Our combined team is providing a broad range of services for the project in a three-way design joint venture with Arup and Arcadis. We are working together to deliver the tunnels, civil engineering, structures, mechanical and electrical, rail infrastructure, fire and life safety engineering, security and blast assessment, pedestrian modelling, vertical transportation, specialist lighting, sustainability and digital solutions as well as noise, vibration and acoustics.

Creating an Efficient Transportation System

WSP is playing an integral role in the development of this metro-style rail network which will free up space in the City Loop to run more trains in and out of the city. Key to its success will be reducing construction and operating impacts to local residents, businesses and other stakeholders.

Wayne Bretherton, WSP’s Director of Property & Buildings for ANZ says, “This is an extremely important project for Melbourne. It will improve the capacity of the rail system, its reliability and the passenger experience, while also supporting jobs and economic growth in Victoria. It is the first major rail undertaking in inner-Melbourne since the original City Loop was built in the early 1970s, and it will allow 39,000 more passengers to use the network during peak travel times each day.

“WSP is involved in key aspects of the project, including the design and fitout of the five underground stations and all tunnelling works. We have a huge team working on the early stages of the detailed design phase, which is now ramping up. There is currently a massive push to deliver work packages, particularly those relating to project mobilisation and impact assessments, which need to be done before construction begins.”

Harnessing Tunnelling Innovation

Building the Metro Tunnel presents many opportunities to innovate, especially given the complexities surrounding the range of geological conditions and inner-city urban environments.

“It is going to be challenging for everyone, since we are working in a live environment right in the heart of an active city with multiple stakeholders – some of whom have unique requirements,” says Rob Alexander, Major Project Executive for WSP’s Transport business. “For example, we are tunnelling and creating a new station right in the heart of a research and medical precinct which houses important equipment.

 “Our transport experts have a demanding job ahead of them that includes minimising disruption to residents, businesses and public events as well as road traffic, pedestrians, cyclists and existing public transport and freight services. They will also need to navigate the existing underground infrastructure including the City Loop, CityLink tunnels and services such as water, gas and electricity. Additional considerations include excavating through a range of varying geological conditions including rock, sands, clays and silt as well as managing the removal and disposal of all this material. And, tunnelling will take place under two significant waterways, the Yarra River and Moonee Ponds Creek.”

A unique feature of building the Metro Tunnel Project is the innovative way the two new underground stations in the CBD will be constructed. Instead of the traditional design of two tunnels separated within the stations by a cross passage, the trains will pass through the two newly constructed underground city stations via one huge ‘trinocular’ tunnel.

“The result is the creation of a wide-open space at the CBD stations allowing for the concourse and platforms to be integrated on a single level,” says Mr Alexander. “Ultimately, this will be one of the widest underground metro platforms in the world.”

Maximising Safety and Security

Providing a safe and secure passage for millions of rail users is vital. A lot of thought has already been given to the structural safety and ventilation of the metro system, and in particular smoke ventilation.

“Our fire team is working on the underground interchanges between the new Metro Tunnel and the existing City Loop,” explains Mr Bretherton.

WSP will also assess the risk and potential vulnerability of the tunnel structures to determine the preventative, protective and remedial measures to improve safety and security.

Enabling a Sustainable Future

Through the delivery of this new infrastructure, the Project is committed to connecting communities in the healthiest, most sustainable way possible. The Project wants to ensure a lasting legacy for present and future generations for a more liveable Victoria – environmentally, socially and economically. To help achieve this vision, the joint venture engaged the services of our Sustainability team.

Bernadette Fitzgerald, WSP’s Associate Director for Sustainability, says, “The implementation of the Project’s sustainability vision has been imprinted into the design DNA since the tender stage. We have been working with the design and construction joint ventures – providing advice to enhance the sustainability outcomes throughout the delivery and operational phases of this significant asset. This has included analysis of services to identify design options to reduce and efficiently manage resource consumption - including energy, water and material saving initiatives, as well as ways to avoid, minimise and offset harm to the environment and the loss of biodiversity. Protecting and conserving the natural environment is also key and we are advising on how to build resilience into the asset to prepare for the challenges presented by climate change.

“We are proud of the work we have been undertaking – particularly working to develop a sustainable procurement approach and to embed biophilic design outcomes into the station designs.

It will improve the capacity of the rail system, its reliability and the passenger experience, while also supporting jobs and economic growth in Victoria
Wayne Bretherton

Controlling Noise and Vibration

In a city-shaping project like the Metro Tunnel, one of the biggest challenges is noise and vibration during construction.

Mr Bretherton says, “We are designing to mitigate the impacts of construction right along the line, which will run under some sensitive buildings including hospitals and the University of Melbourne’s medical research precinct. We are looking at ways of preventing the risk of vibration affecting sensitive equipment and delicate instruments.”

Contributing to Melbourne’s Changing Cityscape

When it comes to transport networks, lighting design needs to be visually captivating and provide passengers with welcoming, comfortable and straightforward journeys. To achieve this, we are working closely with the architects on the project including Australian firm Hassel, London-based firms Weston-Williamson and Partners and Rogers Stirk Harbour.

Specifically, our specialist lighting designers will bring the architecture alive for the five underground stations, each with its own individual identity, starting with the station platforms and public station areas and extending up to the public realm in the streets above. 

Implementing a World-First Internet of Things (IoT) Platform

There will be some impacts from building the project including noise, vibration, groundwater, air quality, dust and other emissions during construction.

“As part of CYP’s winning proposal, we put forward a unique digital solution known as the ‘Melbourne Liveability Monitor’ which will create a world-leading IoT platform to manage all the environmental performance requirements,” says Henry Okraglik, WSP’s Global Director – Digital for Asia-Pacific. “It will involve hundreds of sensors around Melbourne along the length of the construction corridor, and our digital team is currently designing the requirements for each different type of sensor and the platform on which the whole system will work. They will also be aligning the sensors with the requirements of stakeholders operating sensitive equipment. All the data will be pushed up to the cloud through the IoT platform, to facilitate the process of automated sensing, monitoring and alert notifications, feeding back to the project and stakeholder groups in a cycle of continuous improvement.”

Echoing Mr Okraglik’s comments, Mr Bretherton says, “This is going to be a huge undertaking, and, as far as we are aware, it is the first time that this is being done on such a large project. The intent is to use our digital solution as part of the compliance requirements for the project throughout design and construction.

Fostering a Collaborative Powerhouse

For our combined Property & Buildings and Transport & Infrastructure practices, the Metro Tunnel Project allows us to showcase the multidisciplinary nature of our firm and provide a single integrated offering.

“A project of this scale allows us to apply the collective brainpower of our teams,” says Mr Alexander. “This enables us to connect the dots amongst our technical capabilities, thereby streamlining, fast-tracking and optimising processes in a continuous loop. This is extremely advantageous for our client, as we can drive positive and lean outcomes.”

The Metro Tunnel is currently under construction and is on track to be complete by the end of 2025, a year ahead of schedule.


More on this subject