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ARTC signs $2.4B in contracts for critical Inland Rail sections

Senior Inland Rail executive departs
Narrabri to North Star Inland Rail track construction
Narrabri to North Star Inland Rail track construction, September 2021. Image: ARTC.

The Inland Rail project has achieved a new milestone with the award of two major civil works contracts for critical sections of tracks in New South Wales and southern Queensland.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has signed a collaborative framework agreement (CFA) with the ACACPB Joint Venture, a 50-50 joint venture formed by CPB Contractors and ACCIONA Construction Australia, for the planning and development of civil works  between Narrabri and Narromine in northern New South Wales.

Inland Rail will upgrade 1,100 kilometres of existing rail line and build 600 kilometres of new track to connect missing links between Melbourne and Brisbane. The project is being delivered in 13 sections across 36 local government areas, with the 306 kilometres section between Narromine and Narrabri making up the longest section of track.

The civil works involved include approximately 306 kilometres of new track formation comprising bulk earthworks, drainage, bridge/viaduct structures, materials and logistics management. Subject to planning and environmental approvals, ARTC anticipate that construction activities on this works package will commence late 2022, worth approximately $1.2 billion.

Separately, ARTC has also signed a collaborative framework with Freight Connect – a consortium led by Laing O’Rourke and including FKG Group – for approximately 100 kilometres of civil works from Narrabri through to North Star and across the border to Whetstone in Queensland.

The section will focus on approximately 85 kilometres of existing rail corridor between North Star in New South Wales and Whetstone in Queensland as well as a separate 14 kilometre of new rail corridor south of Moree called Narrabri to North Star Phase 2. Subject to planning and environmental approvals, ARTC anticipate that construction activities on this works package will commence mid 2022, worth approximately $1.2 billion.

ARTC Inland Rail Interim Chief Executive Rebecca Pickering said the announcement was the culmination of months of work by ARTC and was a crucial part of the project as it delivered the ‘missing link’ between the two states where no previous rail line existed.

“Inland Rail is a fast freight backbone that will transform how goods are moved around Australia – it’s also a catalyst for regional employment and economic opportunity,” Mrs Pickering said. “Both sides of the border will benefit significantly from Inland Rail with more than 11,800 direct and indirect jobs in Queensland and 7,500 in NSW expected at the peak of construction in 2023-24.”

“We’ve already committed 641 contracts to businesses in Queensland and 657 in NSW worth more than $1.95 billion across the two states, and this agreement will create even more economic stimulus as the country recovers from the impacts of the pandemic,” she said.

CPB Contractors Managing Director Jason Spears said CPB Contractors would use its extensive regional experience to ensure that opportunities for local suppliers are maximised and that jobs for local workers are created.

“We are delivering major rail projects across Australia and will work closely with the ARTC to ensure that these works are delivered to schedule,” Mr Spears said.

Laing O’Rourke Managing Director Cathal O’Rourke welcomed the announcement confirming the business, together with its partner FKG Group, was committed to delivering the project in partnership with local business and leaving a legacy in each of the local communities along the alignment.

“Our business has long and deep relationships in both Queensland and NSW stretching over 50 years where we have delivered a number of major projects and we are delighted to be granted the opportunity to play our part in this once-in-a-generation piece of infrastructure,” Mr O’Rourke said.

“Major construction will not start until statutory approvals have been received from the New South Wales, Queensland and Australian governments, but the appointment of a preferred proponent now tells local businesses to get ‘Inland Rail ready’ and start talking with Freight Connect about what the future looks like,” she said.

“This is a crucial program of civil works with approximately 100 kilometres of rail corridor within the southern end of Border to Gowrie, North Star to Border and Narrabri to North Star sections of Inland Rail, including the bridge that spans the Macintyre River which serves as the border between the two states. We will also need a large local workforce to support this part of the project with an estimated 500 workers needed at the peak of construction,” Mrs Pickering said.

Freight Connect will initially be working with ARTC to review the reference design and develop construction plans and methodologies ahead of the development of a fully costed proposal for the first of the works packages next year.

“Freight Connect will soon be seeking partnerships with businesses and skilled operators that can support project delivery such as transport operators, fencing, quarries, earthworks and electrical companies. This appointment at this time also allows them to maximise local jobs and procurement,” Mrs Pickering said.

Earlier this month, ARTC had also signed an agreement with a locally owned and operated joint venture in Queensland for civil works within the Border to Gowrie section.

The Australian Government is investing up to $14.5 billion in equity for ARTC to build Inland Rail, in partnership with the private sector. Inland Rail is expected to deliver an economic boost of more than $18 billion to GDP during construction and the first 50 years of operation.

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