Contract Management

Gippsland Rail Corridor Station Upgrade Program $9M+

Key Transport & Strategy members were involved in the delivery and close out of the $9 million Gippsland Rail Corridor Station Upgrade Program which include rail, station, carpark and bussing upgrades on the Gippsland line.

The program delivered 100 new car parks at Traralgon Station and 60 new spaces at Morwell to make it quicker and easier for local passengers to drive to the station and catch the train. Works included station upgrades at Moe, Morwell, Traralgon and Trafalgar as well as rail corridor improvements at Morwell to improve maintenance access onto the rail corridor.

Our Role in the Project

In collaboration with VicTrack, Transport and Strategy supported the close out of the $9 million Gippsland Rail Corridor Station Upgrade Program works. Our team were called in to manage the delivery and close out of the project.

The scope of the engagement included post contract award project management and delivery of the Morwell car park expansion. The management of project scope included additional 60 car parks, electrical and lighting upgrade, new hi-rail access, and rail replacement, retaining wall, civil and drainage, storm and groundwater treatment and contamination remediation.

Our role also evolved to include the management of a complex contractual dispute which was initiated by the Contractor in relation to construction dewatering, latent conditions, a contract exclusion, and its ability to progress the works. The root cause of this related to challenging site conditions and a few shortcomings in the Contract documentation (prior to our engagement).

This is further outlined below under Project Challenges to provide context and outline the key role we had in mitigating the risks and impacts of the dispute through to resolution. Despite the challenge of the issue, this resulted in excellent client feedback in terms of our ability to effectively manage and mitigate the magnitude of the dispute.

Project Challenges & Achievements

Upon commencement of the role, our team became aware that the contract management of the project to date had been poor with several contract documents/obligations outstanding and overdue. Our team quickly identified these issues and implemented steps to improve contract management discipline and address all outstanding issues. This included resolution of Bank Guarantees, incomplete Rail Occupation Plans and T-Minus deliverables, outstanding Requests for Information, Variations and Extension of Time.

The VicTrack and Contractor relationship was also quite poor/strained as the bulk earthworks program slipped beyond the summer months and key rail occupation works had been delayed (These issues were prior to Transport and Strategy’s involvement). This required significant effort by our team to improve working relationships, project communications and the efficiency of delivery.

Following the above improvement, works were able to start progressing more effectively and allowed the main carpark bulk earthworks to commence without any further delays. However, weather conditions worsened early in Autumn and created significant subgrade issues relating to dewatering, subgrade treatments, potential latent conditions and contractor claims relating to the suitability of the design.

Through this time, we represented our client and the project’s best interests and mitigated risks relating to program and cost. This was done through a series of activities including:

  • Expedited a small number of targeted site investigations to confirm site conditions
  • Engaged an external peer review of the design
  • Workshops with the contractor to resolve construction non-conformances (dewatering and earthworks)
  • Requested the contractor to submit any latent condition claims and supporting evidence
  • Identified a VicTrack risk relating to an agreed Contract departure from Tender (prior to our engagement)
  • Supported the Superintendent to provide necessary directions to the Contractor to progress the works

This work ensured VicTrack were well protected contractually and enabled the works to progress. Though surprisingly the Contractor refused to follow the Superintendent’s directions and lodged a formal notice of dispute while not progressing the works. It appears this was due to the contractor not submitting/substantiating a latent condition claim, despite this being requested.

We supported VicTrack throughout the dispute resolution process under the Contract and briefed the VicTrack Executive Group and internal and external legal counsel (Chronology of events and contract amin records). The dispute process under the Contract included Dispute resolution between parties via negotiation, secondly Formal mediation and lastly Arbitration.

Ultimately the dispute was settled for a confidential sum prior to the commencement of formal mediation. Our diligent and disciplined contract management work greatly helped to improve the strength of VicTrack’s legal and negotiating positions in settling the dispute. This enabled a negotiated outcome to be reached that was acceptable to VicTrack and for the works to progress and be completed in line with the revised dates for Practical Completion (as part of the dispute resolution).

Our Approach to Teamwork, Cooperation, and Innovation

As members embedded within the VicTrack project delivery team for this engagement, we were fully empowered to work in an open and collaborative manner which helped us to provide a greater level of service and better project outcomes.

This meant we were strongly aligned with our client’s interests and could quickly/effectively address issues in the best interests of the project and VicTrack. Examples of this were the support and representation we provided through the contractual dispute, including briefing notes, chronology of events, contract administration records and our key role in contract negotiations with the contractor where we supported the VicTrack Executive Director (Projects), the Superintendent and VicTrack Legal Counsel (internal and external). 

Despite the significant challenges of the contract dispute, strained contractor relationships and significant commercial pressures, we were recognised for the pivotal role we played in the effective resolution of the dispute. In particular, the External Legal Counsel highly commended our detailed record keeping, chronology of events and disciplined contract administration, this greatly helped to mitigate risks to VicTrack through the dispute resolution process.

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