Metronet: $1.25b contract finalised for Thornlie-Cockburn, Yanchep projects

WA premier Mark McGowan has hailed another “historic” Metronet milestone, awarding a $1.25 billion contract to add 32 kilometres of rail to Perth’s transport network.

The NEWest Alliance, comprising CPB Contractors and Downer, will deliver both the Thornlie-Cockburn Link and the Yanchep Rail Extension under the major deal inked on December 17.

The team was announced as preferred bidders for the work in November, finalisation of the deal was delayed until now due to negotiations over the Thornlie-Cockburn Link, the cost of which has been upwardly revised by $180 million to $716 million.

$366 million of this will come from WA, while $350 million will come from the Commonwealth.

The state said the upward cost revision is mostly due to the additional cost of relocating third party infrastructure ($82.7 million), improved wages for workers ($20.2 million), minimising network disruption and meeting environmental requirements.

The state government noted the extra cost was more than accounted for by the recently-inked Metronet Railcar Program deal, which came in $347 million under budget.

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.

Federal finance minister Mathias Cormann noted the Thornlie-Cockburn Link would be the first east-west connection between rail lines on the Perth network.

“The project will also replace the pedestrian level crossing at Elliot Place with a footbridge, making rail travel much more user friendly for our community,” he said. “The Canning River Rail Bridge will also be duplicated and the Ranford Road Bridge modified.”

The Yanchep Rail Extension, meanwhile, will deliver the last proposed section of the Joondalup Line, from Butler to Yanchep, along a 14.5-kilometre route.


The Yanchep Rail Extension.

Federal cities and urban infrastructure minister Alan Tudge said the Yanchep Rail Extension would support 1,370 jobs during construction, to go along with the 1,680 expected from the Thornlie-Cockburn Link.

“The Yanchep Rail Extension will cut public transport journey times by at least 30 minutes to and from the city, getting people home sooner and safer,” Tudge said.

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

Premier McGowan said the contract packaging both projects, along with the many others signed under the Metronet banner, would make 2020 the year of Metronet projects moving forward.

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

“The start of the Thornlie-Cockburn Link and Yanchep Rail Extension projects marks the beginning of a new era of rail construction in WA,” WA transport minister Rita Saffioti added.

“Along with bringing railcar manufacturing back to WA, our Metronet transformation will initiate ongoing work and training opportunities for locals. They are projects that we promised to the WA public and are now happy to be delivering on those commitments.

“Today’s contract signing is a major step towards giving Perth the public transport system it needs to grow and succeed in the 21st century. Connecting our communities and having efficient public transport links is the backbone of a strong, well-functioning city.”

While the governments have budgeted the two projects at a combined $1.25 billion, Downer and CPB Contractors each said their split of the revenue as $423 million apiece – for a total of $846 million going to the construction alliance itself.

Downer managing director Grant Fenn said the projects would be added to the company’s long and successful history of safely delivering transport projects around the country.

“We are pleased that our expertise in the design and construction of heavy rail, tracks, stations and rail bridges has been recognised,” Fenn said. “We look forward to working with our partner, CPB Contractors, to deliver this important and landmark Metronet project for the government and the people of Perth.”

It was also announced on Tuesday that WA Main Roads would also integrate early works for the Thornlie-Cockburn Link’s tie-in to the Mandura Line with its Kwinana Freeway widening works, which are currently under construction.

This integration will extend the road project’s timeline into early 2020.

Preferred alliance named for WA’s Yanchep, Thornlie-Cockburn projects

A preferred alliance has been announced for the Yanchep Rail Extension and Thornlie-Cockburn Link projects as part of WA’s Metronet urban rail programme.

An alliance of Downer and CPB Contractors, known as NEWest, was announced as the preferred alliance to construct both projects on November 23.

The Yanchep Rail Extension will deliver the last proposed section of the Joondalup Line, from Butler to Yanchep, along a 14.5-kilometre route.

The Thornlie-Cockburn Link will create Perth’s first cross line connection, by linking the Mandurah and Armadale lines.

Downer CEO Grant Fenn said the announcement was evidence of Downer’s long and successful history safely delivering transport infrastructure projects.

“We are pleased that our expertise in the design and construction of heavy rail, tracks, stations and rail bridges has been recognised,” Fenn said. “We look forward to working with our partners to deliver the important project for the Western Australian government and the people of Perth.”

Work will commence immediately for both projects on design, with construction expected to begin in May 2020, and a scheduled completion in 2023. Around 3,000 jobs are expected to be created over the life of both projects.

Early works has been underway on the Yanchep Rail Extension for a number of months, and a Welcome to Country ceremony was held on November 24 and attended by WA premier Mark McGowan, transport minister Rita Saffioti, and federal infrastructure minister Alan Tudge.

Early works contracts include site clearance and ground preparation, geotechnical investigations and site surveys.

The federal government his contributing $350 million of the $531.7 million required to deliver the Yanchep Rail Extension.

“There has been incredible growth in the northern corridor and the Yanchep Rail Extension will cater for further growth in this region,” Tudge said. “In addition, the Thornlie-Cockburn link will help close a public transport gap for residents in Perth’s eastern suburbs.”

“We promised to bring METRONET to Yanchep, and today we’re taking a major step forward to deliver on that promise with works starting on the job-creating project,” Premier McGowan added.

“Travelling up from Rockingham today, and seeing the amount of residential development in Alkimos and surrounds demonstrates just how popular the northern coastal lifestyle is.”

Saffioti called the early works “the beginning of a transformational era of rail construction across Perth”.

“Next year alone the McGowan Government will have six Metronet projects underway at once – a level of rail construction that WA has never seen before,” she said.

Mark McGowan expects Australind replacement in ‘coming years’

The Western Australian Government says that replacing the ageing Bunbury-to-Perth train Australind will take a few more years. 

State premier Mark McGowan explained that while the train was a priority for the government, its plans to build a successor locally was a factor in the slow delivery of the project, stating that a new Australind would be delivered “over coming years”. 

“The work is ongoing, but clearly if you want to get a West Australian-built train we have to go through the processes of making sure that it’s done here and done properly,” he said.

The Westrail ADP/ADQ railcars used on the Bunbury-to-Perth line have been active since 1987. The train received $700,000 of maintenance work as part of the WA Government’s $1.6 billion Railcar Program this year, returning to service on May 15 after being out of commission for much of 2019.

However, the train’s performance has remained inconsistent, and it was pulled from the tracks again five days later.

McGowan explained that assessment of the train had uncovered a lot of rust and that the government wanted to ensure the trains were secure enough for public use.

“It’s 32 years old and we did a proper assessment of it and uncovered a lot of rust, so we’ve got to make sure that it’s safe and fit-for-purpose whilst we build a new train and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

“Obviously we need to maintain that and get it fixed whilst we build a new train.

“We want to make sure it’s a good service, a safe service and in the future an outstanding service with a West Australian-built train.”

Metronet East redevelopment to add new stations

Two Perth train stations are to be added to the Western Australian Government’s Metronet East Redevelopment Area “to ensure vibrancy, housing and jobs are the focus of each revitalisation”, according to a statement from Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

The project will expand the existing Midland redevelopment area to incorporate the Bayswater and Forrestfield station precincts in Perth. The process is expected to take around 12 months, with Planning Control Areas to be organised in the interim by the WA Planning Commission.

“It is important for the wider community that the State Government harnesses its investment in Metronet to deliver outcomes such as quality infill, housing choice and jobs — which will build a stronger economy and save taxpayers in the longer term,” Minister Saffioti said.

Works at Forrestfield are currently underway, with early works on the Bayswater station upgrade expected to commence in 2019.

Minister Saffioti said that consultation would take place with the cities of Bayswater, Kalamunda and Swan in the coming months to discuss the amendment of the Midland Redevelopment Scheme project being led by the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (MRA).

The MRA is working with Bayswater on its town centre structure plan to make sure it incorporates the new plans, while Kalamunda will continue to plan the broader Forrestfield area outside the redevelopment area.

“By creating Metronet East we bring together our commitment to creating more housing and employment choice and maximising our transformative investment in the Bayswater, Forrestfield and Midland areas,” Saffioti said.

“The best possible outcome for each of the Metronet East precincts would be for them to develop into more attractive areas for people to live, work and visit for recreation.”

National survey shows transport biggest driver of apartment value

A national survey of apartment owners and occupiers found more than half valued their apartment most highly due to its proximity to public transport.

The survey of more than 3,300 respondents around the country by not-for-profit Western Australian Apartment Advocacy (WAAA) found proximity to transport to be the primary goal for apartment seekers, and also the thing they most consistently like the most about their apartment once they’re settled.

The survey showed 61 per cent of New South Wales respondents prioritised public transport in selecting an apartment, while 66 per cent did so in Victoria, and 49 per cent in WA.

WA housing minister Peter Tinley said the survey was a “ringing endorsement” of the McGowan Government’s Metronet project, which prioritises higher density development around new and extended rail lines in the Perth area.

The Government has tabbed value capture – charging private landowners who benefit from taxpayer-funded rail lines – as a funding strategy for Metronet, a strategy which has been rubbished by the Opposition.

Tinley said the WAAA statistics were a win for the McGowan Government’s vision for the future of the state’s housing needs, which includes increasing the number of homes around train stations by 45 per cent.

“Our priority of increasing the number of homes around train stations by 45 per cent, exemplified by the McGowan Government’s Metronet scheme, is reflective of what WA apartment owners are seeking now and into the future,” he said.

“The McGowan Government, in partnership with industry, is building transport-connected, well located, well designed, sustainable and affordable housing where it’s needed.”

 

Developers well aware

The survey is the latest clear connection between the value of property and the presence of good public transport. While value capture is an unpopular prospect for many property developers, it’s clear developers are aware of this connection.

Canberra developer Geocon has this week come under fire for using an unbuilt light rail line to market its Grand Central Towers project in Canberra.

Advertising material for Grand Central Towers features Canberra Light Rail Stage 2 – which hasn’t yet been finalised – as a primary selling point, telling potential buyers they could use the rail line to get to the city. The development’s logo features a pair of light rail vehicles as a core component of its design.

“Living in Grand Central Towers and being able to walk out the front door, and jump on the light rail, and be in the city in under ten minutes, every five minutes, is an extraordinary opportunity for Canberrans,” Geocon managing director Nick Georgalis says in one video. “We’ve never had this type of amenity or public transport available for people that live in apartment complexes.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kiSt–gkv4

Stage one of the Canberra Light Rail network, which opened last month, operates at a peak frequency of once every six minutes. An ACT Government spokesperson reportedly told the ABC Geocon had not been provided with any more information than the public about the operating standards forecast for the second stage of light rail.

Local member for Murrumbidgee Caroline Le Couteur said the developer’s frequency claims were “optimistic”.

“Grand Central’s tagline is ‘time is the ultimate luxury’. It was selling this as a sales point,” Le Couteur, a member of the ACT Greens, was quoted as saying.

“It [concerned] me because I thought we had the real possibility that in however many years’ time, when the light rail and Grand Central were both finished, there would be a bunch of people who were upset because they bought something thinking it was going to have much better public transport than possibly it will end up having.”

Demolition commences on Perth level crossing removal

Procurement and demolition works have begun on the Denny Avenue level crossing removal project in the Perth suburb of Kelmscott.

Old buildings in the vicinity of the crossing, which the WA State Government referred to as being “notoriously dangerous”, are being cleared through the federal- and state-funded public transport program Metronet to make room for its Kelmscott project development. The scope of the demolition includes five state houses on Railway Avenue and Third Avenue.

Statistics from the WA Government state that the boom gates at the Denny Avenue level crossing are down for an average of three hours and seven minutes a day, with excessive wait times leading to risk-taking behaviour from drivers who try to cross the track when the boom gate is down or descending.

Work is set to commence later in the year to replace the crossing through the development of a lowered road and raised rail at Davis Road, which runs parallel to Denny Avenue. The crossing at Denny Avenue will be removed entirely.

The WA government is engaging contractors to help design and construct the $69 million development, which will incorporate a rail and bridge contract and a road and civic infrastructure contract.

“Each package of works has a different risk profile for the contractor, so the decision was made to split them into two design and construct contracts,” said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

“The removal of the Denny Avenue level crossing will greatly improve the daily lives of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, improving safety and decreasing road congestion in the area.”

The chosen contractors will be required to work under the proviso that they keep road and rail disruption in the Kelmscott area to a minimum.

The Denny Avenue project marks an important milestone as the first part of Metronet’s level crossing removal program.