Levelled out: Aerial Data Provides Ground-Based Advantage on rail Crossing Removal Program

Customer Profile: Founded in 1961, McConnell Dowell Constructors (Aust) Pty Ltd is a leading infrastructure contractor in Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. With headquarters in Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia, the company is best known for its large-scale projects that include roads and bridges, pipelines and railroad assets.

Business Challenge: Develop a collaborative workflow to safely and efficiently complete railroad crossing removals and complete the construction of associated infrastructure.

Solutions:

  • Trimble Stratus
  • Propeller PPK
  • DJI Phantom4 RTK

Benefits:

  • Faster, safer site survey
  • Greater transparency with stakeholders/client
  • Improved visibility into project progress

Australian infrastructure contractor McConnell Dowell has built some of the most challenging roads, rails, dams, pipelines, marine assets, and other infrastructure in Australia, New Zealand, and Southern Asia. The company’s success is largely due to its structured approach to every build, combined with creativity and progressive thinking.

McConnell Dowell strives to continuously improve its processes, often with help from technology. That’s especially true on the company’s latest endeavor, the Level Crossing Removal Program (LXRP). This multi-year program was established by the Victorian Government to oversee one of the largest rail infrastructure projects in the state's history.

The goal is to eliminate 75 level (or flat) rail crossings across metropolitan Melbourne by 2025. Each crossing also includes other rail network upgrades, such as new train stations, track duplication, and train stabling yards. Removing level crossings will improve safety, reduce congestion, improve travel time reliability and increase train operation capacity.

As part of the Western Program Alliance (WPA), which also includes Arup, Mott MacDonald, and Metro Trains Melbourne, McConnell Dowell is charged with removing and renovating a set number of the crossings. To date, the alliance has completed six of the crossing projects and is currently working on another four.

Michael Mongan, Project Director with McConnell Dowell, says, “There are many day-to-day challenges on these sites, as they are typically very large, in some cases upwards of 6km long. And we’re working within an operational light rail environment, so trains are flying by at 100km an hour. In the early days, a lot of the communication was happening via photography or just verbally delivered.”

“Just surveying the individual project sites was a challenge,” adds John Dyer, Engineering Manager with WPA. “Even the best surveyor in the world might only survey on five- or 10-meter grids, so we would only get a snapshot of that particular point or area, which then had to be interpolated on a 2D drawing. We needed a way to survey the whole site quickly to provide a timely resource for optimal collaboration and project management.”

McConnell Dowell looked to drone-enabled solutions. After evaluating several platforms, the company selected Trimble Stratus, powered by Propeller—and put it to work.