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Cracks Plague Sydney Metro Project

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

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A multibillion-dollar metro rail extension in Australia’s largest city is facing a second major setback, as one of the precast concrete spans for the “Skytrain” rail bridge has cracked, the second such incident in 10 months.

As the Daily Telegraph reported, one of the 121 spans that will make up the elevated Skytrain stretch cracked late last month, after internal cables were tightened. The Skytrain project—in which a 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) viaduct is being built to carry metro trains from the Bella Vista area to Rouse Hill—is already months past its original deadline, and at least AU$50 million ($38 million) over budget, according to local sources.

It’s not the first time the project has been affected by a concrete failure. This past January, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that two of the 24 spans that had been erected at that point had to be replaced due to cracking. Officials at the time said that the timeline for the project would not be affected.

Project Costs Balloon

The Skytrain stretch is being built by Italian contractor Salini Impregilo, under contract with Transport NSW, the area’s transit agency. The contract for Salini’s portion of the metro rail job was AU$340 million ($260 million) when awarded in 2013; additions to the job and disputes eventually boosted the cost another AU$50 million.

The Skytrain project includes an 885-foot cable-stayed bridge over a roadway in addition to the viaduct portions.

The complex project involves the use of two 490-foot-tall gantry cranes reportedly imported from Dubai. Using the cranes, the project was expected to last about two years. The Morning Herald reports that originally, the viaduct was meant to be completed in August 2016, but issues early on had already pushed the timeline back.

As of 2015, the viaduct portion was slated to be done in 2017, with the entire rail extension complete two years later.

Cracks and Buckles

According to the Morning Herald, the cracking in the span last month caused the concrete to buckle upward more than 4 feet. Contractors reportedly covered the span so that it would be obscured from view, and some attempting to take pictures from near the site have been blocked by security guards.

The new crack is the latest in a string of issues that have raised concerns over the Skytrain project. According to the Morning Herald, sources close to the job say a proof engineer would not sign off on some parts of the plan last year, citing concerns over stressing on the spans.

Gantry on Skytrain site
Sydney Metro

The complex Skytrain project involves the use of two 490-foot-tall gantry cranes reportedly imported from Dubai.

Additionally, sources told the newspaper that the cracking could relate to the quality of the concrete used to build the spans.

Larger Rail Project

The Skytrain stretch is part of the larger Sydney Metro NorthWest project, originally called the North West Rail Link. The project will create eight new railway stations in the northwestern part of the Sydney metropolitan area, and when finished, the Metro NorthWest will be the country’s first fully automated metro rail system.

The Metro NorthWest project involves three main contracts: the Skytrain project, awarded to Salini Impregilo; tunnels and stations, including twin 9-mile tunnels, awarded to CPB John Holland Dragados; and operations, trains and systems, awarded to Northwest Rapid Transit, a public-private partnership.

The total cost of the line is currently estimated at AU$8.3 billion ($6.35 billion).

Still on Schedule

Despite the setbacks, a spokeswoman told the Daily Telegraph that there have been no adjustments to the timeline over the recent cracking problem.

“Sydney Metro Northwest remains on schedule to open in the first half of 2019,” the spokeswoman said.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Bridges; concrete; Concrete defects; Contractors; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Infrastructure; Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Rail

Comment from DJuan Stevens, (10/26/2016, 10:33 AM)


Comment from Scott Youngs, (10/26/2016, 10:55 AM)

Is Salini manufacturing the spans? Are the spans being built to the transit agency's specifications? Many questions to be answered before pointing fingers...

Comment from John Forrest, (10/26/2016, 11:16 AM)

I agree with Scott Youngs: Why are the beams cracking?

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