Passenger Rail, Signalling & Communications, Technology and IT

Bombardier CBTC to ease congestion in Melbourne

Rail Express spoke with Bombardier Transportation’s Head of Rail Control Systems for Asia Pacific, Gregory Enjalbert, about the cutting-edge signalling technology the company is providing for the biggest public transport project in Victorian history.

The principal benefit of the $11 billion Metro Tunnel currently under construction beneath Melbourne’s bustling CBD is to create capacity on the network by removing three lines out of the congested City Loop.

To achieve this, the Metro Tunnel project will create a new end-to-end rail line from Sunbury in the west to Cranbourne and Pakenham in the south-east. The project scope includes twin nine-kilometre rail tunnels, five new underground stations and high capacity signalling. To maximise the efficiencies of this new route, an advanced communications-based train control (CBTC) system will be installed on the line and in the new tunnel.

The high-capacity system will enable trains to safely run closer together and enable more than half a million additional passengers a week across Melbourne’s train network to use the rail system during peak periods. In December 2017, the Victorian Government selected a team of Bombardier Transportation, CPB Contractors and Metro Trains Melbourne (current rail operator) to partner in an Alliance with Rail Projects Victoria ¬– forming the Rail Systems Alliance (RSA).

The Alliance will deliver a signalling and rail control solution and system integration for the Metro Tunnel Project, under a $1.1 billion contract. Roughly $310 million of work belongs to Bombardier, primarily to deliver its Bombardier CITYFLO 650 CBTC system.

Rail Express sat down with Bombardier’s Head of Rail Control Solutions for Asia Pacific, Gregory Enjalbert, to discuss how CITYFLO will transform Melbourne’s network into a “turn up and go” rail operation.

“Our globally-proven CITYFLO solution, already in use in cities like Madrid, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, is designed to be installed on new lines, or onto existing services with minimal disruption. The solution covers the full range of operating modes and is designed for moving block, advanced metro operations and automated people movers,” Enjalbert said. “I think the key point for this project is to create a corridor where you will have more reliable and more frequent transportation, that can carry a lot more people.

“Our CITYFLO 650 solution reduces the headway between trains, whilst maintaining safety, meaning trains can run closer together – so operators can increase their capacity.”

The Metro Tunnel Project will be Melbourne’s first foray into CBTC. It will be Australia’s first brownfield CBTC implementation with a targeted completion in 2025. CBTC is a method of signalling where the position of a train is established by direct communication between the train and track. Traditionally, as a train passes signals on a network, that train is considered to be occupying a fixed stretch of railway at a time, and no other train is allowed to enter that block. CBTC allows for what is known as a ‘moving block’, where the area of track reserved for the train is constantly moving. This facilitates a shorter headway – the minimum allowable, safe distance between two trains moving in the same direction along a railway – and thus allows for increased capacity.

Enjalbert, who is based in Bangkok and spoke with Rail Express on the sidelines of the InnoTrans Conference and Exhibition in Berlin late last year, says the shorter headways facilitated by CITYFLO 650 not only allow for more frequent services, but also for a more efficient maintenance operation.

“By reducing the headway between trains, CITYFLO essentially provides extra time, and therefore gives the operator more flexibility,” Enjalbert explained. “There is more time for maintenance, so operators can increase the availability of their systems.

“One of the bottlenecks in traditional systems is in the timing for maintenance. By having more flexibility, we can give the customer – in this case Metro Trains Melbourne – more opportunity to maintain the trains.”

The system also gives the operator more flexibility in terms of how the trains are to be operated.

“How many trains do you want to have? How fast will they go? How will they accelerate and decelerate? CITYFLO can help our customers manage this safely and accurately,” Enjalbert said.

The contract, much like the other aspects of the Metro Tunnel Project, has also placed an important emphasis on local jobs, including new apprenticeship and training opportunities. There’s also been a major focus on collaboration.

“The interesting thing about the RSA is the term, ‘Alliance’,” Enjalbert said. “It has been a very collaborative approach from the beginning in terms of bringing the key rail players together, everyone putting their best solutions and technologies on the table and allowing Rail Projects Victoria to make an explored and educated decision on who their partners will be to deliver this mega project. This whole process, which has taken a couple of years in totality, has been great in terms of getting to know our partners very well and developing the solution progressively, to a level where the customer was very comfortable with the technology. We could also build up our resources during this time, with regular workshops and other activities.

“We’ve built a larger project team – more than 220 people work across the Alliance, based in our Melbourne office – and we have this interaction of 2½ years to start working from. The Alliance has established good leadership and a strong and diverse pipeline of skilled people, which includes young cadets through our partnerships with local universities.”