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EEJ: Inside an Engineering Enterprise

New Generation Rollingstock, Queensland

Delivering a state-of-the-art rail maintenance centre on a constrained site where 30km of in-ground services and ten railroads converge is nothing if not complex. But, as part of the Queensland State Government’s largest ever single investment in rail infrastructure, there can be no room for error.

Queensland is home to ten of Australia’s 30 largest cities, and is the nation’s third largest economy. Every day, thousands of people rely on southeast Queensland’s rail network. With an ageing network, and numbers using the trains expected to rise by nearly 50 per cent by 2020, it was essential to increase rail capacity and reliability in the region.

In its largest ever single investment in trains, the Queensland State Government has purchased 75 new six-car train sets and associated maintenance for its New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) programme in a deal worth AUD$4.4 billion. A consortium trading as Qtectic, comprising Bombardier Transportation, John Laing and ITOCHU is delivering the assets, which alone will lift rail capacity by 30 per cent. The scheme is being financed using a public private partnership (PPP) arrangement. Under this model, the majority of the project is financed by the consortium, with the government financing a smaller portion of the costs.

As well as designing and constructing the trains, the consortium will provide the associated maintenance services for 30 years and is constructing a purpose-built maintenance centre at Wulkuraka, near Ipswich, west of Brisbane. The AUD$200 million design and construction of the maintenance centre has been awarded to Laing O’Rourke. Service on the network will commence from mid-2016. The train fleet will be progressively rolled out onto the network until late 2018.

The site has ten railroads running into it altogether, with six leading to the maintenance centre: one wash bay, four service bays and one for train jacking that includes specialist equipment that can lift a whole 200-tonne train off the rails for inspection and maintenance and replacement of bogey sets. Other elements include a wheel lathe building, stabling yards, a drivers’ facility, a stores building, car parks, catering and administration offices. The project also includes track, signalling, electrification and overhead wiring.

‘People talk about the holy trinity on rail projects – track, overhead electrics and signalling,’ explains Paul Barrie, Laing O’Rourke Project Director. ‘Here, the holy trinity is building, civils and rail on one site. It’s mostly a building project – based on project value. However, we have to make sure that the exacting standards of rail design, safety and quality assurance are met. On top of that, our biggest risks on this project came from the civils side. There’s nearly 30km of in-ground services, and these have had to be coordinated into a very tight site.’

In addressing this design conundrum, Barrie and Design Leader, Ingo Peltz, turned instinctively to digital engineering and DfMA. But, while this seemed the ‘logical’ solution, it was not, at the outset, the easiest. ‘There were challenges,’ admits Barrie. ‘In the UK, we have a number of manufacturing facilities and an embedded culture around that. Here, we can’t rely on an established local factory and, of course, the distances are much greater. Also, when we commenced work on the project, the design concept had been more or less approved. This is a PPP procurement model and, in such contracts, change is not generally embraced. So we had to create something within that context.’

The construction sector in Queensland was also not accustomed to collaborative working on this scale nor the benefits of sharing a federated 3D model among all partners in the team. ‘We had to explain how such an approach was going to bring advantages and allow people to see the value of that as time goes on,’ says Barrie. ‘We started by laying out the strategies for the project in work sessions and set these down with the team from the outset. One of the big successes on this project has been the high level of collaboration and communication. Everyone is clear about what it is they are doing. It’s great saying we are going to adopt digital engineering and DfMA but what does that mean for the programme, how will you procure the supply chain to deliver it, what is the impact on industrial relations, contract management, health and safety, and so on? By setting the scene at the outset, you take the whole team on the journey.’

Over time, the team saw the advantages of the digital engineering approach – for clash detection, the ability to look at the programme as a heat map for progress reporting and analysing the critical path in the model space. One of the primary benefits was the ability to use the model as a visualisation tool for the client and to interface with Bombardier’s asset and maintenance services, as well as the ongoing design of the trains themselves.

‘Adoption of the model is not about design management. It’s not about contract management. It’s not about digital engineering or DfMA. It’s all about risk management and providing surety and certainty for the client,’ says Barrie. ‘What are your risks, how do you deal with them and how do you mitigate them?’

Using the model for clash detection on what is a long, narrow site has proved crucial. ‘We detected more than 2,000 clashes in the model for the in-ground services – a large percentage of these would otherwise have been realised during construction,’ says Barrie. ‘There’s almost 30km of utilities, lighting, security and signalling in a limited space. So, for example, we used the model to depict zones of building loading influence and to avoid these areas by flagging them up with a series of red pyramids. The model is the only way we could have done that.’

The model has also allowed the team to assess how the centre is to be used – for example, where are the stores, how do you get a forklift truck from A to B – to ensure that it is totally aligned to the client’s operations. More than 100 in-use scenarios have been tested in the model environment in fly-throughs during asset and maintenance design reviews. ‘These have really captured the imagination of the client and helped them understand how we have de-risked the job,’ says Barrie. Similarly, some 250 risks have been identified and mitigated through our safety-indesign reviews, which were carried out using the 3D model in interaction with the client.

Barrie estimates that around 20 per cent of the value of the contract has been achieved using DfMA techniques. DfMA has reaped huge rewards in terms of programme, hours on site, health and safety, costs and quality. Key elements include the precast concrete road service trenches, train-jacking pits and all the steel roof work modules. With no ready-made DfMA facility to turn to, Laing O’Rourke partnered with the local supply chain in the manufacture of the concrete and steel module elements of the project.

Each of the four train service roads are 160m long, with maintenance engineers able to stand in a U-shaped concrete channel underneath the train. Laing O’Rourke has split the service trenches into 8m precast concrete segments, each 22 tonnes in weight. The access stairs to the precast troughs were also formed in precast modules. Similarly, the road housing the specialist train-lifting gear has been built as 12 pits, each 4m deep, with each pit comprising a 30t base and 30t walls to come together as a 60t unit to be lowered into the ground.

We spent lots of time using the model space, not just to design the concrete, but to interface with many, many other things. This is where the model comes into its own,’ says Barrie. An example would be the settlement of the ground over long track distances and the need to meet the tolerances inherent with overhead electric work. ‘With the precast road sections, you have to deal with drainage under the service troughs and things like earthing and bonding for the train’s overhead supply at the same time. We are bringing services design elements in right at the beginning whereas, traditionally, the team would be used to doing that much later in the process.’

 Offsite manufacturing has also been used to create the high-level, modular steel walkways and gantries. The steel walkways arrive with all grillage, mesh and handrails in place, ready for rapid assembly on site. The team also utilised lightweight corrugated beam sections to allow full roof structure bays to be made up at ground level and lifted up and into place. ‘The corrugated steel beams cut a third off the weight and allow us to reduce work at high level. We then utilised digital method statements, with the supply chain, to determine our site methodology and logistics thereafter,’ says Barrie.

The digital engineering approach has been extended to site operations, with staff using Autodesk’s BIM 360 on iPad minis to improve onsite productivity. As well as containing the model, operatives can use their tablets to access work-pack folders (the job has been split into 50 work packs) which contain the main drawings for that part of the project as well as electronic safety inspection and quality assurance forms. ‘There’s also a BIM station at the office where anyone can access the model and navigate around it, take a snapshot of an area, take measurements and so on. It’s been great to see some of our key subcontractors flying through the model to get a visualisation of something they are working on,’ enthuses Barrie.

Progress on the build can be easily monitored using 4D heat mapping, where sections can be coloured red to green when completed, which can be used in contract review reports.

‘Every month we get together to look at the three months ahead to check on the programme and check that everything is achievable. Using the model allows us to look at things more easily, call up any issues and resolve them.’

The application of digital engineering has been a resounding success – so much so that the project was used as an exemplar of BIM in use at a meeting of the G20 in Brisbane. But it’s perhaps the less tangible benefits that have most impressed the client.

‘The client has been blown away by the degree of collaboration facilitated by our approach, both in terms of methodology used and in the relationships developed – not only with our own supply chain, but with their asset management and maintenance teams, train designers and others,’ says Barrie.

‘All too often in the project delivery process there’s a fundamental disconnect between the client, contractor and supply chain. Naturally this impacts on the quality of the end product. The benefits of digital engineering and DfMA, however, is that by their very nature they necessitate collaboration. What we’re seeing now is the culmination of all that. It’s brought everyone involved in the project together as a team working towards a shared outcome.’

Paul BarrieProject Director

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