WestConnex M4-M5 Link Tunnels Project - Governance Outcomes - ISCouncil

WestConnex M4-M5 Link Tunnels Project – Governance Outcomes

Friday, 6 October 2023

Describe WHAT you have done and HOW you have done it.

Governance and leadership played a pivotal role in the design and delivery of the M4-M5 Link Tunnels (the Project) delivered by the ACCIONA, Samsung and Bouygues Construction Australia Joint Venture (ASBJV) in partnership with Transurban and Transport for NSW. The Project commenced in 2018 and opened to traffic in early 2023, with 7.5km motorway accommodating four new lanes of traffic in each direction and connecting the M4 Tunnels with the M8 Tunnels – forming the 33 km long WestConnex Motorway.

The Project’s success is characterised by a transformation in Governance that led to key outcomes and influenced the development of a targeted Sustainability strategy, diversity and inclusion, risk and opportunity management, sustainable procurement and ensured integrated decision-making across delivery functions.

Overcoming Boundaries and Achieving Integration:

At Project inception, the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) established a strong foundation of shared values detailed in a comprehensive Governance Plan. This unified approach ensured the diverse sustainability objectives of parent companies merged seamlessly into a single Sustainability Policy. This approach influenced significant decision making and ensure collaboration with community and supply chain.

This shift towards integrated Governance challenged the 2018 Business as Usual (traditional) approach to design and construction of road tunnels, resulting in sustainability requirements incorporated as contractual compliance obligations which enabled the delivery of numerous sustainability outcomes.
At project completion the positive cultural shift was characterized by a team that embraced a shared vision, allowing the project to surpass traditional boundaries of engineering, environmental responsibility and social awareness leaving a net positive legacy for all involved on the project.

  • Aboriginal Participation – Connecting to Country:
    The SLT recognised the opportunity to include meaningful engagement of Aboriginal businesses in delivery of the Project, inclusive of ‘story telling’ of local First People’s culture through inclusion of public art. The Governance Plan set out the framework for delivering the project in a culturally sensitive manner, resulting in the development of an Aboriginal Participation Plan, implemented and overseen by a dedicated Aboriginal Participation Manager.
  • Workforce Empowerment – Diversion and Inclusion:
    In 2018, the team recognised the need to improve diversity and female participation in leadership and traditional construction roles in the industry and identified as an area for intervention. The team implemented a bespoke Diversity and Inclusion Policy, overseen by female leaders in the SLT. Numerous training programs for both professional and unskilled candidates were rolled out, including a dedicated ‘Women in Construction’ support network to facilitate information and opportunities regarding career progression and professional development.
  • Lean Construction, Construction Fatigue and the Tunnel Production Line
    Construction fatigue amongst local community was a major concern for the SLT, as the Project was sandwiched between two completed WestConnex projects. Using the Governance Plan as a framework to address this social issue, the Project made the decision to accelerate construction program by implementing the Tunnel Production Line (TPL) methodology, enabling civil, mechanical and electrical fit-outs to follow the tunnel face. Although common in tunnel boring machine construction (internationally), the TPL method was an Australian first for a mined tunnel (using roadheaders).

What were the OUTCOMES and how were those outcomes shared?

The Project’s Governance Plan established robust Sustainability Contractual Targets (CT), inclusive of Aboriginal Participation and Workforce Diversity. The establishment of ambitious policies, procedures and management plans were supported by the SLT, all of whom had ongoing governance and oversight of the progress of the CTs and identify risk and opportunities.

  • Aboriginal Participation – Connecting to Country:
    The Project set new standards in Aboriginal engagement and connection to country. The Governance Plan committed all members of the SLT to complete Cultural Immersion Training – this action emphasized the significance of identifying and selecting local Aboriginal owned suppliers over and above contractual requirements. Importantly, the impacts of including targeted spend across the Supply Chain resulted in the investment of $65 million across Aboriginal participation. This was above the contractual target of $32 million and established as a result of the robust targets through the Project’s Governance Plan.

The Project's crowning achievement was the integration of an iconic Aboriginal artwork, 'Movement of Shells, Movement of Time,' adorning the Campbell Road Ventilation Facility. This was a collaborative enterprise between the local Aboriginal elders Aunty Esme Timbery and her daughter Marilyn Russell of the Bidjigal nation, facilitated through the SLT’s Governance approach (including the urban design team from CM+).

The artwork references the tradition of shellwork, handed down from mother to daughter over many generations and connects the past with present and future generations. The location of the artwork is highly visible for all motorists entering the tunnel at St Peters, and visible from the air given its location under the flight path of Sydney Airport. welcoming new arrivals.

  • Workforce Empowerment – Diversion and Inclusion:
    The Diversity and Inclusion Policy, including the ‘Women in construction’ programs initiated through the SLT, was considered a success. The project welcomed many first-time female staff and workforce into construction; this is additionally significant in the male dominated tunnelling industry which is considered one of the most challenging work environments and safety settings in construction. Statistics on female participation were reported each month and progress reviewed by the SLT.

The ‘Women in construction’ mentoring program oversaw the professional development and career progression of many women. As the project reached its final phases, the first-time female staff and workforce were supported and encourage to continue their careers in construction. Positions were identified on existing and future projects to promote female retention within the industry.

Importantly, the Project is proud to have had the largest female workforce on a tunnelling project in New South Wales, with an overall female participation of 7.6%. During peak production, the Project reported women in blue collar roles of 10%, women in white collar roles of 24%, and women in leadership roles of 15%.

  • Construction Fatigue – Tunnel Production Line (TPL):
    The strong leadership culture and governance framework established at the project's outset played a pivotal role in achieving success. With meticulous planning, streamlined processes, and agile decision-making, the team navigated complex challenges, ensuring the project's efficient progress.

The successful completion of the Project, ten weeks ahead of schedule and within budget, stands as a testament to effective project governance and unwavering dedication. This step change reduced traffic disruption and returned access to local residents and significantly reduced construction fatigue.

Additional, the TPL methodology had a significant impact on reducing energy consumption, by minimising requirements for temporary tunnel ventilation, lighting and vehicle movements. This resulted in a saving of approximately 72,300 tonnes of CO2-e emission.

  • Lean Construction – More with Less:
    Incorporating a LEAN construction plan as part of overall Governance, proved a great success for the Project and assisted with delivery of Sustainability targets. The Project recognises the positive influence the SLT Governance Plan had on Procurement, Design, and Quality teams working with external stake holders and the supply chain, resulting in minimal defects and rework which enhanced the team exceeding contractual sustainability goals during construction. These include:
    • 95% beneficial reuse of spoil – achieved 100% (8,700,000 tonnes).
    • 15% water reuse – achieved 63% water reuse and 810 megalitres.
    • 5% cement replacement – achieve 32% with an overall embodied carbon reduction of 44,560 tonnes of embodied carbon.

These outcomes have been shared with the wider industry through various technical papers, conferences, award presentations, and knowledge sharing opportunities such as the 2022 ISAP Day.

Describe WHO benefited from your initiative, innovation, or approach?

Beneficiaries of the M4-M5 Link Tunnels project's remarkable outcomes as a result of the robust Governance Plan established at project inception - extends to various stakeholders and has left a lasting impact on individuals and the wider community.

The collaborative approach adopted by the Project (transcending corporate boundaries), benefited the participating joint venture companies and their employees. By pooling resources and expertise, the joint venture partners achieved greater efficiency, shared knowledge, and expanded their internal capabilities. This integrated team approach allowed for streamlined decision-making, enhanced communication, and optimal utilisation of resources, ultimately delivering a project that exceeded expectations.

The timely completion of the project within budget brought significant benefits to the public and the NSW Government. Early delivery not only minimised disruption to commuters and local businesses but also demonstrates the efficiencies and effectiveness that large-scale infrastructure projects can achieve if Governance is a primary focus. By completing the project within budget also ensured that public funds were managed respectfully, freeing up resources for other essential initiatives.

The project's strong focus on Safety protected the thousands of workers, and served as an industry benchmark for delivering optimal occupational health and safety practices. By providing comprehensive training, fostering a culture of accountability, and engaging a diverse workforce, the project empowered individuals, created job opportunities, and promoted inclusivity. The participation of workers from marginalised communities, including a significant number from Sydney's Western suburbs, generated socio-economic benefits by providing equitable employment opportunities and fostering local economic growth.

The project's commitment to Aboriginal engagement and environmental management resulted in numerous positive outcomes. The investment in Aboriginal participation, education, employment, and cultural awareness programs contributed to the empowerment and well-being of local Aboriginal communities. The support extended to Aboriginal businesses through procurement activities further stimulated economic growth and fostered social cohesion. Environmentally, the project's focus on beneficial reuse and connection to the Circular economy was inclusive of; recycling and reuse of site won materials, efficient resource management and reduced waste generation, conserving resources, and minimizing the project's ecological footprint, will benefit both present and future generations.

The implementation of innovative technologies and practices created a ripple effect of positive outcomes. The utilisation of cutting-edge machinery and techniques enhanced efficiency, productivity, and safety standards within the construction industry. The awarding of contracts to local suppliers and companies provided a boost to the regional economy, generating employment opportunities and fostering the growth of local businesses.

What LEGACY and UN SDG CONTRIBUTION was achieved?

The Project has contributed a profound legacy to industry, directly addressing several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Governance Plan facilitated outcomes that went beyond contractual targets, developed to align with SDGs 5, 8, 9, and 12.

SDG5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
The Project made significant inroads to addressing diversity and gender inequality within the tunneling sector. By focusing on female participation, the Project has resulted in one of the largest female workforce on a tunnelling project in NSW and progressed the career development of women at all levels.

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
The emphasis on safety, workforce empowerment, and local economic impact aligns with SDG 8. Through comprehensive training programs, rigorous safety protocols, and the engagement of a diverse workforce, the project created a secure and inclusive work environment, promoting decent work opportunities for thousands of individuals. By actively involving workers from marginalized communities and Sydney's Western suburbs, the project contributed to reducing inequalities and fostering economic growth at a local level. Additionally, the procurement of goods and services chain prioritized local Aboriginal suppliers, encouraging responsible sourcing and supporting sustainable business practices.

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
Adopting cutting-edge technologies and processes including the Tunnel Production Line, enabled the team to achieve remarkable efficiency and productivity. This innovation not only improved project outcomes but elevated industry standards, benefiting the wider construction sector.

Furthermore, the Project's collaboration among global companies showcased the power of integrated teams and fostered knowledge sharing, contributing to advancements in infrastructure development.

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
The project focused on recycling and waste management practices for beneficial reuse, with over 8.7 million tonnes of excavated material repurposed, minimizing environmental impact. In addition, the team reduced emissions, water usage and resource consumption through innovative design and construction practices further promotes responsible consumption and production.

By actively addressing these SDGs, the Project has left a positive and sustainable legacy by creating decent work opportunities, fostering economic growth, stimulating innovation, enhancing infrastructure development and promoting responsible consumption and production. The Project stands as a shining example of how large-scale infrastructure initiatives can contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive future.

Lessons learnt from the Project have successfully been transferred onto other projects’ governance procedures.

Continuing the story of the First Australians
Lastly, the design of the façade of the Campbell Road Ventilation Facility will remain as a visual, long lasting legacy piece, exemplifying the core values of the Project and its investment in cultural emersion. The facility design is based on an interpretation of artwork ‘Movement of Shells, Movement of Time’, by celebrated Bidjigal artists - Aunty Esme Timbery and her daughter Marilyn Russell.

The artwork references the local Bidjigal people as saltwater people; the Timbery and Russell families who continue the tradition of shellwork have handed down from mother to daughter over many generations. The team chose to interweave the urban design of the facility with the art and storytelling of the Bidjigal people. to connect their past stories with present and future generations.

All sides of the facility feature folded aluminium cladding, which forms a large three dimensional and multi-coloured ‘canvas’ allowing for changes of colour, shadows and shading. Realistic stills and animations were used to visualise the viewing experience as one walks around (or drives past) the building.

The result is a highly visible façade, 9m high and wrapping the full perimeter of the building, which sits prominently at the gateway to Sydney. This visual beacon was seen as an unprecedented opportunity to provide a “Welcome to Country” for international and local visitors.