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Metros & Urban Rail

People profile: Anthony Bennett

Anthony Bennett

Meet Anthony Bennett, a techincal director for transport based in Melbourne, Australia.

With over 30 years of design experience in domestic and international civil engineering projects, Tony's expertise includes underground structures and geotechnical analyses.

What makes for a successful project?

Transport infrastructure projects are ambitious and big, involving a diverse range of highly specialised multidisciplinary design teams, often working towards very different criteria. Achieving cohesiveness among designers and clients can be challenging but is vital to realising the end goal.

Project environments that foster and emphasise the importance of teamwork and collaboration are well on their way to success. As a good example, working on the EastLink Tunnels was a very positive and rewarding experience to observe active collaboration and communication throughout the design and construction phase. Proactive thinking and pooling of knowledge allowed us to solve problems effectively.

Working together as a collective, cohesive team meant we could offer the client a very high level of technical excellence on this very successful project.

Conversely, some of the biggest pitfalls of transport projects arise from designers not understanding the basics of the project. From the outset, it is essential to agree on the project must-haves and what needs to be achieved during the design process.

It might sound basic, but getting the design requirements sorted out early in the project lifecycle is so imperative to a project’s success. It’s much easier to plan and design for potential risks than it is to remedy the problem later down the track.

Take time to look at the design from a holistic point of view--designers and clients, alike. Importantly, ask questions to understand how all parts of a project will come together; so you can truly know the design.

What impact has technology had on tunnel design and analysis?

Advances in tunneling technologies allow us to improve and optimise; we could always design and build it--it’s just that we can do it much better now.

As designers, we are able to model more easily, which allows us to test the sensitivity of the design to the assumptions and unknowns inherent in tunnel design more rigorously and efficiently, time-wise and resource-wise. Often, this allows us to focus on very specific or challenging areas of a project.

Technology can also enhance how designers and clients interact. Advances in computer modelling and graphical outputs allow us to produce highly technical outputs in the form of images that are both useful and easy to understand by non-technical people. We can now produce 3D models to describe and demonstrate design engineering in action to a much broader audience, that is easy to comprehend.

Technology fosters the transfer of ideas and knowledge sharing in the tunneling community. The tunneling team within Aurecon is spread across a global geography. The ability to share and collaborate in a virtual space means we can apply the very best of our team’s talent on projects without necessarily having always to physically move our people.

For example, it enables us to check that we have incorporated the most appropriate construction technologies early on in the design process which, in turn, influences what, in fact, we design.

Finally, why do metro and urban rail systems work?

Good railway systems are capable of unlocking both the potential of existing transport systems and the economic potential of the town or city, itself. These projects are ambitious in size and in what their owners/ operators aim to achieve; but, as examples from around the world have already demonstrated, the economic and social benefits are equally as impressive.

This is what makes current schemes such as the Melbourne Rail Link, Auckland’s City Rail Link and Sydney’s North West Rail Link so exciting.

Railways are able to move a lot of people very quickly in a relatively confined corridor. In addition to that, in towns and cities with a lot of existing infrastructure, they are often better suited and easier to put underground than other modes of transport modes.

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