ARTC announces major Inland Rail collaborative agreement

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has secured a collaborative framework agreement with Freight Connect (a consortium including Laing O’Rourke and FKG Group) for the delivery of Inland Rail civil works in Northern New South Wales and Southern Queensland.

The agreement will focus on an approximately 85km section between North Star in New South Wales and Whetstone in Queensland as well as a separate 14km package south of Moree called Narrabri to North Star Phase Two.

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,” Ms 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 New South Wales expected at the peak of construction in 2023-24.

“We’ve already committed 641 contracts to businesses in Queensland and 657 in New South Wales 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.”

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 New South Wales 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.

Ms Pickering said the appointment of a civil works proponent in parallel with environmental planning approvals will allow local businesses to hit the ground running when formal approval is given.

“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,” Ms Pickering said.

“This is a crucial program of civil works with approximately 100km 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.

“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.”

ARTC Inland Rail Director of Pre-Contracts, Rob Storey, said ARTC wanted to be in a place to begin works straight away, once a green light was given to proceed with the project.

“In September last year, we announced a change to our procurement process to make it more collaborative, projects smaller and less complex and provide a broader section of the industry with more opportunity to participate on Inland Rail,” Mr Storey said.

“This was done in line with the Australian Government’s commitment to fast-track investment in critical infrastructure projects and is in response to industry feedback we had received.

“We are working with Freight Connect to develop works packages as part of this approach, which will enable more suppliers and contractors to get Inland Rail ready.

“This is what industry has told us they want, and it has driven our conversations with them. 

“It will maximise opportunities to participate and de-risk procurement processes, while we engage with government on the environmental approvals and detailed design for this project.”

Second contract announced

A 50-50 joint venture between ACCIONA and CPB Contractors Joint Venture (ACACPB JV) has also been appointed as the preferred proponents to work with ARTC on the Southern Civil Works Program.

“ACACPB JV will initially be working with ARTC to review 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,” Ms Pickering said.

CPB Contractors, a member of the CIMIC Group, Managing Director, Jason Spears, said, “CPB Contractors will 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.”

ACCIONA’s CEO in Australia & New Zealand, Bede Noonan, said, “We are proud to be involved in this landmark project that will not only deliver a fast and reliable freight rail service between Melbourne and Brisbane, but also provide significant jobs and economic opportunities across northern New South Wales.

“We look forward to working with ARTC and continuing our strong partnership with CPB Contractors as we deliver critical public infrastructure projects across Australia.”

For information on Inland Rail tenders and market opportunities visit the suppliers webpage or to register your interest on the ICN Gateway.

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