Victoria names pair to head new rail projects

Chief executives have been named for the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority and the Level Crossing Removal Authority by Victorian public transport minister, Jacinta Allan.

Evan Tattersall will head the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority.

The authority is charged with the construction of two 9km rail tunnels from South Kensington to South Yarra, as part of a new Sunbury to Cranbourne/Pakenham line, which will include five new underground stations at Arden, Parkville, CBD North, CBD South and Domain.

Melbourne Metro Map - credit Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure, Victorian Government
Map of the proposed Melbourne Metro Rail Project alignment, and five underground stations. Photo: Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure, Victorian Government

Tattersall has worked on several other major infrastructure projects in Victoria in the past.

He worked on the Craigieburn Electrification Project, the Southern Cross Station redevelopment, the Western Ring Road Project, the Multipurpose Venue Sports Stadium (i.e. Hisense Arena), and most recently worked on the $4 billion Regional Rail Link.

Along with naming Tattersall as CEO of the Melbourne Metro Rail Project, minister for transport Jacinta Allan also named Kevin Devlin the chief executive of the Level Crossing Removal Authority.

Devlin has worked in senior positions at a number of major projects, including the Geelong Ring Road, the Pakenham Bypass, the Hallam Bypass, the Middleborough Road Rail Grade Separation and the West Gate Bridge Strengthening Project.

Most recently Devlin delivered major water projects for Baulderstone, and worked as the executive project director at the Linking Melbourne Authority.

The Level Crossing Removal Project aims to remove 50 of the ‘worst’ level crossings in Melbourne, to improve the safety of pedestrians, drivers and commuters.

The government hopes to remove 50 level crossings over the next eight years.

“I am thrilled that we have secured two exceptional executives to lead the delivery of Melbourne Metro and the Level Crossing Removal Project,” Allan said.

“Their experience will be invaluable in planning and delivering the multi-billion [dollar] transport infrastructure our state needs.”

Katharina Gerstmann

Rail ‘male dominated, but not anti-female’

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day this past Sunday, RTSA executive chair and Beca manager for transport, Katharina Gerstmann, spoke about women in the rail industry.

Gerstmann, who wrote in a release by Engineers Australia in February, said that while rail has been historically male dominated, times are changing.

“Women are making an enormous contribution to all areas of rail, with more and more women taking on roles across the industry,” Gerstmann said, “from train drivers to engineers through to management positions.

“Both women and men seem to come to the industry by accident, but stay out of passion.”

Gerstmann explained that getting more women to fulfil lengthy careers in rail was a question of attracting more women at all levels, and retaining them by having a structure in place that enables them to fulfil their potential.

“The industry might be male dominated but that’s not because it is anti-female,” she said. “It is because of the perception we have given women; and one of the biggest challenges in attracting women lies in overcoming this perception.”

Gerstmann outlined three core issues which should be tackled by the industry to help achieve a gender balance.

“The first is the lack of a platform where women can network with like-minded colleagues, make new friends and discuss current issues – something that groups on social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook have now started to address,” she said.

“The second issue is around helping and guiding women in the industry to be able to progress their careers and realise their full potential.

“And finally we need to help ensure that more females join the industry at entry level by raising awareness of the benefits of working in it.”

Gerstmann said good work was being done in rail to help workers advance both their career and their family life, and that this is good business.

“Most organisations in the Australian rail industry can now see the business case, and that women in rail initiatives are not about some sort of feminist crusade, or a fluffy ‘all women together’ thing,” she said.

“They start to understand that there is something in it for them as well, which is the economic benefit of diversity. As soon as you have a diverse workforce you have a productivity increase.

“Women in rail are not here to take over but we want to increase our percentage,” Gerstmann concluded.

“There are a lot of initiatives going on in the industry, especially trying to stimulate youngsters to have a career in rail, and it’s about us all working together rather than in isolation.”

Inland Rail

Inland Rail tenders open

Deputy prime minister and minister for infrastructure and transport Warren Truss has opened the tender process for engineering design and environmental services contracts for the proposed Inland Rail project set to link Brisbane and Melbourne.

It’s the first round of tenders Inland Rail, a project which Truss called ‘iconic’ prior to the tenders’ launch on March 7.

“Inland Rail is a game-changer,” the deputy PM said.

“It is vital infrastructure that will boost capacity and productivity along the country’s fastest growth freight corridor.

“It is a critical investment in jobs, growth and future prosperity, as well as a boost for the regional areas along, and around, its route.”

Truss said he thinks the rail line will “transform” freight movements through south east Queensland, across regional New South Wales and rural Victoria, resulting in national efficiency increases.

“We know Australia’s freight task will double by 2030 and triple along the eastern seaboard,” Truss said.

“Inland Rail will connect key production areas in Queensland, NSW and Victoria with export ports in Brisbane and Melbourne, with linkages to Sydney and Perth, boosting regional economic growth and driving national productivity.”

The first round of tenders concerns planning for some of the key segments of the Parkes to Narromine and Narrabri to North Star sections of the proposed lines.

“The Australian Government has committed $300 million to commence work on the Inland Rail project. These tenders are a clear demonstration that real progress is being made and that we are delivering against our commitment.

“I have charged the Australian Rail Track Corporation with developing a 10-year delivery plan for Inland Rail and appointed former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson to head the Inland Rail Implementation Group, to oversee that work.

“We’re getting on with the job of delivering world-class infrastructure that secures Australia’s transport needs well into the future, while creating jobs, economic growth and opportunity for all Australians.”

Truss said regional suppliers will benefit throughout the 10-year delivery of the project, with any successful tenderer required to demonstrate regional participation.

“When complete, Inland Rail will deliver a road-competitive freight rail service from Melbourne to Brisbane via regional hubs in three states that will make a huge contribution to meeting Australia’s freight challenge,” he said.

‘Pave over the tracks’, think tank says

A British think tank has suggested commuters could pay 40% less for their journeys if the UK government ripped up some railways and replaced them with dedicated bus roads.

The Institute of Economic Affairs this week released a report, ‘Paving over the tracks: a better use of Britain’s railways?’

“The reluctance of policy makers to consider more efficient forms of public transport has led to expensive fares and sardine-like conditions for commuters across the country,” the IEA said on Tuesday.

According to the IEA’s report, above-ground commuter railways transport a quarter of a million passengers into London during the morning peak hour.

That works out to about 10,000 commuters per track, “many of whom have to stand during their journey”, the IEA said.

“150 express coaches, each seating 75 individuals would be able to carry the same number of commuters while occupying one seventh of the capacity of a one-lane busway, of a similar width to that required by a train,” the IEA said.

The British think tank said the busways could offer comparable, if not shorter travel times, and could do so at a cheaper cost than existing railways.

The IEA said rail had received a “disproportional” amount of funding compared to alternate modes of transport, and that this needed to be fixed.

“Individuals in the UK are far more likely to travel by car than train, with 90% of passengers and 70% of freight traffic carried by roads,” the group said. “Despite this disparity, state funding of railways is just 30% lower than that spent on roads.”

Report co-author and IEA transport head Dr Richard Wellings said politicians were to blame.

“Ongoing interference by politicians in the rail industry has led to everyone getting a raw deal,” Wellings said.

“Passengers face increasingly expensive fares only to fight their way onto trains during peak times and taxpayers continue to prop up an industry whose importance to the country is disproportionally small relative to the level of resources it receives.

“Adopting more efficient methods of transport could offer considerable benefits to passengers and the taxpayer alike. But only when the sector is liberalised from rigid state control, will we see such alternatives being seriously considered.”

The report can be viewed here.


Downer lands $1bn deal with Pacific National

Australian engineering group Downer EDI has won a ten-year maintenance contract with rail operator Pacific National, that the engineer values at around $1bn.

Downer announced to the ASX today that it had struck a deal with Pacific National, a subsidiary business of transport and infrastructure business Asciano.

Downer chief executive Grant Fenn said the agreement was an important development in Downer Rail’s aim to provide “total rail asset solutions” to its customers.

“Under the agreement, Downer will provide a full suite of asset management services for over 300 Pacific National locomotives,” Fenn said.

“This includes a range of scheduled and unscheduled maintenance services and a 24 hour Fleet Control Centre.

“The new features of the agreement include remote monitoring of the assets and inspections while in service to ensure more locomotives are available for service,” he continued.

“The locomotives are out on the tracks for longer hours and that they run at higher levels of reliability.”

Pacific National moves roughly 145mt of cargo each year. The company delivers rail operations for coal and other bulk solids, as well as container transport and specialised freight, such as steel.

The Pacific National deal announced today was the second bulk handling contract win for Downer so far this year. The company announced on January 5 that it had won a deal to maintain haul truck fleets at two coal mines in Queensland’s Bowen Basin.

That contract commenced on February 1, and is worth about $60m. Around 110 people will be employed to service 90 haul trucks.

5 most important storylines from Queensland election

The scrapping of government plans to help fund a proposed shared railway through Queensland’s resource-rich Galilee Basin is just one of the major storylines for rail and resources industry to monitor in the fallout of Queensland’s election.

Shared Galilee infrastructure on knife’s edge

Campbell Newman’s plans to set aside a portion of taxpayers’ money for the development of a shared rail line and associated infrastructure through the Galilee is on the ropes, with its future dependent on the balance of power in parliament.

Prior to the election Newman said a re-elected LNP Government would work to provide miners in the Galilee Basin with a shared rail line that would connect their proposed mining projects with Abbot Point, or another export facility, on the coast.

The now ex-premier said his party would provide at least some of the funds for the development of that infrastructure.

But Annastacia Palaszczuk, leader of the opposition going into the election, and likely the next premier of Queensland, is against the funding.

Palaszczuk said in the lead-up to Sunday’s election that Galilee miners should have to be viable to succeed without government support, and that such financial assistance for a shared piece of infrastructure would not come from a Labor Government.

However, without a majority in parliament, Labor would need to ally itself with smaller parties and independents.

Katter’s Australia Party, led by Rob Katter – the son of polarising former federal politician Bob Katter – could be key to Labor getting its policies through parliament, should the party not hold the majority vote.

At time of writing (with roughly 85% of all votes counted), predictions have Labor winning 44 or 45 seats. With 45, the party would have all the power it needs to get its legislation through parliament.

But with just 44 seats, Labor would need to ally itself with Katter’s party (2 seats), or Nicklin independent Peter Wellington (1 seat), or with all three seats, to form a majority vote.

If Labor holds 44 seats after the election, and the LNP holds 42, however, the LNP could strike a deal with Katter’s party and the independent Wellington, giving it the 45 voting seats it needs to have its way in parliament.

If the LNP holds the balance of power, it could still go through with its plans for the Galilee. And experts are predicting that in order to strike a deal with Katter’s party, Labor might have to commit to a similar level of funding for the Galilee project.

Recognising 40 years of railway innovation

Australia’s premier applied research centre in railway technology last week celebrated four decades of innovative solutions in mining and commuter rail systems.

A Celebration of 40 Years of Railway Research andTechnology was held last Thursday at the Park Hyatt, Melbourne, to celebrate the 40 years of railway research and technology by Monash University’s Institute of Railway Technology (IRT).

Originally part of research activities undertaken for the companies now known as BHP Billiton Iron Ore and Rio Tinto Iron Ore, IRT is now an applied research centre at Monash University. It provides technical assistance to the world’s three biggest iron ore producers, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Vale (Brazil), and more than 90 other railway entities, including leading commuter rail authorities.

IRT, which has clients in several countries, specialises in providing comprehensive solutions to technical issues in existing rail systems, whether they transport iron ore, freight or commuters. IRT is also a leader in remotely monitoring tracks and rolling stock using cutting-edge technology to detect faults before catastrophic failures occur.

Monash University’s senior deputy vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor (research) Professor Edwina Cornish, congratulated IRT on leading the Australian railway technology field for four decades.

“The Institute of Railway Technology is a great example of how universities and industry can collaborate to develop solutions that drive technology forward,” Prof Cornish said.

“IRT was born out of industry need and now real-world problems continue to drive its agenda.”

Director of IRT, Ravi Ravitharan, said the institute was set to build on its success.

“IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements of the rail industry,” Ravitharan said.

“Being part of Australia’s largest university, IRT is well-placed to continue to lead the railway research and technology needs of the rejuvenated railway industry.”

The Victorian minister for public transport Terry Mulder, delivered the keynote address at the gala dinner and general manager of infrastructure at the Hong Kong rail authority MTR, Richard Keefe, and rail engineering manager at Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Leland LeBreton, both long term clients of IRT, also spoke at the event.

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | Newcastle City Hall

IRT: leading technology development for mining

While the Australian economy is enjoying a fortunate position due to the thriving mining industry, research and technology have been integral factors which have enabled the mining industry to reach its current position.

As part of one of the main technology service providers for the railway industry, the personnel at the Institute of Railway Technology (IRT) at Monash University have been supporting the mining industry’s railway operations over the last four decades. IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements at the same time as reducing risks and costs, ultimately improving the bottom line of their clients.

The latest technology IRT has developed is the instrumented revenue vehicle which is a fully flexible automated measurement platform to continuously monitor and provide feedback on both rail condition and train operation. This technology is designed to be installed in standard vehicles which are embedded within a normal operation.

The IRT instrumented vehicle technology has several key advantages over previous maintenance inspection methods. With the objective of increasing production rates, mining operations are often under pressure to reduce railway track downtime. The ramifications of reducing track downtime are that it would minimize traditional track measurements and maintenance activities. This could result in a significant increase in operational risks because of a lack of maintenance and an inability to identify deterioration of track condition in a timely manner.

IRT’s instrumented vehicle technology measures the condition of a railway system during normal rail operations without requiring any track downtime. In addition, IRT’s technology measures the dynamic responses of normal vehicles during loaded and empty operating conditions under standard speed profiles. Unlike previous track recording vehicle measurements, IRT technology measurements are a direct indication of the loads being imposed on the rail network in a usual operating environment.

By Ravi Ravitharan*

It is also important to note that the information collected using the IRT’s instrumented vehicletechnology is available for railway operations within a twelve hour period. It is anticipated that in the near future real time reporting of track and train related issues would be also available.

The above technology is widely used in railway systems in mining operations and now available to all railway operations including passenger and freight, to assist with both track and rolling stock management.

The IRT instrumented vehicle technology measurements have shown an excellent correlation with track inspector findings. Now these measurements are being used extensively for track maintenance activities, and to restrict line speed to mitigate damage to and risk from deterioration of the track structure.

Assessment of the effectiveness of maintenance operations, operational planning and maintenance programming are other benefits of the new technology IRT has developed.

IRT’s instrumented vehicle technology has also been used for analysis of train driving strategies and in-train forces, train driver training, derailment investigations, analysis of the dynamic effect on bridges, dumper indexing for minimization of coupler loads and assistance with the design of new rolling stock.

IRT, the premier track and vehicle railway engineering research centre in Australia, focuses on developing new technologies that could be integrated into existing processes to provide rail operators with the ability to effectively manage their resources.

*Ravi Ravitharan is director, Institute of Railway Technology, Monash University

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | City Hall Newcastle
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Level crossing Victoria - Photo: Creative Commons

New technology to dramatically improve level crossing safety

A new $4m technology being developed at Victoria’s La Trobe University could significantly reduce and help to eliminate collisions, injuries and fatalities at Australia’s level crossings.

By Jennifer Perry

The technology could warn vehicles as they’re approaching a level crossing by using “mobile phone style” wireless networks that are integrated with GPS.

“The technology will have cars and trains ‘talking to each other’ and be able to warn of approaching danger from up to one kilometre away,” Victorian roads and ports minister Tim Pallas said upon launching the research project.

“Nowhere else in the world is the trial of this particular technology being proposed to the extent that we are doing in Victoria and focusing on its level crossing safety applications.”

Pallas said the research team at the university’s Centre for Technology Infusion estimated the technology could save around 37 lives at Australian road level crossings every year, as well as about $100m by eliminating rail crossing collisions.

The project is being funded by the Victorian Government, road industry research group AutoCRC and a number of rail industry partners.

The research team hopes to have the technology available within three years.

Rail technology roadmaps: a Canadian perspective

The recent Rail Technology Workshop saw senior rail executives come together to kick-start the development of a technology strategy and roadmap for the Australian rail industry for the next 30-40 years.

By Jennifer Perry

While many rail organisations have developed individual technology roadmaps, the workshop marked the first time that industry came together to work towards a common technological base.

With Canada a few steps ahead of Australia, having already got a technology roadmap in place, delegates benefitted from hearing the Canadian experience that was shared by Mike Roney, chair of Canada’s Railway Research Advisory Board.

Roney said that the Canadian rail industry used the Association of American Railroads’ (AAR) technologyroadmap as a basis for developing a specific Canadian technology strategy, and took more of a freight focus because that’s where “the money is made”.

“The AAR technology roadmap started when our chief executives said that even if the railways don’t gain market share, we still have to be carrying 80 per cent more tonnage on our lines 20 years into the future which requires us to spend a great deal of money on capacity improvements,” Roney said.
“The target we came to was if we can do 50 per cent of that improvement in capacity through technology then there is a great deal of value in that for the railways.”

Canada took many of the AAR’s technology roadmap principles into consideration when developing its own strategy, including the need to develop capacity without spending capital; making assets sweat; fuel efficiency and advanced power systems; reducing in-service failures; automated health monitoring of track and rollingstock; interoperability; positive train control; and information technology that supports improved customer service.

“The next piece of evidence we put together was the visioning of the top operating officers within Canadian National and Canadian Pacific – the two major Canadian freight railways – who were basically asked what they would like their railway to be when they grow up,” Roney said.

The resulting vision highlighted key strategic areas such as the need for new technologies to lower stress states and for the rail network to be fluid, scheduled and precise; the need for safety systems to be more vital, predictive and condition based and for technologies that reduce emissions, amongst others.
Some of the technologies that featured in this vision were wireless train control systems to improve safety and capacity, friction management to control the friction levels along rail lines and reduce fuel consumption, ECP braking and longer trains with distributed power.

Key stakeholders then came together to decide on what research priorities would form Canada’s joint industry government research program for its technology roadmap; Roney said that with a lack of industry funding for research, it was paramount that funding went to areas that “everyone up the line” recognised as the top priorities.

Research projects included human behavior and compliance, energy and the environment, railroading and harsh and changing environments, infrastructure integrity, human factors, operational fluidity and capacity and emerging technologies.

Roney’s views were welcomed by the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board’s (RISSB) general manager Kevin Taylor, who told Rail Express that with Canada “out there leading rail reform”, it had plenty of good case examples for Australia to follow including the development of a technologystrategy.
Taylor said that while the Rail Technology Strategy Workshop marked an important step in the industry’s development of a technology strategy, it was “just the start” of what may be a rather lengthy development and approval process.

“A project plan will be provided for RISSB’s approval in November, and subject to this approval, work will start in earnest,” he said.

Taylor also mentioned that it was important that broad industry buy-in was achieved in the development of the strategy and thus the RISSB process of consultation will be followed.