The Future of Transport in NSW: From 2056 and Beyond

NSW will have more than 12 million residents by 2056. Aside from the need for more opportunities and residential structures, equally important will be the need for more roads, railways and other transport infrastructure. This way the region will remain to be liveable while supporting the productivity of the residents as well.

Right now NSW has 7.5 million residents and the current transport infrastructure we have seems insufficient to keep up with the present commercial activities. The links from residences to workplaces (and other commercial facilities) are not yet enough to fully service the people. Problems are now surfacing including heavy traffic and delays, which is why government agencies now are quick to act to deliver for the present while preparing for the future.

28 million commuter trips per day

Our road networks need to handle this by 2056 (or it might even get to that number sooner than expected). The M4 Smart Motorway, Parramatta Light Rail and Sydney Metro (New Metro Rail services start in the second quarter of 2019) are just some of the priority initiatives and projects that will help handle the expected 28 million commuter trips per day in NSW alone.

Improving the transport network (including upgrades and new constructions) often also attracts new residential projects. This is to bring the residents nearer to their workplaces or businesses (shorter travel time and hence higher productivity). And where residential projects sprout, expect shops, restaurants, cafes and other businesses to appear too. It’s just a start of the cycle which can drive further economic growth.

Aside from facilitating and sustaining commuter trips, the current and future transport network should also support the transport of raw and processed materials and finished goods as well. After all, the 12 million NSW residents (not to mention the numerous restaurants, cafes, shops and other businesses) by 2056 will require and demand more goods. These goods should then be delivered promptly and efficiently to keep the costs low and stay competitive.

The transport and distribution of materials and goods are often equally important as the processing and manufacturing of products as well. For instance, aside from the solid presence of factories and warehouses in Chullora, notice also the strong presence and easy access to major road, rail and bus transport network. In other words, transport and manufacturing often go hand in hand in keeping the costs low and making sure the goods and materials arrive on time to their intended destinations.

The improvement of transport infrastructure also drives commercial activities and investments. After all, areas with easy access to major roads and rails (just like Chullora mentioned above) are more attractive to investors and entrepreneurs who want to set up businesses. Expect property prices to skyrocket but for the early movers, this is good news because they get a high return on their investment.

Today at 800,000 businesses

NSW alone currently has 800,000 businesses and a smooth and efficient transport network is vital to their growth and survival. With this, their customers can easily reach them and purchase their goods and services. This is especially true in businesses where physical presence is a must (shops, restaurants, cafes, hotels).

In addition, each business is often heavily reliant on other businesses. For example, for a restaurant to successfully operate, it needs the meat, vegetables and other ingredients (which all come from suppliers and other businesses) promptly delivered and for this to happen the transport should be highly efficient. This applies similarly to other businesses such as cafes and shops. Whether it’s a supermarket or a specialty shop, the goods should always be delivered right on time to successfully meet demand. Any delay means lost opportunities and customers (products didn’t arrive on time so the shelves become empty).

A company’s success or failure can cascade down through the supply chain. Continuing with our restaurant example above, if a restaurant stops operating, this means less meat, vegetables and other ingredients will be needed. This in turn affects businesses that supply those ingredients. And yes, those upstream or downstream businesses have other businesses dependent on them too (e.g. farms will also be affected because there will be a lower demand for their harvests).

It’s a complex network and yet it has to be efficient so that most people and businesses will benefit. One of the keys there is to ensure the “links” are enough so that goods and people will continuously flow or get from point A to point B. After all, rapid economic growth is often driven by those links that connect people and goods to one another.

The keys to making future transport a success

For government initiatives and business strategies to become successful, the focus should always be on matching supply with demand (while still preparing sufficiently for the future). This way, the time and resources will be properly allotted and the most number of people will benefit. In other words, it’s a way to set the right priorities where the greatest impact will result.

For example, the Sydney’s North West has the highest car ownership levels per household in NSW. Moreover, in the coming decades it’s projected that an extra 200,000 people will move into the Sydney’s North West. As a result, it made economic sense to provide a reliable public transport service to the region (the construction of Sydney Metro Northwest). This project made public transport more attractive to people and businesses which somehow reduced the number of private vehicles active on the road (less traffic and people and goods can get faster to their destinations).

Reducing the number of vehicles on the road is one effective strategy in making future transport a success. This way people can get to their destinations much faster and there will be less need to build new roads (or upgrade the existing ones). The construction of mass transit networks results to huge cost savings and prevents financial waste in building roads that will soon become in less demand.

Another effective strategy (which we will soon realise the full potential) is creating intelligent transport networks that are being managed with data. The end goal is to leverage data for real-time use (e.g. re-routing, advising drivers, parking guidance, seeing more traffic flow information) and future planning (where to put roads and rails next).

To accomplish this, more data should be collected first so that we can use them for analysis and leverage. This then requires installation of technologies such as more CCTV systems, sensors, speed cameras, automatic plate recognition and satellite navigation systems. The goal is to gather numerical, visual and other forms of data so that we will truly know what needs to be done (and better match supply with demand) in real time and in the future.

For example, quick and accurate prediction of future traffic conditions (e.g. the build-up of congestion and emerging traffic) can help alert the drivers about the conditions ahead. Having this prediction one hour in advance can help drivers plan ahead and avoid wasting time inside the vehicle (e.g. perhaps stop temporarily at a nearby restaurant or hotel or re-plan the entire travel). To accomplish this though, sufficient amounts of data should be collected real time for fast and accurate processing (this can be accomplished through machine learning, a subset of artificial intelligence).

The future of transport in NSW

An efficient transport network is crucial to driving economic growth in NSW and the entire Australia. As a huge landmass, roads and rails have a vital role in helping people and businesses become productive and making many suburbs liveable and sustainable.

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