Wrap up of the Asia-Pacific Annual Meeting, Canberra

In November, UITP members from across the Asia-Pacific gathered in the nation’s capital to share and workshop ideas and innovations surrounding three core future mobility topics: electrification, autonomy and new mobility.
 
Over four days, delegates participated in working groups, networking events, technical tours and plenary sessions, absorbing as much information as they could from their international colleagues in the public transport sector.
 
“We had world leaders in town from Singapore, Hong Kong and Shenzhen – cities leading the way in delivering outstanding public transport to their customers, such as Shenzhen who boasts the world’s first 100% electric bus fleet and Singapore who are leading experts in automation and technology,” said UITPANZ Executive Director, Michelle Batsas. 
 
“Australia too had a lot to showcase to our Asia-Pacific peers, including our world-leading focus on the customer experience, new technologies helping with matters like predictive maintenance, and the successful new light rail system in Canberra.”
 
The highlight of the meeting came on day two, where delegates participated in a day of keynote presentations, panels and plenary sessions, sharing their experiences, knowledge and new ideas with each other. Below is a wrap up of each session and the key topics discussed.
 

Session 1 – A New Way of Working: Mobility as a Service, New Mobility and On-Demand Transport Partnerships and Opportunities

After opening remarks from Alison Playford, Director General, Transport Canberra and UITP Senior Director, Global Growth, Jerome Pourbaix, welcoming everyone to the event, delegates heard about one of the largest scale MaaS operations in the world coming out of Japan.
 
Hitoshi Saimyo, Senior Executive Officer of the East Japan Railway Company impressed the room with a presentation full of incredible transport statistics and accomplishments in new technology.  
 
Over 12,200 trains operate every day, moving a whopping 17.9 million passengers, making their network the largest in the world. With a vision titled ‘Move Up 2027’, East Japan Railway Company plans to achieve a complete digital transformation that fully integrates its services, bringing new values to society and trust to customers, seamless travel options and making the country’s cities more comfortable and regional areas more affluent.
 
Following on, we heard case studies from closer to home from Via Transportation, with VP Global Partnerships, David Adelman, presenting their on-demand services and shared mobility projects currently up and running in Sydney.
 
“Sydney is the most advanced city in the world for on-demand services, with people embracing the alternative way of using transport” Mr Adelman told the delegation.
 
Via has been trialling its on-demand services with Cooee Busways in the western Sydney area of The Ponds, as well as in the Northern Beaches with Keoride (in partnership with Keolis Downer). The services pick up the commuter from their home, taking them to the nearest bus stop in the area, providing a solution to that often difficult first and last-mile part of the journey.
 
Both trials have seen a major increase in patronage in short time spans and have received excellent customer satisfaction feedback.
 
Mr Adelman concluded that “shared mobility could lead to an 80% reduction in the number of vehicles and CO2 emissions by 2050”, in which case let’s hope we see a lot more of this kind of PT service available in the future!
 
Rounding off the morning’s mobility discussion, was a panel session facilitated by Natasha Santha, Principal, LEK Consulting, featuring a diverse line up of government and industry executives touching on the challenges they experienced transitioning to a more mobile, responsive way of operating.
 
Deputy Secretary, Policy and Innovation at Victoria’s Department of Transport, Megan Bourke-O’Neil, and Director of Industry Engagement & Innovation Partnership at Transport for NSW, Brooke Knox, both agreed that their agencies were going through a stage of huge regulatory reform.
 
Ms Bourke-O’Neil commented on just how incredibly “data-informed” their regulator has had to become in order to target their activities and education and how they are encouraging the regulator to work closely with industry on issues such as consumer protection.
 
Ms Knox echoed the need for industry and government to work together and that were it not for the robust stakeholder engagement and government support behind their contactless payments initiative, it would not have been nearly as successful.
 
Joe Ma, Deputy General Manager & Chief Financial Officer of China’s Shenzhen Bus Group, offered an industry perspective, reflecting on the challenges they faced in growing their electric bus fleet to over 6000 in ten years.
 
“Buying buses is easy. The biggest challenge with new technologies is education and communication with the community. We did a lot of work in retraining drivers, consulting with government and ensuring safety for commuters through regular engagement opportunities.”
 
While Gavin Smith, Operations Director with bus operator Go-Ahead in Singapore, spoke of the intensive nine month engagement plan ran with their employee base when introducing a new on-demand bus ride system.
 
“Our employees were the customer and many preferred the existing fixed service, some didn’t even own smart phones! So we had to invest a lot of time in to training staff to use the technology and get used to the new way of operating.”
 
In all, the four panellists concurred that focussing on customer satisfaction, both internal and external, was the key to success when rolling out any big change.
 

Session 2: Parallel Sessions - Electric Bus Workshop and Approaching Autonomy presentations

After morning tea, delegates split into two groups to take part in two different sessions: one, a workshop on practical considerations for bus fleet electrification; and the other, a series of presentations from experts on approaching autonomy.
 
The electric bus workshop was timely, with UITPANZ’s Electric Bus Training course being held in Canberra the week prior. The workshop was facilitated by the following industry representatives:
  • Greg Pollock, General Manager Public Transport, Greater Wellington Regional Council, New Zealand;
  • Joe Ma, Deputy General Manager & Chief Financial Officer, Shenzhen Bus Group, China;
  • Kent Chang, Vice General Manager, International Business Dept., Zhengzhou Yutong Bus Co., Ltd., China; and
  • Suvi Schwab, Regional Manager, INIT Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd., Singapore
Major themes discussed amongst the groups included operation and maintenance, charging, scheduling and management, and procurement. Delegates worked together to identify the primary challenges surrounding these themes and then together suggested solutions and next steps.

In the automation discussion, presentations were given by:

  • Jeremy Yap, Deputy Chief Executive of Singapore’s Land Transport Authority;
  • Jana Bowgerald, Associate Director of Major Projects, Downer Group;
  • Denis Masure, General Manager ANZ, RATP Dev Australia; and
  • Jon Lamonte, Chief Executive, Sydney Metro
Presenters took delegates through their respective journeys transitioning to automation and how the new technology has created enormous efficiencies in their networks.
 
Through a wide range of autonomous trials in Singapore, including buses, shuttles, cars and even trucks, Mr Yap said that their trial focus area had grown in four years from a radius of just 6km to one now reaching more than half of Singapore.
 
Ms Bowgerald gave unique insight in to a new predictive maintenance program Downer was utilising, taking the company leaps and bounds in to the “data business”. The software known as TrainDNA, captures endless amounts of data enabling Downer to provide dynamic, real-time information to their clients, improving their operations and overall capability.
 
Mr Masure presented on RATP's achievements in France, detailing the smooth transition to complete automation of the Paris Metro. The Metro moves 750,000 passengers/day and the project received an incredible 98% customer satisfaction result. The key, he said, was a robust change management plan and conducting all of their major disruptive works at night, with more than 13,500 night work sites in operation.
 
Head of Sydney Metro, Mr Lamonte, was proud to take delegates through the success of Australia's first fully automated passenger railway project. With over 43,000 services and 10.2 million passengers to dat, the Sydney Metro has literally transformed Sydney; improving the customer experience, creating a fully integrated network, and promoting the growth of vibrant places and communities
 

Session 3: New Mobility, Automation, Electrification - The Way Forward

After the lunchtime break, delegates were treated to a keynote address from UITP’s Senior Director, Global Growth, Jerome Pourbaix, offering his unique worldly insight into the trends surrounding the three core topics of the day – new mobility, automation and electrification. Following his presentation, he opened up the discussion, facilitating a panel comprised of senior executives from the industry and across the region.
 
When discussing the issue of moving to electric, the panel cautioned the room on not rushing the transition and to consider the large number of external and other contributing factors at play.
 
Jeremy Yap, Deputy Chief Executive from Singapore’s Land Transport Authority, commented on the public infrastructure challenges experienced and how in order to succeed, resilience was key.
 
“It’s important to be smart and steady when moving to electric.  You need to still rely on traditional methods, you cannot rely solely on the grid. If the grid goes down, everything is at a standstill,” he said.
 
Alison Playford, Director General at Transport Canberra, said that the biggest challenge to achieving their primary targets of a zero emissions public transport fleet by 2040 and not purchasing any new diesel buses after 2025, is understanding the complex infrastructure and utilities that will need upgrading.
 
Changing up the discussion, Dato Mohammed Hazlan, President & Group CEO of Prasarana, Malaysia discussed challenges in electric bus procurement, as well as the opportunities it presents, requiring them to move away from the traditional ways of procuring things, such as leasing versus buying.
 
And moving the discussion away from electric to the polarising subject of hydrogen, Matt Longland Deputy Director-General Translink, at the Department of Transport and Main Roads in Queensland said that part of their strategy was to develop and strengthen the Queensland supply chain for hydrogen and make it more sustainable and affordable.
 
“We’re introducing a radical change to the use of electric buses in Queensland, with a target of 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and an overall goal to encourage long term thinking and cleaner investment in technology in order to get these buses on the road.”
 

Session 4: Progress Report – UITP Updates and Results

Wrapping up the day, delegates were provided with progress reports on the work programmes from Jerome Pourbaix, UITP Belgium (Head Office), Sue Chan, UITP Asia-Pacific and Michelle Batsas, UITP Australia New Zealand, before a final thank you to Transport Canberra, as well as the delegates, for their contribution to such making the day such a success.
 
Thank you to everyone for making this event a great success, in particular our ANZ members in attendance, Transport Canberra for being a wonderful host and UITP Asia-Pacific, for coordinating the event programme.