Rail Manufacturing CRC on hunt for final round of projects

The Commonwealth Government sponsored Rail Manufacturing CRC is looking to create more partnerships between rail businesses and universities in its final open funding round. Rail Express spoke with Chief Executive Officer Dr Stuart Thomson about the CRC’s model, and what could be next for the organisation.

The proposal to form a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Australia’s rail manufacturing sector came from the ‘On Track to 2040’ program.

Subsequently, the Rail Manufacturing CRC was established in 2014 and will operate for a period of six years, funded by the Business Cooperative Research Centres Programme of the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

Since commencing, the Rail Manufacturing CRC has held two funding rounds, and now embarks on its third and final round, with submissions due early next year.

“Our focus is set by industry,” Dr Thomson told Rail Express. “It’s very industry-led. Part of [On Track to 2040] was developing a 30-year strategy for the rail industry, and three specific research areas were identified, which we’ve committed to as our three key objectives.”

The CRC’s three research program themes are ‘power and propulsion’, ‘materials and manufacturing’, and ‘design, modelling and simulation’. Within each theme there are already several ongoing projects, which each see at least one industry member partnered with a university or research institution.

“When the Centre began, we had an initial number of members who joined the Centre,” Thomson explained. “Our membership ranged from the tier-one manufacturers, right through the SMEs, and now we have operators on board as well … because they are clients for a lot of our work.”

Companies already undertaking CRC-driven projects include Knorr-Bremse, Bombardier, UGL, OneSteel, Downer, CRRC, and Sydney Trains. Academic and research institutions include the University of Technology Sydney, the CSIRO, the University of Queensland, the University of Wollongong, CQ University, QUT, Deakin University, Swinburne, Monash University and RMIT.

To take part in research, companies are invited to approach the CRC with an idea for new R&D. The CRC will match their funding – with grants worth up to $1 million in this third round of funding – and help partner those companies up with the most suitable  universities and researchers.

“We’re set up to provide capacity for business who want to undertake research that, perhaps is either very high risk [technically], or requires extra skillsets, for organisations which typically may not have those people working inhouse.

“Australia has an excellent research history. It punches well above its weight globally. I think that’s underutilised at the moment within the rail industry, and our focus is really to ensure that rail makes the most of those skillsets and opportunities.”

 

 

The process

The CRC’s third round of funding is open to applications until early March 2018.

“We work with rail businesses to identify innovation opportunities and introduce them to identify the universities they could partner with,” Thomson explained. “Then we start to engage with the universities to find the right people, and develop a project brief.”

Thomson says the CRC will match any amount of funding, “whether it’s $50,000, or $1 million,” for the right project.

“The money is then used to fund activities and supply equipment for that project,” he explained. “Typically, the money goes to support labour costs within the university undertaking the project.

“Obviously, because it’s taxpayers’ money, there must be a benefit to Australia, so a lot of the support is for either projects that are specific to Australia, or would help the development of intellectual property and technologies that are going to have a distinct benefit to Australia.”

The CRC helps coordinate the intellectual property (IP) and technology ownership agreements between the industry participant and university in each project upfront, and Thomson says these deals are established early in each project’s development.

“Our model is very simple,” he explained. “We don’t take any ownership of any of the IP. The IP terms and conditions, and the commercialisation rights, will be negotiated between the parties – the university and the industry participant. That’s specified in the agreements, and is all done prior to the project starting. It’s very much a commercial contract.”

With over a dozen ongoing projects, there is no limit to how many – or how few – the CRC may take on in its third and final funding round.

“There’s no set number,” Thomson said. “It’s really about the quality of the projects. Where we feel that it’s answering a need, there’s a benefit for Australia, and there’s going to be a benefit to the industry, we will support those projects.”

The CRC has a prescribed lifetime of six years, and has just passed the halfway point. After the final round of projects are selected, they will be expected to commence in April 2018, and run for up to 18 months.

“The success of the [CRC] will really be borne out by the outcomes of the projects, and we have a number of them ongoing,” Thomson said.

“The CRC has two missions: one is to develop projects with industry, and the second is to train the next tier of postgraduate researchers for the rail industry. We currently have over 20 PhD students, and so our current focus is keeping them within the rail industry, making sure they engage with the industry participants we’re dealing with and increase the knowledge within the industry.”

Longer term, the CRC will be seeking to establish a new proposal to take to the Commonwealth and will be seeking continued funding for the rail sector.

Thomson believes the continued development of Australia’s intellectual property will help it continue to thrive in the rail space.

“It’s clear that the next ten years is really going to be a golden era for rail. I think events like this become more and more important, given the amount of work that’s on, but also in helping the industry to shape its thoughts and strategies,” he said.

“Because we’ve got this period where the [work] pipeline is going to be full for an extended period of time, it creates both challenges and opportunities for the rail sector. Keeping and retaining qualified staff in the industry is just one example of this.

“Traditional manufacturing is one thing that will benefit over the next few years, but there’s also a period of time we’re reaching, where business can look to diversify what they’re doing to develop niche technologies,” he said.

“Through intellectual property – and the protection of that intellectual property – we can create new industries, that will hopefully create new export opportunities. So it’s an exciting time for rail, and AusRAIL helps play a major part in shaping how we’ll go forward in the future.”

 

Applications for Rail Manufacturing CRC’s third funding round close on March 9, 2018. Visit www.rmcrc.com.au/register-your-project to find out more.

Adani loan dominates election debate, but China may step in

Chinese banks and state-owned enterprises are reportedly ready to finance Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine and railway project, as debate continues over a potential $1 billion loan from the Federal Government ahead of the Queensland election on Saturday.

Adani has remained a crucial talking point in the lead-up to the state election, with several key seats expected to hinge on the issue.

After supporting the project throughout much of 2017, the Palaszczuk Government just weeks ago vowed to veto any loan from the Commonwealth’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. Opposition leader Tim Nicholls, meanwhile, has supported the project.

But debate over a Federal loan may be moot, with the news China may step in to give the Indian energy giant the money it needs to get the ball rolling on the massive Galilee Basin project.

The news would be bad for the project’s already shaky value-proposition for the Australian economy, however, with Chinese financial regulations requiring projects funded by Chinese banks to source much of their materials, where possible, from China.

If such a condition is put in place for a deal on Adani, that could cancel out a major chunk of the thousands of indirect jobs the Indian miner has said the Carmichael project will bring to Australia.

The ABC reported on Wednesday that a senior Adani Mining official had told industry figures the company was close to closing a deal with Chinese entities, and would no longer need a NAIF loan for its project.

The proposed NAIF loan was to help fund a 388-kilometre railway, linking the potentially 60 million tonnes per annum Carmichael mine with export terminals at Abbot Point.

Hot off the presses: Read your digital edition of the AusRAIL PLUS 2017 Magazine

Rail Express is proud to release the digital edition of the official magazine of AusRAIL PLUS 2017, along with the Australasian Rail Directory 2018.

The AusRAIL PLUS 2017 issue of Rail Express includes an exclusive interview with Pacific National boss Dean Dalla Valle, a Queensland election preview, a sit down with the Federal Government’s Rail Manufacturing CRC, and much, much more.

The magazine coincides with the release of the annual Australasian Rail Directory, which provides a comprehensive index of every large, medium and small business working in, supplying, or servicing the rail industry in Australia and New Zealand.

Click here to read Rail Express, AusRAIL PLUS 2017

Click here to read the Australasian Rail Directory 2018

Instructions: simply use your mouse to drag the pages just like you were reading a magazine. Alternatively, you can use the left and right arrows on your keyboard. To zoom in on a page, use the magnifying glass icon on the bottom centre menu. To download the magazine as a PDF, click the downward arrow icon in the bottom centre menu.

Caulfield-Dandenong rail elevation opening spaces for parks, cycling path

The final designs for the new spaces that will be opened-up by the elevation of the rail line between Caulfield and Dandenong have been released, revealing plans for 22.5 hectares of landscaped parks, paths and recreation facilities in Melbourne’s south-east.

Along with plans for parklands and seven new recreational areas, a 17-kilometre walking and cycling path will be constructed, extending from Monash University’s Caulfield Campus to the East Link Trail.

Two fenced dog parks will be established in Clayton and Noble Park, while 430 additional car spaces will be provided and over 4000 trees will be planted.

These features will become possible after the completion of the elevation of a section of the Cranbourne-Pakenham Line between Caulfield and Dandenong, which will also allow for the removal of nine level crossings in the area.

“This area of Melbourne has the smallest amount of parkland in Victoria – we’re providing more space for locals and families to come together, exercise and play,” state transport minister Jacinta Allan said.

“Some of Melbourne’s most vibrant precincts are located around elevated rail and this open space will help invigorate shopping and hospitality along the corridor.”

The plans for the new spaces were reportedly designed in consultation with the community and the guidance of an ‘expert panel’ put together for the purpose and led by Royal Botanic Gardens chief Tim Entwisle.

Two thirds of the group’s recommendations were incorporated into the plans, including the inclusion of multi-purpose spaces that could appeal to all age groups.

“I am extremely proud of the work done by our design team and hope these plans can help the community share our excitement for how the rail corridor will be transformed,” project director Brett Summers said.

“While improving congestion and safety will always be at the heart of this project, we are also setting out to transform places and the open space is an amazing opportunity to do just that.”

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne. Photo: Creative Commons / Adam J.W.C.

Scaffolding being removed for Flinders Street Station restoration

Scaffolding for the restoration works on the iconic façade of Flinders Street Station will begin to be removed today, while the building’s clock face be returned to its position overlooking the Flinders Street intersection by Christmas.

These repair works form part of the $100 million upgrades for the station building, which is now over one hundred years old, having been built in 1910.

A reported 5,000 litres of paint and 3.5 tons of mortar have been used in the restoration of the building, while 700 windows have been restored and painted and the roof waterproofed.

The repainting process, which will see the station returned to its original 1910 colours, is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

The glass clock faces and hands have been removed from the site as they are currently also undergoing restoration works. The clock tower itself has been strengthened by the installation of an internal steel frame.

State transport and infrastructure minister Jacinta Allan visited the works inside the clock tower yesterday.

“For the first time in a century we got up to the clock tower to restore and repair the historic clock – protecting it for the future,” Allan said.

Refurbishment works on the main concourse and at the Elizabeth Street subway toilets have now been completed, while brighter lighting has been installed on every platform and further works are progressing at the western end of the station.

“Flinders Street is the heart of our train system and the heart of our city – we’re restoring it and making it more accessible, safe and user friendly for passengers,” Allan said.

The upgrade works are expected to be complete by the middle of 2018.

Why Adani may still get its government rail line loan

COMMENT: Despite Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s veto of a loan to Adani, the company could still receive funds from a new government or via previous arrangements, Brendan Gogarty writes.

 


Even though Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced she would be vetoing the around A$1 billion loan to Adani for a rail link to its proposed Carmichael coal mine, funds could still flow to the company.

Currently in caretaker mode for the Queensland election, the premier would need the consent of the opposition party to exercise such a right. That is very unlikely given the LNP’s longstanding support of Adani’s mine.

This means any veto could not be exercised until late November, or more realistically, December 2017.

As the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) loan doesn’t need state approval (but rather explicit veto) it could also mean the money will make its way to Adani, without any direct action by the state government.

How would Commonwealth money make its way to Adani?

The NAIF body was established in 2016 and administers A$5 billion in Commonwealth funds. It’s been empowered to award grants to the northern states and Northern Territory for infrastructure projects. Practically, however, these jurisdictions are used as financial conduits to pass this money to large corporations operating in northern Australia.

The NAIF is established under the “tied-grants” provision of the Constitution, Section 96, which states:

…the [Commonwealth] parliament may grant financial assistance to any state on such terms and conditions as the [Commonwealth] parliament thinks fit.

This section was intended to provide for a short-term (around ten years) mechanism for central funds to be granted to the new states affected by the restructuring of national public finances, after federation. However, the Commonwealth parliament continued to use this section well into the 20th century (and increasingly today) to grant funds to cash-strapped states.

Over time, the Commonwealth started to impose terms that required the states do things that were outside of the Commonwealth’s legislative power – such as education or, indeed, infrastructure development.

The early-20th-century High Court concluded that this was acceptable, as long as the state technically consented to the terms and conditions of the grant.

While the NAIF legislation does not require such consent, under rules issued by the Commonwealth minister the NAIF has to:

… commence consultation with the relevant jurisdiction as soon as practicable after receiving an investment proposal

In Adani’s case, the Investment Rules indicate that the “jurisdiction” is the “state or territory the infrastructure project is located”, namely Queensland. The state government after reviewing project and investment may provide:

… written notification that financial assistance should not be provided to a project.

If that is the case then the NAIF is not permitted to provide the grant money to the applicant (Adani). But that doesn’t mean the state hasn’t consented to the loan.

The problem is that the High Court has never really addressed what the word “state” means in Section 96. Specifically who should the money be paid to: the “parliament of the state”; “government of the state” or, as seems to be implied in the Palaszczuk statements the “premier of the state”?

Conventionally, when we talk of “state consent” to funds, we envision a complex process by which money is paid into a central state fund under the control of state parliament. However, the NAIF legislation appears to allow for merely the state government to consent in a very minimal way, simply by passing the money directly to Adani without the state parliament ever reviewing or approving the transaction.

The NAIF legislation also doesn’t specify who in the government might consent. To date, it is the treasurer who seems to have been most actively involved in working with the NAIF, and indeed Adani. It seems that, so long as the state has been “consulted”, unless it takes active steps to stop the loan, it will go ahead.

Does Palaszczuk have a ‘veto’ power?

The premier’s reasoning for the veto is a continuation of her government’s legacy of having “no role to date in the federal government’s NAIF Loan Assessment Process for Adani” and no “role in the future”.

These statements seem to be contrary to earlier ones by the Queensland treasurer, Curtis Pitt, that the government would “do what is required” to facilitate Commonwealth funds going to Adani. In fact, as early as November 2016, Pitt declared in state parliament:

Since we came to office, we have been working very closely with the Commonwealth government to facilitate … the NAIF – in North Queensland… It is through the NAIF facility, which the state wholeheartedly supports, that Adani can get the infrastructure support that it needs.

As a result, it would seem that everything needed to pass the NAIF funds to Adani is provided for. The only thing to actively stop it is a formal, written statement by Palaszczuk to the NAIF refusing the loan (not to the prime minister as she claimed). Given Palaszczuk’s statement that she intends to write this statement, it is clear that no formal notice has yet been issued to the NAIF.

However, it would seem that a “Master Facility Agreement” between Queensland and the NAIF has already been agreed to and set up. This agreement seems to envision the treasurer of Queensland passing the money to Adani, without it ever going into the state’s bank accounts. Hence, in May this year, the Queensland treasurer confirmed that:

Our role, for constitutional reasons, is the legal financing contract, the loan agreement including the drawdown and timing, repayment of interest — all of those things have to have state involvement constitutionally.

So, unless the Queensland opposition takes the very unlikely step of agreeing to a veto, Palaszczuk would appear to lack the power to issue one herself until after the election.

The ConversationIn the interim, NAIF has no legal restrictions on issuing the loan and, with the apparent agreement of the Queensland treasury, this money is likely to flow through to Adani. While Palaszczuk can say her government gave no active assistance to Adani, without active measures to block the loan, it would certainly be a silent partner in the process.

 


Brendan Gogarty is Senior Lecturer in Law, University of TasmaniaThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

FMG railway - photo FMG

China pollution plan to keep low-grade ores down

Lower grade iron ores like those exported by Fortescue Metals Group will likely continue to be stymied by tougher Chinese environmental controls, after the country indicated it will continue with the new regulations in the long term.

According to multiple reports, China’s environment minister Li Ganjie this week said pollution control measures put in place during the winter months in northern China would become more common.

“This campaign started in September and will last until March next year,” he was quoted by Fairfax, “but it will not be a one-off. We will continue it in the following years as a long-term project. This campaign is not just a temporary measure.”

The comments are bad news for Fortescue, which has been forced to sell its lower grade iron ore at a larger discount since the regulations were put in place.

FMG’s 56.3% grade ore was being offered at a 40% discount from the benchmark price for November deliveries, according to research from the AFR. This continues the trend from September, which was a wider discount than the 32% discount seen in August.

Meanwhile, a 23% discount was seen for FMG’s 58.5% grade ore for November deliveries, also in line with September, but a wider discount than the 21% seen in August.

As the largest lower-grade iron ore miner, the discount FMG accepts impacts smaller producers.

US miner Cleveland-Cliffs president Lourenco Gonclaves last week – without naming FMG – said its lower-grade WA iron ore business was under threat of going under due to the major discounts being accepted.

“I have a competitor over there that is 13 times our size in Australia giving their stuff away,” Gonclaves said. “So that is the problem we have over there, they will dictate the fate of what’s going on with the [discount].”

Moorebank Artist's Impression: MIC

Qube’s Moorebank challenged by rare plant rediscovery

The discovery of a shrub unseen by experts for almost 200 years could challenge logistics group Qube’s massive Moorebank intermodal development, with the NSW Land and Environment Court looking into the issue this week.

The Court began a three-day hearing on Wednesday, after action was brought by the Residents Against Intermodal Development Moorebank (RAID), supported by the NSW Environmental Defenders Office.

According to reports, Qube’s lawyers attempted to block RAID’s action via a motion to dismiss at the NSW Supreme Court, but this was rejected on October 9, clearing the way for the hearing this week.

RAID’s case is based around the discovery of Hibbertia fumana at the Moorebank site during surveys late last year.

Hibbertia fumana is described as a low-lying shrub, and is listed as a critically endangered species. Originally discovered in 1802 near South Head, and in Western Sydney, the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage says the Moorebank population of hibbertia fumana is now the only known extant population, saying the plant is “currently only known from a single population at Moorebank but potentially elsewhere in greater Sydney”.

If the Land Court agrees the Moorebank development could negatively impact plants’ chances at survival, Qube could be hit with far more stringent environmental policies for its $1.9 billion freight hub.

The development already received approval from the state Planning Assessment Commission, but RAID is arguing via its appeal that the PAC was not fully aware of the shrub’s rediscovery when it handed down its original decision.

The Land Court has the power to either cancel the approval, or alter its conditions.

Turnbull: Energy ‘guarantee’ to boost affordability

Energy retailers will be forced to secure a minimum amount of baseload power from traditional sources for every megawatt of renewable power they generate, under a new plan Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says will reduce typical household bills by an average of $110 to $115 per year over 10 years from 2020.

In a plan announced on Tuesday, Turnbull said the energy guarantee, coupled with an emissions guarantee program to replace the now scrapped CET, followed recommendations from the Energy Security Board.

“Past energy plans have subsidised some industries, punished others and slugged consumers,” Turnbull said. “The Turnbull Government will take a different approach.

“The National Energy Guarantee will lower electricity prices, make the system more reliable, encourage the right investment and reduce emissions without subsidies, taxes or trading schemes.

“It is technology-neutral, offering a future for investment in whatever technology the market needs – solar, wind, coal, gas, batteries or pumped storage.”

Turnbull emphasised his plan aimed not to “pick winners” in terms of generation types, instead aiming to “level the playing field”.

“Coal, gas, hydro and biomass will be rewarded for their dispatchability while wind, solar and hydro will be recognised as lower emissions technologies but will no longer be subsidised,” he said.

The PM was forced to defend the plan on Wednesday, after the Labor Governments in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia threatened not to support it.

Queensland energy minister Mark Baily said further detailed analysis was needed before the State Government could be sure it would deliver for Queenslanders.

“We understand how important it is to finally end the policy uncertainty that has prevailed under the Abbott and Turnbull Governments, but we need the Federal Government to work with the states in detail to ensure the proposal actually delivers for Queenslanders,” Bailey said.

“There has been no modelling undertaken to back up the proposal, including claims of bill reductions for customers.

“Given Queensland has retained ownership of its power generators, we are better placed than other jurisdictions to be able to be able to assist the Turnbull Government to honour its power generation guarantee.”

Turnbull bristled at those who questioned the $115 per household savings figure paraded by he and his energy minister, Josh Frydenberg.

“I can guarantee that the people that are giving those figures are the best-informed and the most knowledgeable in the industry,” Turnbull told ABC Radio.

Frydenberg said: “I think it is about time we took the politics and the ideology and the slogans out of this debate and focused on that expert advice. It could be more than $115.”

Technology to prevent rail disasters is in our hands

As the Lac Mégantic rail disaster trial begins, here’s how technology can help prevent a repeat of the tragedy that killed 47 people, Chris Bachmann writes.

 


As the trial of the deadly 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster begins, new technologies, and practices and policies that aim to employ them, could help avoid similar disasters in the future.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) found more than 18 distinct causes and contributing factors in the Lac-Mégantic derailment investigation, which makes the likelihood of this type of accident seem nearly impossible.

Yet other derailments in Canada involving dangerous goods would soon follow in 2014 in Plaster Rock, N.B. and Clair, Sask., and two incidents in 2015 in Gogama, Ont.

This suggests that we must be mindful of the connection between human interactions and technology and how each will continue to underlie many causes and contributing factors of future incidents.

As a civil engineering professor who researches transportation infrastructure, dangerous goods and risk, I see several new developments and changes to technology and policy that can help to reduce future accidents.

Safer tank car standards

The type of tank cars involved in the Lac-Mégantic accident (“Class 111”) were known to be vulnerable to failure, even in low-speed accidents (e.g., Cornwall, Ont. in 1999).

After Lac-Mégantic, Canada and the United States developed a more robust tank car standard, Class 117. This new standard features improved puncture resistance, structural strength and fractural resistance.


The new, safer TC-117 tank car. Graphic: Transport Canada (Click to enlarge)

Despite these improvements, Canadian and U.S. regulations will still allow Class 111 tank cars to be used for the transport of certain dangerous goods until mid-2025.

Even so, Canada accelerated the phase-out of the older Class 111 tank cars from being used for crude oil service in Canada as of Nov. 1, 2016, under Protective Direction 38.

Enhanced braking

In addition to new tank car standards, the U.S. is requiring enhanced braking standards on trains carrying flammable goods.

Any train with a continuous block of 20 tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid, or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed throughout a train, must have a functioning two-way end-of-train (EOT) device — an electronic unit that can be mounted on the end of a freight train instead of a caboose — or a distributed power (DP) braking system, which spreads braking across different points throughout a train.

Furthermore, any train with 70 or more loaded tank cars containing flammable liquids travelling at speeds greater than 48 km/h must be operated with an electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking system by May 1, 2023.

In short, these technologies enable more controlled braking behaviour through a more responsive and uniform application of brake pressure. Benefits would include shorter stopping distances, lower risks of derailment and lower pile-up effects in the event of a derailment.


Brake signals on trains with conventional, distributed power (DP), and electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes. Graphic: U.S. Government Accountability Office. (Click to enlarge)

More information sharing

Technology also allows more information sharing for better decision-making. For example, Protective Direction No. 36 in Canada requires railways to provide municipalities with dangerous goods reports, including information on the number of unit trains, percentage of railway cars transporting dangerous goods, information on their nature and volume and number of trains.

This information is intended to inform emergency planning and responses.

The U.S. is also requiring more accurate classification of unrefined petroleum-based products to ensure proper classification, packaging and record-keeping through a documented sampling and testing process. This information is to be made available to the Department of Transportation upon request.


Under Protective Direction 36, Canadian Class 1 railways must also post a public report on their website with the breakdown of the Top 10 dangerous goods they transport through a province. This 2016 data is for Quebec. Source: Canadian Pacific. (Click to enlarge)

Human factors

The technology to prevent rail disasters is in our hands — just as it was in 2013. While these and future technologies are likely to reduce the risks of transporting dangerous goods across Canada and the United States, the interactions between humans and other elements of the system — the “human factors” — will remain predominant.

As we now know in the Lac-Mégantic accident, the train carrying 7.7 million litres of crude oil sped toward the small Quebec town at 104 km/h before derailing, killing 47 people in the resulting fire and explosions on July 6, 2013.

Hours before derailing, the train was parked and left running on the main track in Nantes, Que., awaiting departure. But shortly after the engineer parked the train, a locomotive engine caught fire and was turned off by the Nantes fire department.

Without power from the running locomotive engine, air slowly leaked from the air brake system. An insufficient number of handbrakes were applied and the train eventually began rolling downhill on its final journey toward Lac-Mégantic.

 

 

Some of the causes and contributing factors in the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster were not technical failures so much as they were failures of humans to properly interact with technology: To properly maintain a locomotive engine, to have knowledge of interactions between locomotive engines and air brake systems and to properly set and test the effectiveness of handbrakes.

The ConversationAlthough technical standards were less stringent in 2013, technology did not fail us. In many of the causes and contributing factors of Lac-Mégantic, it is evident that we failed to understand and interact with our technology.


Positive train control (PTC) is an advanced system designed to automatically stop a train before an incident occurs. Deployment on U.S. railroad networks has been delayed from 2015 to Dec. 31, 2018. Source: Handout (Click to enlarge).

Chris Bachmann is Assistant professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Waterloo. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.