Northern Rivers Rail Trail earns prestigious engineering excellence award

26 April 2024

Government, industry and community collaboration leads to success

The Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail (NRRT) has once again captured the spotlight by clinching another prestigious award for engineering excellence.

At a ceremony on 11 April, the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) awarded the Tweed section of the NRRT top honours for Engineering Excellence in Category 1C – Design and Construction of a Public Works Project – Project greater than $5 million.

The award is further testament to the success of the Tweed section of the Rail Trail, which has attracted more than 140,000 guests since opening on 1 March 2023. Other award wins for the Northern Rivers Rail Trail to date include the best regional project in NSW by the Australian Institute of Project Management (2023) as well as achieving first place in the 29th annual National Trust Heritage Awards in the category of Conservation – Landscape (2023).

Former Rail Trail Project Director Iain Lonsdale (Council’s Unit Coordinator Strategic Planning & Urban Design) said the Rail Trail’s win was a great example of how collaboration can achieve great outcomes for the region.

“The Rail Trail project is an outstanding public works and engineering project and an example of what can be achieved when government, community and industry work together to deliver economic, social and regional benefits for the Northern Rivers,” Mr Lonsdale said.

“The project and the award would not have been possible without the outstanding contributions of Council’s engineering team, our partners, including NSW Public Works and construction contractor Hazell Bros, who helped us deliver what is proving to be an incredible new asset for the community.”

Mr Lonsdale said the award further solidified the NRRT’s position as a benchmark for future rail trail projects around the world.

“This recognition not only honours our past achievements but also solidifies the Rail Trail’s position as a benchmark for future projects globally. It sets a standard of excellence that inspires and guides the creation of transformative rail trail experiences worldwide,” he said.

NSW Public Works Project Manager Clint Nittolo acknowledged additional support from heritage consultant Urbis, Zone Landscape Architecture, Bridge Knowledge and Burchills Engineering Solutions, whose efforts also helped deliver the asset.

“NSW Public Works was privileged and proud to work alongside Tweed Shire Council and the extensive Hazell Bros team, as well as Burchills and Urbis, to deliver such an amazing asset for the community and broader Northern Rivers region,” Mr Nittolo said.

“We believe the Northern Rivers Rail Trail will continue to have a positive impact not only for tourism in the region but for the health and wellbeing of local communities and the people who choose to enjoy it and make lasting memories.”

The Rail Trail’s submission for the Awards outlined key features and project complexities. Notably, it showcased a dedication to project innovation through bridge restorations, gravel surfaces and tunnel works, including designing innovative solutions for nocturnal works in the Burringbar Range Tunnel while ensuring the protection of its unique inhabitants – micro bats and glow worms.

Key features of the award-winning engineering project encompassed a diverse 24 km of trail surface, with 6 km of sealed asphalt and 18 km of solid compacted gravel, a network of 26 bridges and bypasses, including timber, steel, prefabricated and balustrade-only configurations, two impressive tunnels, notably the 524m Burringbar Range Tunnel and the 50m Hulls Rd Tunnel, six road crossings and 15 driveway crossings, two significant trail connection paths enhancing accessibility for users, and 7 rest stops.

Project complexities also played a role in securing the award. The team overcame challenges posed by unapproved infrastructure and significant vegetation overgrowth since the closure of the train line in 2004, the 2022 flood, as well as navigating construction works on State heritage-listed sites, including the iconic Murwillumbah Railway Station.

The 24 km Tweed section was the first completed stage of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail which will eventually stretch 132 km from Murwillumbah to Casino in Northern NSW.



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