Aurecon was engaged by KiwiRail to deliver rail, civil and structural design for the double tracking of Tretham to Upper Hutt.


Trentham to Upper Hutt Double-Tracking, Wellington, New Zealand

Digital innovation a game-changer for major Wellington rail project

Wellingtonians and visitors take more than 14 million passenger journeys a year on the Wellington Metro Rail Network. While the rail network is well maintained, some sections require upgrade or renewal to improve service reliability and enable more people and freight to travel on trains in the future.

The Wellington Metro Upgrade Programme is a package of improvements being delivered by KiwiRail and Metlink and funded by Waka Kotahi and Ministry of Transport.

Trentham to Upper Hutt Double-Tracking is one of the most significant projects delivered as part of the programme. Trentham to Upper Hutt involved double tracking of 2.7 km of the Hutt Valley line between Trentham and Upper Hutt stations to enable trains to travel in both directions at the same time and deliver more frequent and reliable services.

The project also included level crossing improvements and upgrades at Trentham and Wallaceville stations, including new platforms and shelters, and a new pedestrian underpass at Trentham.

Aurecon was engaged by KiwiRail under a collaborative Early Contractor Involvement framework to deliver rail, civil and structural design; geotechnical investigations and design; environmental and consenting; communications and stakeholder engagement; construction monitoring and digital support services for the project. KiwiRail’s forward thinking approach and commitment to building a collaborative and integrated team of designers and contractors, set Trentham to Upper Hutt up for success from the beginning.

New Zealand’s first completely paper-less infrastructure project

Trentham to Upper Hutt offered KiwiRail the opportunity to drive a digital step-change, with a vision to be the first completely paperless BIM project of its scale in New Zealand. Aurecon brought this vision to life with a fully integrated digital design that incorporated all elements of the duplication of the rail line. Working in partnership with KiwiRail and Downer, our team introduced a range of innovative digital techniques on the project transformed the business as usual.

The fully digital 3D modelling approach enabled game changing safety and productivity benefits, including Safety in Design; machine control; accurate, high level, real time visualisations, and the creation of as-built drawings upfront. All models were attributed to comply with KiwiRail’s digital framework.

From day one, the team was able to think and solve problems in a 3D environment, enabling risks to be identified and resolved before construction began on site. Using point cloud scanning enhanced clash detection and avoidance and reduced the occurrence of re-work due to coordination issues or service strikes during construction. This was particularly important when working in a live rail environment, where clashes can cause significant safety impacts, delays to customers and potential loss of income from unplanned disruption.

Transforming project collaboration with a new digital platform

The cornerstone of the Trentham to Upper Hutt project was the creation of a common data environment (CDE) where design models, survey data, and other digital engineering outputs could be hosted and connected. Aurecon worked closely with KiwiRail to adapt and enhance our existing GeoDocs platform for this purpose, which leverages geospatial technology to provide a visual interface for project data.

While the platform was developed through the Trentham to Upper Hutt project, it was designed to be scalable to allow KiwiRail to implement this way of working across their business. KiwiRail is now using the platform to deliver its $5B capital works portfolio.

The aspiration was to deliver the project with as few traditional drawings as possible. The resource consent application was submitted to Greater Wellington Regional Council without any traditional drawings, with the team using a range of digital media to communicate the project, including videos and Google earth models. While some drawings were required during construction for fabricators and others in the supply chain, these were produced from and embedded within the 3D model.

Harnessing digital to engage with the local community

The fully digital approach taken at Trentham to Upper Hutt enabled different opportunities for how KiwiRail and Aurecon engaged with and gained insights from the local community. The organisations visited neighbouring Trentham School and took 450 students through the Trentham to Upper Hutt level crossing in Virtual Reality (VR) to test the design.

Using eye-tracking technology in VR headsets, KiwiRail and Aurecon were able to see the design through the children’s eyes. This activity enabled the team to identify improvements to safety fencing at level crossings, enhancing safety.

Students also had the opportunity to leave their own mark on the project by creating artworks for the underpasses at Trentham Station.

Driving a step change in industry performance

Trentham to Upper Hutt was KiwiRail’s first BIM-enabled project and part of a wider BIM pilot to support their focus on digital connectivity and innovation. This project kickstarted KiwiRail’s digital engineering transformation by providing an exemplar of how best practice standards could be brought together with a model-first mindset to create significant and replicable benefits in terms of asset information quality.

The digital tools developed will contribute to a more resilient, productive rail sector, and have the potential to enhance outcomes on other infrastructure projects in New Zealand.

Trentham to Upper Hutt has attracted significant attention from the industry, with the project winning the following awards:

The project was also identified by New Zealand’s Construction Sector Accord as a leader in sector transformation when it was selected as a Beacon Project, and finalist in the 2021 Beacons Awards.

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