Weekly News Highlights - 10th April 2020

Written by
Dean Oliver

Weekly News Highlights - 10th April 2020

Written by
Dean Oliver

Weekly News Highlights - 10th April 2020

Written by
Dean Oliver

5. Preliminary Report Released on Cause of Wallan Train Derailment

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) have released a preliminary report into the train derailment in Wallan, Victoria which killed two in February.

According to the report, the train was travelling 85 km/h over the speed limit when it entered the loop track causing it to derail.

Damaged signalling equipment meant that a pilot got on the train to assist with navigation, but despite this, the train was travelling at 130 km/h on approach to the loop.

The train’s data logger revealed that the driver applied the emergency brake moments before entering the turnout, which slowed the train down to 100 km/h when it hit, still 85 km/h above the 15 km/h speed limit.

How both the driver and pilot missed this crucial detail until the final seconds is not known.

4. Proposed Darling Harbour Developments Not Welcome by City of Sydney

Mirvac has submitted revised plans to demolish Darling Harbour’s Harbourside Shopping Centre and build a brand new shopping centre along with a 153-metre residential tower. 

The original proposal was strongly opposed by City of Sydney due to its scale and impact but Darling Harbour is deemed State Significant Development which means the final decision rests in the hands of the NSW Department of Planning. 

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the harbour, Dutch firm Henning Larsen were just announced design competition winners for GPT’s 183-metre tower at Cockle Bay Wharf.

The project also faced strong objection from City of Sydney as it casts an afternoon shadow over their 30-years-in-the-making Town Hall Square project, but was approved by the not-so-Independent Planning Commission.

It seems a war is emerging between State planners and City of Sydney Council in a battle of high-rise development versus preservation of sunlit public space. 

Unfortunately for Clover Moore, she doesn’t have all that much say in the matter. 

This begs the question as to whether the fate of Sydney is inevitable high-density development casting shadows over the whole city.

3. Kingsford Line of Light Rail Opens

The Kingsford line of the Sydney Light Rail is now open to the public marking the completion of the controversial Light Rail project.

But there was no celebration, probably for many reasons other than coronavirus. 

Take for instance…

...the CBD businesses who saw their customers disappear while the project faced extensive delays (Transport for NSW is still facing a class action case)...

..or the taxpayers who forked out $3b - almost double the project budget..

...or the commuters who, after suffering through 4 and a half years of construction now face LONGER journey times than on a bus. 

A deflated-looking Andrew Constance made the announcement remotely. Constance has never regained enthusiasm for his role as NSW Transport Minister since fires ripped through his NSW south coast town of Malua Bay and almost destroyed his home. 

It seems that seeing his neighbours lose their homes made him realise all the shitfuckery involved within the Liberal government (credit: The Juice Media).

2. Next Stage of Snowy Hydro 2.0 Approved Despite Project Criticism 

Construction of the $55 million Snowy Hydro 2.0 Segment Factory has been given the go-ahead with construction expected to commence within weeks. The factory will produce the more than 130,000 concrete tunnel segments for the project.

But 30 experts have written a joint letter to state and federal leaders requesting an independent review of the project before proceeding.

Led by the National Parks Association of New South Wales and Ted Woodley, a former managing director of Energy Australia, the group’s concerned about the cost, business case, emissions and destruction of national park.

They said there are many alternatives that are more efficient, cheaper, quicker to build with less emissions and environmental impacts. In addition, they claim the project is more likely to cost $10bn rather than $5bn (which is already a blowout from the initial estimate of $2bn).

According to the group, the project will emit 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide during construction and the first 10 years of operation and destroy extensive areas of national park which is home to 14 threatened species.

1. COVID-19 Hits Construction

It’s begun. 

After 200 staff were made redundant from Hutchinson Builders, more reports of redundancies and pay cuts are popping up in the industry.

The Association of Consulting Architects (ACA) has released preliminary findings of a survey of 777 architectural practices.

The results? 

More than $5 billion worth of work has been, or is expected to be, cancelled or delayed and 500 workers have been stood down from architectural practices.

The Performance of Construction Index showed a 4.8 point drop to 37.9 last month, a seven-year low.

Peter Burn from AI Group said the impact to construction stems from economic uncertainty causing dampening confidence, increasing risk aversion and lowering investment demand.

Project management firm, PDS, and quantity surveying firm, Slattery, have both dished out pay cuts whilst Downer’s CEO and executive team have reportedly taken pay cuts and used it to set up a fund to support employees.

So what’s next? 

Well the main impact to the industry appears to be at the project initiation and concept stage and will take a while to trickle down to the construction phase. The biggest risk for contractors at the moment is losing workers or having to shut sites down due to infection.

But it is inevitable that, particularly in the private sector that construction will take a hit - so prepare yourself to weather the storm - but it won’t last long before people jump back in the market looking to take advantage of low interest rates and fallen property prices.