Karangahape

Tunnelling works progress at Karangahape station site

Tunnel mining has begun at the site of the future Karangahape Station with a large excavator brought in to create a 15 metre long connection to the caverns of the future station.

Machinery is digging out the short tunnel from the temporary access shaft, 18 metres deep.

Dale Burtenshaw, deputy alliance director for Link Alliance said the connection would be critical.

“This connection is short, but it will become an important and busy ‘construction artery’ for us providing access for people, machines and material,” he said.

Once the 9.5 metre wide and 8m high arch-shaped tunnel is excavated a roadaheader will finish the connection before beginning to dig out the station platform tunnels.

“It’s a clear sign of work ramping up. Our focus is very much on welcoming the Tunnel Boring Machine at Karangahape Station at the end of next year on the first leg of its journey from Mt Eden,” said Burtenshaw.

When complete, Karangahape will be New Zealand’s deepest underground station at up to 35 metres underground. The station will be 217 metres long to accommodate nine-car trains.

Here the tunnel boring machine will arrive after carving out the twin tunnels from Mt Eden Station.

To ensure construction and earth mining noises are limited, a unique acoustically insulated noise enclosure will encase the access shaft.

“The noise enclosure is a bit like a silencer on a car, reducing the impact of construction at street level in a busy part of the city around Karangahape Road,” Burtenshaw said. “The enclosure muffles construction noise and gives us the flexibility to work longer hours to get the job underground done without disturbing neighbours living and working around us.”

Other work such as the installation of reinforced concrete panels are also underway along with utilities relocation. Plunge columns through the centre of Beresford Square are also beginning to be installed to support floor slabs during construction.

Roadheader gets to work on Cross River Rail

Tunnelling has officially begun on Cross River Rail, with the first roadheader assembled and digging out underneath Roma Street.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the occasion marked a major step for the Brisbane rail project.

“Above ground demolition has also been underway for several months at the site of the new station – but today is a huge milestone for this project as we start tunnelling for the first time,” she said.

“This is just the beginning of the underground works, with 5.9 kilometres of twin tunnels and four underground stations to be excavated in total.”

The roadheader was assembled at the site, 18 metres below ground, and is beginning to excavate the 280m long station cavern.

Now underway, the roadheader can excavate up to 50 tonnes of rock and soil an hour, with disruption protected by the acoustic shed at ground level, which stands five storeys high and is 60m long.

Local Queensland company QMW was involved in the manufacture of the roadheader, supplying the cabs. The locally made cabs and remaining five pieces were lowered into the shaft with a gantry crane and then put together underground.

The 22 metre long and 115 tonne roadheader is the first of two machines that will be working at Roma Street.

As work underground progresses, more and more people are working at the various Cross River Rail sites. Already 1,800 people are employed as part of the project, with the total expected to reach 3,000 when the project is at its construction peak in two years.

State Development Minister Kate Jones said that the project is critical to Queensland’s economy.

“Multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects like Cross River Rail are vital to Queensland’s economic recovery following COVID-19,” she said.

“Coronavirus has had a huge impact on our economy. But we won’t let it derail Queensland’s largest infrastructure project.”

Once complete, Cross River Rail will include 5.9km of tunnels and four underground stations. Roma Street station will be 27 metres below ground and replaces the former Hotel Jen building and Brisbane Transit Centre.

Currently, one floor a week of the Hotel Jen is being demolished.

1,800-strong workforce on site for CRR construction

A workforce of 1,800 people has been continuing to progress the Cross River Rail project, even as social distancing measures have been in place to limit the spread or outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

A pedestrian bridge at the Roma Street site has been removed, and demolition is continuing of the former Hotel Jen building.

Demolition of two blocks in the Brisbane CBD has also been finished. The blocks will allow for the construction of a new station at Albert Street. There, piling works and the construction of an acoustic shed are underway as work begins on the underground station box.

Piling works for the dive site at Woolloongabba for the tunnel boring machines are also completed. Excavation of the launch area will now get underway.

Work has also started on the northern tunnel portal, between Roma Street and Exhibition stations.

Piling at Boggo Road is also making strides, with 100 out of the 150 piles installed for the station box.

According to a statement from Cross River Rail the continuation of work during the COVID-19 restrictions has had a wider effect on the Queensland economy, with manufacturers and construction supply companies benefiting from works not being halted. Subcontractors carrying out works on each of the sites have also directly benefited.

Safety precautions and social distancing measures have been in place at all sites, with extra hygiene protocols adhered to.

EIS for Sydney Metro West released, Rydalmere station dropped

The NSW government has released the first environmental impact statement (EIS) for Sydney Metro West, scrapping a proposed station at Rydalmere.

The EIS provides more detail on the route which will connect the Parramatta and Sydney CBDs. The EIS covers the section from Westmead to the Bays Precinct.

A separate EIS will be released for the section from the Bays Precinct to the Sydney CBD, with the location of a station in the CBD still to be confirmed. A station in Pyrmont is still listed as “optional”.

With the removal of the optional station at Rydalmere, the distance between consecutive stations Parramatta and Sydney Olympic Park would be between eight and nine kilometres, depending on the alignment. Most metro systems globally have an average distance between stops of between 1.2 and 1.3km.

The EIS outlines where the main works will be undertaken for civil construction works, including tunnelling, and excavation for stations. Major work sites will be established at Westmead, Parramatta between Macquarie Street and George Street, Clyde – where a stabling facility will be built, Burwood North, and the Bays Precinct. Two tunnel boring machines will each begin at The Bays and Westmead, with all four being extracted at the site in Sydney Olympic Park.

Releasing the EIS, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that Metro West is a “once in a century” project.

“It’s been almost 100 years since the Harbour Bridge transformed Sydney. Now this underground Metro is going to be the modern day game changer for our city, serving us for decades to come.”

The EIS proposes to ease the pressure on the existing heavy rail system from population growth in Western Sydney, which is forecast to grow to 3.2 million people by 2036, by diverting commuters from the T1 Western Line, T9 Northern Line and the T2 Inner West and Leppington Line.

The EIS estimates a drop in customer numbers at some of Sydney’s busiest stations. It finds that there will be a 32 per cent fall in customer numbers on the T1 Western Line at Parramatta by 2036, a 36 per cent reduction at Strathfield, and a 35 per cent reduction at Redfern. This will cut crowing by roughly 30 per cent at North Strathfield, Strathfield, Redfern, and Burwood stations.

In addition, Sydney Metro West proposes faster travel times between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD, with services targeted to take 20 minutes. The line will also increase the number of services, from 56 trains an hour to 116, increasing capacity from 65,440 customers an hour to 157,600 customers.

The NSW government has released an expression of interest for contractors to deliver the twin tunnels between Westmead and The Bays.

TBM Sandy breaks through at Bayswater

Tunnelling is complete on the Forrestfield-Airport Link, part of the Metronet project in Western Australia.

On April 20, tunnel boring machine Sandy broke through at the Bayswater dive structure. WA Premier Mark McGowan said that the completion of tunnelling is a “major milestone” for WA.

“While Western Australia has been grappling with COVID-19, TBM Sandy and the project team have been continuing to work on this incredible project for Perth.”

The breakthrough ended 900 days of tunnelling under Perth Airport and the Swan River, creating 16 kilometres of tunnels, two twin 8km tunnels.

Now that tunnelling is finished, track will start to be laid from July 2020. The track slab is half installed while construction and fit out of the station buildings continues.

“In times like these it’s important we continue to progress projects that will provide work for local businesses and keep workers in their jobs, ultimately supporting the State’s wider economy,” said McGowan.

The tunnels, made with 9,000 tunnel rings comprising 54,000 locally made concrete segments, link three stations, Forrestfield, Airport Central, and Redcliffe to the wider rail network.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti thanked those who have worked on the project so far.

“In July 2017, Premier Mark McGowan and I were at the Forrestfield Station site to mark the start of tunnelling on the Forrestfield-Airport Link,” she said.

“Thank you to the tunnelling team and other workers who delivered TBM Sandy to her destination and helped achieved this major milestone.”

The $1.86bn Forrestfield-Airport Link provides over 700 jobs in Western Australia, and is one of six Metronet projects underway in 2020.

The tunnelling for the Forrestfield-Airport Link was conducted by a joint venture of Salini Impregilo and NRW Civil and Mining which won the design and construct contract, along with a 10 year maintenance contract, in April 2016.

CRL links Auckland to its volcanic past

Construction of the City Rail Link (CRL) in Auckland has uncovered a link to the region’s pre-historic past.

A tree fragment uncovered during tunnel boring has been dated to 28,000 years ago.

The fragment was found when CRL’s small tunnel boring machine, Jeffie, was excavating for a stormwater drain under Mt Eden. The machine was tunnelling through an ancient lava field 15 metres below ground.

After being extracted from the site, the tree fragments were sent to volcanologists for radiocarbon dating. This confirmed that Maungawhau/Mt Eden erupted roughly 28,000 years ago, said Elaine Smid volcanologist at DEVORA.

“We have used other techniques to date this eruption, with similar findings. This new radiocarbon result removes any lingering doubts about the age of Maungawhau/Mt Eden.”

The finding allows for scientists to confirm that Mt Eden erupted during the Ice Age, and connects the current rail tunnelling program to similarly significant geological events in Auckland’s past, said Gabriel Kirkwood Kaitiaki for Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki – Taiaomaurikura.

“Both events in their own way are creating dramatic changes to the landscape of Tāmaki Makaurau and the way we interact with it for generations to come,” said Kirkwood.

The tunnelling is part of excavations to connect CRL tunnels with Auckland’s existing rail network at Mt Eden. While the CRL will enable Aucklanders to travel around their city without the need to get into cars, the excavation has helped in other ways to keep Auckland safe, said Smid.

“DEVORA scientists use volcano ages to identify eruption patterns and to better understand how the Auckland Volcanic Field has behaved in the past – it’d like a big puzzle,” she said.

“This age is another piece in that puzzle, now slotted firmly into place. Every piece we add tells us a little more about how the volcanic field may behave in the future, making Auckland a safer place.”

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.

Going in deep

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.