Albo announces 'smart infrastructure' inquiry

Rudd Government announces inquiry into use of 'smart infrastructure' to cut traffic congestion

By Brad Gardner | November 23, 2009

An inquiry will begin into the benefits of applying new technology to infrastructure to slash traffic congestion, the Rudd Government has announced.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese used his address to last week’s Australian Intelligent Transport Systems Summit to make the announcement after the House Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government agreed to the plan.

As well as transport, the inquiry will focus on how ‘smart infrastructure’ can improve the communications, energy and water sectors.

Albanese outlined examples such as traffic signalling that adjusts to peak periods to improve traffic flow, and telecommunications infrastructure to help more people work from home to cut the number of vehicles on the road.

"We need to use advances in technology to open up the restricted arteries of our cities in the same way that we use advances in medical technology to combat the effects of heart disease," he says.

"In Sweden, for example, an intelligent road system combined with road user charging gave Stockholm’s commuters enough information to reduce traffic congestion by 22 percent and their carbon emissions by 40 percent."

Albanese says the Government is already spending money on a freight management system in Western Australia and an advanced traffic management system in South Australia.

"In addition, the Australian transport Council has endorsed further research to inform government policy of its potential to improve safety outcomes through technology-based solutions," he says.

With vehicle use and the freight task predicted to significantly increase in the coming years, Albanese says policy makers need to think smart when investing in infrastructure.

"It’s not just about investment. It’s about improving productivity through regulatory reform, creating a seamless national economy and reducing costs," he says.

"Smart technology isn’t something we can bolt on to our concrete and bitumen and steel later on, it has to be incorporated into infrastructure planning at the conceptual stage, and we have to start doing it now."

However Albanese is anticipating concerns to be raised about the use of new technology, such as privacy issues and how small and large companies can benefit from smart infrastructure.

But he told attendees he has a personal interest in the use of the smart infrastructure and is "excited" about the benefits of it.

The summit was held over two days from November 19 to look at how technology can improve transport networks.

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