Third ballast tamper brought in for New Zealand track repairs

The arrival of a KiwiRail ballast tamper on New Zealand’s South Island should greatly assist with the restoration of the Main North Line linking Christchurch to Picton, as KiwiRail continues to recover the line after last year’s Kaikoura earthquake.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake on November 14 last year left the train line seriously damaged.

KiwiRail, the state-owned operator in New Zealand, is handling the massive repair job.

The operator said on March 15 the ballast tamper had been brought in from the North Island, where it is usually kept at Palmerston North.

KiwiRail acting chief executive Todd Moyle said the tamper, along with its crew of six, would help the operator achieve its goal to re-open the earthquake-damaged line as quickly as possible.

“The Main North Line railway between Picton and Christchurch is a critical part of the network for moving freight between the North and South Islands,” Moyle said.

“Before the earthquake, more than 1 million tonnes of freight was moved on the MNL each year.

“Bringing a tamper down from the North Island helps us to work on the line from both ends at once, and that will help us get the line up and running as soon as possible.”

The tamper trails maintenance trains, which are working to replace ballast that was lost during the earthquake. It packs the ballast under the sleepers, and corrects the track alignment.

“The work it does is vital to preparing the line to re-open,” Moyle continued.

“There are two tamper units that are based in the South Island but they are both south of where the line was cut. One of those tampers will also be working north later this month.”

The new tamper onsite was moved by boat over the Cook Strait in three units, weighing a total of 230 tonnes.

“The arrival of the tamper is an important step forward in getting the line open. There is still work to be done but we are making good progress in restoring this vital link,” Moyle concluded.

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

10,000 tonnes of Adelaide-Tarcoola rail delivered

Federal infrastructure minister Darren Chester has reported the first 10,000 tonnes of rail track has been delivered for the Adelaide-Tarcoola rail upgrade.

Announced in March 2016, the rail manufacture contract is being delivered by the Whyalla steel refinery, owned by embattled mining and metals firm Arrium.

600 kilometres of the East-West railway is to be replaced, with Arrium delivering 60kg per metre steel, to upgrade the existing 47kg per metre rails.

The new rail should increase maximum axle weight on the line from 23 tonnes to 25 tonnes at 80km/h on the crucial stretch.

Chester this week noted the first 10,000 tonnes of track had been delivered to outback South-Australian locations, in preparation for laying down new track.

“The project will vastly improve freight transport for the region by enabling more efficient trains to operate on the route. This means greater productivity, with more goods delivered to markets quicker,” Chester said.

The Federal Government is providing the full $252 million in funding for the project.

“An estimated 60 workers are already employed on the project in Adelaide and Port Augusta and over the three-year life of the project up to 130 people will be employed to carry out this critical upgrade,” federal member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said during a site visit on March 9.

“This is demanding work.

“The Port Augusta teams are busy joining together 27.5m lengths of rail into 165m lengths using a flash butt welding process that heats the rail to 2000˚C.

“The delivery of the first 10,000 tonnes of rail is the result of six months of hard work with the team completing more than 6,000 of these welds, all of which were perfect.”

18 trains have been sent both north and south of Port Augusta over the last few months.

The new rails have been unloaded and placed between existing tracks.

Ramsey explained these rails will be connected using a field flash butt welder, before the lengths are laid and final joints are completed using more traditional welding methods.

“More than 175 kilometres of rail has been delivered to future installation sites where the upgrade will replace older rail with stronger steel, to support the faster and heavier trains,” Ramsey said.

$3m to pay for 30 projects in North East Vic

More than 30 projects are scheduled for a three-day rail outage in North East Victoria, the Australian Rail Transport Corporation has said.

ARTC’s interstate asset management general manager Brian Green this week said $3 million of works were planned for a maintenance shutdown in the region from March 11 to 13.

“Planned nearly a year in advance, a ‘track shutdown’ allows for a large amount of work to be delivered efficiently and safely,” Green explained.

“It is important we approach maintenance in a careful, staged and planned manner in the context of all rail operations and the needs of the entire network.”

Green said this was particularly relevant in North East Victoria, given the region’s railways serve valuable freight and passenger services operating across the national interstate rail freight network.

An ARTC representative recently travelled with a V/Line driver to confirm the range of works planned.

“The March shutdown will allow ballast cleaners, excavators and diggers on hi-rail equipment, rail tampers and other specialist equipment access to the track to deliver everything from track undercutting to ballast cleaning, rail grinding and drainage improvements,” Green said.

“The team will also invest in bridge and level crossing replacements and other rail infrastructure upgrades during the March shutdown – improvements the taxpayer doesn’t pay a cent for.

“Additionally we delivered a range of rail maintenance tasks – similar to the flood recovery work taking place to local roads and other infrastructure in the region – since November.”

The track corporation delivered new capacity works in January to support increased rail freight demand in the region, with new freight trains servicing Brisbane and Melbourne markets out of North East Victoria.

Ballarat line upgrade released to market

A $518 million upgrade of Victoria’s Ballarat line will begin early next year, with the Andrews Government releasing its Request for Proposal to deliver the work on March 1.

The contract will duplicate a 17-kilometre section of single track between Deer Park West and Melton, paving the way for future electrification of the Ballarat line to Melton.

It also covers the duplication of three kilometres of track east of Warrenheip, new crossing loops and train stabling at Melton and Rowsley, and the construction of second platforms at Bacchus Marsh and Ballan stations.

Existing platforms at Rockbank station will also be extended so passengers can use each carriage to get on or off the train.

The project has been fully funded with a $518 million allocation in the 2016/17 State Budget.

Melbourne Metro Rail Authority (MMRA) is directing procurement and delivery.

The winning bidder will be responsible for design and construction of track duplications and passing loops, new platforms and associated station improvements and infrastructure, construction of stabling roads and signalling upgrades.

“In response to this RFP, MMRA is seeking high quality Initial Proposals, including an Initial Target Outturn Cost that provides value for money, such that a single Preferred Proponent can be selected to participate in the Final Proposal Phase,” the Tenders Victoria posting reads.

Public transport minister Jacinta Allan said the project will create space for more trains to run more often on the Ballarat line.

“This half-a-billion-dollar project will give the people of Ballarat, Melton and Melbourne’s west the services they deserve,” she said.

“It’s the biggest rail project in regional Victoria, and we want the best in business to build it.”

Allan said the upgrade will start early next year, with the project to be complete by late 2019.

Peter Reidy CEO of KiwiRail. Photo: Brendon O'Hagan

Earthquake costs KiwiRail in first half

KiwiRail boss Peter Reidy is pleased with the company’s performance despite challenges presented by the recent Kaikoura earthquake which seriously impacted infrastructure and operations on New Zealand’s South Island in November.

KiwiRail announced its FY17 first-half results on February 24.

Revenue was down $48 million to $298 million due to a number of factors, but Reidy is confident the state-owned rail enterprise performed well.

In July 2016, Transdev Wellington took over the Wellington Metro passenger contract.

KiwiRail also reported lower bulk milk volumes.

Together, these two factors reduced KiwiRail’s underlying operating surplus to $23 million.

But with the earthquake’s impact included, the company’s surplus was just $11 million for the first half.

The earthquake resulted in a $9 million cut to revenue, as well as $3 million in additional costs, KiwiRail has reported.

In the face of all these negative factors, Reidy was pleased with how his business had fared.

“KiwiRail’s performance in the first four months of this period showed our strategies of simplifying our business, standardising our assets and investing in our people were moving us in the right direction,” he said.

“At the end of October we were seeing the results of our efforts and anticipating a record summer season for both our freight and passenger businesses.”

The Kaikoura earthquake hit the South Island on November 14.

“November’s earthquake and the closure of the Main North Line have clearly impacted on KiwiRail’s performance and will continue to do so through the second half of the year,” Reidy said.

“This event and the fire which closed the Midland Line [in February] have created challenges to the business as we rebuild the networks and continue to drive efficiencies and reliability for our customers.”

Reidy said despite the challenges, KiwiRail remains on track to deliver $18 million in productivity savings in FY17, building on the $27 million achieved in FY16.

“There is no doubt the organisation has challenges ahead this year but events like the Kaikoura earthquake will only have a short term impact if we continue our focus on reliability and productivity for our customers,” he said.

“That is ultimately what will drive KiwiRail’s transformation into a commercially-focused organisation helping to grow New Zealand.”

New owner for Rail Express

Rail Express, the leading industry title in Australian rail, has a new owner: Mohi Media.

Announcing the sale, Informa publishing director Peter Attwater said the company had decided to concentrate on other core areas of its business as opposed to trade publishing.

“It has been a great pleasure to have Rail Express in our stable, and I am delighted that the magazine and staff have found a new home with Mohi Media,” he said.

“I am sure it will continue to produce its high standard of content and I wish the whole team all the best,” he added.

The Mohi Media Team and Peter Attwater

(Left to Right) ABHR editor Charles Macdonald; Rail Express editor Oliver Probert; Mohi Media principal Mohi Media; Bulk Handling Equipment & Services Guide editor Ronda McCallum; ABHR and Rail Express national sales manager Patrick Roberts; Informa Australia publishing director Peter Attwater; and ABHR sales executive Margaret Shannon.

Mohi Media is a local, specialist publishing company. The business’ principal, Michael Mohi, is an experienced media executive with an extensive background in television, publishing and printing.

Michael has a long association with Rail Express. As senior executive for printing company Spotpress, he has handled the magazine’s printing and production for the past seven years.

For the last six months, Michael worked closely with the Rail Express team and Informa management during the magazine’s transition of ownership.

“I’ve been close to Rail Express for many years,” Michael explained.

“I’m very confident that the publication will grow over the next few years and I am currently developing new ideas with the team to build upon what is a very well established and important industry product.”

Michael, a Kiwi, has 45 years’ media experience. He worked as a radio and television journalist and current affairs producer with the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation and Television New Zealand. Crossing the Tasman, Michael joined TCN Nine as a director and amongst other duties was responsible for the network’s promotion of World Series Cricket.

In the 1980s he formed his own publishing business, successfully launching a raft of national magazines in Australia. He launched Countdown magazine with the ABC, the title becoming Australia’s biggest circulating youth music lifestyle magazine with a circulation of over 100,000 copies.

Mohi Media has also acquired Rail Express sister publication Australian Bulk Handling Review, also from Informa.

Bridge to be demolished after Kaikoura quake

The first major demolition project is about to get underway as part of KiwiRail’s program to bring the South Island’s Main North Line back into service following last year’s Kaikoura earthquake.

Bridge 90, near Hundalee in North Canterbury, will be taken down and replaced with a temporary bridge, KiwiRail said on February 21.

KiwiRail is working with its recovery partner NCTIR (North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery).

The bridge was severely damaged in the earthquake last year.

KiwiRail network services GM Todd Moyle said the bridge would be demolished using a ‘nibbler’, similar to that used to remove Wellington buildings damaged in the same quake.

“A temporary bridge using steel spans KiwiRail keeps in reserve for such emergencies will be built on the existing foundations after the damaged superstructure and piers are removed,” Moyle explained.

“The temporary bridge will be suitable for all types of trains.

“Using the temporary spans is part of KiwiRail’s push to re-open the Main North Line as quickly as possible.”

Moyle described the Main North line as “a vital link” in KiwiRail’s network.

“Before the quake KiwiRail was moving 1 million tonnes of freight over the line each year,” he said.

“The partnerships we have in the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance with NZTA and other alliance members are really paying off.

“The work on Bridge 90 is important to the rebuilding programme because it will allow work trains to travel north with equipment for other large projects.”

Looking into the crystal ball to keep the rail industry on track

ANALYSIS: Scott Peters explains how rail companies can best take advantage of sophisticated technologies including asset management systems, IoT and cognitive analytics systems.


In an asset intensive industry like rail, the infrastructure and assets provide the backbone of the business and having a high performing, reliable asset base is critical.

Creating an efficient train network system that doesn’t compromise safety and meets the rising expectations of travellers and transporters through optimal disruption management is the objective of pretty much every operator in this industry globally.

Trains have been running in Australia since the 1850s and with over 30,000km of track and in excess of 40,000 wagons, the scale of the asset management task for our rail industry is enormous. Since that time the science behind comfort, noise reduction, safety and performance has constantly evolved to ensure optimum performance and safety. We are in the midst of resurgence in rail due to its fuel and cost efficient way of moving people and goods efficiently without the inconvenience of increasing city traffic.

The consequences of a major infrastructure failure can not only be inconvenient to travellers and companies transporting goods, but also tragic if for example, a derailment occurs that involves a passenger train.

The Hatfield derailment near London in 2000, where four people were killed and 70 injured, was a disaster waiting to happen and had huge financial impact on the operator and the industry. Many experts say it could have been avoided with proper maintenance and safety measures.

When rail companies’ diverse range of equipment, lines and rolling stock are not available or working at their optimal state, their financial performance will be impacted. These assets are spread across a wide geographic area and are maintained by a field-based workforce. They are affected by human and environmental factors, which can adversely affect a rail company’s key stakeholders in a variety of adverse ways that ultimately negatively impacts profit and reputation.

Stakeholder requirements translate ultimately into asset management objectives. The core objectives of rail asset management fall into one of three fundamental categories:

  1. Safety – for people and their environment
  2. Service delivery – can be agreed explicitly in contracts or implicitly in service charters or public promises
  3. Financial performance – necessary to the continued viability of the organisation

Failing to achieve any of the above objectives can be costly and can jeopardise the future viability of an organisation in the rail sector, and achieving them has to be concurrent.

The ability to meet these challenges and deliver exceptional outcomes is being aided by advancements in the asset management ecosystem. Railway operators can and should take advantage of opportunities related to people, processes and technology to achieve their strategic objectives.



One of the most important changes we are experiencing in the rail industry is generational, and I am not talking about tasks being taken over by digital processes, as that has been happening for decades in rail. Now that the last of the baby boomers are retiring, knowledge retention is a real issue and the rail sector is losing organisational wisdom, but technology can play a role in filling the void.

It’s widely accepted that the break-fix method is expensive and it makes railways more vulnerable to unplanned service interruptions and outages due to equipment failures and can also compromise safety. No longer can train operators rely on an experienced employee with a keen ear for diagnosing potential engine problems before an inconvenient break-down. Rail companies can now use a listening system to gather data about engine health and then combine that with information from sensors. These real time actionable insights allow train operators to schedule immediate repairs before any equipment failure.


Technology and Processes

The rail industry’s younger and more digitally savvy workforce is fundamentally changing how businesses within the sector invest in technology solutions, and the outcomes they seek to achieve.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is often mentioned as a silver bullet for achieving organisational goals related to Asset Management. The reality is that the underlying technologies that drive the IoT have been available for decades (sensors, Electronic Data Interchange, mobile devices). Large physical assets with digital footprints are now being targeted in the rail industry for predictive maintenance, from transportation to engineering to mechanical to communication and also signalling.

IBM has been working with the rail sector for over 100 years and in a recent interview for International Railway Journal, Keith Dierkx, global transportation and rail leader at IBM, explained how video and print pattern-recognition capabilities are now detecting wear and changes to wheels, trucks and rail cars. Analytics technologies for travel and transportation providers can gather evidence of asset conditions, which generates intelligent insights about what is happening currently and what is likely to happen in the future.

Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation (THSRC) employed IBM Maximo to build an advanced maintenance management solution that employs advanced sensing and condition-based monitoring. What makes it smarter is the automated, rules-based workflow management, ensuring maintenance issues are addressed before they can become passenger safety issues.

The fact that rail operators can visualise data in dashboards via Business Intelligence tools, Enterprise Asset Management systems, mobile apps on smartphones or tablets and even wearable devices does not ensure the accuracy of the information that they are consuming. In order to take advantage of the IoT solutions available, it is critical for rail organisations to review their data governance strategies to deliver high quality information in real time.


The Future

As we look into our crystal ball of things to come, more rail companies will be adopting sophisticated technologies including asset management systems, IoT and cognitive analytics systems. Those that are ahead of the curve in terms of adopting these technologies will not only be able to predict equipment performance, but they will also be able to deliver a personalised customer experience, as well as optimising forecast accuracy. However in order to really gain a distinct competitive advantage, rail companies need to successfully align their people, processes and technologies in order to make all of those investments integrate seamlessly.


Scott Peters is Solutions Director at Certus. Scott has been collaborating with large organisations in the infrastructure sectors for over 15 years to achieve operational excellence, including the rail sector.

Resleepered track on WA's Leonora Branch Line. Photo: Brookfield Rail

Brookfield working on “extensive” flooding damage to East-West railway

Heavy flooding in Western Australia has left four key railways out of action this week, including the key connection between the nation’s east and west coasts.

WA operator Brookfield said its teams were working towards restoring the rail lines to action this week, with “extensive damage” observed including damage to embankments, track structures and access roads.

Brookfield has been forced to close traffic on:

1. Eastern Goldfields Railway, operating from Perth to Kalgoorlie and on to the eastern states;
2. Great Southern Railway, operating from Northam to Albany;
3. Grain freight rail network, operating in the northern Wheatbelt and the Lakes District; and
4. Leonora line, operating from Kalgoorlie to Leonora.

“Where conditions have allowed site preparation activities and recovery and restoration works have commenced and operations have resumed on some lines,” Brookfield said.

“In some areas the extent of the damage to rail infrastructure is still unclear because of continued rainfall and the volume of water and as a result some sections of the freight rail network will remain closed until further notice.

“Brookfield Rail is working closely with customers who utilise the rail network to ensure they are kept informed of progress.”

In WA Brookfield works as both a rail operator and the track owner, thanks to a long-term lease from the WA Government.

Delegates at AusRAIL PLUS 2015. Photo:

AusRAIL Call for Papers: 40 days remain

Rail experts from around the region have until March 10 to submit abstracts for papers to be delivered at this year’s massive AusRAIL Plus event in Brisbane.

The Australasian Railway Association’s annual AusRAIL event will head to the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from November 21 to 23, 2017.

2017 represents a biennial ‘PLUS’ year for AusRAIL, meaning organisers are expecting even more speakers, exhibitors, delegates and visitors than in 2016.

Alongside its exhibition, panel sessions and keynote speeches, AusRAIL is well known for its informative and detailed technical conference streams.

The ARA is inviting rail experts to submit 400- to 600-word abstracts for proposed papers to be delivered in these conference streams.

Experts are being asked to specifically address this year’s conference theme, ‘Rail’s Digital Revolution’, in their abstracts.

Organisers are interested in papers covering a wide array of industry sectors, including (but not limited to) track, asset management, rollingstock, signals & communication, management and operations.

All abstracts will be reviewed by the event’s Technical Committee, and are due by Friday, March 10, with successful authors to be notified by Monday, May 8.

Visit for more information.