Leighton Contractors with Hays Globalink are back in Britain as part of an annual visit aimed at providing opportunities of a lifetime for rail staff to live and work in Australia.
The worldwide economic downturn may be big news but although Australia hasn’t been completely unaffected, the scale of the downturn down under is minor in comparison to the USA and Europe. Australian states and federal governments have been extremely pro-active in attempting to minimise the effects of the recession and have embarked on an ambitious programme of investment in infrastructure.
The Infrastructure Australia Federal fund has provided significant spending streams for projects such as the Regional Rail Express Project in Victoria and the Gold Coast Rapid Transit Project in Queensland. State governments have weighed in with additional funding for major projects.
Sydney is one of the few world cities without an underground metro network. With the population set for dramatic growth over the next few years the New South Wales government has decided to take the plunge and invest in a top grade underground railway based on European metro models.
Sydney citizens hope once the initial metro lay out is built the network will be expanded to the west of the city. Potential lines to the eastern suburbs and the northwest of the city could be built later. This ambitious project aims to take the strain off the conventional heavy rail network, take cars off the roads, facilitate population growth and protect the environment.
Despite this mega project grabbing all the headlines it hasn’t restricted investment in heavy rail. Railway expansion in New South Wales is still continuing with the South Sydney Freight Line, the new North Sydney Freight Line and large scale capacity enhancements for the Hunter Valley rail freight network top of the list. Within the NSW rail fraternity the frequent question asked is: ‘What recession?’
Major Rapid Transit project
On Queensland’s Gold Coast, renowned for its beaches, surfing and sun, a major rapid transit project has been unveiled. The $800 million railway project will connect Gold Coast communities giving a massive boost to the tourist industry. $350 million has been invested by the Federal government with the rest of the funding being made up by the Queensland state government and private investors.
Further south Melbourne’s Regional Rail Express Project is a major new line running from West Werribee to Sunshine and then through to Southern Cross Station in Central Melbourne. The project will provide substantial increases in capacity and reliability for Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo services, and free up capacity for extra suburban services from Werribee, Sunbury and Craigieburn. It is valued at $4 billion.
The project will include 50 kilometres of new rail track – allowing regional services to run expresses into Melbourne. More platforms and the construction of a new rail bridge over the Maribyrnong River will complete the new Regional Rail Link delivering capacity for an extra 9,000 regional and suburban passengers every hour. This doubles the capacity of the regional rail commuter network when new carriages are taken into account.
Landmark rail projects being embarked upon in Australia make the move highly attractive. See the following Q & A session David Owen-Jones a senior manager at Leighton Contractors shares his impressions of life in Australia.
Talk-a-bout: David Owen-Jones, on life in Australia.
Q What’s your role with Leighton? When did you join and where do you live?
A I am currently working as a Senior Track Engineer and live in Perth, Western Australia. However, we are moving to Melbourne in the near future.
Q How did you find the relocation process, visas etc?
A It was really easy. Leighton have a firm that did most of the leg work for us so all we had to do was go for a medical and supply them with photocopies of certificates.
Q What’s been the most enjoyable part of living and working in Australia?
A The weather without a doubt. In Perth we had unbroken sunshine for about four months. Beautiful beaches, relaxing weekends and proper quality family time is also the best part of it.
Q What are the main differences that you have encountered living and working in Australia compared to the UK?
A Things are different. It depends how much you have travelled as to how much of a culture shock it all is. You tend to see past the accents and mannerisms and realise that building a railway here is pretty much the same as in the UK.
Q Has your family settled down well?
A My wife is completely sold with the idea. My youngest is 13 and has become an AFL (Australian Football League) fan. My eldest is 18 and has joined us this summer. He has already found work, made friends and is signing up at the local college to train as a civil engineer.
I find working with Leighton Contractors really easy as there are so many British engineers here and the Australian guys are really friendly.
Q What’s the most impressive thing about working for Leighton Contractors?
A The culture is the thing that really sets Leighton’s apart from other firms. The Leighton way takes everything that is good about the English system and blends it with Australia’s people-first culture.
Q What are the main challenges you’ve come across in creating a new life and a new career in Australia?
A Learning the company systems and methods – but you have that with any new job. If I’m honest it hasn’t been hard at all. In fact it has seemed very natural and normal.
It’s not that different, except that the weather is nice and the countryside is amazing. Your money goes further and you find new things to do with your family time because you are not stuck indoors anymore. Lots of walking, sailing, swimming, surfing, barbeques, shopping, socialising – need I say more?
Q What one bit of advice would you give to someone who wishes to relocate to Australia and work for Leighton Contractors?
A Don’t hesitate. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You will only stress yourself out wondering about it so the quicker you can do it the easier it really is. Family and friends will want to hold you back and I can understand that. But we all speak regularly on the phone (making a call landline to landline using a phone card is about $10 for ten hours) and we email every week.
I moved over the first time in July 2007 then back to England for family in February 2008 and couldn’t get back to Australia quick enough in February this year. We have absolutely no intention of going back to England again. Family will just have to come out here and enjoy the sunshine.
Q What are the main differences between the Australian rail industry and the British?
A De-stressing track is different, tamping is the same, construction is similar, to be honest it’s hard to say after only six months. I have to really think back to try and make a comparison between the two because it’s basically the same.
Q What’s the strangest, most unusual thing, you have come across in Australia?
A Seeing a two metre python flat on the road – a bit different to rabbits and hedgehogs. Laying track through misty rain forests. The heat in Port Hedland – an amazing 44 degrees.
Seeing kangaroos on the school playing fields was probably the strangest thing!
Article courtesy of RailStaff magazine.