A massive recruitment drive targeting carpenters, form workers, concreters and other tradespeople is underway in Sydney as work on one of Australia’s biggest infrastructure projects commences.

A consortium involving Leighton subsidiaries Thiess and John Holland as well as Spanish contractor Dragados (a subsidiary of Spanish giant ACS, owner of Hochtief which controls Leighton) has began a campaign to recruit workers for the tunnelling phase of the $8.3 billion North-West Rail Link – a 23-kilometre heavy rail rapid transit link in Sydney’s North-West which will connect Rouse Hill to Epping via Castle Hill and will include 15 kilometres of twin underground tunnels and a four-kilometre sky train viaduct.

Around 900 workers are being sought for work which will include twin tunnels between Belle Vista and Epping as well as civil works for eight new stations and two new service facilities.

Those in demand include tradespeople such as boilermakers, carpenters/formworkers, tunnel boring machine (TBM) operators, road header operators, tunnellers, those in the electrical and mechanical trades, steel fixers, concreters, riggers, general labourers, scaffolders, traffic controllers, shotcreters, tunnel lining builders and truck/special vehicle operators.

Transport for NSW has set up a skills and employment advisory group made up of key State, Federal and industry stakeholders to provide advice on training, skills development and supply chain engagement.

State Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said the project would provide significant local employment opportunities in Western Sydney for those with tunnelling and civil construction industry experience as well as new entrants.

“The tunnel builders have started a massive recruitment operation to source the construction workforce to join the project over the coming months,” she said. “This is an iconic project for greater Western Sydney and the builders want to source as much of their workforce from this region as possible.”

The recruitment drive comes as Berejiklian gathered with State Premier Barry O’Farrell and local MPs David Elliot and Bart Bassett earlier this week at the site of the new Belle Vista station, where excavation has now started to prepare the site for the first tunnel boring machine.

At the gathering, O’Farrell announced that the first of four tunnel boring machines would be in place to start work on the site in October while the remaining machines would be in place by the end of the year, ahead of the original schedule.

He said the start of excavation works represented a significant project milestone.

“As you can see, this project is no longer just a glossy brochure and lines on a map,” he said. “Construction is underway, jobs are being created, the first of the four massive tunnel boring machines will be in ground ahead of our end of year commitment and the people of NSW can be sure this vital piece of infrastructure will be delivered.”