Train station

Metros & Urban Rail

People profile: Charlie Shackell

Charlie Shackell

Meet Charlie Shackell, Aurecon’s Geotechnical Service Line Leader.


Based in Sydney, his 20 year career spans major civil and geotechnical engineering projects involving investigation, design and construction in Australia, South Africa, West Africa, and the United Kingdom.

Charlie’s extensive experience of major transport infrastructure projects includes the Inner West Light Rail, East Hills Line Quadruplification, Southern Sydney Freight Line and numerous Novo Rail and Pacific Highway Upgrade projects New South Wales.

What has been a career highlight in your project experience?

Working on the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale section of the Pacific Highway Upgrade project has definitely been a memorable experience. This section of highway is roughly 17 kilometres long and includes a 300 metre long section of tunnel through St Helena hill. It is one of the few sections of the Pacific Highway that involves a section of tunnel.

We had the opportunity to undertake all geotechnical investigations and interpretations on behalf of the client, RMS and continued to provide advice and technical assistance throughout the construction contract.

Working in challenging ground conditions including tunnelling through Basaltic lava with complex weathering profiles and constructing fills using Haloysitic soils. We were responsible for both factual and interpretive reporting, assessing key geotechnical, tunnelling, acid sulphate soils and contamination issues.

Interpretative assessments included cut and fill batter stability, material reuse assessments, tunnel support, excavation and hydrogeological issues, foundations for embankments and bridge and drainage structures.

Our team was also able to see the project through from inception to completion which was a very rewarding experience.

What impact is technology having on how transport projects are being delivered?

Building Information Modelling (BIM) for infrastructure is the biggest change we are seeing in the transport infrastructure space. It presents a lot of exciting opportunities to enhance how designers and clients interact with projects.

BIM for Infrastructure is becoming the norm around the world. While BIM for Infrastructure is still in its relatively early days in Australia, we’re starting to see requirements for BIM for infrastructure in tender documents.

BIM is a highly efficient and effective collaboration tool. During the design and construction phase, everyone involved on the project can work from a common data environment. For example, geotechnical, mechanical, electrical and civil engineers can all integrate their models in the three dimensional environment to quickly and more effectively identify and interpret potential problems and clashes much earlier.

For the owner/operator, the technology can deliver a model that details a comprehensive set of information for the asset, potentially enabling the owner/operator to understand the complete history and decisions made leading to the creation of the asset. Of course, this is only the surface of BIM for infrastructures asset management capability.

BIM for infrastructure can produce some amazing results with the benefits far outweighing the initial outlays of designing and coordinating models in the management space.

Embrace BIM for infrastructure!

What opportunities do you see for urban rail projects to be integrated into existing transport systems?

Metro and light rail systems are the light, fast solutions continuously growing cities need to progress.

The challenge is to integrate the new infrastructure into existing transport modes and facilities so that it has the very positive effect of optimising the holistic transport network.

Metro and light rail projects are expensive; only making economic, political and social sense when they are used by a lot of people; all the time.

There are many examples around the world of where they have been designed and constructed without being integrated correctly into existing transport systems which, in turn, renders them virtually useless.

Going underground with metro systems is a pragmatic solution for cities with plenty of existing above ground infrastructure.

Take a new light rail system in the heart of a bustling city like Melbourne, Australia, for example.

The disruption to existing transport services, traffic movement, local businesses and the community would be enormous. Going underground, you have the advantage of only daylighting at discreet points and being significantly less disruptive.

Of course, going underground has its own set of challenges. Tunnelling and excavating comes with ground movement risks, safety issues and its own set of technical problems to be solved.

It’s not cheap however it does need to be offset against disruptions costs and the inevitable business and community impacts of building infrastructure above ground. 

To top