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Innovative platform aids coordination of road works

NSW Land and Property Information has introduced an innovative platform that can help local government and utility providers coordinate works.

NSW Land and Property Information has introduced an innovative platform that can help local government and utility providers coordinate works.Coordinating public works is not so different to conducting a symphony.

It takes planning, skilled individuals and timing to do both effectively. When one aspect fails, the whole orchestrated movement can be thrown into jeopardy.

It was certainly no symphony when a local council in Sydney’s inner-west undertook re-sheeting work on one of its major roads a couple of years ago.

The resurfacing project was completed according to schedule. However, a utility provider dug up the newly resurfaced road to conduct maintenance works just a couple of weeks later. The council re-sheeted the road a second time, only for another utility to rip up the street. The disorganised road-opening activities resulted in considerable traffic delays and disruptions to the local community.

Examples like this are all too common.

“There was this big disconnect between what the council was doing and what the utilities were doing,” explains Belinda Jackson, NSW Land and Property Information (LPI) Senior Business Development Officer.

In order to encourage communication and collaboration between organisations conducting road-opening activities, the local council collaborated with LPI and the Streets Opening Coordination Council (SOCC). “The idea behind the project was this need to improve the coordination of street works between utilities and local government agencies,” says Ms. Jackson.

LPI and SOCC, with the support of the Department of Premier and Cabinet developed a location-based platform. The system encourages participants to adjust work schedules to coordinate with other councils and utility providers. Such cooperation reduces the impact of road closures on the community and allows organisations to share reinstatement costs. “It has the potential to benefit all of our stakeholders,” says Ms. Jackson. “Decreased traffic disruptions will benefit local business owners and the community, while utility providers have the opportunity to realise substantial cost-savings through collaborations.”

The platform, Smarter Scheduling NSW, is an innovative online resource accessible to all utility providers and local governments across the state. Users upload their project data and are notified of any opportunities to collaborate with other organisations undertaking jobs at similar times and places.

A local government authority, for instance, can input data for a job on a certain street in four years’ time. If a utility also has a task scheduled on the same street in two years, Smarter Scheduling NSW would flag the intersection of jobs as an ‘opportunity’. Organisations are then provided with the necessary project details to coordinate activities. “Smarter Scheduling NSW works as a catalyst for people to start conversations,” explains Ms. Jackson. “Once the organisation’s data is in the system, [Smarter Scheduling NSW] will scan it and create opportunities, based on where they intersect spatially and temporally with other projects.”

Users can search for planned works by project, opportunity, land parcel, property, suburb or local government area using Smarter Scheduling NSW’s map interface.

The coordination of street works across NSW has the potential to save a significant amount of time and money. A six-month proof of concept within a single local government area demonstrated that improved coordination of street works could result in $150,000 of savings across just a handful of projects. “Smarter Scheduling NSW rationalises services and expenditure. We anticipate this will result in substantial benefits across the state.”

The system resembles the Forward Works Viewer, developed to coordinate rebuild activities in Christchurch. “As a result of the 2011 earthquakes, the New Zealand Government came up with this Forward Works Viewer,” she explains. While Christchurch’s system was established with a different mandate, Ms. Jackson asserts that it was a great example to learn from.

LPI has made Smarter Scheduling NSW available under a free test and development license. Available until April 2016, the development phase will allow LPI to further refine and enhance the system, as well as encourage local governments and utility providers to embrace the platform. It is anticipated that Smarter Scheduling NSW will go into full production at the close of the trial period. The platform is device agonstic, and available via multiple devices including tablets, mobile phones and desktop computers.

Since Smarter Scheduling NSW launched in May, 23 local government bodies and seven utility providers are using the platform. While organisations are still exploring the system and implementing internal processes, Ms. Jackson says cost-saving benefits are already being realised. “Coordinating scheduling will have tangible benefits across the community. From improved service delivery, to the responsible use of resources, Smarter Scheduling NSW is an effective tool to foster improved cooperation between the state’s utilities and local governments, and ensure those potential benefits are realised across NSW.”

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