Green light for massive rail project
State Cabinet has approved the awarding of two major contracts for construction of the South-West Suburbs Railway component of the New MetroRail Project.
Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said construction work would start within three months.
The Minister also announced that the project would be brought forward - services to Mandurah will now start at the end of 2006.
"The south-west suburbs component is now $1.059billion - an increase of about $100million on our original estimates," Ms MacTiernan said.
"This has increased the overall cost of the New MetroRail Project by seven per cent to $1.518billion."
The new MetroRail Project consists of the South-West Suburbs Railway, the extension of the Northern Suburbs line, the Thornlie Spur and the purchase of 93 new railcars.
"Any increase in cost is a concern, but this project is affordable, achievable and will transform our city and rapidly-growing outer suburbs with a world-class transport system," Ms MacTiernan said.
"In fact, we cannot afford not to build it.
"The South-West corridor is growing at more than three per cent per annum - it will have a population of about 400,000 by the time the rail is open.
"If we don't build this rail, by 2006 we will need to add at least three freeway lanes to service the area."
Ms MacTiernan said the additional cost of the project would be sourced from new borrowings.
"The State's net debt is in a very sound position. As at June 30 this year the State's net debt to revenue ratio was 32.3 per cent - while our self-imposed limit is 47 per cent. This project is budgeted to be well within our targets over the forward estimates period," she said.
"The entire project represents less than nine per cent of our total capital works budget over the next five years."
Given the booming construction industry and the size and scope of this project, the Minister said she was satisfied with the outcome of negotiations.
"This is a world class project and the technical challenges and contract complexities - which are greater in the city project than in any other part of the New MetroRail project - are commensurate with that," she said.
"The contract price, and associated increase in our budget allowance is a direct reflection of this complexity."
Cabinet had decided to award the following contracts:
Package F, the city section, to the Leighton-Kumagai Gumi Team at a cost of $320million. The works would include 600m of cut-and-cover and 700m of twin bored tunnel structures, underground stations at the Esplanade and William Street, drainage, service relocations, roadworks, pedestrian cycle links, railway track and overheads, landscaping and associated urban improvement works. The cost of this contract had increased because the private sector wanted compensation for the risk associated with underground geotechnical conditions; and
Package E, the bridges contract, would be awarded to Leighton Contractors Pty Ltd at a cost of $99.1million. This contract provided for the design and changes to the Narrows Bridge and Mt Henry Bridges as well as work along the centre of the Kwinana Freeway from Perth to Glen Iris.
"The finalisation of detailed design and on-site investigations should lead to physical construction starting in April 2004 on widening on the western side of the existing Mt Henry Bridge," Ms MacTiernan said.
"The innovative new design for widening the bridge by piling on the western side only - compared to widening on both sides - delivers significant environmental benefits.
"These benefits include minimising impacts on the sensitive, eastern-side bushland, reducing decking shadow on the river and halving the impact of pile driving on the river bed itself.
"The alternative design also reduces disruption to traffic and the construction time while still being cost-effective."
The other major component of the bridges contract was the construction of a southbound railway bridge between the two existing Narrows Bridges, as well as strengthening and realigning of traffic lanes on the western Narrows Bridge for the northbound railway.
Further major civil works would be undertaken at the freeway intersections with Canning Highway, Leach Highway and South Street, in addition to the construction of concrete barriers and retaining walls along the railway corridor down the freeway.
Pedestrian and traffic bridges over the freeway would be modified for safety with pier and parapet protection.
Ms MacTiernan said the design and construct contract would be managed by Main Roads Western Australia, the owner of the affected roads and bridges.
"MRWA is an experienced project manager that will ensure that the contractor maintains a high level of freeway service for motorists during the two-year construction period," she said.
"During this time the dedicated bus lanes will continue to operate, along with three lanes of traffic."