Q&A May 26, 2023

Navigating Mobility, Infrastructure Challenges for Transport in Asia: A Q&A with Wesley Wong

Jacobs’ Head of Sector for Transport and Infrastructure Asia Wesley Wong talks about the evolution of the transport sector, emerging trends and technologies and how we’re helping clients navigate mobility and infrastructure challenges in the region.

Wesley Wong headshot in Q&A banner

Hello Wesley! Can you tell us how the work you do is helping deliver Jacobs’ strategy?

I lead our transport and infrastructure teams with over 300 teammates across Asia. Every day we’re helping our Asia clients navigate mobility and infrastructure challenges. Leveraging our domain expertise across advisory, strategic planning, design, transport planning, program management, tunneling and ground engineering, we deliver innovative and sustainable solutions to achieve the best project outcomes for our clients.

Tell us about your career journey at Jacobs.

A:  I’ve had an amazing ride so far! I started as an Assistant Engineer at Jacobs (then Halcrow) in the U.K. in 2003, where I worked on some of the most remarkable bridge projects including Thames Gateway, as well as the Msikaba and Mtentu Bridges, which are currently undergoing construction 20 years later!

From there, I made my way to Kuala Lumpur in 2004 joining Jacobs (then SKM) and project-managed our first major port project in Malaysia. I was then seconded to Perth for the Dampier Port Upgrade Project. Our team developed a game-changing heavy-lift modularized wharf construction method that enhanced productivity and improved safety outcomes. It was a proud moment for all of us.

Following that project, I took on the challenge of setting up our bridges, ports and maritime and industrial teams in Malaysia. It was a massive undertaking, but it paved the way for our Global Integrated Delivery model and helped establish multi-office delivery support on our Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) projects such as Hume Highway, Boggo Road and Koorangang Coal Terminal Berth.

Today, I am the head of sector for transport and infrastructure Asia, providing management and strategic oversight of our major transport and infrastructure projects in this region.

 What excites you about the future of transport?

A: I am really excited about the tremendous opportunities ahead of us at Jacobs, particularly in enabling our growth accelerators – consulting and advisory, data solutions and climate response. We’re helping our clients navigate complex challenges in electrification and green vehicles, digitalization, automation and mobility-as-a-service to meet our future transportation needs.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing the transport industry today?

The transport industry faces numerous challenges, particularly in keeping pace with the rapid evolution of technology and changing customer expectations. Other major challenges include securing funding for capital investments in new infrastructure projects, developing proactive operation and maintenance strategies for existing and aging infrastructure. There is a pressing need to address skill shortages and balance the increasing costs of fuel, human capital development and other factors with ever more stringent environmental, social and governance (ESG) requirements.

What role do you see transportation play in addressing climate change and reducing carbon emissions?

Transportation can play a role by transitioning to cleaner energy sources, promoting effective and efficient public transportation and sustainable practices such as active mobility and carpooling, adopting new technologies such as electrification and hydrogen, and leveraging data analytics and digital twins for operations and maintenance. These will not only help to reduce transport-related emissions, but also improve air quality and overall livability of our communities. By applying the ESG lens in planning, we can identify and mitigate the negative impacts of transportation on the environment, planet and society while promoting sustainable and efficient transport solutions.

Can you share any recent projects you’re proud of, and their potential impact on the industry?

As the system designer and trackwork consultant for Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit 2, we take pride in our contribution toward transforming the way more than two million people travel along the Klang Valley-Putrajaya corridor. The recently opened 35.9-mile (57.7 km) network serves to ease congestion and provide efficient transportation options for commuters. We’re also proud to have developed a comprehensive Building Information Modeling (BIM) model for its trackwork design, which demonstrates our commitment to leveraging digital technologies in transportation engineering. This approach enabled a comprehensive virtual representation of the trackwork, which was key to simulating different construction scenarios and optimizing the construction process, which resulted in greater efficiency and cost-savings for project stakeholders.

I am also proud that we’re working on a first-of-its-kind green and smart transportation solution for the Iskandar Malaysia region. The transport system is characterized by several unique features that set it apart from other conventional transportation systems. For example, the buses are solar-powered and are equipped with advanced technologies such as real-time tracking and communication systems to improve operational efficiency and safety. As the global trend toward sustainable mobility gains momentum, projects such as this are more likely to attract funding and support.

The potential impact of these projects on the transportation industry is significant, and they can influence other transportation projects to adopt innovative and sustainable practices and create a better future for transport infrastructure and the communities they serve.

How do you see the transport industry evolving in the next 5-10 years?

The transport industry is on the cusp of a major revolution that has already begun with the introduction of autonomous vehicles, wide-scale adoption of electric vehicles and growth of renewable energy. Additionally, the advent of commercial spaceflight has further fueled this revolution. I believe these technologies and trends will continue to accelerate and lead to new forms of transportation infrastructure that would be radically different from what we know today. This presents both exciting and equally significant challenges, and for Jacobs, this means more opportunities to explore and deliver innovative solutions to meet the evolving demand of the industry.

 Proudest career moment?

At different stages of my career, I have had several notable achievements, including:

  • Presenting alongside Nobel Laureate, Sir Aaron Klug!
  • Developing a theory and analytical models jointly funded by NASA and Cambridge Commonwealth Trust.
  • Becoming a shareholder of Jacobs (then SKM) at the age of 32.
  • Establishing a global retail program for Shell with a rapid rollout in 22 countries, which earned me our Jacobs’ CEO award for sustainability and Health, Safety and Environment. I also served on the Shell retail global engineering leadership team that developed some initiatives that are now being rolled out worldwide as part of the Global Design Standards.

Looking toward the future, I would love to see our team attain industry accolades and recognition for our involvement in two groundbreaking projects: the Malaysia-Singapore Rapid Transit System, which is the first cross-border rail project in the region, and the first-of-its-kind green and smart transportation solution for the Iskandar Malaysia region.

Outside work, you enjoy…

A: Reading, hiking and spending time with my family. I hope to resume badminton and would love to pick up golf. I have recently taken an interest in gardening and am currently working on a new landscaping feature at home!

What do you enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs?

Looking back, my journey at Jacobs has been incredible with many unexpected turns and opportunities. The opportunity to learn, grow and develop is limitless. I hope to inspire our next generation of talent to embrace challenges and push boundaries, be open to new experiences and seize opportunities to shape a better future themselves and make a positive impact on the world. 

About the interviewee

Dr. Wesley Wong leads Jacobs’ Transport and Infrastructure sectors in Asia with 20 years of experience delivering multi-disciplinary projects across the globe. He provides executive oversight across all major transport infrastructure projects in the region including the Kuala Lumpur – Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project, HSR projects in Thailand and Indonesia and metro projects such as Johor Bahru to Singapore Rapid Transit System Link, Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit in Malaysia and the Cross Island Line project in Singapore.

Join #OurJacobs team

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