Delivering Sydney’s first metro and Australia’s first autonomous train on time and on budget

Opened in May 2019, the $7.3 billion Sydney Metro North West (formerly North West Rail Link) is a significant expansion to Sydney’s rail network comprising an electrified railway, with services operating between Chatswood and Rouse Hill. It is one of Australia’s largest public transport projects featuring:

  • eight new, fully accessible stations with trains every four minutes during peak hours
  • 15 km twin tunnels between Epping and Bella Vista ― Australia’s longest rail tunnels
  • A 4.2 km elevated viaduct ‘Skytrain’
  • a train stabling facility
  • commuter car-parking spaces, and various transport facilities, such as bus and taxi stops and bicycle parking at all stations.

From 2011, AECOM, with partner WSP (formerly Parson Brinkerhoff) and Architects COX and Grimshaw, was the Technical Advisor for the Engineering, Rail Systems and Architecture (ERSA) and Rapid Transit Integration (RTI) components. The team undertook all necessary design works to produce a concept design, reference design and contractual documentation for the project.

Under separate contracts AECOM was also engaged to provide environmental assessments and planning approvals, and to perform the roles of Operations, Trains and Systems (OTS) Works Technical Requirements Manager, and delivery coordination and product assurance.

Innovative design with customer and community focus delivers extra stations within budget

With an experienced and enthusiastic multi-disciplinary team, AECOM tested engineering, urban design and architectural outcomes that resulted in project cost savings and enhanced the customer experience. AECOM’s value-engineered solutions considered the requirements of all stakeholders, including operators, customers and the wider local community, while also reflecting safety in design and work health and safety practices. An example of this was the removal of a cut and cover and mined tunnel between Bella Vista and Rouse Hill, to be replaced with a ‘Skytrain’ viaduct. This resulted in significant cost savings, which enabled two new stations to be added to the project while also providing new urban realm and amenity.

The scale of the project and critical procurement milestones also necessitated an innovative environmental planning assessment and approvals pathway. The approach tested and validated changes to the NSW planning process and provided a benchmark for future infrastructure projects. Working as part of a collaborative team that brought together various technical experts and our client, AECOM helped to develop a new method of presenting environmental mitigation and management measures, which has now been adopted as the industry benchmark in NSW.

Designing for the future

The team approached the development of the design of each new station as an opportunity to create exemplary urban spaces and provide a catalyst for future transit-oriented development. They were created as multi-modal hubs, not just as train stations. The objective was to make it as easy as possible for all users to move between different transit options, whether cars, taxis, trains, buses, bicycles or walking. Active transport is promoted through the availability of secure bicycle storage, together with a total of approximately 4,000 ‘park-and-ride’ spaces.

Despite facing major challenges, including significant changes to the original brief and a tight project delivery program, the Technical Advisory, Planning Approvals and Contract Management teams, led by AECOM, rose to the challenge to enable Transport for NSW and the Sydney Metro Authority to deliver Sydney’s first metro, and Australia’s first autonomous train, on time and on budget. The project also helped to define a number of key design, urban planning and environmental benchmarks for delivery of future Metro projects planned for Greater Sydney.