Rails and roads set to lift major construction work
An upturn in transport infrastructure activity is set to drive a lift in major construction project work across the 2016-17 and 2017-18 financial years, according to the latest Australian Industry Group/Australian Constructors Association Construction Outlook survey.
Released yesterday, the survey of the nation's leading construction companies also projects a gradual rise in commercial construction over the next two years (+3.5 per cent in 2016-17 and +5.2 per cent in 2017-18) and solid levels of multi-level apartment construction (+14.0 per cent in 2016-17 and +3.1 per cent in 2017-18), albeit slowing from recent peak activity levels in that sector.
After dropping sharply by 9.8 per cent in the 2015-16 financial year (current prices), the survey forecasts that the value of turnover from major project work will lift modestly in 2016-17 (+4.6 per cent) and rise a further 4.5 per cent in 2017-18.
Engineering construction is expected to rise by 3.6 per cent through the year after falling sharply by 15 per cent in 2015-16. Strong growth in road (+17.9 per cent) and rail (+16.1 per cent) projects underpins a 13.5 per cent rise in infrastructure-related engineering work, in line with a range of Government transport projects either underway or in the pipeline.
The survey also anticipates a further decline in resources-related engineering construction in 2016-17 – in particular the value of work in the oil and gas processing sector, which is set to drop a further 23.3 per cent after declining by 22.4 per cent in 2015-16. However, the overall drag on construction growth from reduced mining-related construction is expected to reduce in 2016-17, with a lesser fall of 7.3 per cent in mining and mineral processing work (other than oil and gas) coming after the 31.0 per cent drop in 2015-16.
Australian Constructors Association (ACA) Executive Director, Lindsay Le Compte, says greater reliability in the pipeline of projects now being established by governments through their infrastructure agencies is supporting new work in the sector.
“However, the ACA believes there is scope for clients, especially governments, to significantly expand the pipeline of projects through cost and other efficiencies that are achievable through the involvement of constructors and their supply chains much earlier in the development of projects,” Lindsay says.
“Early contractor and supply chain involvement in large projects has been proven to reduce project costs and add innovation that has been unable to be achieved through many traditional forms of project development being used in Australia."
You can view the latest report here.
New M4-M5 Link design features released
New design features for the next stage of WestConnex were released last week, with potential for the M4-M5 Link twin tunnels to be completed early, capacity increasing from three to four lanes in each direction and exit and entry ramps at Camperdown removed.
NSW Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, said engineering improvements meant the twin tunnels from Haberfield to St Peters could be built as a stand-alone project, and initially operate independently from the Rozelle Interchange and Iron Cove Link. This would allow the tunnels to potentially open to motorists in 2022.
“This stage of WestConnex is the most important because it’s the missing link which finally joins the M4 and M5 motorways together,” Mr Gay said.
The $7 billion M4-M5 Link will be the central spine of Sydney’s future motorway network by providing connections to the proposed Western Harbour Tunnel and F6.
The new design helps significantly reduce traffic on Parramatta Road between Haberfield and the CBD. The tunnel alignment will move west to a more direct route between Rozelle and St Peters interchanges, and will not impact Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and its Cyclotron medical research facility, or the University of Sydney.
No further residential properties are required for the M4-M5 Link, however a small number of commercial properties will need to be acquired for a tunnelling site on Parramatta Road at Camperdown.
Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure, Paul Fletcher, said the Commonwealth was backing major infrastructure across Sydney with $1.5 billion in grant funding and a $2 billion concessional loan towards WestConnex.
“There is no project more important for the millions of people in western and south western Sydney than WestConnex, which is why we’re getting on with building it,” Mr Fletcher said.
The community will have further opportunity to have their say when the M4-M5 Link Environmental Impact Statement is released next year.
Northern Connector’s concrete pavement set to create jobs and cut maintenance costs
It was announced this week that South Australia’s $985 million Northern Connector project will be the State’s first major concrete road - a decision the Government says is expected to reduce ongoing maintenance costs by almost half and create extra local jobs.
Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure, Paul Fletcher, said the concrete pavement proposed by Lendlease Engineering would be applied to approximately 13km of the 15.5km Northern Connector alignment.
“The initial capital cost is marginally higher than an asphalt road but the benefits in terms of increased local participation and ongoing savings are well worth it,” he said.
“It’s estimated building a concrete pavement will contribute another $11 million to the local industry and support more than 40 extra jobs.”
South Australian Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Stephen Mullighan, said local content into the construction of a concrete road was estimated to be almost 90 per cent.
“It’s estimated an extra 175,000 cubic metres of concrete would be required for the road pavement as well as an extra 44,000 tonnes of cement, all of which will come from local suppliers,” Mr Mullighan said.
The heavy construction materials peak body and RA member, Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia (CCAA), says the decision is set to deliver a raft of benefits for drivers and taxpayers, from better ride quality and fuel economy for heavy vehicles to reduced maintenance costs and network disruption.
“The South Australian Government deserves congratulations for recognising the benefits of concrete pavements and calling for concrete alternatives to be included in the tender process,” CCAA Chief Executive, Ken Slattery, said this week.
“By doing so, they provided the environment for private sector innovation that inspired Lendlease Engineering’s compelling tender and design.”
As part of that innovative design approach, the concrete roadway will incorporate a diamond groove finish to reduce noise and extend the life of the pavement.
Mr Slattery says the inherent durability and strength of the Northern Connector’s concrete road pavement will result in a significant reduction in on-going maintenance requirements and costs.
“Not only is that good news for taxpayers, but it means drivers will also face less delays from network disruptions,” he says.
“Drivers will also notice an improvement in ride quality. And because the concrete pavement has less rolling resistance, heavy vehicle owners in particular will benefit from better fuel consumption.”
Mr Slattery says the benefits of concrete road pavements are already well proven in NSW, accounting for substantial lengths of the upgraded Hume and Pacific highways.
“We think this will be the first of many new concrete roads – not just in South Australia but other states and territories - as the economic, environmental and social benefits are realised," he said.
Transport ministers endorse roadmap of reform for automated vehicle regulation
Major reform initiatives designed to facilitate increased testing and trialling of more automated vehicles, ensure increased confidence in their safe performance and provide clarity over insurance coverage in the event of a crash are outlined in a new policy paper from the National Transport Commission (NTC).
The initiatives in Regulatory reforms for automated road vehicles form the basis of a package agreed to by transport ministers at this month’s Transport and Infrastructure Council meeting.
Initiatives to commence over coming months and roll-out within two years include:
- develop national guidelines to support automated vehicle trials
- clarify who is in control of a vehicle with different levels of driving automation
- develop a comprehensive performance-based safety assurance regime for increasingly automated vehicles
- remove regulatory barriers in Australian Road Rules and other transport laws that assume a human driver
Australia's transport ministers also reaffirmed the existing policy position that the human driver remains in full legal control of a vehicle that is partially or conditionally automated, unless or until a new position is developed and agreed.
Chief Executive of the NTC, Paul Retter, said last week that removing regulatory barriers would maximise the benefits of automated vehicles, including improved road safety, freight productivity and reduced road congestion.
“Inconsistent rules, regulations and application procedures for automated vehicles are potential obstacles to deploying this disruptive technology in the future,” Mr Retter said.
“Our goal is to identify and remove regulatory barriers, and avoid a patchwork of conflicting requirements in different states and territories.”
The phased reform program has been based on the analysis of market trends so that conditionally automated vehicles can operate safely and legally on our roads before 2020, and highly and fully automated vehicles from 2020.
Download the latest NTC report here.
Australia and US diverge on road to legal liability for automated vehicles
Australia's transport ministers are proposing a different road to the US in allocating legal responsibility for the next generation of automated vehicles - with the Australian position favouring manufacturers over drivers, according to a new Clayton Utz report.
Steering the course for future driverless vehicles regulation in Australia critiques the regulatory reform pathway approved by Australia's Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC) earlier this month.
Clayton Utz partner, Owen Hayford, one of the report's key authors, says the United States' Federal Department of Transportation has gone down the road of making the entity responsible for the automated driving system - most likely, the manufacturer - legally responsible for road rule infringements caused by the vehicle once the automated system assumes responsibility for watching the road.
The Australian transport ministers, however, think legal responsibility should lie with the human driver.
"By making the driver responsible for the vehicle, regardless of the fact the underlying driving system is automated, the driver rather than the manufacturer is more likely to be held liable for any property damage or personal injury the vehicle causes” he says.
“However this may not be the case where a failure of the automated driving system, for example, is a significant contributing factor.
“It is highly likely that a number of factors will be relevant to the ultimate determination of liability, which means questions of liability and access to compensation for victims won't be clear cut.”
Owen says under the current proposals, the position for manufacturers was "mixed".
"While manufacturers will take less responsibility for the actions of the vehicle, they will still have to submit a safety case for the vehicle to the Australian regulator, even though the vehicle can only operate with a human driver.
“However manufacturers will probably consider this a small price to pay for the Australian position on liability."
Owen said the initial rationale for the TIC’s proposal of a new national safety assurance regime for automated vehicles was the absence of a licensed driver with demonstrated minimum driving competencies.
However, the Council is now proposing that such a regime focus on vehicles that will still require a licensed human driver to take back control of the vehicle when requested.
"This change in position perhaps reflects an sense of unease with the idea that an automated vehicle driving system should be wholly responsible for watching the road until such systems prove themselves to be safe," he says, adding that creating a new legal framework for automated vehicles was not an easy exercise.
“The regulatory environment for the use of motor vehicles in Australia is complex. The National Transport Commission has already undertaken some valuable work in identifying regulatory barriers for automated vehicles and options to address these.
“Our recent reports seek to build on that work and identify some of the key areas that legislators and regulators can start looking at now to ensure a clear and consistent approach to issues such as liability, access to data, cyber security and, at a Federal level, minimum safety standards."
Download the Clayton Utz report here.
RA backs IRF Geneva’s Manifesto on Climate Change Adaptation
Roads Australia is one of a number of international stakeholders to endorse the International Road Federation’s Manifesto supporting global action to combat the impacts of climate change on transport.
The Manifesto was delivered at this week’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP22), held in Morocco. It contains key recommendations and action points on the issue of adaptation.
"Adaptation in transport should not be viewed in isolation, nor reduced to just technical infrastructure fixes,” said IRF Geneva Executive Director, Susanna Zammataro, presenting the IRF Manifesto at the Transport Day organised in Marrakech.
“On the contrary, adaptation should be seen as part of a wider strategic approach, reflecting the interrelationships between transport (infrastructure and network operations), the local/regional economy and land use.”
The IRF Manifesto underlines that given the uncertainties inherent in climate change and its impacts, it is necessary to plan, make policy and take action based on complete, relevant, accurate, and up-to-date data .
"This is a shared concerned in the international community and in our sector in particular. The Manifesto calls strongly on the necessity to set data collection and management at the top of the priorities list when discussing action on adaptation," Mrs Zammataro said.
"We are encouraged by the strong support that the document has received from all over the world and from other leading road transport organisations.
“It is a clear sign that there's convergence on the identified priorities especially when it comes to data, access to climate finance schemes, prioritisation of spending and creation of the conditions that will encourage the private sector to invest and deliver".
Download the Manifesto at www.irfnet.ch
National road safety barrier accreditation scheme gets green light
The Austroads Board has given its backing to the proposal for a National Road Safety Barrier Industry Accreditation Scheme.
An Australasian Steering Committee will now be formed to work closely with the soon-to-be-contracted service provider, Lantra, setting the direction for implementation and maintenance of the scheme in Australia and New Zealand.
The decision by Austroads is the culmination of a six-year journey by the barrier industry and comes after a considerable number of workshops, meetings and presentations – a number of which were facilitated by Roads Australia, working closely with Austroads and the Road Safety Barrier Industry Working Party.
It’s expected nominations for the Australasian Steering Committee will be called shortly to ensure the scheme can be implemented within 12 months for those states looking to participate immediately.
Parramatta Road to become a vibrant corridor
Traffic-choked Parramatta Road will become Sydney’s new boom corridor under an urban transformation strategy featuring 27,000 additional homes and 50,000 extra jobs, as well as impressive community facilities and green spaces.
NSW Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, released the Parramatta Road transformation blueprint last week, announcing $198 million for local projects - from urban plazas and new open space to cycleways - to kick-start the corridor rejuvenation.
The release of the Parramatta Road Corridor Urban Transformation Strategy follows three years of work and collaboration with local communities.
“The strategy is a joint vision for revitalisating one of our city’s most interesting urban corridors, which has been overwhelmed by heavy traffic, excessive noise and declining commercial spaces for years,” Mr Stokes said.
He said the completion of WestConnex, removing up to 50,000 vehicles a day including 10,000 trucks from Parramatta Road, offered an extraordinary opportunity to facelift a neglected part of Sydney’s west.
The transformation strategy devised by UrbanGrowth NSW, in collaboration with state agencies and councils along the corridor, provides a range of housing types, sizes and prices to cater for families, students and older people.
The 30-year blueprint will unlock $31 billion worth of development in the eight precincts along the 20km corridor, delivering projects identified in partnership with councils, including new open space and plazas, new cycle paths, new playing fields and streetscape improvements along Parramatta Road.
The corridor precincts will have 66 hectares of new open space, linear parks and links along watercourses and infrastructure corridors. 33 km of new and upgraded walking and cycling links are also proposed. New education, health and community facilities also will be provided to support the corridor’s growth.
At least two dedicated public transport lanes will be provided on Parramatta Road , including a commitment to investigate a rapid bus service, or an alternative public transport solution will be provided in the area that is superior.
The strategy can be found on the UrbanGrowth NSW website.