Smart road technology and new regulations for on-demand public transport are on the Tasmanian Government’s agenda for 2018-19, as the state gears up for some much-needed critical system upgrades and service delivery improvements.
Listed in the Premier’s First Year Agenda released on 2 May, the two initiatives fall under the broader plan to build “infrastructure for the 21st century” for Tasmania.
A traffic incident response team stationed in Hobart will soon be equipped with smart technology to help improve traffic control and allow more dynamic and real-time responses to incidents. The response team will be established in the last quarter of 2018-19, according to the agenda.
The second quarter of 2018-19 will see the government release a draft regulatory framework for on-demand passenger transport for public consultation.
“There are clear signs that business models and service types [in the Transport sector] will continue to evolve and change, including through the advent of driverless vehicles and other technologies,” states the Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding in a December 2016 consultation paper. The framework will seek to better position the state for “emerging technologies and service models” in the sector.
Tasmania’s digital transformation
After the just-introduced ICT Project Fund was scrapped in 2014 following a change of government, efforts to upgrade the back office processes that support key service delivery sectors such as transport, health and justice appeared to have stalled.
These urgent critical upgrades are now back on the agenda with the introduction of the Digital Transformation Priority Expenditure program in 2017, which is aimed at modernising the technology used by the major service delivery agencies that have now reached the end-of-life phase. With the Liberals returning to government, the $60 million-plus (total) digital transformation program is now expected to be delivered without interruption.
Reflecting this renewed focus on ICT, the Tasmanian government has “committed to convening an ICT summit twice a year, to progress opportunities that Information Technology and Communications offer to Tasmania and its economy”. The first Tasmanian ICT Summit will be held in Q2 of 2018-19, according to the First Year Agenda.
The agenda has also hinted at some upcoming ICT investments ahead of its 2018-19 budget, which is due to be released in early June. In Q2 of 2018-19, “Libraries Tasmania will invest $3 million over 4 years in new resources that will improve the overall visitor experience and offer resources in critical skills areas”, including “support for digital literacy, access to new technology, and enhancements to the online and physical collections”, according to the agenda.
The agenda also focuses on capitalising on the state’s agriculture sector, with a plan to develop a Whole-of-Government (WofG) White Paper on the Competitiveness of Tasmanian Agriculture for 2050 in Q1 of 2018-19. The White Paper will consider policy improvements that will help the sector access new technologies.
Future of transport in Australia
Tasmania is the latest Australian jurisdiction to start exploring innovative transport options. Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) is currently piloting on-demand buses throughout the state, with the latest trial launched in Macquarie Park on 26 March 2018.
Provided the pilot is a success and a broader rollout ensues, integration work is likely to be required to ensure these on-demand services link up seamlessly to the rest of the transport network. This will include making sure citizens experience a consistent ‘look and feel’ across the entire network.
The Future Transport Strategy 2056 released in March 2018 emphasised NSW’s shift towards a ‘Mobility as a Service’ transport system, which “enables customers to plan and pay for their journeys using a range of services via a single customer interface”.
Work is already underway to build a one-stop-shop transport portal called “My Transport Identity” that is intended to link up on demand services, Opal accounts, Twitter feeds, and other transport-related services. An Expression of Interest regarding the portal’s build was released in July 2017. The expected date of approach to market was Q3 of 2017-18, according to TfNSW’s procurement plan, although it seems to have been delayed.
The Western Australia Government has also committed to innovative transport upgrades. In its 2017-18 Budget, WA allocated $47 million over three years to the Kwinana Freeway Smart Freeway project, which will allow “lanes to be opened and closed in response to congestion and incidents” among other smart road capabilities.
A further $7 million was allocated to Transport over three years to enhance business systems to provide regulatory services to the on-demand transport industry, to allow it to function as a legitimate component of the state’s transport network.
In the Victorian Government’s 2018-19 Budget released on 1 May, the state announced funding for renewing and upgrading the state’s Intelligent Traffic System – allocated $3.47 million in 2018-19 – and the installation of smart on-road technology from the South Gippsland Freeway to the Beaconsfield interchange as part of second stage of the Monash Freeway upgrade project.