From the CEO’s Desk

The Federal Budget handed down on Tuesday evening was historic in several respects, not least because it revealed the extent to which our industry will power the nation’s efforts to recover from the COVID-19 induced recession.

Elsewhere in this edition of RA Insider you can read about the Budget’s investments in major transport infrastructure projects, designed to provide a vital injection of construction activity at a critical time. The Federal Government has invested in projects across every state and territory, designed to boost employment growth, as well as to promote the wider productivity and social benefits that flow from enhanced transport infrastructure.

Roads Australia also welcomed the Budget’s substantial commitment to enhanced road safety with $2 billion provided for shovel-ready road safety upgrades, and the allocation of an additional $1 billion for local council to make improvements to local roads, footpaths and street lighting through the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program.

The Budget’s focus on enhanced workforce capacity is another positive for our industry, with employers now eligible for a subsidy of 50 per cent of the wages for a new or recommencing apprentice or trainee for the period up to 30 September 2021 (capped at 100,000 placed nationally).

A JobMaker Hiring Credit has also been established for employers who hire younger workers currently on JobSeeker. The credit of $200 per week for those aged under 30, and $100 per week for those aged between 30-35 is available immediately for a period of up to 12 months, provided the new hires work for at least 20 hours per week.

These measures also reflect recommendations outlined in Roads Australia’s pre-Budget submission around enhancing market capacity and improving skills and training regimes.

RA members also received a Member Brief on the Budget on Tuesday evening, which you can view here.

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Of course, the Federal Budget’s contribution to a booming infrastructure pipeline should also give renewed impetus to the recommendations in the Roads Australia Procurement Reform Report: Recommendations & Strategies, which was publicly released last week. A quick summary of the major issues the report covers is available here.

Given upcoming state and territory budgets are likely to further increase the size of the national pipeline, this is the right time to ensure that government and industry are working collaboratively to make certain projects deliver best value for taxpayers, and are undertaken in a way that lets our industry get the best use of its capital and its people.

With the nation’s economic recovery dependent on an efficient and successful delivery of projects, it is vital that we get this process right.

RA has already commenced work to establish a collaborative partnership between industry and government to pursue the recommendations set out in the Report. We have already held some ministerial-level discussions about the Report, with more to follow in the coming weeks.

I look forward to keeping you updated on this vital Roads Australia initiative.

Stay safe and well.

Michael Kilgariff

Federal Budget delivers for transport projects

Enhanced national transport infrastructure is at the heart of the Federal Government’s post-COVID economic stimulus outlined in this week’s Federal Budget.

Funding has been committed to projects in every jurisdiction and it is forecast that the investments will support 30,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Among the highlights announced on Tuesday evening were:

  • $560 million for the Singleton Bypass on the New England Highway in New South Wales;
  • $292 million for the Barwon Heads Road upgrade; and $85 million to upgrade Hall Road in Cranbourne in Victoria;
  • $750 million for Stage 1 of the Coomera Connector (Coomera to Nerang) in Queensland;
  • $88 million for the Reid Highway Interchange with West Swan Road in Western Australia;
  • $200 million for the Hahndorf Township Improvements and Access Upgrade in South Australia;
  • $150 million for the Midway Point Causeway (including McGees Bridge) and Sorell Causeway as part of the Hobart to Sorell Roads of Strategic Importance corridor in Tasmania;
  • $120 million to upgrade the Carpentaria Highway in the Northern Territory;
  • and$88 million for the Molonglo River Bridge in the ACT

A full list of key projects funded in each state and territory is available as part of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Budget night statement.

Stimulating business investment & activity

The Federal Budget also provided incentives to encourage businesses to invest in job-creating activity by expanding the asset write off.

The measure is available for businesses with a turnover of up to $5 billion and will allow them to write off the full value of any eligible asset they purchase.

It is envisaged the initiative will encourage the purchase of new equipment (including fleet upgrades), investment in new IT systems and the purchase of new fixtures and fittings for premises.

Scott Power, Executive Director of Operations for RA member BMD was featured in coverage of the new measure in the Australian Financial Review.

WA State Budget sets up $11.8bn pipeline

Yesterday’s State Budget in Western Australia included major investments in transport infrastructure, with an $11.8 billion pipeline of works across Western Australia over the next four years.

Among the major projects supported in the Budget are:

  • $100 million to install Smart Freeway technology on the Mitchell Freeway between Hester Avenue and Vincent Street, including works on 16 on-ramps;
  • $50 million to construct a 6-metre-wide Causeway Cyclist and Pedestrian Bridge with dedicated pedestrian and cyclist lanes to the west of the Causeway;
  • $275 million to construct a 45.6 kilometre, 10-metre-wide sealed bypass two lane highway west of Bindoon, including connections to existing roads and overtaking lanes;
  • and$36 million on the Great Northern Highway Port Hedland Deviation project.
    Full details of all projects funded are available here.
Support contract awarded for WestConnex M4 and M8

Roads Australia member SICE has been awarded the opportunity to support a complex ecosystem of safety systems by signing a three-year fixed price support contract for the M4 and M8.

Motorways and tunnels are managed by a complex mix of systems from many different hardware and software vendors which can create logistical challenges when trying to maintain and repair the systems. By having a multi-skilled team, SICE are able to provide a “one-stop shop” to maintain, diagnose, restore services and resolve issues.

SICE Australia MD Manuel Gonzalez Arrojo said “This new agreement to support the M4 and M8 signifies SICE’s commitment to our long-term partnership with WestConnex | Transurban. As part of this contract, we’ve extended our DLP promises and taken on business continuity obligations to keep the road open and safe for all road users. SICE designed and integrated most of these systems, so this demonstrates our confidence in our products and our people. It also demonstrates SICE’s long term commitment to its Australian customers and road users.”

Online asset management course to kick off in 2021

Enrolments have opened for Australia’s only online, industry designed qualification course in asset management.

Offered by Roads Australia member the Centre for Pavement Engineering Education (CPEE), the comprehensive new course is aimed at both aspiring asset managers and those who already work in the space but want to sharpen and formalise their skills.

The core units of the new online course cover the principles of asset management and the economics of financial management. Participants can choose two additional elective units from a suite of four, comprising road asset management, sustainable physical infrastructure, project management elements, and the principles, management and risks of contracts.

CPEE CEO Ray Farrelly says the new offering “delivers a formal qualification and practical, transferrable skills that are in demand right across Australia and around the world.”

More details are available here

People

The Office of Projects Victoria (OPV) has announced the appointment of Cressida Wall as its new Chief Executive Officer, commencing from 16 November 2020. She joins OPV from her most recent role as the Victorian Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia, and has extensive career experience in government and the private sector including senior roles in public policy, corporate affairs, infrastructure, private equity, property and technology start-ups.

Policy

You can now learn more about the outcomes of the first two RA International Insights webinars via our recently published Policy Insights pieces.

Our piece on the transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles includes a summary of the contributions made by each of the speakers during our recent webinar on the subject, information on international trends and what is happening locally, as well as handy links to research and reports that will let you dive more deeply into this rapidly-evolving policy area.

Also available is our Policy Insights piece on the role of active transport in a multi-modal transport system. As well as learning what was discussed at the webinar and how the COVID-19 pandemic has altered demand for transport services, you’ll find examples of where active transport innovation is already being incorporated into major transport infrastructure projects here in Australia.

RA is now preparing further webinars in the International Insights series – further information will be available shortly.

Industry

The NSW Government has announced one of the state’s major road freight pinch points will be improved sooner than expected, with Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole confirming the new Gunnedah Bridge is expected to open to traffic before Christmas. Work on the new 195-metre-long bridge is well ahead of schedule, and once open will facilitate an uninterrupted flow of traffic for heavy vehicles through Gunnedah. The Minister has also announced the opening of another two overtaking lanes on the Newell Highway between Coonabarabran and Narrabri. BMD and AECOM were both involved in delivering the new overtaking lanes.

In Melbourne, the first eastern section of the Metro Tunnel is now complete, after a second tunnel boring machine (TBM) broke through at the tunnel’s eastern entrance at South Yarra. The Metro Tunnel will create additional capacity for more than half-a-million passengers a week during peak periods and help reduce road congestion in and around the Melbourne CBD. More than half of the tunnelling for the project has now been completed and the four TBMs have installed more than 31,000 concrete segments to form the rings lining the tunnels and have excavated 371,000 cubic metres of rock and soil.

The Queensland Government has confirmed funding has been locked in to build a second Centenary Bridge at Jindalee, with the Queensland and Federal Governments contributing $112 million apiece to deliver the project. The planned works include construction of a new, three-lane, northbound bridge built to the west of the existing bridge, the reconfiguration of the existing bridge to provide three southbound lanes and improved active transport for pedestrians and bike riders. It is anticipated that works will commence in 2021.

In South Australia, the State Government has confirmed the commencement of one of SA’s biggest regional road projects, with works to seal the first 50 kilometres of the Strzelecki Track now underway. The 472-kilometre Strzelecki Track is one of the most heavily used unsealed roads in the northern region and provides a vital freight link between South Australia and Queensland, and is also a critical route for outback communities, tourists and pastoralists.

Tasmania’s State Government has called for tenders to duplicate the East Derwent Highway, between Golf Links Road and Sugarloaf Road in Geilston Bay. Under the planned works the road will be upgraded to two lanes in each direction to match the adjoining sections of the highway and create a consistent dual carriageway through Geilston Bay. As part of the works, further safety and traffic flow improvements will be made at key intersection and access points – including the installation of traffic signals.

In Western Australia, the State and Federal Governments have put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the removal of the three level crossings along the Inner Armadale Line, at Oats Street, Mint Street and Welshpool Road. The successful contractor must also demonstrate how they will achieve good design outcomes for new public spaces under the elevated rail. The works for part of the METRONET project, with the $415 million Inner Armadale Line Level Crossing Removal jointly funded by the Federal and State governments.

The Report of the Productivity Commission’s National Transport Regulatory Reform Inquiry has been tabled in Federal Parliament. The Commission has advised it will shortly be seeking industry’s views on the report to inform a response from the Australian Government by the second half of 2021. This will include a small number of virtual sector-based roundtables across November 2020, as well as an opportunity for stakeholders to provide written comments on the 28 recommendations. You can view RA’s original submission to the Inquiry here.

The Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS) is calling for abstracts for 17th conference of the International Conference Series on Competition and Ownership in Land Passenger Transport (The Thredbo Series). The Conference will be held in Kobe, Japan, from Sunday 5 to Friday 10 September 2021 and is jointly hosted by Kobe University and ITLS at the University of Sydney. The Thredbo conference series has garnered a formidable reputation for being the premier international forum dedicated to the analysis and debate of competition and ownership issues in land passenger transport. If you are interested in submitting an abstract, further details can be found here.

Symal Group has announced its acquisition of NSW-based civil construction company, Bridge and Civil. The acquisition expands Symal’s reach into northern NSW, whilst increasing Bridge and Civil’s capability in Victoria. Symal Group CEO Nabeel Sadaka said the acquisition would broaden Symal’s delivery capability with established experience delivering complex infrastructure works in the bridges, industrial, rail and marine sectors for major clients such as ARTC, Transport for NSW, V/Line, Queensland Rail and large contractors such as John Holland.

Transport innovation

Victoria’s Department of Transport is trialling a program that would allow commuters to receive real-time information about crowding on public transport. A group of 50 commuters is taking part in the initial trial, which commenced this week on several Melbourne train and bus routes. The program uses technology that combines data from the Myki system, Bluetooth sensors on the rail network and bus passenger counters to provide an assessment of passenger density on services. If successful, it is hoped that the technology could be deployed to help commuters make informed choices about travel times and encourage social distancing as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The Federal Budget this week included an investment of $5.5 million to establish a National Road Safety Data Hub. This Hub is intended to provide the first nationally available road safety data collection, and will promote an evidence-based approach to assessing the effectiveness of road safety efforts being undertaken by all jurisdictions.

Diversity and social responsibility

Roads Australia has announced our successful applicants for the 2021 Roads Australia Fellowship Program – a unique mentoring initiative that brings our industry’s most promising leaders together with some of the infrastructure sector’s most experienced and respected executives. We are especially proud that our 2021 intake reflects RA’s commitment to gender diversity by achieving a 50-50 gender balance for the first time – and we can’t wait to welcome all new participants at our induction workshop planned for next month. You can see the full list of successful applicants for RA’s 2021 Fellowship Program here.

We extend particular congratulations to Hayden Heta, Managing Director of Wamarra, who has been awarded RA’s 2021 D&I Scholarship, which will see him participate in our 2021 Fellowship Program. A proud member of the Wiradjuri nation, Hayden started his own company Wamarra to build quality construction projects while strengthening Aboriginal participation, engagement and employment outcomes now and in the future. His passion and drive for enhanced industry opportunity for indigenous people will undoubtedly enrich our 2021 Fellowship Program.

The scholarship is offered by RA in partnership with Ashurst, to support both Roads Australia’s diversity and inclusion program, as well as Ashurst’s social value initiatives.

Current participants in the Roads Australia Fellowship Program got a special opportunity to hear from a dynamic leader this week, as MinterEllison CEO Annette Kimmitt joined our latest quarterly webinar on organisational leadership issues. Annette reflected on the value of good mentors as people embark on their careers, the need for people to clearly understand an organisation’s purpose and aspirations when developing strategy, and the importance of people drawing deep meaning from the work they do. Special thanks to John Holland for sponsoring the webinar and the entire Fellowship Program.

A reminder that nominations are still open for the 2020 RA Emerging Leaders PPP Award.  Each year, this award offers the opportunity for one emerging leader who shows Promise, Passion and Pursuit to engage in a 12-month industry exposure and ambassador experience in order to fast track his or her career growth and industry profile. If you’re an enthusiastic industry professional with less than 10 years’ experience, now is the time to put yourself forward! Applications close on Friday 23 October. Further information is available here.

In other D&I news, the Level Crossing Removal Project has developed a free eModule to help industry better understand and deliver on social procurement objectives. This builds on a number of strategies and case studies available, including the more recent Social Procurement in Practice resource. For more information on the eModule or resources contact LXRP directly.

Remember, if you have any D&I success stories or practices that you would like to share with readers of RA Insider, please get in touch with Marlie Curtis.

Upcoming RA events

Oct 13 – By Invitation – Single Table Lunch with Brisbane Lord Mayor, Adrian Schrinner. Sponsored by ARUP.

Oct 13 – RA Emerging Leaders Group Mentoring – Cross River Rail (Brisbane)

Oct 14 – By invitation – Single Table Lunch with Carol-Anne Nelson.(Sydney) Sponsored by ARUP.

Oct 20 – By Invitation – Webinar with Kevin Devlin, CEO, Level Crossing Removal Project. Sponsored by McConnell Dowell.

Oct 21 – By invitation – Single Table Lunch with Nicole Lockwood, (Perth). Sponsored by Advisian

Oct 22 – RA Webinar with Minister Jacinta Allan. Sponsored by Aurecon.

Nov 27 – Roads Australia AGM & RA Sydney Annual Lunch (lunch bookings will open soon)

June 16-18 2021 – RA Transport Summit, Sydney. Bookings now open.

June 17 2021 – John Shaw Dinner, Sydney. Bookings now open.

Upcoming industry events and training

Oct 13 & 15 – CPEE short course: Flexible Pavement Design – BOUND (including optional workshop).
Oct 15 – 3M webinar – What is sustainable mobility for the future?Oct 20 & 22 – CPEE short course: Mechanistic Pavement Design – CIRCLY (including workshop).
Nov 4 & 5 – CPEE short course: Concrete Pavement Design Fundamentals (including optional workshop)Nov 17 & 19 – Flexible Pavement Design: Unbound – Basic Principles and Practices (including optional workshop)