Intelligent transport systems hit the road in NSW

Concept of intelligent transport signals

Technology has become the centrepiece for Transport for NSW and Future Transport 2056 – a 40-year vision for an integrated and multi-modal transport system across NSW – which will aim to support the 28 million commuter trips expected to be taken each day by 2056.

With more than 12 million people expected to live in NSW by 2056, demand on the transport system across the state will significantly increase, which is why Transport for NSW is investing in new technologies now to support future needs and expectations.

The strategy highlights the power of, and reliance on, technology in everyday life and poses the question, ’How can technology be used to make the movement of customers smarter, easier and more reliable?’

“Future Transport 2056 is the first plan to consider how we harness rapid advancements in technology and innovation to transform the customer experience and boost economic performance across NSW,” Transport for NSW Executive Director Sydney, John Hardwick, said.

“As transport needs and demands rapidly change across the most populous state in Australia, we have highlighted the immediate need to create data-driven, intelligent transport networks which will encourage a more efficient, flexible and dynamic service.”

NSW’s first smart motorway

While Future Transport 2056 is a strategy for the multi-modal transport system of the future, Transport for NSW has already put it into action. Work is well underway on the first smart motorway in NSW which will introduce intelligent technology to one of Sydney’s busiest motorways by the end of 2020.

NSW Minister for Transport and Roads, Andrew Constance, said the $600 million M4 Smart Motorway project will provide a tailored technology solution, through intelligent transport systems, to create a better travelling experience and a more consistent journey.

“The M4 Motorway is one of the busiest in Sydney and is often congested for up to 13 hours a day, so the introduction of intelligent transport systems will help to maximise the performance of the motorway and provide motorists with more reliable trips so they can spend less time on the road,” Mr Constance said.

“More than 150,000 vehicles travel along the M4 Motorway each day and the volume of traffic is only expected to increase as Western Sydney grows into one of the most populous cities in Australia.

“Given the amount of work which needs to be carried out to implement the first smart motorway in NSW, the project is being delivered in stages to help limit disruption along the motorway while crews work hard to install intelligent transport systems and upgrade existing road infrastructure along a 35km section.”

Implementing new ITS technologies

Work on the project is progressing well, with the first stage almost complete. This stage involved building an additional lane in each direction between Roper Road and the M7 Motorway to provide more capacity and improve traffic flow.

Extensive work has also been carried out to upgrade key interchanges along a section of the motorway which included realigning and widening existing ramps to accommodate the new ramp signals to allow vehicles to enter the motorway in a steady and controlled manner.

Installing an array of intelligent transport systems along one of the busiest roadways in Sydney has proven challenging, with work on the project being carried out within live traffic conditions and at busy interchanges where thousands of motorists travel each day.

Contractors Fulton Hogan and Seymour Whyte are working hard to complete the project in 2020.

“As all aspects of technology become more personal and user-friendly, transport users also have the expectation their journeys will become more personalised, which is why intelligent transport networks are a key focus of Future Transport 2056,” Mr Hardwick said.

“This project is making the strategy a reality, with the NSW Government bringing together a number of intelligent transport systems including ramp metering, electronic message signs, traffic sensors and lane use signs to one place to maximise the performance of the motorway and provide more reliable journeys.

“An overarching adaptive system known as a Managed Motorway System will bring together all of the newly installed intelligent transport systems, which will talk to each other and automatically adjust to incidents and congestion without a manual operator intervening.”

Gantries, ramp signals and traffic sensors

Motorists travelling along the motorway today will already see some of the infrastructure for these systems in place, including ramp signals at a number of entry ramps, as well as some of the massive steel gantries which will hold lane use signs and variable speed limit signs.

More than 40 gantries are being progressively installed to complement existing and new electronic message signs along the motorway and approach roads. These will inform motorists about expected travel times and traffic conditions ahead, allowing them to better plan their journey or choose an alternative route.

The gantries will be able to manage the use of the motorway by automatically changing speed limits when traffic sensors detect particular traffic volumes, and close lanes to manage traffic flow when incidents occur.

Ramp signals are an important feature of the project as they will help regulate traffic entering the motorway and control the flow of vehicles trying to merge at the same time. This will result in less stop-start traffic and sudden braking at some of the most congested points along the motorway.

These signals will work hand in hand with newly installed traffic sensors by using the information provided to automatically switch on in peak travel times or when traffic reaches a certain level.

“Smart motorways have already been implemented in Melbourne, Auckland and further across the globe, so Transport for NSW is always looking at international intelligent transport solutions to further inform user experiences,” Mr Hardwick said.

“Once complete, this project will influence the way transport planners shape transport systems across Sydney and NSW, including key arterial roads and motorways – the M4 Smart Motorway project will be the blueprint for Sydney’s future motorways.

“Using complementary technologies to create a fully managed motorway is the first step towards easing congestion, reducing crash rates by up to 30 per cent and keeping motorists more informed while they move around the extensive NSW road network.”

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