One of Australia’s largest construction companies has bagged the contract to build the largest section of Western Australia’s biggest rail construction project under an agreement which will generate around 6,500 construction jobs.

In a joint announcement, the Commonwealth and Western Australia Governments said they had awarded the $700 million contract to build the Morley-Ellenbrook section of the METRONET project to the MELconnx Consortium headed by Laing O’Rourke.

The contract represents the largest part of the METRONET project in Perth which involves construction of 72 kilometres of new passenger rail line and up to eighteen new stations and transform over 5,000 hectares of land around new stations to desirable places for investment in housing, jobs and services for growing communities.

The 21 kilometre line will spur off the Midland Line at Bayswater station and in Perth’s inner north-east and extend the line out to Ellenbrook in the far north-east of the city.

The contract includes construction of the rail line as well as building five new stations at Morley, Noranda, Malaga, Whiteman Park and Ellenbrook, with a future station to be developed at Bennett Springs East.

The new line represents the most significant expansion of the rail network since the Mandurah line was built in 2007.

By 2031, it is estimated the rail line will take more than 10,000 car trips off roads in the north-eastern suburbs each day.

All up, the project will generate around 6,500 jobs in construction.

Early works have already started, with the New Bayswater Station – the site where the Morley-Ellenbrook Line will spur off the Midland Line – and the Tonkin Gap Project. As part of the Tonkin Gap Project, works include civil and structural works between Bayswater and Malaga to allow rail access in and out of the Tonkin Highway and to prepare the corridor for rail to be laid.

The direct costs of the Morley-Ellenbrook Line enabling works on those two projects is estimated at $233 million – providing significant time and cost savings on the project.

The total project budget for the main contract, including contingency, escalation and ancillary costs, is estimated to come in at $1.1 billion.

Main construction work is expected to finish in 2023/24.

Premier Mark McGowan said the project was one of his Government’s key election commitments and he was pleased the main construction contract has now been awarded.

“Just like we promised, we’re building the rail line to Ellenbrook,” Mr McGowan said.

“This has been talked about for decades and after all the broken promises, this is a major step forward for this project, which will transform Perth’s growing north-eastern suburbs and benefit the local and surrounding communities.

“Now more than ever, big infrastructure projects like METRONET’s Morley-Ellenbrook Line are imperative to WA’s COVID-19 economic recovery as they create a pipeline of work and support thousands of jobs.

“This year alone we have seven METRONET projects underway and through our Building for Tomorrow program, we are creating lasting infrastructure for generations to come while creating thousands of local jobs and opportunities for local businesses.”

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said today’s contract award paves the way for thousands of jobs for hard-working Western Australians and an economic boost for the WA economy.

“All along the Morrison Government have said that METRONET will re-shape Perth and that transformation is underway all across the metropolitan area,” Mr Tudge said.

“It means jobs right now and critical, targeted infrastructure for generations to come.”