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Aug 30, 2018
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2018 Australian Transport Summit: Event Recap

The Australian Transport Summit is jointly organised by Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (TTF) in association with the International Association of Public Transport Australia / New Zealand (UITP ANZ).

This year’s summit was in Melbourne on 9 August. If you missed it, here are some takeaways:

 

Transport Ministers Updates

Victoria’s Minister for Public Transport, Jacinta Allan, opened the summit with a speech on the state government’s long-term vision for public transport.

She said passenger numbers were growing, which made investment in major transit programs extremely important:

  • Metro trains were carrying 250 million passengers a year
  • Regional trains were serving 18 million passengers a year
  • Trams were carrying 215 million passengers a year

There was also an update on current projects:

  • The Metro Tunnel – to unblock the city loop and bring heavy rail to key areas such as St Kilda Road, allowing more people to move around more easily and quickly.
  • Level Crossing Removal – set up to remove 50 of these, allowing more trains to run more frequently and to improve safety. Currently ahead of target at more than 50% completion.
  • New rolling stock for rail – the state recently invested in a large number of high capacity rolling stock, much of which is being built in Victoria.
  • New rail line from Melbourne city to the airport – funding confirmed with $5 billion from the Victorian government and $5 billion from the federal government. This line would have a hub in Sunshine.

Rail was a key focus to connect communities, especially regional ones to hubs. This is to drive jobs and the economy, and to ensure Melbourne continues to be world’s most liveable city.

We then watched a panel discussion on the role of the federal government in funding public transport infrastructure projects, featuring the then Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Michael McCormack and the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development Anthony Albanese

TTF revealed that their latest study found that 54% of Australians don’t take public transport. The panellists discussed urban congestion and increasing infrastructure as a solution. The points I found most interesting were:

  • High speed rail (HSR) connecting Brisbane to Melbourne was brought up by Mr Albanese, who said Australia is the only continent not to invest in HSR. He wants to drive this endeavour to open up regional Australia.
  • Mr Albanese also said if you build it, they will come. It is vital to invest in public transport to reduce congestion in cities like Sydney and Melbourne, and prepare for population growth as the latest predictions say these cities will soar past 8 million.
  • Bipartisan support to driving infrastructure projects is vital, as is breaking the political cycle to account for long infrastructure timelines. The Infrastructure Minister who signs off the project rarely gets to open it.

Queensland’s Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Mark Bailey, was also present to speak about delivering city-changing transport infrastructure programs.

Mr Bailey spoke about Queensland’s investment in an Electric Super Highway and the fully state-funded Cross River Rail, which he predicts will drive a modal shift of 18,500 people out of their cars and onto public transport. He also gave an update on Stage 3 of the Gold Coast light rail project, saying it had received a lot of local support due to the success of the first two stages.

 

Transport Authority and Operator Presentations

Public Transport Victoria’s Chief Executive Officer, Jeroen Weimar, delivered a keynote address titled ‘Opportunities for Victoria’s public transport network’.

He spoke about the explosion of real-time information and ridesharing, and the need to create Melbourne 2.0 with seamless multimodal connections between bus, train and tram. Mr Weimar also said PTV was looking at options for first / last mile transport with bus operators and car share companies as options to help ease congestion caused by rapid population growth.

We also heard from Hans Arby, the Chief Executive Officer of UbiGo, on the subject of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and how transport operators can take it from concept to delivery.

Mr Arby’s talk focussed on the trial they did in Gothenburg, Sweden with 70 households over 6 months, and what they learnt from it:

  • If your goal is to reduce car trips and car ownership, you need to have a combination of public transport, car sharing, rental cars, taxi and bike sharing in place.
  • Ideally, keep it simple for the customer: one bill, one contact, one app for multimodal travel planning, booking and payment.
  • Make it easy for customers to see prices. This helps them compare the total cost of owning a car to using MaaS, and motivate them to invest in this instead.
  • It doesn’t have to be cheaper! But it must be convenient and easy to use.
  • There must be an integration of social goals too in order for this modal shift to succeed.

 

Panel Discussions

I attended a presentation and discussion on funding future public transport services featuring Robert Williams (Partner Strategy & Transport Sector Leader, PwC Australia); Clare Gardiner-Barnes (Deputy Secretary, Transport for New South Wales); Matthew Longland (Deputy Director General, Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads); Dr Gillian Miles (Head of Transport for Victoria); and Emma Thomas (Director General of Transport Canberra). 

The key takeaways from this discussion were:

  • There are lots of investment and planned investments in rail signalling.
  • Queensland is exploring demand response, MaaS, personalised trips and ticketing products as part of its continued efforts to provide a seamless end-to-end journey.
  • Encouraging the customer to use public transport and providing a reliable service is key in New South Wales.
  • TfNSW is driving towards electric and autonomous vehicles and integrated connectivity between modes, as well as last-mile services based on demand.

The next panel was titled ‘Mobility and cities: what’s next?’ and featured Julieanna Alroe (Chair of Infrastructure Australia), Simon Barrett (Senior Partner & Chairman, L.E.K. Consulting) and René Lalande (Chief Executive Officer, Transdev Australasia).

Mr Lalande said that integrated transport planning and future planning are essential. He predicted that fixed route buses will eventually no longer serve, and will be replaced by on-demand personalised autonomous connected electric (PACE) mobility. He suggested playing with routes, bus sizes and demand forecasts, and proposed MaaS as a facilitator of cutting down car usage.

The last panel discussion of the day focussed on network capacity and efficiency, and how to maximise operations and infrastructure. Contributors were Clint Feuerherdt (Chief Executive Officer, Transit Systems), Nicolas Gindt (Chief Executive Officer, Keolis Downer Victoria) and Andrew Lezala (Managing Director, Metro Trains Australia).

These major operators brought up some interesting points:

  • Contracts need to align with the objectives of government: for example, perhaps contracts should incentivise maximising network capacity instead of more vehicles.
  • It is vital to leverage data and technology to understand where demand is.
  • On-demand transport in Region 6 is using contract feeder buses to connect passengers with trains and rapid bus routes.
  • The driverless Sydney Metro will increase capacity by 46,000 with a headway of 2 minutes.
  • Traffic light priority for buses and trams was raised as important by both Yarra Trams and Transit Systems.
  • Yarra Trams and Metro Trains Australia are also interested in doing predictive maintenance as one way to help reduce operating expenditure.

 

Conclusion

This year’s Transport Summit facilitated a productive conversation between government, transit authorities and transport operators. With a growing population and increasing urban congestion, it is vital to plan and to put infrastructure in place today to serve the public transport needs of tomorrow.

Another priority was increasing public transport usage to get more people out of their cars; there was a lot more focus this year on how we can deliver a door-to-door service using all modes and measuring the overall societal value of this.

Of course, the funding of these transport and infrastructure projects was a hot discussion topic. Many speakers and panellists recommended turning to technology (both existing and new emerging innovations) as the solution to cost-effectively fund megaprojects.

A prime example that came up several times was autonomous and electric vehicles: if you’re keen to get the facts on what autonomous vehicles can do today, this research paper has the answers.

 

Autonomous buses Trapeze Group

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