Precast keeping rail projects on track

National Precast member Precast Concrete Products has played a prominent role in the construction of Queensland’s new cutting edge rail facility in Wulkaraka.A new state-of-the art rail facility is keeping the rail industry in Queensland on track. The New Generation Rollingstock Train Maintenance Facility will see a significant increase in southeast Queensland’s train fleet. As part of the project, a $190 million dollar maintenance facility is being constructed at Wulkaraka in Ipswich.

The purpose-built facility has been designed to maintain the current train fleet, as well as future-proof for the additional train capacity.

Alongside the Wulkuraka Maintenance Centre, additional works include a new section of rail line that will connect the maintenance centre to the existing rail line and a new pedestrian footbridge at Wulkuraka station. New stormwater systems will also be installed to improve local drainage.

Project converted from in-situ to off-site manufactured precast

Brisbane precast manufacturer and National Precast member Precast Concrete Products was contracted by the internationally recognised, multinational construction company Laing O’Rourke for this project. With more than 40 years’ experience in the industry, and with six dedicated production factories, the precaster had the proven track record required for such an important project.

While the original design specified in-situ concrete, the team at Precast Concrete Products worked with the Laing O’Rourke team to redesign the project as a more effective precast solution.

The precaster’s General Manager Colin Ginger says a precast solution made all the difference.

“Laing O’Rourke’s ethos involves using as many off-site manufactured products as possible in their projects and they won this contract on the basis of their precast solution.”

Precast pits, trenches, stairs and wall panels

The Wulkaraka maintenance facility project is a good example of the versatility of precast concrete in both civil and structural applications. Precast Concrete Products manufactured 12 jacking pits, 88 service trenches, 40 sets of entry stairs and 150 wall panels for the project.

Measuring 4.3 metres by 3.8 metres plan size by 3.8 metres tall, the casting of the 12 jacking pits was somewhat unusual. “They were such large units that we cast them differently,” explains Mr. Ginger.

“We used a super-workable concrete to improve flow and finish, and the result was an extremely high quality product.”

When it came to installation of the pits, they were carefully placed into pre-dug holes.

Mr Ginger highlights safety as a key factor in the decision to cast these huge pits off site, suggesting that if they’d tried to make the jacking pits on site, it would have taken much longer and been much more difficult due to the constraints of working below ground in a confined space.

The 88 service trenches manufactured for the project demanded precision and were specified with extremely tight tolerances. Measuring 8.4 metres long and 850 millimetres high, the thousands of bolts that were cast in to the trenches had to be 100 per cent accurate to bolt on to the train tracks above.

Mr. Ginger explains that factory-controlled environment of the precast factory assisted in achieving the required accuracy. “It would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to consistently achieve the same result in-situ,” he says.

Forty sets of entry stairs were also manufactured, as well as grey walls for the service buildings.

The Precast Concrete Products team spent eight months manufacturing the specialised and tight tolerance precast elements. The use of precast allowed Laing O’Rourke to safely install the units within the limited installation windows that are notorious with rail projects.

Early engagement of precaster simplifies build and saves time

Precast Concrete Products supplied all of the precast elements for the project and worked in partnership with Laing O’Rourke to optimise construction efficiencies.

Mr. Ginger says using precast concrete instead of an in-situ pour simplified the process and saved significant time, and the lead time his company had was a key to the project’s success.

“Dealing with one supplier can make the builder’s life easier, and in this case we saved them time too.

“Because we were awarded the job at the outset, that meant we could get the drawings done, start designing and manufacturing ahead of time while the earthworks and site preparation were underway. That meant we didn’t keep the builder waiting,” he says.

On budget and delivered early

The project was successfully delivered to budget and handed over six weeks ahead of the planned completion date. Laing O’Rourke attributes this to the use of digital engineering and the use of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) principles together with off-site manufacture.

So impressive was the outcome that the project received the Smart Infrastructure Project Award for Innovation at the 2016 Infrastructure Partnerships Australia’s National Infrastructure Awards.

Further benefits for commuters

The project’s speedy construction had further benefits for commuters.

Rail technology leader Bombardier says the new facility allows same-day service for any train maintenance issues that arise. That will translate to better service for commuters in the south east of Queensland. The maintenance centre officially opened in February 2016.

Quality, durability, fast and cost savings for sustainable construction

With a high-quality, low-maintenance, durable and long-lasting result which was built to maximise construction efficiencies, the Wulkaraka maintenance facility project is a key example of how precast concrete contributes to sustainable construction. Its benefits deliver not only to the environment, but to the economy and communities as well.

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