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North Coast Improvement Alliance. Brisbane to Melbourne. Australia

Australian Rail Track Corporation Ltd (ARTC)
Infrastructure ConstructionDfMA and Offsite Manufacturing
Project partners
Balfour Beatty

North Coast Improvement Alliance. Brisbane to Melbourne. Australia

Full project details

In 2004 ARTC announced it would upgrade the North–South rail network, which runs from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney. Laing O'Rourke, in joint venture with Balfour Beatty Australia, was awarded the North Coast Improvement contract, which extends from Maitland in New South Wales to the Acacia Ridge in Queensland.

The goals of the overall network upgrade were to reduce rail transit times for freight trains, improve transit reliability, reduce infrastructure life-cycle costs and increase the line capacity to accommodate projected medium-term rail traffic growth.

In particular, the North Coast Improvement contract was essential to ARTC’s strategy to meet projected future market demand for Hunter Valley coal.

The ARTC awarded the North Coast Improvement contract as an alliance contract to Laing O’Rourke and Balfour Beatty, operating together as the Transport Express Joint Venture (TEJV). This structure helped achieve the best value for money for the client by creating a work environment that would align project goals and commercial objectives, foster innovation, see immediate gains in the early stages of the upgrade, and ultimately deliver outstanding project outcomes.

The scope of works involved extending or constructing 15 crossing loops to improve entry and exit speeds, and installing over 514,000 concrete sleepers to replace life-expired timber sleepers. Other activities included operational works to increase curve superelevation and thus improve transit time, and rehabilitation work on bridges and other structures where necessary.

A major achievement during the works was a sleeper installation rate that was 25% faster on average than what had previously been achieved in Australia. Another success was the installation of all crossing loop and upgrade turnouts without any train delays. 

TEJV met the Australian Government’s requirements for early delivery, certainty of costs and value for money. As a result of the North–South Rail upgrade, the transit time between Sydney and Melbourne has been reduced to as low as 10 hours and 40 minutes, while the Brisbane to Sydney transit time has been reduced to as low as 15 hours and 35 minutes.

Project facts

Essential rail improvement works to meet future demand for Hunter Valley coal

The fastest sleeper installation rate ever achieved in Australia

Train transit times reduced between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne

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