Pre­par­ing for change in the in­dus­try

In an age where tech­nol­ogy and con­sumer de­mands are rapidly chang­ing the face of pri­vate and pub­lic trans­port, the bus in­dus­try needs to keep up, writes Wayne Patch

ABC (Australia) - - CANBERRA - Wayne Patch is chair­man of the Bus In­dus­try Con fed­er­a­tion

Re­cent years have seen some big swings in the way Aus­tralia does things, and I think it is im­por­tant to recog­nise the role that we have played as an in­dus­try in re­shap­ing the way our gov­ern­ments think about mov­ing peo­ple in our cities and re­gions.

We have been work­ing for over a decade now in both the re­search and pol­icy area, as well as our lob­by­ing ac­tiv­i­ties with all lev­els of gov­ern­ment. There is no doubt that our work is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly recog­nised and re­spected by de­ci­sion-mak­ers across the coun­try.

Their will­ing­ness to dis­cuss our na­tional agenda is ex­cep­tional and a clear en­dorse­ment of our strate­gic ap­proach. We are see­ing un­prece­dented in­vest­ment into pub­lic trans­port in­fra­struc­ture in most states and ter­ri­to­ries.

Just think about Syd­ney Metro, Badgery’s Creek rail link and pub­lic trans­port in­te­gra­tion in Western Syd­ney, the North­ern Beaches BRT, Brisbane Cross City Tun­nel, Perth bus ports and modal in­te­gra­tion projects with rail and ferry, Mel­bourne metro tun­nel, ACT light rail and bus net­work ex­pan­sion. And there are plenty more.

The 2016 fed­eral elec­tion saw Prime Min­is­ter Turn­bull and op­po­si­tion leader Bill Shorten com­pete for Western Syd­ney and the cities and pub­lic trans­port pol­icy agenda and votes.

The nal fort­night of the elec­tion cam­paign saw a stream of an­nounce­ments about cities and im­proved pub­lic trans­port and trans­port in­fra­struc­ture. It’s only a few years ago that pub­lic trans­port was a dirty word when it came to the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment.

At the same time, let’s not for­get the chal­lenges we face as ride sourc­ing and tech­nol­ogy sees the land­scape of per­sonal mo­bil­ity chang­ing dra­mat­i­cally.

The en­croach­ment of dis­rupters like Uber and other sim­i­lar ser­vices will have an im­pact on ex­ist­ing pub­lic trans­port ser­vices. We are al­ready see­ing state gov­ern­ments talk­ing about taxis and rides­ourc­ing ser­vices hav­ing a fu­ture role in de­liv­er­ing ‘ rst and last mile’ trips to con­nect peo­ple to trunk pub­lic trans­port ser­vices and late-night ser­vices us­ing the ex­ist­ing smart card pub­lic trans­port tick­et­ing sys­tem.

Any­one who thinks that Uber and taxi in­dus­try changes are the end, rather than the start, of re­form in the pas­sen­ger trans­port mar­ket is in for a rude awak­en­ing.

Change in the 21st cen­tury is rapid. That forces us into a new par­a­digm where much of the es­tab­lished pro­to­cols and reg­u­la­tory pro­tec­tions can no longer be re­lied upon to pro­vide the an­swers.

While change has been fast, gov­ern­ments and in­dus­try have been gen­er­ally slow to keep up with a ra­pa­cious cus­tomer-driven rev­o­lu­tion. By the time gov­ern­ments and busi­nesses have re­acted to ei­ther put in place reg­u­la­tion or new busi­ness mod­els to com­pete, cus­tomer de­mand has spo­ken and new mar­kets are in place.

THE ROAD AHEAD

What are the chal­lenges for our in­dus­try? Let me ex­plain by look­ing at cur­rent high-level gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try dis­cus­sions tak­ing place across Aus­tralia.

All trans­port and in­fra­struc­ture min­is­ters met in Mel­bourne in Au­gust and signed off on the Na­tional Pol­icy Frame­work for a Land Trans­port Tech­nol­ogy Ac­tion Plan 2016-2019.

The ob­jec­tive of the plan is to see emerg­ing trans­port tech­nolo­gies im­prove trans­port safety, efciency, sus­tain­abil­ity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

A big fo­cus is about fu­ture au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles and how they will op­er­ate. The plan clearly realises that the way peo­ple will travel in the fu­ture will be turned up­side down.

Re­cent dis­cus­sions at the Na­tional Sum­mit on the Scope of Au­to­mated Ve­hi­cles held in Brisbane in Au­gust and a dis­cus­sion pa­per ti­tled ‘ Pre­par­ing for our au­to­mated and

driver­less fu­ture’ highlights again the con­sul­ta­tion tak­ing place about fu­ture pub­lic trans­port. Here are a few quotes: • “Driver­less cars will need less space. The de­sign of roads will change. Con­ges­tion should be signicantly re­duced.” • “The most im­por­tant fea­ture of a driver­less car may be that it should re­move the need to own a car. This pro­vides the op­por­tu­ni­ties for eets of driver­less cars to be op­er­ated by a small num­ber of ma­jor oper­a­tors.” [Who is this op­er­a­tor? Could this be a bus op­er­a­tor with a di­versied eet of ve­hi­cles?] • “When they are not on the road, these driver­less cars can be stored in low-cost dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tres.” [Could this be a trans­formed bus de­pot?] • “Fleets of driver­less cars will test the value of ex­ist­ing pub­lic trans­port.” Driver­less ve­hi­cles will also take their pas­sen­gers point to point, de­liv­er­ing them di­rectly to where they want to go. No other pub­lic trans­port does this. This is a po­ten­tial game changer.

The Na­tional Trans­port Com­mis­sion is cur­rently de­vel­op­ing a pa­per on the fu­ture reg­u­la­tion of driver­less ve­hi­cles. New tech­nol­ogy is com­ing and we need to be plan­ning now on how we adapt our busi­nesses and cap­i­talise on it.

The types of bus busi­nesses you have to­day will al­most cer­tainly be very dif­fer­ent in a few years. Nat­u­rally, as with all change events, there are threats. But for those will­ing to think out­side the square, there are many op­por­tu­ni­ties. In­dus­try just has to be ready.

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