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The complexity of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project requires a new approach when it comes to the delivery of materials and equipment. KH1 solved that with the Zagro Unimog.
In mid-July 2018, then-Victorian Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan announced the successful consortium that would build the critical link between the underground sections of Melbourne’s new Metro Tunnel and the existing rail network.
This announcement kicked off a package of works that would include both tunnel entrances at South Yarra and Kensington, as well as improvements to the adjoining Sunbury lines. Working within and beside the operating rail corridor in the inner suburbs of Melbourne meant that the project had an extra layer of complexity, meaning that every effort had to be made to ensure the project ran smoothly and efficiently.
The successful consortium, Rail Infrastructure Alliance (RIA), which comprised John Holland, CPB Contractors, and AECOM, looked to local rail suppliers who were innovating in the delivery of similarly complex projects. They found one in the case of Campbellfield- based KH1.
Daniel Mociak, managing director of KH1, could see that the project required smart thinking when it came to getting materials in and out of the worksites.
“RIA had a lot of restraints around getting materials, plant, people, and equipment in and out of their locations. This is really inner-city Melbourne and once they get into the shutdown, they have a lot of workgroups that can’t get out until the shutdown is over. They can’t constantly move equipment in and out so they have to get a lot of equipment in one lot and then be very flexible about how they can move around.”
Mociak and KH1 were brought in by RIA to look at how the project team could move a variety of pieces of machinery into the worksite. The solution that they came up with was the Zagro Unimog.
“The main benefit is the shunting capacity,” said Mociak.“That machine itself can pull up to 600 tonnes and other Unimogs that we could deliver are able to pull up to 1,000 tonnes with an increased wagon brake system.”
The Zagro Unimog road-rail vehicle can provide shunting and project logistics tasks. The relatively compact vehicle has the capacity to tow rail trailers weighing up to 125 tonnes at speeds of up to 30km/h. The removeable wagon brake system enables the Unimog to shunt up to 600 tonnes. Since being delivered in 2020, the system has already been put to good use.
“RIA needed to bring in plant, equipment, and excavators,” said Mociak. “They have a series of trailers that they were going to attach to the back of the Unimog to bring in all sorts of construction equipment and materials.”
The Unimog could then return to the access points, taking with it unneeded materials, spoil and other rubbish. RIA rail systems delivery manager Rimmy Chahal, pointed out the benefits of using the Unimog as it has reduced the number of single plant movements.
“The Unimog has largely been used to transport plant, equipment and materials in access-constrained rail corridors. This is in contrast to conventional transport methods of rubber tyred plant on railway tracks or a series of rail-bound plant to undertake this task. With the Unimog, we are able to transport large volumes in a single move from the access point to the work location along the corridor in a safe and controlled manner.”
The Unimog is used along with a five trailer consist to transport concrete, steel gantry structures, pits, conduits, quarry material, spoil disposal bins, cable, rail, sleepers and turnout components, among other materials. Being able to tow a lengthy consist also has benefits when it comes to safety.
“The 5-trailer combination also provides an additional benefit of safely and securely transporting long and bulky items such as turnout switch blade assemblies, which would normally overhang on conventional transport trolleys. Other uses have also included the deployment of site amenities and lighting towers to constrained areas improving safety and work environment conditions for our workforce,” said Chahal.
Another challenging requirement was the need to transport concrete along the rail corridor where access was restricted. Traditional methods of carrying in concrete on rail-bound excavators would require numerous movements to complete a single gantry foundation and had a greater risk of quality and safety issues. With RIA needing to deliver over 550 foundations for overhead and signal structures, a different solution was required.
“RIA and KH1 worked together to configure a skid-based concrete transport solution that can be mounted on rail bound plant. For example – on a trailer towed by Unimog to transport large volumes of concrete from access point to work location. This solution enables the complete pouring of a gantry foundation in one movement rather than numerous movements as required using conventional means,” said Chahal.
This solution involved the BlendMX8, a mobile concrete agitator first designed for the Monte Ceneri base tunnel in Switzerland.
“The BlendMX8 connects on to rail trailers and rail wagons via container lock and is then able to transport concrete in and out of the rail corridor without having to drive concrete trucks on top of wagons,” said Mociak. “It gives RIA flexibility in having the concrete on demand whenever they want it and then able to deliver the concrete via a conveyor belt and chute which can place the concrete up to five metres away from the rail.”
With the equipment expected to be used soon, Chahal is looking forward to seeing it in action.
“This unit is currently undergoing commissioning and RIA is very excited to put it into use over the coming months.”
A NEW APPROACH
The approach required for a project as complex as the Melbourne Metro Tunnel has driven innovation in the delivery of plant and equipment. Mociak noted that previous approaches of using wagons and locomotives would not only be prohibitive from a cost basis but limit any flexibility. The ability of machines such as the Unimog to move between road and rail while providing the required shunting capacity is one example of this new thinking.
“In the last couple of years, KH1 has put a lot of emphasis in developing technology and innovation for project logistics,” said Mociak.
The constrained environment of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project meant that new ideas had to be sought out, said Chahal.
“With urbanisation of the areas around railway lines, the ease of access to rail corridors to conduct maintenance, upgrades, renewals and project works is becoming increasingly restricted and challenging. We can no longer rely on driving along the rail corridor to get to the work location. Accordingly, we now undertake careful and detailed planning to manage the site logistics and work sequence to overcome access constraints and challenges,” he said.
With complex tunnelling projects underway around Australia and New Zealand, the planning and logistics behind the project needs to be increasingly sophisticated.
“The major metropolitan based projects that have come to the front in the last couple of years is a big change in the rail industry, so to support these megaprojects, we’re looking at how we can add value of benefit to the project through innovative movement of materials, plant, equipment, and people,” said Mociak.
In these cases, the solution is not so much about the individual pieces of equipment that are involved, but the careful planning and logistics that supports their operation. With targets being set ever higher, new methods are being implemented, said Chahal.
“Construction contractors are being set ambitious KPIs to minimise the impact of construction on community, stakeholders and rail services. These performance targets drive a strong industry focus on continuous improvement and innovation in how we deliver our works whilst minimising associated disruption. RIA’s use of the Unimog is a perfect example of innovation in action.”
Knowing how the machinery, whether it be the Unimog or concrete agitator, can be best utilised can make a world of difference.
“Because they’re highly complex projects with large numbers of work groups, the logistics of getting materials in and out is one of the hardest parts of the project and they’re also the thing that can really hurt the project if you get it wrong. Getting it right can have some significant benefits,” said Mociak.
For groups working in rain on underground tunnelling projects, all materials have to be brought in at the beginning of a shift, if anything is forgotten it stays at the surface. With each work group depending on the one in front of it, any issues can be passed down, limiting productivity and efficiencies
Back in Melbourne, it has been the partnership approach between KH1, its partner suppliers and John Holland that is making the project successful.
“The equipment was delivered over a 10-month period and representatives from John Holland travelled to Germany to be there for the factory acceptance testing,” said Mociak. “We had a lot of input from all parties during the design period and a lot of collaboration from KH1, John Holland and Zagro.”
To prepare the Unimog for use by the RIA consortium, KH1 ensured that it was provided to specification and the requirements of the project. Documentation ran to hundreds of pages in length to enable the machine to be used in the most productive manner.
“We bring knowledge of the local Australian requirements, standards, compliance, certification, and commissioning process to the table while understanding the product that we have available to us and then being able to adapt it to those requirements,” said Mociak.
Putting in 15 years of experience in the Australian rail industry into the delivery of the machinery for RIA has enabled the Unimog to be used for a wide range of purposes, perhaps more than what was even envisaged before the machine arrived on site.
KH1 is also bringing this approach to the maintenance of railway networks. The company is working with German rail equipment manufacturer Robel to deliver new ways of working to the Australian rail maintenance market. Machines such as the Mobile Maintenance Train can provide a significant step change in the way we work in the rail corridor with full coverage for workers on the rail track in addition to all equipment needed for the job. Ultimately, said Mociak, this is about delivering three core outcomes.
“It’s about innovation, safety, and efficiency.”
The twin eastern tunnels between Anzac Station and South Yarra are now complete, with the second tunnel boring machine (TBM), named after wartime medical hero Alice Appleford, breaking through into the South Yarra cavern on Saturday.
With this section of the tunnel now completed, the TBMs will be transported back through the tunnel and begin digging towards the CBD with their cutterheads transported above ground.
Once reunited, the TBMs will be reassembled and then launched towards the future Town Hall station.
Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the project was making significant strides.
“This is yet another milestone on this huge project, which will create room for more trains, more often and continues to support hundreds of jobs.”
On the western approach to the Metro Tunnel, TBMs Joan and Meg are also on their way to the CBD, heading south from the site of the future Parkville station towards the State Library before they finish their journey at Town Hall Station.
With all TBMs converging on the CBD, over half of the tunnelling has been completed. Over 31,000 concrete segments have been installed to form the rings lining the tunnels and 371,000 cubic metres of rock and soil have been removed.
While the TBMs continue their work, the construction of the entrances to the tunnels is progressing. At South Yarra, the base slab for the entrance has been poured and crews are working on the internal walls.
At all sites, workers are continuing to follow COVID-19 health guidelines, which can ensure the project continues while Melbourne remains under lockdown.
“Workers on the Metro Tunnel Project have done a fantastic job to keep this project pushing ahead while taking the greatest care with their own health and safety,” said Allan.
Once complete, the twin tunnels will increase capacity through the core of the Melbourne network by providing new stations and more trains.
Watch footage of the breakthrough of TBM Alice below.
The first tunnel boring machine (TBM) has broken through into the future Parkville station as it excavates from Ardern Station to the State Library Station.
This is the first TBM to make it to Parkville after being launched in May, with the second TBM to make it to Parkville in the next weeks.
The TBM is now being moved through the station box. During this period the TBM will be cleaned and recommissioned before being launched towards the State Library Station.
All four TBMs are currently excavating future metro tunnels underneath Melbourne.
Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan thanked those working on the project for their efforts.
“It’s fantastic to see [TBM] Joan arrive at the future Parkville station. The Metro Tunnel is working through the pandemic supporting thousands of jobs, while creating the new space to run more trains more often.”
The stations themselves are also progressing, with work on the permanent structure for Parkville Station below Grattan Street taking place. Station entrances are also currently under construction.
The project is creating nearly 7,000 jobs and those currently on site are required to adhere to COVID-19 safety measures due to Victoria’s stage 4 restrictions.
“Construction of the Metro Tunnel is continuing under strict health requirements – keeping workers safe while they deliver this vital project,” said Allan.
With the 1.2-kilometre tunnels between Arden and the western tunnel entrance in Kensington completed last year and tunnelling underway from Anzac Station to the eastern tunnel entrance at South Yarra, more than 290,000 cubic metres of rock and soil have been excavated. 23,000 concrete segments have been installed to line the walls of the tunnels.
Once complete, estimated in 2025, the project increase Melbourne’s rail capacity by half a million passengers a week during the peaks.
Dealing with rapid population growth has led to Melbourne upgrading the signalling system on two of its most congested lines. Rail Systems Alliance is ensuring the benefits are felt for years to come.
Over the past 10 years, the story of Australia’s cities has been rewritten. While Sydney had been dominant for the previous century, no account of the urbanisation of Australia in the second decade of the 21st century could ignore the rapid growth of Melbourne.
The relative growth of Melbourne is most clearly illustrated by the fact that Melbourne adds a Darwin-worth of population each year, overtaking Sydney in population size by 2026. Much of this growth has been concentrated in two areas, the west and the south-east of Melbourne and the rail lines that serve these expanding areas are reaching capacity. This has necessitated Victoria’s Big Build, the largest infrastructure building programme in the state’s history, of which rail plays a major part, highlights David Ness, package director, Rail Systems, Rail Projects Victoria.
“There’s a number of initiatives underway to help alleviate that population growth, one is the introduction of larger trains that can carry more passengers, and then the second part is the provision of High Capacity Signalling (HCS) on the corridor that lets us run more trains, more often.
“What ties all of that together is the Metro Tunnel project that connects those two corridors, Dandenong in the south-east and Sunshine/Sunbury in the west, and allows us to untangle the existing rail network. It’s a combination of things but HCS is the centre point, allowing you to operate more efficiently on the corridor.”
The HCS project, now in its testing phase, is being delivered by Rail Systems Alliance, a partnership between Bombardier Transportation, CPB Contractors, and Metro Trains Melbourne. The project will introduce Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) technology, the BOMBARDIER CITYFLO 650 rail control solution, on both the Sunbury and Cranbourne/Pakenham lines as well as in the newly built Metro Tunnel, creating a new end- to-end rail line from Sunbury to Cranbourne and Pakenham. The two existing lines are some of the most complex in the Melbourne network, not only serving commuter trains, but regional passenger lines and freight services, requiring a mixed-mode solution, said Tim Hunter, alliance manager, Rail Systems Alliance, Metro Tunnel Project.
“What is unique about Melbourne is the fact that we’re upgrading existing lines, on brownfield sites, as well as the greenfield site in the tunnel. That means that we can continue running the existing trains on the existing lines at the same time as we do the upgrades. As the vehicles become fitted with the CBTC technology then they can run either in the conventional signalling or CBTC mode. The beauty of it is that it’s a mixed mode solution for the existing lines.”
The introduction of moving block rather than fixed block signalling will enable a step change in capacity, even under mixed conditions.
“We’re expecting to open with around 18 trains per hour when we will still have a mixture of CBTC trains and regional and freight trains,” said Ness. “But, as time progresses, the system itself has a capacity of 24 trains per hour. That means it actually has a higher capacity to recover from disruptions that may occur, and the Metro Tunnel will be capable of 24 trains per hour.”
ENSURING EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION
Getting to this targeted level of capacity on the first introduction of CBTC technology on an existing rail line in Australia has required a collaborative approach, facilitated by the nature of the Rail Systems Alliance.
“We went through a pretty extensive, year-long competitive alliance tender process,” said Ness. During the process, Rail Projects Victoria looked at the system’s capabilities, the ability to minimise disruption during integration, and did site visits to other HCS projects internationally.
“On a balanced score card of value for money, being able to address our technical requirements, being able to address mixed mode, being able to work within an alliance framework – which is intrinsic to the way we’re approaching the job – Bombardier Transportation, CPB Contractors and Metro Trains Melbourne were
the successful tenderers,” said Ness.
Taking an alliance approach to project delivery allowed for the project to effectively interact with the many other stakeholders involved. While the technology promises to increase capacity and relieve the strain on Melbourne’s rail network, its success depends upon all elements of the wider project working together.
“We have the technology challenge, in that what we’re introducing into the system is new, but that change is not just operational, it affects the entire way in which the network is run,” said Ness.
The introduction of HCS in Melbourne requires the project to interact with a variety of stakeholders, including the rest of the Melbourne rail network, the other consortiums on the Metro Tunnel Project, and the procurement of larger trains, which is being delivered in parallel.
“The alliancing model provides the most flexibility to adapt and move while maintaining your focus on that end game,” said Ness.“It’s very difficult to do a project like this with just a fixed scope, fixed dates, fixed price, fixed everything. Having a target price that you can adapt and working together with the client has been proven to be the best model.”
In practice, this has enabled a regime of extensive testing for the technology on the rail line. On the Mernda Line wayside equipment has been installed and two existing X’Trapolis trains have been fitted with the Bombardier CBTC equipment. Dynamic testing is now underway. The project has also involved the operator, Metro Trains Melbourne, to prepare the end user – the drivers and operators of Melbourne’s trains, as Hunter outlines.
“We’re setting up additional labs so we can test the train management system for the new trains alongside HCS. We are also taking the equipment and systems that have been implemented inside the tunnel and then testing that with our systems in the lab, so that when we go to implement on site we will have done as much testing as we can offsite. This will make implementation testing and fault finding a lot smoother.”
The hands-on approach to testing enables the end users (for example, train drivers) to become “super users” as the design develops and the new technology is introduced as part of the project.
“We have user working groups within Metro Trains Melbourne to facilitate operational and maintenance input,” said Hunter. “We’ve done a lot of on-site training, we’ve taken them to Bombardier’s CBTC facilities in Bangkok, Madrid and Pittsburgh and shown them what has been done on other projects, and how the technology works. This collaboration is critical to successfully implement HCS on this project.”
Hunter explains that each piece of equipment that drivers or operators use goes through an extensive human-centred design process, with safety front of mind.
“It’s a tremendous amount of work but I’ve learnt from other projects that it’s essential because in the end we want the people who will be using the technology to really feel as though they own it.”
One example where this has occurred is in the design and purchasing of the desks that will be used at operations centres in Sunshine and Dandenong.
“We’ve got the actual desk that we’re proposing to use in the control centres in our office in Bourke Street and we invite people from Metro Trains Melbourne to come and look at, sit at, use, and test it.”
PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE OF HCS
While signalling upgrades on two of Melbourne’s busiest lines will have an immediate benefit for commuters, Rail Systems Alliance has also been aware of the need to ensure that investment in the project benefits the wider rail industry. While experiencing unprecedented investment, the rail industry is looking at a looming skills crisis. As one of the first rollouts of CBTC technology, the HCS project aims to train the next generation of signalling engineers.
“We’ve got roughly 35 cadets coming through the project,” said Hunter. “We’re working closely with the Victorian government and the Local Jobs First – Major Project Skills Guarantee but it’s important that we’re building a base for future projects.”
While signalling projects such as HCS have needed to hire talent internationally, Hunter hopes that this won’t continue to be the case.
“We’ve had to bring a lot of people in from overseas – including myself – who have done these kinds of projects around the world but that’s not a sustainable model. What you actually want is a strong, capable, local team, so that’s what we’re setting out to do. We’ve got cadets working on signalling design, onboard equipment, the control systems, the communications systems, the radio systems, systems engineering, and systems safety assurance.”
Having such a major project occurring in Melbourne has a drawcard for attracting the next generation of engineers to rail.
“As soon as they join, I sit down with them and talk about the project and how exciting engineering is on these kinds of projects.”
“University is a good starting place for technical knowledge, but to have the opportunity to work on a project of this size and this complexity on their doorstep is too good to miss,” said Hunter.
While there’s no concrete plan to roll out HCS beyond the existing project scope at this stage, efficiencies of already implementing the technology mean that any future upgrades would be even smoother.
With a competent and experienced local workforce, and upgrades in place on two of Melbourne’s most complex lines, Melbourne would be well-placed to extend HCS over the rest of the existing rail network said Ness.
“Our focus right now is to successfully deliver HCS on the Sunbury and Cranbourne/ Pakenham corridor. However, if you look at Melbourne’s growth, and some of the pressures on the rail network, HCS may be one future option to get the most out of the existing infrastructure,” said Ness.
All four tunnel boring machines (TBMs) on the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project are in the ground, ensuring that the project is on track to be finished in 2025, a year ahead of schedule.
Premier Daniel Andrews said that having all TBMs working at the same time was a milestone for the project.
“We’re making significant progress on this landmark project – with all four tunnel boring machines in the ground.”
The news comes as other significant works are completed. At Parkville station, excavation of the station box at Grattan Street is complete and 50 steel columns are being installed at the under-construction State Library Station.
Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan thanked those who were working on the project.
“The team have worked around-the-clock to get the four tunnel boring machines underway, while observing social distancing and keeping workers safe.”
Andrews echoed that these works would have an economy-boosting impact.
“Big construction projects like the Metro Tunnel are more important than ever as we rebuild from the pandemic – kickstarting our economy and supporting thousands of jobs.”
Of the four TBMs, two are tunnelling from the Ardern site in North Melbourne towards Parkville. TBMs Meg and Joan, named after Australian cricketer Meg Lanning and Victoria’s first female Premier Joan Kirner, are completing the two parallel tunnels.
At the eastern portal TBM Millie and TBM Alice, named after Millie Peacock – Victoria’s first female member of Parliament – and Alice Appleford, wartime nurse, are excavating the twin tunnels from Anzac Station to South Yarra.
The construction of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel has reached another milestone, with all four tunnel boring machines (TBM) now in operation.
TBM Millie, named after Victoria’s first female MP, Millie Peacock, is excavating the 1.7km tunnel between Anzac Station and the eastern entrance to the Metro Tunnel at South Yarra, while TBM Alice, named after wartime medical hero Alice Appleford, will soon begin on the second under St Kilda Road in the next weeks.
The first two tunnel boring machines had reached Anzac station from the west and are now creating the twin tunnels from Arden Station to Parkville station. There, the excavation of the station box was completed earlier in April.
Other works currently progressing at excavations under Swanston and Flinders streets to create the Town Hall station central cavern. The tunnelling for the twin tunnels under the CBD at the new State Library station, will begin later in 2020.
During these construction works, and with the building of rail infrastructure deemed an essential service, extra safety precautions are in place, said Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan.
“The Metro Tunnel team are doing an amazing job finding practical, safe ways of working, so we can continue building this urgently needed project in challenging circumstances.”
As states begin to lift coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, the continuation of infrastructure construction such as the Melbourne Metro Tunnel will be key for economic recovery, said Allan.
“Just as we’re facing an unprecedented health challenge, we’re facing an unprecedented economic challenge too. Our Big Build will be vital as we recover after the pandemic has passed.”
The Rail Futures Institute (RFI) has disputed comments made by the Victorian Minister for Police and Minister for Water Lisa Neville, whose electorate covers the Bellarine Peninsula and outer Geelong.
In comments reported by the Geelong Advertiser, Neville said that the only way fast rail can be brought to Geelong would be via the Werribee corridor.
RFI president John Hearsch said that their alternative proposal for services via Wyndham Vale, would cut the current 50 minute journey down to 35 minutes with trains running at up to 200km/h.
Under the RFI proposal, fast trains from Geelong would share the route from Sunshine to the city via new high speed tunnels built as part of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link. The Victorian government is yet to make a decision as to whether dedicated tunnels from Sunshine to the CBD will be built or whether airport trains, as well as regional trains from Geelong would share the Melbourne Metro Tunnel.
Hearsch noted that a separate new tunnel between Clifton Hill, the CBD, Fishermans Bend and Newport, known as Melbourne Metro 2 would allow for high speed trains from Geelong to travel on the Werribee corridor.
“However, MM2 is a massive project with twin tunnels each 17 km in length, seven or eight large underground stations, and two under-river crossings including one near Newport under the main shipping channel. Think of it as Melbourne Metro (MM1) doubled in scope, cost and time to construct. We have provisionally costed it at between $26 and $30 billion and consider it would take between 15 and 20 years to plan and construct from the time that Government starts to fund it,” said Hearsch.
The Victorian government has not committed to funding Melbourne Metro 2, however it has been included on long-term planning projects.
Hearsch also called for a more immediate focus on electrifying the Regional Rail Link tracks from Southern Cross to Wyndham Value to enable higher capacity electric trains.
“Geelong Fast Trains and a connection at Sunshine for a 10-minute journey to Melbourne Airport could both be operational by 2028,” said Hearsch. “This can only occur with a new tunnel under Melbourne’s inner west to unlock much needed capacity needed to provide quality rail services to regional Victoria and Melbourne’s west.”
Other bodies have joined concerted calls for the construction of a separate airport rail link, with the Committee for Melbourne chair, Scott Tanner, writing that plans for airport trains to use Melbourne Metro tunnels risk further exacerbating congestion issues.
With the start of the New Year a transport construction blitz has begun on the Melbourne Metro Tunnel at South Yarra in Melbourne’s west, as well as other ancillary work, according to minister for transport infrastructure Jacinta Allan.
Crews will excavate the final section of the metro tunnel entrance and shift existing train tracks to make room for the new track to connect existing lines to the tunnel as part of the blitz, dubbed “Victoria’s Big Build”.
“During this quieter period we’re getting on with a massive amount of work on some of our biggest transport projects, to keep our city and state moving,” Allan said.
The final sections of tunnel roof slab will be poured and tunnel support structures installed.
The level crossings at Reservoir, Toorak Road, Carrum, Cheltenham, Mentone, Lyndhurst and Pakenham are to be removed, bringing the total up to 38 level crossing removals completed out of the 75 intended for removal.
Six new accessible tram stops will be built on Route 96, necessitating the closure of Nicholson Street between Barkly Street in East Brunswick and Johnston Street in Fitzroy until 19 January.
“We thank Victorians for their patience and encourage them to plan ahead and allow extra time – we know it’s disruptive, but it will mean better trains, trams and traffic in the future,” Allan said.