The 2019 Victorian Transport Infrastructure Conference

The Victorian Transport Infrastructure Conference joined key industry players from all over Victoria and Australia to gather information, network and grow as an industry.

The Victorian Transport Infrastructure Conference 2019, the state’s largest transport infrastructure conference, attracted around 250 delegates.

The theme of this year’s event, Transporting Victoria Forward, saw an array of speakers from across the industry look to, and plan for, the future of infrastructure in Victoria.

Day one of the conference, on May 1, addressed the planning and delivery of present and future infrastructure projects in Victoria. In speaking to presenters Roads and Infrastructure asked them about their views on Victoria’s current developments in the transport and roads sector.

Peter Kartsidimas, Senior Manager Transport, Planning and Infrastructure at the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria believes Melbourne is hitting a perfect storm in regard to transport issues.

“Our population is continuing to grow, our economy is strong and a lot of the jobs are in the CBD area. Everyone wants to travel at the same time and in the same direction and that’s putting pressure on the network,” he says.

Kate Roffey, Director of Deals, Investments and Major Projects at Wyndham City Council thinks Melbourne, in particular, is only now catching up to critical transport infrastructure projects. “I think after many years of talking about it we are doing what is critical – the city loop rail system – which is a main congestion area. The government is taking steps to address that. The level crossing removals are another major problem being tackled. Looking to the future however, there is still more to do,” she says.

Allen Garner, from Major Road Projects Victoria, gave an insight into the organisation’s project-focussed view, the increasing need for community engagement, better road safety, and connectivity for the future of Victoria.

Mr. Garner also provided updates on a few of the many projects operating around the state, such as the Western Road Upgrades and the Monash Tullamarine and M80 projects.

Catherine Rooney from Infrastructure Victoria gave the audience an overview of the update of Victoria’s 30-year infrastructure strategy.

Mrs. Rooney explained how Infrastructure Victoria would focus on getting the most out of the transport network to accommodate population growth. “We’ve done modelling that shows between now and 2051, trip times will get longer and, more importantly, we think they will get more unreliable,” she says.

Mrs. Rooney also spoke about one of Infrastructure Victoria’s top recommendations to government – transport network pricing.

“At the moment, the way the community pays for travel is very inefficient. For example, on the road network we have very high upfront charges like car registration, but then very few charges on how you might use the network. This doesn’t provide any incentive for people to use the network in an efficient way,” she says.

Mrs. Rooney says it is similar for public transport pricing. “We have a very flat public transport structure. We essentially have no peak or off-peak differential in our fares, which again means there is no incentive for people to use the system in a way that would better manage demand.”

Victoria’s future connectivity then became the centre topic. Ed Walker from Inland Rail, and Peter Sammut from the West Gate Tunnel Authority, spoke about how their projects both have major government investment and will help to keep Victoria connected not only inside the state but to the rest of Australia.

Mr. Walker’s goal is to increase the market share of freight rail between Melbourne and Brisbane.

Mr. Sammut explained how the largest tunnel boring machines in the southern hemisphere are being used to create the West Gate Tunnel.

Throughout the event there were many opportunities for industry leaders and innovators attending the conference to network. Growing industry relationships was key, be it at the conference or the cocktail function.

The second round of presentations focussed on major rail projects in Victoria, examining what the future of the rail industry might hold.

Speakers included William Smith from CPB Contractors, who worked on the Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal, and Brendan Bourke from Port of Melbourne, who looked at the port’s freight potential. Campbell A. Rose from VicTrack talked about how population growth can affect transport systems, and Ian Sturdy from High Capacity Metro Trains gave an update on the progression of the project.

The last session for the day provided an insight into emerging technologies, such as augmented intelligence and paperless job sites.

Scott Harvey from PlanGrid demonstrated its construction software and how it can save time on site by keeping all paperwork digitalised and accessible for the whole team.

Tony Butler then explained the opportunities available for projects to use augmented intelligence and 3D technology to create immersive designs.

The final panel discussion of the day covered how the industry could transform public transport services, connect metropolitan and regional centres and boost development across the state.

Dr. Crystal Legacy, Senior Lecturer in Urban Planning at the University of Melbourne, was one of the panellists and she shared her views with Roads and Infrastructure Magazine with respect to decentralising.

“If we are going to decentralise across the state and we are committed to supporting these regional centres then we need to consider how we might better support the transport and infrastructure needs of those regional communities. A good example of that is, if we are going to build high-speed rail to Geelong, why not consider the expansion of its bus fleet or even a light rail project to build in transport connectivity locally and regionally?” she says.

Day Two:

With Victoria’s population expected to hit 6.38 million by the end of June, the second day of the Victorian Transport Infrastructure Conference prioritised projects of mass movement.

Mrs. Rooney spoke to Roads and Infrastructure specifically about public transport. “In a city like Melbourne, we do have very low public transport use. I think about 12 to 13 per cent of our trips at the moment are on public transport. Our modelling shows while public transport will increase as a share of all transport, going forward we will still be a car-dominant city,” she says.

The European Railway Agency’s prior Head of Unit, Richard Lockett, opened the second day, with a presentation on best optimising a tri-state hub across modes and energy supplies.

Using the north-west Victoria and south-west New South Wales district Sunraysia as a case study, Mr. Lockett stressed the importance of balancing passenger travel with a holistic transport network.

Wyndham City Council Major Projects Director, Kate Roffey, echoed this sentiment. “Public transport is fantastic if you live near it and it takes you where you want to go. But it is never going to be as flexible as roads. There are essential reasons that we have roads and we need to make sure we are investing equally in roads and other forms of mass transport, because not everybody can access public transport.”

Royal Automobile Club of Victoria Senior Manager Peter Kartsidimas said, “We need an integrated approach to solving the congestion problem. This includes providing quality walking, cycling and public transport facilities in our growth suburbs from day one to reduce the reliance on the motor vehicle.  Mass transit with good connections into the suburbs is going to help us with some of the bigger transport issues, such as congestion.”

Transport Infrastructure Parliamentary Secretary, Vicki Ward, delivered the Ministerial Address– replacing Transport Minister Jacinta Allan who was occupied with pre-election commitments. Ms. Ward discussed level crossing removals, the Metro Tunnel and Geelong’s proposed fast rail.

Revolutionising the way Victorians move around is a core concern for government according to Ms. Ward, who said a world class “turn-up and go” train network was not far away.

Similarly, Transurban regular speaker Major Road Projects Program Director, David Clements, provided a rundown of Transurban’s recent infrastructure projects, considering connection and efficiency.

Mr. Clements reviewed the West Gate Tunnel and the CityLink Tulla Widening projects.

Monash University’s Director of Infrastructure Professor Graham Currie covered the Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

Mr. Currie said under working route designs, traveling from the city to the airport will be faster on the Sky Bus given a “dog-leg” through the Victorian suburb of Sunshine. In contrast, he argued the case for a more direct route involving greater land development opportunity.

Running on the contention that Melbourne’s population will reach eight million by 2050, a panel discussion on how to best address road congestion was the final presentation before lunch.

Mr Kartsidimas, City of Melbourne Councillor Nicolas Frances Gilley, Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards, and Mrs. Roffey talked infrastructure planning, sustainability, peak hour congestion taxes and how to best decide project prioritisation.

In speaking to Mr. Kartsidimas and Mrs. Roffey, Roads and Infrastructure Magazine asked what the focus should be for Victoria looking to the future.

“I believe mass transit as in trains should be the main priority, they move a lot of people very quickly and efficiently and that is, I believe, the most efficient and appropriate way to move the amount of people we need to move in the right directions,” Mr. Kartsidimas says.

Mrs. Roffey says, “I think in terms of catching up we are doing the things we need to. Going forward, I would like to see that we think of some alternatives to the systems we are traditionally using because that will give us quicker and more cost-effective transport connectivity.”

Following lunch and networking, Major Road Projects Victoria Program Director, Brendan Pauwels, examined Victoria’s first continuous flow intersection.

According to Mr. Pauwels, the intersection in Richmond, Melbourne will reduce delays for drivers travelling north-south once completed – cutting wait times by 45 per cent.

Mr. Pauwels told the audience introducing p-turns at the intersection had also eliminated the need for right turn green lights, forcing drivers to go through the intersection before making a u-turn.

Rail Futures Institute President, John Hearsch, discussed the Melbourne rail plan, a 30-year development blueprint to maximise connectivity between the CBD and Melbourne’s inner suburbs.

Mr Hearsch stressed the importance of maintaining and upgrading existing systems and assets, creating a multi-modal grid network of high-frequency services and developing connections to national employment clusters.

Each of the speakers at the event provided comprehensive insight into the current and possible future state of transport in Victoria.

When Roads and Infrastructure Magazine spoke to four of the key note speakers they all shared a common idea that planning and research is central to forming a connected future Victoria.

“We did some important community research to inform our 30-year plan, which showed one quarter of people travelling in the morning peak could actually travel at another time in the day and that one in three people on the roads in the morning peak said they could move to public transport,” says Mrs. Rooney. “As the population grows, if we can tap into nearly 30 per cent of people that don’t actually have to be on the road in the morning peak, you can make a lot of difference.”

Mrs. Roffey thinks we are doing the heavyweight projects that we need to do but that we do need to plan to focus on other, less costly, methods, which will join the heavyweight lines using intermodal connections.

Dr. Legacy noted when assessing infrastructure needs, those needs are often assessed with a preferred mode in mind, which typically is a road. When planning she says we need to consider alternative transport options in our assessment such as public transport, too.

“Let’s plan for the population boom and increase in transport and let’s try to maintain Melbourne’s high liveability through this growth period because if we don’t plan there will be issues going forward,” says Mr. Kartsidimas.

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