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Sydney Gateway: External challenges no deterrent for project’s success

16 August 2022

Large-scale infrastructure projects inevitably have their challenges and complications. COVID and a La Nina weather pattern, which saw the highest ever recorded rainfall totals on the Australian East Coast, have challenged the Sydney Gateway project in ways no one foresaw.

InfraBuild Reinforcing’s Steve Niven, Peter Markuse and Dave Drevon have taken time to reflect on key lessons stemming from the business’s involvement on the Sydney Gateway project to date. The team also explores what the project means for the InfraBuild business in terms of product supply, manufacturing capacity, and the benefits we’ve been able to offer customer John Holland and Seymour Whyte.

“The project commenced in November 2020 – and to date, we’ve supplied around 1,400 tonnes of bar and 2,000 tonnes of prefab. So, we’re probably around 15 percent into the job. It’s a 15,000-tonne job so we’re still very early days”, explains Project Manager Steve Niven.

Sales Manager for Infrastructure and Major Projects Peter Markuse says the preplanning by the Reinforcing team has been a significant factor in keeping the project on target.

“We recently received a big rap from the customer because we spent a lot of time preplanning. We’ve been working with them from the start due to the volume of the piling cages that were involved.

“We said we’d like to start delivering early, so we started delivering two to three months earlier. That kept the program up and has been a significant factor for us, particularly with the unpredictable weather.

“Being in front has been a real benefit, and a real key learning for infrastructure jobs going forward. When we talk to customers on new jobs, we talk to them now about how we can start supplying earlier and discuss how they can find some room for that, to maintain the program. That’s important and has been a major lesson,” explains Peter.

NSW Regional Prefab Manager Dave Drevon has taken a lead role in the preplanning stages on the Sydney Gateway project. Major prework meetings were held early on to ensure the project started on time with minimal issues, says Dave.

Challenging site constraints

A major road connection, the Sydney Gateway will provide a toll-free link between the domestic and international airport terminals, reducing travel times by up to 40 minutes during the morning peak for motorists travelling from Parramatta to Sydney Airport. A major link in Sydney’s motorway network, the NSW State Government says the Sydney Gateway project will improve traffic flow and divert trucks from local streets around Mascot.

Construction of the Sydney Gateway is a joint venture between John Holland and Seymour Whyte involving the delivery of two sections. First, the International Terminal and Qantas Drive connection, which links Sydney’s motorway network to the International Airport Terminal and Qantas Drive. Secondly, the Domestic Airport Terminals access, which will create an arterial road connection and overpass to Sydney Airport’s Domestic Terminals.

The Sydney Gateway construction team are working in a highly constrained and confined live traffic environment, delivering a total of 5.1 kilometres of arterial road, around 3 -kilometre active transport link and 19 bridges and viaducts. The project is due for completion in December 2024.

Product supply from InfraBuild Reinforcing includes reinforcing bar and prefab, pile cages, reidbar, mesh, and accessories such as Ancon products, sonic tubes and related steel reinforcing products. The team at InfraBuild Reinforcing’s St Marys site is manufacturing the lion’s share of the total supply with our Villawood site providing additional support.

In total InfraBuild Reinforcing is supplying 1,800 tonnes of piling cages to be used in 15 of the new bridges and viaducts.

Dave explains that prior to the project commencement, cage redesigns were required to allow for sonic tube installation. Sonitec tubes are designed to be encased in the piling cages and foundations to allow for future testing of the concrete integrity by ultrasonic waves, while the pile cages were constructed to a single design as opposed to seven.

“Another constraint on pile cages was plane headroom, which meant limitations on cage lengths,” Dave says. “And site constraints also meant product deliveries were required between 12am and 1am, so we had to prioritise pre-booking loads for out of hours deliveries for piling and prefab.”

Dave Drevon, InfraBuild Reinforcing Prefabrication Manager

Capabilities and communication

Regular meetings, both for the customer and the InfraBuild team, have been critical to the success of the project’s supply and delivery. “It’s all about being pre-emptive,” Steve Niven explains. “By regularly catching up we get an understanding of what’s coming up in the next three weeks. It’s about constant communication, and that’s the key.” 

Dave elaborates, “the meetings are a way of managing multiple fronts and keeping up with the project’s program. Aligning customer expectations with our business capabilities is always important.

“There have been many challenges where large volumes of steel were required at the same time in different sections of the project. We work continuously with the Sydney Gateway project teams to manage supply and keep on top of supply schedules to ensure pour dates aren’t missed.”

“We work in so closely with the customer that we practically all become part of one team,” says Peter. “Steve has long standing relationships built over quite a number of years and there’s a lot of trust. These relationships are as important as the financial component. The relationship and the experience are incredibly important.”

Reinforcing has brought a suite of capabilities to the Sydney Gateway project:

  • an experienced team, with two full time detailers dedicated to the project;
  • prework and ongoing weekly meetings with site engineers to review the program;
  • technical expertise, 5D modelling for headstocks, piling cages, sonic tube installation, inclinometer, and production capability on detailed workshop drawings and mechanically coupled tension piles.

Responsive Reinforcing team stays ahead

There’s a stark difference between large scale infrastructure projects like Sydney Gateway and building construction. And there’s a sense that the InfraBuild Reinforcing team is enjoying the process on Sydney Gateway.

“A big difference is the time on these types of projects. There’s a lot more planning,” says Steve. “It all comes down to planning and being responsive to the customers timetable.”

There’s a sense of pride for the whole Reinforcing team working on the project.

“It’s been extremely satisfying working with a long-standing customer on projects that are building the future of Sydney,” says InfraBuild Reinforcing’s NSW Regional Manager Grant Rennett.

In his role as prefab manager, Dave says there’s also great satisfaction in knowing he was part of the redesign stages, ensuring close collaboration with customer and supplier to deliver the schedule on time and with minimal issues.

“We’ve got an extensive Reinforcing team involved on the project, led by the regional manager, sales manager, and prefab manager who collectively have decades of work experience on large-scale major infrastructure projects.”

It was the team’s negotiations prior to the project commencement, backed by a project manager and admin team who stay on top of the day to day requirements, which have ensured the project started well explains Dave.

And judging by the progress so far, the Sydney Gateway project is shaping up nicely.