Mind the (engineering) gap Friday, 16 March 2018

As Victoria looks like joining Queensland to become only the second Australian state to have mandatory registration for engineers, news of the NSW Government’s $2.3 billion purchase of trains too wide for tunnels should come as no surprise.

The Engineers Registration Bill, currently in the Victorian Parliament, is a result of Engineers Australia and other professional bodies pushing for compulsory registration for many years to avoid situations like Christchurch’s fake engineer and cost-cutting that led to flammable cladding on buildings.

"There are absolutely people who are passing themselves off as engineers that aren't appropriately qualified," said Glen Crawley, Registrar of Professional Standards at Engineers Australia. This is why EA has an online, voluntary national register with around 18,000 names currently listed.

Engineers Australia’s Victoria President, Alesha Printz, said it is vital that the Bill goes through.

"There is an infrastructure boom in Victoria at the moment and taxpayers spend a huge amount on infrastructure. It's very important that this legislation is passed because we want the very best engineers working on these projects across the state," Ms Printz said.

If the Bill is passed, anyone calling themselves an engineer in Victoria will need to be registered or working under the supervision of a registered engineer. They will have a four-year university degree, a minimum of five years’ professional experience, and be audited for professional development.

Engineers Australia said the new Victorian law, when enacted, will cut red tape, provide more safety on projects, and contribute to financial accountability. While Western Australia and the ACT are also looking at registration, having registered engineers in NSW might have also seen the recent $2.3 billion procurement of over-sized trains for Sydney avoided.

The state government ordered new 3.1 metre-wide trains (20cm wider than current trains at 2.9m) that will require 10 tunnels in the Blue Mountains, built more than a century ago, to be altered by up to 13cm. Rail tracks from Springwood to Lithgow will also be repositioned, costing millions of dollars and two years of disruption to the public.

Image: One of the tunnels in the Blue Mountains, NSW, to be altered to fit the new trains on order.