Allan appointment good news for seamless transport infrastructure delivery
Roads Australia has welcomed the Victorian ministry unveiled yesterday by Premier Daniel Andrews.
“The appointment of Jacinta Allan as Minister for Transport Infrastructure is a recognition of the importance of delivering well planned, integrated road and rail solutions,” Roads Australia President, David Stuart-Watt, said.
“With Victoria in the middle of a transport infrastructure construction boom, it makes sense to have the co-ordination and delivery of our major projects answerable to one minister.
“Jacinta is one of the most experienced ministers in Cabinet, and we look forward to working with her to ensure Victoria gets the best return on its transport infrastructure investment.
“We also welcome and look forward to working with Jaala Pulford in the roads and road safety portfolios, and Melissa Horne in the public transport, ports and freight portfolios.
“On behalf of industry, I also want to thank Luke Donnellan for the great job he has done as Minister for Roads and Road Safety over the past four years.
“Luke has always been open and accessible and displays a great understanding of the issues and challenges in his portfolio areas. We wish him well with his new ministerial responsibilities.
“We’re also delighted to see Tim Pallas retain the Treasury portfolio. Tim has overseen Victoria’s emergence as an economic and job-creating powerhouse, and our members will be pleased to have his steady hand on the wheel for another four years.”
Mr Stuart-Watt also praised the gender balance of the new Cabinet as ‘….a strong statement of support for greater workplace diversity and equality’.
“This sends a very clear message to the private sector that it needs to lift its game,” he said.
“The construction and engineering sectors have traditionally been male-dominated, but Roads Australia and its members are genuinely engaged and committed to addressing the imbalance.”
Victorian Government quick off the mark with North East Link
As promised, the first order of business this week for the re-elected Andrews Government was to release to market the North East Link early works and primary works packages.
Announced on Monday, two days after the Government’s re-election, the call for expressions of interest marks a major milestone in the delivery of Victoria’s infrastructure pipeline.
“Our members have been marshalling resources in expectation of these packages coming to market, and will welcome the Government’s decisive action on the heels of Saturday’s election result,” said Roads Australia President, David Stuart-Watt.
“As we said early in the campaign, transport was always going to be the big winner in this election. Victorians have made a clear decision on the road and rail solutions they want to see constructed over the next four years and beyond.”
Mr Stuart-Watt said while the release to market was good news for Victorians and the construction industry, it highlighted the continuing pressure on industry capacity.
“There is currently a massive pipeline of work being rolled out along Australia’s east-coast, and industry resources are becoming more and more stretched,” he says.
“Notwithstanding, it’s encouraging to see governments - including Victoria’s - working closely with industry to identify both short and long-term solutions.”
Mr Stuart-Watt also urged the Government to continue working with industry to develop more flexible contracting arrangements.
“At this month’s Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC) meeting in Sydney, Federal, state and territory ministers endorsed a set of high-level principles that put a more collaborative approach to procurement, project management and risk allocation squarely on state agendas,” he says.
“Ministers also undertook to report back within 12 months on actions taken by their jurisdictions to support the high-level principles.
“As a member of the Construction Industry Leadership Forum, Roads Australia is keen to continue working with the Andrews Government to identify innovative procurement models and forms of contracting that will achieve the best value and long-term benefit for taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects.”
Mr Stuart-Watt said the North East Link project was also good news for Victorians on the employment margins.
“The Victorian Government has been at the forefront of social procurement and diversity policies and programs aimed at providing greater training and employment opportunities for women, indigenous, long-term unemployed and disabled Victorians,” he said.
Survey respondents nervous about safety of driverless vehicles
EastLink’s latest Victorian Self-driving Car Survey has underlined motorists’ concerns about the safety of driverless vehicles, and also raised questions about the fairness of fuel tax.
Released this week, the latest annual survey results reveal a significant proportion of motorists expect that fully self-driving vehicles should be absolutely 100% safe, with no possibility of ever being involved in a collision - even though this is an unrealistic expectation.
Compared to last year, fewer motorists want a fully self-driving car, while more motorists want the latest driver assistance features like lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking.
The survey also reveals the desirability of hybrid and fully electric cars has increased further, with hybrid power now rivalling traditional petrol combustion.
And the balance of motorists surveyed think it’s unfair that electric vehicles avoid fuel tax, and think it should be replaced by a per-kilometre road use charge with a discount for electric vehicles to encourage take-up.
EastLink Corporate Affairs and Marketing Manager, Doug Spencer-Roy, says more than 18,000 Victorian motorists fully completed the survey this year - a 20 per cent increase on last year.
“The EastLink survey continues to be one of the world’s largest surveys of motorists’ attitudes to self-driving and driver assistance technologies, vehicle connectivity, electric power and road use charging – technologies which are expected to converge in cars of the future,” he said.
Compared to last year’s survey, although more respondents can imagine using hands- off driving on a freeway, fewer respondents want their next vehicle to be capable of fully self-driving.
This reduction in desirability for fully self-driving vehicles indicates that expectations had become over-inflated by hype, and people are now becoming more realistic,” Mr Spencer-Roy said.
Eight in ten survey respondents said they would travel as a passenger in a fully self-driving car where the vehicle has a driver who is monitoring and able to take over control.
However, the majority of respondents would not yet travel as a passenger in a fully self-driving car where the vehicle is completely driver-less and there are no driving controls.
A significant proportion of respondents – 37% of female and 28% of male – expect that fully self-driving vehicles should be absolutely 100% safe with no possibility of being involved in a collision.
Australia well placed to be a role model for flexible cities, says new report
Australia is ripe for innovation to build smarter and more flexible infrastructure to meet the challenges posed by its growing population, according to a new report from The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
Commissioned by RA member, Salini Impregilo and launched at the University of Technology Sydney this month, Flexible Cities - The Future of Australian Infrastructure examines how Australian cities must become more ‘future-proof’ to meet the evolving needs of their residents.
Australia is working hard to avoid becoming a victim of its economic success, according to the report. It is investing heavily in infrastructure to relieve the pressure that its rapidly growing population is expected to place on its ability to provide the high standard of living for which it is renowned. Although other countries are also looking to meet the needs of future generations, Australia, in many ways, could serve as a model, given its openness to innovation, the report says.
“Australia is well placed to wrestle with the challenges it faces, and, as it navigates infrastructure challenges earlier and with greater urgency than some other countries, it could be a model for how other countries… can build smarter, more flexible, next-generation infrastructure in their cities,” it says.
Based on in-depth research and interviews with a wide variety of Australian infrastructure experts and stakeholders in both the public and private sectors, the report says global trends point to a new type of infrastructure that is flexible – in other words, adaptable to the future needs of the country’s dynamic cities. One of those leading trends is digital technology.
“The design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure projects are increasingly driven by digital technologies, unlocking cost and time savings in building roads, railways and entire city centres,” the report says.
Another leading trend is the new model of partnerships among governments, universities and commercial players to foster innovation and support in a better way the efficient planning and execution of major projects by contractors. The report highlights how Australia’s advanced financing and procurement practices are attracting international investors and builders who integrate the local skills, bringing their expertise to support the country in achieving its ambitious goals.
“That’s why Australia is an attractive market for us and is part of our growth strategy,” says Marco Assorati, Executive Regional Director Asia Pacific at Salini Impregilo.
One area where Australia could improve is a workforce equipped with STEM skills, meaning science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A greater number of women pursuing careers in these fields is also encouraged.
“The challenges that come with rapid urban growth are not easily addressed. Without strong partnerships and investment in infrastructure, as well as a willingness to take calculated risks on uncertain future scenarios, cities will struggle to provide for their citizens,” concludes the report. “Australia’s cities are, however, not shying away from these challenges. Overall, the country has shown an enormous willingness to innovate, collaborate, and learn from global leaders.”
Keynote speaker at the launch of the report in Sydney was Carlo Ratti, Director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
"The concept of smart cities, or ‘senseable cities’ as I prefer to call them, reflects current broad technological trends – the spaces around us are becoming permeated with digital data and Internet-of-Things technologies,” says Ratti.
“The applications are manifold, and I believe a particularly interesting one will be urban infrastructure, which can be made ‘smarter’: more flexible and responsive. Australia is an ideal place for this kind of experimentation, as it is embarking on many cutting-edge infrastructure projects.
"Smart cities are still in rapid evolution, though, and that is why it is important to have gatherings to discuss the latest ideas, as in this event organised by Salini Impregilo and UTS.”
Adds Marco: “We want to contribute to the ongoing national discussion about the future of infrastructure in Australia. We hope to take part in this vision by bringing the expertise that we have gained from some of the more challenging infrastructure projects in the world.”
Salini Impreglino has also recently entered into a partnership with UTS Sydney that will see the global infrastructure player establish a scholarship program and participate in the university’s Women in Engineering & IT activities.