Tech­nol­ogy, pri­vati­sa­tion and re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tion were some of the hot top­ics as in­dus­try fig­ures con­verged on South Aus­tralia for the 2017 Bus SA an­nual con­fer­ence

Tech­nol­ogy, pri­vati­sa­tion and re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tion were some of the hot top­ics as in­dus­try fig­ures con­verged on South Aus­tralia


There was pos­i­tive news from Aus­tralia’s big­gest bus mar­ket and also from South Aus­tralia when the 2017 Bus SA an­nual con­fer­ence con­vened on June 17.

Trans­port min­is­ter Stephen Mul­lighan re­vealed an ex­ten­sion of the govern­ment’s plan to im­prove pub­lic trans­port in re­gional and ru­ral ar­eas.

How­ever, there was fun­da­men­tal dis­agree­ment from the SA Op­po­si­tion about the con­tin­ued sup­ply of school bus ser­vices by the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, with the op­po­si­tion spokesper­son ar­gu­ing that those school bus routes would be better off in pri­vate hands.

The most per­sis­tent theme through­out the con­fer­ence con­cerned the grow­ing in uence of tech­nol­ogy – both in man­ag­ing bus op­er­a­tions and in im­prov­ing traf c ows on con­gested ur­ban roads.


The South Aus­tralian govern­ment has fur­ther de­vel­oped its re­gional trans­port net­work by an­nounc­ing the fund­ing of a trial for a re­gional ac­cess com­mit­tee ( RAC) to be based in Port Pirie.

The 12-month trial will take stock of the trans­port needs in and around Port Pirie and con­sider how to in­te­grate the ser­vices and as­sets to im­prove ser­vice in the area. It fol­lows sim­i­lar tri­als in Mount Gam­bier and the River­land.

“One of the things I learned very quickly was that it is im­por­tant to think about mov­ing people rather than just mov­ing ve­hi­cles,” Min­is­ter for Trans­port and In­fra­struc­ture Stephen Mul­lighan told the con­fer­ence at­ten­dees.

An RAC is a cen­tral re­gional body de­signed to better understand and as­sess the trans­port needs in the re­gion and marry those up against the ex­ist­ing ser­vices and re­sources that are avail­able.

“The better co- or­di­nated use of trans­port as­sets in a place like Port Pirie should be a model that we can roll out more broadly across SA,” Mul­lighan says.

“Can I of­fer my heart­felt thanks to Bus SA for driv­ing us to think about it a lot more closely than we were, and for also open­ing a new ser­vice model which will pro­vide not just a dif­fer­ence in those towns, but a dif­fer­ence across SA.”

Mul­lighan says the govern­ment was go­ing to in­stall tech­nol­ogy on the state’s buses to al­low them to talk to traf c lights in a bid to get more pri­or­ity run­ning for buses, so the buses and their pas­sen­gers are not held up so of­ten.

He was pleased to learn from the lo­cal news­pa­per that the govern­ment was mak­ing some progress on the “old chest­nut” of co- or­di­nated traf­fic lights.

De­lays on some of the city’s key ar­te­rial roads through the CBD have been re­duced by up to one-third in the morn­ing and af­ter­noon peaks.

Along with in­creased clear­way pe­ri­ods, these small im­prove­ments were all de­signed to keep the buses mov­ing and to give cus­tomers the con­fi­dence to use buses with the knowl­edge that they are re­li­able.

Mul­lighan listed the $ 39 bil­lion worth of im­prove­ments be­ing made to the SA trans­port sys­tem over the next 30 years, high­light­ing the au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle tri­als be­ing con­ducted in Ade­laide.

“I be­lieve if we do see au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles de­ployed on our streets, there will be many com­mu­nity benets, prin­ci­pally for those people who are un­able to com­plete the whole of the driv­ing task them­selves,” he says.

The main gain would be greatly im­proved safety out­comes thanks to fewer road crashes.

There are tri­als be­ing con­ducted at Flin­ders Univer­sity, the Ton­s­ley Park In­no­va­tion Precinct and Ade­laide Air­port be­tween the long-term carpark and the ter­mi­nal.

“I don’t think any­one ex­pects that in three years’ time or five years’ time we are sud­denly go­ing to have driver­less pub­lic trans­port ve­hi­cles across our routes, but with these closed cam­pus tri­als we will be able to progress this tech­nol­ogy so that we can get some of the spin- off ben­e­fits like im­proved safety, im­proved con­ges­tion, and im­proved mo­bil­ity,” Mul­lighan says.

On a more im­me­di­ate note, Mul­lighan says he is “all in favour” of more dou­ble decker buses be­ing used on SA roads.

“If we can get more people on a smaller foot­print, why wouldn’t we? It’s a no- brainer.”


Per­suad­ing the ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment to sur­ren­der its cur­rent school bus re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in favour of pri­vate op­er­a­tors is still a key point of dif­fer­ence be­tween the Op­po­si­tion Lib­eral Party and the SA Govern­ment.

“I know many of you are very frus­trated by the brakes put on your busi­nesses be­cause your ma­jor com­peti­tor in the school bus area is the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion [DET],” Op­po­si­tion spokesper­son on trans­port David Pisoni says.

“It is unique to SA. Un­like the min­is­ter, I don’t agree there is any risk to school com­mu­ni­ties or to how well the sys­tem will run if we de­cided to take DET out of the equa­tion.”

Pisoni says a de­ci­sion for DET to hand over its school runs to the pri­vate sec­tor would create a num­ber of re­gional busi­nesses.

“The SA Govern­ment could pro­vide a core busi­ness base for a num­ber of con­trac­tors to start busi­nesses in re­gional ar­eas in the form of a school bus route.”

While he agrees with the Mul­lighan that trans­port as­sets in re­gional ar­eas should be made good use of he says once the buses are in pri­vate hands, there would be op­por­tu­ni­ties for new com­pa­nies to be more in­no­va­tive.

“The fact that you know you have that school bus con­tract for 10 years means you might be pre­pared to take some risks, run a route for a while and see whether you can change the cul­ture in a par­tic­u­lar area.

“If I end up in Mr Mul­lighan’s shoes af­ter the next elec­tion, there will be a strong em­pha­sis on get­ting the very best we can out of the as­sets we have that are pri­vately op­er­ated in re­gional SA.”


The rapid ap­pli­ca­tion of tech­nol­ogy to road use and ve­hi­cles has the po­ten­tial to trans­form the pub­lic trans­port sec­tor and pro­foundly al­ter the way op­er­a­tors man­age their eets, ac­cord­ing to soft­ware de­vel­oper Nigel Tooth.

The sys­tems be­ing de­vel­oped now, in­clud­ing the har­vest­ing and anal­y­sis of many sources of data and the de­vel­op­ment of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, prom­ise to de­liver im­prove­ments to all stake­hold­ers in the in­dus­try.

Tooth is no or­di­nary soft­ware de­signer, as he was a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of a re­gional bus com­pany at 22 years of age.

The need to im­prove the per­for­mance of his 32-ve­hi­cle eet led him into the ex­plo­ration of in­tel­li­gent trans­port sys­tems and au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles and, ul­ti­mately, to the de­vel­op­ment of a pub­lic trans­port app op­er­a­tors can in­stall on their phones.

“De­vel­op­ing an app was the an­swer, but de­vel­op­ing an app was also a long road. But the sys­tem has grown rapidly and is now across Aus­tralia and New Zealand,” Tooth says, with the sys­tem now in use on 300 buses across Aus­tralia. “It has tran­si­tioned seam­lessly into an in­dus­try that can some­times be a lit­tle hes­i­tant to change.”

The prin­ci­pal role of the sys­tem is to make tick­et­ing eas­ier by us­ing an iPad and a ther­mal printer and al­low­ing the op­er­a­tor to have ac­cess to all the data from the buses in real time.

But Tooth be­lieves this is just the start of the tech­nol­ogy rev­o­lu­tion. The adop­tion of in­tel­li­gent trans­port sys­tems and the in­creas­ing ease of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and data col­lec­tion means the benets will also ow to cus­tomers, who will become more de­mand­ing of the trans­port sys­tem.

“The tech­nol­ogy age is well and truly upon us and while some con­sider the bus in­dus­try as un­cool or bor­ing, I be­lieve we have a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity to change that per­cep­tion if we jump on board and make the leap to catch up with tech­nol­ogy.”

The three main ar­eas of de­vel­op­ment will be the in­stal­la­tion of in­fra­struc­ture for data col­lec­tion and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with ve­hi­cles, the de­vel­op­ment of on-board tech­nol­ogy which will ul­ti­mately lead to the driver­less bus and an in­creas­ingly knowl­edge­able and de­mand­ing cus­tomer.

Tooth be­lieves the ap­pli­ca­tion of tech­nol­ogy would help tran­scend the di­vide be­tween met­ro­pol­i­tan and re­gional and ru­ral trans­port op­er­a­tions. How­ever, he says it can’t trans­form some as­pects of the in­dus­try.

“For in­stance, I don’t think a driver­less bus would be ac­cept­able on some of the back­roads we all travel on in the var­i­ous states. It may rat­tle the com­puter to bits and might not recog­nise the old painted milk tin as a bus stop.”

But au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles will need mil­lime­tre-type pre­ci­sion in their guid­ance maps and will need to be able to de­tect all the ve­hi­cles around them, their tra­jec­to­ries and their speeds.

The re­quired in­fra­struc­ture will be ex­pen­sive and will re­quire a lot of plan­ning, he says.

The avail­abil­ity of real-time data could also trans­form the on-road ex­pe­ri­ence, with tri­als in France show­ing that smart traf c light sys­tems, not just syn­chro­nised, can de­tect the pres­ence or ab­sence of cars and cut de­lays caused by heavy traf c by as much as 40 per cent.

“One step fur­ther is re­mov­ing traf c lights al­to­gether and mak­ing the in­ter­sec­tion com­pletely au­ton­o­mous, in­creas­ing the num­ber of ve­hi­cles on the road and pro­duc­ing streams of traf c that are con­trolled com­pletely by data and tech­nol­ogy,” Tooth says.


The out­look in Aus­tralia’s big­gest bus mar­ket is pos­i­tive due to more use­ful en­gage­ment with the NSW Govern­ment, but there are still some reg­u­la­tory is­sues that ir­ri­tate op­er­a­tors.

“As an in­dus­try, we are pretty well over- gov­erned and over­sup­plied in the sense of what we have to do for ac­cred­i­ta­tion,” BusNSW pres­i­dent John King says.

“Ev­ery op­er­a­tor must be ac­cred­ited and RMS [the De­part­ment of Roads and Mar­itime Ser­vices] is re­spon­si­ble for regulating bus ser­vices in NSW. Then you have your BOAS [Bus Op­er­a­tor Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Sys­tem] au­dit­ing and you have RMS check­ing the heavy ve­hi­cles.

“All this comes at a cost, and it comes with a lot of regulation and a lot of staff.

“If you look at a lot of the small op­er­a­tors, they are go­ing to strug­gle with that.

“As an in­dus­try, we have got to come up with some so­lu­tions.”

King says the heavy ve­hi­cle in­spec­tion sys­tem re­quires buses to be in­spected twice a year.

“Some of these small op­er­a­tors have to do 140km to get one of those done.

“There are some chal­lenges there be­cause the govern­ment is cut­ting back on in­spec­tion sta­tions and so on. Where do we go with that as an in­dus­try?”

De­spite the level of regulation, King says there are signs that the part­ner­ship be­tween the NSW Govern­ment and the bus op­er­a­tors has been im­prov­ing.

“The govern­ment and in­dus­try part­ner­ship ap­proach, as I said, it’s com­ing back. We are see­ing some quite good move­ment on that: the phone calls, the emails, the meet­ings.

“If we can keep that go­ing for­ward, we can give value for money back to the govern­ment. If we can give value for money back to the govern­ment, they may not want to ten­der.”

King says he is ex­cited about the new tech­nolo­gies that are be­com­ing avail­able as it could em­power op­er­a­tors to im­prove their ser­vices.

“We have been mon­i­tor­ing ve­hi­cles since 1992 with satel­lite track­ing. This is the sort of stuff we love. We have got all those pro­cesses in place.

“Around the cor­ner we’ve got an Opal card in NSW and very shortly they are go­ing to go to live data on mo­bile apps.

“What do we get out of that? We get a lot of data, and the data’s avail­able, it’s on web­sites, and you can view it if you want.

“What we can do with that data is make sure we give value for money to the govern­ment by com­ing up with the right re­sults.

“If we col­lect all the data, we can con­nect our modes to­gether, and the re­sult will be that we will grow pas­sen­ger trans­port. And that’s what we’ve got to do.

“If we don’t grow our num­bers, we will end up a de­clin­ing in­dus­try.”

What we can do with that data is make sure we give value for money to the govern­ment by com­ing up with the right re­sults

Min­is­ter for Trans­port and In­fra­struc­ture Stephen Mul­lighan

Above: BusNSW pres­i­dent John King Op­po­site page top and be­low: Op­po­si­tion spokesper­son on trans­port David Pisoni; Soft­ware de­vel­oper Nigel Tooth

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.