NSW government seeks project managers for first fast rail routes

The NSW government has released two tenders for project management services for fast rail, suggesting that the first two routes for the state will be Sydney to Canberra and Sydney to Newcastle.

The tenders, available via the NSW eTendering site, outline that successful tenders will conduct the scoping phase investigation and deliver the final business case for the fast rail program.

“The NSW government’s commitment to develop a blueprint for the delivery of a fast rail network is a major piece of state-shaping work,” said a NSW government spokesperson. “This transformative vision will seek to link regional centres to each other and Sydney.”

In previous documents outlining the scope of the NSW government’s fast rail strategy, four routes had been identified; Sydney to Newcastle, Sydney to Canberra, Sydney to Nowra via Wollongong, and Sydney to Orange. The current tenders are the first fast rail tenders released publicly, indicating that the NSW government my be prioritising the routes to Canberra and Newcastle.

Each project will undergo the Infrastructure NSW Health Check, which requires demonstration of evidence of confidence in a project’s development. The scoping phase also includes an interim project definition report which will define the project’s interim ‘reference case’ based on the needs assessment, options development, and options assessment through the strategic business case.

The second phase of the tender covers the final business case of the project. This will involve delivery of a final business case that builds on the findings from the strategic business cases and scoping phase investigations. Tender documents outline that “a new approach will be needed” for the final business case to meet NSW Treasury requirements and Fast Rail Program objectives.

“Central to the success of the Final Business Cases will be the consideration of wider economic and social impacts, alongside traditional transport benefits.”

The release of these tenders highlights that fast rail projects in Australia are moving forward. At a national level, the National Faster Rail Agency has put forward 50:50 funding for fast rail businesses cases with state governments and the private sector, including the Sydney to Newcastle business case. Funding has already been committed to faster rail between Melbourne and Geelong.

Improving connectivity between Newcastle and Sydney was also a priority initiative added to Infrastructure Australia’s Infrastructure Priority List in 2016.

The NSW government has also launched the ‘A fast rail future for NSW’ strategy, with a plan to be delivered by Andrew McNaughton and an expert panel. The plan is reportedly complete, but has not yet been released.

EoIs released for Sydney Metro West

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has announced that the Sydney Metro West is progressing to the next stage.

“Sydney Metro is now in a position to progress procurement with the release of the expressions of interest,” said a Transport for NSW (TfNSW) spokesperson.

The announcement covers tunnelling work for the Metro West line, which would connect the Sydney CBD and Parramatta in 20 minutes, via the Bays Precinct, and Sydney Olympic Park, and then terminate at Westmead. The contract covers two twin tunnels of almost 50 kilometres, first announced to industry in October.

“Industry was asked to register their interest in October 2019 and 21 national and international participants worked with Sydney Metro to refine the tunnelling procurement strategy and scope of works,” said the spokesperson.

The two tunnelling contracts will comprise twin tunnels from Westmead to Sydney Olympic Park, and from Sydney Olympic Park to the Bays.

Companies listed as responding to the initial register of interest on the NSW government eTendering site include Boygues Construction, CPB Contractors, FCC Construcción, McConnell Dowell, and Obayashi Corporation.

“The process also allows new parties to request access to the EOI documentation,” said the spokesperson.

Tunnel boring machines are expected to begin in 2022 and construction will lead to a number of jobs across Sydney, said Constance.

“Now more than ever, infrastructure projects like Sydney Metro West support jobs, communities and the economy – Sydney Metro West will create more than 10,000 direct new jobs and 70,000 indirect jobs, with thousands of these jobs being generated by these new tunnelling contracts,” said Constance.

The Western Sydney Business Chamber welcomed the announcement for its potential to stimulate the city’s economy.

“I have no doubt that Sydney Metro West will be our ‘Hoover Dam’ project – a massive construction project over many years that put thousands of people to work and will stimulate economic activity across the route,” said David Borger, executive director of the Western Sydney Business Chamber.

Borger encouraged the NSW government to proceed with other rail projects, such as Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2.

“Western Sydney’s infrastructure deficit is going to be a key way that we build our economic recovery and get our people back to work. The best thing the NSW Government can do is push forward with its transport plans and get building as soon as possible.”

The construction of Sydney Metro West is to support the forecast the 40 per cent more train trips required in the next 15 years. In addition to stations at Westmead, Parramatta, Sydney Olympic Park, the Bays Precinct, and a yet to be finalised location in the Sydney CBD, there are confirmed stations at North Strathfield, Burwood North and Five Dock, with optional stations at Rydalmere and Pyrmont. A stabling and maintenance facility will be built at Clyde.

“We need to be going full steam ahead on this project so that we are ready to get digging as soon as possible. I encourage the NSW Government to resolve the issues of the outstanding station locations at Rydalmere and Pyrmont as soon as possible,” said Borger.