The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has published a rail construction tendering guide that provides advice to governments to streamline procurement for rail construction. Read more
During a three-day shutdown, upgrades to turnouts and bridges in the Hunter Valley Coal Network have been taking place. Read more
Work on the North East Rail Line will be complete in mid-2021, well ahead of their original completion date. Read more
Three consortiums have progressed to the request for proposal stage for the Gowrie to Kagaru Public Private Partnership (PPP).
The successful consortium will win the contract to build the 6.2km tunnel through the Toowoomba Range, connecting Inland Rail to the Brisbane outskirts, as well as 121.8km of above-ground track, said Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller. Read more
A new model of collaboration could be the workforce solution for a labour-constrained industry.
In 2018, after years of waiting, work began on the full electrification of the Gawler Rail Line. A critical project to modernise Adelaide’s rail network and allow for the introduction of electric rollingstock, the relatively small size of the rail sector in South Australia presented an obstacle for the project – how to get the right number of qualified people to work on the project.
An issue not uncommon to rail projects around Australia, the limited supply and ageing demographic of the rail workforce means that labour shortages are a significant issue, said Angela Henderson, national operations manager of Momentum Rail Workforce Solutions, a specialist rail services and personnel provider engaged for the project.
“The challenges are that there is really a set amount of qualified people with the correct competencies to do the roles required for this project and we need more than what there is in the pool,” said Henderson.
The specific roles that the project required were protection officers as well as stopboarders. Staff in these roles play a safety critical role in managing the traffic coming in and out of the worksite. To meet this need, Momentum joined forces with sister company rail training provider CERT Training (Centre for Excellence in Rail Training) to provide the staff with the required level of competency to work on track.
Initially, the project has focused on the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) owned section of rail, which requires specific knowledge of ARTC safe-working rules. Getting staff to this level of competency took a combination of theory and practical knowledge, said Michael Arthur, CERT general manager.
“The staff need to be trained up on the ARTC safe working rules, and the process for that is a combination of formal training in the classroom and also on-site training and mentoring them with experienced Momentum staff members
to get them to the level of knowledge and capability to perform those duties on their own.”
So far, three groups have been conducted through the program, with training for each combining in classroom and on-site instruction taking two months.
What made this project possible, was the unique combination of CERT’s training capabilities with Momentum’s workforce solution. Momentum has collaborated with a job provider to find suitable candidates, while CERT has ensured that they have the required qualifications to be on the worksite. By working with a job provider, staff have been drawn from outside the rail industry and from a diversity of backgrounds, including women, long-term unemployed, people from minority backgrounds and Indigenous people, overcoming the traditional demographics of the rail industry. On the Gawler project, this has meant for those roles covered by Momentum, staff have not had to be poached from other projects.
“What we’ve found is that we’ve been able to enlarge that pool of required people for the project,” said Henderson.
Momentum’s experienced senior employees then mentored these employees to be ready to productively complete the work required, said Arthur.
“Through the mentoring process, the trainees get to consolidate their learning, and once they’re able to prove that they are competent, we get sign off from our trainer that they’ve passed the theoretical and also demonstrated that in a practical environment, then we can issue them their qualification for safe working.”
In this program, CERT and Momentum, both companies under the Engenco Group umbrella, have been able to combine their distinct abilities.
“Together we can offer a complete workforce solution to our clients and that’s exciting,” said Henderson. “By coming together, we bring that expertise together and we offer a very good product to our client.”
As Anthony Fritsche, executive general manager – Workforce Solutions outlines, the outcome is more than a job, and more than a training qualification.
“It’s actually about offering a full pathway, when you put training and labour together you offer a whole onboarding, employment, and career development program. The full value chain in human resource solutions.”
A COLLABORATIVE WORKFORCE SOLUTION
In the case of the Gawler project, the collaboration would not have been possible without buy-in from the lead contractor, in this case Lendlease. Rather than mandating that staff have 6 to 12 months of experience before working on the project, the contractor trusted CERT’s ability to appropriately train staff before coming onto site, said Henderson.
“The way the project is structured, the new staff can work under another protection officer, and is directing them. They’re able to get the experience required through that process by having that more senior person there constantly to assist them.”
The on-site supervision is backed up by CERT’s rail training heritage, with training built upon industry experience, highlighted Arthur.
“We make sure that our trainers have industry leading backgrounds and experience in all the different disciplines that they deliver. We have subject matter experts that create the resources internally and we work very closely with operators in the industry, to make sure that everything that we’re using is current. Then we work closely with Momentum to ensure that the training programs that we have available are adequate and fit for purpose for their staff when they go out on site and meet the needs of the rail operators.”
With the staff now out on track working, there is the opportunity for them to take these skills further in the rail industry. Some will add competencies to their skill sets as the project moves from ARTC track to rail controlled by the South Australia Department of Infrastructure and Transport, while others will be able to take the skills they have learnt so far and apply them to new projects, creating a pipeline of skilled, competent and experienced rail workers.
“Having entered with no background at all, the opportunities for them to develop and work their way through the system is endless,” said Arthur. “They can go as far as they want to go.”
With the experience on the Gawler project, there is also opportunities for the model to be applied to other areas of the rail industry. Already, CERT and Momentum are working with a national freight operator to find, train and deliver drivers, terminal operators, and shunters.
“Operators recognise that there’s an ongoing demand for drivers that isn’t being met through traditional means,” said Arthur. “We’ve worked with them to put together a program now where we’ll take people with no rail background and run them through a series of training programs that includes vocational placement that will allow them to gain practical experience and ultimately the plan is to work them right through until they become qualified drivers.”
With labour shortages a critical issue for the rail sector as a whole, innovative workforce models such as this will be critical for the sector’s future.
“The traditional way of offering a dollar more than the next operator down the road to pinch their staff is a very short-sighted model and not one that’s going to be sustainable,” said Arthur.
“Whether the projects be safe working, infrastructure, or driving operations, we’re looking at programs across the country and where we can provide our clients a pipeline of staff who are new entrants to the industry. They are trained specifically for that operator in their rules and procedures, and then through Momentum, we’re able to place those people into employment. It’s effectively providing a customised, tailored workforce solution that’s implanted into a client’s business and then able to grow to meet their ongoing demand.”
Fritsche highlights that this workforce solution will be key for the rail industry to meet the demand for skills and labour.
“This model will be able to increase the pool of talent in a structured way. We’re building a fit for purpose workforce of the future through this type of model, drawing upon different demographics and because we’re providing the training, the skills, the knowledge and the employment, then we can control that whole process ensuring an effective and sustainable outcome.
The Trans4m Rail joint venture has been announced as the successful contractor for the construction of Inland Rail between Narrabri and North Star.
The $693 million contract covers phase one of the Narrabri to North Star leg, which includes upgrading 171km of existing track. A contract for phase two, including 15km of track upgrade and 2.3km of new track, will be awarded separately.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the project would be built by local businesses.
“Inland Rail is going to change the freight task in Australia and in doing so will create opportunity in regional Australia with unprecedented investment and job creation,” he said.
“This nationally significant infrastructure is being built by the skills and expertise of Australian businesses – businesses that invest locally, drive regional employment and give back to communities along this 1,700km corridor of commerce.”
Trans4m rail is a joint venture between John Holland and SEE Civil. Lendlease and another joint venture RailFirst made up of Downer EDI and Seymour White had also been shortlisted for the contract.
Local member for Parkes Mark Coulton said the winning tenderer would invest locally.
“Trans4m Rail has made a commitment to employ local people, engage local businesses and suppliers and work with communities in North West NSW to ensure the benefits of Inland Rail are felt throughout the community.”
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said that the project would enable more freight to be handled by rail.
“The upgrade of another 171km of track is another important piece in the puzzle to delivering better and quicker freight access to our primary producers in regional Australia, helping them get their product to markets in Australia and overseas with more ease.”
Coulton said that this region was already seeing greater investment.
“This project is about more than just steel tracks – we’re already seeing opportunities for industry to invest in the region through the Northern NSW Inland Port at Narrabri and the Moree Special Activation Precinct – leveraging the advantages of Inland Rail to provide long-term employment and scope for future growth.”
Transport for NSW is seeking industry involvement on the design of an integration solution for next generation signalling systems.
With Sydney Trains in the process of rolling out European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 2 signalling as part of the Digital Systems program on sections of the T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line and the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) implementing its Advanced Train Management System (ATMS) across the interstate network, interoperability will be key for the effectiveness of these technologies in enabling more traffic to run through the Sydney network. Read more
In the 2020-2021 budget unveiled by federal Treasurer Josh Frydenburg, the total infrastructure pipeline for the next 10 years grew to $110 billion, with a $14 billion increase this year. Read more
New projects and upgrades to existing technology should be considered for funding as part of the federal budget, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Caroline Wilkie has said.
With the budget to be handed down on October 6 and early announcements already coming out, Wilkie said that rail was ready to contribute to Australia’s economic recovery.
“There is a significant pipeline of rail investment that could be fast tracked to generate more jobs and opportunity to support our economic recovery,” said Wilkie.
“This is work that will make a difference right now while leaving a lasting legacy for the cities and towns that benefit from new rail projects.”
A number of rail projects are awaiting federal funding to take the next step. The Melbourne Airport Rail Link will proceed once final funding from the federal government confirmed, as can the resumption of the Murray Basin Rail Project, with a business case sitting with Canberra.
In addition to new construction, funding for technology upgrades such as the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s Advanced Train Management System, would provide long term benefits. Infrastructure upgrades such as level crossing removals are another way the federal government’s funding to rail would conitrbute to wider economic outcomes.
“At a time where we desperately need more people in jobs and more certainty for those rebounding from the economic hardships of the pandemic, we need to see more projects started sooner to build the country back up again,” said Wilkie.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack has indicated that major infrastructure projects will be part of the 2020 budget, however no particular projects have been tipped yet. The federal government has indicated that money allocated to the states for infrastructure will be needed to be spent quickly and may be a condition of further funding.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) will speed up and de-risk the procurement process for Inland Rail in a new procurement and packaging plan.
Inland Rail CEO Richard Wankmuller said the plan was developed in response to feedback from industry.
“Industry has clearly sent a message that Inland Rail needs to work more closely with project proponents to accelerate project tenders, maximise opportunities to participate and de-risk procurement processes. Doing so will deliver the greatest benefit for government, industry and small and medium regional businesses,” he said.
The plan will provide to industry opportunities on a number of projects, and the ARTC is currently seeking registrations of interest in civil works packages on three sections, Narromine to Narrabri, North Star to Border, and Border to Gowrie.
The procurement plan will cover other sections of Inland Rail, including:
- Albury to Illabo
- Illabo to Stockinbingal
- Stockinbingal to Parkes
- Narromine to Narrabri
- North Star to NSW/QLD Border
- NSW/QLD Border to Gowrie
- Kagaru to Acacia Ridge and Bromelton
Wankmuller said that the project has opportunities for large and small businesses.
“By investing now and getting tenders out faster, this mega-project is offering tender packages ideally suited to a range of suppliers and contractors, big and small,” he said.
“Inland Rail is also being predominantly delivered – 90 per cent – in regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland away from the overheated metropolitan infrastructure markets meaning there is greater opportunity for regional Australia to reap the rewards.”
Chief Executive of the Australian Contractors Association Jon Davies said the procurement approach improve social and economic benefits that come from investment.
“It has never been more important for industry and Clients to work together collaboratively in order to efficiently deliver projects and leverage their social and economic benefits”, he said.
“We welcome ARTC’s new approach to procurement and our members look forward to working with ARTC and the Inland Rail team as these new opportunities arise in coming months.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the works packages would spread the benefit of the project.
“Inland Rail’s construction is providing a boost for local businesses and communities at a time it’s most needed,” said McCormack.
“By dividing this nation-building project into smaller parts, more local businesses can bid for this valuable work, contributing to Australia’s future.”
Construction of the Parkes to Narromine section was recently completed, and a contract for the construction of Narrabri to North Star is expected in the coming weeks.