Tunnelling complete for Sydney Metro

The Sydney Metro has reached a major milestone, with all tunnelling now finished on the Sydney metro City & Southwest project.

The final boring machine, named Kathleen after Kathleen Butler, the technical advisor to Sydney Harbour Bridge builder John Bradfield, finished the tunnelling part of the project when she arrived at the northern terminus of the second tunnel from Barangaroo to Blue Point.

Each tunnel was 885 metres in length; however, the second tunnel was built a month faster than the first, due to the incorporation of lessons from the first tunnel.

These changes included modifying the cutter head and changing tunnelling processes to better dig through the clay material below Sydney harbour.

Kathleen churned through 175,000 tonnes of sandstone, clay, and marine sediment to complete the dual harbour tunnels. At their deepest, the tunnels are 40 metres below sea level.

All in all, the five tunnel boring machines have dug through 31 kilometres of tunnels during the last 17 months.

Earlier this week the last concrete segments which line the walls of the tunnel were installed.

Last concrete segments for Sydney Metro completed

The final pre-cast concrete segment has been built for the Sydney Metro railway tunnels.

Manufacturers in a factory next to the rail-line in Marrickville, the concrete walls of the railway tunnels have been delivered to tunnel portals beginning in Chatswood and extending under North Sydney, via Barangaroo and the CBD, on to Waterloo and then exiting in Sydenham.

The final part is one of 100,000 pieces of concrete that will secure the twin metro tunnels.

Each tunnel ring is made up of six segments, and a seventh segment, known as a keystone, is added for the under-harbour section of the tunnels.

The purpose-built factory produced one four-tonne segment every six minutes and employed 140 people.

The tunnels run for 15.5km and were carved out of the stone beneath Sydney by five tunnel boring machines.

39,600 segments were trucked over the Sydney Harbour bridge to be installed north of the harbour.

In total, 358,920 tonnes of concrete were used.

In December 2019 the first tunnel underneath Sydney harbour was completed, and four tunnel borers were removed in February 2020, with tunnel boring machine Kathleen completed the final railway tunnel under Sydney harbour. Completion of the metro line to Bankstown is expected in 2024.

Rail the next step for economic stimulus: Committee for Sydney

The Committee for Sydney has prioritised infrastructure investment as essential to the viability of Sydney and Australia.

Responding to the federal government’s fiscal stimulus package to address the COVID-19 pandemic, CEO of the Committee for Sydney, Gabriel Metcalf wrote that infrastructure should be included in future rounds of stimulus. In particular, Metcalf highlighted the importance of rail projects.

“Medium-sized projects like More Trains, More Services in Sydney or the level crossings program in Melbourne, deliver huge benefits to commuters and to the economy. Even some larger projects could begin construction within 12-18 months if funding were allocated (most importantly, the initial tunnelling packages for Metro West),” wrote Metcalf.

While Metcalf argued that infrastructure spending had fallen out of favour as the time it took to see projects to completion has increased, the early stages of an infrastructure project are as valuable to the wider economy as other forms of stimulus.

“The planning work counts as stimulus too. The engineers, architects, and designers are also going to need jobs,” wrote Metcalf.

Other positives noted by the Committee for Sydney included the long-term benefit of infrastructure, beyond the immediate crisis, and the value of infrastructure investment as a signal to improve business confidence.

While many infrastructure projects were listed in the Infrastructure Australia Priority List, the Committee for Sydney noted that other rail projects are also in need of investment. These include, metro from Parramatta to Sydney Olympic Park, Kogarah, and Epping; expansion of Sydney Light Rail to Green Square; and fast rail from Sydney to Newcastle and Wollongong.

Mayor of Georges River Council Kevin Greene welcomed the comments from the Committee for Sydney, according to comments in the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader.

“Georges River Council warmly welcomes the support of this rail connection – it will completely transform the possibilities for Kogarah and fulfil the role envisaged for it in the GSC’s planning,” said Greene.

Weather destruction is flooding NSW network with repairs

The Blue Mountains in New South Wales has been hit with catastrophic weather in the past 48 hours, heavily disrupting the Sydney Trains and NSW Trainlink network in the region.

Signal boxes and thousands of kilometres of signal wiring is currently being replaced on the Blue Mountains line.

NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said Sydney Trains had secured the track infrastructure and were now working to stabilise the land.

Sydney Trains stated in a social media post on Monday that heavy rain has led to land-slips, fallen trees, flooding, and damage to infrastructure.

“It’s been a really tough 48 hours.”

The heavy rain resulted in a land-slip that occurred between Leura and Katoomba last Sunday afternoon that forced the closure of the Blue Mountains line between Springwood and Mt Victoria.

“Re-opening the line is a huge job – engineers need to rebuild the embankment and infrastructure, including earthworks, track reconstruction, signalling and overhead wire repairs, however we are confident this work will be completed in a matter of weeks, weather dependent,” said Toole.

Toole stated earlier this month that it would be months before part of the Blue Mountains line would reopen again due to bushfire damage.

On Wednesday, Toole said repair work at Leura wasn’t expected to delay reconstruction works taking place further up the line.

“At the end of last year, 25 kilometres of track was significantly damaged by bushfires between Mount Victoria and Lithgow, with thousands of kilometres of communication, electrical and signal wiring lost,” he said.

Engineers have developed temporary systems to allow limited rail connectivity and safely operate some freight and passenger services on Tuesday.

Transport for NSW said they are working closely with freight operators to provide alternate routes.

Sydney Trains said that its frontline operational staff from the network and NSW TrainLink have been working on the line, but that forecast rain will continue to impact the network in the coming days.

Sydney Metro’s underground tunnels are also suffering from the torrential rain in the CBD.

Over a million litres of rainfall flooding has occurred in the 10-year-old tunnel between North Ryde and Chatswood that relies on pumping methods to eliminate excess water.

The 15 kilometre new metro tunnel features waterproof gaskets to prevent flooding.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the water pumps have not malfunctioned but the volume of water limited their effectiveness due to the rainfall in Sydney last weekend.

Other services in Sydney have been impacted by the flooding, including light rail and infrastructure damage on the Central Coast and Newcastle line.

Sydney opening caps big year for Alstom

Alstom Australia’s managing director Mark Coxon sat down with Rail Express after a whirlwind 2019, with big wins for Alstom across multiple states and sectors.

The New Year’s break is a welcome opportunity for rest and relaxation for many professionals. But for Mark Coxon and his team at Alstom Australia, the 2019/20 break was perhaps the most well-earned in recent memory.

Eleven days before Christmas, Sydney opened quite a large present. The first revenue services for the Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail line between Circular Quay and Randwick represented the culmination of four years of construction and delivery.

Around 160,000 passengers rode the new line in its first two days, and they rode on some of the 60 Citadis X05 light rail vehicles delivered by Alstom.

By January 8, the line had already handled its first million passengers.

Alstom has also delivered the project’s power supply equipment (including two kilometres of APS wire-free ground power supply), energy recovery substations, signalling, communications, and depot equipment for the project, and is now underway on a 19-year maintenance contract.

“We’re very happy with this project,” Coxon, Alstom’s managing director in Australia and New Zealand, told Rail Express shortly after the Sydney opening.

“The Alstom scope has been on time, and we’ve had new technologies brought for the first time to Australia – another sign of confidence in the Alstom delivery capability.”

Light rail vehicles are rolling down George Street for the first time in more than 60 years. Unlike the original system, it is free of overhead wires for two kilometres of its route thanks to Alstom’s ground-based APS power supply.

APS, originally Alimentation Par le Sol – “fed through the ground” – but now anglicised to Aesthetic Power Supply, uses modern technology to safely feed power through the base of the LRV via a third rail between the tracks.

Coxon notes APS is a new technology in Australia, but also that the Citadis X05 is the latest version of Alstom’s light rail vehicle range.

“On top of that, the reverse cycle power- optimised substations were in our scope,” Coxon continues. “So that’s a number of new technologies we’ve brought to this iconic project, and it was great to see trams going down George Street – and great to be on that first tram.

While Alstom’s share of the project was successful, Coxon is well aware of the disruptions caused throughout the overall project’s delivery. But he’s confident the quality of service passengers will enjoy in the longer- term will make up for it.

“It’s obviously become a well-known project to Sydneysiders, and it’s been quite disruptive to residents during construction. But over time, I am sure the people of Sydney will appreciate the project, particularly as journey time reduces and the reliability continues to grow,” he said.

“To be honest, these projects historically around the world are quite disruptive, and this is on one of the oldest and busiest streets in Australia. It would be difficult to implement that kind of project anywhere in the world. We managed to get this one online in 2019, a bit later than planned, but the opening has been successful and we look forward to the growth of patronage of that system.”

Sydney Metro a roaring success

Despite all the exciting new technology in Sydney’s new light rail, perhaps the most exciting thing delivered by Alstom in Australia during 2019 was north of the city.

When Sydney Metro Northwest opened on May 26, passengers rode on a fleet of 22 new six-car, driverless metro trains from Alstom, which also delivered signalling and will handle ongoing maintenance work.

In its first six months, the new metro line had serviced more than 11 million journeys.

“It’s been a successful journey,” Coxon said. “It’s the first driverless metro system in Australia, so that took some time for passengers to get used to, but the reliability growth that we’ve seen on our system has been as expected, and very similar to other projects around the world. Today, we’re getting to around 99 per cent availability of the system.

“That project contains two successful aspects for us: the Alstom rollingstock but also the signalling system, our CBTC driverless Urbalis 400 system. The integration between the CBTC system and the rollingstock has been extremely good, and I think that’s one of the advantages of being an integrator of both technologies.”

Maintenance details

The success on Sydney Metro Northwest led the NSW Government to exercise a pre-agreed extension in the original contract to the next portion of the line, Sydney Metro City and Southwest. The news – a $570 million win for Alstom – means Coxon’s team will now deliver another 23 trains (with an option for more), and its Urbalis 400 CBTC along the new portion of the line.

Coxon told Rail Express the extension demonstrated the government’s confidence in Alstom and its colleagues in the Sydney Metro delivery team.

“We always knew the success of Northwest would be a critical component on the augmentation for City & Southwest,” he said. “It’s such an iconic and strategic project for Alstom, and City & Southwest is a similar scope to what we executed on Northwest. Again I think it will demonstrate the importance of integrating the CBTC signalling technologies with the rollingstock.”

Once complete, the City & Southwest project will combine with Northwest to create a 66-kilometre continuous line, complete with Alstom rollingstock and signalling.

“We’re looking forward, as well, to extending the maintenance scope to that full line,” Coxon added.

Huge win in WA

Alstom’s success in 2019 wasn’t limited to the east coast. Early in December it finalised a $1.3 billion deal to deliver 246 EMU railcars 6 DMU to PTA, the public transport operator in WA. Under the 10-year contract, at least 50 per cent of railcar assembly will take place in WA, at a 12,000 sqm plant near the old Midland Railway Workshops. Alstom will also undertake maintenance for 20 years with the option to extend to 30 years.

Coxon told Rail Express the contract win was the result of more than two years of work with the government, local businesses, training organisations and community.

“We’ve had a lot of engagement with local and international suppliers about the local content, and that concluded with the award of that project to Alstom, which we’re absolutely delighted with,” he said. “We’re looking forward to building a train in Western Australia that the people of Perth can be proud of.”

Work to build what will become Alstom’s new rollingstock base in WA is expected to be completed in 2021. Local work under the contract is expected to create at least 200 jobs in supply and maintenance, revitalising the state’s rail manufacturing sector.

“Obviously, it’s a long journey, and we’re going to be part of that recreation of the railcar manufacturing industry in Western Australia, but that’s not the first time Alstom have done that,” Coxon said. “We’ve done it all around the world; the US, South Africa, India, and of course 20 years ago in Victoria with the X’Trapolis trains.

“We’re not newcomers to it, but it is a new journey in Western Australia, and  we’re interested in taking the suppliers on board for that journey, as well as our future employees. We’re going to have to build up a strong skilled workforce in Western Australia.”

Coxon said Alstom is also looking to build a good partnership with the state’s Public Transport Authority, along with its suppliers to build a train which we hope to have on tracks by the middle of 2022.

“What made that contract so attractive to Alstom was the long-term maintenance contract, which allows us to make sure the rollingstock is designed to maintainability as well,” Coxon explained. “We’ll build a strong workforce for the build, and then progressively for the maintenance.

“We’ve included in the project our HealthHub technology which focuses on the predictive maintenance capability, to ensure we’re maintaining the core components as they’re being used, and we can plan our maintenance schedules to optimise availability of the product. That’s a similar product to what we’ve installed for the Sydney Metro, so it’s not the first time we’ve installed it here in Australia, but again is a first for Western Australia.”

Next X’Trapolis in the works

Alstom has been supplying its X’Trapolis metro fleet to Melbourne’s Metro Trains network for nearly two decades, with more than 102 trains delivered. “It has proven to be one of the most reliable products in Australia today, so we’re very proud of this product and our skilled workforce in Ballarat who deliver this,” Coxon said.

After being awarded the preliminary design contract for an X’Trapolis 2.0 in late 2018, Coxon said the team spent a large portion of 2019 working with the state towards a new generation of the successful train.

“The X’Trapolis 2 will have all the latest technologies, adapted to integrate seamlessly into the Melbourne network. We would like to see this product rolled out on the Melbourne network and continue the long and successful story of X’Trapolis Melbourne trains.”

Tunnelling, trains increase costs of Sydney Metro City and Southwest

Reports have surfaced that the Sydney Metro City and Southwest will increase in cost by nearly $5 billion.

The project was initially budgeted at between $11.5bn to $12.5bn but a review by Sydney Metro, reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, now estimates the cost at $16.8bn.

The increase in costs is reported to be due to cost overruns for new trains and systems, tunnelling, and the construction of underground stations.

A Sydney Metro City and Southwest spokesperson said that the project is on schedule and the NSW Government is committed to delivering the Sydney Metro City and Southwest, Metro West, and Metro Greater West.

“This is the largest public transport infrastructure program in the nation’s history.

“North West Metro was delivered on time and $1 billion dollars under budget,” the spokesperson said.

Revenue from offices, shops, and apartments built on top of stations is forecast to increase by $500 million.

The cost of new trains and systems is expected to double to $2.3bn. The rollingstock for the new line will be delivered by Alstom, in a deal announced in November 2019. The trains will be driverless and the French manufacturer will also deliver signalling to the project.

With multiple large and complex infrastructure projects underway at the same time across Australia, demand for the equipment and expertise needed to deliver tunnelling projects has increased, and this is reflected in the project’s increased cost for below-ground construction.

“The final cost of each project won’t be known until services commence,” the Sydney Metro spokesperson said.

Three major contractors shortlisted for Sydney Metro upgrade

Sydney Metro has shortlisted three companies to supply customer access technology on the Bankstown line.

The shortlisted contractors will install mechanical gap fillers and platform screen doors as part of the Sydney Metro upgrade of the 10 stations between Marrickville and Bankstown.

The three shortlisted companies are Gilgen Door Systems AG, Hyundai Movex Co. Ltd, and Kyosan Electric Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

The next step of the procurement process will be to test the technology put forward by the three companies for Australian conditions.

Once the customer access technology is installed the stations will be fully accessible when metro rail services start in 2024.

All Sydney Metro stations will have platform screen doors which keep people and objects like prams away from the tracks, and also allow trains to get in and out of stations much faster. 

The new platforms will be level with the updated metro trains, not requiring passengers to step-up into the train.

Waterloo station. Artists impression: Transport for NSW

NSW awards key Sydney metro station contract

John Holland and Mirvac will deliver the Waterloo metro station under a $299 million contract awarded by the NSW Government.

The contract includes the new Waterloo Station and an integrated development above it, drawing on both companies’ expertise in major transport infrastructure and community-oriented development and design.

The “Waterloo Metro Quarter” will comprise of five building envelopes including three towers and two mid-rise buildings above and adjacent to the station. The project is expected to be completed around the time Sydney Metro City & Southwest opens in 2024.

The residential part of the development will include five per cent affordable housing and 70 apartments for social housing. Two new public plazas will be built at Cope Street and Raglan Street.

“Drawing on our recent experience in delivering Sydney Metro Northwest, we are excited to deliver not only a landmark station, but also a revitalised precinct for the community,” John Holland CEO Joe Barr said.

“This project will transform Waterloo and improve community spaces in the inner city for generations to come. Our integrated team has worked together across development, investment and complex transport infrastructure to create an urban renewal project that will make commuting easier, create jobs, and improve community facilities.”

Mirvac CEO and Managing Director Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz said that the “vision for this precinct extends beyond the bricks and mortar; we will be a long-term investor in Waterloo and we are wholly committed to realising the potential of this site to help drive meaningful social renewal and enduring value for the broader precinct.”

“The ability to deliver a progressive, urban development of this calibre, is underpinned by our wealth of experience at the forefront of the industry, together with our unique end-to-end capability.

“We have finely honed our approach to place making, design and construction over 47 years, and this, together with our thorough understanding of how our customers live, enables us to create thriving communities that support and enhance people’s lifestyles.”

Shortlists for Barangaroo, Crows Nest metro stations

Six applicants have been shortlisted across two tender process to build new metro stations at Barangaroo and Crows Nest as part of the Sydney Metro City & Southwest project.

Sydney Metro has shortlisted AW Edwards, CPB Contractors and Laing O’Rourke for the contract to deliver Crows Nest station, and Hutchison, John Holland and Watpac for the contract to deliver Barangaroo station.

The six shortlisted parties will now all move on to the Request for Tender phase of their respective contracts.

The contractor selected to build Crows Nest station will deliver two separate station entrances and enabling works to support the future over-station development. A delivery partner for that over-station development will be chosen via a separate procurement process.

The state government said the station and over-station development packages had been separated so the station build can proceed in time for a targeted opening of 2024, while the government further considers community feedback regarding the above-station development.

“This also allows the over-station development to be further incorporated into an integrated planning outcome,” Sydney Metro said, “consistent with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s process to finalise the St Leonards and Crows Nest 2036 plan.”

The Barangaroo station plan will work to improve access to the Walsh Bay Arts and Culture precinct, and provide easy access to Barangaroo’s public, residential, commercial and entertainment areas and new ferry hub. The station will be built to improve pedestrian access to the northern part of Sydney’s CBD and The Rocks, and will aim to alleviate congestion at Wynyard station.

Sydney Metro’s first tunnel under Sydney Harbour now complete

The first of two railway tunnels to be built under Sydney Harbour, as part of the Sydney metro project, has been completed.

At its deepest point, the tunnel is 40 metres below the harbour floor and is considered “an engineering feat of historic proportions,” according to NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian who visited the site of the tunnel on Monday.

Specialised under-harbour tunnelling boring machine (TBM) Kathleen will dig the two tunnels. TBM Kathleen launched in June, from Barangaroo Station, and took four months to tunnel nearly one kilometre to the northern side of the harbour at Blues Point.

After completing the first of the two tunnels, the TBM was then pulled apart and had its giant 90-tonne cutter head and front sections barged back across Sydney Harbour, from where it is now being reassembled to start digging the second tunnel. The 975-tonne machine had removed 87,400 tonnes of sandstone, clay and marine sediments to dig the first tunnel.

Metro trains will start running through the two tunnels in 2024. In 2024, Sydney will have 31 metro stations and a 66km standalone metro railway, with the capacity for a train every two minutes in each direction. It will be able to move more people across the harbour in the busiest hour of the peak than the Harbour Bridge and Harbour Tunnel combined.

Another TBM, Wendy has reached the harbour’s edge at Blues Point, making her the first of the five mega borers to officially finish tunnelling on the Sydney Metro City & Southwest project. TBM Wendy completed a 6.2 kilometre tunnel via new stations at Crows Nest and Victoria Cross, excavating 563,000 tonnes of sandstone and shale.

Kathleen and Wendy are two of five mega borers which have worked simultaneously to deliver the twin 15.5 kilometre rail tunnels between Chatswood and Sydenham, extending Metro rail from the north west, under the CBD, and beyond to Bankstown.