Emma Thomas

FIEAust CPEng EngExec NER APEC Engineer IntPE(Aus)


Transport Canberra and City Services 

Emma Thomas is the Director-General for Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) and brings extensive experience in both the commercial and public sectors, including major infrastructure projects that span most forms of transport including ‘planes, trains and automobiles’.

Prior to leading TCCS, Emma was the Director-General of the Capital Metro Agency, delivering Canberra’s first stage of light rail. Prior to this, she was the State Rail Commissioner for South Australia and Deputy Chief Executive of Public Transport. Previous experience also includes senior executive roles at Transport and Main Roads Queensland and Boeing.  She commenced her career as an aeronautical engineer in the Royal Australian Air Force.

Emma is passionate about creating a simple and responsive customer experience and is excited to deliver services to people to create liveability in our cities.

How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I have only recently re-joined Engineers Australia, however, I initially joined when I was a student.

Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
I loved Maths, Physics and Chemistry at school and I enjoyed watching space shuttle launches with my Dad. I had great teachers who “sparked” the idea in my head that engineering was a good career option. Mum and Dad were really helpful – they organised their friend who was an engineer to have a talk with me about what that career choice could look like.

How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
Transport is so important to how our civilisation functions; the ability for us to connect for work or play is critical. As our cities grow, it is important for us to consider how we move around and create land use and transport in synchronicity.

What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
My current Light Rail project in Canberra has been so rewarding. I have been on this project since 2013 and was fortunate enough to build the team, release the tenders and then see delivery occur. The Light Rail system is aesthetically beautiful – the stops are world class and the Light Rail vehicles are spacious and smooth. It’s so rewarding to see the system operating and carrying passengers from Gungahlin to the city.

What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
A challenge for engineering is the sheer diversity of different fields of engineering – this is also an opportunity.  As the world moves through the “fourth industrial revolution” where technology around transport, energy and communications is changing so much, there is a critical need for technical skills and systems integration.

What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
I am excited by all the young people who have an interest in becoming an engineer. As we become more diverse, I am hopeful that engineering and humanities are brought closer together.

Who is your engineering hero?
My engineering hero is Nevil Shute. Nevil has a fascinating biography called “Slide Rule” and he also more famously wrote “A Town like Alice”. He has a great story of early aeronautical engineering.

Image: courtesy of Emma Thomas