Austroads has published a report titled Optimising Project Delivery Performance, highlighting the need for time and resources in the early stages of projects.

Austroads commissioned the study to investigate the challenges and issues affecting the delivery of transport infrastructure projects and the consequential impacts on value for money, timeliness of delivery, agency and political reputation.

The study focused on transport infrastructure projects valued between $1 million-$100 million.

Ross Guppy, Austroads’ Transport Infrastructure Program Manager, said two themes emerged from the research.

“Firstly, it is clear that to optimise project delivery, increased time and resources need to be allocated to the early stages of a project,” Mr Guppy said.

“A visible and reliable project pipeline of future works allows industry and agencies more time to plan and develop projects. 

“Additional time in project planning and project development improves understanding of risks and increases opportunities to review design quality.

“The second, and related, issue is that accelerating project delivery, whether that’s due to emergencies or other considerations, reduces the time available for project planning and early works.

“Acceleration can’t always be avoided, but it always requires trade-offs which can result in increased risk, quality reductions or budget overruns.” 

The report recommendations were developed based on Austroads’ conversations with 38 industry experts, working across Australia and New Zealand, inclusive of road agencies, local government, contracting firms and consultancies. 

The industry experts ranged from project managers involved in the day-to-day delivery of road projects under $10 million, to those responsible for delivery of projects of more than $50 million. 

From the 38 interviewees, 44 different statements were received as the ‘top priority’ for improving project delivery. Following the conclusion of the interviews, these responses were aggregated, showing that the highest priority issues were:

  • Effort upfront would improve project delivery
  • Risk should not be allocated to those unable to price or manage it
  • Acceleration comes at a premium
  • A visible, reliable sustainable pipeline of projects
  • Resourcing is always a challenge
  • Design quality

In addition, insights from an Austroads online survey and a literature review were used to validate the emerging themes.

Issues noted in the original project brief were considered. Where new issues were raised during the literature review or stakeholder consultation, these issues also informed the study. 

Issues identified by the Austroads Project Delivery Task Force include: 

  • A lack of accountability for delivery performance and lack of consequence for poor delivery
  • Lack of contract management governance and discipline
  • Inter-relationship between quality of design, quality of tender/contract document and impacts on construction quality, cost and timeliness
  • Best way to procure design and construction, and impacts of cheap design on cost blowouts in construction
  • Occurrence of contractual disputes and the impact on project outcomes
  • Impact of unusually low bids on project outcomes and value for money
  • Impact of accelerated project delivery times on project outcomes, and how projects can be accelerated to meet political commitments and still achieve good project outcomes
  • Impact of political drivers and methods for handling these situations

Going forward, there were several opportunities found to improve delivery of transport infrastructure (under $100 million) in Australia and New Zealand. 

Six actions were identified for short-, medium- and long-term opportunities:

Short term (<2 years)

  • Support informed acceleration of projects
  • Amplify excellence

Medium term (2-5 years)

  • Publish and maintain project pipelines
  • Optimise interactions with utility companies

Long term (5+ years)

  • Improve cost estimation
  • Build informed buyers

To read the full report, click here.

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