The Better Infrastructure Initiative identified eight industry exemplars who represent what good customer stewardship looks like and how it is being practiced in Australia. VicRoads was one of those exemplars in 2017.
Major arterial roads through our cities are critical to meet the growing passenger and freight logistics task in Australia. These roads need to operate efficiently to meet the growing demand of road customers as our cities continue to grow, but escalating residents and businesses living along side and adjacent to these infrastructures wherever possible should not be unreasonably effected.
These issues were significant for VicRoads when it examined the option to introduce 24 hour/7 day (24/7) clearways on Melbourne’s Punt Road. Their approach and capability to secure a strong outcome provides an important case example for stakeholder management (Principle 3).
On a typical week day in Melbourne, Punt Road between Alexandra Parade and St Kilda Junction carries between 30,000 and 40,000 vehicles. It is Melbourne’s main north-south corridor over the Yarra River and operates close to capacity during the week and peak weekend periods.
In 2015, VicRoads investigated ways to improve the operation of the road. People who use Punt Road regularly know that a single car parked outside clearway times can disrupt traffic flow and cause major delays and congestion. It was clear that extension of clearways from part time on weekdays to 24/7 would be the fastest and most effective way to improve traffic flow in the short term; with further improvements needed in the longer term.
However thousands of people live along Punt Road, it is close to the Alfred Hospital, Wesley College, restaurants and popular shopping areas. VicRoads needed to know how people used parking on Punt Road outside clearway times and what impact 24/7 clearways would have on them.
Before any decisions were made, VicRoads ran a major parking study with the goal of speaking with everyone who lived or worked along the affected stretch of road. VicRoads held community drop-in sessions and an online forum, speaking to over 200 residents, 52 businesses, councils, the Alfred Hospital and local schools. They also door knocked all homes along key sections of the road.The parking study led VicRoads to conclude that 24/7 clearways would have a broad benefit to the community and be widely accepted providing they action stakeholder feedback. It was decided that the best way to support people through the change is to provide a small number of alternative parking sites in the area, using vacant VicRoads land.
A formal 60-day consultation was held, giving the community the opportunity to make formal submissions. Forty-one submissions were received, considered and responded to before clearway times were amended.
The Stakeholder management principle focuses on evidence of systems, structures and processes for engaging proactively with stakeholders to understand concerns and balance them with customer needs.
There has been overwhelming community support for 24/7 clearways since they were implemented in August 2016. Travel times outside of peak periods have reduced significantly, and in some cases, such as Saturday afternoons, they have almost halved.
VicRoads thorough engagement with stakeholders, with preparedness to take action to address concerns, resulted in a strengthening of its social license. To enhance existing assets through its approach it helped reduce operational and reputational risk when implementing the project.