The first steel has been laid for the future Sydney Metro City & Southwest line. Read more
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.
Civil works are underway and stabling facilities are being constructed to connect the existing Sydney Metro line with its extension to the City and Southwest.
In Rouse Hill, the current stabling yards are being expanded with a new test track, stabling roads, and overhead wiring.
The enlarged depot will provide space for the extra 37 trains which will run on the expanded Sydney Metro line when it continues from Chatswood, via the Sydney CBD and onto Bankstown.
Systems Connect, a partnership between CPB Contractors and UGL Engineering is delivering the works, of which over 3.1 kilometres of track and 6,500 sleepers have been installed. Twelve thousand tonnes of ballast has also been delivered.
The facility will be operational by the end of 2021 and all works will be complete by 2022, ahead of the new line opening in 2024. A Sydney Metro spokesperson said this lead time would allow for bedding in the new rollingstock.
“The expanded depot will be used for testing and stabling of the new metro trains as they progressively arrive.
“New metro trains will arrive well in advance of the opening date for the necessary testing – there will be further updates closer to that time.”
At Chatswood, foundations are being laid to connect the existing Metro North West line to the tunnel which will take trains under Sydney Harbour before emerging in Sydenham.
Work has had to be delivered in a 48-hour shutdown of the current suburban rail services, to reduce disruption. 130 workers have been on the project, including moving 330 tonnes of soil, using piling rigs to drill 34 holes up to 8 metres deep. Future works will involve excavating 7,500 tonnes of material and repositioning the existing suburban rail line.
Limiting resources and using recycled materials has been a key focus of the project, both in the first stages of Sydney Metro and current upgrade works.
At the new stabling facility in Rouse Hill, crushed recycled glass used to bed down pipes, instead of sand, using 1,000 tonnes of recycled glass. Recycled road base made of old crumbled concrete is used to make the hardstands for laydown areas and a car park for staff.
Water saving measures include using recycled water, such as rainwater and runoff. Dust block is used to bind fine dust, instead of water.
Utilising its extensive in-house expertise, Manco Rail was able to provide a unique solution to a challenging project.
Meeting the challenge of increasing rail services in cities where space is at a premium has led to more projects extending the capabilities of what is possible in major rail construction projects.
In Sydney, this has led to projects going underground, with the massive Sydney Metro project, Australia’s largest public transport infrastructure project, being built largely below the city.
According to Bryan Black, managing director of Manco Rail, this presents an opportunity for businesses such as his.
“With the degree of rail infrastructure projects occurring throughout the Southern Hemisphere, there is a real opportunity for rail equipment engineering companies to make a considerable investment in both time and capital with innovative, efficiency enhancing plant, that enables contractors to improve productivity and performance by changing from traditional rail construction methodologies.”
While construction-related headlines have been dominated by the movements of the five tunnel boring machines above and below Sydney harbour, constructing a metro line largely underground has required suppliers and subcontractors to transform the delivery of systems to the project.
For Manco Rail, a project such as this fits into the company’s DNA as an OEM with the ability to innovate. Based in New Zealand, the company has been providing custom-built plant and equipment for over 40 years.
In the case of Sydney Metro City and Southwest, it was these qualities that led the line-wide contractor, Systems Connect to select Manco. A joint venture between CPB Contractors and UGL, Systems Connect will deliver the laying of track, power, communications, and signalling equipment to the project between Chatswood and Bankstown. The project involves delivering rail and track on twin 15.5km tunnels between Chatswood, under Sydney Harbour, below the Sydney CBD, and on to Sydenham. It is here that Manco’s equipment comes into its own.
“Over the years, our equipment has ended up operating in rail tunnels by the very nature that most tunnels interface with a tunnel network of some sorts, whether it be due to terrain or underground stations to accommodate CBD or high density areas,” said Black.
Compounding the standard complexities of installing new track, the project is constrained by having only three major access points for equipment and materials along 31km of tunnels. In addition, gradients in the tunnels are steep, at 4.5 per cent, said Paul Ryan, senior project manager at Systems Connect.
“Construction within this tunnel environment is inherently complex. Access is limited, spaces are confined and grades are steeper. We worked with Manco Rail to custom design equipment that overcomes these challenges,” he said.
The particular equipment that Manco has provided for the Sydney Metro CBD and South West project are rail transfer equipment and sleeper-laying trailers.
The rail transfer equipment consists of two specially converted wheeled excavators equipped with material handling booms, automatic rail threading units, and rail carrying dollies.
The sleeper-laying trailers are equipped with a sleeper grab straddle, rail threader trailer, tug units, sonar detection systems, and a track guidance system fitted to the equipment.
Developed over 14 months, the custom- designed equipment lays the rail, spreads it out, places the sleepers, and then pulls the rail back over the top. The process of developing this one-of-a-kind equipment took a blank slate approach, said Black.
“The design and interface of each plant item has involved hundreds and hundreds of design hours. Utilising a highly competent team of young mechanical engineers tasked with starting with a ‘clean piece of paper, and fresh ideas’, brain storming meetings were held on a regular basis, where even the most radical concepts where discussed,” said Black.
“Ultimately, rational thinking prevailed, which – however – incorporated some of the vast array of available technologies, in electronics, motive power, hydraulics, fabrication materials and ergonomics.”
The entire process is radio remote controlled, crucially limiting the number of people in high-risk areas.
The Manco equipment will be used in two stages. First, it will lay the track components. Then the track form will be concreted, and mechanical and electrical systems and signalling equipment will be installed.
Afterwards, the Manco track-laying equipment will return, including wheel excavators, trailers, and tugs, to assist with concreting activities, and electrical and mechanical installations.
The confined nature of the working environment demands a sequential process, and Manco’s familiarity with working in railway tunnels led to the company being selected by Systems Connect for the complex project. Past work not only in Australia, but New Zealand, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Malaysia, enabled Manco to be selected as the subcontractor.
What was key in the relationship between Manco and Systems Connect was the New Zealand company’s ability to modify and custom design equipment for the particular project. The team collaborated to automate processes wherever possible and combine innovation with safety.
“Ensuring safety and optimising project delivery are priorities for Systems Connect,” said Ryan.
Manco’s extensive experience in rail construction was also important as Systems Connect required rail network certification. A higher level of testing and compliance requirements were applied to the project, particularly due to the steel gradients in the tunnels. Manco’s previously experience in rail certification across Australia, as well as their ability to supply fully certified equipment prior to construction, led to the company being selected by Systems Connect. Manco’s knowledge of the rail sector enabled this requirement to be met.
“All equipment manufactured is designed around specific and well known standards. Some standards are unique to rail and some to elevating personnel, suspended loads, and general operational safety,” said Black.
“Manco Rail has dedicated compliance officers that are specialists in their particular fields, be it, engineering quality, through to safety and the working environment approved emissions.”
A combination of innovation, safety, and proven capacity has seen Manco rail deliver on this major infrastructure project.