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CHINA: Gammon Construction, the 50/50 joint venture of Balfour Beatty and Asian conglomerate Jardine Matheson, has been awarded a HKD7.2bn contract for tunnelling and associated works for an automatic peoplemover (APM) and baggage handling system (BHS) at Hong Kong International Airport.

The works include two 1.8km tunnel structures for the APM and BHS systems, electrical and mechanical works, pumping stations, a datacentre and security facilities.

Gammon plans to adopt modular solutions for 75% of the electrical and mechanical works for the tunnels. In-line with Balfour Beatty’s commitment to reducing onsite activity by 25% by 2025, this approach will see activities carried out off site to ensure enhanced health and safety, increased productivity and reduce the duration of the works.

The contract forms a major part of the Three Runway System (3RS) project at the airport and will ultimately allow travellers to move between the new Third Runway Concourse and the expanded Terminal 2.

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AUSTRALIA: Construction on the metro between the new Western Sydney International Airport and St Marys station is to begin this year. Confirmation came in May after the federal government announced a AUD5.25bn contribution to the AUD11bn project, also funded by the State of NSW.

The plans also confirmed that the line will now be 6km longer than initially envisaged, with plans to put part of St Marys station underground. Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport, will consist of six stations, two within the airport’s boundary, at the terminal and the business park.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised the influence of the new national cabinet in accelerating the project, saying: “This is how Australia makes its way out of the COVID-19 crisis, infrastructure projects like this one.” The project is expected to create up to 14,000 jobs.

In March, Australian Aviation reported that works were to start imminently on the next stage of the project to build a new terminal and runway at the airport, with 25 million cubic metres of earth moved to make way for the Nancy-Bird Walton terminal, runway, roads and rail connections.

Around a million hours have been spent and 1.8 million cubic metres of earth moved around the site since initial earthworks marked the start of work to build Western Sydney International in September 2018. 

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FINLAND: Helsinki City Council has begun the initial planning for a new light rail line to link Malmi Airport and Viiki. The project is designed to encourage housing construction and employment growth in the capital and its north-eastern suburbs.

The new LRT link would connect to the existing tramline at Malmi, as well the Jokeri Light Rail Project, due to open in 2024. The studies will include consideration of connections to the future Tiederatikka – Jokeri Light Rail 2 and Vantaa tram systems.

It is yet to be confirmed if the northern end of the line will run to either Malmi station or Jakomäki in the Suurmetsä neighbourhood, further to the north-east. The two route options are not mutually exclusive, but are likely to involve two separate developments, depending on the availability of land close to the planned alignments.

The Viikki-Malmi light rail masterplan is to be completed by the end of the year, with a tentative schedule indicating that works could begin in 2027 for an opening in the early 2030s.

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CANADA: The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) and the Province of Alberta have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to undertake a feasibility study for a new passenger rail link between Calgary airport and Banff National Park.

The Calgary-Banff Rail project envisages a new 130km line between Calgary International Airport and Banff National Park, with the potential to add four additional stops in downtown Calgary, Cochrane, Morley and Canmore. The service could have up to eight departures per day and the capability of running an express service from Calgary International Airport to downtown Calgary every 20 minutes. Featuring dedicated infrastructure, the new line would be built within the existing Canadian Pacific Railway corridor.

The park attracts about four million visitors each year; a number that is expected to increase, putting additional pressure on highways and local roads. An estimated 23,000 vehicles use Highway 1 between Banff National Park and Calgary every day. It has been nearly 30 years since the previous rail link between the city and Canada’s most-visited national park closed.

CIB is to fund the study, working with Alberta Transportation to review estimated costs and revenues, explore financing options and assess environmental, social and economic benefits prior to any potential investment decision by the CIB as part of a public-private partnership.

"We are pleased to be building a strong partnership with the government of Alberta. An important part of the CIB's role is to work closely with governments across Canada to advance new infrastructure opportunities. The Calgary-Banff Rail project is the first of many potential projects for the CIB in Alberta," said Michael Sabia, CIB Chair.

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During the past month, our members have been sending us their thoughts and actions during the initial weeks of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Are you still maintaining normal services, or have you introduced revised timetables?
The majority of responses have begun a reduced service by up to three quarters of the usual operations. Those remaining are either currently investigating a reduced service to ensure the safety of passengers and staff, or are under a governement ordered suspension of service.

How are you managing staff patterns and rosters?
All participants have reduced staffing where appropriate, through the furlough of non-essential workers to the relocation of important employees. Those members who have currently suspended services have no staff working aside from duty managers doing daily checks on stations.

What channels are you using to communicate with passengers and what is your current media strategy?
Participants are using all existing forms of online communication including socials, email, website updates and app notifications. Onboard comms have also been updated for the current situation for those passengers still travelling on services. Public awareness materials are being shown at all stations with press releases whenever a government update is issued. A few participants have cancelled paid media for the time being.

If your city is badly affected, are you offering any complimentary travel passes or incentives?
All cities have been affected by the current situation, some more than others. Currently no travel passes or incentives are being offered although are being considered.

How have you revised your vehicle and station cleaning protocols?
All participants have increased cleaning intensity and frequency of customer and staff areas including touchpoints, ticketing machines and the vehicles themselves. Staff have had updated cleaning guidelines to keep on top of this and some have added additional sanitising stations.

Are you experiencing supply chain issues – and do you have a plan?
Fortunately no participant had noticed any supply chain for the usual items issues with the majority are creating detailed plans to prevent any major disruptions. Most have noted an issue with procuring high priority items such as sanitiser and face masks.

What are the main reasons and considerations in deciding to stop services completely?
All participants agree that a serious impact to public health would be a main deciding factor however it is important to keep travel options open to key-workers such as health professionals and shop workers. Those who have suspended services note that by temporarily suspending services now when there is limited demand, they are proactively managing our costs at a time when there is minimal revenue being generated. This is to ensure the future of the company and protecting staff employment for the longterm.

What happens to the staff during this temporary suspension of service?
Staff are kept up to date with current decisions, relocation and furlough options open to those non-essential staff.

What happens to the rolling stock during this period? Opportunity for additional maintenance?
No additional maintenance scheduled for any participants however due to the reduced service some maintenance may be brought forwards during daytime hours.

How long do you estimate it would take to recover to previous levels of ridership?
Unknown. All participant answers range from 6 months – 2+ years. Due to the level of uncertainty regarding individual governments travel restrictions it is impossible to tell when ridership will return to the usual levels. It is safe to assume that even once restrictions are lifted airlines will struggle to rebound due to public awareness of the sanitary risks associated with air travel.

We are continually monitoring the world wide situation with regards to our future events and their format. We are proposing to hold some live webinars a the beginning of June and look forward to supporting each other.