Tuesday 30th Nov, 2021

ARTC signs deal for Inland Rail border project

Laing O’Rourke and the FKG Group will work together to deliver civil works for Inland Rail sections in Northern NSW and South Queensland.

Laing O’Rourke and the FKG Group will work together to deliver civil works for Inland Rail sections in Northern NSW and South Queensland.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and the consortium, Freight Connect, signed a collaborative framework agreement which will focus on an approximately 85-kilometre section between North Star in New South Wales and Whetstone in Queensland as well as a separate 14-kilometre package south of Moree called Narrabri to North Star Phase 2.

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.

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.

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“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.”

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,” O’Rourke said.

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 100 kilometres 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.”

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.

“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.”