CEDA NSW: Technology Shaping Cities

12 March 2019

Good afternoon everyone, thank you Mia Barnard for that warm welcome and to Lee Kelly and the team at CEDA for organising today's event.

At Infrastructure Australia, we always appreciate an opportunity to address a CEDA audience, as it enables us to reach people from such a wide array of industries and sectors.

And to some extent, this is also true of our topic here today, technology that shapes cities—as technological change ultimately leaves no industry untouched.

Certainly, rapid technological change is fundamentally changing how people interact with infrastructure, and how services are delivered.

In particular, smarter mobility through electrification, automation and rapid improvements in communications technology is having a transformative effect on our cities.

New service models such as on-demand, ride-share and car-share are disrupting the transport market in particular, and these trends are being complemented by improvements in digital communications, which allow access to real time information and new user experiences.  

Ultimately, our transport networks are moving towards a Mobility as a Service model, where people will be able to integrate planning, booking and payment systems across all forms of transport—meaning we will be able to move around cities like Sydney in entirely new ways.

In addition, we are starting to see our transport network being transformed by changes in vehicle technology, with analysts predicting that electric vehicles could make up to 36% of the Australian fleet by 2025.

Also on the horizon is mainstream uptake of automated, driverless vehicles, which are currently being trialled in Australia and have the capacity to revolutionise how we travel.

But while disruptive technologies can certainly improve services, it can also create new challenges, particularly for government in regulating and managing change.

For example, in the case of electric vehicles—with government's collecting less and less revenue from fuel excise, how do we ensure that we are able to pay for the road infrastructure we need?

The key for governments during this period of change is to stay on the front foot and encourage innovation through policy and regulatory settings, while also prioritising outcomes for the individuals and businesses that rely on that infrastructure.

When it comes to new technology, governments must seize the opportunities of change to deliver inclusive and enduring benefits for all Australians.

Infrastructure Priority List

Part of Infrastructure Australia's role is to guide governments, industry and the community on the investments and reforms needed to navigate these periods of change.

It is central to our mandate to provide independent, evidence-based advice to decision-makers, and a ‘big picture’ view of Australia's future infrastructure needs—across sectors and jurisdictions.

Today's focus on technology that shapes our cities is particularly timely for Infrastructure Australia, as we have just released a new edition of the Infrastructure Priority List—where technology plays a key role.

Intended to guide the next 15 years of Australian infrastructure investment, the Infrastructure Priority List is a credible pipeline of nationally significant proposals for governments at all levels to choose from.

For those that aren't familiar with how the Priority List works, it lists both Projects and Initiatives.

Projects are advanced proposals that have a fully developed business case that has been positively assessed by the independent Infrastructure Australia Board.

Initiatives, on the other hand, are proposals that have been identified to potentially address a nationally-significant problem, but require further development to determine if they are the best course of action.  

Generally, an infrastructure solution or a particular problem should be identified as an initiative first.

Then the detailed business case work, including problem definition and options analysis, should be completed and then assessed by Infrastructure Australia.

I'm pleased to share that the 2019 Priority List is the largest, most comprehensive and most diverse list of investments we have identified in our decade-long history.

This is because the Priority List is maturing and moving into a new phase, and this has enabled us to look at opportunities, across a range of different sectors, to improve infrastructure for all Australians.

It also reflects the high level of collaboration we enjoy with agencies like Transport for NSW, and I want to particularly acknowledge Rodd Staples here, and the excellent work that has been occurring in NSW to bring forward high quality proposals for consideration by Infrastructure Australia.

And while we are pleased to see the Priority List grow, it also means that there is a greater need for governments and the private sector to respond to these challenges and opportunities in a coordinated and strategic way.

This year, we have identified 121 nationally significant proposals across transport, energy, water, communications, housing and education, and a record $58 billion pipeline of projects that have already received the Infrastructure Australia tick of approval.

Beyond highlighting the breadth of our future infrastructure challenges, the Priority List aims to ensure that public funds are directed towards projects that will deliver the best outcomes for Australia's growing communities.

It's about making sure that our infrastructure funds are spent where they are needed most.

That means prioritising forward-looking investments that make the most of technological change.

Here in New South Wales, the Priority List highlights the need for a continued focus on strategic, well-considered investments that address congestion on our transport networks.  

This should include prioritising the delivery of turn-up-and-go public transport services, as well as opportunities for enhanced connectivity that improve the reach of transport networks and improve the experience for users.

Making the most of existing infrastructure is another key challenge for NSW that has been highlighted in the 2019 Priority List, as is the need to stay one step ahead of emerging challenges such as the increase in uptake of EVs and the impacts this might have on both our transport and electricity networks.

My remarks this morning will focus on these key themes, with a particular emphasis on the need to act strategically and seize the opportunities in front of us. 

This will be key to delivering world class infrastructure in growing cities like Sydney, and ensuring that technology is harnessed to improve the quality, affordability and accessibility of infrastructure services.   

Investing in high frequency public transport

One of the key themes that emerges in the 2019 Infrastructure Priority List is the opportunity for new technologies to enhance the major public transport investments that are already underway in fast-growing cities like Sydney.

The importance of delivering high-frequency public transport services in our largest cities has been a consistent focus for Infrastructure Australia, reflecting the challenges of a growing population and the need to address congestion on our transport networks.  

Congestion in our cities and faster-growing regional centres not only has significant consequences for the Australian economy, but it also has direct impacts on our communities.

It impacts people's access to education, health services, employment and other opportunities—not to mention the world-renowned liveability of our cities and regions.

Here in Sydney, it is fair to say that the challenges of population growth are immense.

An additional 2.7 million people will call the city home in the next 30 years. This means we will see close to one million additional daily journeys on the city's public transport network.

On top of that, there will be around 2.5 million additional daily journeys on Sydney's road network.

Sydney commuters currently spend around 200,000 hours in traffic during the morning peak.  By 2046, that figure is expected to double.

Public transport investment to take the pressure off Sydney's roads is therefore vital, which is why we were pleased to include Sydney Metro City & Southwest as a High Priority Project on the Priority List back in 2017, after we evaluated a full business case for the project.

This year, the Priority List identifies Sydney Metro West as a High Priority Initiative—signalling that a mass transit connection between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD is a nationally-significant investment opportunity that should be prioritised.

Across the Sydney Trains network, the Priority List identifies the need for more capacity as a High-Priority Initiative for the near-term.

Current forecasts predict that demand on several lines—such as the Inner West & South, Airport and Illawarra lines—will exceed capacity in peak times by 2031.

Of course, to deliver smarter mobility in our cities, it is essential that these investments are well-integrated with the broader network and supported by ongoing investment in technologies that deliver a seamless customer experience.

An example of this that many of you would be familiar with is the ability to access real-time public transport data on mobile apps, which gives users greater control over their journeys.

Expanding the reach of our networks

When it comes to public transport in our major cities, there is also an emerging opportunity for on-demand services to help expand the reach of our networks.

This was the focus of a recent Reform Series report from Infrastructure Australia called Outer Urban Public Transport, which urged state governments to consider new models to service communities in the growing outer suburbs.

While existing transport infrastructure serves inner city areas well, people living on the outskirts of our major cities are being disadvantaged by a lack of access to frequent public transport services. This impacts on their ability to access jobs, education and other opportunities to improve the quality of their lives.

In the past, it has been very costly to deliver public transport in lower-density, outer suburban areas where houses and employment centres are more spread out.

Fortunately, new technology and delivery models, such as on-demand buses, offer an immediate opportunity to meet these challenges by increasing the flexibility and reach of the network and therefore serving a more diverse range of destinations.

On-demand buses are being trialled all around the country, including here in NSW where trials are underway that combine on demand services with smartphone apps and real time information. This is occurring in places as diverse as Newcastle, the Central Coast, Western Sydney and the inner City.

And while across Australia, there have been certainly been mixed results from these on-demand bus trials, governments should not be afraid to test the waters on new technologies with these kinds of low-risk investments.

New technology inevitably brings uncertainty. To make smarter investment decisions in the future, we ultimately need to figure out what works and what doesn't.

But again, this needs to be done in a proactive and coordinated way, and realise the opportunities available to us.  

Optimising existing assets

In addition to public transport investment, the Priority List highlights the need to ensure that existing infrastructure is used more efficiently, with a focus on maintenance and the use of sensors and data analytics, to secure service improvements.

For example, on urban roads, Intelligent Transport Systems—or ITS—are already collecting, storing and analysing data on traffic counts, travel times, congestion, incidents and faults through sensors at intersections to enable better management of traffic flows.

In the Priority List, we highlight these kinds of targeted investments as part of a broader program of network optimisation.

This simply refers to the opportunities for low cost/high value investments which address capacity constraints.

Embedding technology in existing infrastructure can also provide operators with rich data on network performance and use, which in turn drives improvements in efficiency and reliability.

The next evolution will be to use this rich data and the insights it provides to change the structure, operation and use of our infrastructure.

In fact, some of the major challenges going forward will be figuring out exactly how to best use the range of data available from infrastructure, and how to efficiently collect and store it.

An example of this approach is a proposal to optimise motorways here in the Sydney CBD.

This is a new addition to the Priority List this year, and it focuses on getting more out of our existing assets to improve the performance and capacity of the road network.

Sydney's CBD motorways are critically important elements of the city's transport network.

Currently, these roads are congested during peak times, and this has significant knock-on impacts on the broader road network. Furthermore, the large number of accidents exacerbates congestion and unreliable travel times.

Potential options to address this include the use of ITS and other technology to regulate traffic flows onto and off the motorways, and to increase real-time information for motorists.

The Priority List includes other examples of this type of initiative across the country, demonstrating that we can do more with what we have, rather than needing to build costly new infrastructure in all cases.

Forward-looking investments

Beyond addressing existing infrastructure gaps, the Priority List is also about ensuring we stay one step ahead of emerging challenges.

Many of this year's new additions to the Priority List reflect the need for forward-thinking, ambitious solutions to support Australia's future prosperity—such as the delivery of a national fast-charging network for electric vehicles.  

This has been identified for the first time as a High Priority Initiative, recognising that the increase in EV take-up has both environmental and productivity benefits for Australia, but only if supported by strategic infrastructure investment. 

While some people may be sceptical about the pace of change, Infrastructure Australia sees the mainstream uptake of EVs as an inevitable shift.

Large manufacturers are shifting investment away from internal combustion engine vehicles and focusing instead on EVs.

We are seeing companies like Mercedes Benz, Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover pledging to end the production of internal combustion engine vehicles within four years.

Volkswagen and BMW have committed $75 billion to develop their EV offering, while Toyota will roll out 10 new EVs in the early 2020s, including an electric Hilux.

Crucially, this shift isn't solely in commercial investment, but is being replicated as a shift in public policy.

Overseas, governments are legislating to reduce their reliance on combustion vehicles.

For example, Norway and the Netherlands have banned combustion engine sales from 2025, Germany from 2030, England from 2040 and France by 2045.

As major car manufacturers and countries transition to electric vehicles and hybrids, Australia will have little choice but to follow suit. However, in order to maximise the benefits from EVs, we need to be proactive from both a policy and infrastructure perspective.

Our analysis suggests that, by 2040, EVs will account for 70% of new vehicle sales and 30% of the vehicle fleet in Australia.

Meanwhile, we currently have less than 800 charging stations, about 70 of which are fast-charging. This compares to over 6,000 petrol stations.

Of course, here in NSW, both sides of politics have made significant commitments for electric vehicle infrastructure ahead of this month's election, which is excellent to see given the challenges ahead.

We also want to see investment in network infrastructure to ensure that the electricity generation and distribution network can provide reliable electricity supply for additional electric vehicle chargers.

Responding to this and the broader challenges of energy security, we have also highlighted the need for investment in the connectivity and reliability of our National Electricity Market in the medium to long term, and optimisation in the near term.

As with all the initiatives identified in the Priority List, our focus at this stage is on defining the problem, with the next step being for proponents to develop a range of solutions to address it.

Concluding remarks

As we navigate this period of technological change—and potentially political change, as we head to elections at the state and federal level—I want to conclude today by reiterating the need to act strategically and seize the opportunities in front of us.

Technology is changing the shape of our cities and regions, and creating new opportunities to improve the quality of our infrastructure.

Growth and change across the different infrastructure sectors can bring substantial rewards for Australians, through more sustainable and efficient infrastructure networks and more user-focused services. 

But it is vital that our governments are active in anticipating and responding to these challenges.

The investment opportunities I have outlined today from the 2019 Infrastructure Priority List are an excellent place to start.

Thank you, I would be happy to take any questions.