National Transport Commission (NTC) chairman Greg Martin was last week awarded the prestigious 2010 Transport Medal by Engineers Australia.
By Jennifer Perry
The award is presented biennially and seeks to reward and recognise outstanding individual contributions to transport in Australia on the basis of a number of criteria.
These include at least 10 years distinguished service, professional reputation, excellence and relevance to Australian transport and national and international influence.
Spanning over 40 years, Martin’s experience goes well beyond the NTC to roles within the Western Australian and Federal Governments in various areas including policy, research and operations.
Martin currently holds positions as professor of planning and transport studies, Curtin University of Technology and executive director, Planning and Transport Research Centre of Western Australia (PATREC).
Martin said as chairman of the NTC he has the opportunity to work on the front line of complex national issues.
He told Rail Express that one of the biggest challenges for Australia’s transport industry was to develop a clear view of what Australia’s infrastructure needs would be for the next 30 to 50 years.
“We really need to be thinking in that sort of time frame. We have a tendency to think in the ‘here and now’ and only in terms of current budgets rather than what’s needed for the future,” Martin said.
“We’ve got to be smarter and take a long term strategic view for rail and other elements of transport.”
He said this was particularly important for state governments as they work on their Capital City Strategic Plans, as required by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
COAG requires all states to come up with plans for cities that have an emphasis on integration across land-use and transport planning and provide for nationally significant infrastructure by January 1 2012.
“The gauntlet’s been thrown down for jurisdictions to do that and we have to wait and see what’s going to come out over the next 12 months to see whether people really do respond and think those longer terms views,” he said.
“It’s only by taking a long term, strategic and integrated view that all of transport’s various elements will work together, otherwise we will be left with ‘bits and pieces’ and we will not get the full value of the investments we’re making.”
Martin also said that an historical lack of investment in Australia’s rail industry has led to uncertainty about rail’s future.
“Compared to road, which has been very competitive due to being operated by the private sector, there are some pretty big questions as to the governance of our railways,” he said.
“How do you overcome the legacy of a lack of investment and old infrastructure? While Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has been a mechanism for overcoming this on a national scale, when you get back to the state level there is still an enormous amount of work to be done including more public/private expenditure.”
According to Martin, the rail industry is now addressing the “rail gauge” issues of physical infrastructure, signal and communications systems, and safety systems and is seeking to increase its productivity and improve operating performance.
Regulatory reform and public and private investment on a national scale is also now proceeding to redress modal disadvantage.
“Another big issue that Australia’s transport industry faces is the capacity and capability of its workforce,” he said.
“Australia’s rail industry is particularly concerned about where they are going to get the right mix of skills and personnel into the future.
“With growth of the regional economy, especially the resources and energy sector, and increasing populations in major cities, large transport infrastructure projects are occurring right across the country.  Each industry needs to be working to develop enough people with the skill sets to match this enduring demand.”
Martin said that it’s been “incredibly rewarding” to work collaboratively with Australia’s transport industry and government partners across the reform lifecycle to bring about positive changes.