I S S U E 03 | A P R I L 2021
W W W. R A I L E X P R E S S . C O M . A U
A new beginning Mark Coxon on how Alstom’s Bombardier acquisition will work in practice - SEE PAGE 22
Developments in groundbased warning systems
Options for finding rail staff in the tech age
Progress towards autonomous rail
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Contents Issue 03 - April 2021
From the Editor
News up front
D I G I TA L I S AT I O N
Alstom’s Bombardier acquisition set to drive growth
Innovations in Ground Based Warning Systems
Connecting rail with talent
Solving digital challenges
Siemens leading the way in digital revolution
Bar codes the way of the future
The path to better bearings
Holland expands presence Down Under
S A F E TY & A S S U R A N C E 45
RISSB conference to push safety
I N D U S T R Y A S S O C I AT I O N S 30
ARA and the need for speedier rail
ALC and the path forward
CO N T RACT S 50
The latest in contracts to hit the market
I S S U E 03 | A P R I L 2021
W W W. R A I L E X P R E S S . C O M . A U
COVER STORY With Alstom having recently acquired Bombardier, Mark Coxon is looking forward to harnessing the resources of the combined entities.
A new beginning Mark Coxon on how Alstom’s Bombardier acquisition will work in practice - SEE PAGE 22
Developments in groundbased warning systems
Options for finding rail staff in the tech age
Progress towards autonomous rail
See page 22.
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From the Editor Issue 03 - April 2021
David Sexton Editor - Rail Express 11-15 Buckhurst St South Melbourne VIC 3205 T: 03 9690 8766 www.primecreativemedia.com.au
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Welcome to the April edition of Rail Express.
ECENT LEVEL CROSSING INCIDENTS in New South Wales and Western Australia have highlighted the perils faced by train drivers in their day-today lives. Such accidents frequently occur when motorists get their timing wrong, electing to nip across rather than wait a few seconds or minutes until the train has passed. It is perhaps timely that the NSW state government has rightly launched a campaign to improve safety at level crossings. Other governments could be well advised to take similar steps. NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Paul Toole has noted that despite “the serious dangers, the prospect of a $464 fine and the loss of three demerit points we are still seeing too many near misses at level crossings”. “We have flashing lights, boom gates and road markings at level crossings for good reason, and drivers, riders and pedestrians need to pay attention, take extreme care and watch out for trains.” For the sake of everyone’s safety and mental wellbeing, we hope that more motorists take heed. On other topics, the recent acquisition by Alstom of Bombardier was one of the biggest stories in the world of rail. So how will the acquisition work in practice? We’re delighted to have been able to sit down and talk through the issues with Alstom MD Mark Coxon. Coxon was recently confirmed as the head of the new combined entity. He told Rail Express about the challenges of combining two entities, but also said he believes it will yield tremendous opportunities. Coxon is particularly excited about the shared resources the new entity will enjoy, and how these can be used to generate new levels of business growth. Certainly a fascinating topic. Also in this edition, we speak with several key companies on how they are leveraging value in the sphere of digitalisation. Tech is on everyone’s lips these days. As you will learn, the rail sector has been at the cutting edge of digital innovation, all the more
so in the challenging times of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Elsewhere, the Australasian Railway Association has made the case for better rail services to connect our cities and regions. This intervention is timely as the pandemic has again contributed to an apparent change in how many of us live, with some city folks deciding they would rather move to medium-sized centres. Quality rail connections would allow people to live in Newcastle, Geelong or the Gold Coast while commuting to their respective state capitals. Moreover, places such as the Sunshine Coast could finally achieve their economic potential if better alternatives to cars and clogged freeways were available. Fast internet also allows people to work on the train, contributing to workplace flexibility. If your meeting in Sydney is at 11am, then there’s no need to board a packed service from Newcastle at 7.30am. Better to take a later service and have more time with family while also ensuring valuable work time is not wasted. This edition also has a thought-provoking column from Australian Logistics Council CEO Kirk Coningham. Kirk believes in the role of rail, but has challenged the industry that it cannot succeed by governments penalising other modes of transport, particularly road. We think that rail can live up to this challenge, but time will be the ultimate judge on this point. The pandemic has caused much misery but it has also brought about change and the opportunity to really think big; about our lives, our work, our families, and our environment. We at Rail Express believe that rail must be at the forefront of bringing about a more environmentally and socially sustainable society. As the new editor of Rail Express, I welcome your feedback on this edition, and look forward to bringing you the latest reports, news and views on this very exciting industry. email@example.com
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ALC chief executive resigns Kirk Coningham announced his resignation as chief executive of the Australian Logistics Council effective from the end of May. It follows what the ALC said was a “successful and challenging 2020”, with Coningham advising of his intention to leave to focus on other endeavours. “Over the course of the past three years, Kirk has led the ALC and its activities to
further the National Freight & Supply Chain Strategy, the development of the Freight Data Hub and the Safety of our industry, and notably the response to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” ALC chair Philip Davies said in a statement. Coningham worked closely with federal, state and local governments, ALC members and industry to remove the operational
barriers presented by curfews and border closures in particular. “The board commends and thanks Kirk for his leadership of ALC and services to our end-to-end supply chain industry,” Davies said. “We wish him well in his future pursuits and look forward to making a smooth transition to a new CEO in due course.”
Infrastructure Australia priority list welcomed The Australian government welcomed the release of Infrastructure Australia’s 2021 update to its Infrastructure Priority List. Deputy prime minister and infrastructure minister Michael McCormack said the Priority List would support Australia’s infrastructureled economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Priority List drew on 124 new submissions received since the last edition’s
Federal authorities are pushing the cause of infrastructure.
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release in August 2020, highlighting a $59 billion pipeline of investments for nationally significant priorities across a range of sectors including transport, energy, water, communications, housing and education,” the deputy PM said. “I am pleased to see a strong focus on economic development in regional communities. The Priority List helps inform future Australian government investments as
we continue to deliver on our 10-year, $110 billion infrastructure plan which is laying the foundations for economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.” Urban infrastructure minister Paul Fletcher said the Priority List informed all levels of government. “The government has already committed to many of the initiatives on the list,” Fletcher said in a statement.
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Productivity Commission reviews supply chain stability The federal government requested the Productivity Commission do an independent review into supply chain vulnerabilities and risks, to ensure the Australian economy is prepared for future disruptions. According to a statement from treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the experience with COVID-19 highlighted Australia’s potential vulnerability to global supply chain disruption. The Productivity Commission is to examine Australia’s supply chains, as well as longer term trends in relation to Australia’s linkages and dependencies with respect to international trade, and assess what vulnerabilities or opportunities exist. The commission is to also examine the nature of those risks to the Australian economy as a result of global supply chain disruptions, and identify any significant vulnerabilities and possible approaches to managing them. “The Australian economy greatly benefits from the international trade facilitated by global supply chains, through the provision of critical goods and our specialisation in export markets and it is timely to assess our role in, and exposure to, global supply chains,” the
treasurer said. The Productivity Commission is to undertake consultation and provide a report on Australia’s
role as an importer in March 2021 and a second and final report on Australia’s role as an exporter in May 2021.
The Productivity Commission is reviewing Australian supply chains.
Funding announced for train management system The federal government says it is investing a further $220 million for signalling technology to increase the safety and reliability of Australia’s freight rail network. Deputy PM and infrastructure minister Michael McCormack and finance minister Simon Birmingham announced the funding for the next major planning phase of the Advanced Train Management Systems (ATMS) after its successful deployment and commissioning on the freight rail line between Port Augusta and Whyalla. “After more than a decade of intense development, testing and design, a cuttingedge train management system has gone live in South Australia after commissioning trials were completed late last year,” the deputy PM said recently. “We now look to the next phase of ATMS which will focus on planning and designing its implementation from Melbourne to Perth and linking the east-west freight corridor to Inland
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Rail through Parkes using ATMS as the new signalling platform.” McCormack said the ATMS would strengthen and deliver high standards of safety and further reduce the risk of train-to-train and overspeed accidents. “The freight rail industry and the Australian government have worked closely to explore the opportunities to accelerate ATMS implementation across the interstate rail network and I thank the rail industry and the Freight on Rail Group for their ongoing cooperation,” he said. “When completed, the national rollout of ATMS will reduce the number of train control rules across the National Rail Freight Network from 18 to one representing a significant step towards skills interoperability for train drivers and network controllers.” Minister Birmingham said the Australian government’s investment in advanced train technology would support the more efficient
and safer movement of rail freight across Australia. “This cutting-edge technology is going to be a game-changer in the way rail freight will be moved across Australia’s rail network and that’s why we’re backing it through this major $220 million investment,” Minister Birmingham said. ARTC managing director and chief executive Mark Campbell said ATMS was a modern, communications-based, safe-working system designed for Australian conditions by ARTC and technology partner Lockheed Martin. “ATMS revolutionises how trains operate on the national interstate rail network and provides a quantum leap forward in safety, capacity and productivity for freight rail operations,” Campbell said. Chair of Freight on Rail Group (FORG) and the ATMS Oversight Implementation Group, Dean Dalla Valle, said ATMS would deliver a significant and long-lasting safety and productivity boost for the sector.
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New South Wales
Sydney Metro awards contracts for upgrades on Bankstown Line
Lucrative contracts have been awarded to keep the Sydney rail network running to a high standard.
Two contracts together worth more than $300 million have been awarded for upgrades to prepare the Bankstown line for the arrival of Metro services. A joint venture of John Holland and Laing O’Rourke will upgrade sections of track, including 15 bridges that cross over or under the railway, improvements to retaining walls, culverts, and track, fencing and freight segregation, new track crossovers, overhead wiring, and utility modifications. In another contract, Downer EDI Works will upgrade Hurlstone Park, Belmore and Wiley Park stations to meet Metro standards. This includes no-step level access, lifts at Hurlstone Park and Wiley Park, accessible toilets, service buildings and cabling, security fencing adjacent to the station, and upgrades to amenities such as toilets and interchange
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facilities. The contract for station upgrades also include preparation of the platforms for the installation of platform screen doors. A Sydney Metro spokesperson said the work would ensure that the line can be used by all. “Sydney Metro is Australia’s only fully accessible railway,” the spokesperson said. “The upgrade of the stations between Sydenham and Bankstown to modern Sydney Metro standards will deliver level access between platforms and trains and platform screen doors for safety and increased security.” Construction is being staged to enable services on the Bankstown Line to continue during the majority of construction, with the next period of major upgrade work to occur during the June/July school holidays when there are fewer passengers on the rail
network. A closure will occur from June 28, 2021 to July 11, 2021. “Some work needs to occur during rail possession (shutdown) periods, including the routine weekend rail possessions scheduled by Sydney Trains,” said the Sydney Metro spokesperson. The contracts follow an earlier contract for the upgrade of Canterbury, Marrickville, and Lakemba stations. A contract to cover Campsie, Dulwich Hill, and Punchbowl stations is yet to be awarded. Further contracts are expected in 2021. Once complete, frequencies will significantly increase along the line. “Stations like Hurlstone Park, Canterbury and Wiley Park will have almost four times as many trains as they get now,” said the spokesperson.
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New South Wales
Airport metro rail one step closer BUILDING the new Metro railway line, which will service Greater Western Sydney and the new Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport, is a step closer. Three consortia have been shortlisted to deliver the mega project’s tunnelling works. They are: • Bouygues Construction Australia Pty Ltd • John Holland Gamuda Joint Venture • Acciona Construction Australia Pty Ltd The successful tunnel builder will deliver 10 kilometres of twin Metro railway tunnels and the associated excavations of station boxes. The station box and tunnelling contract is expected to be awarded by the end of this year, with the first of four mega tunnel boring machines expected to be in the ground by the middle of 2023. The Australian and NSW governments are jointly delivering the 23km Metro railway and six stations between St Marys and the Western Sydney Aerotropolis, including two stations at the airport. The project is expected to support 14,000 jobs, including 250 apprentices.
Rail will be crucial in ensuring the success of Western Sydney Airport.
History made as first aqueduct in 130 years completed The first aqueduct built for Sydney’s water network in more than 130 years has been completed as part of the Sydney Metro City & Southwest project. The stormwater aqueduct was built at Sydenham and will help maintain the integrity of both the city’s new driverless train system and the local flood management system. Train customers from the city’s south and south west would be familiar with the historic Sydenham Pit and Pumping Station – it’s the huge hole the size of a city block lined with sandstone blocks on the left of the railway tracks, just after trains leave Sydenham Station towards the city. Built in the 1930s, it can hold 100 mega litres of water – equivalent to 40 standard Olympic-sized swimming pools – and fills with runoff from nearby suburbs like Sydenham, Marrickville, Enmore, Newtown and St Peters after heavy storms.
The stormwater would be pumped away from the Sydenham Pit to the Cooks River, about 1.5km away, through the Eastern Channel. Diverting the stormwater has managed flooding in the area for almost 100 years. To facilitate the new driverless metro railway, a 320-metre section of the Eastern Channel needed to be moved to make way for new metro railway tracks which also surface here – at the end of the 15.5km twin tunnels between Chatswood and Sydenham. This section of the Eastern Channel was replaced with a 120-metre long aqueduct and about 200 metres of culverts. Trains will run 20 metres from the aqueduct. Construction took 14 months by Sydney Metro’s contracting partners John Holland Laing O’Rourke Joint Venture. About 150 people worked on the historic project
including flood modellers, water experts and electrical, mechanical, civil, structural, and architectural and heritage specialists. As well as the new aqueduct, other utilities had to be moved including high voltage power cables, gas pipes, and sewer and water mains The original system had to be kept in place while the new one was built in case of sudden floods, and workers had to carefully monitor the weather forecast and plan works around heavy rainfall filling the pit with water. The new aqueduct is 120 metres long and 14 metres wide. It’s made from 5,500 tonnes of concrete – the equivalent weight of 16 Boeing 747 jets. Downstream from the aqueduct, there are about 200 metres of new buried culverts which connect the new aqueduct to the existing stormwater system and out to the Cooks River.
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Campaigners rally for light rail accessibility
A group of activists say more must be done to ensure everyone has good access to public transport.
A coalition of campaigners took to the streets of Melbourne calling for greater tram accessibility. A recent report from the Victorian Auditor General found that despite targets set for full accessibility by 2022, only 15% of services are accessible. The Disability Resources Centre has teamed up with the Rail Tram & Bus Union and Friends of the Earth to call for change. “The RTBU has continued to raise these issues and demand immediate targeted investment,” said the RTBU’s Luba Grigorovitch in a statement. “Victoria’s aging tram fleet should have been replaced and expanded many years ago, but
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these setbacks must come to an end. “As our organisations come together, we invite all Victorians to demand better – united we won’t be silenced.” Kerri Cassidy from the Disability Resources Centre said members of their community had been waiting to catch a tram for several decades. “When 85% of services exclude people who require level access, it renders the whole network unavailable for them,” Cassidy said. “Almost 20 years after the introduction of DSAPT we expect tram stop upgrades to be a higher priority for our state government.” Friends of the Earth Melbourne’s Claudia Gallois called on the state government to a
tram network that “works for all Victorians”. “Ensuring everyone has access to sustainable public transport will be a key milestone in the fight for climate justice,” Gallois said. The Victorian government recently announced it was investing $1.48 billion to design and manufacture one hundred Next Generation Trams in the biggest single investment in trams in decades. According to the government, the Next Generation Trams will facilitate retirements of older high-floor trams, making the public transport network more accessible for all Victorians. The Next Generation Trams will start rolling out across Melbourne from 2025.
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Five “dangerous” Frankston line level crossings set to go Five level crossings between the suburbs of Edithvale and Bonbeach are to be removed by lowering sections of the Frankston line into a rail trench. According to project management, works are well underway in Edithvale, Chelsea and Bonbeach, with crews making “great progress” in the rail corridor as they continue piling foundations for the rail trench walls and new stations and relocating utilities. “Major construction will begin in mid2021, when we will need to close Edithvale, Chelsea and Bonbeach stations so we can dig the rail trenches and begin building the new modern station precincts,” management said in a release. Trains are to run express through these stations until a two-month closure of the Frankston line beginning in spring – the project’s major construction blitz. During this time, buses are to replace trains between Mordialloc and Frankston/ Stony Point with temporary closures of level crossings. All five level crossings will be gone at the end of this major blitz, while the three new stations will open in stages by the end of
Level crossing removal work is expected to bring benefits for rail network and motorists.
the 2021 calendar year. Finishing touches, in 2022, will include landscaping, new open spaces and parking, and walking and cycling paths, part of more than 11 kilometres of new paths from
Edithvale to Frankston. The works are to be part of a $3-billion upgrade of the Frankston line, which will see 18 level crossings gone for good and 12 new stations built.
Port of Melbourne awards rail infrastructure contracts The Port of Melbourne’s Port Rail Transformation Project continues to progress, with the awarding of two key new contracts for new rail infrastructure at the giant container port. WSP and Seymour Whyte Constructions have been engaged to develop new rail infrastructure at the port, including a new rail terminal interfacing with the container terminal at Swanson Dock East. WSP is to provide the design consultancy services, and Seymour Whyte Constructions the early contractor involvement. The Port Rail Transformation Project is an investment by the Port of Melbourne of more than $125 million for the total project and provides a new operating environment
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and infrastructure to help move more freight off trucks and onto rail and to make regional rail supply chains more efficient. Site investigations will be underway in March 2021 with construction planned to start in July. The project is scheduled to be completed in the first half of 2023. Port of Melbourne CEO, Brendan Bourke, said that despite the challenges of COVID-19, the port is committed to its 30-year development strategy, including investing in rail. “Our 30-year Port Development Strategy provides a clear plan to meet and enable sustainable trade growth over the long term. The PRTP is an important part of this plan. “As Australia’s largest container and
general cargo port, it’s critical that we maintain a long-term investment view so that we continue to meet the freight needs of Victoria and south-east Australia. We are excited to be working with WSP and Seymour Whyte Constructions on the development of the PRTP,” Bourke said. In October 2020, Port of Melbourne and Patrick Terminals reached an agreement to build the Coode Road Terminal. Patrick Terminals CEO, Michael Jovicic said: “I am pleased to confirm Patrick’s continued investment in port rail capacity. Our contribution to the Port Rail Transformation Project will help drive more efficient movement of rail volumes in line with broader policy to support modal shift.”
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Queensland talks up Burleigh to Coolangatta light rail option
Construction on stage 4 of the Gold Coast light rail is tipped to start as soon as 2023
THE Queensland government has said it wants to fast-track stage four of the light rail from Burleigh to Coolangatta. “Any opportunity we get to fast-track that next stage we’ll certainly take that,” transport minister Mark Bailey told the media. Work on the Broadbeach to Burleigh section (Stage 3) is still to start, but a business case for the $2.5bn southern stage (stage 4) is said to be “well underway”. There have been suggestions the next
stage could start as soon as 2023. “That would be the ideal outcome,” Bailey said, albeit sources indicated it might occur later. Construction could run straight through Burleigh Heads and on to Coolangatta. The project already has been welcomed by the state opposition. The line would split the Gold Coast Highway at Palm Beach. The project would ultimately link
Helensvale in the Gold Coast’s theme-park dominated north, with Gold Coast Airport. In this way it would not only provide an excellent means of travel on the glitter strip, but also link the airport with a station on the Brisbane rail network. Travellers could take the light rail from Gold Coast Airport to Helensvale before changing to catch a QR train to such places as Brisbane, Brisbane Airport, Ipswich or the Sunshine Coast.
Brisbane City Council rules out Inland Rail impact research Brisbane City Council says it won’t commission modelling of its own on the of a link between its port and the end of the proposed Inland Rail route at Acacia Ridge. Local media quoted infrastructure committee chair David McLachlan as saying such research would replicate the work tasked to the state and federal governments. A motion in favour of a study was put forward but was rejected by all 17 LNP
councillors. The state and federal governments have done a $1.5 million Port of Brisbane Strategic Rail Access Study into the future requirements of a dedicated port freight link. A community consultative committee for the final Queensland stretch, chaired by former Howard government minister Gary Hardgrave, has raised concern about an increase in trucks on roads.
A joint state and federal business case is expected to consider the most effective option to get rail freight from Acacia Ridge to the Port of Brisbane, and any associated impacts. A solution to the final 40km gap between Acacia Ridge and Port of Brisbane remains contentious, with some even proposing a tunnel to connect the points of infrastructure.
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IMAGE CREDIT: CHAMELEONSEYE / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
KiwiRail is investing to make its lines more productive and efficient.
KiwiRail final push for rail replacement on Southern line THE Pukekohe line was the final section of the Auckland rail network to require rerailing since KiwiRail began urgent work on the tracks last August, said KiwiRail’s chief operating officer Todd Moyle. To this end, important work occurred during the month of March. “We know train users on this line typically travel longer distances so we have planned our work for weekends and evenings to avoid interrupting their weekday travel plans,” Moyle said. “To maximise productivity for KiwiRail teams working on the line, freight trains will also not run on weekends during the day. “We appreciate any disruption to travel
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plans is frustrating and want to assure the public that hundreds of KiwiRail staff have carried out an immense amount of work, carrying out repairs around the clock in order to get the job done as quickly as possible.” Moyle said they had replaced more than 112km of damaged rail which was 84 per cent of the required re-railing work overall. “We fully appreciate the disruption this has caused Aucklanders and thank them for their patience as we carried out this urgent work,” he said. “We’re continuing to work with Auckland Transport to investigate the cause of the Rolling Contact Fatigue which damages the rails, as well as the best long-term
maintenance solution so future asset management issues like this aren’t repeated. “A number of improvements to rail in south Auckland are in the pipeline, and work is already underway to prepare for the extension of electrification from Papakura to Pukehoke.” New overhead masts will be built along 19km of track between Papakura and Pukekohe to power electric trains for passengers, and Pukekohe station will be redeveloped to allow for more services and longer trains. Enabling works began late last year and are on-going, including the construction of access tracks and ground investigations.
KiwiRail defies tough trading conditions The coronavirus pandemic failed to dent progress with the New Zealand rail operator KiwiRail, that has managed to return a positive half-year financial result. This is despite revenue declines in most freight sectors, and the devastating impact that New Zealand’s closed borders has had on the company’s tourism businesses. KiwiRail Holdings Limited, which owns and operates New Zealand’s rail network, this week announced an operating surplus of NZ$28.6 million for the six months ended 31 December 2020 (HY21), which is $1.7m ahead of the same period last year. KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller says HY21 was challenging across the business with the positive result having been achieved by the company having a clear focus networkwide on strict cost control, and by negotiating
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more favourable commercial contracts when the opportunity arose, aligning capital to services and extracting better utilisation through integration of its service offering. “Unsurprisingly, with New Zealand’s border closed to international visitors, our biggest operational loss in the six months to the end of December was in our Scenic business. Our Scenic trains TranzAlpine, Coastal Pacific and Northern Explorer together recorded a 65 per cent fall in revenue (down $7.6 million) compared with HY20.” Miller said good business decisions at all levels haver enabled the company to post a positive result, despite the difficult backdrop. “During the lockdown early last year, we took the opportunity to reconfigure our train plan which is the immensely complex heart of any railway company. We made changes
so that when business picked up again our operations could be delivered at a lower cost. These efficiencies contributed to a better result than we otherwise could have expected in the current environment. “In the first quarter of FY21 – which included the second lockdown – we ran fewer trains, but in the second quarter with freight congestion building on the back of international supply chain disruption, numbers increased. Overall, in the half year to 31 December we ran eight per cent fewer trains, although some were longer and fuller because of the new train plan,” he said. “Excluding the impact of fuel cost recoveries, overall revenue for HY21 was $4.8 million ahead of the prior year, although the revenue mix has changed due to the impact of Covid.”
Rail Services Australia
BT acquisition bolsters Alstom’s position The shared goals of Alstom and its new acquisition Bombardier Transportation make for an excellent match, Australian managing director Mark Coxon tells Rail Express. Alstom’s managing director in Australia Mark Coxon says a shared passion for rail will help maximise value as Bombardier Transportation comes into the fold. In the role since 2015, Coxon was formally reaffirmed as Alstom’s local managing director shortly after it more than doubled in size when the BT acquisition was finalised on January 29. The deal required the approval of global competition regulators, including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. “We have more commonalities than differences,” Coxon told Rail Express when asked to reflect upon the seismic deal. “Both companies have the safety of our
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people and our products as our top priority,” he said. “Both companies really have a passion for trains, technology and a desire to lead the digital transformation of our industry. “We should now be seen as one organisation in the market and not as two.” A LARGE FOOTPRINT AND CONTINUED PROGRESS It is worth providing some context regarding the new merged operation, at least within Australia. With former BT rollingstock coming under the Alstom banner, one in three passenger trains/trams in Australia are now
Alstom rollingstock, meaning almost one million Australian passenger journeys every day will be on Alstom rollingstock. Alstom now employs more than 1600 staff, driving Alstom’s progress as the leading supplier of innovative, sustainable solutions to the Australasian rail market. Coxon also said Alstom’s current priority was continuity – meeting customers’ expectations and delivering projects – as well as integrating the two businesses. “We will look at how to best integrate the combined talents, resources and expertise we now have in Australia to build one organisation,” he said.
IMAGE CREDIT: ALSTOM
E-Class trams from BT are now among Alstom’s considerable resources.
Mark Coxon is looking forward to a new era of growth.
“It is about capturing the opportunities in the market and partnering with our stakeholders for the long-term.” MARKET INSIGHTS Coxon takes a bullish view of the market in the near future, whatever the short-term challenges of COVID-19 and related economic impacts. “We’re not in a market which is declining in terms of pipeline – if anything it is actually the opposite,” he said. “The pipeline globally for rail is very significant and in Australia, even more so. “In Australia, there is a shortage of resources, so we are not in a situation that is requiring structural capacity adaptation... We’re actually in a market where having resources and capability is a competitive advantage.” As the only true end-to-end rolling stock
“In Australia, there is a shortage of resources, so we are not in a situation that is requiring structural capacity adaptation... We’re actually in a market where having resources and capability is a competitive advantage.” Mark Coxon, Managing Director, Alstom manufacturer in Australia, Coxon said both companies had in the past demonstrated the willingness and capability to transfer technologies, skills and know-how to Australia. “We think that will continue in the future,” he said, confidently. MANUFACTURING AND TECHNOLOGY Technology continues to drive the march of progress, an area in which Coxon believes Alstom and Bombardier are well-positioned.
An Alstom technician ensures the highest possible standards.
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IMAGE CREDIT: RAILGALLERY
Alstom’s Bombardier acquisition • The acquisition by Alstom of Bombardier was finalised on January 29, 2021; • In Australia, the new arrangement required the approval of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission; • Mark Coxon has been confirmed as the managing director of the new combined entity; • Coxon has been at the helm of Alstom in Australia since 2015; • The two entities have many similarities including a passion for safety and technology • Alstom is keen to capture market opportunities and partner with stakeholders for the long-term • The pipeline globally for rail is said to be significant, particularly in Australia.
An Alstom technician hard at work.
“From a global perspective, this is a unique moment for Alstom and the mobility sector as a whole. More than ever, the world must engage, and Alstom is ready to support, the environmental and social transitions required to address the significant challenges of urbanisation and climate change. Rail transportation has a key role to play in this area and we are excited at what the combined technologies of both companies will be able deliver in this field. “Both companies have impressive global technologies and both companies have showed ability to transfer those technologies to Australia and deliver projects on time with outstanding quality.”
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Coxon also notes an expectation, or even a requirement, for trains to be built within Australia. “We are going to continue to have that capability, in fact, expanded capability now because we have more people in the country to deliver that localisation,” he said. “And if customers require products from overseas, we can also adapt to that model as well with a much more expanded product portfolio. “The Alstom strategy doesn’t change in terms of our intention to adapt to customer requirements. It has provided us with a lot more resources now on the ground here in Australia.”
TAKING ON A LARGER PORTFOLIO He notes the new combined entity has resulted in a larger product portfolio. “We see that as a positive for the Australian market, both for customers looking to localise and also for customers looking for a global product,” he said, noting the state of Victoria as an interesting example of how the BT acquisition should allow for growth. With the acquisition, he said that Alstom will be able to utilise its workforce in Victoria across the projects that it has in the state. “We have our dedicated facility in Ballarat that has historically delivered our X’Trapolis EMU platform and the Dandenong facility which is dedicated to our E-Class LRV and Vlocity DMU manufacturing from the Bombardier legacy. “It provides us with tremendous opportunity to leverage this significant workforce and IP,” he said. “That is something we need to work through now in detail to see precisely what that means, not only for our teams but also our suppliers.” TRANSITIONING INTO A NEW ERA Coxon knows there is always some uncertainty in a workforce during a period of transition. His priority at the moment is to minimise that uncertainty and help staff navigate the change from two organisations into one. “Overall, I’m confident it will be positive for everyone,” he said. “This is a great opportunity
for the business. We always had respect for Bombardier as a competitor and I see a lot of similarities between our office based and shop floor teams. “It is nice to be able to create a new future together.” Coxon believes the combined entity will also help them train the next generation of rail employees – “the tradies, the graduates and apprentices in developing the local rail industry”. “It’s just another value we share and now we can offer more opportunities to the younger generation coming in at a very exciting time,” he said. PROGRESS UNRESTRAINED Coxon said the COVID-19 pandemic failed to halt the acquisition process. He said the business was able to maintain operations at its manufacturing and maintenance facilities. “We are very fortunate that in Australia we weren’t impacted to the same level as other countries around the world,” he said.
Alstom’s Queensland New Generation Rollingstock (QNGR) trains.
“With today’s technology, those who could work from home were able to work from home and those on the shop floor demonstrated outstanding agility and maturity, almost seamlessly implementing
new shift patterns and operating in COVIDsafe work environments that have become second nature today. “Consequently, the pandemic had minimal impact on our local operations.”
From automatic to autonomous To meet the demand for safer, more efficient and increasingly sustainable mobility, railways are taking the next step forward towards autonomy. Thales is showing the way. As Vancouver prepared to welcome the world for Expo 86, the city embarked on building a new rail line that would be one of the first of its kind. The Expo Line, opened in 1985, would be one of the first mass transit systems to deploy fully automatic train control. The system used a new type of signalling technology, now known as SelTrac, developed and maintained by Thales. This Automatic Train Operation (ATO) technology meant that the main driving functions were carried out by computer software. At Grade of Automation level 4 (GoA4), the driverless system ensured on time running and high reliability. More than thirty years later, this groundbreaking technology has provided the basis for a host of other improvements. With the benefit of modern sensors, the technology first deployed in Vancouver is now moving from automatic to autonomous train operation.
Today, trains equipped with advanced technology use artificial intelligence to respond to changes in the environment. Sensors and software enable the system to determine its exact position, review its speed, detect obstacles, monitor its operational condition and surrounding environment, along with other functions where necessary. As Elias Barakat, Thales’ general manager, ground transportation systems explains, in getting trains to take the right decisions at the right time, a step-by-step journey towards autonomy can immediately realise benefits. “The beauty is that real autonomous capabilities can be built up incrementally starting from today. Functions range from train positioning all the way up to full autonomous operation,” Barakat said. “The benefits are huge. They include reduced operating costs, extra train paths,
Thales is intent on digital progress.
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Ensuring everything is in good order.
improved reliability, less trackside equipment and lower energy consumption. The revolution is closer than you think. The first autonomous trains should be in scheduled service just a few years from now.” What made early implementation possible in Vancouver was that the Expo Line was a standalone system. But with the adoption of next-generation signalling systems on mainlines, ATO soon can be rolled out on more complex rail networks. “But the advent of ETCS (the European Train Control System) means that it is now possible to provide ATO as an overlay, with energy savings of 10-20 per cent. And looking further ahead, the combination of ATO and autonomous operation could yield power savings of up to 30 per cent,” said Glenn Maker, Thales sales director, ground transportation systems. THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF AUTONOMY Currently, railways around the globe are at a turning point. As the world continues to urbanise and pressure mounts to decarbonise the transport sector, rail has a greater role than ever to play in meeting the need for efficient, safer, and sustainable mobility. At the same time, much of the industry relies upon systems that are decades old and are reaching the limit of their capacity. This is significantly the case in the field of signalling, where infrastructure managers are seeking to access more train paths to make the most of existing infrastructure. The current technology of fixed block signalling limits this aim by imposing a finite constraint on possible train traffic. Newer moving block systems are now starting to be deployed to overcome this obstacle, however that is easier said than done. “The ideal solution would be to deploy ETCS
IMAGE CREDIT: THALES
Level 3 signalling. This provides more capacity because it is based on the principle of moving block. Headways are reduced, so trains can be run closer together,” said Maker. “But implementing pure ETCS Level 3 presents big practical problems – not least the challenge of proving the integrity of trains at any given time. This is straightforward with modern passenger trains, but proving that a freight train has not become divided is much more difficult.” Thales, as a leader in the signalling field, has developed a hybrid ETCS Level 3 that provides a solution on mixed-traffic lines. “It works on the principle of block slicing,” said Maker. “Passenger trains equipped for ETCS Level 3 proceed under moving block principles – so capacity gains are achieved – while unequipped trains (typically freight trains) continue to work under fixed block.” On urban, metro networks, the foundation of autonomy is the latest version of the SelTrac system first deployed to Vancouver. SelTrac G8 is designed to be easily upgraded as the pace of technological development only accelerates. “Thanks to our new platform and new architecture, customers who deploy SelTrac G8 can benefit from lifelong innovation insertion, for example, just by upgrading the software. Customers with previous versions of SelTrac can also benefit because the G8 platform can be provided as an upgrade to existing SelTrac systems,” said Nuno Guerra, Thales business development manager, ground transportation. One critical area where continuous updates are essential is in cyber security. While digitalisation promises many benefits, the convergence of IT and OT in automatic and autonomous systems present a cyber security hazard, one that can be overcome through vigilant updates. While on a personal PC this is not an
obstacle, updating rail software systems in the past has required breaks in operational continuity, making operators reluctant to update. SelTrac G8 overcomes this issue and provides a platform for further autonomy. “Our SelTrac G8 platform is autonomy ready. In fact, one of the autonomous capabilities we are developing is designed to make both greenfield and brownfield CBTC deployments faster and easier than ever, with rapid train conversion and minimal trackside equipment,” Guerra said. While these systems are largely invisible to the passenger, the shift from automatic to autonomous will also deliver a new passenger experience. Increasingly passengers and operators are seeking a more cohesive experience, with information, security, and connectivity high priorities. These services can be delivered in an individualised or personalised manner through Thales’s next generation technology. “Our integrated onboard solution is designed to meet the demand for passenger information, passenger security, connectivity and entertainment on trains. It also supports new capabilities – including onboard video analytics. This uses artificial intelligence and computer vision algorithms to ‘see’ what’s happening on trains as they move around the network. Video analytics provides the foundation for new functions including passenger density measurements and violent event detection, as well as detecting remaining passengers and luggage,” said Guerra. Coming in a unique, single-box configuration, the onboard solution is easy to install and accommodates any application on any rollingstock. To deliver the birth of autonomous trains, not only has technology come a long way since 1985, but the ways of working as well. For
Thales, one way that this has occurred is in the use of simulation models such as digital twins to test a technology’s effectiveness during the design phase. “What makes digital twins so valuable is that they not only help you to understand what’s happening in the real world, but also to carry out experiments and explore ‘what if’ scenarios. At Thales, our R&D teams are using digital twin technology to fine-tune the next generation of transport solutions,” said Barakat. For operators adopting this technology, ways of working may have been significantly disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic, however this is perhaps only an acceleration of a trend towards the decentralisation permitted by digital platforms. Enabling that trend to continue, albeit with proper security in place, Thales has developed a remote working solution over an encrypted network with secure two-factor authentication. “Freedom to work anywhere contributes to resilience – and thanks to remote working, many organisations have remained profitable throughout the pandemic. But on railways, teleworking must be carefully managed to ensure that critical functions are not compromised,” said Barakat. “Staff can work anywhere – on the platform, on the move and even from home.” With all this combined, just as Thales delivered the innovation responsible for the first automatic metro line in the 1980s, it is continuing to push forward today. “At Thales, innovation is part of our DNA. Open innovation, co-innovation with customers and collaboration with startups are the cornerstones of our strategy. This demands a combination of agility, the resources of a large company and the collaborative intelligence of top researchers,” said Barakat. “We offer all of this.”
Staff examine key data via computer screens.
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From the ground up How a ground-based warning system improved outcomes for safety and the environment
In-ground lights and a GBWS control panel trackside.
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with more people living close to railway lines and stations. It was these environmental concerns that led to a search for a solution that would be safe and minimise excess noise and disruption to surrounding residents. This is where the innovative Ground Based Warning Systems (GBWS) come into the picture. Two companies saw this opportunity, tm stagetec systems (TMS), a business focused on professional audio and visual equipment, and
IMAGE CREDIT: TMS
Traditionally, the sounding of a loud train horn has been an important part of moving trains safely around railway stabling yards and hubs. These sounds have played a crucial role in alerting workers and others to be careful as a large piece of machinery is about to be moving in their direction. But the honking of a train horn can be unpopular with nearby residents and can be a significant environmental concern also. This conundrum has become increasingly apparent
ITech Corporation, an integration and systems specialist. These businesses have worked to produce a ground-based warning system (GBWS) for rail hubs. The GBWS uses warning lights and directionally steered sound to alert all workers that a train is being moved. General manager for TMS, Mark Lownds, took up the story. “There have been significant environmental concerns with the noise associated with safely moving trains around train yards and hubs,” Lownds told Rail Express. “Clearly something had to be done.” ITech Corporation engineering director Joe Dwyer said they had worked on similar rail projects before, notably in south-west Sydney. The latest version with TMS was refined with a particular view towards projects in NSW. “In recent years we’ve engineered control systems for rail applications and that is how we came to work with TMS,” Dwyer said. “We initially did a ground-based warning system about six years ago in the southwest of Sydney that was planned for future housing development.” More recently, they worked on projects where there was a significant environmental requirement. “People had their nice, quiet country existence and weren’t happy about honking a loud horn in the middle of that,” Dwyer said. “We wanted some sort of warning system but we didn’t want the noise pollution outside of the stabling yards. “Trains are parked in hubs while they are waiting to go into service but in such locations, with the new projects that we have done in recent years, you typically have a number of trains in standing rows. Moving them safely and efficiently is key.” HOW DOES IT ALL WORK? The TMS system programmatically controls noise by way of Network Amplifier Modules. Each NAM has four 12-watt RMS class D amplifier channels, an Ethernet switch and built in DSP. Each amplifier also has an individual Dante input allowing for simple zoning and future changes. Dante IP protocol is used in this system, developed by an Australian company called Audinate. This GBWS design has purposefully used Australian developed and manufactured technologies.
his team to ensure the NAMs were compatible. “We also built some additional monitoring of the NAM unit itself and then gave physical status back to the IPEX ground-based warning system,” he said. “It was not just telling the NAMs what to do but giving the NAMs feedback,” he said. “It was also giving the NAMs feedback into the system and confirming there were no faults and providing a really robust system that was capable of being part of this GBWS.” Lownds said the reaction was positive. “The residents surrounding the hubs have been taken into consideration and environmental studies have been conducted in order to determine the appropriate audio levels,” he said.
A ‘NAM’ that forms the basis of a Ground Based Warning System.
“We designed the TMS system to fulfil the need for a warning system; and also addressed the need for a PA system in the yard,” Dwyer said. “We would effectively double up PA announcements by also using it as a warning system.” Lownds said they worked with Dwyer and
SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS Dwyer says the system designed by TMS and ITech represented significant progress in handling noise around rail hubs. “When we were going over the design of that – previously you could control the noise but it was a lot more ‘agricultural’,” he said.
“Within the shed there was a slightly different requirement and generating warning sounds within the sheds. Overall, it was about a system with greater flexibility and more control. “ Lownds said that in the past if one required two independent systems then it would involve separate amplifiers and speakers, and one would be paying for hardware and the extra labour. “With this solution, we were able to share the system and still have all the priorities go to the GBWS, over and above the paging and announcement system,” he said. “Fibre is used for all interconnections so only power and fibre connections are required.” The TMS business has been in operation for a decade and Lownds said they were looking forward to an exciting next decade ahead. “Some of our recent projects in rail show how much we can do and skill level involved,” he said. “As an audio and visual technology specialist, we believe we have a tremendous amount to contribute in the world of rail.”
KEEPING EQUIPMENT EVEN COOLER Enhanced Heat Protection
ASTM C1427 Standard Compliant
k© Thermal ins rea ob
MFB have taken their industrial range of IP66 rated 19” rack mount enclosures to the next level by introducing new options for external heat protection on the S280 range. Customers can now option their enclosures with Thermobreak© Thermal insulation which is an all-in-one closed-cell physically cross-linked polyolefin foam that is manufactured in compliance to ASTM C1427 Standard. Introduced to all internal surfaces of the enclosure Thermobreak© will provide a high level of protection from heat penetration into the enclosure. To further enhance heat protection, customers have the option to also add external vandal resistant sun shields to the doors, sides and the top of an enclosure. These shields reduce the amount of direct sunlight on an enclosure while allowing air to move between the enclosure skin and shield. Available in various sizes from 12RU to 45RU, in either free-standing or wall-mounted. Also mild steel, Stainless steel and aluminium variants.
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IMAGE CREDIT: ALSTOM
Simulating change The Alstom ‘Digital Twin’ technology takes data and puts it back into the hands of rail operators, says customer director Michael Collignon Rail operators are adept at hoovering up data on almost every aspect of their business – signalling, time between stations, passenger movements to name a few. But how best to utilise this information? THE WAY FORWARD The answers come from Alstom which has pioneered the development of its Digital Twin solution, which uses a digital representation of a physical target “Target” in order to improve efficiency, time and cost in the product lifecycle including design, construction, operation and maintenance. In simple terms, the Alstom Simulation Center or ‘Digital Twin’ allows rail operators, maintainers and others to input their already sophisticated data into a system allowing them to see what it means as part of a simulated, digital exercise. The Simulation Center is a unique tool that enables multi-domain modelling, simulation and analysis of the overall railway system. It allows the impact of change to be explored without disrupting operations and enables predictive models to identify the causes of potential quality or performance failure before they occur. Alstom’s Simulation Center includes the following key elements: • A simulator to simulate the physical
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properties of the “Target”; • Data transfer between the “Target” and the digital twin so that the digital twin can learn the actual physical behaviour of the “Target”; • Artificial Intelligence to compute the maximum possible future scenarios based on historical data and the current physical behaviour of the “Target” to form a list of options to maximize the efficiency, time and cost; • Re-calibration of predictions based on the latest physical behaviour of the “Target”; • A user friendly and graphical HMI to improve the communication efficiency between human and the digital twin. The Simulation Center is built upon integration of multiple simulation products and capacities which, until recently, have always been separate. It is an extensive, reality-based simulation experience, and can integrate all sorts of simulation capacity. It is specifically designed to ensure representativity towards the real line. Alstom is leading the industry with three Simulation Center contracts signed in Singapore. The Thomson-East Coast Line CBTC Simulation Facility is already in use. The two additional Simulation Centers will be for the Circle Line and North East Line.
In a conversation with Rail Express, Alstom customer director Michael Collignon spoke about the purpose of ‘Twins’ and its tremendous potential. “Our Digital Twin offering has been driven by our customers’ need to simulate transport systems in order to improve operation and the level of services provided to their passengers. “Metro and Mainline signalling systems are complex, and deployment is critical for operation. This is particularly the case for migration and line extensions,” Collignon said. “There is strong demand for a way to test new baselines without the need for track possessions, to reproduce local issues encountered in operation or optimisation, to train people safely in real situations, and for testing Cyber protection.” Collignon said this technology provided the simulation of a real, operating network – not just a theoretical ‘test’. “The Simulation Center isn’t just any average testing facility. It is the most advanced test bench available on the market. Our customers can now benefit from the same tool we have for accepting new software releases, performing non regression tests and discovering how far the systems will go before you start pushing them,” Collignon said. “Whether it be for testing new releases or
current configurations, or simply to execute IT security testing on target equipment, there will be no limit to what you can perform.” BIG DATA In an age of big data, the Digital Twins concept makes plenty of sense. “This new age is all about big data and the Simulation Center comes with a data platform allowing operators to store a huge amount of data from their operational environment. Customers can then perform analysis using log reading tools and conduct big data analytics. The Digital Twin can also generate on demand data to train Artificial Intelligence.” Collignon said. Data from the operational environment is captured via Alstom’s Diagnostic and Maintenance System (DMS) and is used to populate the Digital Twin. The Digital Twin then becomes one central Knowledge Centre for data logs, events, faults and metrics for every onboard and wayside sub-system. It provides both current and historical states of the system and is cyber secure (i.e. cannot impact the operational system). “Now operators can have a replica of the train line so that it can be tested and optimised from a whole-of-life perspective. Thanks to real equipment and our simulators validated by years of operation, the Digital Twin provides the means to test and assure new or updated baselines for the mainline before they are deployed,” Collignon said. “It is also the perfect tool for cybersecurity testing such as penetration tests and crisis response exercises. The Digital Twin allows users to reproduce and analyse local issues encountered in operation and to train people
safely in real situations.” He said they had ensured their customers would be able to use the Digital Twin easily, without coding, and without a deep understanding of the system. “Digital Twin provides libraries and ready to use scenarios,” Collignon said. “It has the capacity to build your own scenarios through a dedicated HMI, which is fully intuitive. To build your scenario, you simply just need to drag and drop some icons in a timeline.” A DIGITAL FUTURE In a competitive market, Alstom has had to be at the cutting edge in terms of digital technology and Collignon said the Simulation Center “really aligns with everything we are going for in digital signalling and big data”. The company is known for having invested substantially in terms of digital research and development, with key input from both researchers and field engineers. “We are dedicated to optimising our digital mobility solutions and this tool now provides our customers with the ability to further optimise these solutions over their life cycle,” he said. “It provides a very powerful tool for customers to now capture the data their railway systems generate and use it to get the most out of their railway network. “Digital mobility really does have huge benefits in terms of tying in with the overall goal of providing efficiencies in the network.” Sustainability is a crucial topic in this day and age and Collignon talked of how the Digital Twin could contribute on that front. “If you can optimise your network you can
Deploying technology for best-possible results.
get more out of your resources, which makes for a great outcome for everyone,” he said. “To that end, we are proud to identify the role of our Digital Twin solution in contributing towards a more sustainable railway and future for everyone.” WORLDWIDE INTEREST Aside from Singapore contracts already described, Collignon said the simulator had tremendous potential for take-up worldwide. “I think the use of it is going to grow substantially,” he said. “While I can’t disclose who we are talking to at the moment, there are a number of rail operators around the world who are really interested in this offering. The Digital Twin is here, people can now actually see its benefits. “Digital signalling is getting rolled out around the world, especially in Australia, which makes the concept all the more relevant.”
Alstom Digital Twin is: • Simulating system behaviour to obtain and optimise energy consumption and operational parameters • an extensive, reality-based simulation experience; • capable of integrating all sorts of simulation capacity; • designed to ensure representativity towards the real line; • installed with hardware and software equipment which are digital mirrors of the actual signalling systems; • offering scenario-based training programs including cybersecurity; • offering custom-automated training routine capacity. • featuring a custom-scenario library for experts to fill; • offering natively embedded line documentation; • featuring a test program manager, for complex tests; • automating test sessions: the test conducts itself; • offering a Smart Log Reader, for advanced analysis capacity; • offering data playback, to reexperience the incidents exactly the way they happened; • featuring an integrated line performance dashboard to combine any of the numerous line datasets.
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IMAGE CREDIT: HEATON RAIL
Heaton Rail managing director Stefan Heaton.
RoleSpot, the rail talent app Stefan Heaton talks about how technology is speeding up the process of filling talent gaps in rail businesses Tech is influencing just about every aspect of our lives; how to travel, dine and date. It is also equally crucial in our professional lives, and that is where we come to a new idea that is democratising talent and opportunities in rail. Stefan Heaton is managing director of Heaton Rail, the business that has pioneered RoleSpot, billed as “the fastest way for companies to find and hire top talent within the rail industry”. Heaton, an electronic and electrical engineer originally, talks of a “custom-built online desktop and mobile web app” that vets and aggregates talent. This includes engineers, managers and specialists from every possible source including their own staff, job seekers, retirees, contractors, consultants, and even other businesses with underutilised workers. According to Heaton, the concept “enables companies to directly find, contact and hire talent in the fastest possible way”. “We have optimised, digitalised and automated existing manual recruitment, labour hire, contracting, and consultancy processes used by businesses to find and hire talent,” he told Rail Express.
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“As a company, you get access to vetted talent in real time. You can message, post jobs, download quotes, hire talent and more all through our online platform in a few clicks. “When you hire a candidate through RoleSpot, we manage all worker payments and invoice you for works completed against
A snapshot showing how businesses can access vetted talent in real time via RoleSpot.
digital timesheets. “As a candidate, you get access to opportunities that aren’t usually advertised and let companies directly connect with you about these opportunities. You can also work as an employee or under your own or business’s ABN if you wish.”
Some of the leadership team from Heaton Rail.
Posting a job via RoleSpot on your mobile.
FROM WHERE DID THE IDEA COME? Heaton said building RoleSpot was the logical next evolutionary step for their existing business, Heaton Rail, which provides engineering, management, and specialist talent to rail businesses all over Australia. “At Heaton Rail, we are experts at what we do so much so that other agencies use us when things get difficult, however, we are still delivering our offering in a more conventional manner,” he said. “When I step back and take a broader view, I think, we use Uber to reach our destination, Airbnb to book a holiday rental, eBay to shop, bank digitally and even search, find, and book a doctor online. “We live in a digital world. Finding and hiring talent in the rail industry shouldn’t be any different,” Heaton said. He said the benefits to using technology such as RoleSpot meant significant improvements to available options, quality, speed, compliance, and cost to name a few. “Furthermore, similar business models have seen great success in various industries around the world with others inevitable to adopt a similar approach,” he said. “My thinking was: do I want to sit back and watch this movement happen in rail or do I want to lead it? I guess the answer was obvious.”
PROGRESS AS A BUSINESS “We have been intentionally flying under the radar for the last two years as we have been focused on setting up our people, process, and technology,” Heaton said, answering a question about business growth. “Everything that we have built has had input in one form or another from within the industry. Furthermore, the whole talent onboarding process and associated technology in RoleSpot has been built with security, speed, compliance, and usability in mind. “We actually use this part of RoleSpot for onboarding new employees and contractors in Heaton Rail as it is the best that we have seen.” Heaton said the company is focused on building used cases within smaller market segments in rail. “We use the approach of plan-buildmeasure-learn-repeat,” he said. “The good thing is that we have a very agile team from tech to operations so we can change quickly to user demands. “With tech as an example, as soon as we get any feedback for changes, we look at the larger impact of the change requested, talk to other users and if it aligns with the greater vision, we design and deliver the changes, update our internal processes, publish our release notes to our users and subsequently measure feedback, all in a matter of days.” THE TIME IS NOW Heaton said there were several reasons why the time was “now” for RoleSpot. “COVID has actually contributed significantly to this,” he said. He explained that most companies are going through or have gone through a process of huge transformation. “Many businesses and their people aren’t the same as they were a year ago,” he said. Heaton said that businesses are now more welcoming of adopting new digital tools, and managers are actually open to
flexible and remote working arrangements, with candidates starting to realise that a full-time permanent job might not be the best for them personally, professionally, and financially. A LOOK TO THE FUTURE Heaton added that being part of this transition was “one of his favourite things”. “We have seen candidates who have worked with the same company for years leave and come work for us instead because they know they can make more money contracting, they want the flexibility to work less days a week, they want to start their own business, or they just want to get more experience across multiple clients,” he said. “Outside of COVID, the market is actually quite fragmented which makes things difficult when there is a skills shortage. This was one of the reasons why we started RoleSpot. “Everyone is fishing from the same little pond. What we are trying to do is to bring all possible resources together in one hub and give companies access to this in the fastest possible way.” Heaton said they had faced and withstood significant challenges on the road to developing RoleSpot. “Having a great idea is just the one per cent of what determines success - strategy, team, and near flawless agile operational execution through good leadership is part of the remaining 99 per cent,” he said. “Having obsessively studied, started, helped start, and invest in early-stage ventures, my team and I were prepared for the challenges ahead, and like all start-ups we have had our fair share of them, especially in the early days. “Having the right team with diversity in skills along with a support structure such as an experienced advisory board in our case really helps quickly turn a challenging situation to one filled with opportunity.” More information: rolespot.com
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Leveraging digital twins to boost rail maintenance and asset management Conrad Winter, head of strategic projects at Willow, explains how digital twins can enable stakeholders across rail networks to make more accurate and contextual decisions. Willow is a global technology company that creates virtual representations of built assets for the real estate and infrastructure sectors. Willow set up the first rail digital ‘twin’ in the world in Utrecht. These digital twins enable users to make better, more proactive, and data-led decisions in order to grow their profits, reduce their expenses and better manage risk. Willow has offices throughout Australia, North America and Europe. Willow head of strategic projects Conrad Winter has been a part of the infrastructure industry for more than 20 years and has directly seen how change management at the organisational level can unleash the power of data to drive real time decision making and the optimisation of rail network performance, safety, sustainability and customer experience. Conrad Winter spoke with Rail Express recently about the WillowRail product. KEY CHALLENGES Rail Express asked Winter what he saw as the key challenges that Willow had been seeking to overcome. “Today, rail networks are managed by a number of disparate tools and disconnected measuring devices. The average network may use in excess of 15 different systems, each with their own interface, data silo and process,” Conrad said. “In this state, owners and operators are faced with a sea of unintegrated information, left to make critical decisions based on incomplete data or toggling between different programs. This presents a huge challenge, as they lack a single, consolidated view of their network along with the realtime data” he said. “Additionally, most rail owners operate in an incredibly reactive manner, and their technicians in the field don’t possess the right information at their fingertips to resolve problems effectively. As digitisation
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Conrad Winter, head of strategic projects at Willow, is leading the modernisation of asset management via digital twins.
becomes widespread in our industry, this problem is only set to worsen. Every day, millions of new devices are connecting online, and new technologies are entering the market.” Conrad said Willow was solving “data challenges” via a digital twin for rail, a single source of truth for asset management. “Our platform WillowRail is an integrated rail asset management solution for all rail network types, including trams, light rail, metro trains, and heavy haul,” he said. “It gives rail operators, managers, rail engineers, and maintenance staff holistic insights into their network.” The digital twin solution from WillowRail today is focussed on track asset management. WillowRail’s digital twin combines operational data and asset management information into a simple and intuitive software platform that can be supported by any web browser. “We overlay static asset information, maintenance information and track health information onto an intuitive GIS interface,” Conrad said.
“In an environment where even the smallest interruption can have serious social and financial implications, WillowRail creates a data-driven digital rail network that can predict faults before they occur, optimise capacity, and increase rail network availability.” Conrad said the company saw this as a first step toward a digital future for the rail sector. “The digital enablement of rolling stock, controls, signalling and the importance of leveraging big data present both opportunities and challenges in equal measure,” he said. “WillowRail is seeking to provide a solution to leverage these amazing new innovations.” FUTURE FOCUSED Conrad is unafraid to think big. “Our vision for the WillowRail digital twin technology is to enable a digitally connected railway that connects real-time KPIs across the track infrastructure, rolling stock and passenger experience. “Further to this, we see that the technology can be used as an integration layer to enable a fast and secure connection with third-party software providers. Exciting areas that we are looking into include: blockchain contract management, predictive maintenance and improved safety protocols.” Conrad spoke of product benefits. “Firstly, improved network performance. The platform provides a holistic view of asset performance with embedded algorithms, which supports condition-based monitoring and predictive maintenance. “The combination of these elements enables us to significantly improve availability, reduce track geometry defects up to 50 per cent and reduce maintenance costs up to 30 per cent.” Conrad said WillowRail can drive improved decision making by providing
IMAGE CREDIT: WILLOW
Digital technology is ushering in a new age of rail.
the right data at the right time. “WillowRail provides a single view of network data for all stakeholders – for both the client or operator and its contracted parties,” he said. “By giving decision makers complete realtime transparency into asset performance, they can now accurately track network performance KPIs. This is unique in the market, as the client owns the data and they have the ability to accurately measure and rank their operators and maintaining parties.” Conrad noted that WillowRail was enabling a more connected workforce. “As part of the platform, we developed a mobile application for the maintenance groups which provides navigation to faults, safety information, the seamless transfer of communication back to the headquarters and real-time location tracking, asset repair status and database updates,” he said. TECHNOLOGY DEPLOYMENT Conrad said they were currently deploying the platform with several major owners, operators and maintenance groups in Australia, Europe and North America. “We’ve recently onboarded a new customer for 1,000 kilometres plus of heavy haul in Australia, another global first for digital twins,” he said. “For this customer, Willow is connecting and visualising all their static, live and spatial data to give them a complete network view, along with live visibility of the current temporary speed restrictions. “Further to this we are providing live track analysis information for root cause analysis and decision making live.” Conrad said there were challenges ahead. “The key challenges we see are:
“Our platform WillowRail is an integrated rail asset management solution for all rail network types, including trams, light rail, metro trains, and heavy haul.” Conrad Winter, Strategic Projects, Willow
modernising and connecting to legacy systems; cyber security and end-point risk in an integrated environment; and the change management challenge for stakeholders is to ensure the technology is easily understood and drives practical outcomes of real-time asset management that can be customised to any user experience level.” he said. “While we have been making some compelling and exciting use-cases for this technology, and experiencing some great traction with customers, we understand the inherent challenges ahead.
“Digital twins are still very much in the early phases of development, and our job is to help rail customers maintain their leadership position in their respective markets.” With WillowRail being the world’s first digital twin implemented on a passenger network in the Netherlands over 18 months ago and the first digital twin on a heavy haul network in Australia the benefits have been proven. With this evidence established Willow believe digital twins can become the standard for the operations and maintenance of all rail networks.
Screens provide an insight to Willow operations.
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Shaping the Future Siemens Mobility CEO for Australia and New Zealand Raphaelle Guerineau discusses the trend towards industry digitisation, including benefits, challenges and opportunities. SIEMENS Mobility CEO Raphaelle Guerineau is not only the first woman holding this position, she also likes to think big. In a recent conversation with Rail Express, she referred to a “paradigm shift” in terms of digital technology and how it is influencing the rail industry. Siemens Mobility is one of the largest rail technology businesses worldwide, with around 120,000 employees. In Australia and New Zealand 550 people work for the business, with offices in all major capital cities and competence centres in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Auckland. Production facilities are in Port Melbourne and Perth, while the servicing centre is in Mackay. “Our strong local presence enables us to understand well customer needs, react swiftly and exceed customer expectations when we deliver our projects,” Guerineau said. “Digitalisation represents a paradigm shift and is part of a global megatrend affecting every part of our lives,” she said. “Those megatrends are also significantly impacting the mobility industry. Siemens has historically been a driver of innovation in mobility, delivering reliable services for the end user. Now we are on the forefront of digital evolution.” An example of how Siemens has been ahead in terms of pursuing digitalisation, it recently released a whitepaper entitled How Digitalization is Evolving Intelligent Rail Infrastructure, on what it means for businesses. The paper notes that digitalisation is driving
Predictive maintenance through digitalisation can detect safety issues before an incident occurs.
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“higher availability, automation, connectivity and sustainability in rail infrastructure”. According to the whitepaper, digitalisation of transport infrastructure will boost mobility and offer flexibility and efficiency opportunities. DIGITAL RAILWAY OF THE FUTURE Siemens Mobility in Europe recently teamed up with Austrian Railways to realise a completely new digitalisation solution in the field of safety and security technology. It was applied at a train station in Achau, Austria, and it could have a ripple effect on the industry worldwide. For the first time, this station is operating all its complex safety systems virtually in the cloud. The distributed Smart Safe System (DS3) is an innovative digitalisation solution by Siemens, and the basis for cloud-enabled interlocking. “The DS3 interlocking in the cloud for ÖBB in Achau is a real quantum leap for the railway industry,” Siemens Mobility CEO Michael Peter said. The DS3 enables the virtualisation of most signalling components, such as interlocking computers, or ETCS computers. The trains send their position data by radio link to a central system which ensures safety, sets points, manages routes and sends authorisations to the vehicles. “Siemens Mobility is proud to have developed this new signalling system, which will make rail operations more efficient, effective and flexible,” said Peter.
Siemens Mobility CEO for Australia and New Zealand Raphaelle Guerineau says cloud-operated station safety systems are the future of rail.
POINTS OF PROGRESS Guerineau says that in the future in Australia, many components of rail infrastructure will be virtualised. Siemens has already started this development together with operators. “We’re using digital technology to monitor legacy equipment by adding new sensors, and then connecting that equipment to the cloud to capture and analyse the data,” Guerineau explains. “Such technology is ideal for maintenance systems, allowing the shift from regular scheduled maintenance to predictive maintenance, actually detecting the issue before an incident occurs, and thereby preventing failure. “This has allowed us, in some cases, to ensure 100 per percent availability of resources with this type of technology, which is a massive improvement for operators.” Another advantage, Guerineau adds, is that it reduces operational costs considerably and keeps staff out of danger zones. For Guerineau, digitalisation in the railway industry is a process of constant evolution. “We either add sensors to the legacy system to digitise the existing equipment, or we introduce new equipment that has full digital capabilities. We want to achieve bespoke solutions for operators. In that respect, we are proud of our local manufacturing sites that hold more than 10 patents in Australia. This shows the innovative brain power of our team on the ground that directly benefits our customers,” said the CEO. “One of our unique positions is that we are a true one-stop-shop supplier. We manufacture the equipment in Australia; we supply it, we install it, and we maintain it.” REVOLUTION AND EVOLUTION Guerineau thinks the evolution of safety critical systems is key to industry success.
“In railway, we have a lot of safety critical systems. Traditionally it was very restricted in terms of how the engineering system, for example signalling, was managed,” she said. The successful example of the virtualised station in Austria points to the future, stressed Guerineau. It is the first step of virtualising rail infrastructure and equipment “One day you will have the interlocking located in the control centre where the operators are managing the network,” she said. Such technology has been tested in the toughest conditions, notably the extreme weather of the Russian winter. “We already have seven contracts in the world where we have demonstrated 100 per cent availability of the equipment on the networks,” she said. “For example in Russia, a country with extreme weather, Siemens Mobility has achieved 100 per cent availability for rolling stock, applying predictive maintenance technology. This is a quantum leap,” she said. “We’re offering our experience to operators in
Australia and New Zealand – both countries with a challenging environment too. Our digital knowhow helps increase availability also under the most challenging conditions.” CYBERSECURITY AND SAFETY The trend towards digital technology clearly comes with many new efficiencies and client service advantages. But is there a dark cloud hovering in the form of increased cyber security risks? While no one should be complacent, Guerineau explains that Siemens had taken concrete steps to thwart any such criminal activity via an effective data capture unit (DCU). “The operator installs the hardware, and it allows data only to go in one direction. This is extremely important to ensure the safety of people and equipment,” she explained. “This one-way data street offers tremendous potential because it permits the reaction-free connection of a signalling and safety infrastructure to the Internet of Things.” In fact, rather than increasing the risk,
data from projects worldwide suggests that digitalisation will actually improve the security of railway systems. “Traditionally safety is a critical part of the railway, but now we must also have cybersecurity on top as a minimum trained skill for an engineer,” Guerineau stresses. Today, Siemens’s developers are fully trained in cybersecurity. “When we develop new software, we always focus on the security aspect first,” she said. PANDEMIC AND THE IMPACT UPON TECHNOLOGY Guerineau said the pandemic had sped up some technological trends. “Detecting occupancy rates in carriages, for example, became increasingly important for mobility as a service,” she said. “Even when this crisis is over, I think the trend of customers wanting to choose their bespoke means of transportation on a daily basis will continue. Siemens is one of the world leaders for those technologies and we’ll increase our offering to customers.”
Cracking the code for a digitalised supply chain Project i-TRACE aims to standardise the rail supply chain through the use of barcodes. Once implemented this has the potential to open new possibilities for the industry. Repaci, account director at GS1 Australia, manufacturers serving the rail sector will need to align their internal stock identifiers with standardised barcodes. “Today, those internal systems are only useful for them, and they don’t have much relevance beyond the business. The part number that they use is unique for them. It works for their business but it doesn’t scale across the industry, so if they adopt the Project i-TRACE framework inside their own organisation, they will be better placed to manage their own stock levels and they’ll be better placed to identify product from purchase orders throughout their supply chain.” Removing description-based components from orders from the rail supply chain will not only avoid duplication or miscommunicated orders, but more importantly allow the unique component identifier barcode to be easily accessible from the part itself. “All the associated engineering diagrams
can be linked to that identifying part number,” said Repaci. “There might be installation manuals in addition to the engineering diagrams and those documents reside in a multitude of different databases. Now we can centralise that documentation in an electronic format against one unique identification number.” Repaci gives the example of a lighting system installed on a trackside location. “There might be a safety manual associated for the installer. Today that’s on paper, and there’s no guarantee that after that item is shipped that the paperwork actually makes it through to the installer. The item might be sent via a rail operator and it might be repacked, and the paperwork might be stripped out. By scanning that barcode, the installer can actually then get a service manual, a safety manual, an installation manual sent to your laptop or a tablet in the field, you can look up anything that’s critical to know about that item.”
Image Credit: GS1
One of the most underrated inventions of the 20th century is perhaps the humble barcode. Officially adopted in the US in 1973, it would be hard to imagine what life without barcodes would be like today. Indeed, barcodes have in many ways enabled the development of the fastmoving consumer goods category, and large retailers. In supermarkets, barcodes are key to tracking stock levels and understanding consumer preferences, a forerunner to today’s individualised advertising. In the decades since its widespread adoption, barcodes have also been essential to the distribution of medicines, where complex supply chains interface with a critical focus on safety. Now, it’s the rail industry’s turn. As the industry moves towards digitalisation across the supply chain, introducing barcodes is one way that suppliers, operators, and maintainers can all be singing from the same, digital, song sheet. Firstly, said Tony
The bar code is revolutionising aspects of the rail sector.
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IMAGE CREDIT: GS1
“ARE YOU ON TRACK?” The national program to get the rail industry using standardised barcodes is known as Project i-TRACE. Rolled out by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) in partnership with GS1, the program is a whole of industry project. In 2021, rail operators will be asking their major suppliers the question “Are you on track?” as after three years operators are now requiring their suppliers to have GS1 barcodes on products when they are signing new contracts. “The largest rail operators across the country want to put a little bit of fire under the community,” said Repaci. “There has been a lot of talking, a lot of foundational standards have been ratified, and what master data required to be shared has been agreed upon, and now it’s just a matter of getting a wider community adopting these standards.” In 2020, during an industry webinar, Tony Anetts, associate director supply chain at Sydney Trains said that the operator would not enter a contract or extend a contract if a supplier is not on the i-TRACE journey. While this doesn’t mean that all products need to have GS1 barcodes affixed immediately, Repaci highlighted that there are steps that businesses need to be taking now to start or continue the process with that goal in mind. “We suggest that you work with the GS1 team to help guide your organisation through the critical steps of Project i-TRACE. Most organisations can start by working with us to help clean up your master data. In many instances companies have their own ERP or inventory systems, they’ll have their own asset numbering systems, they’ll have their own methodologies or way that they describe products. They’ve got to get all of that master data cleaned up and once they’ve done that the next step really is to assign a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) or a Global Individual Asset Identifier (GIAI).” Assigning a GTIN or a GIAI does not require any physical change to the product at this stage, but is about aligning internal company procedures with global standards. Once this is complete, businesses can proceed at a pace that works for them. As Repaci acknowledges, based on the experience of early adopters so far, the process can be time consuming, however the program is designed to be completed in stages, rather than all at once. “In a lot of instances, implementing Project i-TRACE is going to be somebody’s second or third role, so we suggest starting early and take small bites at it. You can build up over time, you don’t have to do everything on day
A point machine plaque with barcode.
one, it’s a process that you can work towards.” At every stage of the process GS1 is available to assist businesses on this journey. “We encourage our prospective members and members that are going down this path to attend a training session. We have a light version which is an introduction to Project i-TRACE and then we do a deeper dive workshop, which goes for a couple of hours and into a lot more detail about the specifics,” said Repaci.
them a full certification report and they can then take that information away with confidence and start their trial,” said Repaci. “Typically, they would work with one of the operators that is already i-TRACE compliant and start a workflow, for example by placing an order for some product, ship that product with the product identifiers on them to the operator and then close the loop through the receipt process. The operator can receive those products, using the barcodes as a
“By scanning that barcode, the installer can then get a service manual, a safety manual, and an installation manual sent to your laptop or a tablet in the field, you can look up anything that’s critical.” Tony Repaci, Account Director, GS1 Australia Once companies have agreed their master data and want to start barcoding their products, GS1 can assist by certifying that the barcodes are compliant, and then the business can begin trialling affixing the markings onto their products. “It’s very important that before they go into barcode production mode or barcoding product that they have the barcode symbology right and that they printed the barcode to the correct specifications. Once we’ve tested the barcodes, we can then give
receiving function and then acknowledging the completion of the delivery.” While GS1 support is available throughout these steps, it’s important that our rail suppliers get started now, said Repaci. “The rail industry is invested in streamlining their supply chains, the need for digitalisation of critical supply chain data is not just a nice to have, it is quickly becoming a critical enabler of supply chain efficiency, safety and accountability. As a supplier to the rail industry – Are you on track?
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A close-up look at a bearing.
Getting smart about bearings Combining the latest technology with a century of expertise, SKF is ensuring that bearings are providing ever more uptime for railway operators. The modern railway network is perhaps the most complex system that the general public interacts with on a daily basis. Highly interdependent, geographically dispersed, and a mix of analogue and digital technologies, getting to work on time depends on thousands of subsystems working in concert. From the latest digital communication systems to decades-old ballasted track, every system is vital, however the closer one gets to the point of interaction between static and moving elements, the more critical parts and components are. At the centre of this nexus are the bearings that connect a train’s wheels and axle to the bogie and car. As Patrick Hofstadler from bearing manufacturer SKF explains, bearings have a critical role to play in ensuring trains are reliable and available. “The failure of a bearing is directly related to trains not being on time, trains having to be taken out of service, and maintenance
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intervals being interrupted.” During scheduled preventative maintenance periods, bearings are one of the critical components that must be checked to ensure they are in good condition. With new technology that can track the health of a bearing and intelligent approaches to maintenance and upkeep, the time a train is in the workshop can be shortened and the lifetime of components extended, ensuring higher levels of availability and lower costs. “The maintenance cycle is what causes the trains to be out of service. It’s what causes cost as well as time to maintain the passenger schedules,” said Hofstadler. “Condition monitoring helps these maintenance cycles to not be any longer than they need to be, because there has already been a lot of data collected. Rather than having to check every single bearing, maintainers can address those bearings that have come up as needing attention, shortening maintenance cycles,
which means the train will go back into service without delay.” CONDITION MONITORING FOR CRITICAL COMPONENTS SKF has developed two technology platforms, Insight Rail and IMx Rail, that monitor indicators such as vibration and temperature to give operators insights into the health of their bearings. This data is used to improve availability. “The most important thing by monitoring the bearing’s health, is that you’re able to predict certain maintenance intervals,” said Hofstadler. With these solutions deployed in the field, SKF is already on track to help increase the total life of bearings in major passenger rail networks from 1.2 million service kilometres to 1.6m kilometres, a significant 33 percent improvement. These modern technologies address
Working on the latest in bearing technology.
IMAGE CREDIT: SKF
some of the most fundamental issues faced by bearings which have been part of the railways for decades. For example, there are six primary factors which cause a bearing to fail: fatigue, wear, corrosion, electrical erosion, plastic deformation, and fracture and cracking. These factors can be addressed by a standard maintenance practice, greasing. However, with more intelligent information about the amount of grease required, time between maintenance cycles can be extended and time spent in the workshop can be reduced. Under its Smarter Rail Services banner, SKF is enabling operators to access its knowledge in the maintenance and upkeep of bearings. When it comes to greasing, SKF can ensure that the right amount of grease is applied in the right way, and inventory control is left to the experts. “When it comes to greasing there’s always a specific amount of grease that is measured and weighed as the grease is injected into the bearing,” said Hofstadler. “Too much or too less grease can cause the bearing to overheat.” This in-house upkeep enables operators to spend more time doing what they do best – running rail services. These services extend to other areas of the bearing lifecycle as well. “SKF offers refurbishment services, so in any situation where the operators and maintainers have failed bearings or bearings that are showing signs of possible premature failure, we can refurbish those bearings, as well as provide inspection reports to the customer so they understand in more depth what may have happened,” said Hofstadler. Not only does remanufacturing and refurbishing of bearings reduce costs and cut down on wastage, SKF is able to provide these services locally, through its services centres located in Perth and Williamstown, Victoria. After detecting when a bearing is reaching the end of its useful life through condition monitoring, sending bearings for refurbishment by the OEM, in this case SKF, allows for operators to limit capital tied up in spare part inventories. “Previous practices where that operators and maintainers would have a very high stock level on spare parts, just in case of bearing failure, this predictive maintenance through condition monitoring allows you to reduce your stock levels,” said Hofstadler. Today, SKF is offering rail organisations its 100/100 business model, where if 100 bearings are sent for refurbishment, 100 refurbished or new bearings will be returned to the operator, no matter the scrap rates.
Checking the condition of the bearings.
Not only does this model take the variability out of the hands of the operator, but by monitoring wear rates SKF can provide intelligence back to the operator to extend the lifecycle of their bearings. “All the information from every single bearing and refurbishment is saved in a database system so we can track each bearing based on its serial number. We know the history of the bearing and therefore we can provide the customer with database reporting on bearing batches that we’ve refurbished for them, from the new batch to
every single refurbishment.” As Hofstadler describes, this extensive knowledge is a result of SKF’s heritage in its important field. “As a manufacturer, SKF has been in business for over 110 years now so there’s a lot of experience, historical value, and global information sharing through different applications.” Having this knowledge and expertise in each bearing’s upkeep, repair and refurbishment means that this critical link is more assured than ever.
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IMAGE CREDIT: HOLLAND L.P
Flashbutt welding equipment from Holland L.P.
Lighting the spark With a local subsidiary now established in Australia, Holland, L.P. is bringing the latest and greatest in flashbutt welding to the local market. In the mid to late 1980s, the freight rail networks across North America were facing a challenge to further increasing both safety and productivity. The railroads knew that the weights and frequencies that their tracks could support was limited by the number of joints in the track and the low-quality of the existing welds. To overcome this challenge, many North American railroads turned to a local company called Holland, L.P. The company had a history of innovating in the rail welding market, having introduced the first self-propelled railcar with a portable electric flashbutt welding machine in 1972. In 1979, the company released its first rail mobile welder, increasing the potential of flashbutt welding. Using this technology, the railroads found they could effectively and efficiently reduce jointed rail thus increasing the speed of trains, the tonnage they could haul, and creating a much more efficient heavy haul network. Today, Holland, L.P. counts over
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200 mobile flashbutt welders as part of its North American fleet and ensures the over 200,000km of freight track in the United States remains one of the most costefficient rail networks in the world. While Australia is no stranger to Holland’s flashbutt welding technology, in 2020 the company significantly upped its presence in the Australian market, seeing an opportunity to help improve the effectiveness of the freight rail network in Australia as it did in North America in the 1980s and 1990s. Kevin Piefer, managing director of Holland Rail Services Australia Pty Ltd, outlines that Holland is bringing its full service capabilities and unmatched technical expertise to the Australian market. “In North America, we build, operate, maintain and technically support our equipment. In Australia, we’re pivoting from being an equipment supplier, to developing the same model here as in North America by operating, maintaining and technically supporting our newly designed and
specialised equipment as well as our inhouse proprietary Intelliweld® system.” Having had years of experience building, operating, and maintaining its equipment in North America, Piefer sees Holland as ideally positioned to ensure the stability and connectedness of Australia’s rail renaissance. “We learned many lessons over time in North America and now we can bring those lessons into Australia and create a flatter learning curve. Our goal is to really accelerate the improvement of flashbutt welding in a very short time frame. In the mining industry the need is now, and there’s a fair amount of money being spent on large projects such as Inland Rail, and the Perth Transit and many other projects.” As a company dedicated to one thing, and one thing only, improving the quality of flashbutt welding in Australia is Piefer’s sole focus. “We’ve heard over several years that weld quality is marginal at best. It sounds altruistic but we strive to improve the quality
of flashbutt welding because if not improved, the entire industry will deteriorate. We want to be a valuable and reliable partner to those that want that same improvement. We are here to be a part of the solution. We are not the status quo.” The company is now established, and mobile welding machines are already on the ground at the company’s Perth headquarters. “We do one thing, flashbutt welding,” said Piefer. “For track operators, not only do we bring the quality of flashbutt welding, we’re also bringing the fact that we have our own supply of parts, we have our own technical experts, we have remote access to people back in North America who have lived the life of helping the North American business grow.” A COMPANY OF INNOVATION Not only does Holland bring a history of flashbutt welding to Australia, but also the capacity to have the latest technology the company develops through its continuous cycle of innovation. “The history of Holland is that of a company of innovation that also operates what it innovates,” said Piefer. “We don’t just develop something and then sell it off to the market, we develop it and then we
operate it and then, because we operate it, we figure out how we could do it better. We’re able to close that loop of continual innovation.” Most recently, this cycle has led to the development of the Intelliweld system. Recently arrived in Australia, the Intelliweld system is an extension of Holland’s MobileWelder® that can provide real-time weld monitoring and automated data connection, along with low consumption weld capability. What sets the system apart is the welding control system developed by Holland in house. “That was designed by a team that actually worked for Holland as operators in the field, they also have technical skills and engineering degrees, but it was designed by the people that actually did the welding,” said Piefer. These operators saw the potential through real-time data collection to not only improve weld quality but provide the capacity for continuous improvement and remote operation. “They wanted more data collected, and they wanted a high level of remote access to the system,” said Piefer. As the weld is being made, an electronic
Sparks fly as flashbutt welding equipment is put into action.
graph is created that can present, down to the millisecond, how the weld has progressed. The graph is available immediately as a digital file and can be used to demonstrate to the operator and customer the quality of a weld. As Piefer explains, this data becomes important not only out in the field, but during the testing phase to certify that a machine is capable of making the weld with the materials present. “With the Intelliweld system, we’re able to make a weld, take it to a testing facility and have it tested. Immediately we can make changes to the weld programming because we have the experts in the background that know if the weld testing failed because of what reason, and if we need to make these changes in the force, speed, or heat input of the machine.” The Intelliweld system is also able to be accessed remotely. On site, the inbuilt controller has redundancy as part of the design, as any Apple iPad can be used to operate the welder. Off site, troubleshooting and calibration can be conducted remotely, limiting the need for specialists to be brought in. “Right now, the market has been numbed to the fact that when problems arise in the field it may take a few hours before there’s a corrective action in place, and it could take days or weeks before the proper repair could be put in place,” said Piefer. “Our remote monitoring gives us an immediate signalling back to headquarters if there’s an issue with a piece of equipment. And having remote access means there’s not only a technician working remotely to solve the issue, but that they also have complete access to the machine to assist the operator in resolving the issue on the spot.” With these functions already on-hand, the data collection capabilities will ensure that the Intelliweld system continues to enable operators to improve the quality of their welds. “It’s like listening to digital music on your iPhone versus listening to analogue sound from a cassette tape from the past. The Intelliweld® system is generations ahead and its information feeds into a global dashboard, accessible from anywhere, where we track every unit and every weld,” said Piefer. “There’s so much data we collect that we have continual opportunity to improve weld quality and deliver even better results to the market.”
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2021 CONTRACTOR CAPABILITIES SHOWCASE Building the rail infrastructure boom. All construction and maintenance contractors are invited to get involved. Scan the code to list your business:
For extra visibility contact: Oliver Probert Business Development Manager, Rail Express 02 9439 7227 or 0435 946 869 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Safety & Assurance
Safety is paramount when working around rail.
RISSB’s Rail Safety Conference 2021 Australia’s premier safety event for the rail industry, RISSB’s Rail Safety Conference, returns to Sydney on 11-12 May 2021 with a new look line-up, a conference theme that speaks to the times, and even more opportunities to learn from the best. Held annually since 2000, RISSB’s Rail Safety Conference has been pivotal in uniting the rail industry, from senior leaders to innovative thinkers, to share lessons and drive change for a safer and more interoperable industry. This year’s conference theme is New Ideas, New Perspectives and New Directions. The conference is one of the biggest rail safety-driven events in Australia and regularly attracts engineers, safety professionals, project managers, risk managers and other interested stakeholders to the event. In 2020, 250 attendees turned up, spoke up and shared their experiences in the biggest conference to date. We expect a similar turn out in 2021, especially with a choice of attendance options. In a sign that the railway is returning to normal, the 2021 conference will be held as a face-to-face event with virtual attendance
options; promising greater interactivity, more topics that are timely and relevant, and sessions that will challenge conventional thinking / the status quo and provide completely different perspectives on how the industry has been, and should be, operating. From panel discussions to networking, plenary presentations to technical streams, we’ve trialled and tested a new format that resonates with industry. IN 2021, THE RAIL SAFETY CONFERENCE WILL FEATURE: • A two-day program featuring a diverse range of Australian and international speakers; • Concurrent technical streams focused on safety innovation, asset management, safety culture, fatigue, track worker safety and safety interoperability; • Collaborative launch of track worker
safety report; • Safety leaders’ panel; • Multiple site tours to choose from. Six keynote speakers will join an already impressive speaker line-up of industry leaders who are ready to deliver actionable insights during two jam-packed days. Speakers will be giving practical advice on real world challenges, using their businesses as case studies for you to learn from. There also will be thought-provoking panels and debates that will spark discussions and encourage the exchange of ideas. This year’s Rail Safety Conference will be held at the Swissotel in Sydney’s CBD on 11 and 12 May 2021. Don’t miss the best and latest developments in rail safety from Australia and right across the globe. For more information or to register to attend the conference, go to www.railsafetyconference.com.au
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Rail and the need for speed The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the need for fast rail connections between capital cities and the regions writes Caroline Wilkie, chief executive officer, Australasian Railway Association
ARA CEO, Caroline Wilkie.
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When funding for stage one of the Geelong Fast Rail project was confirmed last year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it would allow people to spend less time commuting and more time with loved ones. While that in itself presents strong appeal for the project’s progress, the ARA’s recently released Faster Rail Report confirms the benefits of faster rail are a great deal more far reaching. As one of the few forms of transport infrastructure to bring significant economic development and urban renewal opportunities with it, rail is uniquely positioned to support the growth of Australia’s biggest cities and the regional centres that surround them. And the impact of COVID-19 to our working lives hastens the need to invest in faster regional rail networks. Consumer research commissioned by the ARA found about three quarters of people surveyed expect their work patterns will remain permanently changed – either wholly or in part – by the pandemic.
A third of city residents said they would be more likely to consider moving to a regional area as a result of COVID-19. But travel times and distance remain a key barrier for many, as roads become more congested with rising populations. Our research confirmed faster rail connections would make city residents more likely to consider a move to the regions. Regional residents supported faster rail too, telling us they would be more likely to leave the car at home and catch the train if better connections were available. The reality is that those connections are badly needed. Chronic underinvestment in rail when compared with roads means our network is now much slower than many of our international counterparts. As rail travel times have fallen behind the time it takes to drive, more of us are choosing to jump in the car rather than catch the train. That is why the ARA has called for the
IMAGE CREDIT: NARESH777 / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was effusive about the Geelong Fast Rail Project.
The Faster Rail Report recommended immediate investment in existing networks to improve the speed, reliability and frequency of services to give passengers more choice and convenience.
creation of a national rail action plan to map the future of faster rail across the country. Importantly, that plan must be more than just about speed. The Faster Rail Report recommended immediate investment in existing networks to improve the speed, reliability and frequency of services to give passengers more choice and convenience. It is a proven model, with the Regional Rail Link project in Victoria delivering tangible improvements across the network and leading to an 80 per cent bump in passenger numbers over 10 years. Victoria’s investment also supported a stronger commuter network, with the state recording higher proportions of commuters on their regional rail services when compared with New South Wales or Queensland. For every state, improving their existing regional rail network is an important first step towards faster rail. While that approach will have a significant
impact on the network, fast rail lines will need to be developed over the next 10 years. Victoria is once again ahead of the curve with the Geelong Fast Rail project set to start construction in 2023. The project will shave 15 minutes off current travel times between Melbourne and Geelong, making catching the train a genuine alternative to driving. Geelong residents taking part in our survey see the benefits, with the vast majority acknowledging fast rail would make the region more appealing to move to. Faster rail in NSW would make rail travel times from Newcastle or Wollongong to Sydney comparable with driving. With highways in and out of Sydney already reaching capacity, and the city expected to house an additional 3.7 million people in the next 40 years, getting more people off the roads will be vital if it is to remain the vibrant city it is today. In Queensland, faster rail connections are a core component of the ambition to make South East Queensland a 45-minute region. Residents we surveyed on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast recognised that faster
rail would boost the appeal of their regions – and with an Olympic bid in the works, better connections across the region would be extremely valuable. While the benefits of faster rail are clear, a coordinated, national plan will be needed to maximise the benefits of these defining projects. The overseas experience shows us that considered planning brings new housing, business and other opportunities to regions that put their fast rail connections to good use. Just look at Lille in France as an example. After planning for new development to support the arrival of a Eurostar station many years ago, the region has successfully created a thriving business hub and community. It is now the third largest business centre in the country and houses the second largest number of university students – and rail is at the hub of that bustling community. It is a good illustration of the benefits that could be realised in regional centres across the country right here in Australia. But the work needs to start now to make it happen.
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RAIL EXPRESS is compulsory reading and a vital tool for all people working in and around the rail sector. Rail Express is Australia’s authoritative business to business rail publication.
A new beginning Mark Coxon on how Alstom’s Bombardier acquisition will work in practice - SEE PAGE 22
Developments in groundbased warning systems
Options for finding rail staff in the tech age
Progress towards autonomous rail
Combining the resources of our respected journalism team and our unparalleled industry contacts and affiliations, Rail Express provides extensive, comprehensive and balanced coverage of breaking news and trends in key areas like infrastructure, investment, government policy, regulatory issues and technical innovation. Published both in print and digitally every month, Rail Express is the only publication to have both the official endorsement and active participation of the main railway associations in Australia and the broad support of the rail industry. The only way to ensure you get every copy of Rail Express is to subscribe today. Visit railexpress.com.au/subscribe.
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IMAGE CREDIT: ALC
The challenge for rail
ALC chief executive officer Kirk Coningham.
ALC CEO Kirk Coningham It comes as something of a shock to the uninitiated that many transport clients move freight by truck from the east to the west of our wide brown land. This would not have been contemplated by our forefathers. One of the significant inducements for Western Australia to join the Federation was the Commonwealth’s undertaking to build a railroad from east to west. The much-vaunted project gave a degree of certainty that could not be matched by the more perilous ocean journey across the already notorious Great Australian Bight. More than 3400km of twin steel threads drew together a nation and delivered opportunity. This followed a pattern well established in human history. Cities grew around safe ports. Populations fanned out with navigable rivers providing the means
when permitted, to travel safely and efficiently at greater speeds. And herein lies the challenge. Rail can’t survive by seeking to restrict advances in the efficiency or availability of alternate modes of delivery. For example, too many in the rail industry seek to compete by adding costs to road freight rather than improving the efficiency of rail. ALC understands, and agrees with, the argument that the availability of high quality low-cost public roads delivers a huge public subsidy not available to rail. But the level playing field argument has failed. Trucks are getting cleaner, safer and more efficient. As this continues, they are also gaining access to more roads. A user pays system for road pricing is inevitable, but we can’t rely on this to become the equaliser that ensures the future of rail.
Rail can’t survive by seeking to restrict advances in the efficiency or availability of alternate modes of delivery. of expansion and resupply. Roads, such as they were, were a reluctant choice of necessity where rivers did not flow but rail would soon follow. Rail was the world-wide unambiguous first choice for efficiently moving people and freight. Fast forward 100 years and the once unquestioned supremacy of rail is under significant challenge. Rapid advances in the development of the internal combustion engine made transport via trucks and cars increasingly faster, cheaper and more accessible. At the same time, the quality of our roads, in no small measure through the insistence of the travelling public, has quickly improved to become among the best in the world. Speed has been arbitrarily stifled by legislators in Australia. A truck built 50 years ago was legally allowed to travel at the same top speed (60 mph) as a modern truck is today (100km/h or 62mp/h). It is fortunate for rail that legislators thus far have failed to recognise the huge advances in technology employed in modern vehicles that genuinely allow them,
Rail has a very long list of advantages over road. It includes the unchallenged benefits of scale through to the rapidly advancing rewards that fall to the communities we serve through reduced congestion and pollution. Also on the list in the certainty delivered through exclusive access to the human efficiency of people per tonne of freight moved. The challenge for rail is multi-faceted. A positive immediate step should be to replace the multiplicity of regulatory agencies with a single unified national agency responsible for safety and efficiency. Greater certainty and harmony in the regulatory environment will enhance investment in technologies and the possibilities of the future (faster, safer, cheaper, more efficient, more reliable). We have seen recent significant advances, including major investments in the Advanced Train Management Systems, but more is required. Until we tackle the challenges, trucks will keep trucking across the Nullarbor, and on all our national highways, in ever increasing numbers.
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Contracts in brief
Keep up to date with the latest contracts, EOIs, and tenders announced this month VIC Port of Melbourne awards rail infrastructure contracts The Port of Melbourne’s Port Rail Transformation Project continues to progress, with the awarding of two key contracts for new rail infrastructure at the port. WSP and Seymour Whyte Constructions have been engaged to develop new rail infrastructure at the port, including a new rail terminal interfacing with the container terminal at Swanson Dock East. WSP is to provide the design consultancy services, and Seymour Whyte Constructions the early contractor involvement. The Port Rail Transformation Project is an investment by the Port of Melbourne of more than $125m for the total project and provides a new operating environment and infrastructure to help move more freight off trucks and onto rail and to make regional rail supply chains more efficient. Site investigations started in March 2021, with construction planned to start in July. The project is scheduled to be completed in the first half of 2023. Victorian manufacturer awarded contract for Inland Rail turnouts The Australian Rail Track Corporation selected a Castlemaine-based manufacturer to supply turnouts for the Inland Rail project. The $80m contract will see turnouts made in the regional Victorian town of Castlemaine, highlighting the local benefits of the Inland Rail project, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack. “The Australian government’s investment in Inland Rail is delivering a world-class freight backbone that will stimulate economic growth, build supply chain resilience and enhance market access,” McCormack said. “But local industries and suppliers will benefit right now as shown by the signing of this major contract.” Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said
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that well before trains begin running the full length of the 1,700km line, businesses in Australia were already benefiting. The contract includes 200 turnouts and will enable manufacturer Vossloh Cogifer to hire an additional 32 staff. Other contracts have gone to local suppliers of rail, ballast, culverts, sleepers, and rail clips. “This is but one example of the opportunities for manufacturers in Australia to supply a number of products for Inland Rail, providing much needed employment that will grow and sustain business. And it is providing the confidence to hire more staff,” McCormack said.
work carried out over the next 10 years to ensure that the network continues to meet the high standards that operators and customers expect.”
South Geelong to Waurn Ponds EOI released Contractors were invited to submit expressions of interest for stage two of the South Geelong to Waurn Ponds upgrade. The project focuses on duplicating about eight kilometres of track and upgrading signalling to boost both reliability and frequency of services. Two level crossings are being removed at Surf Coast Highway and Fryans Street. Funding also includes a business case for stage three of the project, upgrading the 400metre rail tunnel between Geelong and South Geelong.
Sydney Metro awards Bankstown Line contracts A joint venture of John Holland and Laing O’Rouke is to upgrade sections of track, including 15 bridges that cross over or under the railway, improvements to retaining walls, culverts, and track, fencing and freight segregation, new track crossovers, overhead wiring, and utility modifications. In another contract, Downer EDI Works is to upgrade Hurlstone Park, Belmore and Wiley Park stations to meet Metro standards. This includes no-step level access, lifts at Hurlstone Park and Wiley Park, accessible toilets, service buildings and cabling, security fencing adjacent to the station, and upgrades to amenities such as toilets and interchange facilities. The contract for station upgrades also include preparation of the platforms for the installation of platform screen doors. A Sydney Metro spokesperson said the work would ensure that the line is able to be used by all.
NSW UGL scores contract for Country Regional Network The New South Wales government announced it was awarding a contract to UGL to operate and maintain the Country Regional Network (CRN) on behalf of Transport for NSW for 10 years starting from January 2022. Transport minister Paul Toole said the new $1.5bn contract, which takes effect from early 2022, was a significant investment in rail infrastructure. “In fact, almost 1000km of the network is dedicated to moving grain, highlighting the importance of the CRN in moving the state’s crops from the silo to local markets and ports for export,” Toole said. “The new partnership with UGL will see an increase in the amount of maintenance
SA Design options released for Crossing Removal Project The South Australian government released four options for the design of the Hove Level Crossing Removal project. The options are: • Road over – Raise Brighton Road over the rail corridor. • Road under – Lower Brighton Road for 450metres at 6.6metres deep. • Rail over – Raise the rail line over Brighton Road with a 1400metre rail bridge • Rail under – Lower the rail line in a 1800metre trench at 9.3metres under Brighton Road. By removing the crossing adjacent to Hove Station, it is hoped to ease congestion on Brighton Road.
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