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08 Feb 2021
Strong reception to GPS access plan

Plans to boost GPS signals in Sydney’s road tunnel network are being picked up, with Transport for NSW set to trial the latest innovative technology to help improve safety and reliability.

Transport for NSW Acting Deputy Secretary Howard Collins said funding has been secured and key federal laws have been amended to give the trial the green light.

“We know how frustrating it can be for motorists when your GPS signal drops out mid-journey. This is even more of a problem for emergency services and freight operators that depend on GPS to quickly find and communicate within their teams,” Mr Collins said. 

“We have been working with tunnel experts to develop solutions that will assist drivers to navigate the existing and future road tunnel network faster and more accurately.

“The roadblock had been a federal law that banned GPS ‘repeaters’, because of concerns they could interfere with external GPS signals when not operated properly.

“Transport for NSW joined with other key agencies to make a submission to get the law changed. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has agreed to amend the law, and we’ve now confirmed funding to start rolling out trials in coming months.”

Fire and Rescue NSW Deputy Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell welcomed the news that this vital initiative was now progressing to a trial.

“Fire and Rescue NSW crews will be at the forefront of testing this new technology, undertaking various scenarios to ensure our specialist communications team can pinpoint the exact location of a Triple Zero (000) caller if they are in a tunnel, and increase our visibility of our trucks and crews to ensure the correct resourcing is assigned to an emergency incident,” Mr Fewtrell said.

“The increased response capability will help us better protect the NSW community.”

The trial will investigate points inside tunnels where GPS signals can be ‘repeated’, then test communication between in-tunnel GPS signal simulators and receivers on navigation devices, such as in-vehicle GPS units and smartphones.

If successful, it could lead to a licensing arrangement for devices that can be rolled out across Sydney’s road tunnel network, including major projects being developed such as the Western Harbour Tunnel, Beaches Link, M6 Stage 1 and existing road tunnels across the city.

GPS signals don’t work in road tunnels because they lose the line of sight to satellites. Some vehicles use other technology such as dead reckoning but GPS is the most accurate.

Transport for NSW, NSW Telco Authority, Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Ambulance and NSW Police have worked with the ACMA on this initiative.

Funding is from the innovative Transport for NSW Asset Technology Program. The final amount will be confirmed once the procurement process is complete.