Adding value

City Rail Link has redefined sustainability for the delivery of rail infrastructure projects.

The importance of embedding sustainability into a rail project from the outset may seem like an addition to the many other concerns that beset a rail infrastructure project in its early stages. However, incorporating sustainability outcomes at the beginning can have a significant impact. Even when taking the asset’s 100-year lifecycle – excluding traction power – into account, the embodied carbon in materials and use of energy in construction make up 47 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. (this figure comes from the first two contract packages – C1 and C2 – of Auckland’s City Rail Link (CRL).

From the formation of City Rail Link Limited, the crown entity jointly funded by Auckland Council and the New Zealand government, sustainability was core to the project, said Liz Root, principal sustainability advisor to the project. At the start, sustainability was on par with the other major elements of the project when Root joined the project six years ago.

“We were relatively small team of discipline project managers, all as peers, and sustainability was one of the things that we as a project were doing,” said Root.

Having come from the building and construction industry, Root was familiar with the array of codes, guidelines, and ratings, which could certify a building and construction project’s sustainability, but in moving to infrastructure, there was not the same kind of background understanding of the importance of sustainability in a project’s delivery. Early conversations in the project team focused on what sustainability meant for an infrastructure project. Although this could be seen as a disadvantage, for CRL this meant that the project team could redefine sustainability to be appropriate for their context.

New Zealand has a commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and Auckland Council has a target of zero waste to landfill by 2040. Root and the sustainability team used these goals to help define the project’s own sustainability objectives.

‘We are using the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA)’s Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) framework as a verification tool. It was a case of working with our wider project team to really understand if we just carried on as we were, where might we sit, where might our sustainability performance fall, and where can we stretch ourselves?” said Root.

These discussions were occurring as the first two contracts, C1 and C2, were progressing to early contractor involvement (ECI). Now, as the C3 stations and tunnels contracts are underway, sustainability has been embedded in the project.

“The journey has continued, and our thinking has evolved and enabled us to build an enhanced suite of requirements and expectations into the contracts,” said Root.

CRL has five focus areas within its sustainability strategy – reducing resource consumption, zero waste to landfill, social outcomes, Mana Whenua outcomes, and governance and reporting. Having begun from defining what sustainability means for the project, having these target areas within the IS framework can enable the project to provide measurable outcomes on sustainability, something that Root describes as an evolution for sustainability in infrastructure.

“Ten to fifteen years ago, sustainability was seen as full of tree huggers and hippies, and as something that was an expense, and for me, it’s been really important that the work we do is really tangible and that we calculate and demonstrate the benefits of what we’re working to do,” said Root.

“That is where the IS framework comes in. We’re setting ourselves targets in this space and challenging ourselves to reduce our footprint, to reduce our waste and here’s an independent industry body that can verify the work that we’re doing.”

Concept design of the interior of CRL’s Karangahape station incorporating traditional Māori designs and narratives.

WORKING TOWARDS OUTCOMES
While the IS Framework is an important part of CRL’s sustainability strategy, Root highlights that the tool itself is not the goal.

“I’ve worked with rating tools in the built environment and infrastructure in the UK, Australia and NZ, with mixed feelings, and from a sustainability practitioner point of view, the rating tool is not really the end point, you want to deliver better outcomes, and deliver the project as efficiently and effectively as you can.”

This approach led to CRL using the ISCA verification tool to quantify outcomes.

“We want a particular performance in the IS rating to demonstrate that we’re at a particular level in our sustainability performance. We’ve already said resource consumption and zero waste to landfill are really important so we’re going to focus our contractors on those parts of the tools, as well as the additional criteria around those areas, and ensure that it gets verified at the highest level of performance.”

Another area for CRL was making sure that the project reflected Mana Whenua cultural principles. While in NZ, under the Resources Management Act (RMA), projects such as CRL are required to engage with local Māori iwi or tribes. Since 2012, CRL had adopted a more in-depth form of collaboration with eight iwi in the Auckland area. This partnership has been structured through the Mana Whenua Forum, which is formalised in the project’s legally binding consent conditions. With CRL having adopted the IS Framework, Root was invited to present to the Forum on the project’s sustainability focus.

“At these types of presentations, people normally politely listen to what you’re saying and ask you the odd question or nod along. At the Mana Whenua Forum, I mentioned using the IS Framework, and it was not the polite nods and smiles and the odd question it was – I’m paraphrasing – ‘What are you thinking using an Australian framework?’” said Root.

“Australians are not known for their reputation of engaging well with their Indigenous people, so I came away from that meeting thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’ but it was really the start of something fantastic. It was the start of numerous conversations, numerous hui [meetings] where I was sharing detail on the IS Framework, and actually going into some of the technical nuances around the criteria. It was a two-way process where Mana Whenua shared their world view.”

These discussions have led to the project embracing Māori principles of Kaitiakitanga, which covers ensuring the welfare of the people and the environment, while also fulfilling spiritual and emotional responsibilities to the environment and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Māori view of the interconnectedness of living and non-living things. These principles then informed an adaptation of the IS Framework, which is one of the first in the world to incorporate indigenous cultural values. Within the project, the positive relationship with Mana Whenua has led to the design of stations and surrounding precincts incorporating cultural narratives. The project won international architectural awards for doing so, while also defining a process by which other projects could more deeply engage with their social and cultural context.

“Now other projects might use the same process that we used to engage with their local iwi around how their cultural considerations could be incorporated. The precedent that we set is a process of collaboration,” said Root.

CRL’s collaboration with iwi through the Mana Whenua Forum provided another lens to analyse the project, in a similar way to how the sustainability team are able to appraise work on CRL. As Root describes, having these lenses can add value to an infrastructure project.

“We are really trying to do things better, more efficiently, and more effectively. It’s a slightly different lens and some of the value is actually maybe a different way of thinking.”

Rather than an add on, sustainability within the CRL has been a tool for the project to achieve better outcomes.

“I don’t think we’re ever trying to tell an engineer how to do their job, but instead we are saying can you achieve the same outcome with a bit less waste. For example, those temporary piles that we’re designing, is that something that can get removed afterwards for reuse rather than being buried?”

With sustainability sitting at the top as an overarching goal for the project, part of the challenge is to ensure this thinking percolates down into the contractors and subcontractors who carry out the project. Root has been enthused to see this happening at all levels of the project.

“They’re suddenly doing a rejig of the C1 office space as the project changes and I’m there ready to ask that question again, ‘What are you going to do if you don’t need the desks or the chairs anymore?’ and they’ve already connected with a community group and it goes to charities to help them with their office space.”

Materials salvaged from office blocks and factories being demolished for the project have been shipped to the Pacific Kingdom of Tonga for re-use, and one of Auckland’s last remaining 19th century cottages was saved from demolition and transported to a new site 70 kilometres away.

Achieving this, however, begins at the most fundamental level, highlighted Root.

“It starts with procurement.You make it really clear in your contract what you want and, having worked in construction in the past, some of the contractors would think we don’t actually need to worry about sustainability because the client doesn’t check. We, CRL, have been a team that cares. We care about the reporting and if you look at our statement of intent and our statement of performance expectations, which are our governance documents, we report to our sponsors on sustainability outcomes.”

Just as the project looks to deliver 100 years of safe, electrically powered mobility for Auckland, the project’s scale means that in construction, it can have many generations of impact.

“We’re trying to share the learnings and talk about what value has been created so that other people can see the value in delivering infrastructure sustainably, creating a new ‘normal’. With the scale of CRL, we’re also impacting a significant portion of the infrastructure supply chain and seeing them upskill. Making it easier for the supply chain to deliver things more sustainably is a positive legacy for CRL, with benefits for the contracting industry and the wider community as well,” said Root.

Bombardier

Filling the gap

Bombardier is helping rail operators achieve zero emissions on unelectrified track with its battery electric units while slashing lifecycle costs.

One of the key benefits of rail travel to the community is its low emissions. Whether powered via overhead lines or an electrified rail, trains offer fast, high volume mobility, and if powered by renewable energy, emissions free. That is, until the wire runs out.

In Australia, nationally there is 36,064 kilometres of track, but only a small portion of that in the major cities has an overhead power supply. In New Zealand, out of the total 4,128 kilometres of track, 589km is electrified. As the non-electrified sections of the network are often outside of major urban centres, getting regional travellers to travel by train presents the issue of running higher emitting vehicles, or undertaking costly electrification works on lines that have fewer services. These factors present an impediment to the zero emissions potential of rail transport, however one that is recently being overcome.

Launched in 2018, the Bombardier TALENT 3 train is a battery-electric multiple unit to fill the gap in-between electrification of entire rail networks and continued reliance on diesel-powered units. The TALENT 3 train can provide an operator with a 30 per cent reduction in the total cost of ownership, when compared to a conventional diesel multiple unit over a 30-year service life. The train is powered by Bombardier MITRAC traction batteries and can run on non-electrified lines for distances of up to 100km. The batteries utilise recent technological innovation in fast charging and high-density lithium ion batteries which can be charged in less than 10 minutes while running on an electrified section of track, or through recuperating otherwise lost energy when the train is braking.

The research and development work that went into the TALENT 3 train was supported by the German federal government, research institutions, and regional German transport operators. Additionally, the technology behind the train was developed by Bombardier in its Mannheim laboratory in Germany. The newly inaugurated €1 million ($1.72m) facility contributed to the battery components for the TALENT 3 train. In Europe, the demand for battery electric units is increasing, as shown in recent orders for trials of the trains in multiple countries.

In Germany, the innovation involved in the development and production of the TALENT 3 train was recognised in late 2018, when Bombardier won the Berlin Brandenburg innovation award. In particular the jury singled out the role that battery electric trains could provide to Germany’s non electrified network. The train could already operate on 30 per cent of the country’s non-electrified lines, and if cost- effective electrification was done at end points, 75 per cent of lines that currently run diesel-powered services could be operated with battery power.

Commenting on the project, Bombardier’s head of sales – Australia and New Zealand, Todd Garvey, highlighted how the train would overcome network limitations.

“It was Bombardier’s goal to develop a quiet and eco-friendly train for passengers, while also offering operators the best alternative to higher emittting diesel trains on both cost and safety aspects.”

In Australia and New Zealand, where there are already proposals for the electrification of sections of regional and intercity track, the Bombardier TALENT 3 train could readily operate on lines such as the Hunter Line, a variety of V/Line services in Victoria, and partially electrified sections of track in New Zealand. However, the flexibility of battery- electric trains enables new connections to be made.

“The BEMU – as we call it – has massive potential in the ANZ market as the cost barriers to deploy widescale electrification are considerable.

“Our BEMU provides operators and governments with a zero-emission alternative to diesel propelled vehicles across their extended networks. Once the electric line runs out, the batteries kick in and the vehicle can continue running as normal for up to 100 kilometres.

“The only additional infrastructure then would be strategically placed charging stations throughout the regional network that the vehicle can plug into, to recharge the battery,” said Garvey.

“This presents big savings and reduces the need for a large-scale civil works program. These battery trains are also quieter, and this is good in greenfield residential areas, for example, where diesel trains might not be the preferred option.”

The key to realising the benefits of battery trains is their flexibility. Not only do they reduce a network’s total emissions but eliminate the immediate impact of emissions caused by the trains themselves. Emissions from diesel powered vehicles can limit their use in inner city areas and confined spaces such as tunnels. In addition, Bombardier’s TALENT 3 can achieve a significant reduction in noise, when compared to conventional DMUs.

Combining the latest in battery technology and a pedigree of innovation, the TALENT 3 provides zero emissions mobility to a much wider audience.

Major projects

Community engagement key to rail project success

The successful delivery of the $150 billion rail infrastructure pipeline is at risk if community engagement best practices are adhered to, a new report from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) has found.

With $20bn worth of infrastructure delayed or cancelled due to community opposition in the last decade, the current acceleration of infrastructure investment will need to take local attitudes into account.

Chief executive of IPA, Adrian Dwyer, said that rail has particular issues to confront in the construction and operation of infrastructure.

“Even though the construction impacts of a project may be short-term in nature, the long-term operational impacts of rail infrastructure means that social licence needs to be thought about early and often.”

The report, produced in partnership with LEK Consulting, found that to be effective, community consultation and engagement needed to be embedded throughout the project and be an active ingredient in decision-making processes.

Two major rail projects were highlighted for their effective engagement with community. The report noted that the active involvement of the community in the design of Sydney Metro and the Level Crossing Removal Project were best practice examples.

“The Level Crossing Removal and Sydney Metro projects have shown how extensive community engagement, underpinned by clear and simple messaging and genuine opportunities for co-design, can build trust and win over communities to the value of a project,” said Dwyer.

In both cases, community input led to changes in the design of the project, ongoing works were communicated clearly, and, where there was community opposition as in the case of the Level Crossing Removal Project, the benefits and costs were honestly communicated.

These case studies demonstrated the unique dynamics that rail projects will have to grapple with as further major projects are announced.

“The linear and long-term nature of rail infrastructure means the impacts are highly localised to rail corridors and station locations while the benefits are diffuse,” said Dwyer.

Achieving sustainability

Australia’s largest rail infrastructure project, Inland Rail and Australia’s largest rail freight operator, Aurizon, share how they’re meeting sustainability targets.

Successful management of sustainability- related targets requires a collaborative effort. Once the 1,700km rail network is complete, Inland Rail will be the backbone of Australia’s national freight rail network. The scale and the significance of the project creates an opportunity to set new benchmarks and standards in environmental and socio- economic performance.

Similarly, as the operator of a rail network distributed across regional Australia, Aurizon’s has the potential to contribute to sustainability in the communities in which it operates. The company’s sustainability strategy sets out that it aims to achieve resilience and resourcefulness through the transportation of bulk goods and commodities. While environmental strategies are an essential focus for both Aurizon and Inland Rail’s network, social sustainability is key facet of their approach to sustainability.

Most directly, social sustainability is promoted by both network managers in the design, maintenance and construction of rail track and associated infrastructure. As Inland Rail is transitioning from the design phase to construction, the company is primarily focused on benefiting regional towns along the alignment over the next stages of the project. Meanwhile, Aurizon is ensuring it is sustaining employment and enhancing businesses in the non-metropolitan areas of its rail network.

Creating opportunities for the development of a skilled local workforce through construction and operation is helping to deliver key national priorities for infrastructure and economic policy. In Inland Rail and Aurizon’s respective rail transport system, linking communities and strengthening the rail and national supply chain industries go hand in hand.

INLAND RAIL’S SUSTAINABLE PRIORITIES
Richard Wankmuller, Inland Rail CEO, stated in last year’s annual sustainability report that Inland Rail’s focus on social, environmental, and economic sustainability ensures the organisation is continuously striving to deliver the best possible outcomes for communities and the natural environment. Wankmuller acknowledged in the 2018-19 report that the once-in-a-generation rail project is only in its early phase, enabling Inland Rail to provide a unique opportunity to influence the effectiveness, benefits, and outcomes from its model for future rail infrastructure.

With the first stage of construction of the 103km Parkes to Narromine project expected to be completed in mid-2020, the billions of dollars invested to create the Brisbane to Melbourne rail freight network is also an investment for local communities and affected landowners to mitigate long-term economic and environmental impacts and create ongoing community benefits. With the separate sections of Inland Rail’s alignment at under varying stages of development, going forward, the sustainability program will commence annual public reporting of environmental and socio- economic benefits realised during the design and construction of the program.

According to Rebecca Pickering, Inland Rail director of engagement, environment, and property, Inland Rail is aiming to establish a new sustainability benchmark for environmental and socio-economic performance for Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) operations and the rail industry more widely. “Our engineers don’t need prompting about Inland Rail’s sustainability opportunities. Largely in this design phase, the team is driving smarter and innovative strategies that have never been seen in the industry before,” she said.

Pickering credits the wider strategic business framework of Inland Rail for empowering regional and local communities to take advantage of the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of procurement that will be generated during construction of the Inland Rail alignment. “To achieve our vision, we need to be innovative, agile and global in our thinking. Sustainability provides a framework to drive and support this culture,” she said.

Pickering said the environmental, social, and cultural outcomes are of equal importance to Inland Rail’s economic objectives. “We’ve already achieved success in managing impacts and creating connectivity in regional communities. A major chunk of recent success is the ability to provide sustainable jobs, which has been crucial during the current state of the economy,” she said. At the peak of construction, Inland Rail will create more than 16,000 direct and indirect jobs. An additional 700 ongoing jobs will be created once Inland Rail is operational. Pickering said $89 million has been spent with local businesses on-top of wages and every stage of construction is another opportunity to improve engagement and achieve ongoing sustainability.

“Not everything is set in stone, it’s a changing landscape so it’s super exciting and inspiring to connect so many regional communities. Recycling of materials, further consultation, and exceeding sustainability requirements are a focus as our strategies evolve,” Pickering said.

AURIZON’S SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Aurizon’s reporting of its environmental, social, and financial sustainability has given an insight into how the ASX-listed company is managing the impact of a widely dispersed railway network throughout central Queensland. According to its 2019 sustainably report, Aurizon is committed to continuing its strong track record in supporting a highly efficient and globally competitive supply chain for Australian commodity exports, especially for coal. Aurizon takes a direct approach to reporting environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures to stakeholders with the publication of its annual Sustainability Report. In August 2019, Aurizon maintained a ‘Leading’ rating for the fifth consecutive year from the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) for corporate sustainability reporting in Australia. Having received this rating for over four consecutive years, Aurizon has again been considered a ‘leader’ by ACSI, along with 45 other ASX200 companies.

Andrew Harding, Aurizon CEO and managing director said it’s important that the company creates a business that is not only strong commercially and performs well for customers, but also plays a positive role in the regional communities. “It is a genuine demonstration that while we develop our business and operations to ensure the company’s ongoing success, it is the strength, resilience and resourcefulness of our people that are key to our sustainability,” Harding stated in the opening to Aurizon’s most recent sustainability report.

An Aurizon spokesperson said the company’s current priority and focus is sustainably managing the business through the COVID-19  pandemic.“Understanding our material impacts is necessary to develop our strategy and operate sustainably, and that addressing these impacts is key in creating sustainable value for our stakeholders,” the spokesperson said.

Sustainability is central to Aurizon’s response to the current challenging times. “Our core value is safety, and Aurizon has implemented a range of proactive and practical measures to protect the health and safety of employees as well as provide business continuity to our customers. We cannot achieve operational performance objectives or maintain our social licence to operate unless we ensure the safety of our employees, our contractors, and our communities,” the spokesperson said.

Aurizon reset its strategic framework in 2018. Since the re-modelling to ensure the sustainable success of the business, the new Strategy in Action framework has been driving focus in Aurizon’s short-term activity within a framework of what is required for long-term growth and success. “We strive to ensure that our sustainability framework reflects significant economic, environmental, and social priorities that may influence strategic decision-making or have significant impacts on our business and our key stakeholders. As such, we continuously assess the material issues that affect our business, our stakeholders, and our operating environment,” the spokesperson said.

In taking a broad approach to sustainability, both Aurizon and Inland rail demonstrate the importance of resilient freight rail transport networks to the ongoing vitality of regional communities.

Curfew suspensions for freight should be permanent: ALC

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has called upon state and territory governments to make temporary curfew suspensions permanent.

The curfews were lifted in the early days of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to enable logistics and transport operators to rapidly restock supermarket shelves that were emptied due to panic buying.

ALC CEO Kirk Coningham said that the past months had proven the benefits of relaxed curfews.

“As governments turn their minds to policy actions that will drive economic recovery, the removal of curfews is an obvious opportunity that will be of lasting benefit to the freight and logistics sector and to all Australian communities,” he said.

“The most visible manifestation of the COVID-19 crisis for many Australians was the sight of supermarket shelves that had been stripped bare due to panic buying. The single most effective government action taken to address this challenge did not involve massive expenditure, but the stroke of a ministerial pen.”

While the curfew suspensions primarily applied to trucks making deliveries to supermarkets outside of regular hours, freight rail also has limits on movements imposed by noise restrictions.

Coningham said that removing curfews had a role to play in ensuring freight networks operated efficiently outside of crisis periods.

“This includes removing curfews on overnight deliveries to supermarkets and other retail premises, removing bans on heavy vehicles using particular routes, removing curfews on port operations and the removal of airport noise curfews that inhibit the movement of air freight.”

The ALC also highlighted that a number of behavioural changes, such as changes to public transport usage and the increased adoption of home delivery services meant that curfews no longer made sense.

“As physical distancing requirements mean fewer Australians use public transport, road congestion in our major cities will be a major challenge. Removing curfews that prevent overnight deliveries will allow freight operators to schedule more tasks during off-peak periods,” said Coningham.

“Similarly, increasing demand for home delivery of essential items including groceries is likely to be an enduring feature of supply chains post-COVID. The removal of curfews will give logistics operators and their customers greater capacity and flexibility when using the road network to meet this growth in demand.”

ATO on regional passenger trains trial to go ahead in 2021

A world-first test of automatic train operation (ATO) on a regional train line has received a prestigious award from the German government.

The German Federal Ministry of Economics awarded Alstom with the Innovation Prize for Regulatory Sandboxes for its planned trial of ATO in daily operation of regional passenger trains in Braunschweig.

The test is planned for 2021 and will be conducted by Alstom in partnership with the Regional Association of the greater area of Braunschweig, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Technical University of Berlin (TU Berlin).

Jörg Nikutta, managing director of Alstom in Germany and Austria, said the prize recognised Alstom’s focus on innovation.

“In the future, automated trains will optimize regional rail operations, reduce energy consumption, and increase ride comfort. In this way, highly automated driving will make a decisive contribution to climate protection and contribute to the development of a modern, attractive railway system. Following the development and successful testing of the world’s first hydrogen train Coradia iLint, Alstom is once again the innovative driver in rail transport with the pilot for regional trains in automated operation,” he said.

The trial will be conducted with two Coradia Continental regional trains, owned by the regional rail operator for greater Braunschweig. The trains will be equipped with an European Train Control System (ETCS) and ATO equipment to enable the trains to travel automatically.

The trial will involve two different grades of automation (GoA). In regular passenger operation the trains will operate at GoA3, meaning the trains will be fully autonomous but with an attendant who can step in if there is an emergency. In shunting the trains will be operated fully remotely, at GoA4.

Birgit Milius, head of the Department of Railway Operations and Infrastructure at TU Berlin said that the trail would be an indication of how rail will operate in the future.

“ATO, or Automatic Train Operation, is one of the most exciting challenges in the railway industry. It gives us the opportunity to shape and significantly change the operational management of the future. But a lot of research is still needed before this is the case, and I am very pleased to be working with Alstom on this project,” she said.

Findings from the tests will inform the legal and regulatory framework for ATO. Alstom will use its expertise in ATO for metro trains and research into autonomous freight trains to guide the project.

 

Recycled First building future rail projects

The Victorian government is taking a new approach to the incorporation of recycled materials in major infrastructure projects.

In February 2020, the Victorian government announced its major new waste policy, Recycling Victoria: A new economy. Covering all waste from household, commercial, to industrial, the announcement was swiftly followed by an update from the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority, applying the goals of the program to Victoria’s Big Build, than 100 major road and rail projects around the state.

Combined, the two policies signalled a new approach to waste management and resource recovery in major infrastructure works. Instead of using recycled or reused materials in an ‘ad hoc’ manner, Recycled First applied a uniform approach across the infrastructure sector, and hopes to not only drive change within the way that Victoria manages and uses its resources, but alter sector-wide construction practices.

Announcing the initiative, Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan highlighted that the size of Victoria’s construction pipeline means that an initiative such as this can have wider effects.

“Recycled First will boost the demand for reused materials right across our construction sector – driving innovation in sustainable materials and changing the way we think about waste products.”

Prior to the initiative, recycled materials had been in use in some rail projects in Victoria. A trial of sleepers made from recycled plastics is already underway at Richmond, the first time these sleepers had been used outside of low-volume tourist railways. Additionally, excavated soil from the Metro Tunnel site was repurposed to be employed as pavement layers on roads in Point Cook, a suburb south-west of Melbourne. These specific programs come in addition to other works, such as site-won earthworks and the re-use of rails, said Alexis Davison, director, program services and engineer, Major Road Projects Victoria.

“Rails and sleepers are already reused in rail projects along with recycled glass sand, rubber and steel – Recycled First takes this further by supporting research to identify emerging markets.”

The rollout of Recycled First aims to take  this a step further. So far, the program has taken a collaborative approach and has consulted with industry on its implementation. Rather than mandating a one-size fits all threshold or target for recycled content used in projects or waste that avoids landfill, the project takes a case-by-case approach.

When applied to major rail projects, the Recycled First policy will ask tenderers to ascertain what opportunities there are to maximise the use of recycled and reused Victorian materials, and once underway, report on the types, applications, volume, and source of the materials.

By flexibly implementing the policy, hopes are to stimulate innovation in the application of recycled materials and increase the quality of those products used.

“Victoria will benefit immensely from incorporating recycled content into our road and rail projects, by keeping waste out of landfill, reducing reliance on virgin materials and curbing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Davidson.

While the Recycled First initiative will apply to future projects, some of those under the mandate of MTIA have established a pathway for further innovation. On the Caufield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal Project, 50,000 tonnes of recycled crushed concrete was used and rail barriers were made out of recycled plastic content.

Recycled glass sand was used in the Koroit Creek level crossing removal and the Wyndham Vale Stabling Yard. Completed in April, the stabling yard further trialled 120 recycled plastic sleepers, the same as those being trialled at Richmond station.

In future, the project could also expand to maintenance works on transport infrastructure, providing a larger market for the use of recycled materials.

At the launch of Recycled First, Allan highlighted that the shape and implementation of the project now will lead to the sustainable infrastructure of tomorrow.

“We’re paving a greener future for Victoria’s infrastructure, turning waste into vital materials for our huge transport agenda and getting rubbish out of landfills.”

sustainability

Embedding sustainability in times of uncertainty

No longer an optional addition, rail infrastructure projects are looking to mandate sustainability as part of the project’s outcomes, and are looking to their long-term impact on people and environment.

Incorporating sustainability into the construction of a rail project may seem like an oxymoron. As rail transport gets people out of cars and into electrically powered trains, and goods off trucks and onto more efficient freight trains, isn’t rail by its very nature sustainable?

Ainsley Simpson, CEO of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA), argues that this is not the case.

“Just because it’s rail doesn’t make it more sustainable, similarly just because a wind farm produces renewable energy doesn’t mean that it’s been planned in the most sustainable way. It doesn’t mean it’s been designed in the most sustainable way, and certainly not that it has been constructed in the most sustainable way.”

Simpson’s argument that sustainability need to be a bigger focus in infrastructure construction is backed by some heavy hitters within the infrastructure sector, with Infrastructure Australia noting in its 2019 Infrastructure Audit that governments “often do not incorporate sustainability or resilience into their final infrastructure projects”.

“We do see occasionally on project or programs of work, contractual requirements or even preferred options around resilience and sustainability,” said Peter Colacino, chief of policy and research at Infrastructure Australia. “And obviously their inclusion time to time points to their exclusion the rest of the time.”

Researchers have also pointed to the emissions intensity of large infrastructure projects. In a 2017 study, researchers from the University of NSW, The University of Sydney, and the University of Melbourne found that while direct emissions from the construction sector in Australia were low, at 1.9 per cent of Australia’s direct emissions in 2013, emissions contributed by infrastructure when measured by final demand made up almost a fifth of Australia’s carbon footprint, 18.1 per cent. This calculation involved looking at not only the carbon emissions involved in the process of building, but those that were emitted in the course of manufacturing the building materials and providing other services, what’s known as embodied emissions.

In rail projects, which have a lifetime of 100 years, carbon emissions from the construction process and embodied emissions within construction materials can account for almost half of all emissions over the asset’s lifetime.

With these figures in hand, rail projects being built now are looking at how they can cut the emissions involved in construction and ensure that rail infrastructure is sustainable from all perspectives. One project that Simpson highlights as leading the way is the Sydney Metro project in combining operational, design, and construction impacts.

“Sydney Metro included all of the embodied energy and the construction materials that were being used, so they looked at using low- emission concrete and more recycled steel, which had a considerable reduction in the footprint of their project. They also had a look at how they might reduce operational energy, through design and the ways in which they operate the trainsets themselves, and then they’ve got the power purchasing agreement where they are offsetting 100 per cent of their operational energy with renewable energy. That’s a first in Australia, nothing has been done like that ever before.”

While this is a commendable example, looking across the field as a whole, Colacino argues that there needs to be greater consistency in the way that the infrastructure sector approaches thinking about the long-term future of their assets.

“A strong message in the 2019 audit is that there’s no consistent approach to resilience, and I think we’ve seen in this year – perhaps more than any year for people within the last century – just how critical resilience is, whether it’s floods that follow bushfires on the south coast of NSW, or of course the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which is affecting us now. We’ve seen this compounding impact.”

Where sustainability has been incorporated into projects, it is often because of efforts initiated at the beginning of a project or at a leadership level. While Infrastructure Australia found that until now governments were not often including sustainability, in rail at least, Simpson and Colacino have seen a greater focus on sustainability.

“We’re definitely seeing a greater consideration of social and environmental issues, and I think the challenge is around putting a cost around some of those issues and assessing them to monetise and then cost them,” said Colacino.

Simpson similarly noted a shift in the way that governments approach sustainability. “Particularly in the last three years there has been almost a doubling of emphasis and importance placed on sustainability,” said Simpson.“What we’ve seen is a significant shift for the transport sector that is largely being driven by government authorities wanting to demonstrate best practice and government wanting to ensure that social and community outcomes are being delivered by their projects.

“The way that they’re doing that is contractualising sustainability performance measurement.”

CONTRACTING SUSTAINABILITY
The shift in the way that infrastructure authorities and governments are thinking about sustainability can be seen in the sustainability reports put out with each project. No longer a catalogue of emissions reduced, or waste avoided at the end of the project, the reports are now stipulating how contractors and subcontractors are mandated to find sustainable solutions and are becoming much more of a compliance document than a public relations exercise.

As Sydney Metro outlines in its June 2019 update to the 2017-2024 Sydney Metro City and Southwest Sustainability Strategy, targets within the strategy will be embedded within contract requirements. Outcomes to be included in contracts include Aboriginal participation, apprenticeships offered, emissions and pollution, and climate change resilience.

The appearance of such initiatives in contract documents highlights how previously qualitative values have begun to be quantified. Colacino sees some more creative thinking occurring to incorporate these factors.

“If you think about quality of life and you’re considering the way that people perceive social time or access to recreational facilities, they are difficult to monetise. Therefore, we need to make sure we’re considering the range of tools that are available to improve decision-making. That means thinking about building a better evidence base about the impact of some of these themes on people’s lives.”

This ensures that the push towards sustainability does not end when the project finishes, but percolates throughout the supply chain in the practices and norms of the sector.

One way this can be measured is in the bulk of projects now receiving Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) ratings, certified by ISCA. As the CEO, Simpson oversees how these projects are able to prove that they have met standards and thresholds for sustainability.

“Three years ago, we had $65 billion of infrastructure under rating, now it’s over 170bn.”

Each state in Australia has different requirements about what projects have to measure their performance, starting at projects above $100 million in Queensland and Western Australia, projects above $50m, all state significant works in NSW and capital works above $10m in the ACT. In Victoria, where major projects such as the Level Crossing Removal Project have been split up into smaller packages, each of the packages are being rated. With all states having committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and the federal government having signed onto the Paris agreement, infrastructure will be one
area where governments are looking to find environmental outcomes.

Outside of government mandates, being able to prove and certify with an independent third body that projects are sustainable is also being encouraged by the private sector.

“There’s a shift with investors as well and they’re interested in investing in infrastructure that has got resilience and is inclusive and will drive a low carbon economy into the future,” said Simpson.

Colacino has also heard from industry that private sector funding is encouraging sustainable thinking.

“Consideration around sustainability issues are growing as a focus for investors and there’s a whole class of funds that are specifically looking for those projects.”

While large rail projects have the funding and resources to be able to implement sustainability plans and comply with audit requirements, smaller contractors carrying out smaller packages of work may not be able to commit to the same level of sustainability. Simpson looks to larger infrastructure organisations to lead the way.

“There’s going to need to be investment in making sure that Tier 2 and 3 contractors are able to deliver these outcomes and are appropriately resourced and skilled and supported to do that.”

Additionally, embedding sustainability into brownfield projects and ongoing maintenance presents another area where sustainable outcomes can be embedded into work practices, and not act as an addition.

“While we’ve got this pipeline of new infrastructure building coming up, I don’t think that we should forget the tremendous asset base that we already have and that there is some low hanging fruit in how we maintain and operate that infrastructure,” said Simpson.

Within these contracted requirements for new and existing infrastructure, what a sustainable outcome means will be distinct for each project.

For updating existing infrastructure, Metro Trains Melbourne targeted improving water consumption in 2019, and by conducting a water audit leaks were able to be found, which reduced water consumption across the network by 35 per cent.

In Auckland, City Rail Link has looked to engage with local Maori iwi, or tribes, to ensure that in its construction phase, the project benefits the local community.

Another emerging area of focus is the move to a circular economy, said Colacino.

“Increasingly, we’re seeing consideration around recycled materials, reducing the use of water in construction, sourcing sustainable products like timber, and of course there’s waste.”

Whether driven by government targets, private sector investment, or civil construction practices, sustainability will increasingly become part of all projects as a way to mitigate against an uncertain future, said Colacino.

“If you look over the long term, issues of sustainability become increasingly important. We’re existing in a rapidly changing, uncertain market and COVID-19 is the standout example of that at the moment, but cyber-attack is a key risk for many infrastructure projects and equally factors like natural hazards, fire and flood.

“As you look beyond the immediacy of delivering a project to the long-term issues of market health and community outcomes, sustainability will always be a core consideration and so it should be.”

Industry welcomes appointment of Inland Rail expert panel

Pacific National and Wagner Corporation have welcomed the establishment of an independent panel of experts to resolve concerns regarding flooding along the Inland Rail route.

The two companies have joined as part of an initial business agreement to develop a rail freight and logistics hub in Toowoomba, alongside the Inland Rail corridor.

“Expert advice and reassurance about flood modelling and engineering solutions is urgently needed for both affected regional communities and future potential investors,” said Pacific National CEO Dean Dalla Valle.

The expert panel was formed in April 2020 and seeks to understand and alleviate the concerns of landholders on the Condamine floodplain, who have raised issues with the flood modelling which guided the design of Inland Rail. The panel’s draft Terms of Reference are currently available for public comment.

Dalla Valle said that the formation of the panel and the adoption of its findings is essential to realising the estimated $13.3 billion in benefits of the freight rail line.

“Make no mistake, in the current economic climate, private sector investment along the Inland Rail route will quickly dry up if this project gets ‘stuck in the mud’ on the Condamine Floodplain.”

As a leader of a locally-based business, non-executive chairman of Wagner Corporation John Wagner said that the panel was a step in the right direction.

“I’m heartened to see the Australian Government placing a keen focus and effort on resolving any remaining hydrological and engineering issues of the Inland Rail project across the Condamine Floodplain.”

Pacific National and Wagner Corporation highlighted that once the project passes its final hurdles, the community will immediately benefit.

“Inland Rail is largely a shovel-ready project, meaning hundreds of Queensland construction workers, contractors and suppliers can be mobilised quickly to help revive regional economies hard hit by years of drought and now the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic,” said Wagner.

The partnership between Pacific National and Wagner Corporation is one example of the step change that could occur in Australia’s logistics network and supply chains. The companies are exploring the development of a rail to air intermodal terminal in Toowoomba that could export rail borne freight internationally from Toowoomba, via the Wellcamp international airport, located next to the proposed intermodal terminal. The logistics hub would also enable primary producers in the Darling Downs access to the national rail freight network, said Wagner.

“Wellcamp Business Park is the perfect place to develop a major logistics hub in south east Queensland. The Darling Downs is one of the most productive agricultural regions in Australia, while Toowoomba is an incredibly progressive and vibrant regional city.”

Dalla Valle also highlighted the community benefits that come with getting more freight on rail.

“Integrated with Inland Rail, a future Wellcamp Logistics Hub would help reduce road accidents and fatalities, traffic congestion, vehicle emissions, and road ‘wear and tear’,” said Dalla Valle.

Geotextile made from Australian recycled plastics now available

Australia’s first geotextile made from locally sourced recycled plastics is now on the market.

Developed by Geofabrics Australasia, the Bidim Green geotextile is made from recycled plastic bottles, sourced from Australian recycling bins.

The geotextile is designed to be used in infrastructure projects, including rail, and is manufactured at Geofabrics Australasia’s site in Albury, NSW.

Dennis Grech, CEO and managing director of Geofabrics Australasia, said that the product is an example of the emerging circular economy.

“Many infrastructure projects are calling for improved sustainability, and we’re the only Australian manufacturer in the market that is using recycled Australian plastics as a component of a geotextile, helping to reduce waste to landfill.

“Bidim Green has been made in Australia, developed and tested in Australia, and I am proud to lead a business that contributes to maintaining and creating local jobs and to reduce the environmental impact of our business and our customer’s projects on the Australian community,” said Grech.

Many infrastructure projects are increasingly looking to source a greater amount of their materials from sustainable sources, and in February 2020, Victoria’s Major Transport Infrastructure Project announced its Recycle First initiative, which unifies the approach to sourcing recycled products across Victoria’s $70 billion Big Build program.

Grech said that Bidim Green directly responds to such initiatives.

“Bidim Green is an addition to our world-leading Bidim geotextile range and contains Australian-sourced recycled plastics. It responds to the increasing call for greater recycled content in the construction and infrastructure industry.”

The recycled content in Bidim Green includes the polymer raw material, as well as the product’s consumables. This includes the plastic wrap and core, which are also made from locally sourced recycled plastics.

Geotextiles are used in the rail sector to separate the capping layer from the ballast layer, to provide separation and filtration in rail formation.