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.

Changes to rail access regime welcomed by industry

Western Australian rail operators and infrastructure managers have positively responded to the WA government’s announced changes to the state’s Rail Access Regime.

The changes include: changes to the asset valuation method and a requirement for published standing offers; improved protection from unfair discrimination; better acknowledgement of foundation customers; increases in transparency; and finding efficiencies in the regulatory process by adding timeframes, information provision obligations, and standardising requirements.

The reforms will be implemented in changes to the Railways (Access) Code 2000. Ongoing consultation will continue with stakeholders as the process moves to the next stages.

WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt said that the changes would benefit groups near non-metropolitan railways.

“The McGowan Government has agreed to a series of important reforms to the State’s Rail Access Regime, which will make attaining access to railways easier and quicker, supporting regional communities.”

The state government has been conducting consultations for the past two years and aims to make the Regime more effective as an alternative to commercial negotiations. A spokesperson for CBH Group told Rail Express that the company appreciated the government’s commitment to reform.

“CBH welcomes the announcement by the Treasurer that the Western Australian Government has approved significant changes to the WA Rail Access Regime to make it more effective, speed up access negotiations, and ensure railway access arrangements are fair for all parties.”

Reviews of the scheme in 2011 and 2015 by the Economic Regulation Authority found that the Regime was not an effective alternative to private negotiations. Unlike access regimes in other states, parties in WA are allowed to negotiate access outside of the access code.

Arc Infrastructure, the manager and operator of freight rail lines in south western WA, similarly appreciated the approach taken by the WA government.

“ARC have been engaged through the entire review to date,” an Arc Infrastructure spokesperson said to Rail Express.

“It’s been a very consultative approach with industry led by Treasury.”

The reforms aim to ensure that more WA businesses can use the freight network owned by private companies in a cost-effective and timely manner, while encouraging private investment in privately-owned railways. The Access Regime covers the freight rail network in southern WA owned by Arc Infrastructure, the urban network operated by the Public Transport Authority, and two iron ore lines in the Pilbara.

“These reforms will encourage greater use of the rail network and support the efficient movement of freight across the State to support exports, regional businesses and jobs,” said Wyatt.

Arc Infrastructure elaborated on the effect of these changes on their network.

“Our understanding of the proposed changes will mean railway owner will publish (amongst other things) performance indicators and standing offers for rail access,” said the Arc Infrastructure spokesperson.

The Arc Infrastructure spokesperson said that the new regime will provide more transparency for users of the WA freight network.

The CBH spokesperson remained positive about finalising the reforms.

“We look forward to continuing to engage with the Government as these important proposed changes are drafted.”

Sydney opening caps big year for Alstom

Alstom Australia’s managing director Mark Coxon sat down with Rail Express after a whirlwind 2019, with big wins for Alstom across multiple states and sectors.

The New Year’s break is a welcome opportunity for rest and relaxation for many professionals. But for Mark Coxon and his team at Alstom Australia, the 2019/20 break was perhaps the most well-earned in recent memory.

Eleven days before Christmas, Sydney opened quite a large present. The first revenue services for the Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail line between Circular Quay and Randwick represented the culmination of four years of construction and delivery.

Around 160,000 passengers rode the new line in its first two days, and they rode on some of the 60 Citadis X05 light rail vehicles delivered by Alstom.

By January 8, the line had already handled its first million passengers.

Alstom has also delivered the project’s power supply equipment (including two kilometres of APS wire-free ground power supply), energy recovery substations, signalling, communications, and depot equipment for the project, and is now underway on a 19-year maintenance contract.

“We’re very happy with this project,” Coxon, Alstom’s managing director in Australia and New Zealand, told Rail Express shortly after the Sydney opening.

“The Alstom scope has been on time, and we’ve had new technologies brought for the first time to Australia – another sign of confidence in the Alstom delivery capability.”

Light rail vehicles are rolling down George Street for the first time in more than 60 years. Unlike the original system, it is free of overhead wires for two kilometres of its route thanks to Alstom’s ground-based APS power supply.

APS, originally Alimentation Par le Sol – “fed through the ground” – but now anglicised to Aesthetic Power Supply, uses modern technology to safely feed power through the base of the LRV via a third rail between the tracks.

Coxon notes APS is a new technology in Australia, but also that the Citadis X05 is the latest version of Alstom’s light rail vehicle range.

“On top of that, the reverse cycle power- optimised substations were in our scope,” Coxon continues. “So that’s a number of new technologies we’ve brought to this iconic project, and it was great to see trams going down George Street – and great to be on that first tram.

While Alstom’s share of the project was successful, Coxon is well aware of the disruptions caused throughout the overall project’s delivery. But he’s confident the quality of service passengers will enjoy in the longer- term will make up for it.

“It’s obviously become a well-known project to Sydneysiders, and it’s been quite disruptive to residents during construction. But over time, I am sure the people of Sydney will appreciate the project, particularly as journey time reduces and the reliability continues to grow,” he said.

“To be honest, these projects historically around the world are quite disruptive, and this is on one of the oldest and busiest streets in Australia. It would be difficult to implement that kind of project anywhere in the world. We managed to get this one online in 2019, a bit later than planned, but the opening has been successful and we look forward to the growth of patronage of that system.”

Sydney Metro a roaring success

Despite all the exciting new technology in Sydney’s new light rail, perhaps the most exciting thing delivered by Alstom in Australia during 2019 was north of the city.

When Sydney Metro Northwest opened on May 26, passengers rode on a fleet of 22 new six-car, driverless metro trains from Alstom, which also delivered signalling and will handle ongoing maintenance work.

In its first six months, the new metro line had serviced more than 11 million journeys.

“It’s been a successful journey,” Coxon said. “It’s the first driverless metro system in Australia, so that took some time for passengers to get used to, but the reliability growth that we’ve seen on our system has been as expected, and very similar to other projects around the world. Today, we’re getting to around 99 per cent availability of the system.

“That project contains two successful aspects for us: the Alstom rollingstock but also the signalling system, our CBTC driverless Urbalis 400 system. The integration between the CBTC system and the rollingstock has been extremely good, and I think that’s one of the advantages of being an integrator of both technologies.”

Maintenance details

The success on Sydney Metro Northwest led the NSW Government to exercise a pre-agreed extension in the original contract to the next portion of the line, Sydney Metro City and Southwest. The news – a $570 million win for Alstom – means Coxon’s team will now deliver another 23 trains (with an option for more), and its Urbalis 400 CBTC along the new portion of the line.

Coxon told Rail Express the extension demonstrated the government’s confidence in Alstom and its colleagues in the Sydney Metro delivery team.

“We always knew the success of Northwest would be a critical component on the augmentation for City & Southwest,” he said. “It’s such an iconic and strategic project for Alstom, and City & Southwest is a similar scope to what we executed on Northwest. Again I think it will demonstrate the importance of integrating the CBTC signalling technologies with the rollingstock.”

Once complete, the City & Southwest project will combine with Northwest to create a 66-kilometre continuous line, complete with Alstom rollingstock and signalling.

“We’re looking forward, as well, to extending the maintenance scope to that full line,” Coxon added.

Huge win in WA

Alstom’s success in 2019 wasn’t limited to the east coast. Early in December it finalised a $1.3 billion deal to deliver 246 EMU railcars 6 DMU to PTA, the public transport operator in WA. Under the 10-year contract, at least 50 per cent of railcar assembly will take place in WA, at a 12,000 sqm plant near the old Midland Railway Workshops. Alstom will also undertake maintenance for 20 years with the option to extend to 30 years.

Coxon told Rail Express the contract win was the result of more than two years of work with the government, local businesses, training organisations and community.

“We’ve had a lot of engagement with local and international suppliers about the local content, and that concluded with the award of that project to Alstom, which we’re absolutely delighted with,” he said. “We’re looking forward to building a train in Western Australia that the people of Perth can be proud of.”

Work to build what will become Alstom’s new rollingstock base in WA is expected to be completed in 2021. Local work under the contract is expected to create at least 200 jobs in supply and maintenance, revitalising the state’s rail manufacturing sector.

“Obviously, it’s a long journey, and we’re going to be part of that recreation of the railcar manufacturing industry in Western Australia, but that’s not the first time Alstom have done that,” Coxon said. “We’ve done it all around the world; the US, South Africa, India, and of course 20 years ago in Victoria with the X’Trapolis trains.

“We’re not newcomers to it, but it is a new journey in Western Australia, and  we’re interested in taking the suppliers on board for that journey, as well as our future employees. We’re going to have to build up a strong skilled workforce in Western Australia.”

Coxon said Alstom is also looking to build a good partnership with the state’s Public Transport Authority, along with its suppliers to build a train which we hope to have on tracks by the middle of 2022.

“What made that contract so attractive to Alstom was the long-term maintenance contract, which allows us to make sure the rollingstock is designed to maintainability as well,” Coxon explained. “We’ll build a strong workforce for the build, and then progressively for the maintenance.

“We’ve included in the project our HealthHub technology which focuses on the predictive maintenance capability, to ensure we’re maintaining the core components as they’re being used, and we can plan our maintenance schedules to optimise availability of the product. That’s a similar product to what we’ve installed for the Sydney Metro, so it’s not the first time we’ve installed it here in Australia, but again is a first for Western Australia.”

Next X’Trapolis in the works

Alstom has been supplying its X’Trapolis metro fleet to Melbourne’s Metro Trains network for nearly two decades, with more than 102 trains delivered. “It has proven to be one of the most reliable products in Australia today, so we’re very proud of this product and our skilled workforce in Ballarat who deliver this,” Coxon said.

After being awarded the preliminary design contract for an X’Trapolis 2.0 in late 2018, Coxon said the team spent a large portion of 2019 working with the state towards a new generation of the successful train.

“The X’Trapolis 2 will have all the latest technologies, adapted to integrate seamlessly into the Melbourne network. We would like to see this product rolled out on the Melbourne network and continue the long and successful story of X’Trapolis Melbourne trains.”

Thornlie-Cockburn Link passes final approvals

Construction work on the Thornlie-Cockburn Link can now begin, with the project passing through the state and federal environmental approvals process.

The project will connect the Mandurah and Armadale lines over 14.5km with new stations at Ranford Rd and Nicholson Rd. Station upgrades will also be carried out at Cockburn Central and Thornlie.

CPB Contractors and Downer will carry out the works, including those works mandated in the final environmental approvals.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti outlined that the project as a whole has sustainability at its core.

“The McGowan Government is strongly committed to sustainable development, and we want to ensure this important project provides the amenities and features the community wants, and that it is delivered in a sustainable way.”

The project sought feedback from the community and submissions raised environmental issues.

To address this, clearing of native vegetation for the project will be done in an environmentally responsible way. Animals will also be captured and then released by a licenced contractor with advice from the Department of Biodiveristy, Conservation, and Attractions.

“Environmental and heritage considerations are a key priority for the Thornlie-Cockburn Link and these approvals mark an important step forward for this much anticipated project,” said Saffioti.

Thornline MLA, Chris Tallentire, said that the project will benefit the local community.

“It is important that we meet our environmental obligations for the sustainable delivery of our infrastructure commitments. It is fantastic to see that we have reached yet another important milestone for this project,” he said.

“The METRONET Thornlie-Cockburn Link will bust congestion and provide our local community with greater connectivity with Perth city and the broader metro area.”

WA businesses receive capability funding

West Australian businesses have received funding to prepare to locally deliver rollingstock for the state’s Metronet project.

Eight businesses have won funding as part of the Local Capability Fund (LCF) under the Metronet Railcar Procurement round.

Businesses which have received up to $20,000 include refurbishment services provider Frontline Rail, the WA branch of rail transport maintenance and engineering business Chess Engineering, as well as specialist engineering and service providers.

The funding can be used by the businesses for capacity-building, planning, improvements to internal infrastructure, equipment, training, and certifications.

Applications for the fund remain open until January 31, or until funds are exhausted.

Under the contract to deliver new rollingstock for the Metronet project, rail car manufacturer Alstom will utilise local businesses for 50 per cent of the contract.

When complete, Alstom will produce 246 new C-series railcars and six diesel railcars. The railcars will be built in WA at the new Bellevue Assembly Facility.

CBH moves bumper crop by rail

Grain storage, handling, transport, marketing, and processing cooperative, CBH Group has announced that their rail infrastructure moved the largest amount of grain in the company’s history.

8.9 million tonnes of grain was moved by rail to port terminals in the 12 months to September 2019. These figures included six million tonnes of grain from the Kwinana Zone to the Kwinana Grain Terminal for bulk export.

These figures were the result of a record harvest of 16.4m tonnes, 13.8m tonnes of which was shipped from CBH Group’s four grain terminals. 6.2m tonnes were shipped from the Kwinana Grain Terminal.

While these figures were record breaking, global grain market forces left the group with a net loss after tax of $29.7 million and a deficit of $13.3 million.

During the year, CBH invested $285.3m in its network. These funds went towards an expansion of storage capacity, improving supply chain efficiency, and infrastructure maintenance.

CBH Group owns 574 wagons, 26 locomotives, and 12 trains, and in the 2019 year leased two additional locomotives and 131 standard and narrow gauge wagons for parts of the year. Due to the bumper year, three standard gauge fleets and nine narrow gauge fleets moved the grain crop.