Reframing the megaproject in the age of COVID-19

Infrastructure leaders are calling for a rethink in the way that megaprojects are planned and delivered in a post COVID-19 world.

Speaking at the National Infrastructure Summit, those in the public and private sector said that going forward, new approaches will have to be taken to the construction of major infrastructure projects.

With less of a demand for trips to the CBDs of cities during the morning peak, and more distributed travel patterns, inter-urban, suburban and regional connectivity will be a greater focus, said Marco Assorati, executive director of Webuild (formerly Salini Impregilo).

“We need to ensure connectivity and good living in bigger cities, but the circumstances of COVID have driven attention somewhere else, to the need to develop regional hubs. We need to connect regional hubs with rail, roads, with technology,” he said.

Similarly, Andrew Head, CEO of Westconnex, said that in future, megaprojects will not just funnel people into and out of CBD, but improve connectivity in polycentric cities.

Linda Cantan, package director, tunnels & station PPP Metro Tunnel at Rail Projects Victoria, said that even in these visions for the future, current requirements will still need to be met, and that cities such as Melbourne were already at capacity in terms of the load on existing infrastructure. In addition, project such as the Metro Tunnel in Melbourne are being designed to free up capacity on the metropolitan network so that connections from regional cities can flow through the city more efficiently.

Another way that projects may change is through the shape of the delivery contracts. Speaking from experience, Bede Noonan, managing director of Acciona Australia said that governments and contractors needed to ensure that more work was being done in the early stages to avoid acrimonious disputes, such as the fall out from the Sydney CBD and South East light rail project, where “massive” amounts of money were spent that didn’t need to be spent.

“If you’re in that space it’s a bad space, the challenge is how to avoid that coming about,” he said.

Other panellists echoed these remarks, with Cantan noting that while there was pressure currently for projects to get into the construction phase to stimulate economic recovery, proper planning and investigation still needed to be done at the outset.

“A, make sure it’s the right project but, B, make sure that we’re setting out the feasibility appropriately, and then taking it out to market as a well-developed project.”

transport infrastructure

Major works continuing across Victoria’s transport infrastructure program

Works to remove level crossings on three lines through Melbourne will step up during spring, as work continues on transport infrastructure projects around Melbourne.

Fifteen level crossing projects are taking their next step in September. On the Upfield line, removals of four level crossings are underway along with the construction of two new stations.

On the Cranbourne line, duplication works will see buses replace trains from September 8-13. Four level crossings on that line are also set to go, getting it closer to being the first level crossing free line in Melbourne.

Sunbury line works are scheduled for November to enable the line to carry newer trains once the Metro Tunnel opens. These works involve track, power, and platform upgrades and will require a shutdown on the line from November 7-22 and on the Bendigo line from 7 to 21.

For the trains themselves, safety and performance testing of the new High Capacity Metro Trains will be conducted on the Werribee Line from late August

On the Metro Tunnel project, all four tunnel boring machines are in action and the twin tunnels are getting closer to completion.

The tram network will also benefit from maintenance works. Upgrades will be carried out in Malvern, South Melbourne, Parkville, and Pascoe Vale South. Tram stabling in East Melbourne will also be improved, to allow for more trams during special events.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said the works will have a wider benefit.

“These critical projects are building a better transport system, while supporting local jobs and Victoria’s economy,” she said.

Across all projects, tight hygiene controls are in place under Melbourne’s stage four restrictions and workforce numbers have been reduced.

“The safety of our workforce and the community is our priority – we are taking strict precautions to ensure our critical transport infrastructure projects can safely continue under coronavirus restrictions,” said Allan.

Rail Systems Alliance delivering high capacity signalling for Melbourne’s rail future

Dealing with rapid population growth has led to Melbourne upgrading the signalling system on two of its most congested lines. Rail Systems Alliance is ensuring the benefits are felt for years to come.

Over the past 10 years, the story of Australia’s cities has been rewritten. While Sydney had been dominant for the previous century, no account of the urbanisation of Australia in the second decade of the 21st century could ignore the rapid growth of Melbourne.

The relative growth of Melbourne is most clearly illustrated by the fact that Melbourne adds a Darwin-worth of population each year, overtaking Sydney in population size by 2026. Much of this growth has been concentrated in two areas, the west and the south-east of Melbourne and the rail lines that serve these expanding areas are reaching capacity. This has necessitated Victoria’s Big Build, the largest infrastructure building programme in the state’s history, of which rail plays a major part, highlights David Ness, package director, Rail Systems, Rail Projects Victoria.

“There’s a number of initiatives underway to help alleviate that population growth, one is the introduction of larger trains that can carry more passengers, and then the second part is the provision of High Capacity Signalling (HCS) on the corridor that lets us run more trains, more often.

“What ties all of that together is the Metro Tunnel project that connects those two corridors, Dandenong in the south-east and Sunshine/Sunbury in the west, and allows us to untangle the existing rail network. It’s a combination of things but HCS is the centre point, allowing you to operate more efficiently on the corridor.”

The HCS project, now in its testing phase, is being delivered by Rail Systems Alliance, a partnership between Bombardier Transportation, CPB Contractors, and Metro Trains Melbourne. The project will introduce Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) technology, the BOMBARDIER CITYFLO 650 rail control solution, on both the Sunbury and Cranbourne/Pakenham lines as well as in the newly built Metro Tunnel, creating a new end- to-end rail line from Sunbury to Cranbourne and Pakenham. The two existing lines are some of the most complex in the Melbourne network, not only serving commuter trains, but regional passenger lines and freight services, requiring a mixed-mode solution, said Tim Hunter, alliance manager, Rail Systems Alliance, Metro Tunnel Project.

“What is unique about Melbourne is the fact that we’re upgrading existing lines, on brownfield sites, as well as the greenfield site in the tunnel. That means that we can continue running the existing trains on the existing lines at the same time as we do the upgrades. As the vehicles become fitted with the CBTC technology then they can run either in the conventional signalling or CBTC mode. The beauty of it is that it’s a mixed mode solution for the existing lines.”

The introduction of moving block rather than fixed block signalling will enable a step change in capacity, even under mixed conditions.

“We’re expecting to open with around 18 trains per hour when we will still have a mixture of CBTC trains and regional and freight trains,” said Ness. “But, as time progresses, the system itself has a capacity of 24 trains per hour. That means it actually has a higher capacity to recover from disruptions that may occur, and the Metro Tunnel will be capable of 24 trains per hour.”

ENSURING EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION
Getting to this targeted level of capacity on the first introduction of CBTC technology on an existing rail line in Australia has required a collaborative approach, facilitated by the nature of the Rail Systems Alliance.

“We went through a pretty extensive, year-long competitive alliance tender process,” said Ness. During the process, Rail Projects Victoria looked at the system’s capabilities, the ability to minimise disruption during integration, and did site visits to other HCS projects internationally.

“On a balanced score card of value for money, being able to address our technical requirements, being able to address mixed mode, being able to work within an alliance framework – which is intrinsic to the way we’re approaching the job – Bombardier Transportation, CPB Contractors and Metro Trains Melbourne were
the successful tenderers,” said Ness.

Taking an alliance approach to project delivery allowed for the project to effectively interact with the many other stakeholders involved. While the technology promises to increase capacity and relieve the strain on Melbourne’s rail network, its success depends upon all elements of the wider project working together.

“We have the technology challenge, in that what we’re introducing into the system is new, but that change is not just operational, it affects the entire way in which the network is run,” said Ness.

The introduction of HCS in Melbourne requires the project to interact with a variety of stakeholders, including the rest of the Melbourne rail network, the other consortiums on the Metro Tunnel Project, and the procurement of larger trains, which is being delivered in parallel.

“The alliancing model provides the most flexibility to adapt and move while maintaining your focus on that end game,” said Ness.“It’s very difficult to do a project like this with just a fixed scope, fixed dates, fixed price, fixed everything. Having a target price that you can adapt and working together with the client has been proven to be the best model.”

In practice, this has enabled a regime of extensive testing for the technology on the rail line. On the Mernda Line wayside equipment has been installed and two existing X’Trapolis trains have been fitted with the Bombardier CBTC equipment. Dynamic testing is now underway. The project has also involved the operator, Metro Trains Melbourne, to prepare the end user – the drivers and operators of Melbourne’s trains, as Hunter outlines.

“We’re setting up additional labs so we can test the train management system for the new trains alongside HCS. We are also taking the equipment and systems that have been implemented inside the tunnel and then testing that with our systems in the lab, so that when we go to implement on site we will have done as much testing as we can offsite. This will make implementation testing and fault finding a lot smoother.”

The hands-on approach to testing enables the end users (for example, train drivers) to become “super users” as the design develops and the new technology is introduced as part of the project.

“We have user working groups within Metro Trains Melbourne to facilitate operational and maintenance input,” said Hunter. “We’ve done a lot of on-site training, we’ve taken them to Bombardier’s CBTC facilities in Bangkok, Madrid and Pittsburgh and shown them what has been done on other projects, and how the technology works. This collaboration is critical to successfully implement HCS on this project.”

Hunter explains that each piece of equipment that drivers or operators use goes through an extensive human-centred design process, with safety front of mind.

“It’s a tremendous amount of work but I’ve learnt from other projects that it’s essential because in the end we want the people who will be using the technology to really feel as though they own it.”

One example where this has occurred is in the design and purchasing of the desks that will be used at operations centres in Sunshine and Dandenong.

“We’ve got the actual desk that we’re proposing to use in the control centres in our office in Bourke Street and we invite people from Metro Trains Melbourne to come and look at, sit at, use, and test it.”

PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE OF HCS
While signalling upgrades on two of Melbourne’s busiest lines will have an immediate benefit for commuters, Rail Systems Alliance has also been aware of the need to ensure that investment in the project benefits the wider rail industry. While experiencing unprecedented investment, the rail industry is looking at a looming skills crisis. As one of the first rollouts of CBTC technology, the HCS project aims to train the next generation of signalling engineers.

“We’ve got roughly 35 cadets coming through the project,” said Hunter. “We’re working closely with the Victorian government and the Local Jobs First – Major Project Skills Guarantee but it’s important that we’re building a base for future projects.”

While signalling projects such as HCS have needed to hire talent internationally, Hunter hopes that this won’t continue to be the case.

“We’ve had to bring a lot of people in from overseas – including myself – who have done these kinds of projects around the world but that’s not a sustainable model. What you actually want is a strong, capable, local team, so that’s what we’re setting out to do. We’ve got cadets working on signalling design, onboard equipment, the control systems, the communications systems, the radio systems, systems engineering, and systems safety assurance.”

Having such a major project occurring in Melbourne has a drawcard for attracting the next generation of engineers to rail.

“As soon as they join, I sit down with them and talk about the project and how exciting engineering is on these kinds of projects.”

“University is a good starting place for technical knowledge, but to have the opportunity to work on a project of this size and this complexity on their doorstep is too good to miss,” said Hunter.

While there’s no concrete plan to roll out HCS beyond the existing project scope at this stage, efficiencies of already implementing the technology mean that any future upgrades would be even smoother.

With a competent and experienced local workforce, and upgrades in place on two of Melbourne’s most complex lines, Melbourne would be well-placed to extend HCS over the rest of the existing rail network said Ness.

“Our focus right now is to successfully deliver HCS on the Sunbury and Cranbourne/ Pakenham corridor. However, if you look at Melbourne’s growth, and some of the pressures on the rail network, HCS may be one future option to get the most out of the existing infrastructure,” said Ness.

Roadheaders

Roadheaders meet at future Town Hall station

A significant milestone has been reached on the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project, as three roadheaders meet at what will be the site of the new Town Hall station.

The three roadheaders have been at work creating the cavern and pedestrian connections between the new station and Flinders Street and Flinders Quarter.

“This is a huge milestone for this important project, bringing Melbourne another step closer to a turn up and go rail system, while keeping our construction workers safely on the job,” said Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan.

The new Town Hall station will be one of two interchange stations between the Metro Tunnel and the existing City Loop, with the other being at State Library/Melbourne Central.

When complete, the new station will be 33 metres deep and longer than a city block.

“We’ve made such amazing progress, we now have deep underground a new station entrance at Federation Square, the length of the future station platform and come out at the new entrance at City Square,” said Allan.

The three roadheaders have been working from three different launch sites. The first was launched late last year from City Square and began tunnelling under Swanston Street for the main station cavern. The second roadheader launched under Federation Square and will create the passenger connection between Flinders Street station and Town Hall. The third roadheader excavated the connection between Flinders Quarter and the station.

Each machine weighs up to 118 tonnes and has been working 25 metres below ground level. The cutterheads can cut through rock three times harder than concrete.

Once the roadheaders have finished excavating the stations, the tunnel boring machines will create the twin tunnels between the future Town Hall and State Library stations. All four tunnel boring machines are currently making their way underground towards the CBD.

The project is on track to have trains running through the new tunnels by 2025.

TBMs

TBMs all boring under Melbourne for Metro Tunnel

All four tunnel boring machines (TBMs) on the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project are in the ground, ensuring that the project is on track to be finished in 2025, a year ahead of schedule.

Premier Daniel Andrews said that having all TBMs working at the same time was a milestone for the project.

“We’re making significant progress on this landmark project – with all four tunnel boring machines in the ground.”

The news comes as other significant works are completed. At Parkville station, excavation of the station box at Grattan Street is complete and 50 steel columns are being installed at the under-construction State Library Station.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan thanked those who were working on the project.

“The team have worked around-the-clock to get the four tunnel boring machines underway, while observing social distancing and keeping workers safe.”

Andrews echoed that these works would have an economy-boosting impact.

“Big construction projects like the Metro Tunnel are more important than ever as we rebuild from the pandemic – kickstarting our economy and supporting thousands of jobs.”

Of the four TBMs, two are tunnelling from the Ardern site in North Melbourne towards Parkville. TBMs Meg and Joan, named after Australian cricketer Meg Lanning and Victoria’s first female Premier Joan Kirner, are completing the two parallel tunnels.

At the eastern portal TBM Millie and TBM Alice, named after Millie Peacock – Victoria’s first female member of Parliament – and Alice Appleford, wartime nurse, are excavating the twin tunnels from Anzac Station to South Yarra.

Four level crossing removals among program of winter works

Four level crossings are scheduled to go on the Upfield line by November 2020.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that a construction blitz will remove the four level crossings at Munro, Reynard, and Bell streets, and Moreland Road.

Work crews of over 1,000 will work around the clock from July 28 to November 15.

The blitz involves elevating two kilometres of rail line and constructing two new stations, at Coburg and Moreland stations.

“Over the next few months we’re ramping up work on our Big Build, including the biggest level crossing removal blitz we’ve ever done,” said Allan.

Buses will replace trains between Anstey and Upfield, however a new turnback facility at Anstey will allow trains to continue between Anstey and the city, reducing the impact on commuters.

Works on other level crossing on the Frankston line are getting underway in May, with trenches to be excavated and new stations built to facilitate the removal of level crossings at Park and Charman roads in Cheltenham, and Balcombe Road in Mentone.

Other projects are underway in Lyndhurst, Pakenham, Berwick, Edithvale, Chelsea and Bonbeach, Werribee, Hoppers Crossing, Mooroolbark and Lilydale.

As part of Victoria’s Big Build program, construction on the Metro Tunnel Town Hall station is taking another step forward. Trams will not run along Flinders Street between Elizabeth and Russell streets from July 5-11 and cars on St Kilda Road won’t be able to turn left into Flinders street to maintain pedestrian safety around the construction site. The Sunbury Line upgrade, to facilitate trains to run on the line as part of the Metro Tunnel project, is also continuing in late June.

Winter will also see track renewal and maintenance in the CBD and on the regional train network, specifically the Bendigo, Swan hill and Echuca lines. On the Bendigo Line between Sunbury and Bendigo the $16.1 million sleeper replacement program was completed a month ahead of schedule. 50 workers were on site around the clock to renew 48,000 sleepers, locally manufactured at Avalon, near Geelong.

“Building these projects is more important than ever, as we rebuild our economy and get people back to work,” said Allan.

Three more level crossings scheduled for removal by July

Three more level crossings are set to go by July on Melbourne’s Frankston line.

In an update to the project, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan highlighted that level crossings at Park and Charman roads in Cheltenham, and Balcombe Road in Mentone will be gone by mid-year.

Additionally, the new Kananook Train Storage Facility is scheduled to open in early May while construction on the new Carrum station and open spaces continues.

“We’ve worked really hard with our construction partners to ensure we can get this vital work done that will deliver more trains, more often – whilst protecting the safety of our workforce and supporting local jobs,” said Allan.

In addition to these three level crossings, work will also begin on site offices and work areas at Edithvale, Chelsea, and Bonbeach to remove five level crossings and build three new stations, making it one of the largest combined works blitzes in the Level Crossing Removal Project.

“This will be the biggest level crossing construction blitz we’ve ever done, but the disruption will be worth it,” said Andrews.

The nine-week blitz will begin in late May, with one extra week added to allow for physical distancing and other health and safety measures to be implemented. More than 1,700 workers will be employed across the sites in south-east Melbourne to build the new rail trenches and roads over the rail line.

After trains return to the line in July, finishing works at the new Cheltenham and Mentone stations will continue, with both stations expected to open in August.

The works are part of a $3 billion investment in the Frankston Line, which involves the removal of 18 level crossings and 12 new stations. The line will also benefit from the Metro Tunnel construction, as trains on the Cranbourne/Pakenham line will not share the track with Frankston line trains from South Yarra, enabling a 15 per cent increase in capacity on the Frankston line in peak periods.

Rail construction works continue to schedule

The building and renewal of rail lines around Victoria is following its planned construction schedule, despite a pause on noise restrictions.

The Victorian government announced on Monday, April 6 that new planning rules will exempt essential businesses from existing noise restrictions.

The exemption allows 24-hour dispatch and delivery during the current State of Emergency and for three months after too. New South Wales and Western Australia have also lifted noise restrictions for construction and logistics operations.

Corey Hannett, director-general of the Victorian Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) said the Melbourne Metro Tunnel and Level Crossing Removal works have processes in place to manage construction noise and minimise the inconvenience and impacts of construction on local communities.

“MTIA projects are currently considered essential and we are working with our building partners to deliver our critical infrastructure projects while implementing strict safety measures to protect our workforce and the community,” he said.

For all Victorian project works, the majority of the construction happens during the day, however some 24-hour works will be required. 

“We understand construction can be disruptive and noisy, especially during major works or at night – that’s why we work with residents to find the best solutions and minimise any impacts,” Hannett said.

Richard Wynne, Victorian Minister for Planning approved the new planning rules and said the measures are to support essential business outside normal business hours.

An Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) spokesperson said the North East Rail Line upgrade currently complies with all existing EPA noise regulations and will continue to comply.

“Our projects will not have a need to utilise this new exemption,” the ARTC spokesperson said.

“If we are required to undertake night works, we provide notification to impacted properties, which is our regulatory requirement.”

John Fullerton, ARTC CEO said in a recent interview that was broadcasted on Sky News that transport companies are moving as much as they can to boost the flow of essential goods and services.

“Rail is no different, we move around five million tonnes across the continent from the eastern seaboard to WA and a lot of our product involves groceries and the hardware that sits on those supermarket shelves,” he said on Sky News.

Fullerton said rail volumes are up approximately 13 per cent due to the unprecedented demand for goods.

“There is never a better time to invest in infrastructure,” Fullerton said.

“One thing coming from this pandemic is looking at major projects to offer economic stimulus.

“It’s a huge opportunity to improve the transport lengths particularly on the Eastern seaboard.”

Victorian rail projects required to use recycled materials

Recycled materials will soon comprise a greater part of Victorian transport projects, as part of the Victorian government’s Recycled First policy.

The program will require future projects delivered by the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority to incorporate recycled materials, in an effort to create markets for recycled materials, divert resources from landfill, create local jobs, and make major infrastructure projects more sustainable.

“We’re paving a greener future for Victoria’s infrastructure, turning waste into vital materials for our huge transport agenda and getting rubbish out of landfills,” said Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan.

Although recycled materials are already being widely used in road projects in Victoria, including on the M80 Ring Road, Monash Freeway, and South Gippsland Highway, the project will also apply to rail projects.

Examples of materials that could be reused and meet current standards for road and rail projects include recycled aggregates, glass, plastic, timber, steel, ballast, crushed concrete, crushed brick, crumb rubber, reclaimed asphalt pavement and organics.

According to a statement from the Victorian government, those companies that wish to deliver major transport infrastructure projects will be demonstrate how they will prioritise recycled and reused materials while maintaining compliance and quality standards.

Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, highlighted the benefits that such a policy would have.

“This is an important investment in the recycling industry. It ensures we recycle and re-use items on government projects, and keep waste out of landfill.”

Current transport projects will also be encouraged to look for uses for their own waste and discarded materials. For example, soil excavated from the Metro Tunnel site in Parkville is now being used for pavement layers on roads in point Cook. The 14,00 tonnes of soil would have otherwise gone to landfill.

Allan noted that the project could lead to a mindset shift in the construction industry.

“Recycled First will boost the demand for reused materials right across our construction sector – driving innovation in sustainable materials and changing the way we think about waste products.”

Current projects that are being delivered by the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority include the Level Crossing Removal Project, and Rail Projects Victoria also sits under the authority, which covers the Regional Rail Revival, Metro Tunnel, Melbourne Airport rail link and Western Rail Plan projects.

First section of the Metro Tunnel now complete

The first tunnel boring machine (TBM) named Joan has worked around the clock for months, dug underneath the city, and installed the tunnel’s massive concrete rings.

Joan is named after former Victorian Premier Joan Kirner and she has now broken through a 13m-deep shaft at Childers Street, Kensington, completing the journey from Arden Station.

Since her launch in August 2019, Joan has travelled 1.2km tunnelling under rail lines, CityLink, Moonee Ponds Creek, North Yarra Main Sewer, and the West Melbourne Terminal Station and installed 4,200 curved concrete segments to create 700 rings lining the walls of the tunnel.

The segments, each weighing 4.5 tonnes, are among 56,000 being manufactured by 70 workers at a purpose-built concrete manufacturing plant in Deer Park.

The second TBM, Meg, who is named after Australian women’s cricket captain Meg Lanning, is travelling on a parallel route to carve out the second tunnel from Arden to Kensington and will break through in the coming weeks.

Work began in January at the site of the new Anzac Station on St Kilda Road site to assemble the third and fourth TBMs for the Metro Tunnel Project. These are expected to be launched in mid-2020.

The Andrews Labour Government said Victoria’s massive transport infrastructure program will continue over autumn with the next phase of work concentrating on level crossing removals.

Following level crossing removal at Toorak Road and major works at Cheltenham and Mentone station, a three-month construction blitz will begin on the Upfield line in July.

Works will include the elevation of tracks, construction of two new stations, and removal of four level crossings.

Ongoing excavation to build an underground pedestrian connection between Flinders Street Station and the new Town Hall Station in the Metro Tunnel is currently underway.

Jacinta Allan, Minister for Transport Infrastructure, said there are nearly 120 major road and rail projects on the go across the state and this autumn.

Melissa Horne, Minister for Public Transport said that it’s vital the Victorian government continues to invest in infrastructure for the benefit of Melbourne’s residents and visitors.