Entrepreneurial engineers should be the ones that are trying to solve the numerous problems Australia's infrastructure has, not politicians, according to Curtin University sustainability professor Peter Newman, who spoke at this year's Australian Engineering Conference (AEC).
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Addressing the liveability, workability and sustainability of our cities, as well as the way in which they might be improved, Newman says that due to Australia's ever-expanding cities, a significant burden has been placed on vital infrastructure such as transport, housing and energy supply. 

"As it is engineers who build our cities, they must play a key role in improving their sustainability," Newman said.

"The first railways came about because engineers were entrepreneurial enough and politically connected enough to make them happen." 

According to Newman, entrepreneurial engineers will be the ones to play a vital role in improving our cities' transport infrastructure in the near future, and points to trackless trams as an example of innovation in this space.

"It's an autonomous tram that is actually a series of buses in convoy, but they just follow sensors down the road," Newman continues.

"They are what I believe is going to be the next generation of public transportation, and while China is leading the way in trackless trams, I expect the technology to soon reach Australia.

"It'll be the engineers who pick up on it. They'll team up with entrepreneurs, developers and good governments, and we'll get a new regime of building trackless tram systems through our cities that will solve many of our current problems."

Newman believes our cities can also be engineered so that home and work are accessible within 30 minutes, which he says is important because our cities become dysfunctional when further time is added to the journey. 

Newman also believes that although cars serve an important purpose, there is a risk of them becoming our masters, rather than our servant. Because of this, he says that it is now the time for Australia to embrace high-speed rail. 

"Those cities that have become automobile dependent, such as Detroit, are now struggling economically," Newman adds.

"Cities like Houston and Atlanta are rebuilding around rail and they're doing well, because that's where the new jobs are, the new knowledge-economy jobs.

"That linking up across the country is something that every continent has done except us.

"There is one plane a day between Tokyo and Osaka - two of the biggest cities in the world - and that's because every 10 minutes, there is a fast train transporting people, and you can't beat that."