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Metros & Urban Rail

People profile: Grant Daniel

Grant Daniel

Grant's expertise includes programme and project management, risk management, procurement, and contract negotiation and administration.

Recent project experience includes:

  • Design Verification Leader of the Doha Metro,
  • Programme Manager of the Auckland Regional Transport Authority,
  • Assistant Director of the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation and
  • Project Manager of the London Underground’s Jubilee Line Extension Project.

Here Grant shares some of the lessons his learnt along the way delivering mass transit systems throughout Asia, New Zealand and the UK.

Lessons learned from the Jubilee Line Extension Project

Central to the fabric and culture of the city, the 150 – year old ‘Tube’ was described by London Underground’s managing director, Denis Tunnicliffe, as the “veins and arteries” of London.

My experience on the Jubilee Line Extension project emphasised just how valuable a clear project definition is before commencing detailed design and construction.

Requirements from the client, statutory authorities and other key stakeholders emerged throughout this project which presented significant challenges for our team to manage changes and their cost consequences. Many of the contractors were operating on thin margins in what were very tough economic conditions in the early 1990s.

This, combined with traditional “adversarial” contract conditions, made for a very combative environment! I learnt a lot about the preparation and administration of construction contracts and how vital it is to communicate clearly and unambiguously.

My advice for clients is to be clear about what you want, define the objectives and system requirements and, if you need help, consider the judicious engagement of knowledgeable, experienced consultants. Of course, ownership of any rail project must be retained by the client so having your own key people with strong internal knowledge will help you get the most out of your consultants.

The Jubilee Line Extension was an absolutely fantastic project to be involved in. I worked with some great people and look back on it with fond memories. Its iconic stations have undoubtedly left a legacy on the face of a great city that I am very proud of.

Moving the masses in Asia

Asia is a very exciting and rewarding market to work in. Across China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and elsewhere there is an abundance of smart, ambitious professionals eager to be actively involved in designing and constructing transport systems that work for their communities.

Mass, rapid, transit are the three words that define metros and urban rail systems in the Asian market. Enormous, rapidly growing cities with high population densities are the norm. It’s all about moving very large numbers of people where they want to go, quickly and efficiently.

Importantly, transport systems do not operate in isolation. It is essential for a metro system to be properly integrated with other transport modes and surrounding land uses. Transport oriented development is the mantra – a mass transit system supports development and a properly planned and functioning development supports the system.

Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in Hong Kong where new towns such as Tung Chung have sprung up around MRT stations. Although very densely populated, the close proximity and integration with transport, shopping, employment and leisure facilities actually make these places viable and attractive places to live.

I believe that ensuring that people have opportunities to realise their lifestyle aspirations – to live, work and play – is central to the mission of successful mass transit systems. They should contribute to thriving, sustainable and liveable urban communities.

“You’ll never get Aucklanders out of their cars?”

Auckland is an interesting example of changing attitudes and ideas around public transport in a developed world city that is car dependent.

Although there was a historically well supported public transport system of trains, trams, ferries and trolley buses, this was progressively run down and nearly abandoned in the second half of the twentieth century as the city adopted a North American planning model of sprawling, car dependent suburbs. However in this century there is a realisation that this model is no longer sustainable.

We face a number of challenges rebuilding and expanding public transport in Auckland. We know that existing rail corridors could be used to move large numbers of people more efficiently than the road network, however these corridors have to be shared with KiwiRail’s freight operations.

Funding tends to more constrained than the larger economies of Asia and the Middle East, or even Australia, so we have to stretch our dollars further. The rail industry here is small and intermittent public sector investment makes it hard for firms to build and maintain a skilled and knowledgeable services sector to support the industry.

In NZ our high level of democracy and strict environmental legislation requires a considerable process of public consultation as part of project delivery. There are strong opinions within the political and public spheres of the national transport debate. These generally follow typical left versus right political leanings, i.e. preferences for “collective” means of transport versus freedom to choose individual modes.

In Auckland this debate has recently turned to the wider issue of urban form and land use of which the transport network is an integral part. The city is at a decision point between continuing to maintain its existing growth model that supports suburban lifestyles or opting for intensification around existing urban centres. Are our individual goals of a house and garden with two-car garage sustainable? And if not, who is willing to give this up to live in or adjacent to a multi-storey apartment block?

New Zealand’s capability to fund investment in mass transit systems will continue to be challenged, but I believe Auckland has more or less reached the critical mass needed so support such systems. The rapid increase in public transport use following completion of the Northern Busway, Britomart transport interchange and the DART programme of rail upgrades shows there is a latent demand there.

Build it properly and they will come.

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