ARTC to unite New South Wales and Queensland through Inland Rail border project

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 New South Wales and Southern Queensland.

September 21, 2021

Two workers standing beside the rail line

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 New South Wales 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,” 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.

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.

Mrs 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,” 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,” Mrs Pickering said.

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,” he said.

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

Editor’s please note: # This section required a separate Environmental Impact Statement and was not approved when the remainder of the Narrabri to North Star Phase 1 package was tendered and delivered.

Central Civil Works Package facts
Length Approximately 15km of new rail corridor and 83km of existing rail corridor. 51km of standard gauge and 47km of dual gauge.
Constructed by Freight Connect
Shovels hit ground 2022
Estimated workforce 500 workers
Structural cut 200,000m3
General fill 2,200,000m3
Bridge crossings 20 rail bridges (including 1.7km bridge over Macintyre River and Whalen Creek)
Crossing loops Two (each 2.2km long)
Public level crossings 16 public road level crossings (eight in NSW, eight in Qld)
Grade separations Three rail-over-road

September 21, 2021