late December, “NEWest Alliance” was awarded a major Metronet contract
for $1.25bn, to deliver the Yanchep Rail Extension and the Thornlie-Cockburn Link. The consortium comprises CPB Contractors and Downer, who will start construction work in mid-2020.

The project will add 17.5 kilometres of rail to connect the Armadale and Mandurah lines through existing stations at Thornlie and Cockburn Central. The new link will include two new stations at Ranford Road and Nicholson Road.

The Thornlie-Cockburn Link will be the first east-west connection between rail lines on the Perth network. It will involve replacing a pedestrian level crossing with a footbridge, duplicating the Canning River Rail Bridge, and modifying the Ranford Road Bridge.

The Yanchep Rail Extension will deliver the last proposed section of the Joondalup Line, from Butler to Yanchep, along a 14.5km route. It will public transport journey times by at least 30 minutes to and from the city.

It’s estimated that by 2031, the Thornlie- Cockburn Link and Yanchep Rail Extensions will serve a population catchment of 400,000 people.

Downer EDI was named as the preferred proponent to build the major rail components at one of Metronet’s level crossing removal projects, at Denny Avenue.

This level crossing removal will be delivered through two design and construction contracts and will include raising more than 800 metres of track and associated infrastructure to enable a new road underpass.

Early works on the project began in 2019 with geotechnical testing, demolition of buildings and removal of a number of Railway Avenue trees. Utility relocation will start in early 2020.

Also in late December, Jacobs was named the preferred proponent to create the business case for the removal of the other six level crossings on the Armadale Line. Preliminary planning identified the potential for more crossings to be included in the project scope.

“[2020] is shaping up to be a defining year for Metronet construction. Perth will have six Metronet projects under construction at once, creating thousands of local jobs and opportunities for local business,” said premier Mark McGowan.

The other major Metronet contract, to deliver the main works for the Morley- Ellenbrook Line, will not be announced until late 2020.

The Morley-Ellenbrook Line will connect the north-eastern suburbs to the broader rail network and is the signature Metronet project. It will include 21km of rail, new stations, two underpasses to allow the rail line to enter and exit the Tonkin Highway median, associated infrastructure to connect to the existing line, road and bridge reconfiguration works and integration across other projects.

Due to the complexity of the Morley- Ellenbrook Line project, the works are divided into four packages, including the Bayswater Station Upgrade (to be awarded in early 2020), the Tonkin Gap project (civil and structural works to allow access in and out of the Tonkin Highway, to be awarded in mid-2020), the forward works and the main works.

The forward works will be delivered under a series of standalone contracts, managed by the PTA and will include geotechnical field investigations, survey works, and the relocation and protection of the in-ground and overhead services of both the PTA and third-party assets.

Main works will be delivered through a competitive alliance contract. It will include the design, construction and commissioning of rail track, systems and five stations. This will include bulk earthworks and retaining, structures, grade separations, roads and drainage.

CITY RAIL LINK

From transferring 14, 000-tonne historic buildings to new foundations to avoiding volcanic lava flows, the Auckland City Rail Link (CRL) project has been one of the more challenging transport infrastructure projects in the Australian/New Zealand pipeline.

Similar to other jurisdictions however, Auckland has had a significant population increase. Since 2010, Auckland’s population has risen by 50 per cent.

“We were at a stage where the road network was unable to cope,” City Rail Link’s CEO, Dr. Sean Sweeney, said.

When a new station was built in 2003, it took until 2014 for the line to be electrified and new rollingstock provided. This resulted in the doubling of patronage numbers.

“That passenger growth has continued ever since and City Rail Link has an ever-increasing need for public transport.”

Construction towards the $4.4bn project officially commenced in 2018 with preliminary works ongoing since 2016. Its scope consists of the construction of twin 3.5 km long double-track rail tunnels underneath Auckland’s city centre, between Britomart Transport Centre and Mount Eden Railway Station.

Two new underground stations will be constructed at Aotea and Karangahape. Britomart will be converted from a terminus station into a through station and Mount Eden Station will be completely rebuilt with four platforms to serve as an interchange between the new CRL line and the existing Western Line. Wider network improvements are also part of the project.

It is slated for completion by 2024.

“Similar to Sydney and Melbourne, we’ve got some form of a loop. The Western line and the Southern line converge at one railway station with the Eastern line, so all of Auckland’s rail traffic goes into the Britomart station and then basically stops there so that the trains get backed up, full or not,” Sweeney said.

“Essentially, what City Rail Link is seeking to do is make Britomart a through station and extend the line back up to the rail network so you can run trains in both directions. Then, by enabling longer, nine car trains, with longer platforms, we can triple the capacity of the rail network.”

This means increasing capacity from 14,000 pph to 54,000 pph into the CBD, allowing for a train every ten minutes in peak.

“By our calculations that’s the equivalent of 16 lanes of traffic into the city centre in peak,” Sweeney said.

This will double the number of people within 30 minutes of NZ’s biggest employment hub, bringing with it significant commercial and residential opportunities around stations.

Though early works commenced in 2016, Sweeney explains that about 10 years ago a forward-thinking Auckland mayor decided to start the project without funding from central government.

“This project had quite an unusual start. The mayor realised that to make Britomart a through station someone had to start building tunnels underneath the city, so Auckland council went out and started construction without central government support which was a very brave thing to do.

“They managed it with a whole range of contracts and multiple contracting types, which made it a little bit confusing but it was what they had to do to get going, and it’s gotten off with different forms of construction, bored tunnels, cut and cover tunnels, etc. There’s a really complex grade separation into existing railway lines.”

One of the challenges for the project is that Auckland is built on volcanoes “some of which erupted as recently as 800 years ago, which is very recent geologically”.

“So, to try and avoid some of the recent lava flows we built an incredibly complex geological model. We used the information that was available to us to plot the safest route. We used this model to locate the top striations, so to avoid some of the most recent lava flows. That was a very complex investigation and we have made that model available to the bidders.”

Another challenge is the current size of the infrastructure pipeline across a number of sectors in Australia and New Zealand.

Over an eighteen-month period, Sweeney tracked the pipeline from $80bn in September 2017 to more than double that in August 2018, and then $220bn in February 2019.

“I’ve never encountered this extent of growth and the way that this complicates what we have to do and the effect it has on our market is a real stretch. Certainly, historically New Zealand has built very little in 20 years and so, even getting major international contractors to take us seriously and come and bid for us was a big piece of work.”

However, early works are now “pretty much completed” according to Sweeney.

Moving forward, the agency has wrapped up the outstanding works – including the remaining tunnels, stations and rail systems infrastructure, as well as the related wider network and tracks – into one contract, Contract 3, to be delivered by a “Grand Alliance”.

The alliance consists of: Downer, AECOM, Tonkin + Taylor, WSP Opus, Soletanche Bachy, and Vinci Construction.

In October 2019, the demolition of thirty empty buildings demolished near the Mt Eden railway station began. This will ensure space for the construction of the southern portal for the City Rail Link’s twin tunnels. The cleared site will be used as a staging area for a Tunnel Boring Machine and other machinery.

The first phase of this demolition is due to be completed in March 2020 , and is being managed by the alliance.

MELBOURNE METRO

During January, works towards Melbourne’s metro tunnel ramped up with crews working throughout the month to excavate the final section of the tunnel’s entrance and make room for the new track which will connect existing lines to the tunnel.

The crews will complete major concreting works at the tunnel entrance, pouring the final sections of the tunnel roof slab and installing the tunnel support structures.

“It’s now two years since we signed the contract and we’re well up and running at seven construction sites along the alignment,” Tunnel and Stations package director at Rail Projects Victoria, Linda Cantan, said.

As package director Cantan has overseen the procurement and contract negotiation for the $6bn package to build five new underground stations as well as the tunnel itself. She is responsible for managing the contract throughout construction.

A number of companies are building the tunnel, and construction is split across several work packages.

Early works to relocate services and prepare the construction sites were delivered by John Holland KBR. New tunnels and stations are being built through a Public Private Partnership, named the Cross Yarra Partnership consortium which includes: Lendlease Engineering, John Holland, Bouygues Construction and Capella Capital. Yarra Trams will deliver tram infrastructure works.

Rail systems including signalling and systems integration work will be provided
by CPB Contractors and Bombardier Transportation, while a consortium comprising John Holland, CPB Contractors and AECOM will deliver rail infrastructure works including the tunnel portals and realignment of existing rail lines.

The project is projected to be complete by 2025.

“We’re creating is a dedicated rail line between Sunbury and Dandenong. People ask why a dedicated rail line, by taking capacity out of the city loop we free up extensive capacity through the rest of the rail network.”

The Melbourne Metro Rail Project includes twin nine-kilometre rail tunnels between South Kensington and South Yarra and five new underground stations.

The project will take three of the busiest train lines (Cranbourne, Pakenham and Sunbury lines) through a new tunnel under the city and thus free up space in the city loop to run more trains in and out of the suburbs.

“We have 4 tunnel boring machines doing our tunnelling, which were launched from our two logistics sites at North Melbourne and Anzac Station. Meg and Joan are travelling out to the west at the moment.

“Joan has travelled 470 metres out of north Melbourne, and we’ve had to negotiate the city link viaduct under the Mooney Creek. Meg has gone about 137 metres. We’re also travelling along all of the rail network, so extensive work is needed to make sure we’re doing that in a safe way. To date progress has been very good and in fact the grand settlement has been better than predicted.

“On the eastern side of the alignment, we have Millie and Alice who will launch early next year. They’ve been delivered to Domain, beside Anzac station, and will launch in the first half of 2020. They will be heading out to the eastern portal, then be retrieved and brought back to be relaunched and head towards the city.”

“We’re in quite a narrow corridor and have retaining walls to build to ensure that there’s no settlement of the existing tracks, but we’re working in a very tight environment to create those exits and entrances to the tunnel structures. The PPP is constructing a shaft in that area for the TBM retrieval early in 2020.”

“We’re developing these stations for ten car, high capacity metro trains, which will be procured under a separate PPP. As such our construction boxes are about 250 metres long and the width, depending on the station, about 25 to 30 metres,” Cantan explains.

The Eastern tunnel entrance stops beyond South Yarra station as there is not enough room in the corridor.

“What we’re trying to do here is to put another two train lines in a very congested corridor, where we have multiple train lines coming in from the South East.

“This is another area where we have our Rail Infrastructure Alliance working alongside the PPP. The PPP can build their shaft, that will be used for the extraction of the TBM, right next to where the Rail Infrastructure Alliance are doing the cut and cover structure.”

“We’re now underground in a lot of locations so I keep saying to people: be patient with us because we don’t open till 2025, but we’re now underground, tunnelling, excavating and starting the build out of our stations,” Cantan concludes.

Melbourne tram terminus upgrade complete

A newly upgraded tram terminus has reopened in the north of Melbourne.

The tram terminus at Melville Road, Pascoe Vale South will improve accessibility and services on Route 58.

It has delivered new amenities for drivers and has created an improved transport hub at the end of the line in Pascoe Vale South.

The upgraded stop includes a 33m platform that aligns with low floor trams for level access boarding, dual tracks to allow trams to turn around more efficiently and new signalised crossing.

New customer information displays, shelter, seating, improved lighting, and safety barriers were also included in the upgrade.

Melissa Horne, Minister for Public Transport and Lizzie Blandthorn, member for Pascoe Vale inspected the newly re-opened upgraded tram terminus on Monday.

“Adding a stabling area has made it easier for trams to turn around, which gives passengers on Route 58 more reliable services to and from the city,” Blandthorn said.

Horne said the Andrew’s Labour Government will continue to add services across the network.

“We’re also upgrading tram stops to make them more accessible for all Victorians,” she said.

The state government-funded upgrade also contributes to future running of the new E-Class trams, that are the largest, safest, and most accessible trams on the network.

E-Class trams are being built in Dandenong, Victoria and all 50 trams are expected to be delivered by mid-2020, bringing the total E-Class fleet to 100 trams.

Each E-Class tram can carry 210 passengers and includes audio and visual passenger information, air conditioning, improved safety features, and dedicated spaces for passengers with mobility aids or prams.

In 2017 route 58 replaced route 8 and 55 to meet high demand in the city’s inner west and north-west. 

Route 58 currently runs D, B and Z-Class trams. 

Construction of the new Melville Road terminus took place from 14 to 22 February 2020.