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Draft 40-year strategy for Greater Sydney transport envisions customer-focused, technology-driven services

Above image: Six customer and network outcomes/ Credit: Transport for NSW, NSW Government

New South Wales (NSW) Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Andrew Constance, released the Future Transport 2056 draft strategy (future.transport.nsw.gov.au/) on October 22, alongside the release of the Greater Sydney Commission’s draft Greater Sydney Region Plan.

Customer focused, technology driven services are expected to become the future of the NSW Transport system in this draft 40-year blueprint.

Future Transport 2056 is a comprehensive strategy to ensure the way that transport is more personal, integrated, accessible, safe, reliable and sustainable. There are three parts to the strategy; programs that are committed to or funded by the NSW Government over the next ten years; projects that are under investigation and visionary projects in the 20-year plus timeframe that are being identified now for future consideration as our population grows.

Greater Sydney Chief Commissioner, Lucy Turnbull has delivered a plan to create three cities across Sydney; the traditional Harbour City in the east, the Central River City at Parramatta and a Western Parkland City.

To support the three-city plan, the NSW Government’s new transport strategy aims to improve public transport so that by 2056, 70 percent of people will live within 30 minutes of work, study and entertainment. Future Transport 2056 will also target improving safety, efficiency, reliability and integration of services.

"Five years ago, we provided a blueprint about what transport would begin to look like over the next 20 years. With most of those projects either being built now or in planning, it is time to refresh the blueprint given what we’ve achieved. This time we’re looking at what’s possible over the next 40 years, not 20," Mr. Constance said.

Some transport projects identified for investigation in Future Transport 2056 include: 1) A potential mass transit/ train link to link from Parramatta to Kogarah, eliminating the need for travel via the Sydney CBD; 2) A future plan to link Norwest and Parramatta by mass transit/ train; 3) Potential light rail extensions across Sydney, Parramatta and Newcastle; 4) Potential for expansion of the Metro network to extend the reach of the 30-minute city with fast and frequent services.

The draft Future Transport 2056 strategy will be open for comment until December 3. The Strategy is expected to be finalised by early 2018.

The draft strategy considers opportunities and challenges posed by a number of technology developments.

Technology enabled mobility

The document notes that mobility is increasingly technology-led, where data sharing and smartphone apps are enabling more flexible models to develop by matching customer demand with services.

While customers – and markets – ultimately determine whether a technology is widely used, governments play a key role in enabling the use of new technology, through regulation, service provision, and collaboration with the community, private sector and universities, and in regulating appropriately for safety and public interest.

For example, the NSW Government has passed legislation to enable the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight to approve trials of automated vehicles, so their ability to meet policy objectives of improving safety, boosting service frequencies and reducing congestion can be assesses. The legislation allows Government to partner with industry, researchers and universities to make NSW a premium testing ground for automated vehicles.

NSW will work with service providers and technology companies on the sharing and innovative use of data, to better match services with customer needs. It will expand open data and data exchange initiatives to improve customisation of services and journey planning across providers.

NSW will also support data platforms for Mobility as a Service (Maas) models, which enable customers to plan and pay for their journeys using a range of services via a single customer interface. MaaS relies on sharing real time information across different service providers to help customers optimise their journeys.

The Government will Lead innovation nationally, with a Data Science Incubator and Open Data policies across public and private services to enable safe and effective use of technology. At the same time, it will work towards resolving issues relating to privacy, data protection and liability.

Automated Mass Transit

 The Sydney Metro will be Australia’s first fully-automated rail network, reflecting global trends. 

To improve efficiency and reduce travel times on the road network, the NSW Government is investing in “smart motorways” and has committed AU$470 million to the M4 Smart Motorway project. Smart motorways use complementary technologies to monitor traffic conditions, manage congestion and respond to incidents in real time.

Numerous trials and pilots of automated passenger vehicles are also underway in Australia and internationally. NSW is currently conducting a two-year trial of a driverless shuttle bus at Sydney Olympic Park with delivery partners HMI Technologies, NRMA, Telstra and IAE.

The NSW Government plans to investigate the introduction of automated transit services across 210km of the network over the life of this strategy. With the advent of new technology, the Government will need to consider associated risks, including the cost of transitioning to automated systems, cybersecurity and upskilling our workforce.

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs)

The benefits promised by CAVs are dependent on the cost and rate of take up, the degree to which they attract users away from public transport, and the ownership models that develop. According to the Strategy, future Transport modelling shows that widespread CAV use for private trips could reduce metropolitan public transport use to around 18 per cent. This would have significant negative impacts across the network, with increased traffic volumes, an increase in vehicle kilometres travelled, and higher greenhouse gas emissions.

The NSW Government is working with industry partners to undertake testing of technologies, in order to understand the risks and benefits and better engage with customers. Once tested, Government will work with industry to deploy automated technology where it can immediately improve services and service levels. First deployment would focus on regional and remote communities where better connections are needed.

NSW will also work with the Federal Government and other jurisdictions to develop national standards and road rules.

Personalised devices for short trips

At present, some devices are only allowed on private property and not on road or road related areas. E-bikes that are considered power-assisted pedal cycles are allowed on public roads and relevant road related areas. Motorised scooters and wheelchairs are not allowed to travel faster than 10km/h and are considered to be pedestrians under the Road Rules.

As technology advances these devices may become faster, heavier and have a degree of automation that may increase risks to passengers and other road users, which will need to be managed with an appropriate policy and regulatory framework.

Sharing schemes will also need to be monitored to ensure loaned devices, such as e-bikes, are kept securely in appropriate spaces around interchanges and that charging and repair facilities are available.

NSW will enable assisted mobility devices to be used safely on the network to assist with short journeys within centres. It will deliver complete cycling networks, pedestrian space and interchanges that safely support a wider range of devices and enable shared use service models in key centres (e.g. E-bike hire).

Safety standards will be developed for new devices entering the market and existing regulatory frameworks reviewed.

Use of drones

Australia’s safety laws for drones currently depend on whether the operator is flying commercially or recreationally, with recreational and very small commercial operations generally exempt as long as they pose no risk or hazard to the public, property or another aircraft.

If the use of drones expands to include routine freight delivery and point to point transport for people, standardised regulations and access arrangements will need to be implemented to ensure safe operations. Investments in infrastructure to support drone use would also be needed.

Policies around the management of airspace and air safety will be reviewed and established to enable a potential future of aerial mobility. The NSW Government will work with the Federal Government and other jurisdictions on a national regulatory response around air space, safety and aircraft standards. It will also investigate the role drones may plan in first and last mile freight delivery and emergency response transport.

Transport powered by alternative fuels

Two barriers to greater take up of Electric Vehicle (EVs) have been cost and the improvements to battery technology required to enable mobile electricity storage.

The need for supporting infrastructure and facilities may also present a barrier, particularly in regional and remote areas. Encouraging take up will rely on access to publicly accessible charging stations to ensure energy availability and address “range anxiety.”

According to the strategy, NSW will develop a strategic approach to EVs to maximise benefits for passenger and freight mobility, productivity and liveable communities.

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