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.

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.

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.

Cross River Rail construction to ramp up in 2020

Construction towards the Cross River Rail project will commence at 11 new sites, adding to the seven currently active sites.

“Already we’ve got 1000 workers on Cross River Rail sites across the city. With new sites set to open, we’re looking at employing an extra 1500 workers this year,” Cross River Rail Minister Kate Jones said on Thursday.

Construction of Cross River Rail will create 7700 jobs in total throughout South East Queensland and opportunities will increase for trainees, apprentices, and local companies looking to sub-contract, according to the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority’s CEO Graeme Newton.

Newton said that 2020 will see work on the project ramping up, and passing critical milestones.

“2019 was a big year for the project. We appointed our major contractors, established multiple new worksites, revealed the location of three new Gold Coast stations and launched a Precincts Delivery Strategy that will be the catalyst for up to $20 billion of investment,” Newton said.

“But 2020 is where things really kick up a gear. We’ll complete demolition at Roma St and Albert St, start tunnelling from Woolloongabba to Boggo Road, start work on station upgrades and the new Gold Coast stations and we will have workers live on the project at as many as 18 sites across the city.”

Crews are progressing with the installation of 280 concrete piles for the station box at Woolloongabba, and work is also underway towards piloting the European Train Control System on the Shorncliffe line, the authority says the system will make the network safer and more efficient.

Extensive work has begun in the rail corridor between Roma Street and Exhibition stations where the northern tunnel portal will be constructed. Meanwhile, work is already underway towards the project’s southern tunnel portal south of Boggo Road.