From the CEO’s Desk
Have we, as an industry, turned a corner on the COVID-19 crisis?
This week RA hosted its annual CEO Workshop. This event would normally be held alongside our national Summit, but given the circumstances we instead brought participants together via webinar.
Ahead of the workshop, we asked CEO’s to complete our third COVID impacts survey. Comparing the results against the responses of eight weeks ago, it appears our industry is travelling better than it thought it would. There is an overwhelming belief that any delays to current projects arising from safe working restrictions will be minor, if at all.
It wasn’t all good news, with just over a third of respondents saying the crisis was hurting their bottom lines, and another third expecting to take a hit over the next six to 12 months. There’s also anecdotal evidence of job loses, particularly in the consulting sector where the work flow – particularly in relation to future projects – has been disrupted.
While most respondents reported some loss of productivity, it appear the industry overall has adjusted well to the challenges of having staff working from home – although the point was made that there is no effective substitution for face-to-face collaboration, particularly in the consulting sector.
Asked what governments and client agencies could do to best assist industry through the current crisis, the top response was to expedite projects to the market.
And in terms of RA’s overall policy priorities, procurement reform continues to rate as our top priority. Our industry leaders believe that, if anything, the COVID crisis is an opportunity to act once and for all to remove volatilities in the pipeline, to come up with a better formula to share the work (and the risk), and to share resources for the betterment of the industry – and, ultimately, the community – as a whole.
Clearly we’re not out of the woods just yet. But compared to other sectors of the economy, the construction and consulting sectors appear to be in a better position to rebound from the coronavirus epidemic and push on with the task of delivering Australia’s next round of essential transport infrastructure.
The bigger question is whether or not we can grasp the nettle and make fundamental changes to procurement processes while we have this opportunity.
Stay safe and well.
SA’s 20-year Strategy a welcome roadmap to the future
Roads Australia has welcomed this week’s release of South Australia’s inaugural 20-year State Infrastructure Strategy, the State’s new road map for growing its economy, improving government service delivery, supporting population growth and creating jobs.
Preferred proponent announced to build WA’s congestion-busting Tonkin Gap project
The Tonkin Gap Alliance has been selected as preferred proponent to build the Tonkin Gap project and associated works for the METRONET Morley-Ellenbrook Line. The Alliance – comprising BMD, Georgiou, WA Limestone, BG&E and GHD – will work with Main Roads WA to deliver the project, which will fix a major bottleneck between Morley and Redcliffe.
All eyes on $1b Rocky Ring Road as concepts unveiled
The Queensland and Australian governments have today unveiled the concept design for the 17-kilometre, $1 billion Rockhampton Ring Road – a project that promises to improve travel times for 35,000 daily drivers and will feature a new Fitzroy River crossing.
Susana Fueyo has been appointed Executive Director of the North-South Corridor Program Delivery Office within the Department of Planning Transport and Infrastructure. Susana is currently the Program Director at Major Roads Projects Victoria, overseeing a $4 billion portfolio of works including the $2 billion M80 Upgrade and the $1.28 billion Tulla Widening project. Her appointment comes as the SA Government releases a $3 million tender to engage geotechnical experts to undertake investigation works to determine the final stage of the North-South Corridor.
With Ray Farrelly aiming to reduce his full-time role after 12 years in the chair, the Centre for Pavement Engineering Education is on the look-out for a new CEO. The organisation is seeking a suitable person to work with its governing council to take CPEE to the next level, providing strategic leadership and management, building meaningful partnerships with the public and private sectors, and maintaining the viability of the organisation. Key accountabilities and position description can be obtained by contacting Lauren Streifer, Principal, Streifer & Co.
Recent media reports suggest the engineering sector is feeling the strain of the COVID-19 crisis, with job losses and pay cuts across the sector. This week’s RA CEO Workshop seemed to confirm this, with the pandemic blamed for a significant delay in the issuing and assessment of tenders and the awarding of work.
Our next policy webinar on 28 May will look at the role roads play within the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) ecosystem, and the extent to which the current COVID-19 crisis may have shifted predictions about how and when MaaS is implemented in Australia. Our expert speakers will also explore the role that transport network pricing plays in implementing MaaS, and as part of the broader demand management objective. Registration for this event will open shortly – so watch this space.
Infrastructure Australia has confirmed two key METRONET projects – the High Capacity Signalling project and the Morley-Ellenbrook Line – as priority projects on the Infrastructure Priority List. The national independent advisory agency found the Morley-Ellenbrook Line was of strategic importance and would improve and integrate transport options within the corridor, reducing car dependency and easing traffic congestion.The project has a nominated benefit-cost ratio of 1.20, providing $430 million in wider economic benefits across the community. Early work on the project began late last year with the start of upgrades to the new Bayswater Station.
Works have started on the Gold Coast’s largest road project, the $1 billion Pacific Motorway upgrade from Varsity Lakes to Tugun. Package A (Varsity Lakes to Burleigh) is being delivered by Seymour Whyte Constructions. The commencement of works comes as another milestone is reached on the $218.5 million M1 upgrade between Mudgeeraba and Varsity Lakes, with the new Stapley Drive bridge expected to open any day.
The NSW Government recently sought submissions on the combined Sydney Gateway Environmental Impact Statement and preliminary draft Major Development Plan.Transport for NSW’s response to the feedback is contained in a Submissions Report, which is available on the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment website.
The SA Government has announced $65.5 million of local community projects as part of its $1 billion stimulus package. A total of 37 projects have successfully secured funding across 27 different council areas, with 24 in metropolitan Adelaide and 13 in regional South Australia. The Government has also announced 300 kilometres of country road upgrades to improve safety.
The Queensland Government’s $80 million Sumners Road Interchange Upgrade, in Brisbane’s west, continues to gain momentum, with the first of two new bridges now complete. Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said this week the major milestone would pave the way for the next stage to begin – the demolition of the old bridge and the construction of a new eastbound-four lane overpass. The project is being delivered by BMD Constructions.
Cardno is rolling out a series of webinars over coming weeks that underlines its diverse service interests, including the rebuilding of international market systems and support of business resilience and sustainability outcomes. The first on 19 May is focussed on work health and safety during COVID19 and beyond, and will include a discussion on how to plan for ‘return to work’ scenarios. The second on 22 May looks at building supply chain resilience in global markets, and the third on 28 May will put a spotlight on human trafficking, social risk and modern slavery in South East Asia.
The Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney is conducting an on-line survey to measure the impact of COVID-19 on travel. The survey link is open until 25 May and represents the second phase on an ongoing study. The Institute’s Founding Director, Prof David Hensher, has also just co-authored a new book – Understanding Mobility as a Service (MaaS) (978-0-12-820044-5) – available through Elsevier.
A digital platform developed by AECOM in Australia that streamlines environmental documentation and stakeholder engagement throughout the environmental assessment process has been expanded globally. The scalable platform, which presents highly technical information in a user-friendly online and interactive form, has recently been used to create a purpose-built digital environmental impact statement on behalf of Highways England, and the first-ever National Environmental Policy Act compliant digital statement on behalf of the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
A number of RA members are looking at what the post-COVID infrastructure market will look like. Donald Cant Watts Corke has recently produced an interesting thought-piece on the pivotal role of infrastructure in boosting the Australian economy out of economic downturn, while Aurecon’s latest Just Imagine blog post explores how our perception of what is essential and non-essential has dramatically changed.
RA member Pinsent Masons has just released a special report – Making a Global Investment Powerhouse: The future of the UAE’s regulatory framework. The report includes recommendations for navigating the regulatory framework, and is aimed at businesses who are operating or planning to invest in the UAE.
Transport for NSW has issued an update to suppliers on the dissolution of Roads and Maritime Services and how it will affect invoicing and existing contracts beyond 1 July.
The Centre for Pavement Engineering Education (CPEE) is running a free webinar on 27 May (2-3pm) entitled Challenges for Roads and Pavements: now and into the future. CPEE’s Executive Manager (Professional Development) Kym Neaylon will lead a discussion covering emerging trends and issues in pavement performance and design new materials, the quality of the unbound fill materials, and current design principles used for sealed and unsealed roads.
It’s well known that mental health is a major issue in the construction industry, and the current crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic is, if anything, exacerbating the problem. Safework NSW has some great online resources and even provides free training programs for organisations of less than 200. Well worth a look.
Transport for NSW is calling for expressions of interest from the energy, transport, manufacturing and financing sectors to participate in trials of zero emission buses and associated technologies. The trials will be undertaken in partnership with transport operators in the Sydney and Outer metropolitan areas and are part of the Government’s strategy to transition the entire public bus fleet to zero emissions. The EoI process will run until 3 August.
Monash University has announced a landmark interdisciplinary research collaboration to study the effects of the COVID-19 restrictions on the functions of Melbourne. The project will investigate traffic flow, electricity use, urban and household behaviour, use of parks and public spaces and air quality. The findings will be used to develop new approaches for sustainable urban growth, emphasising social cohesion and environmental conservation alongside economic prosperity.
Diversity and social responsibility
The WA Government says it continues to exceed its Aboriginal procurement targets with the 2019-20 mid-year snapshot revealing it is on track to surpass targets by more than 250 per cent. Aboriginal businesses were awarded more than five per cent of all Government contracts from July to December 2019, well above the target of two per cent. In this period, 90 contracts worth more than $83 million were awarded to 51 registered Aboriginal businesses. The Government’s Aboriginal Procurement Policy commenced on 1 July, 2018 and requires agencies to award at least one per cent of contracts to Aboriginal businesses. This threshold will rise to three per cent by 2021.
Upcoming RA events
May 19 – By-invitation webinar with Victorian Department of Transport, Head of Transport Services, Jeroen Weimar. Proudly sponsored by SICE.
May 20 – Webinar with NSW Transport and Roads Minister Andrew Constance. Proudly sponsored by Aurecon.
May 21 – RA Emerging Leaders Talking Heads webinar. Proudly sponsored by Arup.
May 27 – By-invitation webinar with Infrastructure and Project Financing Agency CEO Leilani Frew.
May 28 – Policy webinar – the role of roads within the MaaS ecosystem.
June 2 – Webinar with NT DIPL GM of Transport and Civil Services Louise McCormick.
June 4 – Webinar with Qld DTMR Chief Engineer Dennis Walsh.
October 28 & 29 – RA Transport Summit, Sydney. Bookings now open.
October 28 – John Shaw Dinner, Sydney. Bookings now open.