Oliver Probert

Bombardier maintains keen local focus during light rail boom

Bombardier Transportation’s Todd Garvey sat down with Rail Express to discuss the mobility solutions provider’s approach to the booming local light rail market.

Australia, already home to the largest tram network on the planet, has become a hotbed for light rail developments in recent years. With new projects opened across multiple cities in the last five years, the project pipeline remains strong.

Despite this rapid development of a range of new opportunities for light rail vehicle (LRV) manufacturers in the region, Bombardier Transportation’s Todd Garvey told Rail Express the company doesn’t see its role changing drastically. Instead, the company plans to continue to rely on the qualities that have made it a successful player in the local market for years.

“There is a range of projects coming up that have a huge amount of focus for our business that we are excited about,” Garvey, the company’s head of sales for Southeast Asia and Australia, said.

“We’re focused on maintaining our role as a market leader in the supply and end- to-end manufacture of local content for Australia’s LRV needs. We’re working hard to ensure our local LRV manufacturing teams and indeed supply chain have a good, solid pipeline of work ahead of them.”

Maintaining the strength of the local supply chain has long been a key focus for Bombardier in Australia.

“Bombardier is in a unique position given our local manufacturing and supply chain for LRVs,” Garvey continued.

“Given Bombardier has been in this market for so long there is a huge amount of engineering and LRV subject matter experts within the business. That means there is an ability to not only identify and resolve the day-to-day challenges but also evolve the local supply chain capabilities for specific LRV requirements.”

E-CLASS TRAMS

The primary manufacturer of LRVs for Melbourne since 2013, Bombardier has now delivered around 85 E-Class trams to the Yarra Trams network, and has a current orderbook that will bring that figure to at least 100 LRVs.

Garvey told Rail Express the E-Class, which is comprised of Bombardier Flexity model LRVs, is the result of the company’s long-term approach to supply chain and market engagement.

“The Flexity is a world class tram,” he said. “They’re DSAPT compliant and built with passenger safety and comfort in mind.”

Beyond safety and comfort, however, the Flexity LRVs running in Melbourne have been developed to suit a network that presents a unique array of challenges for a fleet manufacturer/maintainer.

“Vehicles in Melbourne operate on a vast network that is unique in so many ways,” Garvey explained.

“One major factor is that in many sections of the network the vehicles will be operating on brownfield tracks. Some sections have been in existence for many decades, and in some cases for more than 100 years.”

“This is a natural phenomenon that happens all around the world,” Garvey said, “but in Melbourne it makes it even more important the LRVs are built to withstand these tough conditions.

“Fortunately, the Bombardier Flexity class is designed to suit this environment and has a proven track record in providing safe and comfortable passenger services in Melbourne.

“The car body is robust to suit local network requirements, and has been built to European fire and crashworthiness standards, which enhance the vehicle’s safety levels to that of worldwide leader status.”

ODAS TRIAL PLANNED

Bombardier plans to trial its Obstacle Detection Assistance System (ODAS) with its Victorian partners midway through 2020.

A joint development with the Austrian Institute of Technology, Bombardier’s ODAS uses an array of stereovision cameras focused on the area in front of the LRV, and highly advanced software algorithms which evaluate the vehicle envelope in real time along the track.

As soon as the system detects a considerable risk in front of the vehicle, it can alert the driver using visual and aural alerts.

“The ODAS product is progressing well and is active in the Flexity class in Europe,” Garvey said, ahead of the Victorian trial.

“In Frankfurt alone we have almost 150 systems in service. So far the ODAS platform has accumulated more than 10 million kilometres of passenger services, ensuring new levels of passenger safety and security.”

Bombardier has designed ODAS to be easy to upgrade, and switch in and out, thanks to its decentralised design featuring three separate components.

The first component is the camera unit: three identical stereo cameras within a single housing, mounted onto the inside of the windscreen. The cameras provide the high-resolution imagery and depth perception needed to provide accurate visual data for analysis.

That analysis is carried out in the second component of ODAS, the control unit. The unit is responsible for picture processing and interpretation, as well as additional routines which can provide further functionality.

The third component of the system is called the sync box, and is responsible for energy supply to the cameras, managing inputs and outputs, and providing a watchdog function to the controller. The sync box also acts as the liaison between the system and the tram, taking in vehicle information and delivering hazard warnings when needed.

LOOKING TO CONTINUE GOLD COAST SUCCESS
Bombardier is in discussions to supply vehicles for Stage 3A of light rail on the Gold Coast, and Garvey took a moment to reflect on the success of the 18 Flexity 2 trams Bombardier supplied to the project’s first two stages.

“The Gold Coast vehicles are performing extremely well,” he said. “Between 2014 and December 2019 there have been more than 46 million paid passenger trips on trams on that system, all on Bombardier LRVs.”

A particular point of pride for Bombardier was the performance of the fleet during the Commonwealth Games in 2018.“On some days during the Games they were running for 24 hours straight, in high traffic and warm weather conditions,” Garvey said, “and they did so without any issues.”

The fleet carried nearly 100,000 passengers a day during the Games, more than three times the daily average at the time – a success highlighted proudly by state transport minister Mark Bailey.

“It’s great to see so many people using the light rail network and other public transport modes to travel to events during the Commonwealth Games,” Bailey said in April 2018. “It is clear south-east Queensland commuters have responded well to taking all forms of public transport.”

Just prior to the Games the state managed to commission Stage 2 of light rail on the Gold Coast, which connected the original terminus at University Hospital to the Helensvale railway station – thus connecting the light rail to the region’s heavy rail network.

The results were immediate, with Bailey citing a “massive uptake of heavy rail commuters from both Brisbane and Varsity Lakes” during the games, and more than 180,000 passengers travelling to the Games via the heavy rail network in the Games’ first week.

With that success in the books, in November 2019 Queensland secured a funding package from the federal government to help deliver Stage 3A of Gold Coast Light Rail, further south to Burleigh Heads.

The state has said the 6.7-kilometre extension will require five new LRVs “similar to the 18 current vehicles,” and industry engagement is underway.

Stellar third year for Future Leaders program

A modern approach to safety during the first and last mile and navigating public transport through the language barrier were just two of the difficult problems tackled by teams during the ARA’s third annual Future Leaders program.

AusRAIL PLUS 2019 helped bring to a close the latest iteration of the Australasian Railway Association’s Future Leaders program, which graduated a cohort of 33 young professionals from seven different Australian states and territories and New Zealand in 2019.

Future Leaders is one of the ARA’s key initiatives in response to the ongoing skills crisis threatening the rail sector’s potential. “Within the rail industry there is such a demand for resources and skills due to the major investment by governments right across Australia and New Zealand in new rail infrastructure,” ARA chief executive officer Danny Broad said when discussing the program in its third year.

To address this, the program aims to build a network of future leaders and provide a two-way exchange between future and current leaders in the rail industry. This higher level of engagement with the next generation of leaders is aimed at retaining them within the sector as they progress through their careers.

The program is delivered in part by Dr Polly McGee, an author and professional training expert who has worked with the ARA since the inception of Future Leaders in 2017.

“We’ve heard a lot throughout AusRAIL about people, and people being the centre of everything we do as a sector. Leading them, inspiring them, and understanding them is key,” McGee told the AusRAIL 2019 audience.

McGee explained the process of the Future Leaders program, which is split into three parts.

“In the first part, we really want the participants to look at themselves,” McGee explained. “Who are they in the mix? What do they bring to their leadership? And what do they need to have as part of their own development to be able to really effectively lead other people, and lead them from any part of the operation.”

This first stage was delivered during a three-day workshop in July. Starting with a Myers-Briggs test, participants learned more about themselves and their personality traits. After an open discussion of some of the wicked challenges facing rail, and drawing on the Myers-Briggs results, six diverse project groups were established to get to work solving them.

“The first phase of the program really helped us look within and see where our strengths were, and maybe where they were not – and how we as leaders can adjust to better manage and work with others based on that knowledge,” participant Shakira Rawat told Rail Express.

“They specifically put us together into groups because we were very different personalities,” fellow participant Tahni Littlejohn added. “Different minds working together with different strengths – you get the best of everything.”

The Future Leaders got together again in September for their second workshop, which kicked off with alumni from past Future Leaders program during a speed networking breakfast.

“One thing that’s really beautiful to see, now that we have these three cohorts graduated, is that the alumni group has become really strong,” McGee said. “Now they’re starting to reach out and support each other, it’s becoming an ecosystem of leadership.”

Following the alumni networking was a tour of Yarra Trams’ Tram Hub and Metro Trains Melbourne’s Metrol facility, a Port of Melbourne boat tour, and a series of major project briefings.

The second workshop also included a certified Dare to Lead training program, developed by bestselling author Dr Brené Brown.

“This program is so essential in the current environment we’re in,” McGee, a certified Dare to Lead facilitator, explained. “What it does
is ask leaders, ‘How do we train you to lead from courage and vulnerability?’ Courage and vulnerability are the two things that are going to be able to take us forward as a sector.

“I’ve never met anyone in rail who said they were in the sector for the brand-new Tesla and the giant house. They’re here because of rail’s legacy, and they come because it’s important to them, so they need to be able to express themselves and be who they are in their roles. The Dare to Lead program gives them those tools, and it puts them in a place of deep discomfort from which they can really learn.”

“The key takeaway for me from Dare to Lead was understanding yourself and having a belief in yourself,” Shez Islam, a senior project manager at VicTrack, told Rail Express. “During the project our group had a number of times where we doubted ourselves, and what we could do. But the self-belief that we had kept us going towards a great result. It was a lifelong lesson that we’ll take with us throughout our careers and in our everyday life.”

“The program is actually quite challenging,” Kelly Iverach, an associate director for workforce planning, train crewing and support at Sydney Trains added. “It asks you to dig quite deep and consider why you are responding to certain situations in a particular way; digging down to find what’s at the core of why we find things challenging, and that’s a different journey for everyone.”

The third workshop occurred the day before AusRAIL PLUS on December 2. The six project teams, having worked together throughout the year, pitched solutions to their chosen wicked problems to a panel of ARA Board members.

“We ask the teams to look at some of the wicked problems of rail, and come up with some really innovative, able-to-be-commercialised ideas, that they can pitch to our panel of experts on the final day of the program, before they graduate,” McGee explained. “We ask them to do something meaningful and real – and the six projects that we had this year were nothing short of extraordinary.”

Helping teams throughout their project were mentors – senior leaders selected from around the rail sector. One such mentor, Robert Angus, technical director for Infrastructure Projects at Aurecon, said the Future Leaders program was helping make the rail industry a better one.

“My focus was helping the team channel and focus some of their ideas and provide helpful guidance and an independent view where I could,” he said. “But ultimately it’s great to see young future leaders across the industry collaborate together towards a common cause.”

SAFEMILE
The winning pitch, voted for by attendees and announced at the AusRAIL Gala Dinner, was SafeMILE, an app concept developed by Matt Green, Tahni Littlejohn, Thomas Pulsford, Shakira Rawat and James Shaw.

The basic premise behind SafeMILE is to use a peer-to-peer ride sharing model to help individuals find companions or groups to travel with.

“Our project matters because we are aiming to transform the first and last mile into the SafeMILE,” Littlejohn said during the team’s presentation. “As a lot of work is being done to make transport journeys safer, the first and last mile remains a wicked problem – one our group has tried to address.”

While relevant to all users of public transport, the SafeMILE team opted to target university students, given they are often financially restricted, and travelling late at night. One study reviewed by the group showed 79 per cent of surveyed female students had experienced harassment, groping or stalking on public transport in the last three years. Another found 90 per cent of female students surveyed in Sydney were not comfortable walking home at night.

The SafeMILE team’s own survey found 80 per cent of respondents had felt unsafe on public transport, and more than 50 per cent said they felt unsafe specifically during the first or last mile of their journey.

Their solution is a peer-to-peer ride sharing application for smartphone users. Using Google Maps data and public transport operational data, the app aims to plan journeys and connect users, providing key in-journey safety features.

When a user selects a journey, they are informed whether there are any other app users taking that same journey. They can then request to join that person – or group, if one is already established – on that journey.

Users can opt for varying levels of anonymity, but are assigned a rating, and can view each other’s level of verification: bronze is a simple email verification, silver is an account connected with a university email address or at least two social media platforms, and gold is an account which has provided police clearance.

Along with its basic purpose, the app also features journey sharing, GPS location, a duress alarm, and an incident reporting service.

The journey sharing feature allows the user to notify people within their ‘circle of trust’ (e.g. family, close friends) the details of their journey, and GPS then keeps those people up to date with the user’s location throughout their journey. The SafeMILE team has also suggested this feature could be linked up with university security, if applicable.

“In cases of duress, there’s a button within the app and on your smart watch, if you have one. Or you can also click your power or volume up button four times, and this will send an alert to your circle of trust, as well as campus security, or to public transport security, depending on your location,” Shaw, a senior systems engineer with Calibre, explained during the pitch.

“Separately the incident reporting feature allows users to report areas or sections of their trip where they witnessed threatening behaviour or felt unsafe, and this information can then be shared with other users of the app so they can make informed decisions about their journeys home that night.”

Littlejohn added: “That data can also then be used by public transport users or universities to target unsafe hotspots, and focus their resources most appropriately to address them.”

The SafeMILE team was at AusRAIL pitching for a $250,000 investment, which they believed would help them deliver a user-ready app, and invest in targeted advertising to help develop a starting user base. Revenue would come from in-app advertising.

TRANSPORT ASSIST AUSTRALIA
The second-placed pitch, also presented to the wider AusRAIL audience, targeted improved customer satisfaction, reliability, and levels of engagement on public transport for non- English speaking residents and tourists. It was presented by Transport Assist Australia, a team of Daniel Adams, Aaron Hargraves, Shez Islam, Kelly Iverach, Tristan Smith and Luke Stevenson.

Using Bluetooth beacon technology, an app would help users navigate stations and concourses in their native tongue. Beacons would be set up around a station and used to trigger alerts via the app on the user’s phone.

One example would be a welcoming beacon, which would provide key information and options as the user approached the station itself. Another would be a safety beacon, which would ensure users are alerted that they are in or near an unsafe location, e.g. beyond the yellow line while waiting on the platform.

“We spoke with both transport operators and effective users, and 96 per cent of those users said they would use an application like this while on transport here in Australia. 88 per cent of operators agreed this would improve ticketing and 100 per cent agreed it would improve wayfinding,” Hargraves, an infrastructure response team leader at Metro Trains, outlined.

Hargraves explained when you combine the 800,000 Australian residents who speak little to no English, with the 13 per cent of the average eight million annual tourists visiting Australia who are in the same boat, there is certainly a substantial target audience for this product.

Under the team’s business model, $176,000 would be spent in year one to develop Southern Cross station as a pilot site for the program. $155,000 would be spent in each of years 2-5 to expand the program to the full City Circle – 30 stations – and develop interstate opportunities. $72,000 would then be spent in years 6-10 to maintain the City Circle systems and expand into other sectors and outside of Australia.

HEADING INTO 2020
The ARA has announced plans for the 2020 edition of Future Leaders. Nominations will open in mid-March, ahead of a trio of planned workshops:

  • Workshop 1: Tuesday 30 June – Thursday 2 July in Melbourne;
  • Workshop 2: Tuesday 1 – Thursday 3 Sept in Sydney; and
  • Workshop 3: Monday 30 Nov (AusRAIL 1 and 2 Dec) in Adelaide.

2019 ARA FUTURE LEADERS GROUP PROJECTS:

WINNER: SafeMILE:
Transforming the first and last mile into the SafeMILE – Allowing commuters to connect and engage within their level of comfort to travel the first and last mile to help them feel safer.

RUNNER UP: Transport Assist Australia:
A multi-lingual application to make navigating Australian railways simple and efficient for everyone.

  • Re-Rail Your Career: A social media campaign targeted at people who believed that their skills and experience cannot be easily transferred to the rail industry.
  • TIES – Tertiary Institution Engagement Strategy: Connecting students to the industry through rail course content.
  • oneTrack: Across the Australian rail market there is a distinct opportunity for the introduction of a centralised rail safe-working tool. oneTrack would act as a “one-stop-shop” for location based safe-working and operational information regardless of network owner/operator.
  • Momentum Materials Management: A tool to provide inter-organisational visibility of stock levels of key railway materials and share/purchase stock of standard items in order to keep the rail industry moving.

Find out more on the ARA’s website: ara.net.au/ future-leaders-program

Sydney opening caps big year for Alstom

Alstom Australia’s managing director Mark Coxon sat down with Rail Express after a whirlwind 2019, with big wins for Alstom across multiple states and sectors.

The New Year’s break is a welcome opportunity for rest and relaxation for many professionals. But for Mark Coxon and his team at Alstom Australia, the 2019/20 break was perhaps the most well-earned in recent memory.

Eleven days before Christmas, Sydney opened quite a large present. The first revenue services for the Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail line between Circular Quay and Randwick represented the culmination of four years of construction and delivery.

Around 160,000 passengers rode the new line in its first two days, and they rode on some of the 60 Citadis X05 light rail vehicles delivered by Alstom.

By January 8, the line had already handled its first million passengers.

Alstom has also delivered the project’s power supply equipment (including two kilometres of APS wire-free ground power supply), energy recovery substations, signalling, communications, and depot equipment for the project, and is now underway on a 19-year maintenance contract.

“We’re very happy with this project,” Coxon, Alstom’s managing director in Australia and New Zealand, told Rail Express shortly after the Sydney opening.

“The Alstom scope has been on time, and we’ve had new technologies brought for the first time to Australia – another sign of confidence in the Alstom delivery capability.”

Light rail vehicles are rolling down George Street for the first time in more than 60 years. Unlike the original system, it is free of overhead wires for two kilometres of its route thanks to Alstom’s ground-based APS power supply.

APS, originally Alimentation Par le Sol – “fed through the ground” – but now anglicised to Aesthetic Power Supply, uses modern technology to safely feed power through the base of the LRV via a third rail between the tracks.

Coxon notes APS is a new technology in Australia, but also that the Citadis X05 is the latest version of Alstom’s light rail vehicle range.

“On top of that, the reverse cycle power- optimised substations were in our scope,” Coxon continues. “So that’s a number of new technologies we’ve brought to this iconic project, and it was great to see trams going down George Street – and great to be on that first tram.

While Alstom’s share of the project was successful, Coxon is well aware of the disruptions caused throughout the overall project’s delivery. But he’s confident the quality of service passengers will enjoy in the longer- term will make up for it.

“It’s obviously become a well-known project to Sydneysiders, and it’s been quite disruptive to residents during construction. But over time, I am sure the people of Sydney will appreciate the project, particularly as journey time reduces and the reliability continues to grow,” he said.

“To be honest, these projects historically around the world are quite disruptive, and this is on one of the oldest and busiest streets in Australia. It would be difficult to implement that kind of project anywhere in the world. We managed to get this one online in 2019, a bit later than planned, but the opening has been successful and we look forward to the growth of patronage of that system.”

Sydney Metro a roaring success

Despite all the exciting new technology in Sydney’s new light rail, perhaps the most exciting thing delivered by Alstom in Australia during 2019 was north of the city.

When Sydney Metro Northwest opened on May 26, passengers rode on a fleet of 22 new six-car, driverless metro trains from Alstom, which also delivered signalling and will handle ongoing maintenance work.

In its first six months, the new metro line had serviced more than 11 million journeys.

“It’s been a successful journey,” Coxon said. “It’s the first driverless metro system in Australia, so that took some time for passengers to get used to, but the reliability growth that we’ve seen on our system has been as expected, and very similar to other projects around the world. Today, we’re getting to around 99 per cent availability of the system.

“That project contains two successful aspects for us: the Alstom rollingstock but also the signalling system, our CBTC driverless Urbalis 400 system. The integration between the CBTC system and the rollingstock has been extremely good, and I think that’s one of the advantages of being an integrator of both technologies.”

Maintenance details

The success on Sydney Metro Northwest led the NSW Government to exercise a pre-agreed extension in the original contract to the next portion of the line, Sydney Metro City and Southwest. The news – a $570 million win for Alstom – means Coxon’s team will now deliver another 23 trains (with an option for more), and its Urbalis 400 CBTC along the new portion of the line.

Coxon told Rail Express the extension demonstrated the government’s confidence in Alstom and its colleagues in the Sydney Metro delivery team.

“We always knew the success of Northwest would be a critical component on the augmentation for City & Southwest,” he said. “It’s such an iconic and strategic project for Alstom, and City & Southwest is a similar scope to what we executed on Northwest. Again I think it will demonstrate the importance of integrating the CBTC signalling technologies with the rollingstock.”

Once complete, the City & Southwest project will combine with Northwest to create a 66-kilometre continuous line, complete with Alstom rollingstock and signalling.

“We’re looking forward, as well, to extending the maintenance scope to that full line,” Coxon added.

Huge win in WA

Alstom’s success in 2019 wasn’t limited to the east coast. Early in December it finalised a $1.3 billion deal to deliver 246 EMU railcars 6 DMU to PTA, the public transport operator in WA. Under the 10-year contract, at least 50 per cent of railcar assembly will take place in WA, at a 12,000 sqm plant near the old Midland Railway Workshops. Alstom will also undertake maintenance for 20 years with the option to extend to 30 years.

Coxon told Rail Express the contract win was the result of more than two years of work with the government, local businesses, training organisations and community.

“We’ve had a lot of engagement with local and international suppliers about the local content, and that concluded with the award of that project to Alstom, which we’re absolutely delighted with,” he said. “We’re looking forward to building a train in Western Australia that the people of Perth can be proud of.”

Work to build what will become Alstom’s new rollingstock base in WA is expected to be completed in 2021. Local work under the contract is expected to create at least 200 jobs in supply and maintenance, revitalising the state’s rail manufacturing sector.

“Obviously, it’s a long journey, and we’re going to be part of that recreation of the railcar manufacturing industry in Western Australia, but that’s not the first time Alstom have done that,” Coxon said. “We’ve done it all around the world; the US, South Africa, India, and of course 20 years ago in Victoria with the X’Trapolis trains.

“We’re not newcomers to it, but it is a new journey in Western Australia, and  we’re interested in taking the suppliers on board for that journey, as well as our future employees. We’re going to have to build up a strong skilled workforce in Western Australia.”

Coxon said Alstom is also looking to build a good partnership with the state’s Public Transport Authority, along with its suppliers to build a train which we hope to have on tracks by the middle of 2022.

“What made that contract so attractive to Alstom was the long-term maintenance contract, which allows us to make sure the rollingstock is designed to maintainability as well,” Coxon explained. “We’ll build a strong workforce for the build, and then progressively for the maintenance.

“We’ve included in the project our HealthHub technology which focuses on the predictive maintenance capability, to ensure we’re maintaining the core components as they’re being used, and we can plan our maintenance schedules to optimise availability of the product. That’s a similar product to what we’ve installed for the Sydney Metro, so it’s not the first time we’ve installed it here in Australia, but again is a first for Western Australia.”

Next X’Trapolis in the works

Alstom has been supplying its X’Trapolis metro fleet to Melbourne’s Metro Trains network for nearly two decades, with more than 102 trains delivered. “It has proven to be one of the most reliable products in Australia today, so we’re very proud of this product and our skilled workforce in Ballarat who deliver this,” Coxon said.

After being awarded the preliminary design contract for an X’Trapolis 2.0 in late 2018, Coxon said the team spent a large portion of 2019 working with the state towards a new generation of the successful train.

“The X’Trapolis 2 will have all the latest technologies, adapted to integrate seamlessly into the Melbourne network. We would like to see this product rolled out on the Melbourne network and continue the long and successful story of X’Trapolis Melbourne trains.”

Q&A: Thales contributing to light rail revival

In this exclusive interview, Andrea Bastianelli and Massimo Poli discuss the innovative, digital solutions Thales is bringing to light rail transit, including the future Parramatta Light Rail project.

Andrea Bastianelli, is Thales’s product line manager for Light Rail Transit (LRT) Management and Control Systems and is based in Florence, Italy.

Massimo Poli has spent his recent life as project manager of many of Thales LRT projects, and is currently in Australia as global project manager of Thales’ Parramatta LRT.

Rail Express (REX): What’s your perspective on the revival of light rail transit in Australia and around the world?

Massimo Poli: Transport needs and challenges vary from city to city and the flexibility of light rail provides each city with the means to adapt LRT solutions to best serve their transportation needs and solve their challenges.

For example, it is in used as the main public transport mode in medium sized cities like Florence, Palermo and Manchester, and in larger cities it is used to complement the likes of metros and/or buses, to guarantee a multimodal and efficient public transport journey.

It is often used to connect emerging neighbourhoods to the main transport ring in larger cities like Taipei, where the new districts of Danhai and Ankeng are connected to the metropolitan transport network via the LRT line, or in Shanghai where the new district of Songjiang is connected to the urban mass transport system through an LRT network. The same goes for the Brazilian city of Santos and, of course, Parramatta in Western Sydney.

In other cases, LRT lines are also used to connect two cities together, as is the case in Cosenza-Rende, Italy.

With flexibility and sustainability at its core, it is a pleasure to be directly contributing to the rebirth of this transport system all around the world. In recent years, Thales has been actively involved in the implementation of LRT projects in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia.

Andrea Bastianelli: The introduction of new generation LRT vehicles, with a low floor guaranteeing greater comfort and performance, has also contributed to the rebirth of this sector.

Newer project designs are increasingly providing lanes reserved for public transport. This has also ensured a more regular and punctual service.

If we also consider the characteristics of cost effectiveness, attractiveness and sustainability, it is easy to imagine why LRT networks become part of the cultural identity of the cities they serve – symbols of civic pride.

REX: So improved vehicles and corridors have been the key?

Poli: In part, yes. However, over the years every single LRT has been improved in order to provide a better value for money solution.

Thales has always provided control systems for public transport systems, including LRT. In particular, over the last 10 years or so, Thales has redeveloped
its solution designed specifically for this type of market, so that we can continue to deliver the highest levels of satisfaction – both for passengers and customers alike. Our solutions innovatively address the needs of passengers: Having a regular service, being informed accurately during normal operation or special events, security, and above all command and control systems that guarantee the movement of vehicles in a safe way.

REX: How does Thales help achieve that?

Poli: Our LRT solution provides the operator with an innovative command and control tool that performs functions in an integrated way; for example:

• Planning, automatic vehicle localisation, tram regulation, innovative priority management at road intersections, and signalling;

• Passenger information and comfort, and passenger security; and

• Remote control and communication.

Our new generation LRT solution was installed for the first time in the city of Palermo, in Italy. The architecture of the system and the technologies used give the system a high degree of flexibility, modularity and upgradability.

REX: And you’re always working to improve that offering?

Poli: Yes. Since the first commissioning of the first version of the new generation system, Thales has continued to regularly develop and improve its LRT solution based on experience and feedback from our customers.

One example is the development of a highly integrated control system that allows the optimisation (reduction) of hardware and software components on board, on the trackside and in the control centre, which in turn reduces equipment dimensions, installation complexity, maintenance requirements, simplifies configuration, and provides significant energy savings.

Another example is the development of an innovative architecture for the Automatic Vehicle Localisation (AVLS) function and priority request at road crossing and tram regulation, which provide the ability to automatically manage even special operating scenarios.

We’ve also worked to provide operators with a selection of technologies, so they can choose what’s appropriate to the operational scenario in question. An example would be the option of a passive RFID tag rather than inductive loops for vehicle detection.

Thales also provides additional tools such as configuration, simulation, playback functions including analysis tools and quality of service tools which are all focused on improving the LRT solution. This results in increased efficiency, reduced capital and operational costs, and a better customer experience.

REX: As we enter a new decade we can expect the further digitisation of systems
all throughout rail – what’s the roadmap for light rail?

Bastianelli: As Massimo described, Thales is continually updating and improving its LRT solution, to provide public transport operators and other customers with an increasingly efficient solution. The digitisation process of the LRT solution has been underway for several years.

Of particular note, some of the packages we are developing are focused on increasing the level of autonomy for light rail systems, some of which are already under test in Europe:

• Smart Positioning will allow the vehicle to geo-locate itself safely and autonomously using different sensors and information including Global Navigation Satellite Systems.

• Obstacle Avoidance to avoid collisions with possible obstacles on the LRV route.

• Broadband connectivity including the future operating scenario which will lead to autonomous driving for transport systems of this type implies. This required the ability of the vehicle to be always connected with the ground and control centre devices with large data exchanges between these devices.

• Of course for Thales, cybersecurity is integrated into our systems across all sectors, so such countermeasures have already been integrated into the solution and will also be configured in the next system that we are implementing for one of our customers.

These macro functions, combined with autonomous studies Thales is currently carrying out, will constitute the autonomous driving system for LRT-type transport, the implementation of which will follow the timeframes and recommendations that the national and international regulatory authorities are discussing.

During this transition period, macro functions will be added progressively to the standard solution in order to contribute with increasingly advanced systems in the implementation of efficient and sustainable LRT systems.

REX: Thales is sponsoring and taking part in the ARA’s Light Rail 2020 event in Canberra in March. What are you hoping to see discussed at the event?

Bastianelli: The message I would like to share is for customers to ensure they select delivery partners who have developed specific solutions for this market, with a high degree of innovation and additional functions in order to provide a regular and high quality service which is able to seamlessly manage normal operations as well as special events.

The selected partners should also have a clear vision on the future of digitalisation, without forgetting the knowledge of the specificities of the destination country.

Canberra LRV wrapped with student’s safety pop art

A Gungahlin College student’s pop art design has been wrapped onto one of Canberra’s light rail vehicles as part of an ongoing safety campaign for the new network.

Year 11 student Tahlia Jones was the joint winner of a safety campaign competition organised by the Canberra Metro Operations team and Gungahlin College, and had her retro pop art design wrapped onto the tram as a result.

 

https://www.facebook.com/CanberraMetroLightRail/posts/2496425133927018

 

https://www.facebook.com/CanberraMetroLightRail/videos/807176469735938

 

“We all need to pay attention and stay alert at all times when walking, cycling or driving near the light rail,” ACT transport minister Chris Steel said during the unveiling on December 19.

“It’s great to see the high quality work produced by Tahlia and the other students at Gungahlin College, and it’s really encouraging to see young people taking safety seriously.

“Light rail safety is everyone’s responsibility and we all need to play our part when we’re travelling close to the light rail corridor.”

A second LRV is being wrapped with Jones’ safety poster in January 2020.

“The unconventional and very stylish pop-art wrap is hoped to be an eye-catching safety message for all Canberrans,” Canberra Metro Operations general manager Tilo Franz said.

“This design really turned out better than we ever expected. Having seen many other light rail networks around the world, this design really is outstanding and Tahlia should be extremely proud.”

Jones was joined as a competition winner by fellow student Paloma Alves, whose campaign ‘You Can’t Pause this Track’ looked to raise awareness around the dangers of distracting phones and headphones around light rail.

 

Contract for two Vic crossings

Victoria has awarded a $496 million contract to remove level crossings at Manchester Road in Mooroolbark, and the Maroondah Highway in Lilydale.

A team of Laing O’Rourke and Jacobs will form an alliance with Metro Trains Melbourne to deliver the project, Victoria’s Major Transport Infrastructure Authority announced on December 30.

Each of the two crossings sits near a station on the Lilydale line, and both will be rebuilt under the newly awarded contract.

A rail bridge was chosen in both instances, with the state saying in August 2019 a rail bridge design would avoid land acquisition and take up to 18 months less time to build than alternative options.

The reconstruction of Mooroolbark station – just east of the Manchester Road crossing – will also deliver a new multi-deck car park with up to 450 new and upgraded stations.

The state says the project has also been designed to “lay the groundwork” for further upgrades, including the duplication of the Lilydale line and a potential new station between Mooroolbark and Lilydale.

Construction is expected to begin in mid-2020, and completion is targeted for 2022.

John Holland. Photo John Holland

John Holland partners with Strukton for new CRN bid

John Holland has announced a partnership with global track maintenance firm Strukton Rail to bid on the next operations and maintenance deal for the New South Wales Country Regional Network (CRN).

John Holland has operated and maintained the CRN under a ten-year state government contract since 2012. With that contract due to end in June 2021, Transport for NSW commenced a market sounding process for the next contract in May 2019.

With a long list of good work done since 2012, John Holland’s executive general manager for Rail, Steve Butcher, said a partnership with Strukton will help do an even better job if it is awarded the work over the next decade.

“We have a decade-long record of ensuring passengers and freight can move around regional NSW safely and reliably, and now we want to take this to the next level,” Butcher said.

“We want to drive innovation on the network in order to boost regional economies. This partnership will help us to better connect our regions with global leading-edge technology.”

Butcher noted in its decade operating and maintaining the CRN, John Holland has helped cut lost time due to speed restrictions by 50 per cent on passenger and grain lines. During its first three years running the network, John Holland managed to remove 99 of 103 temporary restrictions.

The firm has also replaced more than 1.5 million sleepers along the network, resurfaced more than 7,000 kilometres of track, and upgraded 155 level crossings.

The CRN comprises 2,386 route kilometres of operational passenger and freight rail lines and 3,139 route kilometres of non-operational lines, as well as 27,000 hectares of land and infrastructure.

In all the network includes 1,312 level crossings, 300 of which are active. It has 1,200 property assets, including 356 heritage assets. There are 600 rail under-bridges and 384 road over-bridges to be maintained.

 


NSW regional rail map with CRN shown.

Metronet: $1.25b contract finalised for Thornlie-Cockburn, Yanchep projects

WA premier Mark McGowan has hailed another “historic” Metronet milestone, awarding a $1.25 billion contract to add 32 kilometres of rail to Perth’s transport network.

The NEWest Alliance, comprising CPB Contractors and Downer, will deliver both the Thornlie-Cockburn Link and the Yanchep Rail Extension under the major deal inked on December 17.

The team was announced as preferred bidders for the work in November, finalisation of the deal was delayed until now due to negotiations over the Thornlie-Cockburn Link, the cost of which has been upwardly revised by $180 million to $716 million.

$366 million of this will come from WA, while $350 million will come from the Commonwealth.

The state said the upward cost revision is mostly due to the additional cost of relocating third party infrastructure ($82.7 million), improved wages for workers ($20.2 million), minimising network disruption and meeting environmental requirements.

The state government noted the extra cost was more than accounted for by the recently-inked Metronet Railcar Program deal, which came in $347 million under budget.

The project will add 17.5 kilometres of rail to connect the Armadale and Mandurah lines through existing stations at Thornlie and Cockburn Central. The new link will include two new stations at Ranford Road and Nicholson Road.


The Thornlie-Cockburn Link.

Federal finance minister Mathias Cormann noted the Thornlie-Cockburn Link would be the first east-west connection between rail lines on the Perth network.

“The project will also replace the pedestrian level crossing at Elliot Place with a footbridge, making rail travel much more user friendly for our community,” he said. “The Canning River Rail Bridge will also be duplicated and the Ranford Road Bridge modified.”

The Yanchep Rail Extension, meanwhile, will deliver the last proposed section of the Joondalup Line, from Butler to Yanchep, along a 14.5-kilometre route.


The Yanchep Rail Extension.

Federal cities and urban infrastructure minister Alan Tudge said the Yanchep Rail Extension would support 1,370 jobs during construction, to go along with the 1,680 expected from the Thornlie-Cockburn Link.

“The Yanchep Rail Extension will cut public transport journey times by at least 30 minutes to and from the city, getting people home sooner and safer,” Tudge said.

It’s estimated that by 2031, the Thornlie-Cockburn Link and Yanchep Rail Extensions will serve a population catchment of 400,000 people.

Premier McGowan said the contract packaging both projects, along with the many others signed under the Metronet banner, would make 2020 the year of Metronet projects moving forward.

“Next year is shaping up to be a defining year for Metronet construction,” he said. “Perth will have six Metronet projects under construction at once, creating thousands of local jobs and opportunities for local business.”

“The start of the Thornlie-Cockburn Link and Yanchep Rail Extension projects marks the beginning of a new era of rail construction in WA,” WA transport minister Rita Saffioti added.

“Along with bringing railcar manufacturing back to WA, our Metronet transformation will initiate ongoing work and training opportunities for locals. They are projects that we promised to the WA public and are now happy to be delivering on those commitments.

“Today’s contract signing is a major step towards giving Perth the public transport system it needs to grow and succeed in the 21st century. Connecting our communities and having efficient public transport links is the backbone of a strong, well-functioning city.”

While the governments have budgeted the two projects at a combined $1.25 billion, Downer and CPB Contractors each said their split of the revenue as $423 million apiece – for a total of $846 million going to the construction alliance itself.

Downer managing director Grant Fenn said the projects would be added to the company’s long and successful history of safely delivering transport projects around the country.

“We are pleased that our expertise in the design and construction of heavy rail, tracks, stations and rail bridges has been recognised,” Fenn said. “We look forward to working with our partner, CPB Contractors, to deliver this important and landmark Metronet project for the government and the people of Perth.”

It was also announced on Tuesday that WA Main Roads would also integrate early works for the Thornlie-Cockburn Link’s tie-in to the Mandura Line with its Kwinana Freeway widening works, which are currently under construction.

This integration will extend the road project’s timeline into early 2020.

Melbourne Airport Rail Link: ARA urges governments agree to ‘visionary’ plan

Australasian Railway Association boss Danny Broad has asked for “visionary thinking” from Victorian and federal politicians amid reports both sides are leaning toward a cheaper above-ground route for the future rail link to Melbourne Airport.

Both federal and state governments have committed $5 billion towards the Melbourne Airport Rail Link (MARL), but the combined $10 billion is unlikely to be enough to fund a new tunnel between Sunshine and the airport without private sector involvement.

While more expensive, a tunnel would provide greater capacity, and could connect to the federal government’s planned Geelong fast rail. It would also provide a better foundation for the state’s plans to turn Sunshine into a transport super-hub, building off the MARL, the Geelong and Ballarat Lines, and the Western Rail Plan.

The federal government had been pressuring the state to commit to a tunnel option, but recent reports have suggested the state’s preferred ground-level option could win-out.

“Our ambition is to have a train journey to the airport from the city that is fast, affordable and meets the needs of travellers,” a spokesperson for federal urban infrastructure minister Alan Tudge was quoted by The Age.

“We want to see the MARL built as soon as possible.”

Responding to the news, ARA boss Danny Broad said it was important Victoria and the Commonwealth come to a unified agreement which fulfils long-term needs.

“With Melbourne forecast to become Australia’s biggest city by 2028, and also the expected increase in international and interstate travellers, it is crucial that the Airport rail link can manage frequent and fast journey times to deliver the level of service expected of an international city,” Broad said on December 13.

“Infrastructure Australia has long-ago already identified the corridor between Melbourne CBD and the Melbourne Airport as one of the most congested and one where the Tullamarine Freeway is already at capacity.

“We need visionary thinking from our elected leaders to ensure the infrastructure we build for the future meets customers’ expectations, is efficient and delivers adequate capacity for the population growth that Melbourne will undergo.

“If financing is an issue, then Governments should look to the private sector for additional investment.”

NZ reveals long-term rail plan

A draft plan would facilitate a long-term planning and funding model for rail in New Zealand, with the aim of boosting passenger figures and freight share on rail to help achieve the government’s zero-emissions goal by 2050.

The draft New Zealand Rail Plan, released by the Ministry of Transport on December 13, outlines the government’s long-term vision and priorities for New Zealand’s national rail network.

It stems from the recommendations of the Future of Rail review, a cross-agency project led by the Ministry of Transport working alongside KiwiRail, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, and the Treasury.

The plan aims to put in place a sustainable approach to rail funding over the longer-term.

Key to this is the Land Transport (Rail) Legislation Bill, presented to Parliament on December 12.

The Bill proposes the implementation of a new planning and funding framework for the heavy rail network owned by KiwiRail. It also proposes funding for the rail network from the National Land Transport Fund, and giving rail ministers decision-making rights on funding rail network investments.

The Bill would make amendments to the Land Transport Management Act 2003 and the Land Transport Act 1998, to implement the new framework.

It also introduces track user charges.

“After years of rail being run into the ground by the previous government, our government is getting rail back on track,” deputy prime minister Winston Peters said.

“We need our rail network to be able to cope with New Zealand’s growing freight needs. Freight is expected to increase by 55 per cent by 2042. Freight carried by rail not only reduces wear and tear on our roads, it reduces carbon emissions by 66 per cent.”

This year’s federal budget included $1 billion in funding for the national freight rail network, $741 million of which for the first phase of works to restore a reliable, resilient and safe freight and tourism network.

“Passenger rail is also the key to unlocking gridlock in our largest cities and boosting productivity,” transport minister Phil Twyford said. “The more people take the train, the more our roads are freed up for those who have to drive.

“Building alternative transport options for people and freight is a vital part of achieving the government’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050. It also helps make our roads safer by reducing the number of cars and trucks on our roads.”

The draft plan will become final when the next Government Policy Statement of Land Transport is finalised in the second half of 2020.

Until then the government is inviting feedback from industry and community groups.