Leighton consortium wins $7.8bn Sydney rail project

The state government of New South Wales (NSW) has chosen a consortium of Australian and Chinese firms to deliver the operations, trains and systems package for the US$7.8bn North West Rail Link (NWRL). When work gets under way next year, it will be Australia’s largest transport project. 

The train line will be the first fully automated rapid transit system in Australia. It will include eight stations and offer a peak-time service of one train every five minutes. The NSW government estimates that it will be needed to cater to the population of north-west Sydney, which is expected to increase from 400,000 people to more than 600,000 over the next 20 years or so.  

The project includes the construction of Australian’s longest rail tunnels: these will be twin shafts stretching the 15km between Bella Vista and Epping.

The Northwest Rapid Transit Consortium (NRT) consists of the MTR Corporation, which runs Hong Kong’s metro, Australian contractors John Holland and Leighton, Melbourne rail engineer UGL and Australian finance house Plenary Group. Plenary is the financial sponsor and capital arranger for the scheme.  

NRT was today chosen over the rival TransForm consortium, made up of Bombardier Transportation, John Laing Investments, Macquarie Capital, McConnell Dowell Constructors, Serco Group and SNC-Lavalin Capital. 

The scheme, which forms the first phase of the Sydney Rapid Transit railway network, was first announced in 1998 as part of the US$2.6bn "Action for Transport" package of eight rail projects, where were due for completion by 2010.

At the time, the proposal was for a $360m heavy rail connection from Epping to Castle Hill, with a later extension to Mungerie Park and Rouse Hill. The scheme then fell victim to political wrangling between the Australian federal government, the NSW state government and county government amid reports that the projected cost of the link had greatly increased.

The scheme was revived in 2011, and later became a PPP. It is due to reach financial close by the end of 2014 and to begin offering a service in 2019.  

Marcelino Fernández Verdes, Leighton Holdings’ chief executive, said: "The Leighton Group is proud to be working with the NSW Government and our consortium partners to deliver Australia’s biggest public transport infrastructure project and to have a longer term involvement in its operation." 

Leighton’s chairman has recently left the company after only a year in position. They have recently won contracts in Qatar, Dubai and the Philippines. 

They also had a failed bid to build the East West Link freeway in Melbourne.

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  1. Another great service by the CIOB

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