Harnessing the rail boom to improve safety outcomes

There is a concerted effort underway across the rail industry in Australia to leverage the current investment in the rail sector to improve safety outcomes.

Speakers at the 20th annual Rail Industry Safety & Standards Board (RISSB) Rail Safety Conference 2020 highlighted that with the many major projects occurring concurrently around Australia, there is the opportunity to reset and improve when it comes to safety.

John Langron, rail safety manager Sydney Metro outlined how this is happening in practice on Australia’s largest public transport project. With construction underway on the CBD and South West portion of the project, new safety practices and methods are being implemented and normalised to improve overall safety culture.

While Langron noted that on such a high visibility project there is an expectation that the project will provide safer outcomes, the size of the project is also an opportunity. In the construction phase, Sydney Metro has implemented processes that are “a step above a normal maintenance job” said Langron.

These include daily preliminary checks before starting work, including drug and alcohol testing and verification of workers’ qualifications.

On major worksites such as at Central Station, large concrete barriers have been erected to separate work sites and the live rail environment, which also reduce dust and noise pollution for passengers on the adjacent platforms.

Ways of working have shifted too. Sydney Metro has instituted a prohibition on lookout protection working and conducted on-track works under local possession authorities (LPA). Through forward planning and collaboration with Sydney Trains, this has ensured that works are done on time at a higher level of safety.

Changing safety culture however takes more that physical and administrative controls. As Langron pointed out, with a new project a new culture can be established with the formation of the organisation. There is an “Opportunity for creating the culture that Sydney Metro wants” said Langron.

The culture from the top then sets the standard for within the organisation and the principle contracts and rail transport operators that Sydney Metro interacts with. Having had this experience of working alongside Sydney Metro, Sydney Trains has now shifted to doing more routine maintenance tasks during night time when no trains are running, according to Langron.

Martin Place Station caverns completed ahead of schedule

The station caverns for the future Martin Place Metro Station have been completed, six months ahead of schedule.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance visited the site of the future station, 28 metres below ground and said that the completion of the caverns was a milestone in the delivery of the new Metro line.

“In a few short years, Sydney’s new driverless trains will be running through the heart of the city every few minutes – a fast, new, reliable and safe railway extending from the Metro North West Line,” said Berejiklian.

Constance said that with the shape of the future station coming together, critical infrastructure will be delivered soon.

“This is an extraordinary milestone: excavation, tunnelling and caverns completed – next stop is laying tracks and building the new station which will service the heart of the Sydney CBD,” said Constance.

Nine tunnels to allow commuters to access the station have been built as part of the station’s design. These connect from the station entrances as well as to the existing Martin Place station where passengers can connect to Sydney Trains services.

Under construction for the last two years, the station is located underneath Castlereagh and Elizabeth streets and are 220 metres long and 14 metres wide. Tunnel boring machines Nancy and Shirl arrived at the stations in October 2019 before continuing on the future line.

A total of 126,000 tonnes of rock were excavated to create the two caverns and 5,500 tonnes of steel and 21,5000 tonnes of concrete have been used to create the stations.

Tracklaying is expected to commence in early 2021.

Sydney Metro part of mental health awareness campaign

Sydney Metro workers have been part of the launch of a new initiative to reduce suicide in the construction sector.

MATES Stronger Together aims to drive cultural change in the construction industry, highlighting the shared responsibility that colleagues have for each other’s mental health.

“We know that construction workers are at significantly greater risk of suicide than workers in other industries, sadly a worker takes their life every two days,” said Constance.

“2020 has been one hell of a year, so it’s particularly important at the moment to do everything we can to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of our workers.”

The launch of MATES Stronger Together. Image credit: Sydney Metro

Six times the number of construction workers killed in workplace accidents take their own life, with 190 workers dying from suicide each year. Young workers are particularly at risk, with young workers in construction twice as likely to die from suicide as other young men.

MATES Stronger Together is run by MATES in Construction, a partnership between building companies, unions, employer grounds and mental health organisations.

Sydney Metro chief executive Jon Lamonte said that this year was a reminder of the importance of connection.

“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s just how much we can take ‘connectedness’ for granted and how important our social connections really are,” Mr Lamonte said.

“Our ‘mates’ really do play an important role in preventing suicide in this industry.”

The program will provide practical tools for workers in the construction industry to identify warning signs and act, said MATES in Construction CEO Brad Parker.

“The goal is to create strong networks of support on construction projects across the country, with workers looking out for those suffering from suicidal thoughts and having the confidence to talk to them and connect them with the help they need.”

If you, or someone you know, is thinking about suicide or experiencing a personal crisis or distress, please seek help immediately in a life-threatening situation by calling 000 or seek support though one of these services:

Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511

Contract awarded for Crows Nest Metro station construction

The contract to build Crows Nest station, above the new Sydney CBD and South West Metro Line has been awarded.

AW Edwards will build the station, as well as two entrances, footpaths, lighting, retail space, improvements to pedestrian and cyclist safety, and enabling works for over-station developments.

Crows Nest is the first stop on the new line south of Chatswood and NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said the service would change the way people get around in North Sydney.

“The new Crows Nest Station will transform how customers travel, with air-conditioned, driverless trains every four minutes in each direction in peak times,” Constance said.

“Hundreds of new jobs will be created throughout the life of the project, with more than 300 workers on site during peak phases of construction activity.”

The service will cut down times into the city, with current train travel from nearby St Leonards to Wynyard taking 14 minutes while it will take seven minutes from Crows Nest to Martin Place.

The station will be located 25 metres below ground in the excavated station cavern. Lifts and escalators will connect the two entrances, one on the Pacific Highway and one on Clarke Street, to the platforms.

Retail space will be created around the Clarke Street entry and in future along the Pacific Highway. Local transport connections including pedestrian crossings, bike parking and paths, kiss and ride, and point to point drop off points are also part of the project scope.

Once complete, the new station will provide metro rail access to surrounding residences, schools, and businesses, while creating a transport hub on the southern side of the St Leonards specialised centre.

Construction is expected to begin in January 2021 to be completed in 2023.

AW Edwards has previously built stations as part of the Epping to Chatswood line that is now part of the Metro North West Line.

A separate tender process will be held for the over-station developer. Further community feedback will be sought on the over-station development package.

Tracklaying on Sydney Metro using custom equipment and automated techniques

Tracklaying on the new Sydney Metro line from Chatswood to Marrickville will begin soon, with tracklaying to begin in early 2021.

Over 4,000 tonnes of Australian railway steel has been delivered ahead of tracklaying and flashbutt welding will be carried out before the rail is moved into the tunnels.

Other rail systems such as traction power, rigid overhead conductors, and drainage ventilation systems, emergency evacuation and monitoring equipment will be installed by the line-wide contractor Systems Connect.

John Grant, Systems Connect construction manager, said that the complex project required specialised equipment.

“Systems Connect has commissioned custom-designed equipment by Australasian manufacturer, Manco Rail. Specialist plant was commissioned that can operate within the tunnel profile efficiently, safely and to a high standard of emissions, including air and noise,” he said.

The consortium has endeavoured to use automation wherever possible. Part of the track laying systems, such as the sleeper grab straddle, are radio remote controlled. Other equipment in use includes specially converted wheeled excavators, with material handling booms, automatic rail threading units, and rail carrying dollies. A sleeper-laying trailers equipped with sleeper grab straddle, a rail threader trailer, tug units and track guidance system fitted to the above equipment are also in use.

As the project adjoins operating rail networks, possession and access is coordinated months to years in advance.

“Our goal is to ensure that all works are delivered safely and to schedule so train services can resume as normal after the possession,” said Grant.

The combination of planning and equipment is enabling a staged approach to tracklaying, where track and tunnel fit out are completed in sections from between 800 metres and three kilometres in length.

An automated approach will be used from Chatswood to Victoria Cross, underneath North Sydney, and from Marrickville to Martin Place. For these sections, the custom-made Manco equipment will be used.

For the section underneath Sydney Harbour and from Barangaroo to Martin Place, a manual method using small wheeled loaders placing sleepers and rail threading will construct the track.

Recycled materials will also be used throughout the project, with crushed glass used for bedding, haunch, side, and overlay material instead of sand at the Sydney Metro Trains Facility at Rouse Hill. Recycled plastic cable troughing is used in place of galvanised steel.

Tender process begins for Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport

A call for registrations of interest has kicked off the tender process for the construction of Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport.

Prospective tenderers are invited to put forward their interest in delivering 10 kilometres of twin metro railway tunnels. The tunnels will stretch from St Marys to Orchard Hills and between the Airport and Aerotropolis.

The tunnels will form part of the new rail line which will connect Western Sydney Airport with the city’s rail network at St Marys, via Orchard Hills and Luddenham.

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said construction is close to starting.

“Construction starts later this year on a project that will become the transport spine for the Western Parkland City,” Constance said.

“The new railway will link residential areas with jobs hubs and connect travellers from the new airport with the rest of Sydney’s public transport network.”

The project has also confirmed the station locations at St Marys, Orchard Hills, Luddenham and the two airport stations. A stabling and maintenance facility is planned for an area adjacent to the alignment south of Orchard Hills. Two services facilities will be built within the alignment, one at Claremont Meadows and another at Bringelly.

With locations confirmed for the stations, the nature of the line is beginning to shape. At St Marys, the new station underneath the existing Sydney Trains station will enable interchanges between the Sydney Metro line and the existing rail network.

The stations at Orchard Hills and Luddenham would support future residential and commercial development.

Two stations will be at the airport itself, with one at the Airport Business Park and one at the Airport terminal.

A final station will be built at the Aerotropolis, which would be the commercial heart of the Western Sydney Aerotropolis.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Sunday the station would be the core of a new city.

“Where we are standing today will become a major new transport interchange, right in the heart of the future central business district for the Western Parkland City.”

The automated metro line will be controlled from a facility at Orchard Hills where train stabling and maintenance will occur.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said with construction beginning before the end of 2020, the project will soon be delivering benefits.

“This city-shaping investment is being fast-tracked to help our economy recover from COVID-19 and deliver a major stimulus right in the heart of Western Sydney,” said Tudge.

“Western Sydney residents will reap the benefits of this investment well before the first train leaves the station.”

The future line will not only include tunnels but elevated viaducts and at-grade rail.

The station locations come as the NSW Planning Minster, Rob Stokes rezones 6,500 hectares of land around the future airport to allow for the development of the Aerotropolis.

The rezoning includes the Aerotropolis Core, which will be rezoned for mixed use, as well as the Northern Gateway, which covers mixed use around the Luddenham train station site and enterprise zoning surrounding that.

Planning documents indicate future rail links between the Aerotrpolis Core and Leppington and further south towards Macarthur.

“Today’s approval lays the foundations for the transformation of 6,500 hectares of land into a thriving metropolis with new homes, jobs and public spaces supported by a new, world-class Metro line,” said Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres.

New roof

New roof above Central Station taking shape

The new roof above the future Northern Concourse is currently being installed at Central Station in Sydney.

The roof is part of the redevelopment of Central Station as the hub expands to serve Sydney Metro services from 2024.

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said the feature roof will provide light and shade.

“The 80-metre-long and 40-metre-wide roof extends from the northern end of Platform 8 to Platform 16 and will sit more than 16 metres above ground to enable natural light to filter into the station,” he said.

The structure was manufactured and pre-assembled in the Hunter Valley town of Kurri Kurri, with segments transported to Sydney. There are 58 cassette roof sections, known as hockey sticks for their shape, and each weigh about five tonnes. In addition, eight girders weighing 30 tonnes and up to 21 metres long are being installed.

The perforated aluminium cladding panels enable air to flow through the roof, and the design includes 21 diamond-shaped skylights with lighting and speakers.

The roof is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with Central Walk to be open to commuters in 2022.

To enable passengers to change between the future Metro lines, Sydney Trains services, light rail services and buses, Central Walk will extend from Chalmers Street, underneath current platforms and provide access to the Metro station, 30 metres underneath Central.

Excavation has reached 18 metres below ground and breakthrough into the tunnel box is expected in the coming months.

Laing O’Rouke won the $955 million construction contract with architecture firm Woods Bagot and John McAslan + Partners.