Q&A May 26, 2023

Revolutionizing Transport: A Q&A with Rowena Malini Thangaveloo

Get to know Rowena Malini Thangaveloo and hear about some of the cutting-edge advancements in transport and rail technology that have the potential to reshape the future of the industry.

Rowena Malini Thangaveloo headshot in banner graphic

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

As the operational lead for transport in Asia, I’m responsible for managing the operations and deliver of client solutions across rail and transit, aviation, transport planning, roads, highways and bridges and ports and maritime. Our team takes pride in being at the forefront of smart, innovative and sustainable transport solutions that meet our clients’ unique challenges.

Tell us about your journey with Jacobs.

It’s been a colorful 16-year journey with Jacobs, where change has been the only constant. I’ve had a fair share of challenges and celebrated some big wins, navigated organizational changes including mergers and acquisitions, and worked on some of the most incredible projects, including a first-of-its-kind in this region. All of this has been made possible by collaborating with such diverse and amazing colleagues locally and globally, working towards achieving common goals for our clients and key stakeholders. These experiences have helped me develop resilience, stay grounded and work towards achieving positive outcomes for our teams, clients and communities while creating a positive impact on the environment.

What excites you about your role?

My current role provides me with the platform to collaborate with some of the most brilliant minds in the industry and work with diverse clients across geographies, not only within the rail sector but also across other markets including energy and power, water and strategic consulting. Our team in Asia comprises highly talented and experienced individuals who are renowned leaders in their respective fields.

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

Aging assets, a limited pool of resources and skillsets and the ability to adapt quickly to emerging green technologies and transition to cleaner energy. For Asia, it’s important that the rail industry learns from global use cases to continuously upskill in-house talent and collaborate across the value chain for continuous improvement. By addressing these challenges head-on, the rail industry can continue to evolve and meet changing demands as well as stay competitive.

Can you share any recent advancements in rail technology you’re most excited about?

I’m most excited about hyperloop technology – a proposed high-speed transportation system that aims to revolutionize both public and freight transportation. The system consists of three essential elements: tubes, pods and terminals. The tube is a large, sealed low-pressure system – typically a long tunnel. The pod is a coach pressurized at atmospheric pressure that runs substantially free of air resistance or friction inside this tube using magnetic propulsion, and in some cases augmented by a ducted fan. As the vacuum inside the tube reduces air resistance, this enables the pods to travel at speeds of up to 700 miles per hour or more, which is faster than most existing modes of transportation. This innovative technology has the potential to revolutionize long-distance travel by reducing travel times significantly, as well as reducing congestion and traffic on existing transportation systems. It also has the potential to be powered by renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, which can help reduce transport’s greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to the sector’s climate response efforts.

However, the implementation of this technology is challenging due to the huge investment required to build and maintain the infrastructure. The development of the regulatory framework to realize this technology will also be highly complex, as it still is in the experimental phase and will require collaboration across developers, researchers, transport and government authorities. These issues need to be ironed out before hyperloop hits the ground and becomes a viable mode of transportation, but there is significant interest and investment in the development of this technology.

What excites you about the future of rail in Asia?

It offers vast opportunities for growth and innovation through the adoption of the latest technologies. The region's continued investment in infrastructure and commitment to sustainable development makes it a dynamic and exciting market for Jacobs.

What role do you see the rail industry play in addressing climate change and reducing carbon emissions?

The rail industry can play a role in addressing climate change and reducing carbon emissions by mandating renewable energy and alternative technologies for infrastructure development. By doing so, the industry can lead the way in reducing its carbon footprint and promoting a greener future for transportation across the value chain.

Can you share an innovative approach we’ve successfully implemented on a recent project?

One interesting project I would like to highlight is the Iskandar Rapid Transit Project in Malaysia, where we deployed state-of-the-art technology using Artificial Intelligence to process high-definition videos captured by drones. This innovative approach revolutionized the process of traffic data collection and analysis, unlocking new possibilities in the analysis of microscopic traffic behavior, such as capacity evaluation and detection of risky situations such as near accidents. It has the potential to improve safety and efficiency on roads and could pave the way for future advancements in transportation technology.

If you could take a scenic rail journey anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Switzerland – a train journey through the Swiss Alps!

Proudest career moment?

One of my proudest career highlights was keeping the team together and maintaining close relationships with our clients during the challenging times of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges and uncertainties, we remained focused, agile and committed to delivering the best outcomes for our clients while prioritizing the health and wellbeing of our team and clients. It was truly rewarding to see our resilience and dedication pay off in the face of adversity.

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

The opportunity to work with a team of like-minded individuals who possess the same work ethic, values and behavior. Even in the most challenging times, we remain committed to making a difference for our clients and the world.

About the interviewee

Rowena leads the operations for Jacobs’ transport sector in Asia. She has over 23 years of experience leading multi-disciplinary projects and diverse teams both in the region and internationally. Leveraging her extensive experience in a multi-stakeholder environment, she is passionate about delivering greener transport solutions that positively impact our environment and communities while meeting city stakeholder objectives.

Join #OurJacobs team

We’re always looking for dynamic and engaged people to join our team. Bring your passion, your ingenuity and your vision.

Let’s see the impact we can create, together

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