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Director-General message

Welcome to the 2019–20 Annual Report for the Department of Transport and Main Roads. I am always grateful for the opportunity to reflect on and share the many and varied achievements of the department, which are highlighted in the pages of this report. Every year, we attempt to achieve more than the year before and, despite an incredibly challenging environment, this year has been no different.

TMR COVID-19 response

While COVID-19 has caused a major impact on all of our lives, one thing that has remained constant is the department’s commitment to delivering for Queensland. Throughout our response we have actively partnered with key industry stakeholders and other government agencies to help slow the spread and keep Queensland moving. One critical collaboration that helped to achieve this was with our colleagues in the Queensland Police Service, setting up and monitoring border crossing checkpoints and supervising sea-facing borders of remote Indigenous communities.

We moved quickly to adapt our business operations to prioritise the health and safety of our people and customers. We did this by increasing the Department’s technological capability to support a large portion of our employees to work remotely, and made temporary changes to frontline services, such as the suspension of practical driving tests.

To protect our customers and the wider community, we automated pedestrian crossings and installed ‘bump’ and ‘wash' stickers, reducing the need to touch the button at traffic lights. We also introduced several precautionary safety measures on our public transport network and communicated how to stay healthy through our ‘Leave a gap campaign’. 

Early in our response we identified communications as a critical pillar. With the fast-moving nature of COVID-19 and the sheer volume of information available, providing a trusted and timely source of information for our people and customers was vital.

Internally, we significantly ramped up DG messages and, while I couldn't get out and about to see people in person as I normally would, I started delivering regular video updates. Between January and June 2020, 56 DG messages were sent featuring 23 videos. We also opened a direct DG Q&A channel, giving our people an avenue to ask questions and receive a response from me. To 30 June 2020, I had received and responded to 227 questions via this channel.

Strategic objectives

We are living in a time of unprecedented change, with technological and societal developments transforming the way we live and do business. Throughout our response to COVID-19 we have continued to be guided by our Strategic Plan 2019–23, prioritising our people and customers in all five objectives:

Accessible: Working towards creating an integrated and inclusive network, in the last year we have provided funding for regional bus stop accessibility upgrades, continued to clean up Queensland's waterways through our War on Wrecks program.

Safe: Notable achievements towards our goal of delivering safe and secure customer journeys and workplaces include establishing our Maritime Enforcement Team, transitioning to a new Employee Assistance Provider and launching the new Queensland Road Safety Action Plan 2020–21.

Responsive: In response to the current and emerging needs of our customers we continue to experiment using our Digital Incubator. This year, we also launched our online PrepL Supervisor Course and delivered a one month registration payment option for customers.

Efficient: Underpinned by our aspiration to advance the movement of people and goods we signed a Bilateral Agreement to deliver Inland Rail, demonstrated the capabilities of ZOE2 with an on-road demonstration and joined other representatives to form the Road Safety Data Bureau.

Sustainable: To support a more prosperous Queensland we're achieving a paper-lite documents and records management culture, identifying ways to reduce waste and deliver sustainable infrastructure, investigating how to reduce transport emissions through our Zero Net Emission Discussion paper and released the Queensland Walking Strategy 2019–2029.

Regional delivery

During COVID-19 we have seen how vital the continuation of the department's capital infrastructure program has been throughout the state's response, which will continue as we transition to recovery. Due to travel restrictions we saw a reduction in traffic volumes on the road network, which allowed for some projects to progress faster, including the ‘Kate to Aumuller’ project on the Bruce Highway in Cairns and the Mount Lindesay Highway upgrade in the South Coast Region.

We have forged ahead with improving safety, flood resilience and capacity in priority areas such as the Rockhampton Ring Road, as part of the Bruce Highway Upgrade Program. We were also proud to officially open one of the largest road transport projects in Australia's history—the Toowoomba Bypass—which will play a key role in accelerating the growth of regional Australia.

As part of our Roads and Transport Alliance, we continue to collaborate with local government representatives who form the Regional Roads and Transport Groups (RRTGs). There are currently 17 RRTGs in Queensland, who assist with planning and prioritising regional road and transport infrastructure investments.

Disaster management

Although the severe weather events we’ve experienced over the past 12 months have been challenging—with devastating bushfires and floods damaging the state, at times concurrently—our responsive and coordinated efforts have kept communities connected and safe. Our role during and following any severe weather event is concentrated on emergency repairs such as the restoration works carried out at Binna Burra, before turning our attention to longer-term recovery. Our website and social media have become vital channels to keep our customers and the community informed throughout, which is paramount. 

This year also marks the 10th year since the department's Annual Preseason Program was established. We have a strong focus on resilience and have built capability across the department to ensure the department can be agile in managing the challenges we face from disruptive events, currently being demonstrated through our response to the complex impacts from COVID-19.

An accessible Queensland for all

The department is committed to providing accessible and inclusive transport products, information, services, infrastructure and workplaces. To ensure we are meeting the needs and expectations of all Queenslanders, our dedicated Accessible Transport Network (ATN) team works closely with customers, employees, delivery partners and representatives from the accessibility and inclusion sector, to collaborate and co-design—recently through the development of our Accessibility and Inclusion Strategy.

The ATN team also provides specialist technical advice on projects across the department and this year launched mandatory disability legislation training for all employees. As a member of the National Accessible Transport Taskforce, department representatives recently met with other Taskforce members to continue progressing the reform and modernisation of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Transport Standards).

We also launched the wheelchair accessible taxi funding program to support the industry to continue providing accessible transport options by helping with the cost of replacing older and written-off vehicles.

First Nation Peoples

This has been the sixth year I’ve had the privilege of working with the Woorabinda community in my Government Champion role. I am passionate about improving the economic and social outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and am proud of the great progress we are making. 

As part of the long-term vision to reinvigorate a community outpost and develop a training facility, the department continues to support the community’s Blackboy Camp, recently supplying additional accommodation cabins. We are also delivering projects such as the BlackBoy Creek Bridge works, under the Memorandum of Understanding between the department, Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council and Central Highlands Regional Council. This partnership has delivered some wonderful outcomes for the community — increasing local employment and traineeships, improving the capability and capacity of Woorabinda Council and improving the community’s infrastructure. 

The future of transport

An accessible, safe and efficient transport system will increasingly be supported by the Government acting as an enabler of transport and mobility, in response to new technologies and trends. To prepare for these future opportunities for the transport sector, the department has released the Queensland Transport Strategy 2019–23 — our 30 year vision of how we harness emerging transport trends.

The future of Queensland's transport network involves ensuring the safe deployment of advanced vehicle and infrastructure technologies. The department is currently progressing Australia's largest trial of connected vehicles in Ipswich, to help prepare for the arrival of this new technology and deliver safety, mobility and environmental benefits on Queensland roads.

The changing needs of our customers will be another key component that shapes the future of our transport network.  One way we are working closely with our customers to deliver accessible, digital services to meet their needs is the trial of our Digital Licence App. Through a phased approach, we also continue to our work toward delivering a world-class smart ticketing system, and we have made significant progress with Mobility as a Service (MaaS), supported by the advancement of our MaaS Implementation Roadmap.

Our people

Throughout the department’s response to COVID-19, I have been extremely proud of how our people have adapted and worked together to continue delivering for Queensland. Our people are our greatest asset and this period has proven that, both as individuals and a collective group, we continue to achieve and reach new heights.

Some of these achievements have been acknowledged at various award ceremonies over the past 12 months. Some of these include the Customer Service Institute of Australia Awards, Queensland Reconciliation Awards, Australasian College of Road Safety Awards and Australian Government Digital Awards. We also continue to celebrate our people during the department’s annual P4P Week and recognise the significant contribution of our peers through the department’s iconic CUBIE Awards.

Champion causes

My top priority is the safety and wellbeing of my staff, which is why in addition to my role as Champion for Domestic and Family Violence Awareness (DFVA) I have taken on an additional role as Champion for Safety. The decision to create a dedicated safety role was a result of our COVID-19 response—acknowledging the important role that safety has played in protecting our TMR family, customers and industry partners. To encourage and support positive mental health, in the past year we launched the department's Mental Health Strategy 2019–21 and upskilled our leaders and employees in recognising and responding to domestic and family violence.

Each member of my Executive Leadership Team plays a critical role in championing and promoting important topics. Another change in roles was our Champion for Women in Leadership changing to Champion for Gender Equity. This change does not shift our focus from aspects such as increasing the number of women in leadership roles, rather, it’s about identifying the areas that could help improve gender equity—ensuring equal opportunities for all, regardless of gender.

The 2019–20 year has brought with it challenges none of us could have anticipated. However, I'm heartened by the efforts I see, from across our department and sector, that move us toward our vision of creating a single integrated transport network accessible to everyone.

Neil Scales OBE
Department of Transport and Main Roads

ONC (Eng), HNC (EEng), DMS, BSc (Eng), MSc (Control Engineering and Computer Systems), MBA, CEng (UK), RPEQ, FIET, FIMechE, FICE, FIFEAust, FCILT, FLJMU, FRSA, FSOE, FIRTE, VFF, MAICD