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Infrastructure leaders are calling for a rethink in the way that megaprojects are planned and delivered in a post COVID-19 world.
Speaking at the National Infrastructure Summit, those in the public and private sector said that going forward, new approaches will have to be taken to the construction of major infrastructure projects.
With less of a demand for trips to the CBDs of cities during the morning peak, and more distributed travel patterns, inter-urban, suburban and regional connectivity will be a greater focus, said Marco Assorati, executive director of Webuild (formerly Salini Impregilo).
“We need to ensure connectivity and good living in bigger cities, but the circumstances of COVID have driven attention somewhere else, to the need to develop regional hubs. We need to connect regional hubs with rail, roads, with technology,” he said.
Similarly, Andrew Head, CEO of Westconnex, said that in future, megaprojects will not just funnel people into and out of CBD, but improve connectivity in polycentric cities.
Linda Cantan, package director, tunnels & station PPP Metro Tunnel at Rail Projects Victoria, said that even in these visions for the future, current requirements will still need to be met, and that cities such as Melbourne were already at capacity in terms of the load on existing infrastructure. In addition, project such as the Metro Tunnel in Melbourne are being designed to free up capacity on the metropolitan network so that connections from regional cities can flow through the city more efficiently.
Another way that projects may change is through the shape of the delivery contracts. Speaking from experience, Bede Noonan, managing director of Acciona Australia said that governments and contractors needed to ensure that more work was being done in the early stages to avoid acrimonious disputes, such as the fall out from the Sydney CBD and South East light rail project, where “massive” amounts of money were spent that didn’t need to be spent.
“If you’re in that space it’s a bad space, the challenge is how to avoid that coming about,” he said.
Other panellists echoed these remarks, with Cantan noting that while there was pressure currently for projects to get into the construction phase to stimulate economic recovery, proper planning and investigation still needed to be done at the outset.
“A, make sure it’s the right project but, B, make sure that we’re setting out the feasibility appropriately, and then taking it out to market as a well-developed project.”