21 Oct 2016

Queensland Rail wins 2016 National Project of the Year

AIPM, Project Management Achievement Awards, Project of the Year

Perhaps it’s something in the soil, air or water or maybe it’s just the amazing job the Queensland Chapter does in identifying and supporting its applications, but this year the sunshine state pulls off a hat-trick for the top prize at the AIPM’s Project Management Achievement Awards.

Candidates for this year’s AIPM Project Management Achievement Awards’ Project of the Year category ranged the gamut from a pair of water system upgrades in Australia’s parched red heart to a cloud migration and an academic study of whether benefits truly stack up. But it’s Queensland’s third top gong in a row that sets the benchmark for consistency of quality.

Queensland Chapter President David McGuire says the state’s poor project economy spurred its project managers to innovate. The chapter also increased its marketing of the award.

“As judges, we find that quite often a really well-run project is a boring read but lessons from a troubled one resonate.”


Looking like the mission control from a sci-fi film, Queensland Rail’s new $38.2 million Rail Management Centre (RMC) is the nerve centre controlling some 50 million passenger trips a year.

Delivered $11.44 million under budget and seven months early, the centre that employs 250 staff coordinates 800km of track on which 4 million passengers and 1300 freight trains a month travel. Dominating the space is the 24m mimic screen—the second-biggest LG screen in the world—that shows network activity.

But the visually impressive hub is just the visible part of a change-management story that included stakeholder-engagement details down to the level of new staff uniforms, ergonomics, parking and face-to-face consultation to smooth the transition to the new mode of operating.

A change management working group provided employees with frequent communications and a plan based on lessons learned from previous change activities.

Tools used included:
•    Project updates emailed and posted in shift change-over area
•    Information sessions for groups
•    Information packs sent to leaders and staff
•    Project information website
•    A common theme through design and vision statement
•    Photos and short videos showing progress and how to use new items.

Providing staff with a way to influence the project through consultation and working groups was an important knowledge area. They had a hand in details such as workstation design and uniforms, which meant they owned the transition—it wasn’t imposed on them.

While the project stayed on track, obstacles such as the high-risk construction and cutover from the Mayne Control Centre could have derailed progress. This included construction at the existing centre, cutting over to the new power supply and IT systems (including managing software licenses and legacy systems). Risk was mitigated through extensive consultation and writing discussion papers on critical areas. Staff were also kept abreast of the transition and their role as the project progressed, including via three phased inductions.

Addressing the issue of what could have been done better, project managers acknowledged that a confluence of events threatened to swamp the orderly progress to the new ops centre as staff felt overwhelmed by change. This was despite a detailed environmental assessment written at the start of the project to identify potential cultural bottlenecks.

“It was the intention to avoid other significant changes occurring at the same time as the transition to the RMC, but the last few months of 2015 became quite hectic amidst industrial changes, structural announcements, roster reviews and the prospect of a radio upgrade,” the project’s awards submission says.

“The increased level of change had a negative effect on cultural change, operational reform and leadership development aspects due to the ambiguity that it created and the level of distraction evident in the workplace. The learning here was to give big priorities the air and time they need to happen with as little distraction as possible.”

See the AIPM Project of the Year’s amazing 24-metre screen being built in this timelapse.


ACT: Project Benefit Management research, Australian National University, Professor Ofer Zwikael

NSW: Westmead Institute of Medical Research, Capital Insights & Westmead Institute For Medical Research

NT: Adelaide River Water Treatment Plant, Power and Water Corporation

SA: Gawler Wastewater Network Capacity Upgrade, SA Water & Kellogg Brown and Root (PMP Solutions)

Tas: Forico Cloud Program of Projects, Intuit Technologies

Vic: Jamaica Bushmaster, Thales

WA: Mills Park Redevelopment, City of Gosnells

Words: Nate Cochrane