Three major construction firms have emerged as favourites to deliver the first major tunnelling package on one of Melbourne’s biggest ever rail projects.

The Victorian Government has chosen the Suburban Connect Consortium as its preferred bidder to deliver the first major tunnelling package on the Suburban Rail Loop East (SRL East) project.

The consortium consists of Sydney based major construction contracting firm CPB Contractors, Spanish civil engineering firm Accociona and Italian civil construction contractor Ghella.

(The Suburban Rail Loop will connect Melbourne’s south-east at Cheltenham with the South-west at Werribee. The SRL East project (light green above) is the first stage and will connect Cheltenham in the south-east to Box Hill in the east.)

Set to open in 2035, SRL East will link Cheltenham in Melbourne’s south east with Box Hill in the east via two twin tunnels, each of which will be 26 kilometres in length.

The project will also include six new stations at Cheltenham, Clayton, Monash, Glen Waverley, Burwood and Box Hill along with interchanges to existing stations at Cheltenham, Clayton, Glen Waverley and Box Hill.

It represents the first stage of the broader Suburban Rail Loop (SRL) project, which is envisaged to form a complete loop that will link Melbourne’s middle suburbs from Cheltenham in the South-East through to Werribee in the south-west via suburbs in the south-east, east, north-east, north, north-west, west and south-west.

According to the Government, the loop will be needed as Greater Melbourne’s population increases from just over 5 million in 2019 to 9.0 million by 2056 – roughly the size of London today.

As well as delivering cross suburb travel connections, the project aims to unlock critical housing, commercial and employment centres along middle-suburban precincts upon which the line connects.

As things stand, travel between middle and outer suburban areas across greater Melbourne via rail is hampered by a lack of cross connections between different lines on the existing rail network.

This has impacted the delivery of commercial and employment centres along these lines.


(SRL East map – map of the SRL East line)

However, uncertainty remains over how the project will be funded.

Overall, the cost to build SRL East is estimated at between $30.0 billion to $34.5 billion, according to the project’s business case released in 2021.

Thus far, the Victorian Government has committed $11.8 billion whilst the Commonwealth has provided initial funding of $2.2. billion.

Beyond this, the business case relies on the Commonwealth contributing a further $9.3 billion as well as the raising of additional funding though value capture mechanisms such as taxes and levies on property developers who undertake new development along the line.

(artist impression of the new SRL Glen Waverley station)

The first major tunnelling package that is set to be awarded involves 16 kilometres of twin tunnelling between Cheltenham and Glen Waverly along with two new underground stabling boxes and construction works at the Southern Stabling Yard.

Major tunnelling works are expected to commence in 2026.

In the meantime, early works associated with the project are underway in Box Hill, Burwood and Heatherton.

At Box Hill, Crews are moving the 109 tram stop on Whitehorse Road 40 metres west to ensure services are unaffected during construction.

Works will also start soon on a temporary bridging structure to keep Whitehorse Road open to traffic during excavation of the underground station.

At Burwood, workers are preparing to build a launch site for tunnel boring machines.

Works are also expected to commence soon in Monash and return to Glen Waverley and Clayton before the end of the year.

Crews are also moving water, sewer, power and gas services to make way for the six new SRL East underground stations and 26kms of twin tunnels.

All up, around 8,000 jobs will be generated whilst SRL East is under construction. At least ten percent of all hours will be worked by apprentices, trainees and cadets.

(Early works for SRL East taking place at Box Hill station)

Minister for Suburban Rail Loop Jacinta Allan said the importance of the project should not be underestimated.

“SRL will not only transform our public transport network, it’ll reshape how Melbourne grows in the decades ahead – taking thousands of cars off roads, delivering 24,000 jobs across the life of the project and boosting hundreds of small local businesses,” Allen said.


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