Issues and Concerns
It is well worth while being prepared for some of the typical issues
and concerns that will inevitably be raised by the various target
groups. These will depend on a variety of factors including some
of the critical project assumptions, real and imagined situations
and trends, various public indicators, experience with previous
similar projects and the latest fashionable issues currently being
pursued by the media at large. Depending on this climate, responses
must be developed accordingly. Some typical project issues which
have been encountered in the past on public projects are listed
- Safety is a major concern.
happens in the case of an emergency?" is a frequent question.
- Automation may create insecurity from the point of view of job
loss. Alternatively, will the project create the number of jobs
- Unless the
technology is well established, there will be concerns about its
creates dislocation and widespread controversy.
- The project
may become an issue in an election campaign.
- Ill informed news reports can undermine public confidence in
- Similarly, negative or inaccurate public statements can undermine
the project, as well as all those associated with it.
- These days,
people will raise environmental concerns such as pollution from
- Local neighborhoods may be impacted by noise and congestion
If the project is publicly funded, the possibility of cost and
schedule overruns will be hotly debated, especially by those with
a vested interest in ensuring that the outcome is a self fulfilling
prophesy! Similarly, if project implementation is of long duration,
and inflation has been allowed for as a separate item in the budget,
there will be much and possibly deliberate confusion over such terms
as "as spent funds" and "current (inflated) budget"
versus "base (original) budget". The draw down from the
contingency allowance will add further complications.
Finally, those involved in construction contract disputes may air
the matter in the media, or within the hearing of the politicians,
in order to give themselves added leverage in reaching a favorable
Careful and constructive attention to these kinds of details can
be of enormous benefit to the smooth running of the project. Beware,
however, that the public relations effort does not become an end
in itself, and hence itself a target for public outcry!
Project #1: LNG
In the case of the LNG plant, particularly during the site selection
stage, serious concerns were expressed over the possibility of LNG
spills on the sea during ship loading. Previous spills and full
scale tests were researched and mathematical cloud models studied.
The information was made publicly available.
Project #2: ALRT
At the outset, the cost of the Transit project was generally thought
to be exorbitant by the local tax paying community. In fact it is
realistic when compared with intermediate transit systems with similar
capabilities built elsewhere. Comparative figures were developed
and shown graphically as part of a permanent display center.
ŠThe question of train noise was another serious public issue on
the Transit project. This was due especially to the close proximity
of the track in the densely populated areas, and the planned frequency
of train service. In general the idea is to vary the number of carriages
in a string to take care of capacity requirements during rush hour,
while maintaining reasonable frequency at other times in order to
encourage use of the system in the face of the otherwise more convenient
This problem of noise had been correctly anticipated by the system
developers. The design of the system overall including the adoption
of magnetic traction and steerable carriage wheels significantly
reduces the noise problem. Simple technical explanations were developed
and published to show that the sponsors were aware of this potential
problem and had taken active steps in the design to counter this
The safety of the automatic train controls was another serious
concern, as the system is designed to be entirely driverless. A
major strategy in the project implementation plan was to fast track
a one kilometer section of the permanent elevated part of the line,
through to complete temporary operation, as a test section. This
section provided invaluable design and construction experience.
In addition, it was used for five months to give free rides to the,
public. The two-car train completed over 12,000 trips and covered
over 26,000 km. Nearly 300,000 visitors from all over the world
took the opportunity to experience the new transit system at first
hand. This strategy undoubtedly did much to build confidence and
assuage the concerns mentioned above.
A depression in the freeform track alignment to make it less intrusive
avoid obstructing the scenic mountain views from a local residential
Project #3: Expo 86
In the early stages of Expo construction, the site became embroiled
in a major labor issue. The BC Federation of labor saw the project
as a test case for retaining closed union shop conditions on government
work. The Provincial Government on the other hand was determined
that every company in BC should have an opportunity to participate.
Expo tried to negotiate a compromise with the unions. The government
threatened to cancel the fair.
Expo's communication with the media was open, up front and honest.
Through the media, the issues were taken back to the public, and
the majority public opinion eventually prevailed. The show should
go on and be open to all. Except for the original 4 or 5 days lost,
there have been no labor interruptions since. The work force is
about 87% union working along side the remainder who are non-union