The past several years have seen human activity transform the world into a complex array of state-of-the-art cities. These cities serve as hubs in which many vital services are centralised to facilitate the conduction of business and other important human engagements, which are necessary for the overall welfare development.
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Currently, the population distribution in Australia is such that over 60% of the Australian population live in the five largest cities, viz. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide (Betts 2010). This aspect implies that the pressure on resources is immense in these cities and the concerned authorities have to work round the clock to ensure that the Australian populace is provided with all fundamental services and amenities.
For instance, in Melbourne, there has been a stinging need for a road network expansion in the past decade to ease the flow of traffic to and from the city’s hinterland. Several recently completed projects such as the CityLink, the Peninsula Link, and the EastLink have served well to abate this state of affairs, but there is still a need for a final link connecting the Eastern Freeway to the Western suburbs of Melbourne (Eddington 2008).
This need necessitated the commissioning of the East West Link Project, which on top of linking the Eastern freeway to the Western suburbs of Melbourne, is aimed at easing the flow of traffic on West Gate Bridge (Eddington 2008).
The East West Link project is currently in the planning stage and the construction of its initial phase, dubbed ‘Stage One’ is expected to commence in late 2014 (AAP 2013). This report explores the infrastructure project in a bid to reconcile all the aspects involved in moving it from scratch to the completion of the initial phase.
The East West Link Project is an 18-kilometre cross-city road link, which is aimed at connecting the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road in the Western suburbs of Melbourne in the state of Victoria, Australia. It will thus serve as an alternative direct connection to the Monash, CityLink, and West Gate Freeways.
The project shall be undertaken under the auspices of the Linking Melbourne Authority (LMA), which is a special statutory authority charged with the responsibility of handling complex road projects. The authority is undertaking the East West Link Project as it (the Link) is touted as the among the largest infrastructure projects in the annals of Melbourne (Linking Melbourne Authority 2013).
The project is currently in the planning phase with a plethora of studies ongoing on the modalities of commencing it. The Victorian government took responsibility for the construction of ‘Stage One’ and as such, the planning for this phase is at an advanced level.
This initial phase will comprise a complex array of tunnels, overhead bridges, and surface roads with links to and from the existing freeway network within the vicinity of the Link (Linking Melbourne Authority 2013).
An extensive background study on pertinent issues has been carried out and although some decisions have been made and best options settled for, LMA has left communication avenues open for the private sector and the public in general to suggest additional or alternative approaches to the project.
On completion, the East West Link is anticipated to cater for about 150,000 vehicles per day (Melhem 2008). This link will ease pressure on existing routes by great margins, and thus reduce the traffic congestion witnessed near the proposed connection.
The residents of Melbourne will experience better mobility, better delivery of services, and improved amenity on the public road transport leading an improved Melbourne economy (ConnectEast Group 2008).
The East West Link Project in perspective
The Initiation Phase
The East West Link Project has been under consideration since 1999 as a proposed project to connect the Eastern Freeway to Western Melbourne and consequently to the North of Melbourne, as first proposed in the year 1999 by the then Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett (Wallace 1999).
It again featured in the infrastructure plans of the Committee for Melbourne, Melbourne City Council, and Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry in a few years later, but it was not considered (Dubecki 2003).
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Consequently, in 2008 it made part of the key recommendations of investing in the ‘Transport-East West Link Needs Assessment Report’ prepared by Sir Rod Eddington under the request of the Victorian government (Brumby 2008). This initiative by the Victorian government forms a vital component of the project management mainstays.
Before judgement on the viability of a project is passed, project-management ethos call for conduction of a comprehensive needs assessment (Tinnirello 2000). This assessment provides a platform from which the costs of a proposed project can be effectively evaluated against the possible benefits to establish which side outweighs the other.
The Eddington Report has received wide acceptance and backing from several organisations, stakeholders, and interest groups including the Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF), the ConnectEast Group and the Australian Workers Union (AWU) among others in their response to the report.
This aspect pitches the needs assessment exercise by Sir Eddington and his team as a befitting undertaking, which rightly captures the spirit of the infrastructure development needs of Melbourne.
Based on the widespread acceptance of the report, the Victorian government proceeded to commission the project for construction. The responsibility of overseeing the project was bestowed upon the LMA due to its capacity to handle this nature of projects, as they are the essence of its establishment (Linking Melbourne Authority 2013).
Planning for the East West Link Project
The East West Link Project is currently at an advanced planning level under the auspices of LMA. Several background studies have been and are still being conducted to ensure that every small detail is factored into the framework of the project before the construction commences in late 2014.
The Victorian government and the LMA are awake to the fact that projects are temporary undertakings, which focus on providing a particular product or service, in this case, the East West Link (Lock 2007). They are thus taking adequate time to guide the project through every phase of the Project Lifecycle to allow time for every aspect to be considered. As it is, the initiation of phase one is complete and it is in the planning phase.
The planning phase seems to be the most complex stage of project development due to the nature and scope of the activities involved. At the planning stage, the project manager or management team needs to visualise the complete project and its possible effects before the project actually commences (Lock 2007).
As such, project managers need to be vigilant to ensure that nothing is missed for a slight error can cost sponsors huge sums of money. Not every detail of the exact project course can be visualised or envisaged beforehand, but the key issues to be encountered during the development course should be anticipated.
Background studies ongoing at the proposed site include Geotechnical drilling, which is aimed at finding out the rock structures and types at various locations along the proposed route (Linking Melbourne Authority 2013).
The rock formations and types are vital in determining the construction methods to be employed and the nature of materials that would be required to complete the project. Apart from Geotechnical drilling, studies have also been carried out to establish the possible effect of the project to the flora and fauna in the area.
Ecology experts have been contracted to examine the ecology of the proposed route to determine the adverse effects the project might have on it. The overall position arrived at was that the project poses no major threat to the flora and fauna in the project area (Linking Melbourne Authority 2013).
However, concerns have been raised that the project may have a damaging effect on the zoo animals in the Melbourne zoo, which is proximate to the tunnel’s Elliott Avenue off-ramps (Cook & Willingham 2013).
The argument is that the noise that will emanate from the construction of the project will subject the zoo animals to unpredictable stress levels. In particular, elephants, which form part of the Melbourne zoo community, will be the most affected by virtue of the fact that they use seismic vibrations as part of their communication (Cook & Willingham 2013).
Incorporation of tunnels into the design of the project was aimed at protecting key interest areas, which cannot support major surface roads. These include vital human settlements, parks, and other facilities such as the Melbourne zoo, which is an implicit indication that the LMA has endeavoured where possible, to cater for the interests of concerned stakeholders.
The Victorian government committed itself to funding stage one of the project, which is expected to cost between $6 and $8 billion (Linking Melbourne Authority 2013). This aspect is probably the reason why the first phase planning process is underway.
From the project management perspective, it means that the project has been divided into manageable chunks, which can be concluded within specified timelines and within the vicinity of the estimated costs without expending too much effort (Tinnirello 2000).
The entire project is a public-private partnership and thus the LMA has called forth interested parties to commit to funding the second part as well. This move again implies that the LMA is well aware of the fact that commitment is one of the aspects needed to bring a project to completion as challenges, which often mar projects, call for commitment to overcome them (Tinnirello 2000).
The LMA is prepared for the challenges it may encounter in the implementation process. It has tried to deal with obvious challenges such as resistance through taking an open approach in which communication channels are open to all who may harbour any form of concerns to raise them (Linking Melbourne Authority 2013).
The LMA has made it clear that parts of the project that have already been planned can be adjusted if need be, which means that the project is still open to change and ideas that can bring positive change are welcome. Though some protests against the project have been reported, the ism of the protests does not have to do with the effect of the project on the protestors’ lives or the environment.
Protesters are against the idea that government funds will be used on a road they will have to pay for in order to use instead of being channelled to public infrastructure (AAP 2013). The protests have gone on despite the assurance that for every $1 spent on the road, a return of $1.40 shall accrue (ConnectEast Group 2008).
The initiation phase is complete and the planning phase is underway thus there is a bit of information about these phases of the project lifecycle. However, the remaining phases shall also be covered in this report in the form of prescribing what ought to be done to deliver the project within the planned budget and timeframe.
The Execution Phase
The execution phase of the East West Link project is due in late 2014 as aforementioned. Before then, the planning process shall still be ongoing, which means by the time the LMA is ready for the commencement of the construction, everything that is needed for the project completion will be in place.
The division of a project into a series of small easily attainable tasks becomes important at this stage. When the task ahead appears so enormous and is packaged as a single lump sum, there is a tendency for the operational staff to get discouraged and demoralised (Lock 2007).
The planning process also selects the best experts to undertake the actual project implementation. The list of possible contractors who are to undertake the East West Link Project had already been prepared and in the due course, the LMA shall select the best. The LMA has to settle for the best quality and cost combination.
Some firms propose very high costs so that even though they may deliver high quality, it is not commensurate with the costs they propose. Quality is vital and it should not be sacrificed for the sake of lower costs, which thus calls for a careful expert informed analysis of all the inherent issues before settling on the best possible quality at a fair cost so that there is a realisation of value for the money spent.
The contracted party should get all the information concerning the project from the planning before providing a clear timeframe within which it can complete the project. The specifications on quality should also be outlined clearly, as according to the project management ethos, time, cost, and quality go hand in hand (Lock 2007).
Planners should thus be realistic when estimating project costs and the timeframe so that during the implementation phase, adequate time is allocated to every task.
Conventionally, even outside the project management field, when for instance, a given task needs to be accomplished within a tight timeframe, it becomes more costly and coupled with this aspect, some element of quality must be sacrificed (Tinnirello 2000).
This scenario should be avoided in the implementation of the East West Link because the Link will be a vital corridor, which is expected to serve the city of Melbourne for a long time to come, and thus quality is fundamental.
The key issue during the implementation process is to finish a given task within the given timeframe and within the specified standards of quality. Once this goal is accomplished, it is time to move to the next step of the project based on how it is sub-divided.
From the implementation phase of a project onwards, the phases are often intertwined and overlapping so that they do not distinctly stand out as separate stages (Tinnirello 2000). For instance, during the implementation process, already concluded sub-portions of the larger task will be checked against the specified criteria and control measures initiated if need be.
The control phase
Stakeholder expectations are the hallmark of this phase of project development. Before any project is approved, development stakeholders have to be convinced that the project is a worthwhile undertaking. This assertion means that they approve a project under consideration of various specific issues with objectives and standards of quality that the project developer has to meet or exceed during the implementation process.
Therefore, immediately the implementation process begins, in this case the construction of the East West Link, evaluation and control will commence too. This approach is the best as it detects right away if there is any deviation from the specifications.
This approach can save resources and time. It would be quite costly if monitoring were to be postponed to the end of a project only to realise that a project is below the specified standards and thus it is unacceptable or unusable.
This phase guards against such occurrences and thus it is vital for the LMA and other authorities, which shall be tasked with quality control, to be vigilant during the construction process to ensure that every process is qualified to avoid wastage of resources. Wastage is avoided because any need for adjustment is pointed out immediately it arises and the necessary adjustments are made appropriately as the implementation proceeds.
Although there is always an overall evaluation at the end of the execution process (Tinnirello 2000), it comes after a series of smaller such exercises have been carried out. This phase is conventionally followed by the closeout phase.
The Closing phase
The closing phase of the project often does not include many activities. It entails taking of stock and weighing the possibilities of proceeding with any future projects for the project developer. This goal is achieved through the seeking feedback from stakeholders if their expectations were met satisfactorily.
This phase will come at the very end of everything when all construction will have been completed and the final touches delivered and the project will be ready for opening to motorists. Arguably, this phase is just a forum for officially closing the project.
The LMA has been previously tasked with major infrastructure projects and it is thus experienced in handling all phases of project management and development. This task is expected to happen within the expectations of all stakeholders for it to serve its desired purpose satisfactorily.
The aim of this report was to reconcile the aspects of the East West Link Project. The first phase of the project, viz. stage one, is already underway, and it is in its planning phase. The execution, control, and the closing phases shall come later.
Whether or not the project will fit within the estimated timeframe and budget remains to be seen, but it will anchor heavily on the ability of the contracted party and all other stakeholders to stay committed to the best practices of project management and development. It is imperative for those tasked with any responsibility to discharge at the project to accomplish it expeditiously since Melbourne is in dire need of an East West Link.
AAP 2013, ‘Vic protesters vow to block East West Link’, The Australian, p.28.
Betts, K. 2010, ‘Population growth: what do Australian voters want’, People and Place, vol.18 no. 1, pp. 49-64.
Brumby, J. 2008, Investing in Transport – East West Link Needs Assessment Overview. Web.
ConnectEast Group: East West Link Needs Assessment Report, 2008. Web.
Cook, H. & Willingham, R. 2013, ‘Fears of east-west link impact on zoo animals’, The Age, p.19.
Dubecki, L. 2003. ‘Tunnel under Royal Park to link freeways shelved’, The Age, p. 10.
Eddington, R. 2008, ‘Investing in Transport: East West Link Needs Assessment’, Department of Infrastructure, Melbourne.
Linking Melbourne Authority: East West Link 2013. Web.
Lock, D. 2007, ‘Project Management’, Gower Publishing, Aldershot.
Melhem, C. 2008, Submission on the Eddington East West Link Needs Assessment study. Web.
Tinnirello, P. C. 2000, ‘Project Management’, Auerbach, Boca Raton.
Wallace, R. 1999, ‘Road tunnel’, Herald Sun, 6 May, p. 11.