Stakeholder engagement on new railway projects

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Posted by APM on 19th Mar 2012

The event Stakeholder engagement onnew railway projects held at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club on 13th March 2012 was undoubtedly an interesting and rewarding lesson forthe 60 people who attended. In this presentation, Ir PH Tang took a deep look at his experience in MTR Corporation Ltd., examining how the participants can do better in stakeholder engagement.

Ir. PH Tang is the senior manager project administration of the projects division of MTR Corporation Ltd. He has been working on all the major railway projects since 1992. In the early 2000s, Ir Tang was assigned to lead a small project team to run the public consultation programme for the West Island Line and South Island Line. Due to the success in the mobilisation of large public support of these two projects, it comes as no surprise that the stakeholder engagement has become a paramount process for all the coming new railway lines of the Corporation. Ir Tang also played a defining role in shoring up the process and culture in the MTR projects division for the sake of better management of the stakeholder engagement process.

PH Tang first talked aboutthe present Hong Kong political climate. Post 1980s, pressure groups, politicians and the media may all pose a heated debate and discussion in every single project according to his past experience.An example isthe drastic protest against the demolition of homes in Tsoi Yuen Village to make way for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express rail link and is still in everybody's minds.

Stakeholder engagement was then started with identification and analysis of stakeholders. PH Tang suggested to us that we should invest more time in identifying all the stakeholders, no matterwhether theysupport or object to our projects, and assess their interests and concerns. He brought the egg diagram which shows how potential groups can be addressed and discussed.

PH Tang then talked about the significance of early information disclosure. As he said, information should be disclosed as early as possible. Even better, the revelation could be made in the decision making process or during pre-feasibility study. Small booklets outlining the whole picture of the project and media campaigns such as TV advertisements, news and interviews are all meaningful, effective and accessible ways for communication.

In Mr Tangs projects, C&WDC meetings, public forum & residents meetings and consultations with community liaison groups were held in his projectsateach location and every month. It is of fundamental importance to have their comments in hand. This absolutely allows them to be fully informed and involved, thereby mobilising their strong support for the projects.

Recalling his past mistakes, PH Tang concluded an important fact: Expectations before each consultation should be set. He had once come to a consultation in which two options on the projectwere sharedwith thepublic and found that the two optionswere equally supported by different groups of people. It finally resulted in the two groups debating strenuously for their steadfast stances. As a result, the lesson that he learnt was thatevery single consultation should be efficiently managed.

He remindedhis audience that stakeholder engagement is an on-going exercise throughout the project including the planning and design stage, consultation and before opening. PH Tang had showed the participants an Excuse Me! television campaign that presenteda caring and considerate image to the public as there is much disturbance to the surrounding area when a project was held. Media tours and interviews were also well organisedduringthe construction stage. Feature stories in TV news programmes are proven to increase the credibility and workability of a company in the project withconstructive comments being provided by third parties. Pro-active actions such as sending letters to nearby residents before any potential disturbance were undoubtedly another way to facilitate stakeholder engagement.

All these methods build up good relationships and trust among the stakeholders and the project team.

PH Tang stated that stakeholder engagement is an integral part of the project delivery process. Not only the frontline workers,each and every member of project team has a role to play in the project. Also, the most senior project manager is the one taking the full responsibility of managing the stakeholder engagement process. Most importantly, what we should do is to strike a balance between the business case and public aspiration in the project.

Wilson Tang, APM member

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