David Loneragan

CPB Contractors, John Holland, AECOM awarded second stage of Sunbury Line works

The Victorian government has awarded a $534 million contract to the Rail Infrastructure Alliance (RIA) for the delivery of the next stage of upgrade works on the state’s Sunbury Line.

The works will provide upgrades to the rail network’s power system, including overhead electrification works between Sunbury and South Kensington and at South Yarra, and signalling power upgrades.

This is the second package of works for the Sunbury Line that has been awarded to the RIA, which includes CIMIC Group’s CPB Contractors, John Holland,AECOM, Metro Trains Melbourne, and project owner Rail Projects Victoria.

CIMIC Group CEO Michael Wright said the company was pleased to continue work on the Sunbury Line Upgrade.

“Our end-to-end capability and major project experience enables us to deliver high-quality rail assets and world class public transport, supporting Melbourne and Victoria’s growth,” said Wright.

Mark McManamny, AECOM regional managing director for Victoria South Australia and Tasmania, said that he was delighted the Victorian government had entrusted his team with the planning and design works for the project.

“We are privileged to be involved in iconic projects like the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, where we have the opportunity to create a positive legacy for the communities in which we all live,” McManamny said.

The first package of works, which was awarded in August, will extend platforms, boost accessibility and build new stabling at stations along the line.

Overall the upgrade program covers platform extensions at every station between Sunbury and Footscray, wheelchair boarding platforms at eight stations, traction power upgrades and improvements to train stabling at Sunbury, Calder Park and Watergardens.

The project is designed to facilitate the operation of a fleet of 65 new high-capacity metro trains (HCMTs) to run all the way to Sunbury once the Metro Tunnel is opened in 2025.

The RIA has begun preparatory works on the first stage of the Sunbury Line Upgrade. These works include geotechnical, service and site investigations along the Sunbury rail corridor.

Further work will commence this year, with the upgrade project scheduled to be completed in 2023.

Rail worker manufacturing. Photo: RailGallery.com.au / Courtesy of Bombardier

Harmonising standards: a national approach to rail manufacturing and maintenance

Victoria is leading the drive for a national harmonisation of rollingstock standards in Australia.

Rollingstock manufacturing and maintenance currently lacks an overall, consistent national approach to standards, with states and territories possessing their own differing approaches. Harmonisation of standards for rollingstock procurement, manufacture and maintenance has been considered as a potential pathway to the reduction of manufacturing costs and, also, as crucial to supporting the further development of local content production.

At AusRAIL in Canberra in November last year, Neil Gibbs from Transport for Victoria updated the conference audience about the developments being made towards the harmonisation of rollingstock standards in Australia. The Victorian Government has taken a leading role in advocating for the harmonisation in standards, which aligns with its objective of improving supply chain performance in the state and to boost the competitiveness of its local manufacturing sector. That is, the competitiveness within both the Australian market and with imports from outside of Australia.

“In Victoria, there are three tier-one rollingstock manufacturers and Australia’s largest rollingstock supplier base,” Gibbs said. “That supplier base supports, across the country, 10,000 employees. The objective of rollingstock harmonisation is to sustain and support further development of the manufacturing base.”

In its submission to the Australian Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC) in August 2016, the Victorian Government outlined five areas in which it determined rollingstock standardisation ought to be pursued, with the outcome that TIC agreed to the prioritisation of harmonised standards in two areas: train bogies and windows/glazing. The reason for picking these areas, according to Gibbs, was that they seemed to the most readily applicable across all state and territory jurisdictions.

The Victorian Government then initiated and seed-funded a client group comprising representatives from the state governments of NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. The Rail Industry and Standards Board RISSB was engaged to author documents through a development group with representation of government agencies, rail operators, manufacturers, maintainers, along with rail research institutions.

“In doing this work, we found that the target audience was procurers of rollingstock,” said Gibbs. “This led not to the development of a standard, but instead a guideline for developing specifications.”

The guidelines for bogie and window procurement, developed by RISSB in consultation with representatives of state government agencies, the rail industry and the rail technology sector, were released to transport procurement agencies in October 2017. The guidelines, Gibbs said, were developed with the intention of being used by both companies and state governments when procuring rollingstock and by manufacturers when procuring bogies, glass or glazing.

According to a study authored by David Anderson from Transport for Victoria, the pilot guidelines set the path for future developments in harmonisation of standards. “Australia stands to benefit considerably from nationally consistent rail manufacturing standards,” the report states. “Higher production volumes and lower unit costs for standardised componentry will aid the rollingstock industry’s longterm sustainability. A long-term outlook encourages investment, and jobs through greater local content, as well as delivering better value from money for rollingstock procurements.”

Gibbs also raised the point that if harmonisation is aligned with international standards, it would be able to support the connection of local suppliers not only wider national opportunities, but to global ones as well. “A connection can be made through the harmonisation of standards themselves so that they are aligned with international standards, and that will then assist local suppliers substitute for overseas equipment and participate in export opportunities,” Gibbs said. “Another form of connection of suppliers to opportunities through establishing greater market awareness through trade delegations. Just recently, there was very successful delegation to Innotrans in Germany that established connections between international suppliers and local suppliers.”

Gibbs said that additional manufacturing support can be provided by state industry participation policy and through acquiring local content in procurements. As an example, he outlined the Victorian government’s approach, which includes a policy of enforcing a minimum 50 per cent local manufacturing content requirements for all rollingstock projects valued over $50 million and tender evaluation weightings of 10 per cent for industry development, 10 per cent for job outcomes and 80 per cent for technical, performance, risk and delivery matters.

“So, given that this is now law, it will be applied any forthcoming procurements in Victoria for new regional trains and next generation trams,” Gibbs explained. “In terms of the next generation trams, in Melbourne we have the objective through this program to replace all of the high floor trams by 2032. This leads us to the expectation that this will see the procurement of between 220 and 250 trams, which is a huge order.”

Gibbs explained that “supply chain development” in the procurement of rollingstock by the state government in Victoria was “the new norm”, and was recently applied to the High Capacity Metro Train (HCMT) project. The project’s consortium partners – Downer, CRRC and Plenary Group – partnered with Toyota, the Chisholm Institute and Swinburne University to transition and re-skill manufacturing workers from the automotive sector.

Suppliers on the HCMT project were selected on the basis that they demonstrate a commitment to develop local manufacturing facilities in Victoria. Bogie frames works were awarded to Hofmann Engineering in Benidgo, traction motors to Times Electric in Morwell, HVAC works to Sigma in Derrimut, and Pantographs to Austbreck in Hallam.

Gibbs said the development of national harmonised standards would support higher returns on investment for these types of local suppliers and provide a base for cost-effective manufacturing innovations. “If we can secure good return on investment, it will enable companies to carry out effective innovation and not be penalised by it. The objective, in Victorian rollingstock procurements, is to eliminate peaks and troughs in procurements and create a steady and stable flow of production and returns on investment.”

Gibbs said the next steps in harmonisation would be industry engagement sessions between state government agencies and the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) early in 2019 to gather industry feedback. “We have a document that is ready to be published by RISSB, and will use the engagement sessions to introduce that document,” said Gibbs. This is will be followed by the issuing of the guidelines for bogies and windows by the relevant state agencies.

The creation of a national market for transport-related products and services is being advocated by the Victorian Government to create a long-term order pipeline across Australian jurisdictions. For this to be realised, it would have to be collaborated through the Council of Australian Governments and its Ministerial Transport and Infrastructure Council.

Skills gap threatens to derail Australia’s project boom

Australia’s rail industry will struggle to cope as demand for labour peaks in the middle of the next decade and the workforce continues to age, with some sectors forecast to lose 30 per cent of their existing workforce to retirement by 2028, according to the BIS Oxford Economics report released by the Australasian Railway Association at the end of 2018.

The ARA used AusRAIL, its peak annual event in 2018, to highlight the skills crisis challenging the sector in the near future, launching its highly-anticipated report into the skills shortage facing the region’s rail industry.

The study carried out by BIS Oxford Economics consisted of a workforce capability analysis based on planned and forecast rail infrastructure development in Australia and New Zealand over the next decade. The resulting report, Skills Crisis: A Call to Action, presents evidence that confirms what many rail industry employers had already been experiencing first-hand: Australia and New Zealand’s rail industries are facing a massive gap in their ability to provide the requisite skills for the surging investment in rail projects that are underway, or planned in coming years.

Federal and state governments across Australia have collectively committed $100 billion over the next 12 years to infrastructure projects to ensure the nation’s rail networks can bear the weight of a steadily expanding population, and the concomitant increase in demand for rail services.

Alongside this sharply rising demand for investment in rail infrastructure construction, operation and maintenance, there is also a rapidly changing technological base, which is steadily transforming the kinds of skills that the industry will require going forward.

Introducing the report at on the first morning of the AusRAIL conference last year, ARA CEO Danny Broad said that this expansion of investment in rail projects, while eminently welcome, was outstripping the current capacity to carry the necessary works – construction, operation and maintenance – to completion in a timely and efficient manner.

“We are entering into a golden age of rail, a rebirth of rail construction and development, including metros and light rail projects in our capital cities, level crossing replacement programs, and key freight projects, such as Inland Rail,” Broad said.

“But we all know, and have known for some time, that we have shortages of critical labour skills that are essential to our ability to build, manufacture, operate and maintain such projects on budget and on time.”

The ARA board commissioned BIS Oxford Economics six months ago to undertake a comprehensive workforce capability and capacity study across Australia and New Zealand to predict the needs over the next ten years, match these against the current and projected workforce, identify capacity constraints, and provide recommendations for immediate action.

BIS Oxford carried out both quantitative and qualitative research into the rail industry’s labour challenges and requirements, which involved talking to 48 different agencies and conducting several interviews with groups of people together from a range of organisations, including government and industry.

Among the findings of the study’s quantitative research is the speed at which the rail industry workforce is ageing.

Modelling carried out by BIS Oxford indicates that over 20 per cent of the existing workforce will retire by 2028, further exacerbating the strain.

“Rail has an ageing workforce, and we are going to see further skills pressures from that,” said Adrian Hart, senior economist with BIS Oxford.

“In some occupations we will see a loss of 30 per cent of the existing staff over the next decade purely through retirement. And while that’s fairly normal when you look over a decade – about 3 per cent per year – when you look at the incoming tsunami of investment in rail infrastructure over the next 10 years, it becomes clear that there is a shortage now and that shortage will worsen if something isn’t done.”

Hart, who manages BIS Oxford’s research across the building, construction and maintenance industries, took the leading role in putting together the report.

Presenting the report on the first morning of AusRAIL, he presented the audience with some of its most salient findings.

“We don’t see a peak in major transport investment until the mid 2020s. The big projects are just continuing to stack up. And, in many ways, it is a big, sudden wave of investment,” Hart said. “Politicians can often announce projects without thinking through the engineering and all the other skill sets that we need to deliver this.”

And further, in Australia, Hard said governments have not invested in a sustainable manner. Politicians invest when they are prepared to invest. “And the challenge with this is that we therefore haven’t had a nice sustainable growth path for this industry that would allow skills to develop and allow companies to have the incentive to invest in education and training when enthusiasm for investment is lower.”

Hart explained rail investment had, over the decades, been very “up and down”. The high levels of investment being seen right now are to compensate for lack of investment over many years, leading to challenges in sustaining necessary industry skills over a long period of time.


Rail Express‘s full report into the ARA/BIS Oxford Economics study will feature in the next issue of Rail Express Magazine, published later this month. Subscribe today.

Breaking the cycle: improving public transport access in the outer suburbs

Over four million people who live in the outer suburbs of Australia’s capital cities lack adequate access to public transport services, according to a new report by the nation’s independent infrastructure advisory body, Infrastructure Australia.


Australia’s population is forecast to grow by 11 million over the next 30 years, with around 80 per cent of this growth occurring in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. A large portion of the population increase will be accommodated in the fringe, low-density suburbs of these cities.

A report released by Infrastructure Australia (IA) in October 2018, Outer Urban Public Transport: Improving accessibility in lower-density areas, assesses the frequency and accessibility of public transport services in Australia’s major cities, which are experiencing a rapid expansion in their population.

Over the last several decades, these suburbs have rapidly expanded outward, with more and more people living further and further away from public transport access, rail links in particular.

This state of affairs, according to the IA report, is leading to wide-ranging problems.

“The expansion of our cities away from public transport routes, particularly high-capacity railways, has resulted in a range of challenges, particularly around access to jobs, services and leisure activities,” the report says.

According to the report, with the growth of the “knowledge economy”, high-value jobs are increasingly moving away from the outer suburbs and clustering in the centres of cities. This is compounding the congestion already experienced on urban road networks across the country.

Drawing on the findings of its recent Future Cities report, the new IA report states that accessing jobs via car will steadily become more and more difficult, while public transport is to provide an increasingly important role.

The report details a new spatial analysis which compares the transport behaviours and jobs accessibility of inner, middle and outer areas of Australia’s five largest cities. Two key trends emerge in this analysis: (1) Outer suburbs are at significant disadvantage when it comes to public transport access and face long travel times and distances to major employment centres; (2) those living in outer suburbs use public transport less frequently than those living closer to city centres, and are more likely to drive in order to access jobs and services.

The report found that approximately four million people in Australia’s five largest cities are not within reasonable walking distance of public transport services. Further, they take much longer to get to work every day: 45 per cent of people living in outer-city areas travel more than 20 kilometres to get to work, while only seven per cent of those living in inner-city areas travel as far.

And, in addition to time spent in travel, lack of access to public transport has a deeper economic and social impact. “As a result, people residing in these areas have become more reliant on private vehicles,” the report states. “Subsequently, they pay more for operating their vehicles and have less money to spend on other household expenses.”

On the release of the report, Peter Colacino, IA’s executive director of policy research, said existing transport infrastructure in major cities was outside the reach of many communities living in the outer suburbs, leading to poorer access to job and educational opportunities.

“In Melbourne, more than 1.4 million people fall into this category, with more than 1 million in Sydney and Brisbane, half a million people in Perth and 200,000 people in Adelaide,” Colacino said.

“In the past, it has been very costly to deliver public transport in lower density, outer suburban areas where houses and employment centres are typically spread over large distances. As a result, people prefer to take the most direct route by driving, rather than taking a train or bus – adding to congestion in our growing cities.”

 


One of Sydney’s newest train stations at Leppington.

 

According to the report, the absence of quality public transport options in the outer suburbs leads to the development of “vicious cycle of policy challenge” for governments. First, as public transport receives little investment in these areas, it is often of poorer quality, leading to more people preferring car transport. Second, this pattern of low-usage, and the higher costs of running longer routes through spread-out, lower density areas means governments have lower recovery costs, which makes investment less economical.

And lack of investment leads, once again, to poorer quality public transport options.

The report calls on state governments to improve the efficiency of existing transport networks and consider new models, such as on-demand buses and share-riding, to complement traditional transport modes such as rail. These models, it states, could break the cycle outlined above by providing cost-effective public transport options for people living in lower- density areas.

“If incorporated into integrated transport networks, new transport models – such as on-demand services and sharing – can provide attractive services to areas of low transport demand,” the report claims.

“Additionally, governments must focus more on encouraging interchanging between transport services and modes particularly in areas of low density, where direct services cannot be provided in a cost-effective way.”

Colacino said that this would improve the flexibility and reach of transport networks and enable them to better service communities living in outer suburbs.

“We also want governments and transport operators to do more to encourage people to transfer between public transport services, which helps to increase the flexibility and reach of the network,” Colacino said.

“This includes investing in well-designed interchanges, extending integrated ticketing systems to new modes, and introducing fare incentives that actively encourage people to transfer between modes to get to their destination.”

According to federal cities and urban infrastructure minister, Alan Tudge, IA’s report is a welcome examination of what needed to be done to improve transport access in Australia’s outer suburbs.

“Having effective public transport connections is critical in providing access to jobs and services – maintaining our cities as liveable, thriving and vibrant economic centres – and the Government welcomes IA’s contribution to this important debate,” Tudge said.

Tudge claimed the federal government’s infrastructure investment program was a step towards achieving better access in outer-urban areas.

“The Coalition are investing significantly in public transport for urban areas across Australia’s major cities as part of our $75 billion commitment to transport infrastructure,” he said. “These investments provide huge benefits for commuters in outer suburban areas who so often have to spend long periods of time stuck in traffic to get to work.”

However, according to Greens senator and transport spokesperson Janet Rice, outer suburban residents have been neglected, with successive governments failing to invest in quality public transport.

“This report shows just how successive Liberal and Labor governments around the country have failed to properly plan transport solutions for people in outer suburban areas, who are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic jams for several hours a day,” Rice said.

“People are crying out for accessible, reliable and affordable public transport. Instead we have governments throwing money into expensive, polluting toll roads that do nothing to solve congestion and mean that people living in the outer suburbs have no other option but to drive.”

Rice said investments needed to be targeted to provide a fully-integrated public transport system across different modes.

“We have to make sure public transport is planned properly. It’s not just a matter of announcing big flashy projects. We need comprehensive integrated transport plans across the country that prioritise public transport, and walking and cycling.”

The merits or otherwise of the current federal government’s transport investment program notwithstanding, IA’s new report states that governments need to ensure public transport operates as a coordinated network, rather than as a series of individual routes. “Smarter” network planning, new technology, greater availability of data and new trends in shared consumption, the report concludes, can offer an opportunity to break the vicious cycle of low accessibility of public transport in Australia’s cities.

“Governments have a broad range of policy options available to them for improving public transport in lower-density outer suburbs. As our cities grow and expand, governments will need to look at all options to ensure future generations have access to the jobs and the crucial services they require.”

ARA Smart Rail Route Map report released

The Australasian Rail Association (ARA) has released a report on long-term priorities and actions for the development of digital and telecommunication technologies within the rail industry.

Produced in collaboration with industry, and supported by the Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) and Deakin University, the Smart Rail Route Map provides a 30-year guide for helping the rail industry plan for the rapidly changing technology landscape.

The Smart Rail interim report identifies ten programs, actions and initiatives identified by industry members as high-level priorities for development:

  • Disruption management for passenger rail
  • Customised information services for passenger rail
  • Predictive journey planning techniques for passenger rail
  • Real-time information for freight customers
  • Data sharing across the supply-chain
  • Identify key data requirements for T&MN
  • AI and automation for system management
  • Management for technology legacy systems
  • Up skill the industry
  • Improve safety through advanced technology

Twelve longer-term initiatives have also been mapped out in the report.

ARA CEO Danny Broad said the map provided an overarching framework that will help prepare the rail industry for the surging “technological revolution” in the sector.

“Inherent in this is an understanding of the risks and obstacles that are likely to emerge. In a changing technological paradigm, Smart Rail provides a framework in relation to standardisation, integration and harmonisation,” Broad said.

“Smart Rail was developed by industry, for industry, with over 250 industry representatives involved in its creation. It has been fantastic to witness the high level of industry engagement.”

The Map has been developed using Deakin University’s systems-modelling approach, while the Rail Manufacturing CRC is providing funding under the federal government’s Business Cooperative Research Centres Program.

Rail Manufacturing CRC CEO Stuart Thomson said that the leading role of the industry in developing the Map would help its aims be realised going forward.

“Collaboration of this kind is the first step to ensure the outcomes of Smart Rail are implemented and will add value to Australasia’s rail industry,” Thomson said.

The ARA will be establishing an executive management committee to drive the implementation of the Smart Rail Route Map initiatives.

Rail worker manufacturing. Photo: RailGallery.com.au / Courtesy of Bombardier

AusRAIL: ARA demands action to avert skills crisis

A new report says the rail industry needs to address its fast-developing labour crisis to avoid a substantial blowout in project costs and delivery delays across Australian and New Zealand over the next 10 years.

A new BIS Oxford Economics paper commissioned by the Australasian Railway Association over $100 billion in rail spending over the next ten years will fall flat without substantial growth in fit-for-purpose training for the sector.

The report recommends the establishment of a high level taskforce of government, industry and education providers, with a three-pronged focus:

  1. To facilitate the development and maintenance of an Australian Rail Industry Pipeline of rail project to map what skilled labour will be required – suggesting the ANZIP pipeline, established by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, be adapted and refined for this purpose.
  2. To develop a National Rail Industry Skills Development Strategy to drive reform in education and training systems and practices.
  3. To boost awareness and attraction to rail careers.

“The next ten years will herald a renaissance of rail in Australia,” ARA boss Danny Broad said on day one of AusRAIL in Canberra.

“Important urban passenger projects such as the Melbourne and Sydney Metros, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, Perth’s Metronet and multiple light rail infrastructure and rolling stock investments, as well as crucial freight projects such as Inland Rail … Unless we address shortages due to market failure, attrition, and unsuitable training arrangements, projects will blow out in terms of delivery and cost.”

BIS modelling shows that at the peak of Australian rail’s construction phase, in 2023, the workforce gap may grow to as many as 70,000 people.

ARA chairman Bob Herbert says the industry needs to react quickly to this growing gap – and needs to treat it as what it is: a larger-scale issue than anything seen in recent times.

“Rail investment stagnation, start-stop funding cycles and short term cost cutting have been a feature of the Australian rail sector since the 1980s,” Herbert writes in the report’s foreword.

“One of the consequences has been the collapse in investment in training and skills development of the people to build our infrastructure and to operate and maintain first class rail services.

“This is a clear case of market failure.

“The term supply and demand is well understood in the marketplace. However, as to rail skills in the current investment environment, it is a case of ‘demand and no supply.’ This is the crisis that the report seeks to address.”

The report is available here: ara.net.au/ara-skills-capability-study

 

TfNSW assesses Sydney timetable performance in new report

Transport for NSW has released a report on the performance of the Sydney passenger rail network, 12 months on from the release of the new timetable in November last year.

The report was commissioned to examine the performance of the 2017 More Trains, More Services (MTMS) Stage 1 Timetable, with the findings to inform the implementation of future stages.

The report states that the 1,500 extra weekly services introduced with the new timetable have led to a “significant increase” in demand across all time periods throughout the day.

According to the report, the lines targeted in the new timetable – the T1 Western, T2 Inner West and Leppington, T3 Bankstown, T5 Cumberland, and T8 Airport and South lines – have seen their average passenger loads reduce slightly from 137 per cent to 127 per cent while at the same time experiencing a 4.3 per cent increase in morning peak passenger numbers. Some part of the network reportedly saw train loads drop by 47 per cent.

Approximately 70 per cent of suburban stations now receive a minimum 15 minute service frequency across most of the day, up from 29 per cent of stations prior to the release of the new timetable, while 89 per cent of passengers are able to catch a train every 10 minutes (at a mimimum) during the AM and PM peaks.

“The data doesn’t lie. We’ve had to contend with huge growth on our network- a 30 per cent increase over the last five years, and as the report shows, that trend is set to continue,” NSW transport minister Andrew Constance said.

“This report is proof that we couldn’t sit back and do nothing, this was the timetable that Sydney needed.”

According to the report, an extra 750 services on weekends and 180 late night has led to a significant increase in demand. Journeys made on the weekend (13.6%) and late night (10.7%) has outstripped AM (2.5%) and PM (3.1%) peak travel as a result of the more frequent and consistent services provided by the timetable.

“Our focus was to provide more capacity during the peak to key areas where it was needed most, as well as giving customers more services during off peak periods to respond to changing travel patterns,” said Constance.

“Customers now have more choice and more options for travel across the entire day. They’re voting with their feet and coming through the gates in droves, proving that train travel is a convenient option at any time of the day.”

Two more level crossings to go on the Belgrave/Lilydale line

Level crossings in Surrey Hills and Mont Albert in Melbourne will be removed as part of the recently re-elected Victorian government’s ongoing level crossing removal program.

The Mont Albert Road level crossing and the Union Road level crossing will be removed, with two new stations also to be constructed as part of the project.

The removals will make the Belgrave/Lilydale line crossing free between Ringwood and the CBD. Four level crossings have already been removed on the line, with works currently underway at Manchester Road, Mooroolbark and Maroondah Highway.

According to the government, preliminary engineering advice indicates that the preferred option for the removal will see the rail line go under the roads.

Approximately 22,000 vehicles travel through the two level crossings each day, a figure projected to grow to over 26,000 by 2026.

The Union Road level crossing was the site of collision in 2016 in which two people died. There have been eight recent near misses.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said the removals would make drivers safer, improve road congestion and make train travel more reliable on the Belgrave/Lilydale line.

“No government has ever removed this many level crossings so quickly. We’re reducing congestion, saving lives and creating thousands of jobs along the way – and we’re just getting started,” Andrews said.

“These level crossings are dangerous – we said we would remove them, and we will.”

The two level crossings are among 14 selected by the government for removal prior to the election. Labor announced would add another $6.6 billion and 25 crossings to the Rail Crossing Removal Authority’s charter, extending the project timeline to 2025.

The premier identified 14 of the additional 25 crossings, and said 11 more would be named in “coming weeks”.

The other 12 crossings selected for removal are:

  •    On the Sunbury line, the crossing of Gap Road in Sunbury.
  •    On the Mernda line (previously the South Morang line), crossings at Cramer Street, Murray Road and Oakover Road in Preston.
  •    On the Werribee line, the crossing of Old Geelong Road in Hoppers Crossing.
  •    On the Frankston line, crossings of Glen Huntly Road and Neerim Road in Glen Huntly, and crossings of Chelsea Road, Argyle Avenue, and Swanpool Avenue in Chelsea.
  •    On the Upfield line, crossings of Munro Street and Reynard Street in Coburg.

Geotechnical works contract awarded for Gowrie-Kagaru Inland Rail project

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has awarded a $23 million contract to Golder Associates to undertake geotechnical studies for the Gowrie to Kagaru section of the Inland Rail project.

The geotechnical studies will be used to guide strategic planning, assessments and engineering solutions to optimise designs for the 8.5 kilometres of tunnels to be built through the Toowoomba, Teviot and Liverpool ranges.

The works will also include drilling the deepest borehole for the project in Queensland—estimated to be 280 metres—to gather the necessary rock and earth samples.

Federal infrastructure and transport minister Michael McCormack said the works would provide vital information for the companies preparing bids to win the public private partnership (PPP) contract for the Gowrie to Kagaru section.

“Awarding this $23 million contract will help to generate the best possible design solution for this critically important but ground-breaking segment of the Inland Rail,” Michael McCormack said.

“The Inland Rail is a nation-building project which will still be operating and delivering economic and community benefits a century from now, which is why we are working purposefully to ensure we optimise the design and construction.

“An estimated $10 per tonne freight saving, with faster and more efficient movement of farm produce from paddock to cities, is just one of the many exciting benefits of the Inland Rail which this government is delivering.”

Finance minister Mathias Cormann said the geotechnical work would be vital to ensure double-stacked trains would be able to operate on the rail line through the ranges west of Brisbane.

“This geotechnical work will provide the vitally important technical information needed to build the 6.4km tunnel under the Great Dividing Range which will be an engineering feat driven by government and industry collaboration,” Cormann said.

“Inland Rail will create over 7000 direct and indirect jobs here in Queensland and contribute $7 billion to the Gross State Product so it’s critical we get it right and that’s something this Government knows is important to the local community.”

Feedback open for Auckland airport transport overhaul

Auckland Transport (AT) has opened up its Airport to Botany Rapid Transit project to community feedback.

The project team is to host a number of public engagement sessions in November and December 2018, to reportedly “improve and refine” plans for the proposed project. Members of the public can also provide feedback to AT via online channels.

Part of the Southwest Gateway program – a partnership between AT, NZ Transport Agency and the Auckland Airport – the first stage of the Airport to Botany Rapid Transit project involves upgrading Puhinui Station to an interchange that connects rail services with new frequent bus services to the Airport and Manukau.

These services will run on new bus priority lanes, which will be accompanied by improved walking and cycling facilities. Partly funded by the Regional Fuel Tax, the this first stage of the project is expected to be completed by early 2021.

The second stage of the project is creating a new Rapid Transit Network (RTN) from Botany to the airport via Manukau and the Puhinui interchange.

The Southwest Gateway program will also include 20Connect, a state highway project led by NZ Transport Agency to improve access to and from the airport and surrounding area on the state highway network, and long-term precinct developments at Auckland airport that improve public transport and pedestrian and cycle access.

Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison said the Southwest Gateway program would provide change the way people travel around southwest and southeast Auckland.

“By working with our project partners NZTA and the Auckland Airport, Auckland Transport is investing in a number of new public transport options to provide improved travel choices and enhanced accessibility to the airport, and its surrounding areas,” Ellison said.

“By upgrading public transport in southern and eastern locations, Aucklanders and visitors will have better travel times and more reliability.”

NZ Transport Agency’s chief executive Fergus Gammie said the program would work alongside other initiatives including Light Rail and the City Rail Link to ensure the delivery of a more connected transport network in the city.

“In the short-term, we are upgrading Puhinui Station to provide a quality transport interchange that enables seamless connections between bus and heavy rail and will then enable people to connect with a modern bus service to take them right to the airport terminal,” Gammie said.