News Archive

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Possible rail link to Belfast Airport unveiled

UK: The Railway Investment Prioritisation Strategy published by the Regional Development Minister signals the potential for the first major extensions to the railway network in Northern Ireland since the closing of lines in the sixties.

The Minister's announcement follows a public consultation inviting views on the future priorities for investment in the railways network.

Minister Kennedy said: “This ambitious Strategy allows for a significant enhancement of existing rail capacity, preparation for the future electrification of the network and the first major extensions to the railway since the closing of lines following the Benson Report in 1963.

The Minister highlighted that in the last few years, there has been a significant upturn in rail passenger growth in Northern Ireland, almost doubling in numbers since 2002. He said: “Within the broader transportation network our railway service is rapidly increasing as a travel mode of choice.”

The Department for Regional Development's Strategy identifies three priority themes to be pursued in bidding for future railways investment funding up to 2035. Mr Kennedy said over the period of his Strategy, priority would be given to a number of projects including the completion of the Coleraine to Londonderry track relay; track relays between Coleraine and Antrim and at Lurgan station; refurbishment of the Enterprise rolling stock; refurbishing stations and halts including Adelaide, Ballymena, Londonderry and Lurgan; purchase of up to 60 extra carriages; and a programme of new Park and Ride facilities amongst other projects.

In looking at possible network extensions the Minister said: “Projects that will be considered include the enhancement of the Northern Line between Bleach Green and Antrim. Other feasibility studies into longer term will propose extensions along the A6 corridor between Antrim and Castledawson; along the M1/A4 and the A3/A29 corridors towards Dungannon/Armagh; and a route to serve Belfast International Airport.

Enhancement of the Northern Line

The consultation document identified one of the potential bottlenecks, which would limit more frequent timetabling or shortening the journey times of services on the Northern Line (Belfast to Londonderry), as the existing single track operation between Bleach Green and Antrim and Ballymena. This problem could be compounded if traffic along the corridor were to increase as a result of a line extension along the M2/A6 (see 3.41). However, there are two possible solutions:

  • Dualling of the existing single line track between Bleach Green and Antrim: or
  • Re-opening the Antrim to Knockmore/Lisburn line.

The Antrim – Knockmore line was closed in 2003 but is maintained as a diversionary route in circumstances of an emergency or for driver training.

“The re-opened Antrim to Knockmore/Lisburn line could also present an opportunity to establish a rail link to Belfast International Airport (BIA), although such investment is less likely to be economically viable until airport passengers grow to at least 10 million. Passenger throughput in 2013 was just 4 million. Given the important role of BIA as a gateway into Northern Ireland for tourism and inward investment, a feasibility study should be undertaken to consider investment in a rail link if passenger numbers grow towards 10 million by 2030 as predicted by the airport operator,” the report states.

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Location of Sydney’s second airport announced – access plans to follow

AUSTRALIA: Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed that the site for Western Sydney's new airport will be Badgerys Creek.

“For more than 50 years governments have talked about a second airport for Sydney. The talk is over. The final decision has been made. This airport will be good for economic growth and good for jobs – both in Western Sydney and nationally,” Abbott said.

According to the Prime Minister, planning for the new airport will start immediately and construction should start in 2016. It is envisaged that most of the cost of the airport will be met by a private sector operator.

“Without a new airport, we run the risk of the existing Kingsford-Smith Airport reaching capacity. Sydney's airport is the gateway to Australia's largest city and accounts for 40% of international arrivals and 50% of international air freight each year. If no action is taken on a second airport, Australia would lose out on 80,000 additional jobs and $34 billion in economic activity by 2060,” Abbott said.


Qantas has welcomed the announcement with CEO Alan Joyce saying the second airport was a vital piece of economic infrastructure for Australia – and Badgerys Creek was clearly the right site.

“Qantas has long supported the building of a second airport at Badgerys Creek, as have a number of detailed studies. After decades of debate, we applaud today's announcement by the Prime Minister,” said Joyce.

“Airports are key pieces of infrastructure that facilitate a huge amount of economic activity, and they take a lot of time to plan and build. We look forward to being part of this process as Badgerys Creek moves closer to reality,” added Joyce.

Joyce said the Qantas Group will continue to work closely with Sydney Airport to maximise the use of this key asset, including through the rollout of its recently approved Master Plan 2033.

Realistically, a new airport will see its first flight in the mid-2020s, but the Government will first finalise the necessary planning, including critical road network upgrades.

“Because of the time it takes to plan and build an airport, the Government's approach will be roads first; airport second. The additional roads will be ready long before the airport is fully operational,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott added.  

In coming days, the Government will, together with the NSW Government, announce the details of a major Western Sydney infrastructure package to deliver investment in the region's roads.

“Building road and rail infrastructure to support Badgerys Creek will not just benefit airport users, but residents throughout Western Sydney,” Abbott said.

Badgerys Creek is located approximately 56 kilometres from Sydney's Central Business District by road. It was identified as a potential site for an airport from as early as 1969 and the Australian Government acquired a site of approximately 1,700 hectares between 1986 and 1991.

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Airtrain welcomes back Chris Basche as its CEO

AUSTRALIA: Airtrain has announced that Christopher Basche will rejoin the organisation as Chief Executive Officer.

“We welcome back Chris' expertise and leadership abilities in the transport sector. Chris is well-suited to lead Airtrain to enhance its position as a leading transport provider between Brisbane Airport, the city and Gold Coast,” said Gavin Merchant, Senior Investment Manager at USS.

Basche is a specialist in the transport industry having spent the past three years at TransLink in various senior roles including Director of Contract Reform Commercial. He spent the previous seven years at Airtrain in both Marketing and Chief Executive roles.

“Airtrain is an integral piece of transport infrastructure in Brisbane. I am thrilled to be back, build upon its proven success, and lead the organisation through its next phase of development,” said Basche.

Basche has joined Airtrain following the recent introduction of additional twelve train services to and from Brisbane Airport to widen the period when services operate every 15 minutes. Airtrain now operates from 5.00am to 10.00pm of which half of this period has train services every 15 minutes. The service offers excellent value for money for commuters to and from Brisbane Airport with the service offering the fastest means to convenient locations in Brisbane City and Gold Coast for a third of a typical taxi fare.

Basche's priorities as Airtrain's CEO will be:

  • Ensuring the safety of passengers and staff;
  • Focus on growing patronage;
  • Improve ticketing systems;
  • Enhance Airtrain's online offering; and
  • Work cooperatively with all Airtrain's key stakeholders.

Basche commenced as CEO on 7th April, 2014.

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 Coalition Government commits to Melbourne Airport Rail Link in State Budget

AUSTRALIA: Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has announced that the upcoming State Budget will outline the Coalition Government's commitment to build a new rail link from Southern Cross Station to Melbourne Airport.

Speaking at the Liberal Party State Council on Sunday, Dr Napthine said the landmark project was part of the Coalition Government's infrastructure agenda and commitment to building a better Victoria.

"The Coalition Government is undertaking the detailed design, planning and consultation work on this important project," Napthine said.

"The Melbourne Airport Rail Link is a critical component of the Coalition Government's broader transport plan that will deliver more services to carry more people, more often across metropolitan and regional networks.

"This project will see a new service running along dedicated tracks from Melbourne Airport to Albion where it will join the existing rail network and run through to Southern Cross Station.

"This will be an electrified service that utilises the Albion East route which has previously been identified as the preferred option for an airport rail link.

"This service will depart from Southern Cross Station every 10 minutes during peak hours with the total journey to the airport expected to take approximately 25 minutes.

"The new link will consist of a combination of at-grade and viaduct rail lines that will run from Albion, through the Jacana freight corridor and airport land terminating at a new elevated station at Melbourne Airport. A new rail flyover will be constructed at Albion to ensure smooth access to the existing rail network," Napthine said.

Minister for Roads and Public Transport Terry Mulder said Melbourne Airport catered for 30 million passengers every year with this number expected to double by the middle of 2030.

"Our Government is committed to building the key transport infrastructure Victoria needs for a better and brighter future," Mulder said.

"This fantastic project will provide easier access to Melbourne Airport for all Victorians whether they utilise the metropolitan train network or whether they arrive at Southern Cross Station from regional Victoria on a V/Line service.

"Metropolitan and regional commuters will also be able to access the Melbourne Airport at key interchanges at Footscray and Sunshine.

"The Melbourne Airport Rail Link will complement existing transport links to Tullamarine and will cater for future growth in the number of people who utilise Melbourne Airport.

"With the commitment for this project now secured in the upcoming State Budget, the Coalition Government will get on with the job of detailed design works and consultation with stakeholders and the general community," Mulder said.

The Coalition Government's commitment to the Melbourne Airport Rail Link will be detailed in the State Budget.

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SYSTRA wins €170m Project Management Consultancy Contract

QATAR: The Qatar Railways Company has awarded the SYSTRA-Parsons joint venture a €170 million project management and work's supervision contract for Phase 1 of the Doha metro in Qatar.

As part of development plans for the capital Doha and in preparation for the 2022 Football World Cup, Qatar has launched a project to design and build a new metro network serving the city and its suburbs.

It will comprise of urban and suburban lines that will form the central structure for the country's rail network and provide connections to strategic areas including the city centre, West Bay, Lusail, New Doha International Airport (NDIA), the exhibition centre, major urban development areas to the south and west of the city and, of course, the stadiums where the 2022 World Cup matches will be held.

The contract covers design reviews, work's supervision, testing and tracking acceptance activities. As lead consultant, SYSTRA will be responsible for signalling, driverless systems, rolling stock and depots.

Doha Metro-map

This Doha Systems contract consolidates SYSTRA's position as the leading global service provider on the fast-growing driverless metro market and follows on from other recent SYSTRA wins: the project management contract for automated systems and rolling stock for Lines 15, 16 and 17 of the Grand Paris Express and assistance to the owner contract on systems; as well as the project management and work's supervision contract on three future metro lines for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia won by the Group in August 2013.

Guillaume Pepy, Chairman of SYSTRA's Supervisory Board, expressed his delight at this win. “Around 120 engineers will work on this project, showcasing French expertise. This new contract will strengthen SNCF Group's presence in the Middle East. SNCF already has representation in the region via its Keolis and Geodis subsidiaries”.

Pierre Mongin Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of RATP Group added, "SYSTRA has RATP Group's full support on this project with its expertise in driverless metros as well as its knowledge of the area, through its subsidiary RATP Dev”.

“We are very proud,” said Pierre Verzat, CEO of SYSTRA, on his return from Doha, “to be able to assist the Qatar authorities to build their future intermodal transport network. It will help improve mobility for the city's residents. Our teams are looking forward to this challenge, which involves overcoming technical complexities and tight deadlines. Qatar's confidence in SYSTRA is an acknowledgement of our expertise and technical leadership.”