Taking the lead on level crossings

In July 2020 two of Melbourne’s most dangerous and congested level crossings were fast tracked for removal by the Victorian Government. Half a year on Roads & Infrastructure speaks to Fulton Hogan’s project managers taking charge of construction.

Late last year, Fulton Hogan was awarded the $234 million contract to remove two level crossings at Robinsons Road and Fitzgerald Road in Deer Park, on behalf of the Level Crossing Removal Project.

As part of an alliance with Metro Trains Melbourne and the Level Crossing Removal Project, Fulton Hogan’s crews will work to remove both level crossings, improving safety, connectivity and travel times by 2023.

Fulton Hogan has allocated a dedicated team to work across each of the level crossing removal projects, with an expected 400 jobs to be created.

At Robinsons Road the teams will remove the crossing by creating a road underpass and for Fitzgerald Road a road overpass will be built.

In early 2021, at the time of writing, the detailed designs for these projects have been finalised and crews are getting ready to begin major construction.

Roads & Infrastructure got the opportunity to speak to each of the project managers for these works from Fulton Hogan; Gosia Suchorska and Jenny Terpstra, about what is to come this year.

Robinsons Road

At Robinsons Road level crossing, the boom gates can be down for up to 45 per cent of the morning peak, delaying many thousands of vehicles.

Tasked with removing these boom gates is Gosia Suchorska and her team. Suchorska is Project Manager, in charge of construction of a road underpass which will separate cars from the regional V/Line trains which run on this section of the rail network.

“We are excited to be able to deliver this project earlier. The majority of the team are hands on people and love being on site, and remote working in the current environment has been tough,” she says.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions the Deer Park Level Crossings will both be delivered in two stages. The first stage involved the enabling works and detailed design with the second stage, being major construction, kicking off in the second quarter of 2021.

With a 2023 completion, the ability to get on the ground working in 2021 will be a huge positive for the team.

“The next eight months will be exciting. Robinsons Road will mostly be built in an offline environment, the current road will stay in place and with traffic management we can separate traffic in order to perform works,” Suchorska says.

“Widening of the realignment is happening now and we are soon hoping to install our first retaining wall on the east side of our alignment.”

Construction of the rail bridge will come towards the middle of this year and the team has an eight day road and rail occupation planned to construct the bridge.

“In 2022 we plan to move traffic onto the new alignment and remove the boom gates. Following that we’ll upgrade the existing Robinsons Road on the north side and we’ll create green space with landscaping on the south side,” Suchorska says.

“We have a good and well-resourced team and we’ve been planning for a while now so there is a vast knowledge, experience and passion that we can draw on to build a successful project. I am looking forward to more face-to-face interaction this year as we’ve spent a lot of time behind our screens.”

Fitzgerald Road

At the Fitzgerald Road level crossing around 37 trains pass through in the morning peak, significantly disrupting local traffic.

For this removal project a road bridge was chosen as the optimal design due to the proximity of the crossing to a major freeway and lower impact to nearby properties during construction.

Project Manager Jenny Terpstra says the design minimises disruption to the community, due to the sizeable number of utilities required to be relocated.

Both the Robinsons and Fitzgerald Road projects were fast tracked in 2020, which Terpstra says has made the projects both exciting and challenging.

“Fast tracking the project is going to push the team to think outside the box and to challenge the status quo during construction to build something more efficiently and innovatively,” she says.

“One of the advantages of being under the Level Crossing Removal Project umbrella is that we aren’t running as a solo entity so we’re able to draw learning from existing organisations and government sectors to maximise efficient design and build methods.”

The team is looking to the start of major construction this year, beginning with the relocation of existing utilities and services.

“We have got every utility under the sun underneath our project and so over the next couple of months we will commence relocation and upgrade of those services, working in line with the utility authorities,” Terpstra says.

Next, crews will build the temporary service route on Fitzgerald Road, which was included as part of the project design to minimise disruption, so major construction of the project can be completed offline.

“We’ve got a couple of rail and road occupations scheduled in the year for track works, and then we have one end of the year to build the structure itself. Piling will commence this year and then hopefully we’ll be lifting 14 bridge beams into place late in the year,” Terpstra says.

“So far for us the biggest challenge has been working individually throughout COVID. This demonstrated how highly resilient the team was to pull through and achieve an outcome and it gave me an insight into how they will be in the delivery phase.”

Building the change

In addition to construction benefits the alliance have set significant targets for social procurement across the program.

Fulton Hogan have recently partnered with the AFLW Richmond club to endorse the flexibility of working conditions for women in construction and in football.

They are working with the Brotherhood of Saint Laurence to employ people who have been unemployed over the long term, giving them a chance to develop new skills. The team is also working with the EPIC program to employ refugee and asylum seeker engineers to work on Level Crossing Removal Projects.

With both of these crossings set to be removed by 2023, communities and commuters familiar with the area will experience improved travel times, safety and connectivity. Those working on the project will also gain valuable work experience in delivering state shaping infrastructure.

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