The FRA faces a number of key challenges in our areas of activity. Our priorities for planning and action are based around our commitment to overcoming these in the next few years. We describe some of these challenges below.
The Capital Budget for 2016
Out of the $615m Capital budget allocated to FRA, $494m is available for expenditure on work to be undertaken in 2016. The $121m difference represents funds to pay for work that was completed in 2015 for which funds were not available in 2015.
Potentially the most serious implication of this is FRA’s ability to fully fund the routine and periodic maintenance of the existing network to a sufficient level to keep it in the current condition. Rather than improving the network, the FRA may have to consider managing the deterioration of the network. This would rapidly translate to a lower level of service with increasing numbers of potholes and more extensive sections quickly deteriorating roads.
Reduced funding for the bridges programme compared to 2015 will also increase the level of public safety risk. Over 100 bridges in Fiji are in critical condition and FRA needs to plan and prepare a pipeline of bridge replacement projects.
To deal with these issues and attempt to prevent further decline in the condition of the assets, FRA has undertaken a detailed review of the overall programme to see where savings can be made to ensure that the basic asset stewardship function will be sufficiently funded to manage these risks, while honouring our commitments to existing contracts. Over the course of 2016 FRA will continue to monitor the condition of the assets and the level of complaints received and will keep the Minister briefed on the impacts of the 2016 investment strategy on the assets.
Fiji is now experiencing an emerging crisis in road deaths
In 2015 over 60 people have died as a result of vehicle related accidents on Fiji’s roads. This is up from 41 in 2013 and 49 in 2014. In the 2014 Annual Report, FRA had signalled concern that the previous downward trend in road deaths was showing signs of reversal. This appears to now be confirmed.
It is the case that this reversal is coincident with significant improvements in road conditions and therefore higher vehicle speeds. This is likely to have been compounded by the introduction of newer, faster vehicles into the vehicle fleet.
The message is that there needs to be a concerted effort to improve the engineering, educational and emergency service responses to this emerging crisis. A reduced allocation for dedicated road safety initiatives of $1 Million in 2016 compared to $5 Million in 2015 will present a significant challenge for the FRA’s contribution to the whole of Government response to this issue.
Towns and cities in Fiji are experiencing substantially increasing levels of congestion
Road users are expressing frustration about increasing levels of congestion and delay on the busy roads in our towns and cities. Road traffic congestion also affects the economy, results in increased pollution and creates pressure for more dispersed development, which leads to more congestion.
As Fiji develops and car ownership (and use) increases, the pressure on road space will inevitably result in congestions. This may not just be limited to peak periods. Fiji can’t just build its way out of this. The resources are not available and experience in almost every city across the world shows that the new road space fills up quickly.
FRA promotes a more integrated response involving carefully planned road projects, improved public transport and reducing the need to travel through better land use planning. In 2016 FRA will continue with the NASRUP urban road upgrading projects, we will also implement a bus lane trial to assess the public reaction and attempt to quantify the benefits. This trial will help us to decide where and when future bus lanes could be implemented.
We will also continue to work closely with the other Government Agencies LTA and Department of Town and Country Planning to ensure an integrated approach to reducing the impacts of congestion.
Poor coordination between FRA and Utility providers affects FRA road project delivery
Several of FRA’s high profile road projects have been affected by delays in delivery of works undertaken by the utility provides. FRA needs to include the utility work within the road works contract to ensure the most efficient allocation of risks. In 2016 FRA will seek to get the Code of Practice for Utility Providers adopted. This will ensure a more coordinated approach.
Availability of gravel for road construction continues to present a constraint on our delivery
Throughout 2014 and 2015 our contractors have struggled to secure sufficient gravel and aggregates to deliver projects. This has been as a result of a range of issues, from identifying sources to securing the appropriate consents. Gravel availability has been, and remains, one of the biggest challenges in the transition to the FRA.
We expect that completion of several major road projects in both Viti Levu and Vanua Levu will release gravel resources for other projects. However we expect there to still be difficulties for some contractors in securing supplies. In 2016 FRA will continue to pursue a more streamlined process for obtaining licenses and will also explore all other options to ensure that delivery of our programme remains on track.
Better quality data to ensure that we plan our work more effectively
The GIS based register of all our assets will play a central role in prioritising maintenance, renewals and new road construction. Details and locations of all our assets are recorded in this System including: material type, condition, capacity, criticality, performance, age and remaining life.
This computer based system was first established in 2013 and the initial data collection effort is now almost completed. The key challenge will be to implement an Asset Management System with linkages between Project Management, Financial Management and Customer Service. During 2015 we have been scoping this system and will be looking to procure what will become one of FRA’s most important management tools.