By Tim Reardon, National Transport and Precincts Leader, PwC Australia, and Steffen Faurby, Integrated Infrastructure Managing Director, PwC Australia

Delivering a public infrastructure project is tough, with many stakeholders, high public expectations and intense scrutiny. Transport projects attract a whole new dimension of complexity as they must connect smoothly into existing networks. That integration requires surgical precision and intense preparation, which takes time.

A successful ‘Day 1’ of a world-class transport service needs as much detailed planning as the infrastructure project itself. Years before a new transport project is expected to go live, it may not seem urgent to focus on readiness.

Sometimes safeguarding success may be left a bit late, stuck between silos, or muddied by unclear accountabilities. But if attention to readiness is left too late, there’s a risk that there won’t be enough time left to remedy any deficiencies that could dampen the project’s reception by the public it is intended to serve.

When many stakeholders are involved, some may focus mainly on the things they can influence or have been part of defining. Not enough attention may be given to the intricate interdependencies among the components of the project, or how the project links up with the rest of the transport network and, crucially, the needs of customers. 

We need an integrated approach to operational readiness

To create purpose-ready transport projects – ready for Day 1, but also ready for the future – it’s time to work together on a proactive, holistic, risk-based approach to operational readiness. An approach that is anchored by a priority on customers and communities, supported by future-ready personnel and assets, and informed by advanced data and analytics. 

Establishing a dedicated focus on operational readiness from early in the project is the best investment in managing risk and maximising outcomes. The focus on overall purpose-readiness should be a parallel activity that is closely coordinated with delivering the many other aspects of the project. 

Planning for purpose-readiness also needs to look beyond the horizon of Day 1 to what will support longer term success – such as enough workers with the right skill sets, plans to deal with the full range of possible scenarios and risks, and the continual feedback loops and innovation needed to keep up with customers’ and operators’ changing expectations. 

The biggest risks lurk in system interfaces and network interactions

The challenges of integrating a transport project seamlessly into existing transport networks, communities and precincts can easily be underestimated. In fact, ‘systems integration risk’ is one of the most common causes for transport infrastructure projects going off track.

The danger zones are the intersections, interfaces and the handovers between the components of the project itself, and the integration of the project into the wider network. For example, even if the technical or engineering interfaces are smooth, and even if timetabling, workforce issues, accreditations and assurances, asset management systems, and station facilities and services are in order, there may not have been enough knowledge transfer between people, systems or processes, or not enough understanding of customer and community needs and desires. 

It is particularly concerning that there is currently a global shortage of experienced resources in aspects of the field of systems integration. Addressing current and future skills gaps needs to be considered early in workforce planning.

Rigorous, consistent governance and clear accountabilities are key

With so many moving pieces and players, it is incredibly important to be clear about roles, mandates and accountability. With no single person or entity in charge, the accountability is collective. 

A clear governance structure and framework will allow better management of all the critical risks and interdependencies that exist among the many stakeholders, people, processes and technologies. When senior stakeholders of all entities buy in to strong governance and the common goal of delivering an excellent service, the project has a strong foundation. 

It’s important that governance evolves along the lifecycle of the project but remains consistent, regardless of personnel changes and different personalities. Continuity is important in expectations of accountability, tolerance for targets on budgets and timelines, and performance management – but the governance framework also needs to have the capacity to flex as stakeholders evolve or shift over the long timeframe of project development and delivery. 

While the specific criteria for success may differ for each stakeholder, operator, discipline or activity stream within the overall project, their goals must be unified by a shared understanding of what customers want and will regard as successful across the whole public transport network. 

Testing, testing, testing

A methodical approach to operational readiness that includes rigorous testing will bring a greater level of confidence that all the risks are being managed and the critical paths have converged well. It will give reassurance that the project will meet its safety and regulatory requirements, fulfil customer expectations, realise its broader economic benefits, and achieve delivery on time and budget. 

Repeated testing will build confidence in the purpose-readiness of the new transport infrastructure, and identify any gaps remaining in assets, procedures and systems. It’s vital that the human factors, which are much more difficult to model and predict, are tested too. Are the staff trained, supported and confident? Is the all-important customer experience and social licence where it should be? 

In the end, regardless of other quantitative metrics, it will be people who ultimately gauge the project’s success on Day 1 and into the future.

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by PwC. This article is part of PwC Australia’s series “Getting Transport Projects Purpose Ready”. Other articles in this series take a closer look at how to safeguard success through customer-centric design, community and stakeholder engagement, project assurance, data and analytics, and asset management. For more information, please visit www.pwc.com.au

 

About the authors

Tim Reardon, National Transport and Precincts Leader, PwC Australia

Tim is part of the Integrated Infrastructure team advising on strategic planning, procurement, project delivery, customer service, and operations. Prior to joining PwC, Tim was at the heart of service and infrastructure delivery for the NSW Government for a decade. He served as both the Secretary of NSW Premier and Cabinet, and Secretary of Transport during a period of dramatic transformation across the State.

Steffen Faurby, Integrated Infrastructure Managing Director, PwC Australia

Prior to joining PwC, Steffen held a number of CEO roles including at two transport agencies: Sydney Ferries and State Transit Authority of NSW (Sydney Buses). He brings more than 20 years of executive experience in the transport industry in Australia and overseas, which enables him to advise on strategy and delivery across transport and the broader infrastructure sector.    

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