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Commuters are getting back on trains, buses, and ferries in Western Australia, with patronage back up to almost 80 per cent of pre COVID-19 levels.
With the state COVID-19 free apart from overseas arrivals, life in Western Australia is beginning to return to pre-COVID norms.
WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that the state had one of the best returns to public transport of any jurisdiction around the world.
“Western Australians’ return to public transport is back to almost 80 per cent of pre-COVID levels – one of the most successful returns to public transport across the world.”
In the latest publicly available figures, there were 3.755 million train boardings on the Transperth system in August. This is five times the number of boardings in April, which saw the lowest number of boardings with 718,519, and almost 70 per cent of 2019 figures. Patronage levels in September and October have been higher.
Driving the strong growth in patronage is the return of school students, with almost 100 per cent of pre-COVID-19 patronage, and pensioners, who had 90 per cent of pre-COVID levels. Tertiary students, however, remained low, at 60 per cent, due to the possibility and uptake of studying online.
The Western Australian government hopes that these numbers can lead to a return to growth in overall patronage numbers. In 2018-2019 the system saw the first growth in total boardings since 2012-2013. With further connections coming online with the completion of Metronet projects, these numbers are likely to increase.
Perth in particular compares well to other state and international capitals. According to the International Association of Public Transport Sydney is only at 50 per cent of pre-COVID levels, while Brisbane is at 60 per cent and Auckland is at 70 per cent. The ongoing lockdown in Melbourne is leading to patronage figures at 5 to 10 per cent of 2019 levels.
The Western Australia government will invest $1.7 billion in Metronet projects in this financial year.
The figure comes from the WA state budget, released on October 8, and is in addition to the $1.5bn in federal funding for Metronet.
Projects to be funded this year include the Forrestfield-Airport Link project, which is expected to be completed in late 2021, the first $275.3 million for locally made rollingstock and the assembly and manufacturing facility in Bellevue, and $195m for the Thornlie-Cockburn link.
In addition, level crossings, new stations and carparks, and the extension of existing rail lines are included in the 2020-2021 budget.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said the total investment over the forward estimates would support the WA economy out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To keep our local economy strong, the state Budget delivers a record $27 billion in infrastructure investment over the next four years, including construction and manufacturing work for Metronet and major roads across WA,” he said.
“We’ve worked hard to establish a major pipeline of work to support local jobs and help guide Western Australia’s economy out of the COVID-19 pandemic, while ensuring we’re delivering and building major projects for tomorrow.”
The funding in this year’s budget ensures that current projects can continue and procurement can take the next step forward in the 2020-2021 financial year. Contracts are expected to be signed and work to begin shortly on the Byford Rail Extension, New Midland Station, and level crossing removals on the Inner Armadale Line. Final negotiations for the construction contract for the Morley-Ellenbrook line are expected to be completed soon.
WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said skills and training would be part of the major construction investment.
“These projects won’t just change the way we travel, they will also have a huge role in supporting local jobs and training opportunities, with more than 10,000 jobs expected to be supported as part of these METRONET investments,” she said.
“This year’s investment will allow for continued delivery of the Thornlie-Cockburn Link, Yanchep Rail Extension and Forrestfield-Airport Link, but we’re not stopping there.
“Even more projects are in the pipeline, ensuring we’re delivering and building the infrastructure needed for tomorrow.”
The Western Australian government has launched a four-week intensive training course that will give students hands-on experience on major rail projects in the state.
Students will get a first-hand insight into Metronet projects including the Bellevue Railcar facility, the Yanchep Rail Extension, the Thornlie-Cockburn link, and the Denny Avenue Level Crossing Removal. Road projects are also part of the course.
The program will be delivered at TAFE campuses across Perth and is designed to increase the pool of workers in the infrastructure sector. Young people and women are being encouraged to apply.
Designed to create a pathway for those who may have lost their jobs during COVID-19, the course is free for those on JobSeeker/JobKeeper payments, those who are concession-eligible or under 25.
WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the Infrastructure Ready program is designed to address approaching skills shortages in the infrastructure sector.
“We are delivering more than $6.5 billion worth of road and rail projects across all corners of the State – ensuring we have the workforce to deliver this pipeline of work is a key priority,” she said.
“This new training will deliver job-ready workers to meet the immediate needs of Western Australia’s multi-billion-dollar civil construction industry.”
During the program, students will be taught measurement and calculation skills for the construction sector and safe work practices. Instruction on how to operate small plant and equipment also forms part of the course.
Through partnerships with industry, those who complete the program will be offered the opportunity to gain entry-level prospects. Civil construction industry contractors will be given incentives to employ and retain program participants.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said that the program will set up participants for success.
“Participants will gain firsthand experience on this unique course that will put them in good stead for work on our major infrastructure projects and for future employment opportunities.”
The Western Australia government has unveiled a series of works for Perth’s Armadale Line to improve safety and increase access along the line through Perth’s south-eastern suburbs.
The WA government and federal government will jointly fund the removal of up to six level crossings.
The $415 million plan to remove three level crossings at Oats Street, Mint Street, and Welshpool Road, along with assessment of three level crossings at William, Wharf, and Hamilton streets has been submitted to Infrastructure Australia.
Procurement will begin on the Metronet project before the end of 2020, said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.
“Submitting the business case to Infrastructure Australia is the next step forward to removing these boom gates,” she said.
The rail line will be raised over the road at the level crossings for up to 2.8 kilometres. The elevated rail option will enable better connections between adjoining communities, safer roads, and less noise.
As part of the WA Recovery Plan, train stations on the Armadale line will be upgraded to improve disability access.
$8 million will be spent on Cannington, Gosnells, and Kelmscott stations to bring them up to the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (DSAPT).
These improvements will include better pedestrian access, the relocation of passenger information and ticket vending machines, and better lighting, signage, and CCTV coverage.
At Gosnells station, upgrades to the parking area will be part of the works, while at Kelmscott Station the bus stand infrastructure will also be improved.
“Public transport is for everyone, and we have a responsibility to ensure that anybody using our stations can do so as safely as possible, regardless of their mobility levels,” said Saffioti.
“These upgrades will mean all patrons using Cannington, Gosnells and Kelmscott stations will be able to use Transperth train services with dignity and independence.”
The project is part of the WA Recovery Plan, which has identified projects that can begin immediately and inject activity into the WA economy.
The Western Australian government will ensure more rollingstock maintenance and manufacturing happens in WA, with a $40 million investment and a new focus on building iron ore cars in the state.
$40m will go towards the maintenance of Western Australia’s new Australind fleet with the construction of an expanded Metronet Railcar Manufacturing and Assembly facility in Bellevue.
WA Premier Mark McGowan and Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti announced that the Bellevue site will be grow to include the maintenance of the new diesel multiple units (DMUs), manufactured by Alstom, which will replace the current Australind fleet.
The Bellevue facility will also service the Prospector and AvonLink railcars, WA’s infrastructure diagnostic vehicle, and track maintenance and rail shunting locomotives.
WA had previously brought railcar manufacturing back to the state with the announcement that 246 C-series railcars will be built with 50 per cent local content, said McGowan.
“One of my Government’s key election commitments was to return railcar manufacturing back to the Midland area,” he said.
“We’re delivering on this and now we’re doing what we can to ensure we’re removing interruptions in supply chains and allowing local businesses to take advantage of the great manufacturing opportunities in our State.”
Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the scale of the project will provide opportunities for local workers and suppliers.
“Around 250 railcars will be produced at Bellevue over the next decade, while it will also serve as a permanent maintenance facility for the expanded METRONET fleet,” she said.
“This new $40 million diesel maintenance facility will be a new key element to the services provided at Bellevue and will provide local job and training opportunities for local Western Australians.”
In a joint statement, McGowan and Saffioti said that an “action group” will be created to investigate the viability of manufacturing and maintaining iron ore railcar wagons that service the iron ore rail network in the Pilbara. This manufacturing could occur in the Pilbara or other parts of WA. Currently, manufacture of iron ore wagons often happens in China.
The study will look at how initiatives can support the steel fabrication industry in WA, and maintenance opportunities for new and existing ore wagons.
A contract for the construction of the diesel maintenance facility will be awarded next year.
Construction of the main manufacturing site is underway and is expected to be completed later in 2020. Local manufacturers are now able to register to supply components to the railcars.
With tunnelling complete on the Metronet Forrestfield-Airport Link project, tracklaying has now begun along the 8-kilometre-long tunnels.
Martinus Rail will install the 40 kilometres of rail needed to form the track in each tunnel, along with tie-ins at Bayswater and stowage at High Wycombe.
The first kilometre of track has already been laid, and Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said that this was a significant milestone on the project.
“Tracklaying is one of the final major events on the construction of a rail line – it’s an exciting milestone for this $1.86 billion project, with more than 2,400 tonnes of Australian-made steel being prepared.”
WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that the project was coming together.
“We’re at an exciting time for this major infrastructure project – the tunnel-boring machines have finished creating our tunnels, our three new stations are taking shape and tracklaying is now underway.”
The 27.5m long pieces of steel are flash-butt welded into 220 metre strings. The Martinus teams have been working simultaneously to weld the rail, transport it and lay it along with the sleepers to form the skeleton track, before concrete is poured to complete the slab track.
Other work is also underway to install the overhead line equipment and the communications and signalling systems.
Roughly 100 jobs are supported by the tracklaying and rail infrastructure stages of the project.
Once complete, the Airport Line will link the Perth CBD with the airport and the eastern suburbs, including Redcliffe and High Wycombe. Thousands of commuters expected to use the rail link each day when trains begin running in late 2021.
This weekend will see late night trains running again in Perth.
The decision to reinstate the 1am and 2am services from Perth and 2.50am service from Fremantle follows the re-opening of nightlife businesses in the state. Phase 4 of the WA lifting of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions come into effect at 11.59pm on Friday, June 26, allowing nightclubs, bars, and live music venues to re-open.
The services that will run again include 1.15am and 2.15am trains on the Joondalup/Mandurah lines from Perth Underground, 1am and 2.15am services on the Armadale/Midland lines from Perth Station, and services between Fremantle and Perth.
WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that by having these trains back in service it will support hospitality and entertainment businesses.
“As our nightclubs and live music venues begin to re-open, it’s important we head back into the CBD and support our small businesses – reintroducing our free late night train services will give patrons a safe and hassle-free way to get home.”
Staff to run these trains have been quickly mobilised.
“I also want to thank our public transport employees, who have again stepped up to support the community during the pandemic. I appreciate the transport workers accepting short notice changes to their night shifts to make it possible,” said Saffioti.
Community chooses new station name
3,500 locals have chosen High Wycombe as the name for the final station on Perth’s new Forrestfield-Airport Link line.
Once complete, the line will be known as the Airport Line and will terminate in Perth’s eastern suburbs.
Saffioti said that early work on the station had begun.
“The start of construction for the car park is another step towards completion of the station precinct and will provide a further boost for local jobs.”
The Forrestfield-Airport Link is part of the Metronet project in Perth. Trains are expected to run on the line, which travels underneath Perth airport by 20201.
An alliance of contractors have been selected to build the Tonkin Gap project, which will deliver enabling works for Metronet’s Morley-Ellenbrook Line, in Perth.
The Tonkin Gap Alliance, made up of BMD, Georgiou, WA Limestone, BG&E, and GHD, will expand the section between Collier Road and Dunreath Drive to construct a three-lane, freeway-standard road.
The Morley-Ellenbrook line will partly run along the middle of the Tonkin Highway, and the Tonkin Gap Alliance will build the dive structures to allow the building of the railway to enter and exit the middle of the highway.
Other modifications will occur between Railway Parade and Hepburn Avenue, and will involve the replacement of the existing Broun Avenue flyover.
WA Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti said that the works package will improve mobility in Perth’s eastern suburbs.
“Road and rail projects will play a key part to WA’s economic recovery going forward. This project will fix one of Perth’s most congested roads while laying the groundwork for the Metronet Morley-Ellenbrook Line,” Saffioti said.
“Tonkin Gap is a major component of the train line to Ellenbrook, with two dive structures and the foundation for the rail included in the project scope.”
Saffioti said the government was looking to infrastructure projects to stimulate the state’s economy.
“Together with new Bayswater Station procurement, we now have two out of three major contracts for Morley-Ellenbrook Line at an advanced stage,” she said.
“Building this project, combined with construction of other nearby major projects like the new Bayswater Station and Morley-Ellenbrook Line, will help support the WA economy through some tough times ahead.”
The project is jointly funded by the WA state government and the federal government, with the federal government contributing 80 per cent of project funds.
Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said that the project is part of an infrastructure-led recovery.
“Our $100 billion infrastructure pipeline is setting the foundations for economic recovery on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis,” he said.
“In addition, it will create thousands of new jobs at a time when what we want is to get Australians back to work.”
WA Premier Mark McGowan also noted that progressing urban infrastructure projects will have flow on effects.
“Our record investment in major road projects and Metronet will set up our suburbs for the long term and benefit Western Australians, now and into the future,” McGowan said.
“In times like these it’s important we continue to progress the projects that will provide work for local businesses and keep workers in their jobs – this will ultimately support the state’s wider economy.”