What should Australia’s transport networks look like in 30 or 50 years?
There is no crystal ball to give us the answers, but civil engineer Jillian Kilby thinks in the next few decades, decentralisation and interconnection will be the name of the game.
As the CEO of The Infrastructure Collaborative, Kilby is focused on removing roadblocks for regional road and rail projects to make this vision happen.
“It will rely on technology and physical infrastructure,” she said.
“It will require connectivity to enable the Internet of Everything, and good transportation networks like air, road and rail to get people in regional areas to other regional areas, and occasionally cities when they need to be there.”
To achieve this, she is working closely with collectives of regional councils and city and state governments to make it easier than ever to go from city centre to regional centre — and everywhere in between. But getting there will take investment not only in physical assets, but also in getting infrastructure projects from planning shelves to “shovel ready”. That takes a mindset shift.
“People might have a perception that moving to a regional area means they will have a lesser experience, which is not a reality,” Kilby said.
“I choose to live and work and serve our regional areas.”
A study in contrasts
Kilby’s early years as an engineer can be best characterised by opposites. While studying civil engineering at the University of Sydney, she spent time with Roads and Maritime Services working on projects from the M7 highway construction to roadworks out in regional New South Wales (NSW).
After graduation, she left road infrastructure behind and moved into maritime transport, doing maintenance and refurbishment of Sydney Harbour ferry terminals and shipping ports.
“They’re sort of two ends of the spectrum when it comes to transportation,” Kilby said.
“It was great being able to see the difference between a major billion-dollar construction project through to working on a project where you can see where every dollar goes.”
Things took a turn, though, when she moved to rural western NSW – nine hours from Sydney – for love. Career opportunities were fewer and farther between, and Kilby was inspired to start her own engineering consultancy at the age of 25.
The company grew to serve more than 50 councils, and soon after she moved to California to pursue her Master of Business Administration and a Master of Policy at Stanford University. While there she added a third type of transport expertise to her repertoire: high-speed rail.
Kilby has now been back in Australia for a year, and is working with 11 Councils in southern NSW to collate transport infrastructure projects. She is unique for choosing to serve the infrastructure needs of regional Australia while still maintaining clients in the US.
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Jillian Kilby was a presenter at the 2018 Australian Regional Development Conference.