Strategic road scheme gets into gear

  • Offsite manufacturing makes a significant contribution
  • A 20km-plus section of freeway under construction
  • Majority of the route runs through Australian ‘bush’

Construction work on a major new road that will improve freight links and free up congested roads in Western Australia kicks off this month. 

Great Northern Connect (GNC) – a joint venture between Laing O’Rourke and BGC Contracting – will deliver the A$417 million NorthLink WA central section for Main Roads Western Australia.

Stretching from northern Perth to Muchea, the completed NorthLink WA will shift heavy traffic away from the Swan Valley tourist region, reduce the number of goods vehicles on the Great Northern Highway and improve freight links to the port at Fremantle.

Completing the 20km-plus stretch of dual-lane freeway between Reid Highway and Ellenbrook involves building 16 road bridges, three footbridges, and cycle and pedestrian facilities.

The whole route sits on sandy ground, with 90 per cent passing through bush – presenting a major logistical challenge.

The sheer volume of materials to be delivered on site poses a significant challenge for the project delivery team, including more than 2.5 million cubic tonnes of material to form the foundations and base of the asphalt road, 80,000m2 of precast concrete noise barriers up to 5.5m high which will run for 13km, and more than two million shrubs and trees to be planted along the course of the road.

Project Leader Scott Martin explains that, although it is a design and build contract, the client has issued very strict bridge design specifications. 

“This provides us with the opportunity to exploit Laing O’Rourke’s offsite manufacturing techniques (DfMA). All the noise walls and tee beams on the bridge decks will be constructed from locally made* precast concrete components.” 

He adds: “Our ability to use a significant amount of DfMA will result in fewer people on site, reducing costs and safety risks and helping to ensure we finish on target in September 2019.”

Nevertheless, at the peak of construction 450 operatives and staff will be involved, including a five-strong environmental team and three people purely handling community engagement.

“While the project is widely supported, there will be disruption for some people so good community engagement is a must,” adds Scott.

“We will also face a number of environmental challenges including the need to build over one of Perth’s major underground water supplies. This means careful groundwater monitoring is necessary, and the project team must navigate strict conditions around locations of site lay-down areas and re-fuelling stations.

“We have the right plans and people in place to ensure all of these challenges are managed in an expert fashion and are committed to keeping the local community up to date as we progress. 



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