CEO of Inland Rail Richard Wankmuller will end his term at the helm of the Inland Rail project by mid 2021. Read more
Around Australia, major rail projects are connecting cities and reshaping regions. With delivery now underway, AusRAIL Live & On Demand gave attendees an insight into the progress these projects have made.
Three consortiums have progressed to the request for proposal stage for the Gowrie to Kagaru Public Private Partnership (PPP).
The successful consortium will win the contract to build the 6.2km tunnel through the Toowoomba Range, connecting Inland Rail to the Brisbane outskirts, as well as 121.8km of above-ground track, said Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller. Read more
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) will speed up and de-risk the procurement process for Inland Rail in a new procurement and packaging plan.
Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller said the plan was developed in response to feedback from industry.
“Industry has clearly sent a message that Inland Rail needs to work more closely with project proponents to accelerate project tenders, maximise opportunities to participate and de-risk procurement processes. Doing so will deliver the greatest benefit for government, industry and small and medium regional businesses,” he said.
The plan will provide to industry opportunities on a number of projects, and the ARTC is currently seeking registrations of interest in civil works packages on three sections, Narromine to Narrabri, North Star to Border, and Border to Gowrie.
The procurement plan will cover other sections of Inland Rail, including:
- Albury to Illabo
- Illabo to Stockinbingal
- Stockinbingal to Parkes
- Narromine to Narrabri
- North Star to NSW/QLD Border
- NSW/QLD Border to Gowrie
- Kagaru to Acacia Ridge and Bromelton
Wankmuller said that the project has opportunities for large and small businesses.
“By investing now and getting tenders out faster, this mega-project is offering tender packages ideally suited to a range of suppliers and contractors, big and small,” he said.
“Inland Rail is also being predominantly delivered – 90 per cent – in regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland away from the overheated metropolitan infrastructure markets meaning there is greater opportunity for regional Australia to reap the rewards.”
Chief Executive of the Australian Contractors Association Jon Davies said the procurement approach improve social and economic benefits that come from investment.
“It has never been more important for industry and Clients to work together collaboratively in order to efficiently deliver projects and leverage their social and economic benefits”, he said.
“We welcome ARTC’s new approach to procurement and our members look forward to working with ARTC and the Inland Rail team as these new opportunities arise in coming months.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the works packages would spread the benefit of the project.
“Inland Rail’s construction is providing a boost for local businesses and communities at a time it’s most needed,” said McCormack.
“By dividing this nation-building project into smaller parts, more local businesses can bid for this valuable work, contributing to Australia’s future.”
Construction of the Parkes to Narromine section was recently completed, and a contract for the construction of Narrabri to North Star is expected in the coming weeks.
A senate committee has heard that for Inland Rail to unlock investment in regional Australia industry requires certainty about the future of the project.
Speaking to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport and References Committee Inquiry on the management of the Inland Rail project, Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie said that the rail industry was ready to invest.
“There has already been significant investment in terminals and other infrastructure at regional hubs to serve the Inland Rail project when it is up and running,” said Wilkie.
“Further investment – and all the benefits that come with it – will only follow when business and industry finally have certainty about the future of the project.”
Also speaking at the inquiry was Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller who noted that Inland Rail has been cited as a catalyst for the growth of regional cities such as Wagga Wagga, Parkes, and Moree, the so-called bushtropolises.
Already, on the Parkes to Narromine project, Inland Rail construction has created 833 sustainable jobs of employment for six weeks or more, and $100 million has been spent in the regional community around Parkes.
Questioning from senators looked at the uncertainty of the route, particularly through Queensland. Such speculation on the route is limiting the ability of the rail sector to make investments off the back of Inland Rail, said Wilkie.
“ARA has members that need certainty regarding the commencement of construction and ongoing operation of Inland Rail. Continued public speculation about the route is destabilising for companies and causing stress and unnecessary hardship for those both on the government’s existing route and communities such as Cecil Plains and other communities not on the current alignment.”
Senators also raised the competitive pressure rail freight is facing from other modes of transport. With rail taking a declining share of freight between Sydney and Melbourne and Sydney and Brisbane, reducing transit times to under 24 hours would enable the rail freight to be more competitive. Ensuring that the Inland Rail route allows for a transit time of under 24 hours between Melbourne and Brisbane will be critical, said Philip Laird, an academic at the University of Wollongong.
The NSW Farmers and the Country Women’s Association of NSW have begun legal action against the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) regarding its handling of the Inland Rail project.
The two organisations have appointed a law firm to raise concerns about the ARTC’s hydrology modelling. NSW Farmers Inland Rail taskforce chair Adrian Lyons said that flood modelling was causing concerns.
“We are using this opportunity to demand the ATRC engage in a productive manner with affected landholders,” he said.
“We have also stressed the need for transparency around the key documents underpinning the proposed route, particularly the hydrology modelling which to date has caused consternation in our members.”
Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller said that the infrastructure project has had ongoing engagement with NSW Farmers for the past two years.
“We were able to come to agreement on land access protocols and principles and we have published the answers to all their questions in the past.”
Of particular concern is the stretch of rail between Narromine and Narrabri. The Environmental Impact Statement for that section is currently being finalised for submission to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and the ARTC will be meeting with all affected landowners between June and September.
“We have met with over 100 of the farmers and landowners that we are working with collaboratively to deliver Inland Rail between Narromine and Narrabri in the past couple of months,” said Wankmuller.
“Those are productive meetings, that will ensure that we can build Inland Rail to the highest standards while mitigating the impacts on those farmers.”
Lyons said that NSW Farmers had recommended to members to not engage with ARTC.
CWA of NSW CEO Danica Leys said that the engagement could extend to other sections of the project.
“Currently, our legal correspondence is focused on the Narromine to Narrabri stretch of the rail route, but our aim is that any positive developments would be mirrored in other parts of the infrastructure.”
Wankmuller said that ARTC would continue to work with farmers.
“Working with farmers is the best way for us to ensure that we can mitigate their impacts and deliver Inland Rail to the highest standards.”
Local suppliers in Narrabri and Moree can meet the shortlisted contractors for the Narrabri to North Star (N2N) leg of the Inland Rail project.
Inland Rail will hold two networking events in the two regional centres with the three shortlisted construction contractors. Local and Indigenous businesses can hear from the contracts and connect through one-on-one meetings.
According to chief executive of Inland Rail, Richard Wankmuller, the major contractors will be looking for local businesses to partner with.
“There are three excellent organisations bidding for this project including Lendlease Engineering Pty Ltd, RailFirst (a joint venture between Downer EDI and Seymour White) and Trans4m Rail (a joint venture between Rhomberg Rail Australia, John Holland and SEE Civil),” said Wankmuller.
“Each one will have representatives at this event to meet with local businesses and answer questions regarding potential supply opportunities on the N2NS project when construction starts.”
To make the most of the sessions, local contractors are encouraged to prepare and ‘elevator pitch’ and be able to showcase exactly what their business does and where it is located.
“I know there is excitement building along the N2NS alignment as we move towards construction and local businesses should be taking advantage of opportunities like these to promote their capabilities to the shortlisted contractors,” said Wankmuller.
According to Wankmuller, the successful primary contractor will be mandated to incorporate local industries.
“The successful contractor will be required to deliver significant local industry and workforce participation and training outcomes, and the Australian Rail Track Corporation will work very closely with them and other stakeholders to achieve these outcomes,” he said.
“We see Inland Rail as a way to create meaningful change in communities along the alignment by developing a pathway to support longer term economic development and employment outcomes.”
The sessions will be held on January 21, in Narrabri, and January 22, in Moree.
Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller has updated industry on the progress of the project and what it will tackle next now that Queensland has given the greenlight to construction.
“We’re moving over the next few months to the next section. This is much larger, at least double the size of what we’ve completed so far. Now that we’ve been given the green light, we can begin the economic stimulus of this area. We’re trying to accelerate that as much as possible for these vital areas that have been impacted by the drought,” Wankmuller said, speaking at the AusRail Plus conference.
This section comprises 28km of new dual gauge track between Gowrie (north-west of Toowoomba) and Helidon (east of Toowoomba).
“This is an engineering feat. It will be very challenging, and we have to make sure that we get it right,” according to Wankmuller.
“The centrepiece is a 6.2 km long tunnel to be constructed through the Great Dividing Range of Toowomba, a mountainous terrain which leads down into the Lockyer valley, creating topographical and geological challenges requiring eleven rail and two road bridge and viaduct structures totalling 6.7km in length between Gowrie and Helidon.
“The tunnel through the Toowomba Range and I will call it The Tunnel, because The Tunnel is the second largest great tunnel in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s going to be an engineering marvel not just because of its size and its length but because of all the challenges that are involved in designing a world class and efficient system.
“But we do have to attack some of the big challenges which include ventilation. When you put a diesel freight train through a tunnel like that you have a lot of heat and you have to make sure you’re ventilating it appropriately and making it safe. We are future proofing it so passenger rail can go through if needed in the future.
“The highest of the thirteen structures along this section is the Six Mile Creek Viaduct which is expected to be about 966 metres long and 49 metres high at its maximum. By comparison the total length of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is 1149 metres and the bridge’s height clearance for shipping is around 49 metres. The second viaduct is expected to extend to about 1.8km in length, and in addition to rail bridges there are three crossing loops posed between Gowrie and Helidon, each about 2.2 kms in length.”
The extensive geotechnical investigations have been carried out with extensive stakeholder consultation, according to Inland Rail.
“This is one of the more challenging sections and it is challenging on a world scale, so we had to put together a world class team and we’ve done that. We now have 400 or so of the world’s best working directly for Inland Rail, not to mention the 1000s of service providers helping us meet this challenge. But the challenge is real.
“But Inland Rail’s ingenuity isn’t just about these really difficult challenges it’s also about what we do every day. We’re very proud of what we do every day and safety is near and dear to our heart every day. We look at innovation in all industries and one of the interesting things we’ve adopted is one we stole from the mining industry where we’re electronically tagging our people so when they enter a danger zone with equipment, that equipment automatically shuts down before there can be any reaction to that person and their equipment.
“We’ve changed the steel rail profile itself, which for many years has been the same design. We’ve rounded it out so we don’t need to grind it to get our trains in operation, this is going to lead to less maintenance.
“In 1700km we’re going to have 2-3 million concrete sleepers. We’re going to have to get those fabricated, delivered and unloaded on site. We’ve found a way to do that efficiently, by designing hydraulic machinery we can use to unload it in the most efficient way possible and touch it the least amount of times. If we can save 10 minutes or even 2 minutes every time we unload it across all those millions of sleepers, it saves a lot of time and productivity gains.”
One of the reasons for the delay in Queensland getting on board with Inland Rail has been the controversy surrounding the Condamine floodplain, Wankmuller addressed this.
“It’s not just about having global technology capabilities, it is about having local knowledge. That’s how you make a truly world class flood model. You talk to the local people and see what they’ve seen in previous storm events. By working together with global expertise and the local knowledge of people that have been there for generations, you get a model that makes sense and replicates what actually happens. So now you know you can rely on it in the future, because if you can’t, everything you do from that point is wrong.
“It is all about safety and we’re committed to not making the situation any worse than it was going to be anyhow by us being there. Water has to flow, it has to flow around and through our structures, and there’s some engineering challenges in that that we’re geared up to meet, and we’re doing the work to get it right.”
Wankmuller wrapped up with a call to federal and state governments to accelerate their uptake of the project.
“We need the federal and state governments to work together and they’re doing that but there’s still a lot left to do. We don’t know where the intermodal tunnel rails are yet, in Melbourne or Brisbane. Hard to build a rail line when you’re storing your stock.”