Morley-Ellenbrook Lin

Morley-Ellenbrook Line gets IA tick

Infrastructure Australia has added the Morley-Ellenbrook Line to its Infrastructure Priority List.

The decision by the federal government’s independent infrastructure advisory body signals that the project, which is part of the Metronet program in Western Australia, is of strategic importance. Infrastructure Australia found that the project will improve transport options, reduce car dependency and ease traffic congestion, said chief executive, Romilly Madew.

“We know one of the key areas to accommodate Perth’s growing population over the next 10 years will be the corridor that connects Ellenbrook to the Perth CBD.”

Infrastructure Australia calculated that the project had a cost-benefit ration of 1.2, providing $430 million in economic benefits for the wider community.

The recognition of the project’s importance comes after two contractors were shortlisted for the construction of the line in April and early work on upgrades to Bayswater station have begun.

WA Premier, Mark McGowan, said that the recognition of the project’s importance comes from the public transport that it will introduce to north-eastern Perth.

“The Ellenbrook line is the signature Metronet project, when complete it will be a game‑changer for the north eastern suburbs,” he said.

Enabling road infrastructure works on the Tonkin Gap highway will soon begin, which will pave the way for the rail line, said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

“We are working to fast track the Tonkin Gap upgrade, which will include rail enabling works down Tonkin Highway, with construction on this project expected to start in coming months.”

Saffioti also highlighted that the project will allow for transport-oriented development around the new stations.

“Infrastructure Australia has found the Morley-Ellenbrook Line has strategic value, will improve connectivity and transport links, while improving liveability by encouraging development around stations and unlocking economic potential of the area.”

The 21-kilometre line will include stations at Morley, Noranda, Malaga, Whiteman Park, and Ellenbrook, with the option to build a future station at Bennett Springs East. The federal government is contributing $500 million to the line, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack welcomed Infrastructure Australia’s determination.

“This announcement shows exactly why the Australian Government has committed $2.5 billion for network-shaping METRONET projects in Western Australia, which involves 70 kilometres of new heavy passenger rail and up to 18 new rail stations,” McCormack said.

“This includes our $500 million commitment to the jointly funded Morley-Ellenbrook Line project which will create jobs and support economic growth.”

A number of construction projects are continuing as part of the Metronet project around WA.

“This year alone we have six Metronet projects underway, plus the construction of our Bellevue Metronet railcar facility, creating thousands of local jobs and supporting local businesses,” said McGowan.

Saffioti noted that these projects are stimulating local economies.

“Metronet projects will be a key part of our post-COVID economic recovery, providing opportunities for local businesses and creating thousands of local jobs.”

Contractors shortlisted for Morley-Ellenbrook line

The Western Australia government has shortlisted two joint ventures to design and construct the Morley-Ellenbrook line, part of the Metronet project.

The two joint ventures are, Ellenbrook Alliance (CPB Contractors and Downer EDI) and MELconnx Consortium (Laing O’Rouke Australia Construction).

Having completed the request for proposal phase, the shortlisted contractors will now enter the competitive bid phase.

The contract is the largest of four works packages to deliver the Morley-Ellenbrook line and covers the design, building, and commissioning of the electric rail line and five new stations.

Early works are already underway on the Bayswater Station and a contractor, Evolve Bayswater Alliance, was recently announced as the preferred proponent for the construction of that station.

WA Premier Mark McGowan announced that the decision has been the product of extensive engagement.

“Leading up to procurement, we engaged with hundreds of local businesses and subcontractors so they were prepared to bid for the huge range of work available through all stages of the project.”

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that the finalised project would connect the growing north eastern suburbs of Perth.

“This is another major step forward for the Morley-Ellenbrook Line project, which is the final missing piece for transport infrastructure in the north-eastern suburbs of Perth.”

After leaving the Midland line at Bayswater station, the new, 21km line will follow the Tonkin highway and finish a t the Ellenbrook town centre. Stations will be built at Morley, Noranda, Malaga, Whiteman Park, and Ellenbrook. Another station could be built at Bennett Springs East with population growth forecast there.

The continuing construction on the Metronet project, which has not been limited by coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, is hoped to boost the WA economy.

“This year alone we will have six METRONET projects underway, in addition to our railcar manufacturing facility in Bellevue where local workers will build our METRONET railcars,” said McGowan.

 

TBM Sandy breaks through at Bayswater

Tunnelling is complete on the Forrestfield-Airport Link, part of the Metronet project in Western Australia.

On April 20, tunnel boring machine Sandy broke through at the Bayswater dive structure. WA Premier Mark McGowan said that the completion of tunnelling is a “major milestone” for WA.

“While Western Australia has been grappling with COVID-19, TBM Sandy and the project team have been continuing to work on this incredible project for Perth.”

The breakthrough ended 900 days of tunnelling under Perth Airport and the Swan River, creating 16 kilometres of tunnels, two twin 8km tunnels.

Now that tunnelling is finished, track will start to be laid from July 2020. The track slab is half installed while construction and fit out of the station buildings continues.

“In times like these it’s important we continue to progress projects that will provide work for local businesses and keep workers in their jobs, ultimately supporting the State’s wider economy,” said McGowan.

The tunnels, made with 9,000 tunnel rings comprising 54,000 locally made concrete segments, link three stations, Forrestfield, Airport Central, and Redcliffe to the wider rail network.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti thanked those who have worked on the project so far.

“In July 2017, Premier Mark McGowan and I were at the Forrestfield Station site to mark the start of tunnelling on the Forrestfield-Airport Link,” she said.

“Thank you to the tunnelling team and other workers who delivered TBM Sandy to her destination and helped achieved this major milestone.”

The $1.86bn Forrestfield-Airport Link provides over 700 jobs in Western Australia, and is one of six Metronet projects underway in 2020.

The tunnelling for the Forrestfield-Airport Link was conducted by a joint venture of Salini Impregilo and NRW Civil and Mining which won the design and construct contract, along with a 10 year maintenance contract, in April 2016.

Contractor announced for Bayswater Station construction

The preferred proponent for the construction of the Bayswater Station is Evolve Bayswater Alliance, Coleman Rail.

The $253 million contract, awarded by the Western Australia government as part of the Metronet project, covers the building of the station, precinct works, new platforms, and rail infrastructure. The Bayswater station serves as a crucial linking point between the Midland Line to the future Forrestfield-Airport Link and the Morley-Ellenbrook Line.

Once construction is complete on these new lines, more trains will run more often between Bayswater and Claremont, driving greater use of public transport in Perth, said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

“Bayswater is on track to becoming one of Perth’s best connected communities, with access to three rail lines and many bus services,” she said.

A rail turnback for Forrestfield-Airport Link operations will also be built.

“In times like these it’s important we continue to progress the projects that will provide work for local businesses and keep workers in their jobs. This will ultimately support the State’s wider economy,” said Saffioti.

The contract will involve staged construction of the two island platforms. The first will be constructed while the current line and station are still being used. When complete, trains will begin using this new platform while the old station is removed and a new platform is built for the Morley-Ellenbrook Line.

“Building this project, combined with construction of other nearby major projects like the Tonkin Gap and Morley-Ellenbrook Line, will help support the WA economy through some tough times ahead,” said Saffioti.

Utility and environmental works have already begun at Bayswater Station, as have improvements to Meltham and Ashfield stations, and the future station will improve the surrounding community, said Maylands MLA, Lisa Baker.

“Bayswater Station is more than just a public transport project – the wider Bayswater community will also benefit with new public spaces and more pedestrian-friendly streets around the station,” she said.

PTA Radio Systems Replacement project falls victim to US-China trade war

The consortium delivering the digital radio systems project in Perth has fallen apart.

An alliance of Huawei Australia and UGL (HUGL) won the contract to upgrade radio communications for Western Australia’s Public Transport Authority (PTA) in 2018, however on March 27, 2020 WA Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti announced that the current contract will no longer proceed.

The HUGL consortium fell victim to increasing trade restrictions placed on Chinese exports by the US government, with restrictions imposed in August 2019 cited by the WA government as the tipping point.

In 2017, the WA government announced the $120 million project, which would involve installing new towers and poles with digital-friendly infrastructure, to enable the replacement of the current analogue radio system with a digital one. This involved all radio devices in trains, security vehicles, and handheld radios. Moving to a digital system would allow for data as well as audio to be transmitted by radio. Future Automatic Train Control systems, which PTA has aimed to install as part of the Metronet project, would utilise the digital radio systems.

Since the contract was awarded, the parties have had to grapple with restrictions placed trade between the US and China. Tariffs imposed on Chinese exports would increase the uncertainty around the cost of the project, timelines, and effectiveness of the final solution.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the State Government’s project – which is limited to a radio network for train drivers and transit guards – has been caught up in the ongoing trade dispute between the US and China,” said Saffioti.

The WA government has indicated in a statement that it will continue with the project, although it will be delayed.

“Given the trade dispute, and the current economic and health crisis facing the world, the PTA has recommended a fresh approach for the radio replacement project,” said Saffioti.

“The PTA will continue its plans to deliver a new digital radio system for our expanding public transport system.”

Potential options include the withdrawal of Huawei Australia from the contract, or the termination of the contract as a whole. The PTA will look to preserve current subcontract arrangements.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has extended the deadline for the PTA to vacate the analogue radio spectrum to beyond 2021.

Major projects

Infrastructure works an “essential service”

Major infrastructure projects are ensuring the safety of their staff while continuing to progress upgrades and significant works while COVID-19 mitigation measures close down other sectors.

The Cross River Rail Delivery Authority (CRRDA) is adhering government guidelines and advice by implementing new safety measures at its sites.

Segregated work zones, restricted access for non-essential workers, and a ban on non-essential access is enabling the 1,500 people working on the Cross River Rail project to continue.

Major works contractors are strengthening their own health and safety procedures while CRRDA office staff are working from home, or only attending the office when essential tasks cannot be completed remotely.

In Perth, construction on the Metronet project is continuing, business as usual, with no restrictions on works being conducted.

In Victoria, the Corey Hannett, director-general, Major Transport Infrastructure Authority, which delivers projects including the Level Crossing Removal Program, the Metro Tunnel project, and the Regional Rail Revival program, among others, told Rail Express that the Authority is ensuring that construction continues with no impact to projects.

“The construction sector is currently considered an essential service and we are working closely with industry partners, unions, employers and workers to protect both their safety and jobs,” said Hannett.

A safety team of 70 is ensuring workers and sites comply with social distancing requirements.

“Project sites have strict rules in place around social distancing, increased industrial cleaning, provisions of personal protective equipment,” said Hannett.

Additionally, an alliance of construction unions and employers groups have united to ensure that safe practices are adopted to keep construction sites open.

In New Zealand, works have been temporarily suspended on the City Rail Link project, however the delivery team is ensuring that when lockdown measures are lifted, teams can get back to work immediately.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that we are well placed to come out of the blocks very fast when the restart call is given,” said CRL chief executive Sean Sweeny.

Metronet to unlock development precincts

The Metronet project in Perth will drive transport-oriented development, with project areas declared around the Bayswater and Forrestfield stations.

The project areas will allow for redevelopment and the construction of town-centres integrated with new train stations.

The two sites, as well as the Midland area, form the Metronet East projects, which through a redevelopment scheme will guide future development.

The Metronet East Redevelopment Scheme will be delivered by DevelopmentWA and is forecasted to be in effect by late 2020.

WA Planning and Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that transport projects have the ability to extend beyond mobility.

“Metronet is creating more than just new train stations – it’s also creating well-connected, accessible community hubs which will service the needs of locals and visitors,” she said.

“We recognise certain station precincts have the potential to become major activity centres – we are putting the necessary planning frameworks in place to unlock that potential and encourage investment in new housing, services and jobs.”

The designation of these areas as project areas is hoped to ensure that transport upgrades lead to successful integration of businesses and residents in the surrounding areas.

“By bringing the Bayswater and Forrestfield station projects under Metronet East, we will attract much needed private investment to help transform these centres into authentic places where people want to live, work and visit,” said Saffioti.

Construction begins on Bellevue railcar manufacturing site

Work has begun on the Bellevue manufacturing site, where Western Australia’s fleet of railcars will be built, tested, and maintained.

Part of the Metronet project, the $46 million facility will be where manufacturer Alstom will construct and maintain 246 C-series railcars, as well the replacement railcars for the Australind service.

Subiaco-based company, Firm Construction, will build the assembly and maintenance facility, as well as a high-voltage testing building. The 180m long building will include a railcar assembly area, offices, workshops and storage areas, two overhead cranes lifting 25t each, and a heavy maintenance railroad with a 10t capable crane.

“Today marks the start of the return of the railcar manufacturing industry to the Midland area,” said WA Premier Mark McGowan.

Under the terms of the agreement, 50 per cent of the total $1.25 billion contract will be delivered locally. The WA government estimates that 100 jobs will result from construction of the facility, with more jobs once production and maintenance begins.

“In a year from now, local workers will be standing in this very spot assembling Western Australia’s new Metronet railcars,” said McGowan.

The effects of the contract will also be felt more widely across the workforce.

“At the North Metropolitan TAFE campus, just down the road, our specialist Metronet Trade Training Centre will ensure local apprentices and trainees learn the skills for this important work,” said McGowan.

Once complete, the first of the C-series railcars are expected to run on the Perth network in 2022. Previously, railcars were manufactured in Midland up until 1994, when the Midland Railway Workshops closed down.

Metronet Airport Central Station now 70 per cent completed

The construction of Metronet’s Airport Central Station in Perth is 70 per cent complete with the first roof modules installed last week.

The first girders of Airport Central Station’s 137-tonne steel roof structure have been craned into place, with the steel fabricated locally by Naval Base company Pacific Industrial Co.

The $1.86 billion Forrestfield-Airport Link is jointly funded by the Australian and Western Australian governments and will deliver a new rail service to the eastern suburbs of Perth – with three new stations at Redcliffe, Airport Central and Forrestfield.

Rita Saffioti, WA Transport Minister said that, until now, the construction of Airport Central Station has been largely underground with significant excavation undertaken to build the three-level railway hub.

The roof modules will be craned into place over a three-month period, before specially designed sheeting is installed.

“While most works to date have been largely hidden, construction of this massive roof structure marks a new phase in above-ground construction for this project – an architectural milestone,” Saffioti said.

The roof installation comes as TBM Grace, the first tunnel-boring machine, finishes its work, having broken through into the Bayswater Station dive structure on February 18.

TBM Sandy is expected to break through towards the middle of the year to complete the project, and by end of their three-year journey, the machines will have travelled eight kilometres each.

At Skybridge level, the steel frame for the link between the station entry and the 280-metre-long elevated walkway has been constructed with travelators and information screens installed.

WA Premier, Mark McGowan, said about 2,000 jobs have been created on this project alone, with more than 700 people currently employed, and 70 jobs created as part of the Skybridge project.

“The Forrestfield-Airport Link is an important part of Metronet and when it opens next year it will provide an accessible public transport link for thousands of Western Australians and tourists,” McGowan said.

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.