As Martinus Rail has experienced tremendous growth, a constant remains its local ownership and investment.
Martinus’ in-house approach is de-risking rail construction.
Having stepped up from a product supply business into a rail construction outfit, the young upstart of the Australian rail construction industry decided three years ago to head out on its own with the purchase of major multi-million-dollar pieces of machinery.
“The business has only been delivering construction projects for around eight years,” said Martinus chief operating officer Ryan Baden. “For the first part of five years, we would be relying on other people’s plant and equipment to do the final piece, mainly tampers, regulators, and flash butt welders. We had grown to a position where it was only the large, tier one contractors that had these pieces of equipment and we were now competing with them.”
To de-risk construction projects it was working on, Martinus made the decision to purchase the plant, machinery, and equipment and recruit their own team to overhaul and maintain the growing fleet.
“It’s essentially about de-risking project delivery and overall business risk ,” said Baden. “We control all the pieces of the puzzle; we recruit all of our own labourers, engineers, and supervisors, plus our strong financial position and current project pipeline means we can significantly invest in our own plant and machinery.
“Our next goal was to purchase our own ballast trains – that has really changed everything for us, it solidified our end vision of having the largest fleet of specialised rail equipment in Australia, all the while ensuring we were well equipped to deliver upcoming projects and maintain full control of logistics and maintenance.”
For any major rail construction project, having a few pieces of bright yellow kit is not enough by itself, there needs to be a level of logistical and rail safety knowhow to ensure that the kit is fully operational, at the right place, and at the right time.
“In the past, particularly for the product supply side of the business, we were using freight forwarders and received good service, but the plan for some time has been to bring it all inhouse.”
As the fleet grew, so did the team. Martinus hired logistics manager Jason Gibson who has previously worked for a large mining company. The vertical integration of Martinus’ supply chain has worked before and is now even more enhanced by their inhouse experts.
The value of these investments was realised straightaway, said David Van Hoos, national plant and asset manager for Martinus.
“The first tamper we secured was mobilised as part of the Gold Coast light rail project Stage 2. We were able to quickly bring it up to site specification and employ our own operators and fitters, we gained flexibility to adapt to program changes and minimise any potential interruptions or delays that may have occurred relying on external suppliers.”
With the successful implementation of the first piece of major plant and several large- scale projects in the pipeline, it made good business sense to create a standalone plant department dedicated to servicing their own rail projects. This has also increased Martinus’ capacity and capability to become a consistent and reliable interface on major rail and civil construction projects.
“What we’ve found is clients are looking to de-risk themselves around interfaces on sites,” said Baden. “In the past, clients would bring us in to deliver the track, someone else to complete the overhead wiring, and another contractor for signalling – that’s three different interfaces for them to manage. With extensive rail knowledge and strong project management skills, the next step to further add value for our clients was bringing in subject matter experts to handle the overhead wiring, signalling and comms as part of the Martinus team.”
THE DEVELOPMENT OF A RAIL-DEDICATED PLANT DEPARTMENT
Having established the plant department, the team under Van Hoos’ leadership has grown to include a maintenance team of 15 fitters, project managers, engineers and support staff.
“Our fitters are key to the success of the plant department, we’ve selected them based on their industry experience, but to build on that experience we’ve also recruited electrical and mechanical apprentices to build a diverse and well-rounded team for the future,” said Van Hoos. “It’s great to be able to invest in the younger generation and teach them everything we know about rail.”
Rather than swelling in size for each individual project, the team at Martinus are employed full-time to ensure that the business can deliver on any of the major projects it is engaged on. Being solely focused on rail has contributed to the energy and enthusiasm in the workshop, said Van Hoos.
Supplementing the skilled tradespeople are local suppliers, when needed. Currently, Martinus is constructing the Carmichael Rail Network (CRN), in Central Queensland, and has just engaged a local Mackay business in a $1 million contract to fabricate the metal framework for the supply consist behind Martinus’ tracklaying machine. Staying in touch with locals has also come in handy as border restrictions have limited the movement of people across Australia and New Zealand. Martinus have engaged Harsco to build two continuous track lifters (CTL), who are local to Martinus’ main plant department in Brisbane. The CTLs are being fabricated and manufactured locally.
“The border restrictions have also forced us to look outside of the rail industry to build our team,” said Van Hoos. “We have employed members from the military, electricians from the automotive industry, and fitters from the mining sector all led by experienced industry leaders – this diverse mix adds another level of knowledge and bring a unique set of skills to our team.”
“With travel restrictions in place, it’s been a great advantage to have Harsco close by as we’ve been able to have regular progress visits and factory acceptance testing at Harsco’s workshop. Any issues can be resolved very quickly, and seeing the production in the workshop first-hand has also been a bonus.”
MULTIGAUGE AS STANDARD
While the CRN and another project that Martinus is currently working on, the Forrestfield Airport Link are narrow gauge, the team are mindful that having dedicated narrow gauge plant and equipment will limit where it can work in Australia, New Zealand, and internationally.
“We operate an international rail business that works across three different gauges and probably about 20 different railway networks. Van Hoos and the in-house rollingstock engineers work closely to ensure that our build specification enable us to move the machinery around safely, quickly and efficiently,” said Baden.
In terms of the equipment that Martinus has purchased, which in addition to ballast wagons and the continuous track lifting machine also includes a sleeper laying machine, a track laying machine, four tampers and four ballast regulators, six flash butt welders among other pieces of plant, all are designed to be used across multiple projects.
“When purchasing plant, be it new or second-hand, we have been focused on gauge convertible plant which ensures the flexibility from one project to the next,” said Van Hoos.
Being able to move between standard and narrow also allows Martinus to work on shorter jobs on metropolitan networks.
“Soon, we will be taking delivery of 40 ballast wagons, two continuous track, six flash butt welders on hi-rail trucks – all brand new, gauge convertible equipment ready to go,” said Van Hoos.
This fleet is complimented with six locomotives that Martinus purchased from KiwiRail.
“It was perfect timing for Martinus that KiwiRail were renewing their current locomotive fleet. The gauge and specifications of the locos were aligned to our requirements for CRN” said Van Hoos. “These locomotives will be used for construction only to haul our ballast and sleeper wagons.”
While the fleet sets Martinus up for any number of projects around Australia and New Zealand, as the past year has shown, there are any number of unpredictable events that could occur in the meantime and require new thinking to ensure projects get over the line. In New Zealand, where Martinus has a contract to provide flash butt welding services to its Woburn depot and around the network. Of course, getting people there has not been possible so Van Hoos has come up with a unique fix.
“We’ve come up with a solution to train a local operator via video link under the supervision of our project team in New Zealand. One of our Australian based operator/fitters has been providing non- stop online training for carefully selected Martinus fitters and operators in New Zealand. This initiative has allowed us to continue on despite travel restrictions and resulted in minimal delays to KiwiRail’s re-railing projects.”
Martinus is ready to look at rail construction in a different way.
The Australian Owned Contractors (AOC) group has announced that Martinus Rail has joined the collection of mid-tier contractors.
Martinus is the first company to join AOC that is solely focused on rail infrastructure projects.
CEO and managing director Treavan Martinus said that it was more important than ever that investment in infrastructure flowed to local contractors.
“The Australian construction industry has always played an integral role helping bolster the economy during uncertain times,” he said.
“With the Australian government expected to inject more than $100 billion to deliver various infrastructure projects across Australia, there should be more pressure for them to delivered by Australian companies to keep profits here, rather than offshore.”
AOC, led by CEO Brent Crockford, advocates for major infrastructure projects to be delivered by companies that are majority Austrlaian-owned.
“All AOC members are united in the fight to push change to procurement processes for our largest taxpayer-funded projects,” Crockford said.
“Across the country multi-billion-dollar tender packages are bundled to favour big foreign owned Tier One construction firms and this needs to end.”
AOC has called for large infrastructure projects to be broken up into smaller packages to allow a greater number of firms to bid for projects and for industry sustainability criteria to be applied to major public infrastructure projects.
With rail projects expected to play a large part in post-COVID-19 stimulus plans, Crockford said that procurement for these big-ticket items should be reformed.
“If we are to have any hope of growing domestic skills and allowing Mid-Tier Australian-owned businesses to grow and evolve into our new leading Tier One players, then we need practical action to reform procurement on major projects to encourage more work and less barriers for our Mid-Tier contractors.”
Martinus said that the benefits of a locally owned contractor meant that more money stayed within Australia.
“One hundred per cent of our profits are reinvested into the Australian economy and being Australian owned, we continue to invest in our growth – both in terms of capability and capacity – to deliver Australia’s largest infrastructure projects,” he said.
“We are looking forward to working with the AOC to advocate for change and in turn safeguard the Australian economy for future generations.”
Martinus is about to begin piling works for the first bridge on the Carmichael Rail Network.
Already, construction of the first of many waterway crossings has begun while bulk earthworks continue.
Chief operating officer Ryan Baden said the project involved a number of civil construction processes.
“We are delivering the port-side civil works, which is around 86 kilometres of the earthworks formation with 10 multi-span superstructures – one that spans 50 metres, 87 culvert structures and three-million cubic meters of cut to fill.”
To prepare the rail for installation, on-site flash-butt welding is taking place.
Martinus has 300 staff on site working on the project and is looking to involve locals wherever possible.
With tunnelling complete on the Metronet Forrestfield-Airport Link project, tracklaying has now begun along the 8-kilometre-long tunnels.
Martinus Rail will install the 40 kilometres of rail needed to form the track in each tunnel, along with tie-ins at Bayswater and stowage at High Wycombe.
The first kilometre of track has already been laid, and Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said that this was a significant milestone on the project.
“Tracklaying is one of the final major events on the construction of a rail line – it’s an exciting milestone for this $1.86 billion project, with more than 2,400 tonnes of Australian-made steel being prepared.”
WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said that the project was coming together.
“We’re at an exciting time for this major infrastructure project – the tunnel-boring machines have finished creating our tunnels, our three new stations are taking shape and tracklaying is now underway.”
The 27.5m long pieces of steel are flash-butt welded into 220 metre strings. The Martinus teams have been working simultaneously to weld the rail, transport it and lay it along with the sleepers to form the skeleton track, before concrete is poured to complete the slab track.
Other work is also underway to install the overhead line equipment and the communications and signalling systems.
Roughly 100 jobs are supported by the tracklaying and rail infrastructure stages of the project.
Once complete, the Airport Line will link the Perth CBD with the airport and the eastern suburbs, including Redcliffe and High Wycombe. Thousands of commuters expected to use the rail link each day when trains begin running in late 2021.
The contract for civil construction works on the Carmichael Rail Network has been awarded to BMD.
Mining company Adani announced that the $350 million contract would include earthworks, drainage, bridges, rail camp construction, and road upgrades to connect the Adani mine site to the Central Queensland Coal Network.
The announcement is the second civil works contract awarded for the Carmichael Rail Network, with Martinus delivering a separate package of work.
Adani Mining CEO Lucas Dow said that the local company would be suited for the job.
“BMD is a proud Queensland company and we’re thrilled to have them on board and delivering the largest package of works awarded on our project,” said Dow.
“As people will already know BMD has operated in North Queensland for more than 25 years, with Townsville forming their regional base for delivery of this contract.”
Dow expects the works to create 600 jobs.
Scott Power, group executive director – operations at BMD said that local suppliers and communities would benefit.
“At a time when jobs across the country are hard to come by, this project is generating much needed employment opportunities for locals and locally based suppliers in north and central Queensland,” said Power.
“The award of this contract is recognition of the capability and capacity of Australian contractors and provides a boost for our teams, supply chain and the communities in which we operate.”
In total, 200km of rail will be constructed, comprising 26,417 tonnes of steel and 319,000 sleepers. The line will progress over 460 culverts, 17 bridges over waterways, 2 road over rail bridges, 68 crossings, and local road upgrades.
Adani has awarded the civil construction contract for the Carmichael Rail Network to Martinus.
The $220 million contract includes 86km of rail formation works, a road over rail bridge, nine waterway bridges and over 200 culverts and 35 rail crossings.
The rail project extends for 200km of narrow gauge rail linking the Carmichael Mine to existing rail infrastructure.
Measures in line with coronavirus (COVID-19) precautions have been put in place, said Adani Mining CEO Lucas Dow.
“We’re following all advice from Queensland Health and the federal government and doing all we can to keep our people and the community safe,” he said.
“We also understand how important it is to continue our operations where safe and practicable to provide certainty of employment for our staff and contractors.
“I want to make it clear that the health and safety of our staff is our first priority, however where we are able to continue to operate safely and in line with advice, we will do so.”
Social distancing measures, health screening, and increased hygiene practices are part of the efforts to prevent any spread of COVID-19.
Adani awarded a previous $100 million contract for track works. To date, the first rail camp is complete, with a second under construction and a third about to begin. Across the entire 200km network 26,147 tonnes of steel will be used and 319,000 sleepers will be laid. The entire project will include 460 culverts, 17 bridges over waterways, two road over rail bridges, 68 railway crossings, and local road upgrades.
The workforce for the project will be based out of Rockhampton and Townsville.
Martinus is half owned by Malaysian contractor Gamuda, which indicated in a press release in October 2019 that it was seeking to further enter the Australian rail market. Gamuda has also set up a local subsidiary, Gamuda Engineering Australia.
Adani Mining awarded a $100 million rail contract to Martinus Rail, after Martinus was 50 per cent acquired by Malaysia’s Gamuda Berhad.
Under the contract Martinus Rail will build a 200-kilometre rail link from the $2 billion Carmichael mine to Aurizon’s Central Queensland Coal Network, facilitating passage to Adani’s export facilities at Abbot Point.
Upon its 50 per cent acquisition of Martinus, Gamuda announced it would immediately begin bidding for $20 billion worth of construction projects in Australia as part of its plans to leverage Australia’s $300 billion infrastructure development pipeline. Gamuda’s joint venture partners have previously worked with the India-based Adani in Asia.
“We are keen to now get started and looking forward to partnering with numerous local Rockhampton and other regional Queensland businesses and people to get our part of the project under way,” said Martinus Rail managing director Treaven Martinus.
Adani Mining chief executive Lucas Dow said the company had now awarded more than $450 million worth of contracts for the Carmichael project, in the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland.
According to a media release from the federal minister for resources and Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, the company also announced it was establishing a business centre in Rockhampton, Central Queensland.
“[The] new Rockhampton Business Centre will support recruitment and local business contracting for its Carmichael Project mine,” said the government statement.
“I spent years fighting for the Adani project because it means delivering jobs and economic activity for regional Queensland. These announcements are more proof in the pudding,” said Canavan about the announcement.
Environmental activists have been holding weekly protests in front of the offices of companies involved in the Carmichael coal project and are expected to target Martinus Rail.