The seven megatrends that will transform transport

Seven global megatrends are set to impact on how we, and the goods we need, will travel over the coming 40 years.

  1. Rapid technology change

  2. Customer demand
  3. Live, work and study anywhere
  4. Environmental sustainability and energy security
  5. Growing international trade
  6. Our growing and Ageing population
  7. The need for healthier lifestyles

Each of these megatrends presents exciting opportunities for transport. But they also pose a very big question: how do we make long term transport plans and investments in the face of so much uncertainty?

This question is at the heart of Future Transport – one which needs to be answered by all of all us: government, the community and industry.

1. Rapid technology change

It is very difficult to predict the transport technologies of the future

Humans have always used technology to solve their transport problems, whether through the horse and cart, steam train, car or aeroplane. What’s different now is the pace of innovation.

New technologies are emerging with promises to transform the way we travel, whether it’s automated vehicles, drones, or quantum computing.

It is very difficult to predict which of these emerging technologies will deliver on their promises, when they will become viable, what they will cost and whether customers will take them up in critical numbers.

2. Customer demand

Informed customers are demanding more ‘personalised’ transport services

As customers become more informed through the web and social media, they are increasingly dictating what products and services businesses provide.
Businesses that don’t respond to customer demand are quickly surpassed by their competitors.
This phenomenon of ‘customer empowerment’ is making a big mark on public transport as private companies begin to provide alternatives to government as a provider.

Customers are also reshaping freight and logistics through the rise of online and mobile shopping. These markets are being met by companies connecting businesses directly to customers. To meet the growing demand for faster deliveries, companies will continue to look to new technologies such as automated vehicles and drones.

3. Live, work and study anywhere

The evolution of telecommunication technology will give people greater choice about where they live, work and study

As telecommunications technologies become a reliable substitute for face-to-face communication, people will have greater choices to work or study from home, via technology hubs or shared workplaces.

With the world via a screen people will want to be flexible regarding where they undertake work, especially if they can avoid long commutes.
How this may affect where people will choose to live and work will have significant impact across the NSW.

4. Environmental sustainability and energy security

The transport sector’s reduced reliance on fossil fuels will radically transform transport

Transport in NSW is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. It is also the main source of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants that are harmful to our health.

With about 90 per cent of our transport fuel coming from overseas, this also represents a major threat to our energy security.

Any interruption to the supply of these transport fuels has the potential to cause major disruption to business, the economy and our daily lives.

To manage environmental and security issues, the NSW Government has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 through its Climate Change Policy Framework.

To meet this objective, transport will need to transition to renewable sources of electricity, which will require extensive changes to vehicles and fuelling stations.

5. Global marketplace

The freight sector will need to support intensifying trade between NSW and the world.

Over the coming 40 years, our state’s physical exports will be dominated by agricultural and mining products. Our imports will be dominated by manufactured goods.

One of the state’s key challenges will be balancing the different handling and shipping needs of our exported goods like food and minerals with other goods.

Another key challenge will be meeting customer demand for shorter delivery times.

Safe and efficient transport corridors and ‘last mile’ delivery options will be a significant factor in the state’s future competitiveness.

6. Growing and ageing population

NSW’s growing and ageing population will place new demands on our transport system

Growing population

In 40 years the NSW population is forecast to be 11.2 million, around 50 per cent more people than we have today.

Most of this growth will occur in Sydney and in coastal regional cities like Newcastle, Wollongong, Gosford and Coffs Harbour. This trend will place increasing pressure on our urban roads and public transport services.

Ageing population

Alongside this growth, people in NSW are getting older. In 40 years, the number of people aged over 85 in NSW will double and one in every five people will be over 65. This ageing trend will be most pronounced in regional NSW.

As older people are less likely to drive cars, we will need to ensure that our public transport system is able to meet their needs. Public transport services are likely to be complemented with new types of responsive on-demand transport and other new models of service provision.

7. The need for healthier lifestyles

Transport will play a bigger role in supporting healthy lifestyles

Around the world, people’s health is being negatively impacted by congestion and sedentary lifestyles.

Encouraging walking and cycling for short local trips will provide many benefits to cities, centres and towns. Apart from activating lifestyles that are positive for preventing chronic illnesses, these are important steps for reducing congestion plus lowering carbon emissions and air pollutants.
Communities that have corridors, where walking and cycling connects people to green spaces, shops, services, schools and entertainment, will also be attractive places.

This is important for the wellbeing of the community members and for attracting skilled workers that facilitate globally competitive businesses to employ people.