January 15, 2018

18 rail projects to watch in 2018

Written by  Jonny Dearden
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IRJ Pro market researcher Jonny Dearden looks at the big projects likely to hit the headlines this year.

Singapore - Kuala Lumpur HSL
Originally proposed in the 1990s, plans for a high-speed rail link between the Malaysian capital and Singapore made little progress until the two countries made a firm commitment to move forward with the project in 2013. Last year preparations for construction and operation of the 350km line began to gather pace, with industry briefings, the start of land acquisition, and public consultation. In November a tender notice for a Project Delivery Partner to support the planning and delivery of civil infrastructure works on the Malaysian section was published by Malaysia High-Speed Rail Corporation with the contract due to be awarded in 2018. The line is due to open in 2026, reducing the journey time between the two cities to 1h 30min.

Sydney Metro Phase 2
With the opening of the first phase of the Sydney metro planned for next year, work is also progressing on the second phase, which will extend the line beneath Sydney Harbour to Bankstown with seven stations. The project will require five TBMS including a specialised TBM for work under Sydney Harbour due to the geology beneath the sea bed. Tunnelling is due to begin by the end of the year with passenger operations set to start by 2024.

Bangkok - Nong Khai
Forming part of the Singapore - Kunming Rail Link, the 615km standard-gauge line will connect the Thai capital with the 414.3km China - Laos Railway, which is currently under construction and due for completion in December 2021. The 252.5km, Baht 179bn ($US 5.5bn) Bangkok - Nakhon Ratchasima section was approved in July 2017 and the environmental impact assessment was signed off in December 2017. Groundbreaking is expected to take place in December 2018 and will involve the construction of an initial 3.5km section by the Thai Transport Ministry. Tenders for the remainder of the line will be launched over the course of this year.

BrightlineBrightline
The first privately-developed and operated inter-city passenger service to run in the United States since 1983, Brightline will link Miami with Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach when it launches commercial operations in the first quarter of this year. The second phase of the line from Miami to Orlando Airport gained final federal approval in December 2017. Construction is due to begin on phase 2 in the first quarter, with passenger services expected to begin in 2020.

Amsterdam North-South Line
Few cities offer tunnelling engineers a tougher challenge than Amsterdam, and so it proved with the North - South Line, which became a major headache for the city. Construction began on the 9.8km line in 2002, but soon ran into problems as subsidence was detected in the historic city centre. The story became one of mushrooming costs, which swelled from e1.2bn to e3.1bn, the bankruptcy of contractors, and delays. The line is now scheduled to carry its first passengers on July 22, seven years after it was due to open.

Hong Kong XRL
The 28km $HK 84.4bn ($US 10.8bn) Hong Kong Express Rail Link forms the final section of the Guangzhou - Shenzhen - Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL), moving the cities of the Pearl River Delta a big step closer to their ambition of a one-hour travel zone in one of the world’s most densely-populated regions. Following numerous delays, high-speed services are now expected to begin running from West Kowloon Terminus in the third quarter of 2018. The journey time will be just 23 minutes to Shenzhen North and 48 minutes to Guangzhou South.

Ottawa Confederation Line
The Canadian capital marks the completion of its largest-ever infrastructure project this year with the opening of the $C 2.1bn ($US 1.6bn) first phase of the LRT Confederation Line. Replacing the existing bus transitway, the 13-station line from Tunney’s Pasture in the west to Blair in the east runs on a dedicated alignment for its entire 12.5km length, with a 2.5km underground section in the city centre. Construction is due to begin on the $C 3bn Stage 2 this year, which will extend the Confederation Line at both ends by 2023. The diesel-operated Trillium Line will also be extended to Riverside South.

Hanoi metro Line 2A
The 13km line is set to become Vietnam’s first operational metro line when it opens this year. China Railway Group is building the 12-station line, which has been largely funded through a Chinese Official Development Assistance (ODA). The project has been beset by delays and accidents throughout its construction but passenger services now look set to begin running in the first quarter.

Buenos Aires RER
This ambitious project will completely redraw the suburban rail map in the Argentinean capital, fusing the Mitre and San Martin lines and the Roca and Belgrano Sur lines via a north-south tunnel under the city centre. In the second stage of the project, an underground link will be constructed between Retiro and Once station, which will connect the Mitre and Sarmiento lines to the system.

A1 Link (Tel Aviv - Jerusalem)
Jerusalem will finally get a fast connection with Tel Aviv and Israel’s national rail network this year with the opening of the 57km A1 Link. Plans for the line originally date from 2001 and it was scheduled for completion in 2008. However, due to environmental protests, construction of the line was delayed. In November 2016 it was announced that the line will be extended via a 2km tunnel, adding further costs to the Shekels 7bn ($US 2bn) project. The extension project will improve access to the Western Wall, while relieving pressure on the main Jerusalem station. The line is due to open in April.

Stuttgart 21
Dogged by controversy over its environmental impact and escalating costs, Stuttgart 21 hit the headlines again at the end of last year when it emerged the project was facing another cost escalation and further delays. The cost of the project is now expected to rise by a further e1.1bn to e7.6bn, plus a contingency which could take the final bill to around e8bn, while completion has been pushed back by three years to 2024.

London Elizabeth Line
Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project, will reach an important milestone in December with the start of Elizabeth Line services between London Paddington and Abbey Wood. The 118km line will link Reading and Heathrow Airport with Shenfield in the east and Abbey Wood via a 21km twin-bore tunnel under central London, relieving the core section of London Underground’s Central Line. Construction began on the £14.8bn project in 2009 and the line will become fully operational in December 2019.

Inland Rail
The $A 10bn ($US 7.7bn) Inland Rail project will create a 1700km freight corridor linking Brisbane and Melbourne, with around 600km of new line. The project will relieve congestion on the coastal route via Sydney and cut the distance by rail from Brisbane to Melbourne by 200km. Detailed design for the Parkes - Narromine and Narrabi - North Star sections will be completed in mid-2018, enabling these stretches to move to the construction phase.

Kenitra - Tangiers high-speed line
Due to open in June, the 183km Tangiers - Kenitra line will be Africa’s first high-speed railway. A Tangiers - Casablanca journey time of 2h 10min is envisaged, compared with 4h 45min today.

GPSO (Bordeaux - Toulouse/Dax)
Speaking at the opening of the Bretagne - Pays de la Loire high-speed line in July 2017, French president Mr Emmanuel Macron hinted at his policy on the expansion of the high-speed network when he said “the dream of the next five years should not be a big new project like this.” If he is true to his pledge of fixing France’s “everyday” infrastructure, the axe looks likely to fall on one or more major projects this year.
Topping the list of the next-generation of high-speed lines is the e8.3bn Grand South-Western Railway Project (GPSO) will extend TGV Sud-Europ Atlantique from Bordeaux to Toulouse and Dax.
A decision on GPSO is expected early this year when the government presents its future infrastructure programme.

Mexico City – Toluca
Five years ago the election of Mr Enrique Peña Nieto as president of Mexico looked as if it would usher in a new age of rail investment, with the government revealing plans to invest $US 9.4bn in 13 passenger and freight projects. Sadly much of this fell by the wayside, including the flagship Mexico City - Querétaro high-speed line, although a notable survivor of this programme, a 57.7km standard-gauge interurban line from Toluca to Mexico City, is set to open in April. The line will carry 230,000 passengers a day with a 39-minute trip between Zinacantepec and an interchange with Mexico City Line 1 at Observatorio.

Saudi Landbridge
After years of uncertainty over funding, plans for a 950km line from Jeddah to Riyadh finally got moving again last year after a request for expressions of interest yielded a positive response from the private sector. The government had originally intended to implement the project as a PPP, with several consortia shortlisted in 2008, but a financial agreement was never reached. Contracts for construction now look set to be awarded later this year.

Haramain high-speed line
The Arabian peninsula’s first high-speed line will open on March 15, linking Saudi Arabia’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina with intermediate stations at Jeddah, King Abdulaziz International Airport, and King Abdullah Economic City. The 450km double-track line has a design speed of 360km/h. Talgo is supplying 35 Talgo 350 trains for commercial services and a 10-car royal train for the line.

Track projects as they develop with IRJ Pro: IRJ Pro Project Monitor tracks progress on more than 2000 new-build railway projects in over 100 countries around the globe. For details, visit www.IRJpro.com

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