Civil works for Inland Rail ‘missing link’

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has harnessed the skills of multi-national construction firm Laing O’Rourke for the delivery of civil works for Inland Rail sections in Northern NSW and Southern Queensland. 

The collaborative framework agreement between the ARTC and Freight Connect (a consortium led by Laing O’Rourke and including FKG Group) will focus on an approximately 85km section between North Star in NSW and Whetstone in Queensland as well as a separate 14km package south of Moree called Narrabri to North Star Phase 2.   

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,” 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 7500 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.” 

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 NSW, 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 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 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.” 

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,” Storey said. 

“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.” 

More reading

Business case for Inland Rail extension

First steps towards Inland Rail in Queensland 

Work continues on Narrabri to North Star line

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