Expanding and connecting Victoria's rail network

Kate Eskdale, Director - Communications and Engagement

Kate Sandford, RPS Communications and Engagement Director is standing outside Pellegrini's Espresso Bar in Melbourne CBD with a tram in the background.

Meet Kate Eskdale! A community engagement specialist based in Melbourne and passionate about public transport, which is handy considering she works mostly on transport projects that are connecting the city and regional Victoria. Here Kate shares her experience listening and engaging for the future of transport in Melbourne.

QTell us about your work as an engagement specialist

I am one of the Communications and Engagement Directors in the Melbourne office, and I mainly work on our transport projects, so I’m essentially our transport engagement guru for infrastructure projects.

Currently I work full-time with a joint venture team where we are the technical advisers to Rail Projects Victoria and Suburban Rail Loop Authority. This means that I’m leading an engagement team working across the largest rail projects currently happening in Victoria. We work with our clients to engage early with local communities to help shape projects and secure planning approvals.

Quick Q&A

Melbourne coffee pick?

Traveller and Self Preservation are my go-to coffee spots.

Footy team?

Go the ‘Pies!

Have you always lived in Melbourne?

I moved to Melbourne from regional Victoria once I finished uni.

Favourite place to spend time?

I love the South Melbourne Market, it's fabulous. I also spent a lot of time at the MCG and a lot of our fantastic restaurants in the city.

QWhat benefits will the investment in rail projects provide for Victorians?

I’m currently working across a number of major rail projects in Victoria. They are all aimed at providing new and better connections for people so they don’t have to rely on cars to get to work, study or socialise.

Melbourne Airport Rail will provide a long-awaited rail connection from Melbourne's CBD to the airport for the very first time. It will also provide connections for regional passengers, which in turn will reduce reliance on cars and buses to get to the airport.

Suburban Rail Loop is a huge city-shaping project aimed at building a new underground rail tunnel to connect across the various rail lines around Melbourne. Suburban Rail Loop East includes six new stations to connect our middle suburbs to each other without having to come into the city.

There’s also Geelong Fast Rail, which will provide a better rail connection between the biggest regional city in Victoria, and the Melbourne CBD.

QAs a Victorian, what are you especially proud of in terms of the benefit provided for your community?

Since last year we’ve faced the challenge of trying to keep our projects moving without being able to do any face-to-face engagement, so we proposed the use of a virtual engagement room to try and solve that issue. RPS developed virtual engagement programs in collaboration with our clients to give communities an opportunity to provide feedback in the absence of the usual face-to-face meetings.

This has been very effective in helping us engage with not just our existing audience, but a wider range of community members than we would usually reach. It was great to be involved in something that not only solved an immediate problem, but is changing and adding value to our community engagement practice for the future.

QWhat challenges do we need to tackle for Victorian communities of the future?

It is about keeping up with our growth and making sure we’re providing the right transport to connect people from where they want to live to where jobs are, as well as managing the spread of the city.

QHow can RPS help?

We’re experts in infrastructure and providing creative solutions for engaging stakeholders and the community. With great online tools like the virtual engagement rooms and our fantastic data analysis capabilities, RPS has a really integrated offering to help clients take communities on the journey and maximise the value of projects.

QWhat would be your dream project to work on?

I’m a huge transport nerd so being able to live in your home state and work on some of the biggest rail projects around is a pretty rare privilege. Being able to work on projects like Melbourne Airport Rail, Geelong Fast Rail and Suburban Rail Loop is very special.

I must say that Melbourne Airport Rail is something I’ve always heard spoken about since I started my career. It has such a long history of so many people wanting it and trying to get it rolling, the land was earmarked way back in the early 2000s, so it is great to be part of making it finally happen.

QWhat do you love about life in Victoria?

I grew up in regional Victoria so I’m born and raised here - and I’m a weirdo that actually likes the weather! I like it being all over the place and I don’t mind it being cold. There are some amazing wine regions, beautiful beaches and the best city in the world! Restaurants, football, art galleries, gin distilleries – what more could a person want!

Want to know more about our community engagement work? Get in touch!

Kate Eskdale

Director - Communications and Engagement

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