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Moving Australia Forward – Part 3: Australia’s Expanding Bus Network

July 25, 2022

Australia’s increasing demand for transport infrastructure to meet the needs of its growing population places considerable pressure on existing assets, like busways and associated bus networks. As funding continues to increase to expand Australia’s transport infrastructure capacity, bus projects will become critical to ensuring long-term sustainability and success.

Bus projects will continue to underpin Australian transport infrastructure, given the ability for bus networks and infrastructure to support other transport infrastructure, such as railways. Importantly, well planned bus networks boost the benefits of other major transport infrastructure project.

Given the ongoing growth and investment in bus projects across Australia, it is important that all parties understand the critical risks and considerations associated with bus projects.

Key considerations and risk include:

  1. nature of network developments;
  2. land and space restrictions; and
  3. interactions with existing assets and networks.

Nature of Network Developments

The nature of a bus project will have a significant impact on the kind of risks which parties should be aware of. Often, bus networks will either involve elevated platforms and roadways, or tunnels and underground platforms. This is increasingly the case where bus networks are in close proximity to urban centres which require projects to work around existing assets and transport infrastructure.

Where a bus project involves tunnelling and underground works, parties should be very clear about who bears the risks associated with site conditions, including subsoil conditions. This should be complemented by a contractual process under which parties can address risks as they arise. Tunnelling can also present a diverse set of challenges, including those associated with working under existing public and private assets. It is recommend that a contract be tailored to clearly set out the parties respective responsibilities to avoid disputes arising during project delivery.

Conversely, where a project might require elevated construction works, key considerations should be given to the requisite infrastructure to give effect to such. Subsoil conditions may be relevant to determining if support structures can be implemented in certain areas. Further, if the projects require works to be undertaken above major roads or intersections, consideration will need to be given to the potential requirement to shutdown such assets and roads to allow for works to be undertaken safely.

Hence, it is critical that parties are fully informed of the nature of the project and the contract explicitly provides for relevant construction methodology processes and requirements. Where these processes can be agreed and included in contract documents prior to contract execution, parties are best positioned to deal with issues as they arise and in accordance with agreed upon processes.

Land and Space Restrictions

Bus networks and projects increasingly occur in busy and congested urban areas where works occur near existing transport infrastructure. Often, this will mean that works occur in narrow works corridors and face space restrictions limiting various construction activities.

Contractors should ensure they are fully informed of the site conditions and requirements prior to tendering to allow a holistic tender which accounts for all site risks. For instances, where there is limited space for set-out and lay-down works Contractors will need to consider where site materials and equipment can be stored and if there will be mobilisations requirements.

Further, where a project might occur in a narrow or congested corridor, parties will need to make decisions in the planning stages about if land resumption will occur, and if not, how the works will need to be progressed. While some of the requirements around narrow corridors will related to construction methodology and programming, there will also need to be considerations about who bears the risks associated with working in the these areas and what happens when works impact existing landowners.

Given the breadth of issues which may arise, it is important that any tender takes into account such risks, and any contract clearly allocates risks and provides prescriptive processes for how such matters are to be delt with. Importantly, where risk allocation is clear, the potential for future disputes is limited and parties can focus on achieving a best for project outcome. Ultimately, this is achieved through the tailoring of a contract to suit the specific requirements of a given project.

Interactions with Existing Assets and Networks

Regardless of where a bus project is, there will inevitably be a need to interface and work alongside existing infrastructure assets, especially ongoing bus routes and networks. Importantly, where contractual provisions reflect these requirements, parties can best facilitate the efficient and effective delivery of the project.

For example, a bus project on or around existing road infrastructure will often already have bus routes. Hence, where the project requires works to be undertake which moves, or otherwise restrict access to a given bus stop, parties should agree who is responsible for organising and maintain any alternative stops. Further, where it is necessary to liaise with applicable authorities and the community about how such is to occur, the parties’ respective responsibilities with respect to this should be clear.

Similarly, where a bus project interfaces with existing assets and networks, such as other busways and routes, roads, highways, or other public transport, interfacing responsibilities and requirements should be clear. Such requirements should be included in applicable contractual documents and clearly provide the parties obligations and their requirements when dealing with other applicable authorities.

Where a contract accurately reflects the necessary interactions with existing assets, and provides a clear process for dealing with such, it can minimise the potential for disputes and ensure the achievement of best for project outcomes.

Legal Support

Lamont Project and Construction Lawyers have extensive experience working across the lifecycle of transport infrastructure projects, from project development, contract negotiation, ongoing project support, dispute avoidance and support, through to practical completion.

By providing clients a tailored approach to contract negotiations and project support, we can ensure that our clients are best positioned regardless of the particular circumstances.

If you have any questions about your current or future projects, please do not hesitate to contact Lamont Project and Construction Lawyers for a discussion on how we can assist you.

Contact: Peter Lamont or Ryan Bryett

Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

Phone: (07) 3248 8500

Address: Suite 1, Level 1 349 Coronation Drive, Milton Qld 4064

Postal Address: PO Box 1133, Milton Qld 4064