As Sydney sleeps, WestConnex work ramps up

As the sun sets across our great city and most workers call it a day, construction activity ramps up on one of the southern hemisphere’s biggest infrastructure projects.

The 50-strong WestConnex specialist night crew - including construction and asphalting teams, traffic controllers, girder transport specialists and gantry operators - clocks on as darkness falls.

The overnight lull in traffic on Sydney’s major arterial roads provides the opportune time for work on extending the current M4 overpass and building a new bridge over Duck River to accommodate an additional two lanes as part of the WestConnex M4 Widening project.

M4 Widening night shift general foreman Innes Menke said the overnight work included transporting and manoeuvring giant concrete and steel girders, many the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

“These are the giants of the construction site, the largest single pieces of building material required for the M4 Widening project,” Mr Menke said.

“As Sydney sleeps, these concrete and steel girders, some of which are 50 metres long and weigh 100 tonnes, are manoeuvred into place.

“The girders have been produced at the pre-cast yard at nearby Auburn, and in the middle of the night when most motorists are off the roads, our teams swing into action to position them along the construction site.”

It is a relatively short but slow trip as oversized heavy vehicles carrying the girders make the journey westbound along the M4 at less than 10 kilometres an hour. The girders are then craned into place at various locations along the new overpass at night to minimise distractions for motorists.

For young carpenter Danny Hughes from Parramatta, being part of the M4 Widening night crew is providing valuable on-the-job training.

“Starting work when everyone else is calling it a day takes a bit of getting used to, but being part of the night team doing the formwork for the new overpass is a great learning opportunity close to home,” Mr Hughes said.

Much of this night work requires partial and intermittent closures of the M4 Motorway. It is estimated there will be around 140 partial night-time closures so all 238 girders can be delivered and installed.

“By the time Sydneysiders wake to a brand new working day, our night crew has completed essential asphalting works and has manoeuvred these girders into place ready for the dayshift to take over,” Mr Menke said.

The M4 is being widened from three to four lanes in each direction between Parramatta and Homebush. It will be finished in 2017 and will ultimately connect with the M4 East twin tunnels linking Homebush with Haberfield.

When complete, WestConnex will transform Sydney’s transport network by linking the M4 and M5 through a continuous free-flowing motorway allowing motorists to avoid up to 52 sets of traffic lights.