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.

Additional $2 billion investment to put Melbourne’s airport rail on track

A private consortium involving Melbourne Airport and Metro trains are offering to invest an extra $2 billion to build a dedicated track from the CBD to Melbourne’s West as part of the airport rail project.

IFM Investors, a fund manager owned by 27 superannuation funds, as part of the AirRail consortium are proposing to build a 6km tunnel between Melbourne and Sunshine, 12km west of Melbourne’s CBD.

IFM Investors have written to the Victorian and federal government on Thursday last week to offer a further $2 billion investment on top of the $5bn initially proposed in 2018.

IFM are proposing a market-led solution to the new track, calling for a new rail tunnel in a letter sent to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“A project option that includes a tunnel between the CBD and Sunshine delivers the best airport rail solution particularly when compared with a MARL that utilises the Melbourne Metro Project,” wrote IFM.

The Age reported that federal and Victorian government plans for an airport rail line will involve a route via the Metro Tunnel to Sunshine, with a new track to be built between Tullamarine and Sunshine.

In 2016 a Metro Tunnel business case rejected a 2012 Public Transport Victoria plan to run airport trains through the $11bn metro tunnel, currently under construction until 2025.

The federal and Victorian state governments had previously agreed to a $10bn joint commitment to the Melbourne airport rail link.

A Victorian government spokesperson said in May last year that part of the budget also includes additional tracks between Sunshine and the CBD that would be part of Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

Every airport rail option being assessed would include a stop at Sunshine to connect to Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo services, according to a Victorian government spokeswoman.

The AirRail consortium, that also includes Metro Trains, Southern Cross Station, and Melbourne Airport will request that the State Government is charged a toll every time a Metro or V/LIne train runs through the new rail tunnel for operating and maintenance purposes.

IFM says it wants to operate the tunnel over a 40-year concession period.

According to the letter, the access payment from regional trains that use the tunnel would recoup an appropriate share of the significant capital cost of building the tunnel.

IFM have stated they do not wish to constrain regional or metro services due to frequent airport trains and decisions on service, pricing, and timetabling would remain wholly with the Victorian government.

AirRail Melbourne has been ready to commence construction on the infrastructure project since 2019 and IFM is waiting for the green light to start the build. Australian rail suppliers have also contacted IFM to propose their interest as potential contractors for the project.

In June 2019 the Victorian government announced that Rail Projects Victoria (RPV) will be developing a detailed business case for Melbourne Airport Rail.

The Victorian state Government said the business case will be delivered by 2020 and will assess station and procurement options, value capture and creation opportunities, and economic analysis of the recommended solution.

AirRail Melbourne proposed in a 2018 blueprint that 20-minute travel times will be expected to the city, using dedicated rollingstock.

“Our ambition is to have a train journey to the airport from the city that is fast, affordable and meets the needs of travellers,” a spokesperson for federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge was quoted by The Age last year.

Construction progresses at Melbourne Metro Tunnel Project’s new State Library station

Melbourne’s State Library station will be 240m long and 30m wide, and its 19m platforms will be some of the widest underground metro platforms in the world.

The first permanent building works for the station are now underway, and a concrete floor has been installed that will form part of the future platform.

Three roadheaders have dug 36m under Swanston Street while also excavating the station length of 240m between Franklin and La Trobe Streets.

Later this year, they will go back underground to dig out the rail tunnels on each side of the central station cavern.

State Library and Town Hall stations will feature ‘trinocular caverns’ – three overlapping tunnels dug by road headers which will allow the concourse and platforms to be integrated on one level.

500 tonnes of rock are being excavated every day as the roadheaders are equipped with cutterheads that smash through rock three times harder than concrete.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan inspected progress on the construction happening at State Library station on Thursday morning. 

“A huge amount of work continues to be done at State Library Station, with the platform already taking shape,” said Andrews.

Allan said the Metro Tunnel is the biggest public transport project in Victoria’s history.

Major construction is continuing in the northern end of Swanston Street at the site of the future State Library Station throughout February this year.

The $11 billion project is set to be completed by 2025.

Flinders Street to partially close for Metro Tunnel works

The eastbound lanes of Flinders Street, Melbourne will be closed to traffic between Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street for up to three years while works on the Metro Tunnel project are carried out. 

The closure will begin from September 2, and the Victorian Government has warned of significant disruption to traffic. Trams will continue to run through the area in both directions in an attempt to ease the ensuing congestion however, with the exception of October 27.

The closure will cut truck movements on Swanston Street in half to around 100 trucks a day during peak construction in late 2020, with the full footpath on Flinders Street scheduled to re-open to pedestrians in late 2020

“This is a significant closure, but we need to do it – it’s the only way to build this vital underground connection between Flinders Street and the Metro Tunnel station,” said Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan.

“We know how disruptive this major construction will be so we’re doing everything we can to minimise disruptions and impacts on local residents, businesses and people visiting the city.”

Access for pedestrians and vehicles will be kept for residents and local businesses, with loading bays in place to the east of Elizabeth Street for drop-offs and deliveries. A new footpath will be constructed for pedestrians to the west of Degraves Street so that pedestrians can cross to the south side of Flinders Street, maintaining access to the tram stop.

The $5 billion Metro Tunnel project reached a drilling milestone last week as roadheaders broke through to the site of the State Library Station 30 metres below the Swanston Street surface. It is one of five new underground stations that will be built for the nine-kilometre project by 2025.

Metro Tunnel project achieves drilling breakthrough

Victoria’s Metro Tunnel project has reached a significant project milestone by connecting two caverns at the point that will become the new State Library Station in Melbourne. 

Three of the seven roadheader drills being used for underground tunneling works on the project in the city’s central business district met 30 metres underground at the site where the station will be built on Thursday.

Rail Projects Victoria expects excavation of the station area is to be completed by late 2020. The breakthrough, which took eight months to achieve, took place below Swanston Street between Franklin East and A’Beckett Street.

Four roadheaders will be employed for the State Library Station excavation, with the other three to be used for excavation of Town Hall Station.

“In total, more than 500,000 tonnes of material will be excavated – the equivalent of almost 70 Olympic swimming pools – with 1,500 tonnes of rock and soil removed every 24 hours,” the government said in a statement.

The $5 billion Metro Tunnel project will build five stations from North Melbourne to Anzac over a distance of nine kilometres. It is set for completion by 2025.

Labor reveals state budget ‘transport blitz’ for Victoria

The Victorian Government has unveiled plans to commit record funding for road and rail projects across the state in what it has referred to by Premier Daniel Andrews as a “blitz” for suburban transport.

“From fixing a pothole at the end of your street to the biggest transport projects in Victoria’s history – this Budget will get you where you need to go,” Andrews said.

The plans constitute part of the Victorian Budget for 201920, incorporating a $27.4 billion pipeline of works.

This includes $15.8 billion for the creation of the North East Link; $6.6 billion to remove 25 more level crossings (of a total 75) as part of the ongoing level crossing removal project; and $3.4 billion to deliver upgrades to the Sunbury, Cranbourne and Hurstbridge lines.

In all, the Sunbury line will receive a $2.1 billion boost, Cranbourne $750 million, and Hurstbridge $547 million.

Sunbury will also receive new high-capacity trains that will boost passenger capacity by 113,000 people.

The first of the 65 high-capacity trains previously announced in 2016 as part of the Labor Government’s High Capacity Metro Trains Project, is set to start on the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines this year.

Cranbourne will benefit from line duplications (doubling capacity during peak hours) and Hurstbridge will receive station upgrades at Greensborough and Montmorency.

The government has also set aside $615 million for regional public transport deliveries, including $340 million to purchase up to 18 new three-car V/Line VLocity trains, which the government said would bring good news for manufacturing and supply jobs in Dandenong, which hosts the assembly plant where the trains are built.

$111 million on training, recruitment and upskilling of train drivers in preparation for the new trains and services.

Three new stations will also be built at Goornong, Raywood and Huntly in the Bendigo area for a combined cost of $49.6 million and $150 million will be provided to fund new car parks at some of the busier stations in Melbourne and regional Victoria through the Car Parks for Commuters Fund

Following on from promises made before the state election in March, Labor will build 11,000 new spaces at stations across the state, bumping the current total number of spaces by 20 per cent to 66,000 stations in order to help relieve pressure along the lines.

An incentive scheme designed to reduce truck numbers on local roads by shifting more freight to rail will also be extended with an $8 million investment. Minister for Public Transport, Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said, “We promised to get trucks off local streets and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Outside of rail projects, the Andrews Labor Government will also put aside $608 million for road upgrades (including $425 million on regional roads) and $45.4 million for the development of bike and pedestrian paths, including new bike paths on St Kilda Road.

$205.1 million will be spent on increasing train and bus services generally, with the latter to be rolled out in Melbourne growth areas such as the north and south-east of the city.

“These projects should have been built years ago,” said Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan. “We can’t change that, but we can keep our promises and keep delivering the projects Victorians voted for and need – and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

The Labor Government has spent $46.7 billion on state transport in the last four years, including its ongoing work on expensive projects such as the aforementioned level crossing removals and the $11 billion Metro Tunnel development, an underground rail line connecting the Sunbury line in the northwest to the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines in the south east.