Passengers returning to public transport in WA

Commuters are getting back on trains, buses, and ferries in Western Australia, with patronage back up to almost 80 per cent of pre COVID-19 levels.

With the state COVID-19 free apart from overseas arrivals, life in Western Australia is beginning to return to pre-COVID norms.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that the state had one of the best returns to public transport of any jurisdiction around the world.

“Western Australians’ return to public transport is back to almost 80 per cent of pre-COVID levels – one of the most successful returns to public transport across the world.”

In the latest publicly available figures, there were 3.755 million train boardings on the Transperth system in August. This is five times the number of boardings in April, which saw the lowest number of boardings with 718,519, and almost 70 per cent of 2019 figures. Patronage levels in September and October have been higher.

Driving the strong growth in patronage is the return of school students, with almost 100 per cent of pre-COVID-19 patronage, and pensioners, who had 90 per cent of pre-COVID levels. Tertiary students, however, remained low, at 60 per cent, due to the possibility and uptake of studying online.

The Western Australian government hopes that these numbers can lead to a return to growth in overall patronage numbers. In 2018-2019 the system saw the first growth in total boardings since 2012-2013. With further connections coming online with the completion of Metronet projects, these numbers are likely to increase.

Perth in particular compares well to other state and international capitals. According to the International Association of Public Transport Sydney is only at 50 per cent of pre-COVID levels, while Brisbane is at 60 per cent and Auckland is at 70 per cent. The ongoing lockdown in Melbourne is leading to patronage figures at 5 to 10 per cent of 2019 levels.

Morley Station

Contract signed for Morley-Ellenbrook Line construction

The contract for the construction of the Morley-Ellenbrook line has been signed, with the project coming in at $700 million, with contingency, escalation and ancillary costs taking the total project budget to $1.1bn.

The winning MELconnx Consortium, led by Laing O’Rouke, will deliver the project which involves 21km of new track and is the largest expansion of the Perth rail network since the Mandurah Line.

In addition to the new rail line, the project includes five new stations at Morley, Noranda, Malaga, Whiteman Park, and Ellenbrook, a future station will be developed at Bennett Springs East.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the project was already making progress.

“Now the contract has been signed, the funding secured and early works are underway.”

These early works include the New Bayswater Station, where the line will begin from the Midland Line, and the Tonkin Gap Project which allows the line to access in and out of the Tonkin Highway and preparing the corridor for tracklaying.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the project would boost the local economy.

“Now more than ever, big infrastructure projects like METRONET’s Morley-Ellenbrook Line are imperative to WA’s COVID-19 economic recovery as they create a pipeline of work and support thousands of jobs.”

The project is expected to be completed in 2023-24 and Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said the benefits would be immediate and longlasting.

“Metronet will re-shape Perth and that transformation is underway all across the metropolitan area,” Tudge said.

“It means jobs right now and critical, targeted infrastructure for generations to come.”

The jointly state-federal funded project would cut public transport times in half for residents in the north-eastern suburbs of Perth, with direct trains from Ellenbrook Station arriving in the Perth CBD in 30 minutes.

MELconnx beat a CPB Contractors and Downer EDI joint venture to win the contract.

WA budget includes $1.7bn for rail projects

The Western Australia government will invest $1.7 billion in Metronet projects in this financial year.

The figure comes from the WA state budget, released on October 8, and is in addition to the $1.5bn in federal funding for Metronet.

Projects to be funded this year include the Forrestfield-Airport Link project, which is expected to be completed in late 2021, the first $275.3 million for locally made rollingstock and the assembly and manufacturing facility in Bellevue, and $195m for the Thornlie-Cockburn link.

In addition, level crossings, new stations and carparks, and the extension of existing rail lines are included in the 2020-2021 budget.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the total investment over the forward estimates would support the WA economy out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To keep our local economy strong, the state Budget delivers a record $27 billion in infrastructure investment over the next four years, including construction and manufacturing work for Metronet and major roads across WA,” he said.

“We’ve worked hard to establish a major pipeline of work to support local jobs and help guide Western Australia’s economy out of the COVID-19 pandemic, while ensuring we’re delivering and building major projects for tomorrow.”

The funding in this year’s budget ensures that current projects can continue and procurement can take the next step forward in the 2020-2021 financial year. Contracts are expected to be signed and work to begin shortly on the Byford Rail Extension, New Midland Station, and level crossing removals on the Inner Armadale Line. Final negotiations for the construction contract for the Morley-Ellenbrook line are expected to be completed soon.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said skills and training would be part of the major construction investment.

“These projects won’t just change the way we travel, they will also have a huge role in supporting local jobs and training opportunities, with more than 10,000 jobs expected to be supported as part of these METRONET investments,” she said.

“This year’s investment will allow for continued delivery of the Thornlie-Cockburn Link, Yanchep Rail Extension and Forrestfield-Airport Link, but we’re not stopping there.

“Even more projects are in the pipeline, ensuring we’re delivering and building the infrastructure needed for tomorrow.”

Most extensive community consultation in WA public transport history shapes final station design

The new designs of the future Bayswater station in Perth have been updated after the most extensive community consultation in the history of transport projects in Western Australia.

Online surveys, community events, briefings, presentations, enquiries and community reference groups contributed feedback on the station’s initial design.

As a result of those inputs, escalators were added to the station, which previously only included stairs and lifts.

Architectural elements were also tweaked due to community feedback. More colour, and texture were added, and streamlined shaping was added to the structures, as well as the public spaces and landscaping.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the station’s design was a product of its community.

“Today’s new designs reflect the feedback provided by the Bayswater community,” she said.

“The new designs are a great outcome for the local community and public transport users, drawing on both local rail heritage and the natural world that surrounds it.”

Finished designs mimic the metal fluting on train carriages and the ripples of the nearby Swan River.

At the High Wycombe station, community consultation will also shape the station, with young people from the Kalamunda area to collaborate with an established artist for an art piece that will stretch across a 40m-long wall at Ibis Place.

High Wycombe is one of the new stations constructed as part of the Forrestfield-Airport Link project, and the youth-led art piece is designed to foster positive interactions between young people, Perth’s public transport workers and infrastructure.

WA public Transport Authority (PTA) spokesman David Hynes said the art was part of the Right Track program.

“Building a positive relationship between ourselves and our young passengers is a win for everyone on the Transperth network, and collaborations like this go a long way to achieving that,” he said.

“By its nature public transport infrastructure can produce a few of these large blank walls, so when it’s appropriate to do so it’s great to involve the local community – in this case local youth – in making the space their own.”

WA launches rail-focused infrastructure training program

The Western Australian government has launched a four-week intensive training course that will give students hands-on experience on major rail projects in the state.

Students will get a first-hand insight into Metronet projects including the Bellevue Railcar facility, the Yanchep Rail Extension, the Thornlie-Cockburn link, and the Denny Avenue Level Crossing Removal. Road projects are also part of the course.

The program will be delivered at TAFE campuses across Perth and is designed to increase the pool of workers in the infrastructure sector. Young people and women are being encouraged to apply.

Designed to create a pathway for those who may have lost their jobs during COVID-19, the course is free for those on JobSeeker/JobKeeper payments, those who are concession-eligible or under 25.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the Infrastructure Ready program is designed to address approaching skills shortages in the infrastructure sector.

“We are delivering more than $6.5 billion worth of road and rail projects across all corners of the State – ensuring we have the workforce to deliver this pipeline of work is a key priority,” she said.

“This new training will deliver job-ready workers to meet the immediate needs of Western Australia’s multi-billion-dollar civil construction industry.”

During the program, students will be taught measurement and calculation skills for the construction sector and safe work practices. Instruction on how to operate small plant and equipment also forms part of the course.

Through partnerships with industry, those who complete the program will be offered the opportunity to gain entry-level prospects. Civil construction industry contractors will be given incentives to employ and retain program participants.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said that the program will set up participants for success.

“Participants will gain firsthand experience on this unique course that will put them in good stead for work on our major infrastructure projects and for future employment opportunities.”

infrastructure

Infrastructure spend misses rail projects in Queensland, South Australia

In a pre-budget infrastructure announcement, the federal government has committed funding to rail projects in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, but only provided funding for roads in other states, with Queensland’s only rail project a level crossing removal.

As part of a $7.5 billion spend on infrastructure, new federal funding alongside state contributions has been committed for further regional rail upgrades in Victoria, high capacity signalling in Western Australia, and planning for faster rail between Sydney and Newcastle. The funding announcement covers those projects put forward by state governments and not projects solely funded by the federal government.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said that local businesses would benefit.

“We will draw on local businesses to stimulate local economies through these projects,” he said.

In Victoria, rail projects received the bulk of the funding allocated to that state, with funding for new projects including stage three of the Shepparton Line upgrade and stage two of the Warrnambool line upgrade. Further planning for the Western Rail Plan, improving passenger rail services from northern Victoria, and a business case for improving connectivity to the Port of Melbourne also scored funding.

In NSW, rail projects to receive funding included $15 million for planning for Sydney to Newcastle Faster Rail. A faster rail business case has already been completed for the line and is being reviewed by the National Faster Rail Agency.

$150 million has been allocated for grade separating road interfaces with Inland Rail, along with a number of intermodal hubs, including at Ettamogah, near Albury, and the Northern NSW Inland Port at Narrabri. Commuter carparks in Sydney also received additional funding.

In Western Australia, federal funding of $102.3 million has been allocated for the High Capacity Signalling element of the Metronet project. Infrastructure Australia has added the project to its Infrastructure Priority List as a Priority Project, signalling its national significance.

The funding for WA also includes the first investigation into faster rail in the state, with $4m for an investigation of the Perth to Bunbury corridor.

$5m has also been allocated to the Kenwick Intermodal Terminal. WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the funding would grow the amount of work in the state.

“We already have a pipeline of $6.5 billion of major road and rail works underway across Western Australia over the next two years – this will extend the pipeline of work and will continue to help the State economy through and past COVID-19.”

Besides the $50m in funding for the Beams Road overpass, the $1.3bn allocated to Queensland will be spent on roads. No funding will be spent on rail in South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT, and the Northern Territory.

Administrator of Queensland-based rail group Rail Back on Track Robert Dow listed 11 rail projects needing funding in the state, including improvements to the Sunshine Coast line, Ipswich rail extensions, and Salisbury to Beaudesert commuter rail.

“This is simply not sustainable,” said Dow. “We need a proper balance between rail and roads.”

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Catherine King said that funding must follow through on the announcement.

“It is essential that these latest funding promises are delivered now, not years down the line.”

RFPs sought for Byford Rail Extension

Contractors are invited to submit proposals for the completion of the Byford Rail Extension, part of the Metronet program in Perth.

The project involves constructing 8km of new track, a new station at Byford, a bus interchange and up to 600 parking bays.

Armadale Station will also be expanded for longer trains, and the project will include a new Australind platform and an extended pedestrian overpass. Armadale’s bus station will also undergo an upgrade.

The project, estimated to cost $481 million, will connect the high-growth suburb of Byford on Perth’s south eastern fringe to the rail network. A contract is expected to be awarded in mid-2021 with the concept design phase underway.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said works on the Thomas Road level crossing, ocnudcted by Main Roads Western Australia would begin the project.

“Works will commence later this year with the removal of the Thomas Road level crossing which will create more than 300 local jobs,” she said.

Local federal member Andrew Hastie said the community had been looking forward to the project.

“The Byford Rail extension will change the way people in Byford live and work,” he said.

“It will create more opportunities for local workers, students and businesses.”

State member for Armadale Tony Buti said his community was similarly enthused about the project.

“Our local community has been waiting for this project for many years and I’m pleased to see it is full steam ahead for these works.”

The Byford Rail Extension was submitted to Infrastructure Australia in July 2020, however the independent advisory body has yet to finalise its evaluation.

Options for the reconfiguration of other level crossings between Byford and Armadale are still being considered.

Contractors sought for Inner Armadale Line level crossing removals

The request for proposals process has begun for the removal of three level crossings on the Inner Armadale Line in Perth.

Contractors are being sought for a $415 million combined package of works that involves the removal of crossings at Oats Street, Mint Street, and Welshpool Road and the construction of an elevated rail line.

New stations at Oats Street and Carlisle will form part of the alliance contracts.

Part of the contract will involve the creation of well-designed public spaces beneath the raised section of the Inner Armadale line.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said the projects were key for the economy and local communities.

“We are prioritising projects in Perth that will bust congestion but that are also going to drive the WA economy and deliver local jobs,” he said.

“These level crossings removals will do both.”

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said by conducting an RFP for the project, which forms part of the Metronet package, the final outcome would be shaped by those delivering the works.

“Metronet is the largest public transport investment in Perth’s history and the RFP process gives contractors the opportunity to be involved in delivering these exciting projects,” she said.

Planning is continuing for the removal of another three level crossings at William, Wharf, and Hamilton streets on the same line.

A total of 2.8km of elevated rail line could be constructed through Perth’s inner south. Local member and WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt said the project would benefit the local community.

“Removing these level crossings help reduce frustrations for commuters in the area who can be stuck waiting for up to three trains to pass at a time,” he said.

“It is also a unique and extraordinary opportunity for the local community to have their say about the surrounding area and what they would like to see.”

Level crossing gates are down for up to six hours a day at Oats Street and removing the level crossings will also improve safety.

A contract is expected to be awarded in 2021.

Midland

WA seeks RFPs for Midland Station relocation project

The request for proposal (RFP) process has begun for the Midland Station relocation project.

Part of the Metronet suite of works, the project will involve decommissioning and demolising the existing Midland Station and the construction of a new station between Helena Street and Cale Street.

The project will be procured through an alliance model.

The relocated station will enable a connection to the new Bellevue Depot and railcar assembly facility, where Perth’s new fleet of railcars will be constructed and maintained. Extensions to the rail network will also allow for future extensions of the Midland line.

The new station will also better connect the public transport network with the Midland Gate Shopping Centre and Midland Health Campus, said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

“For many years now we have focused on reinvigorating Midland into a thriving commercial and residential centre, and a new Midland Station will be a big part of that,” she said.

New forecourts will be constructed and the relocated station will allow for future mixed-use developments. The level crossing at Helena Street will be removed and replaced with a new crossing at Cale Street.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said the project would boost the local economy.

“We are seeing activity ramp up at a time when WA needs infrastructure spending to boost the economy and create jobs as we come out of COVID-19.”

Local federal Member for Hasluck Ken Wyatt said the new station would enable connections for the wider community.

“The new station will make it easier for people coming from the hills and foothills to access the rail line,” Wyatt said.

“This will make a big difference for all members of our community, especially those who use public transport to get to work or school.”

Local businesses are invited to register on the projects’ Construction Businesses Register to be on the list of potential local suppliers provided to the successful contractor.