Sydney north-west is one of the fastest growing regions in New South Wales. Today, more than half of the local population of the Hills Shire, around 500,000 – forecast to increase by a further 200,000 by 2050 – travels outside the area for work. This means that the region has the nation’s highest private car ownership rate, with many households having three or four vehicles each.
The need for a new, reliable, fast and modern public transit network has been clear for quite some time. But this is more than a functional need. The network also has to fit with the local council’s vision of developing a vibrant, liveable community, so needs to be seamlessly integrated into the community.
Enter the AU$8.3bn Sydney Metro Northwest, Stage 1 of Sydney Metro, Australia’s biggest public transport project and their first fully-automated railway network.
Its opening revolutionises the district’s approach to transportation. With a train running every four minutes during peak times, this means that commuters can literally turn up, jump on and go. The network opens new possibilities to the incredibly diverse residential community living in The Hills – and not just in terms of transportation. The project includes eight new stations, five upgraded stations and 4,000 commuter car parking spaces.
In preparation of the project’s opening, the council has been working on creating new housing opportunities around several key metro stations. Two new suburbs have been added to the established 25 in The Hills, in anticipation of the metro’s popularity.
In collaboration with our joint venture partners, KBR and SMEC, we delivered the detailed design for eight new stations from Cherrybrook to Rouse Hill including three underground stations, three new open-cut suburban stations and two new elevated stations and were also responsible for train stabling maintenance facilities and the track and overhead power systems for the whole line.
Designing the thirteen stations across the 36km-long line, including the conversion of five existing Epping to Chatswood Rail Link stations, brought together the expertise of a global Mott MacDonald team. At the peak of delivery, it had more than 450 members, with input from people in our London, Singapore, Adelaide and Brisbane offices supporting the design management of the stations.
For the elevated stations, we wanted to create high-quality public spaces that lift and enhance the area. Our striking canopies for underground and open-cut stations, which emulate the shape of two gum leaves connected by a sheer, glazed roof, bring a modern twist to their surroundings. This worldwide effort meant that on opening day, commuters entering the new underground stations found natural lighting illuminating the platforms.
Less visible to the naked eye, but equally crucial, was our structural engineers’ efforts to work collaboratively with the architects to enable and optimise the architectural vision of the impressive canopies. This work led to 50% less steelwork being used in construction, pushing the boundaries of sustainability and saving on overall costs.
Furthermore, we managed the delivery of the underground stations in north west that have more precast elements than any underground station in the world. Precast elements for the construction of underground stations have been used elsewhere, however, underground stations with structures that are more than 90% precast had not been attempted before, either in Australia or around the world. This approach required early coordination of design and also included precast elements for the outer perimeter wall for the station box.
By digitising the design process and using co-ordinated 3D Building Information Modelling (BIM) we were able to eliminate 900 drawings and enable significant programme and cost savings.
But even after the very first train has pulled into a station on Sydney Metro Northwest line, our work in Australia is far from over. We’re continuing to work with the NSW Government and other contractors on the rest of the Sydney Metro project – the City & Southwest section, due to open in 2024. It will take our design vision to where Sydneysiders will appreciate it most: in the heart of their city.
Sydney Metro Northwest starts a new era in public transport in Australia, providing for the first time in the country a fully accessible, fully automatic metro which will support the emergence of Sydney’s north west as a major residential and commercial centre. We are proud to have brought our international expertise to the joint venture which has enabled the delivery of a system which is not just functional, efficient and reliable but which will inspire people to change the way they travel through good design.