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Issues & Concerns | Implementation | Communication | Conclusion

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 be low.

  • Safety is a major concern.
     
  • "What 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 predicted?
     
  • Unless the technology is well established, there will be concerns about its reliability.
     
  • Expropriation creates dislocation and widespread controversy.
     
  • The project may become an issue in an election campaign.
     
  • Ill informed news reports can undermine public confidence in the project.
     
  • 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 project operations.
     
  • Local neighborhoods may be impacted by noise and congestion during construction.

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 settlement.

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 automobile.

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 objection.

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.

depression in the freeform track alignment
A depression in the freeform track alignment to make it less intrusive and
avoid obstructing the scenic mountain views from a local residential estate

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 workers.

Project PR Program Philosophy and Audiences  PR Philosophy and Audiences

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