Abacus. Photo: Shutterstock

Gov seeks public comment over big data work

Urban infrastructure minister Darren Fletcher says there are big opportunities to use data to deliver better infrastructure services for Australians, opening a new draft plan for public comment late last week.

Fletcher said the Draft National Infrastructure Data Collection and Dissemination Plan is part of the Turnbull Government’s goal to have better data to guide decision making in infrastructure.

Opportunities discussed in the paper include collecting freight data for determining and addressing points of congestion, and using telecommunications data to better understand large scale patterns in the movement of people.

“he draft Data Plan identifies infrastructure data and information gaps, and highlights opportunities to use data better to monitor the performance of Australia’s infrastructure networks and make more informed investment decisions as a result,” the minister said.

The draft paper was developed by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE), with infrastructure and transport experts from across the public sector, industry and academia, Fletcher said.

Feedback is welcome until November 1.

Submissions can be made at bitre.gov.au/data_dissemination/index.aspx

2017 a milestone year for rail, good and not so

COMMENT: 2017 is a big year for rail anniversaries in Australia, some important, some not so important, some to celebrate and some, well probably best if you make up your own mind. Mark Carter reflects on three of the most notable milestones.


Most would agree the anniversary of greatest significance will be the this year’s centenary of the Trans Australia Railway (TAR) which was completed in October 1917.

Events planned for this October to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the standard gauge railway between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie are quickly gaining pace.

On 17 October 1917, two track laying teams, one working eastward from Kalgoorlie and the other westward from Port Augusta, met near Ooldea on the Nullarbor Plain. There was no official opening at the time, no doubt due to the nation’s involvement in the First World War. Five days after the rails were joined, the first transcontinental passenger train departed Port Augusta for Kalgoorlie on 22 October 1917.

Fifty years later the 50th anniversary of the joining of the rails was commemorated by the former Commonwealth Railways with the installation of two monuments at Ooldea in 1967, though over time these timber structures have virtually disintegrated under the harsh outback conditions.

Australian Rail Track Corporation has manufactured two replicas of the 50th anniversary monuments, which will be unveiled at the same site on Tuesday 17 October, to commemorate the ‘joining of the rails’ and all of the track workers who over the years have maintained this important link.

Well over 500 people are expected to travel considerable distances to attend the unveiling at this remote location, with the event sponsored by businessman and philanthropist Dick Smith.

Further celebrations are expected to follow at Port Augusta on 22 October to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the departure of the first westbound passenger train. The nearby Pichi Richi Railway intends to operate a special steam train to Port Augusta from Quorn to coincide with displays and exhibitions mounted at the Port Augusta railway station.

The National Railway Museum at Port Adelaide will be launching a special Trans Australian Railway Centenary Exhibition from Friday 22 September, culminating with a formal TAR Centenary cocktail function at the museum, sponsored by Bowmans Rail, on Friday 13 October for special guests and rail industry participants.

The 1700km long TAR was completed long before the phrase ‘’nation building’’ entered our vocabulary, but obviously the term would be every appropriate providing it providing the first reliable land link between the east and west of the country across incredibly hostile terrain, and all achieved during a time of war.

Unfortunately, one gets the feeling that if this kind of project was put forward in today’s political climate the chances of getting it off the ground would be slim. It is worth remembering that for much of its early life the TAR was primarily a passenger carrier and much of the freight was supplies to keep the railway running.

It was only after dieselisation in the 1950s that it started to develop as a freight route to eventually grow into the strategic corridor it has become today, commanding as it does over 80% of the East West land transport freight task.

It is a tad ironic that less than a month after theses celebrations it will be the 20th anniversary of the break-up of the federally owned Australian National (AN), the direct descendant of the Commonwealth Railways which had been established in 1917 to administer the TAR.

The events leading up to the sale of AN in 1997 are complex. A good doctoral thesis could be written on AN’s demise which would have to draw on the early days of competition policy, the move to separation of above and below assets, and the sale of government business – all of which have brought huge changes to the industry in the last 20 years.

The sale of AN heralded the privatisation of much of the Australian rail industry. AN’s mainland freight assets were sold off to US regional operator Genesee & Wyoming Inc; the interstate passenger assets to a consortium operating as Great Southern Railway; and the Tasmanian assets to US railway mogul Ed Burkhardt’s Australian Transport Network.

The interstate track controlled by AN stayed in government hands through its shareholding in Australian Rail Track Corporation, and remains so to this day. And of course, ARTC has since grown to encompass the entire interstate network west of Kalgoorlie through to Brisbane.

It’s interesting to reflect that of the original purchasers of the AN business only G & W has survived. The interstate passenger business has seen its ownership structure modified several times and is now in the hands of private equity. Tasmania’s rail services have gone full circle and are now back in government ownership.

And of course, this also means that G & W will celebrate their 20th anniversary in Australia in November as well. The wave of major US railroads rumoured to have been coming to Australia’s shores back in the 90s never materialised and after a few other early starters fell by the wayside it was left to regional operator G &W to fly the US flag for many years until the more recent arrival of Watco in Western Australia

Over those 20 years G & W has done well for itself. There have been ups and downs, but their Australian operations, fluctuating exchange rates aside, have always been one of the company’s biggest money spinners. Things of course got even bigger last year with their latest acquisition of the Glencore rail business and assets in the Hunter Valley.

While the Trans Australian Railway has well and truly met the test of time, the jury is still out on whether the gradual privatisation of the nation’s rail freight assets that started with the sale of AN, was a good idea.  Fair to say it’s not been the rip-roaring success promised at the time, but with the way things were going under government control back in the 1990s, things could have turned out a lot worse.

It will be interesting to see if the TAR is around in another hundred years’ time and whether its ‘nation building’ status will have been matched by that of the long anticipated Inland Rail project?

Photo: Auckland Transport

AT Mobile App gets 100,000 downloads in under 4 months

The new mobile app from Auckland Transport (AT) allowing users to plan, save, and track their train, bus and ferry services has been downloaded 100,000 times, the transport provider has said.

The AT Mobile App was launched in May this year in an effort make travel in the city “easier” and “more intuitive” for passengers.

It features an alert system that tells users how far away buses or train are from stops, enabling them to better judge when to leave home. The alerts can also be received on wearable devices.

A GPS location service tracks the user’s journey, which, according to Auckland Transport, makes finding unfamiliar bus stops and train stations easier to find, as notifications telling the user they have arrived at the location will be sent to their device.

Users also receive route specific notifications, such bus stop closures or major line disruptions, along with other news and updates from Auckland Transport.

Kevin Leith, AT Metro customer and market group manager, said that extensive feedback work had been carried out with customers to ensure the app provided a better travel experience.

“Because there are so many types of journeys Aucklanders make, it was essential that we got customer feedback. Since it launched in April, customers have provided insightful feedback that has let us not only make the necessary improvements but also given us ideas about extra functions that will make travel easier,” Leith said.

The ability to track services with the app is apparently one of the best-liked features of the app.

“They’ve told us it’s a simple thing that’s made a big difference,” Leith said. “There’s no more need to keep turning your head looking for your bus or train, taking the guess-work out of when to leave your house. You get an alert saying the bus is approaching your stop so you know exactly what’s happening.”

The AT Mobile app can be downloaded for both Apple and Android systems from Auckland Transport’s website.

Your digital edition of the Rail Express August Issue is here!

Rail Express is proud to announce the release of its 2017 August Issue, along with a special supplement on Women in Rail.

The issue represents a return to print for Rail Express outside of our annual AusRAIL Edition. It includes feature stories on State and Federal Budgets, major projects, disaster recovery in New Zealand and much, much more.

The Women in Rail supplement includes interviews, analysis and commentary on the state of gender equality in the rail workforce.

Click here to view the August Issue.

Click here to view the Women in Rail supplement.

Our next issue, due out in October, will include features on:

  • Civil Engineering & Contracting
  • Freight Rail
  • Signalling & Communications
  • Track & Below Rail Infrastructure
  • Predictive Maintenance
  • Recruitment & Training
  • Tendering

For advertising opportunities, contact Daniel.Macias@mohimedia.com.

Don’t miss out on your listing in the 2018 Rail Directory

The deadline is approaching for new entries, updated listings, and advertising opportunities in the 2018 edition of the Australasian Rail Directory.

The Australasian Rail Directory is published each year by Rail Express in conjunction with the Australasian Railway Association.

Companies looking to update their listing, and those wishing to add a new one, have until September 5 to email their requests to the Directory’s editor, Ronda McCallum.

“The Australasian Rail Directory is a fantastic resource for the industry, and is distributed to all the delegates at AusRAIL each year, along with hundreds more through our mailing list,” McCallum outlined.

“We also distribute the Directory in an online format, attracting many more eyeballs throughout the calendar year.

“But time is running out for those looking to add or update their listing the 2018 edition.”

Contact Ronda at Ronda.McCallum@mohimedia.com.

Advertising opportunities are also available in the Directory, with a range of options on offer. Contact Margaret Shannon for more information at Margaret.Shannon@mohimedia.com, or call (02) 9994 8086.

Australian Bulk Handling Review digital edition: July-August

Rail Express sister publication the Australian Bulk Handling Review has just released its third digital edition for 2017, with the July-August issue now available to view online.

The July-August issue of the Australian Bulk Handling Review includes features on grain handling, and weighing & level measurement.

Click here to view the online edition of the magazine

“This issue also includes profiles of new iron ore projects in Australia and Brazil, a fascinating article on pneumatic conveying misconceptions, and details of German Creek train load-out automation,” editor Charles Macdonald said.

“This digital adds tremendous value for readers, and for print advertisers, whose spend now goes a lot further.”

V/Line train going through level crossing. Photo: RailGallery.com.au

This is how regional rail can help ease our big cities’ commuter crush

ANALYSIS: Victoria offers lessons in the benefits of integrating metropolitan and regional planning, using regional rail to shrink distance and ease the pressures of growth on our big capital cities, Michael Buxton writes.


In Sydney and Melbourne, the squeeze is on. Population is booming; house prices are still rising; roads and trains are congested. Australian governments generally have ignored the benefits of relating metropolitan and regional planning.

However, some state governments are now investigating more integrated sectoral and spatial planning strategies, initially through shifting public sector jobs to regional centres.

In particular, improved regional rail connections do work. Already rail investments have brought Ballarat, Geelong and other regional centres closer in travel time to Melbourne than many outer suburbs, and this trend will continue.

Further reading: Commuters help regions tap into city-driven growth

Sydney has similar opportunities with regional rail connections, but has not yet exercised them. Rail services to and from Gosford, Newcastle and Wollongong have improved little over recent decades.

Rail bypasses clogged arteries

For decades, policymakers’ preferred solution to congestion has been adding and widening freeways. But promises of faster travel times and freer movement have been illusory. New roads and freeway lanes induce more traffic and will provide short-lived solutions in our biggest cities.

Further reading: Traffic congestion: is there a miracle cure? (Hint: it’s not roads)

These cities are the main drivers of Australia’s national economy, attracting advanced business service professionals and knowledge providers.

Access to high-value jobs, transport arteries that function well, and better-managed population growth will become critically important to urban economies as these cities move towards populations of 8 million people.

In Sydney and Melbourne, critics are claiming that major new road projects such as WestConnex and the Western Distributor will increase central city traffic congestion, particularly for work-related journeys.

Further reading: Modelling for major road projects is at odds with driver behaviour

Victoria proves regional rail works

Contrast that with the success of regional rail development. Victoria has invested several billion dollars in a series of projects. These have raised maximum regional train speeds to provincial cities to 160kph, increased reliability, provided new and much faster trains and transformed frequency.

The 119km peak-hour trip from Ballarat to Melbourne before these investments took two hours, with four trains a day on offer. Today 22 daily trains operate in each direction between Melbourne and Ballarat. Boarding the 4.33pm from Southern Cross delivers passengers to Ballarat 65 minutes later.

From Geelong, the transformation has been even greater. The recently completed Regional Rail Link runs 55 daily trains each way. The project was the first to be approved by Infrastructure Australia, backed by A$3.8 billion in state and Commonwealth funding.

Patronage boom calls for more work

These upgrades, however, have become victims of their own success. Some lines have recorded a 300% increase in patronage. Similar increases are projected for the next decade.

Remarkably, within two years of opening, patronage growth has already reached capacity on the inner part of the Regional Rail Link (which segregates metropolitan from country trains for travel to and from central Melbourne). There is little or no capacity for extra trains to be run in peak times.

Trains are becoming ever more crowded. Long-distance commuters have valued their ability to work, read or sleep on these trains, especially during their homeward journeys. They must now compete for seats with others from rapidly expanding western suburbs, which are yet to gain their own suburban train services.

A short-term fix would create longer trains of eight carriages instead of six. A medium-term fix would electrify and provide separate services to the part of the Geelong line that serves the new dormitory suburbs.

These changes need to be complemented by more frequent and better co-ordinated feeder bus services to stations. In addition, easily accessed large commuter carparks need to be built on vacant land on the Melbourne side of the major regional centres.

In the longer term, the answer lies in providing more multiple tracks to fully segregate suburban and regional trains in suburban areas. Providing robust double-line railways in each corridor will prevent the cascade effect that occurs when trains delay each other on single lines.

The completion of level-crossing removals will also allow higher operating speeds and safer operations. Trains will be able to move progressively to maximum speeds of 200kph where feasible rather than 160kph.

Regional cities must avoid past mistakes

These rail investments will further promote population growth in regional cities. Already, regionally developed services, more affordable housing stock and less frantic lifestyles are acting as attractors.

It is essential to integrate the planning of major regional transport projects with spatial planning to avoid the undesirable results of fragmented policy.

Some regional centres are repeating the worst mistakes of metropolitan low-density urban sprawl by expanding on greenfield sites far from town centres. Modelling of Victorian regional towns has shown that they contain in-fill opportunities to at least double existing populations and provide a range of affordable housing options.

To maintain liveability for expected high population growth, heavy rail investment is vital. Carefully targeted regional rail investment can shrink distance, provide access to more jobs and better lifestyles, and contribute to wider housing choices.

This investment is a critical requirement for continued prosperity in Australia’s largest urban centres.


Michael Buxton is Professor of Environment and Planning, RMIT University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

This article was co-authored by Bill Russell of the Rail Futures Institute, Melbourne. The ConversationFind out more about what Victoria can do to overcome the commuter crush at Railway Remedies: Cutting the Crush on Geelong Trains, hosted by the RMIT Centre for Urban Research (CUR) and Deakin University at the Percy Baxter Theatre, Deakin Geelong campus, on Wednesday, August 9.

Global vehicle dynamics event heads to Australia

Hundreds of vehicle dynamics experts from around the globe will converge on Rockhampton later this month, for the 25th International Symposium on Dynamics of Vehicles on Roads and Tracks.

CQUniversity will host the IAVSD’s biennial conference, which will see roughly 130 technical papers presented by experts travelling from Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

Symposium co-chairs Professor Colin Cole and Professor Maksym Spiryagin, who represent CQUniversity’s Centre for Railway Engineering, spoke with Rail Express ahead of the event, which takes place from August 14 to 18.

“We are increasingly dependent, in engineering, on the simulation of dynamics for the roadworthiness for the acceptance of vehicles and the investigation of accidents, and derailments,” Cole says.

“It takes good engineering and software to do these tasks. This [symposium] is a place where the problems, the next generation of modelling, and new developments will be presented.”

Prof. Cole says the forum will let the experts get down to the “nitty gritty issues” of how the science and software works in this space.

“What doesn’t work, what should be done, what shouldn’t be done,” he continues. “And really good debate, about wagon instability, numerical methods, and so on. It’s not just experts saying, ‘Oh, we did this, and it works’; there is a real delving into the science.”

Prof. Spiryagin describes Australia as a “world leader” in the use of simulation in vehicle dynamics research, noting the development of Australian Standard 7509, which details performance requirements for the dynamic behaviour of rollingstock on the Australian rail network.

“This standard assumes that we can use simulation tools as a validation for the new design of vehicles,” he notes.

Rockhampton was chosen by the IAVSD as the symposium’s location after a bid from CQUniversity. The IAVSD – International Association for Vehicle System Dynamics – was formed at the fifth IUTAM-VSD vehicle system dynamics symposium, held in Vienna, Austria, in September 1977.

Adding to the technical presentations from researchers from around the world, a State of the Art Paper will also be presented on each of the first four days of the symposium later this month.

As symposium hosts, the CQUniversity team has chosen to present a State of the Art Paper on the field of ‘Simulation and Implementation of Long Train Dynamics’, on day two of the event.

“[The increased use of simulation] is driven by the immense cost of in field tests,” Cole said.

“Crashing things is really expensive, so you can only test in fairly normal conditions. Simulations can take us further, and look at scenarios that are dangerous.”

“This conference also extends knowledge for road and rail vehicles with analysis relevant civil engineers because it consider the factors that affects vehicle dynamic performance from one hand and on the other hand it focuses on the influence of vehicle dynamics on pavement and track damage,” Spiryagin added.

“If we are going deeper, it includes multidisciplinary representation that allows addressing the operational processes of complex systems such as road and rail transportation.”

Find out more about the event, and how to attend, at http://www.iavsd2017.org

NWRL piers. Photo: Sydney Metro Northwest

Transport access is good for new housing, but beware the pollution

Many new housing developments are being built along busy roads and rail lines, but lack design features that would reduce occupants’ exposure to harmful traffic pollution, Christine Cowie and Guy Marks write.


Many new housing developments are being sited along major traffic corridors. While it’s logical to put infill housing close to public transport, locating medium- and high-density housing along busy roads exposes more people to traffic pollution. These developments often lack the optimal design features to minimise their exposure.

This is especially the case with low, medium and high-density residential developments in Sydney. On current projections, Sydney will require 664,000 more homes by 2036 to house an extra 1.6 million people.

One explicit strategy for achieving this is to increase housing stock along transport corridors and around railway hubs and to “accelerate new housing in designated infill areas”. Local councils seek to comply with the state’s urban renewal goals and, more generally, prioritise access to services, commercial precincts and transport corridors.

As a result, many redevelopment or renewal sites are on or near busy roads or around railway stations.

Many government planning documents also include the goal of healthier built environments. Planning agencies around Australia have identified air quality and noise as issues for developments along busy roads.

In New South Wales, various government planning documents refer to the former Department of Planning’s Development Near Rail Corridors and Busy Roads – Interim Guideline (it’s still an interim document after nine years). The Queensland, South Australian and Western Australian governments have similar guidelines.

Measures to limit exposure are hit and miss

Suggested design measures include:

  • building setbacks;
  • articulation or “stepping” of building façades;
  • avoiding creation of street canyons; and
  • mitigation measures such as greening close to the road.

The NSW document suggests:

The location of living areas, outdoor space and bedrooms … should be as far as practicable from the major source of air pollution.

It also states that:

… it is preferable if residential uses are not carried out along a busy road unless it is part of a development which includes adequate noise and air quality mitigation.

This is comforting. In many cases, however, such guidelines aren’t followed. It appears that little thought is given to how placement, architecture or planting could reduce traffic-related exposures.

In Sydney you’ll see many new developments with balconies and large windows facing busy roads, or minimal setbacks with little greening. Australian architectural practice for medium- and high-density living could consider alternative designs such as internal courtyard areas facing away from roads, as found in many European cities.

The NSW guidelines even discuss what occupants should do where “windows must be kept closed”. A recent media report highlighted such a situation where a road is being expanded from four lanes to seven (and from 6,000 to 50,000 vehicle per day) for Sydney’s WestConnex project. The distance from apartment buildings to the road will be cut to 1.4 metres.

Contractors have been advising residents about work to mitigate the increased exposure to air pollution and noise. This includes installing air conditioning and noise insulation, and sealing air vents.

Building or modifying homes in a sub-tropical climate to specifications where windows must be kept closed and residents rely on mechanical ventilation is at odds with the principles of healthy built environments.

How do we explain these planning decisions?

We are in a situation where councils can refuse approval for a well-designed, aesthetically pleasing carport in front of a building line, while people’s health is put at risk due to new housing developments along main roads being prioritised.

How have we arrived at such incongruous decisions? Given the pace at which regeneration and major infrastructure projects are proceeding, this is a critical time to reconsider our design of urban spaces.

The Parramatta Road Corridor is one example of the current approach. This urban renewal project is highlighted on the website of the state-owned Urban Growth NSW, which is setting the agenda for urban transformation in Sydney.

The Parramatta Road Corridor Planning and Design Guidelines contain useful advice on building design to minimise exposure to rail and road air pollution and noise. While 21 pages are devoted to noise and vibration issues, only three pages refer to air quality near busy roads. Yet scientific evidence on the adverse health effects of air pollution is perhaps more robust than for noise effects.

So what is the evidence of harm?

There is solid evidence that traffic-related air pollution is harmful to health. Concentrations of various pollutants are greatest close to main roads.

We have shown that levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a good marker of traffic-related air pollution, changed following the building of the Lane Cove Tunnel in Sydney.

After the tunnel opened, air pollution along two major arterial roads dropped up to around 100 metres away in response to reduced traffic. At the same time, NO2 levels along roads near the tunnel entrances rose in response to more traffic.

Overseas studies have shown levels of NO2 and other pollutants decrease sharply with distance from roads. NO2 pollution reaches urban background levels within 100-250 metres. The sharpest decreases are within 100 metres, although some studies have recorded the influence of major highways up to 500 metres away.

The NSW EPA’s emissions inventory estimated on-road vehicles contribute 61.8% of Sydney’s NOx concentrations. NOx is the primary pollutant or precursor of NO2, which forms when NOx reacts with oxygen in the air.

The adverse health effects of NO2 exposure include increases in all-cause, cardiovascular and respiratory mortality and hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular disease, decreased lung function in children, and an increased risk of respiratory symptoms such as asthma, stroke and lung cancer.

Traffic – and diesel vehicles in particular – is also a major contributor to ultrafine particles in ambient air. Counts along roads and in vehicles reach extremely high levels.

While there is accumulating evidence of adverse respiratory and cardiovascular effects of ultrafine particles from animal and human toxicological studies, epidemiological (population-based) studies are limited.

Studies of short-term exposure suggest effects similar to those seen for larger particles – increased mortality and morbidity for respiratory and cardiovascular outcomes. However, results have been inconsistent.

Vehicle emissions also contribute substantially to black carbon air pollution. The World Health Organisation reported health effects similar to those of fine particulate matter and suggested black carbon might be used as an additional ambient air indicator.

The conundrum is that while adverse health effects have been attributed to black carbon and ultrafine particles, the expert position is that the evidence is insufficient to support new standards for these pollutants.

Reducing pollution exposure should be a priority

As a public health practitioner, one can argue that evidence of the harmful effects of traffic-related air pollution is substantive and increasing. We should be designing healthier built environments to avoid increased population exposure to traffic-related air pollution.

Additional options include Australia swiftly adopting more stringent fuel and vehicle emission standards. Ultimately, decreasing traffic congestion on busy and main roads will reduce exposures. In the long term, this depends on providing better options for public and active transport for work and personal trips.

If left unchecked or unevaluated, planning decisions that put new homes along busy roads are likely to undermine public health protection principles.

Christine Cowie is Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Air Quality & Health Research and Evaluation, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, University of Sydney; Senior Research Fellow, South West Sydney Clinical School, UNSW and Guy Marks is Professor of Respiratory Medicine, South Western Sydney Clinical School, UNSW. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

Sydney Metro Video Help Point. Graphic: Sydney Metro Northwest

Five lessons from Tokyo, a city of 38m people, for Australia, a nation of 24m

ANALYSIS: Tokyo has experienced extraordinary population growth but is among the world’s most liveable cities. Just how has it managed the pressures of growth? Brendan Barrett and Marco Amati discuss.


The release of 2016 Census data provides a good opportunity to reflect on the future growth of Australian cities. And what better example of the future to use than Tokyo?

Frequently the subject of futuristic visions, the city went through one of the world’s most rapid post-war population growth periods. The Greater Tokyo area has a population of 38 million – almost 60% more than the population of Australia. Yet Tokyo remains one of the world’s most liveable metropolises.

How can Australian cities replicate this conjuring feat while retaining their own high levels of liveability? We identify five lessons from Tokyo’s experience.

Lesson 1: manage urban growing pains

Tokyo was devastated at the end of the second world war. The city experienced rapid rebuilding and growth. The population of the central Tokyo prefecture, which is home to 13.5 million people, increased from 3.5 million in 1945 to 11.6 million in 1975.

This 30-year growth spurt happened at a rate almost twice that predicted for Greater Melbourne, for example, from 4.4 million today to 8 million by 2050.

Tokyo’s rapid growth had a number of negative impacts. These included very significant environmental pollution. The basic approach during this period was to grow first and clean up later.

The consequence for Tokyo was disorganised patterns of urban development – sprawl. The answer involved tighter planning controls and land re-adjustment programs to improve environmental conditions and ensure infrastructure was effective.

The lesson here for Australian cities is that, in the face of rapid population growth, better forward planning is the only way to avoid or minimise negative side effects.

Lesson 2: Introduce metropolitan governance

A critical factor in Tokyo’s liveability is the role of metropolitan governance in ensuring good planning and co-ordination.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government was established in 1943. In contrast, for Australian cities a metropolitan level of co-ordination is the exception rather than the rule. With Greater Melbourne, for example, the Victorian Planning Authority plays an important role but lacks oversight from local political representatives. The governor and the assembly members in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, on the other hand, are accountable to the electorate.

The Tokyo government also has considerable political autonomy since it generates 70% of its revenue from local taxation. In 2014, it had a budget of ¥13 trillion (A$151 billion) – on a par with Sweden’s. This makes the governor of Tokyo one of the most powerful politicians in Japan, second only to the prime minister.

The Tokyo government’s approach has always involved strong interventionist policy and considerable emphasis on infrastructure development, with a reliance on public-private partnerships to get results.

Lesson 3: Commit early to world-class public transport

Public-private partnerships to develop metropolitan railways has been a standard approach in Japanese cities for most of the 20th century and continues to underpin Tokyo’s success as a global city. For example, the Mitsubishi Corporation played an instrumental role in developing the Marunouchi district around Tokyo Station. The latter was built in 1914 and connected intercity stations in a loop decades before other cities.

These public-private interventions have cemented Tokyo’s status as a transit-oriented metropolis. The city has by far the highest public transport usage in the world.

Compared to other major cities like Seoul, London, New York and Beijing, Tokyoites rely far more heavily on public transport, cycling or walking to get around. In Tokyo prefecture, rail accounts for 48% of trips, bus 3%, cycling 14% and walking 23%. Private car use accounts for only 12% of trips.

A continuous investment in rail networks above and below ground would ensure Australian cities can better accommodate predicted population growth. A fascinating map designed by Adam Mattinson shows what a subway system for Melbourne could look like based on the Tokyo model. To achieve this may require that the tram system moves underground – almost certainly a pipe dream.

Lesson 4: Decarbonise the economy as it grows

Tokyo was lucky to be able to grow rapidly in an era when climate change was not the recognised problem that it is today.

The challenge for Australian cities will be to grow their economies while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to match the per capita levels for Tokyo, and then to cut them much further. The World Bank calculated that in 2006, per-capita emissions for Sydney were 20.3 tonnes of CO2, compared to 4.89 tonnes for Tokyo.

Tokyo is also seeking to cut its emissions by 30% by 2030 compared to 2000. In Australia, Plan Melbourne, for example, aims to achieve a target of net zero emissions by 2050 even while the population continues to grow.

While investments in low-carbon public transport will be central to meeting this target, it is also essential to pursue ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy targets.

Tokyo is aiming for a 38% drop in energy consumption and a rise in renewable energy from 8.7% in 2014 to 30% of electricity generation in 2030. The good news is that Plan Melbourne sets a target for renewables of 40% of electricity generation by 2025.

Lesson 5: Prepare to age with dignity

Along with declining emissions intensity, Tokyo’s population is likely to start shrinking. The population of central Tokyo is expected to rise from 13.5 million today and peak in 2020 before declining to 7.1 million by 2100. The population of Greater Tokyo is expected to peak around 38.5 million about the same time.

The population of Australian cities will plateau at some point, as in Tokyo. The next lesson would be how to deal with an ageing demographic and potential population decline.

As recently argued based on the census, a result of declining home ownership is the likelihood of couples deferring the decision to have children. A knock-on effect could therefore be a more rapidly ageing Australian population.

The Tokyo of today is certainly no utopia, due to its vulnerability to earthquakes and other natural disasters, high house prices, homelessness, rising inequality, a lack of multiculturalism and a proportion of housing as rental accommodation that dwarfs Australia’s (47.9% compared to 30.9%).

Yet the largest settlement on the planet offers useful lessons – historical, present and future – that can guide the urban policies of other countries.

The ConversationBrendan F.D. Barrett is Senior Lecturer, Program Manager, Masters on International Urban and Environmental Management, RMIT University and Marco Amati is Associate Professor of International Planning, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT UniversityThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.