The Chamber - Winter 2022

4 the Chamber T he Australian rail market is currently facing unprecedented levels of investment that even dwarfs the post GFC infrastructure stimulus packages of 2009. With a large increase in major projects occurring simultaneously in all states and nationally, the result is an ever increasing and tremendous strain on skilled and specialist resources. Further, major projects inevitably cause disruptions to the existing networks – for example the ongoing Level Crossing Removal initiative, established by the Victorian State Government in 2015, interfaces with and disrupts pedestrian, bicycle, car, bus, and rail services across the Melbourne network. Disruptions vary from months to years depending on the scale of the project. Insufficient resourcing results in increased delays and disruptions, causing a further inconvenience to the public. To support these resource constraints, global companies like Network Rail Consulting (NRC) typically rely on seconding personnel from their global network to supplement what local content cannot provide. However, for many this process has been somewhat interrupted by the Covid-19 Pandemic. NRC, for instance, has overcome this issue by implementing an effective reach back model that brings international resources to bear on projects, without the need for physical relocation of resources. Handling resourcing constraints throughout the pandemic and into post-pandemic Over time, NRC has devised a resourcing strategy that integrates assistance from both local and international resources. Covid-19 has allowed the company to be more flexible with their approach to reaching back to their global resources to compliment and support local personnel and has created a more effective reach back model without compromising client satisfaction. Working remotely is something that impacted many throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic, and NRC was quick to adopt the new style of working and exploit its newly found benefits. One of the benefits they quickly discovered was the ability to implement a flexible work schedule. This enabled their employees to work hours that best suited them and their clients to deliver results. Flexible working hours opened the door to allow quick and effective communication with international support, avoiding the need for travel or relocation. Regional Director for Australia, Mark Pettigrew, highlights, “This shift was a game changer for instances where we only needed a short engagement with our international support staff. We efficiently mobilised SMEs around the globe from both NRC and our parent company Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd (NRIL) for short sprint ad-hoc support. This maximised the benefits for our clients without either party needing to bear the costs associated with international travel”. Greater acceptance of working remotely post Covid-19 has enabled NRC to continue to exploit this style of working and is now an essential mechanism used to help meet the resourcing constraints in the current market. NRC also found that remote working and flexible hours can be used in long term applications. For example, staff that are based in the UK who have been servicing key roles in projects that are in the USA and Australia throughout the entire pandemic and will continue to do so remotely even though relocation remains a viable alternative. NRC State Manager for Victoria, Adam Boughton notes, “The impact that remote working has had on their business has been extremely positive, and our customers continue to be the benefactors of our improved reach back model that is combined with local presence, local knowledge and local know-how”. How we can all work to continue to close skill gaps Unlocking alternative methods of working with their international colleagues, NRC doesn’t just rely on international support to deal with resourcing constraints – they also partner with or support other providers to meet the demands of large and complex contracts. NRC specialises in many facets of the rail sector and can manage and advise on large and complex disaggregated programs by combining excellent local content with reach back support from international NRC and our parent organisation, NRIL. However, this doesn’t guarantee that they will always have the resources available to meet the demands of any given project. There are instances where NRC recognises that only a certain percentage of a contract can be serviced due to a limited number of the right available staff and skills, or as a result of local-content requirements. Hence, the mechanisms that have been set up to provide sufficient resourcing across the company’s portfolio, factor in the need for partnering. State Manager for NSW, Ben Calder adds, “We frequently engage with other companies if we believe that their assistance will benefit the client, and we encourage other service providers to contact us if they believe that our services can help benefit their clients” From their initial introduction into Sydney in 2013, to their strong and growing presence in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne today, Network Rail Consulting continue to work on major initiatives, projects and programs that are transforming rail for the future. They continue to do this through a diverse blend of great local talent, secondees fresh off operating railways, international SME support through reach-back to their parent company and picking the right partners to deliver great outcomes. Utilising international support in a growing Australian rail market