Over the last 20 years Australia has been very good at building new infrastructure but not so good at making the best use of what it already has.
Making the best of both is something new chair of the SMART Advisory Council is very passionate about.
Former Infrastructure Australia chief executive Philip Davies was in Wollongong on Tuesday for his first visit since being appointed to the role.
He said the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong is already providing and analysing data that can help maximise the potential of our infrastructure systems.
Mr Davies said infrastructure was about more than roads and rail and the data systems being developed at SMART can help transform the way we live.
“I am really passionate about infrastructure and making the best use of what we have already,” he said.
“I have had a long career working across most parts of the infrastructure life cycle. Particularly in transport and freight logistics. My focus has always been about how can we make the system work better. You can only do that if you understand how it is working.”
“I think one of the challenges Australia faces right now is the impact of population growth. We are off the pace in terms of making use of the infrastructure we have. One of the reasons for that is lack of data. The other is a cultural issue.”
Mr Davies said optimising existing infrastructure could result in a faster train from Wollongong to Sydney.
And optimising traffic signals around Wollongong city centre could give a maximum level of service to pedestrians, cars and buses.
“It is about matching the service to the environment and the demand,” he said.
Before moving to Australia a decade ago the new advisory council chair was a director of transport for London. He helped transform the effectiveness of that city’s traffic control systems, including reducing the frequency of signal timing reviews from 27 years to three.
Mr Davies said real time data can be used to take a proactive and real time approach to transport system management. He said data is extremely important and the SMART Infrastructure Facility is a great source of that.
“If I think back to the experiences we had in London and compare the early 2000’s to now and the big difference is the enormous amount of data we now have,” he said.
“And through the plan and technology centre being proto-typed and developed here at SMART you can use remote devices to anticipate congestion from road works or from construction sites and optimise the movement of people and keep the city moving.”
“We have a lot of capabilities now. That is what is so exciting about a facility like this. It is at the leading edge of development. And its an environment where you can test projects on a smaller scale before taking them to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth where they are really facing big challenges right now“.
SMART Infrastructure Facility chief operating officer Tania Brown said Mr Davies appointment as chair of the Advisory Council was great because he was someone both industry and government respect.
Ms Brown said they value his opinion just as they did his predecessor Dr Ian Watt.
She said he headed a very impressive Advisory Council that includes deputy chair Dr Richard Sharp, of Arup, Paul Oppenheim, of Plenary Group, Dr Steven Kennedy, from the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, Yvonne von Hartel, of peckvonhartel, Catherine Caruana-McManus, of Giant Ideas, Nicholas Whitlam, chairman Port Authority of NSW, Dorte Ekelund, of Smart Cities SMEC, Marika Calfas, of NSW Ports, Brendan Lyon, of KPMG, Evelyn Horton and Mike Mrdak, from the Department of Communications and the Arts.