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Beyond certainty with NTRO and ARRB

The range of topics covered will aim to highlight the technical expertise of the transport industry.

The NTRO – International Technical Conference in October will dive deep into the latest innovations in transport technology from around the world, and explore how Australia’s roads, rails, ports, and airports can prepare for the future.

When the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) transitioned into the multi-modal National Transport Research Organisation (NTRO) in late 2022, it did so to adapt to an evolving and increasingly interconnected transport industry. 

In becoming the NTRO, ARRB expanded its road-focused research operations to encompass rail, ports, and airports. According to Juliette Fox, NTRO Client Engagement Specialist, it was a natural fit given the overlapping research occurring between these modes, and the way they integrate into the lives of the Australians using them. 

She says the change also reflected the trajectory of the industry in Australia.

Juliette Fox, NTRO Client Engagement Specialist.
Juliette Fox, NTRO Client Engagement Specialist.

“All the departments that share ownership of the NTRO have gone in this direction,” she says. “For example, VicRoads becoming the Department of Transport and Planning in Victoria.

“The transport industry has become less about individual networks, and much more about the movement of people.”

‘Movement of people’, Fox says, encapsulates the overlap between the many modes of transport available across the country – as well as the patterns of behaviour of the people using them, both today, and into the future.

She says this will be reflected in the range of topics presented at the newly rebooted 2023 NTRO – International Technical Conference in October.

“We’d been doing a similar conference for years as ARRB,” Fox says. “And it used to be this fantastic amalgamation of international visitors, local researchers, and experts coming together to present their conference papers.

“For pavement engineers back in the day, it was something really special.”

Fox says ARRB had put a pause on these conferences in recent years – partially for global health reasons, and partially due to the changing nature of the transport industry.

“But with the transition to NTRO, and the way the organisation is now engaging with the whole transport industry, state departments, and also the Commonwealth, there has been a definite outcry for a more technical conference once again,” she says.


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All in the details

The 2023 NTRO – International Technical Conference, framed by the overarching theme of “Transport – Beyond Certainty”, is currently undergoing a review of abstracts for potential conference papers following a wave of interest from the across the industry.

These topics are expected to fall into six sub-themes: Asset Assurance, New and Emerging Materials, Agile Transport Futures, Drivers of Innovation, Next Generation Researchers, and Technology and Data. 

Fox says the NTRO team is once again excited to highlight the technical expertise of the transport industry, both in Australia and overseas.

“A lot of conferences will stick to more high-level material, but we’re targeting people in the industry who want to further their knowledge and research,” she says. “That’s the reason it’s specifically called a ‘technical’ conference. It’s about the current research, where we’re at now, and crucially – where we’re going in the future.

“That’s why this year we’ve gone with the Transport – Beyond Certainty theme.”

The new conference will reflect the transition from ARRB to the multi-modal NTRO.
The new conference will reflect the transition from ARRB to the multi-modal NTRO.

Fox attributes this phrase to NTRO board member Neil Scales OBE, the Director-General for the Department of Transport and Main Roads, Queensland.

“Neil says it all the time in regard to building infrastructure, and thinking about how to prepare for what will change in the future – the beyond,” Fox says. 

“You can build a road and assume everything’s going to be fine forever, but there are so many unknowns – for instance, in Australia we’ve seen all these flooding events in the past few years.”

Fox says the future of transport will give the industry much to consider. Rapid advancements in electric cars and autonomous vehicles, the logistics of fast rail travel, as well as potential petroleum shortages could all present significant challenges for Australia’s transport networks in the coming decades. 

“That’s what ‘beyond certainty’ is about,” she says. “We already have an idea what the next 30 years will look like – but what comes after that? We want to see what the next generation of forward-thinking research will bring to the infrastructure sector, and we want to be doing that now.

“That way, we can start collaborating and researching these ideas now, and by the time we really need to address the issues of the future, we’re already in front. We’re not just waiting for something to happen.” 

Finger on the global pulse

NTRO’s International Technical Conference is set to take place at the NTRO headquarters in Port Melbourne, where attendees will be able to see the facility’s research in action.

Fox says the conference will cap off a busy few months for the NTRO team, which will have just touched down following an extensive tour of duty overseas. 

The conference will be held at NTRO Head Office in Port Melbourne.
The conference will be held at NTRO Head Office in Port Melbourne.

“NTRO will be holding a Global Transport Collaboration (GTC) event in Europe, which also lines up with the PIARC World Congress in Prague in October,” she says.

“We’re going over there to see what transport innovations they’re using, and then part of our conference will be reporting on that. We want to get a fresh understanding of what the world is doing, and what we can bring back to Australia.

“October will be very busy for NTRO, but we’ve deliberately paired these events together that way. In transport, as with any industry, the latest information and knowledge is only relevant for so long. You never know when you’ll see the next big breakthrough.”

The 2023 NTRO – International Technical Conference will run in Melbourne from 25-27 October 2023. 

You can find out more and register to attend at:  

This article was originally published in the April edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.

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