Investigating automated mass transit in Australia Tuesday, 19 February 2019

A Federal Government committee is investigating the potential convergence of new energy sources and automation, such as hydrogen-powered trains, and is about to hold its first hearing in which three peak organisations will present their views.

Committee Chair, John Alexander, said the committee had seen "first-hand the possibilities for the automation of public transport and the use of hydrogen fuel cells to power vehicles". He believes the potential for cleaner, greener, more efficient transport systems "is immense".

"Automated high-speed rail has the potential to revolutionise inter-city transport, creating a new pattern of settlement around Australia," Mr Alexander said.

The committee will hear evidence from Hydrogen Mobility Australia, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries and the Australasian Railway Association at the public hearing although many other submissions have also been made.

The House Infrastructure, Transport and Cities Committee inquiry is holding a hearing on 19 February 2019 from 5pm to 6.30pm at Parliament House in Canberra (Committee Room 1R2), which will also be broadcast live.

In its submission to the inquiry, Hydrogen Mobility Australia explained that automation, connectivity and electric drivetrains were "inextricably linked" in that they are complementary technologies. The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said hydrogen fuel cell development is taking place globally for a wide range of transport.

In September 2018, a world-first service of a hydrogen-powered train (pictured) was conducted. The Coradia iLint  manufactured by Alstom produces zero emissions.

In its submission to the inquiry, the Australasian Railway Association explained that greater use of automation would assist passenger and freight rail operators to increase their capacity.

In Engineers Australia's submission to the inquiry, it called for greater investment into innovative research and design in automated transport technology and alternative energy sources. It also encouraged the government to prioritise transport policies with a focus on sustainability, productivity and affordability and which support the global trend away from fossil fuel reliance.

Other key messages from EA included: the recommendation for further investment in deployment of infrastructure supporting the electrification and automation of the transport network; government prioritisation of a regulatory environment to support a healthy market for the development of Mobility as a Service (MaaS); and for governments at all levels to appoint a Chief Engineer along with  the early and ongoing engagement of engineers in the planning and development of Australia’s transport future.