Builder selected for Mandurah Station carpark

A builder for the Mandurah Station multi-storey carpark in WA has been selected.

Local builder PS Structures won the $32 million contract to replace the existing northern carpark with a 1,800 bay carpark.

According to a joint federal-state government statement, over 70 per cent of passengers at Mandurah station travel to the station by car, with the carpark reaching 90 per cent capacity by 9am on weekdays.

Both governments have been investing in rail services near Mandurah, south of Perth, with the beginning of a request for proposal process for a new station for nearby Lakelands announced recently.

“This project is yet another way we are continuing to invest in the southern suburbs, with the Lakelands Station project also set to begin this year, and planning for another at Karnup underway,” said WA Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said that the expanded carpark would allow for greater train patronage.

“Together with a new station at Lakelands, this project will future-proof access to public transport for communities locally and across the Peel region,” said Tudge said.

“We also know the delivery of crucial infrastructure projects like the Mandurah is essential to supporting jobs and economic growth at this time.”

The Mandurah region has been targeted as an area for population growth, with the city forecast to grow by almost 50 per cent between 2016 and 2036. Enabling more people to use public transport will ensure the growth is managed, said federal Member for Canning, Andrew Hastie.

“The population of Mandurah and the Peel region have grown significantly over the last decade. The Government is delivering practical solutions that our community needs, both through this upgrade and construction of the new Lakelands station.”

The three level carpark will have lifts, a staircase, and a visually appealing façade, and a temporary carpark will be developed while construction is underway. Residents will also be encouraged to use alternative means, such as bus, cycling, or walking to get to the station.

Community getting involved in shaping rail projects

Community members are having their say in the identity of rail projects around Australasia.

In New Zealand, City Rail Link has announced that its tunnel boring machine (TBM) will be named after Dame Whina Cooper, who campaigned for social justice and land rights for Māori in New Zealand. Chief executive of City Rail Link Ltd Sean Sweeney welcomed the choice.

“We were looking for the name of a New Zealand woman who inspired – brave, compassionate and fearless – and all those outstanding leadership qualities are well and truly represented by the very remarkable Dame Whina Cooper.”

Dame Whina Cooper was one of three women who were shortlisted to inspire the name of the TBM and the final decision was made by a poll that attracted 3,500 votes. The two other women who were nominated were Margaret Bradshaw, an Antarctic scientist, and the world’s first elected openly transgender Mayor and Member of Parliament, Georgina Beyer.

“I am grateful to all New Zealanders for their support and their nominations and votes, particularly at a time when we were all grappling with a pandemic. I would also like to thank Dr Bradshaw and Ms Beyer for allowing their names to be considered for our TBM,” said Sweeney.

The TBM will arrive on site in October, and will be reassembled at the Link Alliance project site at Mt Eden. The TBM will excavate two 1.6km tunnels from Mt Eden to Aotea Station.

In Western Australia, over 2,400 community members were involved in the future of Cockburn Central Station Tower.

After the removal of the controversial Cockburn Faces artwork in October 2019, the Cockburn community was asked to select a new use of the tower. Options included a new artwork, clock, digital screen, or the return of the faces.

After a month-long survey, 43 per cent opted for a new piece of artwork, and 37 per cent preferred an analogue clock.

“The community has spoken and, with almost half of the votes going for new artwork, our attention will now turn towards selecting an appropriate piece for the tower,” said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

The WA Public Transport Authority will release a tender for the new artwork for a local WA artist in the coming months. Jandakot MLA Yaz Mubarakai said the site is significant for the local community.

“Thousands of motorists and train commuters see the Cockburn Tower every day so it’s important they’ve been able to have their say and the most popular option has been selected.”

Morley-Ellenbrook Lin

Morley-Ellenbrook Line gets IA tick

Infrastructure Australia has added the Morley-Ellenbrook Line to its Infrastructure Priority List.

The decision by the federal government’s independent infrastructure advisory body signals that the project, which is part of the Metronet program in Western Australia, is of strategic importance. Infrastructure Australia found that the project will improve transport options, reduce car dependency and ease traffic congestion, said chief executive, Romilly Madew.

“We know one of the key areas to accommodate Perth’s growing population over the next 10 years will be the corridor that connects Ellenbrook to the Perth CBD.”

Infrastructure Australia calculated that the project had a cost-benefit ration of 1.2, providing $430 million in economic benefits for the wider community.

The recognition of the project’s importance comes after two contractors were shortlisted for the construction of the line in April and early work on upgrades to Bayswater station have begun.

WA Premier, Mark McGowan, said that the recognition of the project’s importance comes from the public transport that it will introduce to north-eastern Perth.

“The Ellenbrook line is the signature Metronet project, when complete it will be a game‑changer for the north eastern suburbs,” he said.

Enabling road infrastructure works on the Tonkin Gap highway will soon begin, which will pave the way for the rail line, said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

“We are working to fast track the Tonkin Gap upgrade, which will include rail enabling works down Tonkin Highway, with construction on this project expected to start in coming months.”

Saffioti also highlighted that the project will allow for transport-oriented development around the new stations.

“Infrastructure Australia has found the Morley-Ellenbrook Line has strategic value, will improve connectivity and transport links, while improving liveability by encouraging development around stations and unlocking economic potential of the area.”

The 21-kilometre line will include stations at Morley, Noranda, Malaga, Whiteman Park, and Ellenbrook, with the option to build a future station at Bennett Springs East. The federal government is contributing $500 million to the line, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack welcomed Infrastructure Australia’s determination.

“This announcement shows exactly why the Australian Government has committed $2.5 billion for network-shaping METRONET projects in Western Australia, which involves 70 kilometres of new heavy passenger rail and up to 18 new rail stations,” McCormack said.

“This includes our $500 million commitment to the jointly funded Morley-Ellenbrook Line project which will create jobs and support economic growth.”

A number of construction projects are continuing as part of the Metronet project around WA.

“This year alone we have six Metronet projects underway, plus the construction of our Bellevue Metronet railcar facility, creating thousands of local jobs and supporting local businesses,” said McGowan.

Saffioti noted that these projects are stimulating local economies.

“Metronet projects will be a key part of our post-COVID economic recovery, providing opportunities for local businesses and creating thousands of local jobs.”

WA trains begin to return to normal timetable

Western Australia will begin to bring back public transport services that were reduced because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Services were scaled back on March 31 as passenger numbers dropped while people stayed at home and self isolated, however with school students returning to face-to-face classes, the WA government has brought forward regular timetabling.

“With students returning to school from April 29, we will see an increase in transport activity across our community,” said WA Transport Minister, Rita Saffioti.

“While initially we prepared a staged and scaled return to normal services, it is now our view to have services running to a normal schedule as soon as possible,” she said.

“In particular, feedback from parents, and from schools directly, has been that we bring the school services back from the first day.”

While it had already been announced that bus services would pick back up when school resumed, the latest announcement confirms that trains will begin to return to regular timetables on Monday, May 4. Until then, trains will follow the current timetabling – a Saturday in place of the Monday to Friday timetable, and no after-midnight train services on Friday and Saturday nights.

“Working with the contractors, unions and the PTA, we are now bringing forward the return of normal public transport services,” said Saffioti.

The WA government has advised passengers to continue following COVID-19 hygiene practices and additional cleaning will continue. WA was one of a few states to reduce train services. In NSW and Victoria, services continued to their regular timetable to allow passenger to practice social distancing, while in Queensland cuts were only made to long-distance and tourist train services.

Contractors shortlisted for Morley-Ellenbrook line

The Western Australia government has shortlisted two joint ventures to design and construct the Morley-Ellenbrook line, part of the Metronet project.

The two joint ventures are, Ellenbrook Alliance (CPB Contractors and Downer EDI) and MELconnx Consortium (Laing O’Rouke Australia Construction).

Having completed the request for proposal phase, the shortlisted contractors will now enter the competitive bid phase.

The contract is the largest of four works packages to deliver the Morley-Ellenbrook line and covers the design, building, and commissioning of the electric rail line and five new stations.

Early works are already underway on the Bayswater Station and a contractor, Evolve Bayswater Alliance, was recently announced as the preferred proponent for the construction of that station.

WA Premier Mark McGowan announced that the decision has been the product of extensive engagement.

“Leading up to procurement, we engaged with hundreds of local businesses and subcontractors so they were prepared to bid for the huge range of work available through all stages of the project.”

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that the finalised project would connect the growing north eastern suburbs of Perth.

“This is another major step forward for the Morley-Ellenbrook Line project, which is the final missing piece for transport infrastructure in the north-eastern suburbs of Perth.”

After leaving the Midland line at Bayswater station, the new, 21km line will follow the Tonkin highway and finish a t the Ellenbrook town centre. Stations will be built at Morley, Noranda, Malaga, Whiteman Park, and Ellenbrook. Another station could be built at Bennett Springs East with population growth forecast there.

The continuing construction on the Metronet project, which has not been limited by coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, is hoped to boost the WA economy.

“This year alone we will have six METRONET projects underway, in addition to our railcar manufacturing facility in Bellevue where local workers will build our METRONET railcars,” said McGowan.

 

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.

PTA Radio Systems Replacement project falls victim to US-China trade war

The consortium delivering the digital radio systems project in Perth has fallen apart.

An alliance of Huawei Australia and UGL (HUGL) won the contract to upgrade radio communications for Western Australia’s Public Transport Authority (PTA) in 2018, however on March 27, 2020 WA Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti announced that the current contract will no longer proceed.

The HUGL consortium fell victim to increasing trade restrictions placed on Chinese exports by the US government, with restrictions imposed in August 2019 cited by the WA government as the tipping point.

In 2017, the WA government announced the $120 million project, which would involve installing new towers and poles with digital-friendly infrastructure, to enable the replacement of the current analogue radio system with a digital one. This involved all radio devices in trains, security vehicles, and handheld radios. Moving to a digital system would allow for data as well as audio to be transmitted by radio. Future Automatic Train Control systems, which PTA has aimed to install as part of the Metronet project, would utilise the digital radio systems.

Since the contract was awarded, the parties have had to grapple with restrictions placed trade between the US and China. Tariffs imposed on Chinese exports would increase the uncertainty around the cost of the project, timelines, and effectiveness of the final solution.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the State Government’s project – which is limited to a radio network for train drivers and transit guards – has been caught up in the ongoing trade dispute between the US and China,” said Saffioti.

The WA government has indicated in a statement that it will continue with the project, although it will be delayed.

“Given the trade dispute, and the current economic and health crisis facing the world, the PTA has recommended a fresh approach for the radio replacement project,” said Saffioti.

“The PTA will continue its plans to deliver a new digital radio system for our expanding public transport system.”

Potential options include the withdrawal of Huawei Australia from the contract, or the termination of the contract as a whole. The PTA will look to preserve current subcontract arrangements.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has extended the deadline for the PTA to vacate the analogue radio spectrum to beyond 2021.

Freight continues as borders shut

With states closing their borders to interstate travel, those needing to continue to travel, including rail freight operators, into Western Australia and the Northern Territory are being asked to complete an arrival form.

The respective forms for WA and the NT can be found here and here.

From today, March 25, Queensland has also closed its borders. This has affected passenger rail services from NSW, which are now terminating at Casino, rather than continuing to Brisbane.

Due to the extensive connections between Queensland and New South Wales along the border at Tweed Heads/Coolangatta, local movements for shopping, work, medical appointments and travel home are not affected.

In addition, to limit the spread of the virus train and tram services in South East Queensland are only accepting pre-paid tickets to avoid the handling of cash.

While these measures have been put in place to ensure community safety, the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has continued to press for freight services to be allowed to continue unaffected, due to their critical nature delivering food and supplies around Australia.

CEO of the ALC, Kirk Coningham, has said that he is happy with the measures put in place so far.

“It is pleasing that states and territories have all recognised the essential nature of the freight task by exempting freight and logistics from border closure arrangements,” he said.

“We now need states and territories to ensure that exemption is given practical effect, and make certain freight vehicles are not delayed for lengthy periods at border check points.”

Freight operators have been putting in place extra social distancing measures and cleaning measures to ensure that freight vehicle operators cannot spread COVID-19. With this in mind, delays at borders should be minimised, said Coningham.

“Those operating freight vehicles have rigorous restrictions around the number of hours they can work. Significant delays at border check points could end up producing delays of 24-hours or more in the movement of freight,” he said.

Contractor selected for Denny Avenue level crossing works

Downer EDI has been selected as the preferred proponent to deliver the entire Denny Avenue level crossing removal project, part of the Western Australia Metronet project.

In December 2019, Downer was named as the contractor who will deliver the rail component package, however in an announcement on February 17, WA Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti confirmed that Downer will deliver the entire works program.

“Denny Avenue will join a program of six METRONET projects under construction during 2020, which will upgrade Perth’s rail network and create and support local jobs,” said Saffioti.

Although the two construction contracts are separate, the entire works program will involve the removal of the level crossing at Denny Avenue, the realignment of Third Avenue, lowering Davis Road to pass under the elevated rail line, new cul-de-sacs for Third and Slee avenues, and works on Albany Hgihway.

Other works will include widening Davis Road from two to four lanes, and the installation of three traffic lights at Albany Highway, Streich Avenue, and Railway Avenue.

“Denny Avenue is the first of up to eight level crossings to be removed as part of METRONET, with all but one on the Armadale train line,” said Saffioti.

In addition to the road and rail infrastructure works, the Kelmscott town centre will be revitalised, with landscaping, tree planting, and civic works.

“This project will not only remove a dangerous crossing and reduce road congestion, it will also give locals an enhanced Kelmscott town centre to enjoy,” said Saffioti.

Alstom to acquire Bombardier Transportation

Confirming weeks of rumours, Alstom has announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bombardier Inc to acquire Bombardier’s transportation unit.

The MoU values Bombardier Transportation at between €5.8 and €6.2 billion ($9.4 to $10 billion).

Henri Puopart-Lafarge, chairman and CEO of Alstom announced the merger of the two rail manufacturing giants.

“I’m very proud to announce the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation, which is a unique opportunity to strengthen our global position on the booming mobility market.”

Although headquartered in Canada, Bombardier’s transport operations are led from Berlin, Germany. The deal, if approved, could create a European rail champion, a goal which Alstom previously pursued in discussions with Siemens, with whom Bombardier also pursued merger talks.

Puopart-Lafarge acknowledged that the two companies share similar operating areas.

“Bombardier Transportation will bring to Alstom complementary geographical presence and industrial footprint in growing markets, as well as additional technological platforms,” he said.

Bombardier representatives also welcomed the deal’s announcement.

“With a shared commitment to the next generation of green and digital rail solutions, a combined company would benefit from economies of scale resulting into improved investment and innovation capabilities, and a streamlined investment pipeline,” said Eric Prud’Homme, head of external communications at Bombardier Transportation.

In Australia, Alstom and Bombardier both have significant manufacturing operations. Bombardier manufactures diesel multiple units and light rail vehicles in Dandenong, Victoria while Alstom has a manufacturing base in Ballarat where it produces the X’Trapolis trains for the Melbourne network. Additionally, Alstom has been confirmed as the manufacturer of new rollingstock for Perth’s Metronet project, and will construct a local manufacturing facility in Western Australia.

Previous merger discussions between Siemens and Alstom drew the attention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which noted that a merger would raise competition concerns, however in the field of signalling. Ultimately, the European Commission blocked the proposed deal.

In the MoU announcement, Poupart-Lafarge said that all existing employees of Bombardier Transportation would continue to work for Alstom once the deal is completed.

“We will be thrilled to welcome all the talent and energy of Bombardier Transportation employees. We are deeply committed to step up the turnaround of Bombardier Transportation activities and deliver significant value to all stakeholders, particularly our customers,” he said.

Alstom expects that, subject to approvals from regulatory and anti-trust authorities, the deal will be closed in the first half of 2021.