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Milestone for long-awaited Gawler rail electrification

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The long-stalled plan to electrify the Gawler rail line will reach a new milestone tomorrow, with the State Government to begin the tender process for the first stage of the project.

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The electrification of the line, first mooted by the State Government nearly 10 years ago, has been a stop-start affair.

Stage one of the electrification, from Adelaide to Salisbury, is being fully funded by the State Government at a cost of just over $152 million.

Registrations of interest will open tomorrow for companies seeking to tender for work on the project, with full submissions to be called from July. Major construction works are due to start in early 2018.

The State Government says that apart from the core work to electrify the line – such as installing the overhead wiring system – related works will include signalling system upgrades, public safety improvements, and corridor fencing.

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan said today a matching commitment from the Federal Government in tonight’s budget would extend the electrification further and support more jobs.

However, the project doesn’t appear to be an urgent priority for Infrastructure Australia funding. Its latest priority list, released in February 2017, listed the project as a “proposed initiative” that was at the “business development” phase.

The State Government says it submitted its first business case on the project to the Federal Government in 2008. It subsequently completed a range of works, including installing 300 electrical masts, footings and working on the rail track.

Mullighan said he would continue to lobby the Federal Government to recommit to the project. In 2013 during Tony Abbott’s prime ministership, $76 million in federal funding was abruptly withdrawn from the project after the State Government had suspended its own funding in the 2012 budget.

Mullighan said the project was important because electrification would make the service faster, safer, more reliable and more comfortable.

The upgrade would also increase patronage on the rail line, which was already Adelaide’s most popular.

“Almost five million trips were recorded on the Gawler line last financial year and that doesn’t factor in the hundreds of thousands of free trips taken on our trains every year with services such as the MAC Footy Express,” he said.

While the State Government is promising that all steel will be sourced from Australian-standard certified fabricators and mills, it isn’t guaranteeing that it will all come from Whyalla’s struggling Arrium steel works, which it says doesn’t manufacture all of the steel products it needs for the project.

However, the Government is promising to “maximise” use of Arrium steel.

“Just has been occurring on other major projects, the State Government will look to maximise the use of local Arrium steel for the Gawler electrification project,” a Government spokesperson told InDaily.

“Most recently approximately 270 tonnes of Arrium steel was used on the Outer Harbor rail bridge as part of the Torrens to Torrens project. Other projects such as Darlington, O-Bahn are also using local Arrium steel.

“While we look to maximise the opportunities for Arrium steel in our projects, they do not manufacture all products needed. Any products not manufactured by Arrium will need to comply with the State Government steel policy that all steel to be sourced from Australian-standard certified fabricators and mills.”

Last week, the Whyalla steel works was promised a $73 million order from the controversial Adani coal mine in Queensland.

The giant Indian conglomerate signed a memorandum of understanding to give Arrium Steel sole right to supply all the steel required for the double-tracked 400km rail line between the central Queensland mine site and the port at Abbot Point.

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