Shani Wallis, Editor
- A group of Macquarie Capital Group, Thiess, John Holland, Arup and PB, is selected this week to deliver Brisbane's airport highway link in Queensland, Australia. The group's proposal maximizes the underground option placing 5.25km of the 6.7km electronic toll road in Australia's largest highway tunnel to date.
Brisbane's Airport Link plan with cut-and-cover work in orange and twin tube mined tunneling in blue
- Under the country's biggest public-private partnership (PPP), BrisConnections will finance, design, construct, commission, operate and maintain the underground Airport Link toll road as well as design and build a 3km section of the city's State-funded busway and a 750m fly-over connection at the airport also for the State. Total project cost is more than $Aust5 billion ($US5 billion) and is the largest single investment in transport infrastructure in Australia.
- Two rival proposals for the project were submitted by NorthConnect Motorway, comprising Baulderstone Hornibrook with Abigroup, Bilfinger Berger Civil and Babcock & Brown, and Northern Motorway, a grouping of Leighton Contractors and ABN AMRO Australia.
- Design by lead designers Arup and PB, and construction of the three projects by the Thiess- John Holland JV (both wholly owned subsidiaries of Leighton Holdings Limited), will progress under a fixed-price, fixed term contract. Construction is scheduled to begin later this year and be complete by the middle of 2012. Of the total $5 billion, including land costs, the State will contribute $1.5 billion instead of the projected $2.37 billion and less than $50 million to the Airport Link instead of the budgeted $850 million. Single package delivery was selected to secure construction efficiencies. Construction cost of the Airport Link is $3.4 billion with $444 million for the 3km busway, and $272 million the airport connection fly-over. To maximize the underground advantage, two of twin tube highway tunnel's three ventilation stations are located partially underground to reduce noise and visual impacts; traffic capacity at a major intersection is improved by placing surface roads and overhead road bridges underground; and 1.5km of the 3km busway is underground in cut-and-cover work, as is one of its two bus stations.
- Funding is arranged by Macquarie as a combination of debt and equity. The equity element will be raised via a public offering of securities in BrisConnections to be floated later this year, and through capital invested by each project sponsor.
Part of the North-South Bypass Tunnel. The Airport Link is in the north-west of the CBD to improve traffic times to the airport to the north-east.
- Under its proposal, BrisConnections says Airport Link will have one of the lowest per kilometre tunnel tolls in Australia (a maximum $4.30 one-way in 2008 dollars) and will cut travel times between the city and the airport by up to 47 minutes by avoiding 17 sets of traffic lights and providing free-flow connections to Brisbane's Inner City Bypass and its 5km TBM North-South Bypass Tunnel. The Airport Link projects are twice the size of the $2 billion North South Bypass Tunnel project, which is currently under construction by the 45-year publicly listed RiverCity Motorway PPP concession comprising Leighton Contractors, Baulderstone Hornibrook, Bilfinger Berger, and ABN AMRO Australia.
- Another major tunnelling project in Queensland is the $1.2 billion Gold Coast Desalination plant that relies on two 3.4m diameter x 2.2km marine tunnels for its operation. Excavation of the subsea intake and outlet tunnels by the GCD Alliance, comprising John Holland Constructions, Veolia Water Australia, Sinclair Knight Merz and Cardno, came to a successful end in February 2008. The plant is currently on track to begin producing water at the end of November 2008.
Airport Link Timeline:
July 2005 - State Government and Brisbane City Council begins investigating Airport Link in detail.
October 2005 - Preferred corridor identified and Airport Link is declared a 'significant project' under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971.
November 2005 - Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) investigations start and are completed a year later after attracting more than 300 written submissions airing a range of concerns relating mainly to construction impacts, air quality and traffic.
May 2007 - Supplementary EIS Report released with conditions to manage environmental impacts.
February 2007 - Expressions of Interest are called.
June 2007 - Three groups were short-listed.
19 May 2008 - BrisConnections announced as the preferred bidder.
Late 2008 - Construction to start.
Mid-2012 - project completed.
Airport Link: www.citynorthinfrastructure.com.au
North-South Bypass Tunnel: www.rivercitymotorway.com.au
Queensland Government information on both highway projects: www.brisbane.qld.gov.au
The Gold Coast Desalination project: www.desalinfo.com.au/The_Project.asp