Alliance chosen for Tonkin Gap rail and road project

An alliance of contractors have been selected to build the Tonkin Gap project, which will deliver enabling works for Metronet’s Morley-Ellenbrook Line, in Perth.

The Tonkin Gap Alliance, made up of BMD, Georgiou, WA Limestone, BG&E, and GHD, will expand the section between Collier Road and Dunreath Drive to construct a three-lane, freeway-standard road.

The Morley-Ellenbrook line will partly run along the middle of the Tonkin Highway, and the Tonkin Gap Alliance will build the dive structures to allow the building of the railway to enter and exit the middle of the highway.

Other modifications will occur between Railway Parade and Hepburn Avenue, and will involve the replacement of the existing Broun Avenue flyover.

WA Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti said that the works package will improve mobility in Perth’s eastern suburbs.

“Road and rail projects will play a key part to WA’s economic recovery going forward. This project will fix one of Perth’s most congested roads while laying the groundwork for the Metronet Morley-Ellenbrook Line,” Saffioti said.

“Tonkin Gap is a major component of the train line to Ellenbrook, with two dive structures and the foundation for the rail included in the project scope.”

Saffioti said the government was looking to infrastructure projects to stimulate the state’s economy.

“Together with new Bayswater Station procurement, we now have two out of three major contracts for Morley-Ellenbrook Line at an advanced stage,” she said.

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

The project is jointly funded by the WA state government and the federal government, with the federal government contributing 80 per cent of project funds.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said that the project is part of an infrastructure-led recovery.

“Our $100 billion infrastructure pipeline is setting the foundations for economic recovery on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis,” he said.

“In addition, it will create thousands of new jobs at a time when what we want is to get Australians back to work.”

WA Premier Mark McGowan also noted that progressing urban infrastructure projects will have flow on effects.

“Our record investment in major road projects and Metronet will set up our suburbs for the long term and benefit Western Australians, now and into the future,” McGowan said.

“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.”

Builder selected for Mandurah Station carpark

A builder for the Mandurah Station multi-storey carpark in WA has been selected.

Local builder PS Structures won the $32 million contract to replace the existing northern carpark with a 1,800 bay carpark.

According to a joint federal-state government statement, over 70 per cent of passengers at Mandurah station travel to the station by car, with the carpark reaching 90 per cent capacity by 9am on weekdays.

Both governments have been investing in rail services near Mandurah, south of Perth, with the beginning of a request for proposal process for a new station for nearby Lakelands announced recently.

“This project is yet another way we are continuing to invest in the southern suburbs, with the Lakelands Station project also set to begin this year, and planning for another at Karnup underway,” said WA Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said that the expanded carpark would allow for greater train patronage.

“Together with a new station at Lakelands, this project will future-proof access to public transport for communities locally and across the Peel region,” said Tudge said.

“We also know the delivery of crucial infrastructure projects like the Mandurah is essential to supporting jobs and economic growth at this time.”

The Mandurah region has been targeted as an area for population growth, with the city forecast to grow by almost 50 per cent between 2016 and 2036. Enabling more people to use public transport will ensure the growth is managed, said federal Member for Canning, Andrew Hastie.

“The population of Mandurah and the Peel region have grown significantly over the last decade. The Government is delivering practical solutions that our community needs, both through this upgrade and construction of the new Lakelands station.”

The three level carpark will have lifts, a staircase, and a visually appealing façade, and a temporary carpark will be developed while construction is underway. Residents will also be encouraged to use alternative means, such as bus, cycling, or walking to get to the station.

RFP process begun for new Lakelands station

Contractors have been invited to submit proposals for a new station at Lakelands, south of Perth.

Western Australia Transport Minister, Rita Saffioti, announced the Request for Proposal Process (RFP) had begun on May 4.

“This is an important step in making the Lakelands Station project a reality, delivering better access to Metronet for local residents.”

The contract will cover the design and construction of the station, involving two platforms, a bus interchange, carpark, and associated facilities. The RFP is part of the competitive early contract involvement process.

Part of the Metronet project, the station will be located on the Mandurah Line, with access off Lake Valley Drive, south of Perth. The new station is hoped to ease congestion at Mandurah and Warnbro stations.

“The station will take pressure off the nearby existing stations, and provide commuters with access to bus services and lockable cycling facilities,” said Saffioti.

“There is currently 23km of empty track between Mandurah and Warnbro stations – this station will mean residents in Lakelands, Madora Bay and surrounds will soon have greater access to public transport at their doorstep.”

Funding will be split between the federal government, which will commit 80 per cent of project funds, and the WA state government, which will contribute the remainder.

Construction will begin in early 2021 and the station is scheduled to be operational in 2023. Estimates published on the Metronet website state that 2,300 passengers could use the station in 2023, and 3,500 by 2031.

Since the opening of the Mandurah Line in 2007, the site of the future Lakelands station was reserved.

Planning for another station at Karnup is continuing.

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.”

WA trains begin to return to normal timetable

Western Australia will begin to bring back public transport services that were reduced because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Services were scaled back on March 31 as passenger numbers dropped while people stayed at home and self isolated, however with school students returning to face-to-face classes, the WA government has brought forward regular timetabling.

“With students returning to school from April 29, we will see an increase in transport activity across our community,” said WA Transport Minister, Rita Saffioti.

“While initially we prepared a staged and scaled return to normal services, it is now our view to have services running to a normal schedule as soon as possible,” she said.

“In particular, feedback from parents, and from schools directly, has been that we bring the school services back from the first day.”

While it had already been announced that bus services would pick back up when school resumed, the latest announcement confirms that trains will begin to return to regular timetables on Monday, May 4. Until then, trains will follow the current timetabling – a Saturday in place of the Monday to Friday timetable, and no after-midnight train services on Friday and Saturday nights.

“Working with the contractors, unions and the PTA, we are now bringing forward the return of normal public transport services,” said Saffioti.

The WA government has advised passengers to continue following COVID-19 hygiene practices and additional cleaning will continue. WA was one of a few states to reduce train services. In NSW and Victoria, services continued to their regular timetable to allow passenger to practice social distancing, while in Queensland cuts were only made to long-distance and tourist train services.

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.

WA transport minister defends railcar manufacturing in Bellevue

Liza Harvey, leader of the opposition in Western Australia, has labelled railcar manufacturing as a practise from a bygone era.

In a speech to the state’s business community at the Business News Politics Breakfast on Wednesday morning, Harvey said “we don’t know the total cost to the state of the McGowan Government rail car experiment” and claimed that railcar manufacturing should not be a focus for WA.

“What we will not do is heavily subsidise industries where the State has no comparative advantage, nor bring back industries from a bygone era,” Harvey said in her speech.

Harvey said the opposition has been trying to scrutinise the decision by the McGowan Labor government to determine if this decision delivers value for money for the taxpayer of Western Australia given that this is a $1.3 billion investment.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that building railcars in WA was cheaper than other options.

“The cost of WA-made railcars is cheaper than the cost of the previous procurement of B-Series from Queensland that was ordered when she was Deputy Premier,” Saffioti said.

“The cost per railcar under the last order of B-Series trains was $4.05 million, while the cost under the new C-Series contract is around $2.97 million.”

The spokesperson from the office of Liza Harvey said Saffioti has refused on many occasions to provide any transparency regarding this contract.

“The Minister has refused to provide any breakdown regarding the various cost elements of the contract such as the cost of maintenance,” she said.

“The Minister has refused to table the contract or provide a business case.

“The Leader of the Opposition indicated that a future Liberal Government would not be subsidising uncompetitive industries however, we will not do what the current Government does and create sovereign risk by ripping up contracts,” Harvey said.

Saffioti denied Harvey’s claims including a comment that WA’s facility was going to “fit out trains from Victoria”.

“Victoria builds its own trains – as do many modern economies around the world. WA will also be building its own trains,” she said.

Saffioti said train manufacturing involves modern skills that are easily transferable to other industries.

“The Opposition Leader’s embarrassing attack on WA workers shows the Liberal Party hasn’t moved on from their fundamental opposition to rail and local jobs,” she said.

“Our vision for WA is to build a modern train manufacturing and maintenance hub, that not only builds and maintains our public transport trains, but creates further opportunities for the freight, agricultural and mining industries.”

Saffioti said these industries are major users of rail and rolling stock, and the railcar contract provides growth opportunities throughout the state.

“The question for Ms Harvey is: If Western Australia should not build our 246 C-series railcars, and six Australind railcars, then who should?”

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.