First section of the Metro Tunnel now complete

The first tunnel boring machine (TBM) named Joan has worked around the clock for months, dug underneath the city, and installed the tunnel’s massive concrete rings.

Joan is named after former Victorian Premier Joan Kirner and she has now broken through a 13m-deep shaft at Childers Street, Kensington, completing the journey from Arden Station.

Since her launch in August 2019, Joan has travelled 1.2km tunnelling under rail lines, CityLink, Moonee Ponds Creek, North Yarra Main Sewer, and the West Melbourne Terminal Station and installed 4,200 curved concrete segments to create 700 rings lining the walls of the tunnel.

The segments, each weighing 4.5 tonnes, are among 56,000 being manufactured by 70 workers at a purpose-built concrete manufacturing plant in Deer Park.

The second TBM, Meg, who is named after Australian women’s cricket captain Meg Lanning, is travelling on a parallel route to carve out the second tunnel from Arden to Kensington and will break through in the coming weeks.

Work began in January at the site of the new Anzac Station on St Kilda Road site to assemble the third and fourth TBMs for the Metro Tunnel Project. These are expected to be launched in mid-2020.

The Andrews Labour Government said Victoria’s massive transport infrastructure program will continue over autumn with the next phase of work concentrating on level crossing removals.

Following level crossing removal at Toorak Road and major works at Cheltenham and Mentone station, a three-month construction blitz will begin on the Upfield line in July.

Works will include the elevation of tracks, construction of two new stations, and removal of four level crossings.

Ongoing excavation to build an underground pedestrian connection between Flinders Street Station and the new Town Hall Station in the Metro Tunnel is currently underway.

Jacinta Allan, Minister for Transport Infrastructure, said there are nearly 120 major road and rail projects on the go across the state and this autumn.

Melissa Horne, Minister for Public Transport said that it’s vital the Victorian government continues to invest in infrastructure for the benefit of Melbourne’s residents and visitors.

Project Update: Melbourne Metro

During January, works towards Melbourne’s metro tunnel ramped up with crews working throughout the month to excavate the final section of the tunnel’s entrance and make room for the new track which will connect existing lines to the tunnel.

The crews will complete major concreting works at the tunnel entrance, pouring the final sections of the tunnel roof slab and installing the tunnel support structures.

“It’s now two years since we signed the contract and we’re well up and running at seven construction sites along the alignment,” Tunnel and Stations package director at Rail Projects Victoria, Linda Cantan, said in December at the AusRAIL Plus event.

As package director Cantan has overseen the procurement and contract negotiation for the $6 billion package to build five new underground stations as well as the tunnel itself. She is responsible for managing the contract throughout construction.

A number of companies are building the tunnel, and construction is split across several work packages.

Early works to relocate services and prepare the construction sites were delivered by John Holland KBR. New tunnels and stations are being built through a Public Private Partnership, named the Cross Yarra Partnership consortium which includes: Lendlease Engineering, John Holland, Bouygues Construction and Capella Capital. Yarra Trams will deliver tram infrastructure works.

Rail systems including signalling and systems integration work will be provided by CPB Contractors and Bombardier Transportation, while a consortium comprising John Holland, CPB Contractors and AECOM will deliver rail infrastructure works including the tunnel portals and realignment of existing rail lines.

The project is projected to be complete by 2025.

“We’re creating is a dedicated rail line between Sunbury and Dandenong. People ask why a dedicated rail line, by taking capacity out of the city loop we free up extensive capacity through the rest of the rail network.”

The Melbourne Metro Rail Project includes twin nine-kilometre rail tunnels between South Kensington and South Yarraand five new underground stations.

The project will take three of the busiest train lines (Cranbourne, Pakenham and Sunbury lines) through a new tunnel under the city and thus free up space in the city loop to run more trains in and out of the suburbs.

“We have 4 tunnel boring machines doing our tunnelling, which were launched from our two logistics sites at North Melbourne and Anzac Station. Meg and Joan are travelling out to the west at the moment.

“Joan has travelled 470 metres out of north Melbourne, and we’ve had to negotiate the city link viaduct under the Mooney Creek. Meg has gone about 137 metres. We’re also travelling along all of the rail network, so extensive work is needed to make sure we’re doing that in a safe way. To date progress has been very good and in fact the grand settlement has been better than predicted.

“On the eastern side of the alignment, we have Millie and Alice who will launch early next year. They’ve been delivered to Domain, beside Anzac station, and will launch in the first half of 2020. They will be heading out to the eastern portal, then be retrieved and brought back to be relaunched and head towards the city.”

“We’re in quite a narrow corridor and have retaining walls to build to ensure that there’s no settlement of the existing tracks, but we’re working in a very tight environment to create those exits and entrances to the tunnel structures. The PPP is constructing a shaft in that area for the TBM retrieval early in 2020.”

“We’re developing these stations for ten car, high capacity metro trains, which will be procured under a separate PPP. As such our construction boxes are about 250 metres long and the width, depending on the station, about 25 to 30 metres,” Cantan explains.

The Eastern tunnel entrance stops beyond South Yarra station as there is not enough room in the corridor.

“What we’re trying to do here is to put another two train lines in a very congested corridor, where we have multiple train lines coming in from the South East.

“This is another area where we have our Rail Infrastructure Alliance working alongside the PPP. The PPP can build their shaft, that will be used for the extraction of the TBM, right next to where the Rail Infrastructure Alliance are doing the cut and cover structure.”

“We’re now underground in a lot of locations so I keep saying to people be: patient with us because we don’t open till 2025, but we’re now underground, tunnelling, excavating and starting the build out of our stations,” Cantan concludes.

Melbourne Airport Rail Link: ARA urges governments agree to ‘visionary’ plan

Australasian Railway Association boss Danny Broad has asked for “visionary thinking” from Victorian and federal politicians amid reports both sides are leaning toward a cheaper above-ground route for the future rail link to Melbourne Airport.

Both federal and state governments have committed $5 billion towards the Melbourne Airport Rail Link (MARL), but the combined $10 billion is unlikely to be enough to fund a new tunnel between Sunshine and the airport without private sector involvement.

While more expensive, a tunnel would provide greater capacity, and could connect to the federal government’s planned Geelong fast rail. It would also provide a better foundation for the state’s plans to turn Sunshine into a transport super-hub, building off the MARL, the Geelong and Ballarat Lines, and the Western Rail Plan.

The federal government had been pressuring the state to commit to a tunnel option, but recent reports have suggested the state’s preferred ground-level option could win-out.

“Our ambition is to have a train journey to the airport from the city that is fast, affordable and meets the needs of travellers,” a spokesperson for federal urban infrastructure minister Alan Tudge was quoted by The Age.

“We want to see the MARL built as soon as possible.”

Responding to the news, ARA boss Danny Broad said it was important Victoria and the Commonwealth come to a unified agreement which fulfils long-term needs.

“With Melbourne forecast to become Australia’s biggest city by 2028, and also the expected increase in international and interstate travellers, it is crucial that the Airport rail link can manage frequent and fast journey times to deliver the level of service expected of an international city,” Broad said on December 13.

“Infrastructure Australia has long-ago already identified the corridor between Melbourne CBD and the Melbourne Airport as one of the most congested and one where the Tullamarine Freeway is already at capacity.

“We need visionary thinking from our elected leaders to ensure the infrastructure we build for the future meets customers’ expectations, is efficient and delivers adequate capacity for the population growth that Melbourne will undergo.

“If financing is an issue, then Governments should look to the private sector for additional investment.”

Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Hunter Valley network maintenance requires crew of 1300

The Hunter Valley rail network has kept 1300 rail workers busy this week, doing maintenance and enhancement works, according to the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).

A program of 125 projects scheduled over three days, ending Friday, was undertaken from Kooragang port along the rail corridor to Werris Creek as well as the Ulan line west from Muswellbrook.

The work includes re-signalling at Thornton, a level crossing upgrade at Army Road at Glenridding and track reconditioning work at Quirindi.

“The Ardglen Tunnel will also be re-sleepered and re-railed. This is an interesting job as it is a heritage-listed tunnel and we have to take those considerations into account while undertaking the works,” ARTC group executive for the Hunter Valley, Jonathan Vandervoort, said.

“We will also take advantage of the opportunity to undertake a number of works including removing ballast and improving drainage on this section. With tunnels you need to be very efficient as the conditions are difficult to work in and to you need to be very organised to get all the works done in the allotted time.”

Passenger services were replaced by buses over the three days to allow crews to access the rail tracks safely.

“We ask people in communities close to the rail corridor to be cautious during the shutdown period and keep an eye out for increased vehicle movements in and out of work sites,” Vandervoort said.

Let’s Get Wellington Moving, underway

The Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) project, last week, went out to tender for work towards two projects of a $6.4 billion transport overhaul.

Contracts for the engineering, design, and planning work towards the two largest LGWM projects are estimated at $3 billion, in total. The projects include a mass rapid transit and state highway improvements.

While the projects are not due to be completed until after 2029, with work on the mass transit system scheduled to begin in 2024, Wellington’s mayor Andy Foster has said he intends to bring that work forward.

LGWM is a partnership formed to develop a multi-modal transport system. The partnership consists of Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and the NZ Transport Agency.

“At its heart, Let’s Get Wellington Moving seeks to deliver a multi-modal transport system that moves more people with fewer vehicles. Mass rapid transit will transform Wellington’s public transport network and help shape a more compact and sustainable city and region,” LGWM Programme Director Andrew Body said.

The business case for the mass rapid transit will inform decisions about the type of mass rapid transit mode appropriate and the preferred route between Wellington Railway Station and Newtown, according to LGWM.

“We need to determine the most appropriate route and type of mass rapid transit, and how it integrates with the wider transport system, particularly the bus network, and other projects in the programme including the state highways package,” Body said.

The state highways package will investigate which improvements for the Basin Reserve will provide the best outcomes for the transport network and the community. It will also investigate the extra Mt Victoria tunnel, and how the wider transport system will operate with these improvements.

“We need specialists with a strong understanding of what it takes to get things done in Wellington, combined with international expertise in planning, design and implementation of mass rapid transit,” Body said.

“We’re looking for innovation in planning and design, including opportunities to enhance spaces for the community,” he added.

“Our plan is large, complex, and ambitious. With projects as big as these, we need to investigate and plan carefully at the start. We’ll be working closely with our partners, stakeholders, and the community as we design each project,” Body said.