infrastructure

Infrastructure spend misses rail projects in Queensland, South Australia

In a pre-budget infrastructure announcement, the federal government has committed funding to rail projects in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, but only provided funding for roads in other states, with Queensland’s only rail project a level crossing removal.

As part of a $7.5 billion spend on infrastructure, new federal funding alongside state contributions has been committed for further regional rail upgrades in Victoria, high capacity signalling in Western Australia, and planning for faster rail between Sydney and Newcastle. The funding announcement covers those projects put forward by state governments and not projects solely funded by the federal government.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said that local businesses would benefit.

“We will draw on local businesses to stimulate local economies through these projects,” he said.

In Victoria, rail projects received the bulk of the funding allocated to that state, with funding for new projects including stage three of the Shepparton Line upgrade and stage two of the Warrnambool line upgrade. Further planning for the Western Rail Plan, improving passenger rail services from northern Victoria, and a business case for improving connectivity to the Port of Melbourne also scored funding.

In NSW, rail projects to receive funding included $15 million for planning for Sydney to Newcastle Faster Rail. A faster rail business case has already been completed for the line and is being reviewed by the National Faster Rail Agency.

$150 million has been allocated for grade separating road interfaces with Inland Rail, along with a number of intermodal hubs, including at Ettamogah, near Albury, and the Northern NSW Inland Port at Narrabri. Commuter carparks in Sydney also received additional funding.

In Western Australia, federal funding of $102.3 million has been allocated for the High Capacity Signalling element of the Metronet project. Infrastructure Australia has added the project to its Infrastructure Priority List as a Priority Project, signalling its national significance.

The funding for WA also includes the first investigation into faster rail in the state, with $4m for an investigation of the Perth to Bunbury corridor.

$5m has also been allocated to the Kenwick Intermodal Terminal. WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the funding would grow the amount of work in the state.

“We already have a pipeline of $6.5 billion of major road and rail works underway across Western Australia over the next two years – this will extend the pipeline of work and will continue to help the State economy through and past COVID-19.”

Besides the $50m in funding for the Beams Road overpass, the $1.3bn allocated to Queensland will be spent on roads. No funding will be spent on rail in South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT, and the Northern Territory.

Administrator of Queensland-based rail group Rail Back on Track Robert Dow listed 11 rail projects needing funding in the state, including improvements to the Sunshine Coast line, Ipswich rail extensions, and Salisbury to Beaudesert commuter rail.

“This is simply not sustainable,” said Dow. “We need a proper balance between rail and roads.”

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Catherine King said that funding must follow through on the announcement.

“It is essential that these latest funding promises are delivered now, not years down the line.”

Designs for Werribee level crossings revealed

Further designs for level crossing removals in Werribee have been released.

An alliance of McConnell Dowell, Arup, Mott MacDonald, and Metro Trains Melbourne will deliver the project, which covers two level crossings.

The crossings are located at Old Geelong Road in Hoppers Crossing and Werribee Street in Werribee.

The $355.5 million worth of work will involve the construction of a road bridge near the current Old Geelong Road level crossing and a rail bridge over the Werribee Street level crossing.

The same alliance have been working on replacing the nearby Cherry Street level crossing.

A pedestrian overpass will replace the Old Geelong Road level crossing.

Freight services will be able to continue to run on the corridor on a temporary track.

The level crossing works will feed into further network improvements as part of the Western Rail Plan and Suburban Rail Loop.

New areas of open space will be created between Werribee Racecourse and Werribee River underneath the newly raised rail line.

Western Rail Plan gets $100m Budget boost

The Victorian Government’s 20192020 Budget includes a $100 million boost to the Western Rail Plan.

The investment is intended to fund planning and design works to separate the regional and metro services on the Geelong and Ballarat lines as part of a wider plan to deliver fast rail to the regions. This separation will avoid situations where V/Line trains are slowed down by Metro trains, allowing for faster and more frequent journeys.

Rail Projects Victoria (RPV) has started a program of investigations and technical studies along the Melton, Werribee, Wyndham Vale and Geelong corridors, with staging of the Western Rail Plan being considered alongside the Melbourne Airport Rail Link business case, due for publication in 2020.

Committee for Ballarat chair Nick Beale welcomed the investment in a statement, saying the works were “in line with Committee’s stated aim of duplicating the line between Ballarat and Southern Cross, which includes electrification and quadruplication of the line to Melton. Once the work is complete, it will result in a noticeably faster trip to Melbourne.”

The Western Rail Plan sets out investment plans for three connected rail projects, including the creation of two new metro lines leading west to Melton and Wyndham Vale; increased rail capacity between Melbourne’s CBD and Sunshine; and upgrades on the Geelong and Ballarat lines to allow trains to run faster than 160km/h.

The creation of the metro lines to Melton and Wyndham Vale will separate the two areas from the Ballarat and Geelong lines, with Wyndham Vale also proposed as the potential western section of the Suburban Rail Loop, which is expected to cost at least $50 billion, with a pencilled completion date of 2050.