From the CEO’s Desk

Like everyone else in the industry, RA has had to quickly pivot and adapt to the new reality of working through the coronavirus pandemic.

To that end, I would like to thank all our sponsors and stakeholders who have provided feedback and helped make our transition to online meetings and webinars so seamless. Over the last two weeks we have hosted Infrastructure WA Acting CEO Lance Glare for a great discussion on the long-term planning that is happening in the west. We’ve also hosted our first two online policy events – the first on transport network pricing with the team from Infrastructure Victoria, and the second on resilience and sustainability with ISCA and Infrastructure Australia. And just yesterday, our Australia-wide network of Fellows came together for the first part of their mid-year workshop.
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RA President Michael Bushby and I have also been using the digital platform for a series of meetings with ministers and agency heads – most recently with Queensland Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey, and WA Infrastructure and Planning Minister Rita Saffioti. These meetings have been a really important channel for us to keep governments in touch with how industry is faring through the COVID crisis. The recent surveys that many of you have undertaken for us have underpinned those discussions.

Thanks to everyone who downloaded our first podcast with BIS Oxford Economics Associate Director Adrian Hart on what COVID might mean for the pipeline.

Today we launch the second in our Road Work podcast series – this time on transport network pricing. How, what and when we charge users of roads and transport is a particularly sensitive topic for politicians and the broader community. In this episode, we are joined by Jonathan Spear and Moses Lee from Infrastructure Victoria to talk about new research that points to some potential ways forward.

Stay safe and well.
Michael Kilgariff

Work continues as governments look to infrastructure to pull economies out of COVID fire

The message has been loud and clear from Federal, state and territory governments over the past two weeks – infrastructure delivery is essential and will drive our recovery from the COVID crisis.
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WA contracting reforms and fast-tracked pipeline will pay long-term dividends

The WA Government’s transport construction contract reforms – coupled with the fast-tracking of $140 million in road and maritime projects – will not only help small to mid-sized contractors survive the COVID crisis, but is also an investment in the industry’s long-term future.
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COVID might be making the daily commute faster, but still no excuse to speed

Roads Australia has backed calls by Queensland Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey for road users to slowdown and stick to the rules in the face of a spike in fatalities in the Sunshine State.
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People

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) will be led by Mark Campbell for the next five years following his appointment as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer. Mark has more than 20 years’ senior management experience in Australia and overseas, including most recently as CEO and MD of RA member Holcim Australia and New Zealand. He replaces outgoing ARTC CEO and Managing Director John Fullerton, who has led the organisation since 2011.

Policy

Our next policy webinar is on 12 May and is focussed on how to keep projects moving, including through innovative re-deployment of the workforce and exploiting digital technology. The discussion will be led by RA Board Member and Journey Reliability Policy Stream Chair Aneetha De Silva, and will include a presentation from Emmanuel Clech, D&C Director, WestConnex 3A, on how the WestConnex M4-M5 Link Tunnel project is adjusting to the ‘new normal’. He will be joined by Howard Collins, Chief Operations Officer with Transport for NSW, and another industry representative. Registration details will be circulated shortly.

Industry

The NSW Government has this week released the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Metro West for public comment. The EIS outlines that the project will slash road congestion, with 83,000 fewer weekday car trips by 2036 and 110,000 fewer by 2056; create more than 10,000 new direct jobs and 70,000 indirect jobs; and cut the target travel time from Parramatta to the city by 10 minutes to about 20. The EIS also reveals the new twin metro tunnels will be built on average 38 metres underground – the equivalent of a 13-storey building. This is one of three EISs for the project due to its scale, and the community will have further opportunities to comment.

Two consortiums have been shortlisted for the $215 million Mitchell Freeway extension from Hester Avenue in Clarkson to Romeo Road in Alkimos. NRW Contracting and WBHO Infrastructure (H2R) and BMD Construction with Georgiou Group (Mitchell Extension JV) have been invited to submit proposals by July. WA Transport and Planning Minister Rita Saffioti says the much-needed extension will take traffic off of Marmion Avenue and provide another travel option for residents in the northern suburbs. “We are optimising planning to ensure the project connects into existing rail, road and cycling networks as well as the METRONET Yanchep Rail Extension,” the Minister added.

Still in Perth, two proponents have been shortlisted to design and build METRONET’s Morley-Ellenbrook Line, which will create thousands of local jobs and establish a rail link to the city’s growing north-east suburbs. Following the formal Request for Proposal, Ellenbrook Alliance (CPB Contractors and Downer EDI) and MELconnx Consortium (Laing O’Rourke Australia Construction) will progress to the competitive bid phase.

Applications have opened for Round 1 of the Federal Government’s $12 million Road Safety Innovation Fund. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack says the Fund will target innovative projects aimed at improving road safety in regional and remote areas, reducing driver distraction and drug driving, and supporting better safety outcomes for vulnerable road users. The first round of funding provides $2 million to fund projects across the country over the next four years.

In Melbourne, the Frankston train line will shut for more than two months from late May for the removal of three more dangerous crossings and the building of two new stations. The works are part of the Victorian Government’s $3 billion investment in the line, which includes removing 18 level crossings and building 12 new stations. Across Melbourne, 75 level crossings are being removed by 2025, with 35 already gone for good.

The last two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) on Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel project are now in the ground, helping to deliver the State’s biggest public transport project. The third TBM, Millie (named after Victoria’s first female MP Millie Peacock), is digging the first 1.7 kilometre tunnel between Anzac Station and the Metro Tunnel’s eastern entrance at South Yarra. The fourth TBM, Alice (named after wartime medical hero Alice Appleford) is due to begin work on the second tunnel from the site under St Kilda Road in the coming weeks.

On the other side of the country, Salini Impregilo (Webuild) has achieved a major milestone on the Forrestfield-Airport Link in Perth with the breakthrough of TBM Sandy, marking the end of excavation. Sandy arrived at the Bayswater Junction tunnel portal and dive structure last month, notwithstanding the additional safety measures to protect more than 700 workers from the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The line is set to come into service in the second half of 2021.

The biggest road infrastructure project in WA’s history – the $1.02 billion NorthLink WA – is now fully open with completion by CPB Contractors of the third and final northern section – a 22-kilometre dual carriageway highway between Ellenbrook and Muchea. The opening of this section means road users, particularly freight, can now realise the full benefits of the 37-kilometre highway.

The Federal Government has welcomed the announcement by Infrastructure Australia this week that the Port Botany Rail Line Duplication and Cabramatta Passing Loop projects have been recognised as priority projects.The announcement comes as a separate $75 million upgrade to improve the standard and performance of the existing Port Botany rail line has been successfully completed. The upgrade improves connectivity and performance for freight trains operating on the Sydney Metropolitan Freight Network and paves the way for the Port Botany Rail Line Duplication project.

In Sydney, the latest section of the $1.6 billion Northern Road upgrade opened to traffic last week after the completion of a new 5.5 km stretch of road. Part of the Stage 4 upgrade, works have realigned a section of The Northern Road between Mersey Road and Eaton Road which currently runs through the Western Sydney Airport site.The section was delivered by RA member Georgiou in partnership with Ertech.

Jobs in the NSW construction sector are set to receive another boost, with the NSW Government last week moving to the next stage of work on southern Sydney’s ‘missing link’. Three consortiums shortlisted after the EoI process have been invited to tender for the M6 Stage 1, connecting President Avenue at Kogarah to the New M5 at Arncliffe. The three JVs invited to tender are Acciona – Samsung; Gamuda – BMD; and CPB – Ghella.

Fulton Hogan has been awarded a contract to deliver early works, including earthworks preparation, planting and fencing, as part of WA’s Bunbury Outer Ring Road project. The procurement process to secure alliance contractors to design and construct the South-West’s biggest-ever transport infrastructure program is still ongoing.

Boral marked last month’s 50th anniversary of World Earth Day with the nationwide launch of a new sustainable asphalt system. Latin for “renew”, INNOVO enables customers to customise a unique asphalt mix containing all, one or a number of salvaged materials such as recycled plastic, recycled glass and end-of-use tyres that would otherwise become landfill. The system was used last month by the City of Mitcham in Adelaide to resurface Carlisle Road in the inner southern suburb of Westbourne Park, with 150 tonnes of recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) and recycled plastic used in the mix.

COVID-19 is a once-in-a-century pandemic, facilitating a worldwide change in travel habits. As governments mandate social distancing and lockdowns, the movement of public transport around major cities has significantly declined, flattening the transport curve. The question transport planners everywhere are now pondering is – can we still achieve this after the pandemic? In a blog titled Flattening the post-pandemic transport curve, Sam Linke, Aurecon’s Transport Planning Leader for Victoria, argues that governments, engineers, transport planners, and businesses now have the opportunity to rethink and redesign our transport systems for better legacy outcomes.

Meantime, WSP has also just released a white paper on the potential challenges for public transport in a COVID-19 world. The paper looks not just at the PT impacts – including the critical capacity considerations and adjustments required as restrictions are lifted and we transition to a new operational framework – but the flow-on opportunities for active transport.

ARRB Group has opened nominations for the National Transport Research Awards, recognising and celebrating research excellence across five categories of the transport sector – Local Government Innovation, Research-Industry Partnership, SustainableTransport Infrastructure, Research Rising Star, and Lifetime Contribution. The Awards will be presented at a gala dinner in Melbourne on 20 November.

Roads Australia has been approached by Centre for Pavement Engineering Education (CPEE) student John Ghaly with a request that we pass on to members a link to a survey he is undertaking on the use of stabilisation in heavy duty flexible pavement rehabilitation, as part of his Bachelor studies in roads and engineering through the University of Tasmania.

Diversity and social responsibility

Our 7 May webinar for women in infrastructure is, regrettably, a full house with a substantial waiting list. However we do intend to run more of these online events, so if you’d like to put you name forward for a future women in infrastructure webinar, please drop an email to Marlie Curtis.

Our D&I partner, aHA – a human agency, is running a series of webinars on related issues in the context of the COVID crisis. The next of these on 20 May is entitled Flexible work – the new normal or a temporary measure? RA members can register for free by clicking on this link.

Upcoming RA events

May 5 – By-invitation web meeting with Queensland Rail CEO, Nick Easy. Proudly sponsored by SMEC Australia.
May 12 – Policy webinar – Adapting to the ‘new normal’: keeping projects moving in the age of COVID-19.
May 13 – By invitation – online CEO Workshop.
May 20 – RA Webinar with NSW Transport and Roads Minister Andrew Constance.
October 28 & 29 – RA Transport Summit, Sydney. Bookings now open.
October 28 – John Shaw Dinner, Sydney. Bookings now open.