Sydney's rate of public transport use are the highest in the nation. In a non-COVID year, annual patronage on Sydney Trains is now around 375 million. With NSW's population predicted to grow to 12 million by 2056, it's critical that our planning and delivery of transport infrastructure caters for anticipated growth.
At the same time, technology is transforming the way people live and travel. One obvious example of this trend is ride-sharing, which seamlessly integrates smart technology to enable personalisation and immediacy. The popularity of Uber - particularly among millennials - is astronomical.
This sort of service innovation shows us that while it's important to increase service volume, our future planning should also consider how to harness new technology to promote flexibility, and enhance the end-to-end experience for public transport customers.
Put simply, we need to continue to make public transport an attractive and viable alternative to using private vehicles.
We need services that are frequent, comfortable, reliable and safe.
Since 2011, the NSW Government has taken considerable strides to improve customer experience and to future-proof the rail network.
We've rolled out the Opal Card on all public transport services in Sydney, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast, the Hunter and the Illawarra. Smartcard ticketing allows time savings, more flexible fare structures and more robust data to inform decision making.
Here in the Sutherland Shire, the timetabled fleet is now fully air-conditioned. The government's $5.3 billion More Trains, More Services initiative will deliver capacity for a 30 per cent increase in peak services on the T4 Illawarra Line by around 2024, with extra services from Cronulla, Waterfall and Hurstville.
The program includes $110 million worth of contracts for digital signalling, with the first on Sydney's rail network to be between Sutherland and Cronulla. While traditional signals have served Sydney well for decades, they're fixed at set locations and limit the railway from operating at its full potential. This technology allows the track and train to talk to each other continuously.
It will mean trains can run closer together, safely and, more reliably.
There's still plenty to do, but when it comes to delivering world-class rail services into the future, NSW is firmly 'on track'.
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