Metro Trains Melbourne providing pathways for overseas-qualified engineers

Five engineers from refugee and asylum seeker background have begun their Australian professional journey with Metro Trains Melbourne in 2020.

The Engineering Pathways Industry Cadetship or EPIC program provides pathways for qualified engineers from refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds to work in Australia.

Metro Trains in partnership with the Level Crossing Removal Project has placed five cadets this year in major transport infrastructure projects.

Metro’s Executive Director – Projects Peter Gleeson said the EPIC program enables those with overseas qualifications to contribute to Victoria’s Big Build.

“The EPIC program gives people pathways to further their engineering careers – with on-site experience, a recognised qualification, and exposure to some of the biggest transport projects the state has ever seen,” Gleeson said.

“There’s never been a better time to be part of the infrastructure transformation across our city, and with a huge demand for engineering skills, these cadets will only go from strength to strength.”

The EPIC program overcomes a significant barrier for those with engineering qualifications that were achieved overseas. Only those with qualifications from a select number of countries are recognised in Australia, leading to many with engineering qualifications who could contribute to the rail skills pipeline working outside of their field.

In a 2011 report, Perspectives on Migrants, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that 65 per cent of all recent migrants had a non-school qualification before arriving in Australia, however only a third of these had their overseas qualification recognised.

One of the cadets, Mayat Mnayrji, has worked on the South-Eastern Program Alliance for stations and VicTrack interface.

“The EPIC program is really fantastic, giving overseas engineers the opportunity to get more work experience and improve themselves, as well studying a very useful course.”

Ilab Qassab, who holds a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering (power and machine) from the University of Mosul, in Iraq, has been based in the Metropolitan Roads Program Alliance, working with the rail team.

“I am very proud to be one of the EPIC program cadets. This program gave us a great opportunity to start our career in Australia and achieve our goals as we came from other countries.”

In addition to an Australian qualification, cadets also gain valuable work experience on major projects. In the ABS report, 64 per cent of recent migrants said that a lack of Australian work experience or references was a barrier to their employment. Ali Firwana, originally from Gaza, Palestine holds a Bachelor of Industrial Engineer and is working as a combined services route site engineer on the Frankston Line.

“Having work experience and industry-focused education is incredibly useful, and I am learning new things on a daily basis with Metro.”

Gleeson said the work of the cadets is invaluable for Victoria’s infrastructure pipeline.

“These five cadets have been doing fantastic work for Metro to help shape the Victorian government’s Big Build, which is transforming our public transport network.”

generation

Preparing for the growth ahead: Finding a new generation of rail workers

CEO of the ARA Caroline Wilkie writes that a generation of young people looking for opportunities have the talents to fill rail’s skills gap.

In a year that has been more about preserving jobs than creating them, the concept of skills shortages can be a difficult one to reconcile.

However, the impact of this year’s events has not changed the fact that a very real and significant skills gap looms in the rail industry.

The Australasian Railway Association’s (ARA) 2018 skills capability study found the rail industry was staring down the barrel of a 24 per cent skills gap on current employment levels by 2024.

The gap existed across the spectrum, from technicians, trades and operators to managers and rail professionals.

Clearly, this is an area where action is needed if we are to make the most of the significant investment pipeline of the coming decades.

The National Rail Action Plan skills and labour working group, which I co-chair, is currently looking at how the industry can address this issue.

The group is bringing together key people from across the industry to inform this work and I look forward to reporting on our progress as time goes on.

In the meantime, the ARA is continuing to advance its skills agenda.

As more rail projects come online, there will obviously be a need for the development of skill sets that are specific to the rail industry.

We will need a stronger focus on skills and education to achieve this. The ARA is advocating for the development of a dedicated skills academy that offers targeted solutions to meet the industry’s future needs.

This will not only ensure the focus is firmly on the technical requirements of the industry but will also ensure a strong culture of safety and excellence can be embedded in training programs before people even enter the rail workforce.

And the time to create this capability is now. Because a generation of young people in particular are looking for new and rewarding career opportunities more than ever.

Even before the impact of COVID-19, conditions were not good for those just starting their careers.

In July, the Productivity Commission released a working paper that found the weak labour market that had emerged after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis had been bad news for young people for a generation.

In the decade that followed, there were full time jobs became harder to come by as part time employment began to rise.

Young people started on lower wages and found it harder to find their chosen roles, despite having a good education behind them.

For those who took a job that was less than what they hoped for just to get their start, their career trajectory did not always recover, and better jobs did not always come along.

Those challenges have only been compounded this year, with another generation of young people hit harder than most by job losses and employment insecurity in the wake of the pandemic.

In this toughest of climates, there will be exceptional young people looking for career options that will last a lifetime, take them all over the world if they choose, and allow them to work in diverse roles on exciting projects.

What better time than now for the rail industry to step forward?

As an industry, a key part of attracting the best young people to work in rail over the coming years will be highlighting the benefits we have to offer – both to individuals and the broader community.

The ARA’s Young Leaders Advisory Board has identified sustainability as one of its focus areas to do just that.

Speaking to the industry’s young leaders, we have heard time and again how the sustainability credentials of the industry, and the essential community service it provides, has been a driving force in determining their future in rail.

They tell us that seeing the industry’s role in helping people and businesses in their daily life is part of what makes them enjoy working in rail so much.

They also see the value of sustainable, long term infrastructure development in rail that can take more congestion off our roads and better connect our cities and towns than ever before.

The fact that the projects they work on are exciting, dynamic, innovative and ever- changing is icing on the cake.

It is these benefits that has led to many of our young leaders staking their claim for a long-term career in rail.

And it is these benefits, together with the opportunity to gain the skills needed to succeed in the industry, that will help us attract the next cohort of rail workers.

So, while we deal with the challenges 2020 has given us, we must also prepare for the growth that will follow in the years ahead.

Having the right people with the right skills in place will be key to our success.

Government funding supports up to 100 KiwiRail apprentices

KiwiRail will employ 100 new apprentices, thanks to government funding from the Regional Apprenticeship Initiative.

The New Zealand infrastructure manager and rail operator will receive $4 million to support the employment of up to 100 apprentices who will have a pathway into employment in the rail industry.

Apprenticeships will involve areas such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, electricity supply, rail operations, building/structures, and track infrastructure. Job roles will include signals and electrical specialists, train drivers, and track staff.

To facilite the training component, KiwiRail will also establish four new apprenticeship qualifications, taking the total number of qualifications to six.

KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said the apprenticeships would not only ensure the trainees’ future, but the longevity of the company.

“The new qualifications will make rail more than just a job – they will make it a rewarding career – and help ensure KiwiRail has the new blood and skills it needs for a strong future,” he said.

With the funding support from the government, which KiwiRail will match with in-kind and cash contributions, will expand the depth of the rail industry workforce.

“This government support for apprenticeships will help us attract more young people into rail, including through a school gateway programme, and it will allow us to create a clear, sustainable pathway for them to learn skills and progress in the businesses,” said Miller.

Apprentices will be employed in the regions, however applications are open to anyone. Some apprenticeships will be offered to existing staff for upskilling, but most will be delivered to new staff.

“There is a wealth of experience and knowledge among KiwiRail’s staff and I want to see that passed down to the next generation,” said Miller.

“KiwiRail is committed to delivering an efficient and effective rail system for New Zealand – that can help take trucks off our roads and reduce our carbon emissions – but that can’t be done without people.”

Apprentices who are employed by KiwiRail will have a workforce development adviser assigned to them to provide pastoral care and ongoing support to enable the apprenticeship to be successfully maintained.

Celebrating diversity key to unlocking talent

Recognising leadership and growth in the rail sector, the finalists for the 2020 Women in Industry Awards are celebrating the rail sector’s diversity.

The headline figure from the Australasian Railway Association’s (ARA) Gender Diversity Report was that rail had once again continued to grow the participation of women in the workforce.

Since 2017, the ARA has been surveying the industry to measure the gender diversity of rail at all levels, from track and maintenance workers, through to senior management. These report cards also highlighted the breadth

of roles that women take within the rail industry, from working with rail operators, to consultants and suppliers.

In 2019, reported Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the ARA, the industry achieved its best figures yet.

“In 2014, women represented only 17 per cent of the workforce. In 2018-19, women’s representation in the industry was 27 per cent.”

This increase, six per cent higher than previous figures in 2016-2017, has been driven by a number of factors and initiatives across the industry. By 2019, 86 per cent of rail organisations had formal policies or strategies that support gender diversity, 41 per cent have specific gender pay equity objectives.

These strategies have been supported by the work that the ARA has done for the industry as well. After the publication of the Women in Rail Strategy, the ARA set up the Women in Rail Advisory Committee and the Women in Rail Network and mentoring program to support initiatives undertaken by rail organisations themselves. These cross-industry groups have been able to provide a forum for networking and information sharing across the industry.

“As a result, we are seeing more women build their network in rail to support their career advancement, connect with mentors and create new opportunities for growth,” said Wilkie.

Despite these achievements, when compared to the national workforce, there is still more work to do. For example, the national average of women in full-time roles is 38 per cent, while in rail only 21 per cent of full-time workers are women.

However, recent events may provide new opportunities. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the associated change in working patterns, flexible working was one area that was seen as enabling greater diversity in the workforce, and not just for women.

“Flexible work is increasingly important for all of us, not just women. The experience of this year has shown once and for all that we can succeed while allowing people to work flexibly. Many of us have juggled working from home alongside our kids attending school online and have still delivered for our employers,” said Wilkie.

With 74 per cent of rail organisations reporting having formal policies for flexible working arrangement in 2019, and a 16 per cent increase in employer funded paid parental leave for primary carers, taking the industry figure to 62 per cent, Wilkie said it is likely that these policies will be extended.

“As our workplaces return to normal, we should be considering how flexible arrangements can ensure our people can live their lives well while also working effectively. Providing flexibility will increasingly be part of attracting and retaining our top talent, whether male or female.”

Indeed, as flexible working has shown, the benefits of a diverse and multifaceted workforce are felt through the industry. With rail having a critical workforce shortage, particularly with the planned and projected levels of investment, it will be more important than ever to encourage more people to the rail sector.

“As the rail industry grows, we will need the best and brightest to propel the industry forward and we can only achieve that if we are a truly diverse industry. Put simply, if we don’t have a diverse workforce we are missing out on talent,” said Wilkie.

For an industry that provides a critical service to a variety of the general public, diversity is also about being able to meet customer needs.

“Diverse workplaces encourage a mixture of thought and ideas,” said Wilkie. “Different perspectives help bring innovation to the fore and make sure the rail industry is meeting the needs of everyone that uses the rail network.”

Beyond attracting diversity into the rail workforce, the next step is retention. This can be in part achieved through industry awards and recognition, which showcase the range of roles that women take in the industry and the successes they achieve.

In July, Rail Express announced the finalists of the 2020 Women in Industry awards. Showcasing the talents of women in industrial, and often male-dominated sectors, the awards this year saw a record number of nominations, beating the 2019 record by 27 per cent. The growth of the awards was not only represented in the nominations themselves, but the number of individual businesses and organisations submitting nominees across varied industrial sectors.

The awards span multiple categories, including Social Leader of the Year, Rising Star of the Year – sponsored by Atlas Copco – Business Development Success of the Year, Industry Advocacy Award, Safety Advocacy Award – sponsored by BOC – Mentor of the Year, and individual excellence awards across the fields of transport, engineering (sponsored by BAE Systems Australia), mining, and manufacturing.

The most nominated category was the Rising Star Award, which received a record number of entries this year.

Rail organisations represented in the awards include agencies within the NSW transport cluster, including Transport for NSW, Sydney Trains, and Sydney Metro.

Sonja Malcolm, senior manager – capability & development from Sydney Metro, is a finalist for the Industry Advocacy Award, which recognises the work done to promote the transport industry. Malcolm has transformed the way that NSW government agencies support and enable sustainable employment of disadvantaged groups.

Nadine Youssef, associate director at Sydney Trains is a finalist for the Safety Advocacy Award. Youssef has worked to raise awareness of electrical hazards in her role within the Electrical Distribution Unit as the networks is modernised.

Lidija Dumbaloska, professional head of electrical engineering at Sydney Trains, is a finalist in the Excellence in Engineering category. Dumbaloska has supported collaboration across transport agencies and the energy sector to grow knowledge of electrical engineering.

The opportunity to highlight the achievements of women such as Malcolm, Youssef, and Dumbaloska is critical for the industry as a whole said Wilkie.

“When we recognise the women that are achieving great things in the industry, we also encourage other women to aspire to build their own careers in rail. As they say, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ So, it is important to celebrate the successes of women in rail.”

In addition, although not named in the awards, behind each finalist and potential winner is the champions and organisations that have supported them.

“It is also important to celebrate the men and women that are championing diversity in their organisations and awards help us recognise the positive efforts of many in our industry,” said Wilkie.

Winners were announced in August and a full list of finalists are below.

Social Leader of the Year
Winner
Jackie Lewis-Gray – BAE Systems Australia
Finalists
Alanna Vial – BlueScope
Althea Papinczak – Women in Design and Construction (WIDAC)
Elizabeth Taylor – RedR International
Gemma Murphy – QBE Insurance
Jane Tiller – Monash University
Sarah McSwiney – Boeing Aerostructures Australia

Rising Star of the Year
Proudly sponsored by Atlas Copco
Winner
Alicia Heskett – Shell Australia (QGC)
Finalists
Helen Vu – BOC
Kate Robertson – Geological Survey of SA
Kate Stanbury – Stantec Australia
Keren Reynolds – BAE Systems Australia
Louise Azzopardi – WesTrac
Nima Sherpa – BHP
Rose Lindner – MMG
Vera Milutinovic – Inenco

Business Development Success of the Year
Winner
Rachael Ashfield – ifm
Finalists
Caroline Murray – APS Industrial
Jackie Thew – Abrasive Media Supplies
Marika Logan – Elgas
Stefanie Frawley – Colliers International
Sonia Turner – Scope Systems

Industry Advocacy Award
Winner
Rose Read – National Waste & Recycling Industry Council
Finalists

Elizabeth Molyneux – AGL Energy
Hayley Jarick – Supply Chain Sustainability School
Jacquelene Brotherton – Transport Women Australia Limited
Jodie Sainsbury – Kickass Women
Joy Marrocco – AGL
Shay Chalmers – Strategic Engineering
Sonja Malcolm – Sydney Metro

Safety Advocacy Award
Proudly sponsored by BOC Ltd
Winner
Nadine Youssef – Sydney Trains
Finalists
Annastasia Denigan – Cement Australia
Lyndal Denny – Women In Trucking Australia
Maddy Holloway – CITIC Pacific Mining
Natalia Trewin – WesTrac Pty Ltd
Noelani Reardon – Transport for NSW
Terese Withington – Weir Minerals Australia Ltd
Tracey MacDonald – BAE Systems Australia

Mentor of the Year
Winner
Dayle Stevens – AGL Energy
Finalists
Clytie Dangar – CRC ORE
Kylie Jones – Diageo Australia
Marie Varrasso – Officeworks

Excellence in Manufacturing
Winner
Rochelle Avinu – Leica Biosystems
Finalists
Josie Costanzo – Brickworks Building Products
Marina Melik – Boeing Aerostructures Australia
Rebecca Parnell – Artisan Food Company Pty Ltd
Samantha McDonald – Bluescope

Excellence in Mining
Winner
Sarah Withell – Whitehaven Coal Limited
Finalists
Carlie Hayward – BHP
Clytie Dangar – CRC ORE
Jacqueline Madsen – Caterpillar
Kim Parascos – iVolve Industrial Technology
Rose Lindner – MMG
Terese Withington – Weir Minerals Australia Ltd

Excellence in Engineering
Proudly sponsored by BAE Systems Australia
Winner
Elizabeth Taylor – RedR International
Finalists
Jane MacMaster – Engineers Australia
Jo Withford – Department of Transport
Lesley DeGaris – Boeing Aerostructures Australia
Lidija Dumbaloska – Sydney Trains
Mandy Petrides – Bosch Australia

Excellence in Transport
Winner
Melissa Strong – Lindsay Australia Limited
Finalists
Agnes Lesson – Elgas
Camilla Drover – Transport for NSW
Danelle Kempton – Dananni Haulage
Jane Gillespie – Arup
Lyndal Denny – Women In Trucking Australia

Sydney Train

Build trains locally and create thousands of jobs: Weld Australia

There is the potential for thousands of jobs to be created in Australia and to support the country’s economic recovery from COVID-19 if more trains were built locally, according to CEO of Weld Australia, Geoff Crittenden.

Reforming procurement practices in Australia would have deep benefits for local and national comments, said Crittenden who leads Weld Australia, the peak body for welders in Australia.

“State government rail procurement practices that support local welders and fabricators would create thousands of jobs, supporting local families and local economies in a post COVID-19 world. It would facilitate technology transfer and drive some of the world’s most innovative research and development,” said Crittenden.

The call for local manufacturing follows the NSW government’s dismissal of the talents of local rail manufacturers, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying that Australians were “not good at building trains” and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance train manufacturing does not exist in Australia.

While Crittenden highlighted that Australia and NSW has a heritage of building technically advanced train fleets, he also pointed to the potential for future improvements.

“With a long-term procurement commitment from the state governments, rail industry manufacturers would have the confidence to reinvest in their own capabilities, strengthening the industry from within. This type of business innovation strengthens businesses and creates new and better jobs, which together support a move to higher living standards. Innovation investment by business is crucial to our ongoing prosperity. It would make Australia home to a world-leading rail industry, with the capability to build and export superior quality trains.”

Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Senator for Western Australia Louise Pratt said that Commonwealth funding should be directed towards local manufacturing, including rail.

“As COVID-19 has highlighted how sensitive we are to global supply chains and as unemployment is rising, particularly in regional areas, now more than ever we need a plan for manufacturing which includes rail.”

With an extensive local maintenance and repair industry, the cost of whole of life support means that it makes sense to build more trains locally, according to Crittenden.

“If our state governments adopted a nationally consistent procurement process that considered whole of life costs and prioritised local content, not only would it create thousands of jobs, it would deliver better quality public transport. Locally fabricated trains would adhere to all relevant Australian and international Standards, reducing expensive rework and repair. Cheap imports from overseas often cost more in the long run,” he said.

Having more consistent procurement standards between different states would improve the competitiveness of Australia-based manufacturers, highlighted Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie.

“We have long been calling for a national procurement process for rail manufacturing to give the industry greater scale, promote efficiency and create more local jobs which are supported by advanced manufacturing techniques from industry.”

In a tendering framework released in May, the ARA said that greater harmonisation of specifications was one area that would reduce the cost of tendering in Australia.

NRAP

The NRAP: Putting reform into action

Bringing together representatives from all facets of the rail industry, the National Rail Action Plan (NRAP) is setting a template for rail’s future.

On a chilly Adelaide day in August 2019, federal and state transport and infrastructure ministers assembled in Adelaide for the 11th meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Council.

At the meeting, Danny Broad, then CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) gave a heated speech outlining that without coordinated state and federal action, rail’s massive investment boom would be squandered, citing the dual challenges of a workforce shortage and the lack of common standards.

In comments made after the meeting closed, Broad castigated the laissez-faire approach to training.

“Governments can’t leave it to a nebulous training ‘market’ to resolve, because it’s just not working,” he said.

“These are national issues requiring a national approach, which reinforces the need for jurisdictions to work together to ensure consistency and alignment between jurisdictions.”

Also listening to Broad’s speech was the then-CEO of the Australian Airports Association Caroline Wilkie. Recalling the presentation, Wilkie was struck by the unanimity of the response.

“Over the last few years, ministers have been very keen to understand whether there’s any barriers, or indeed any opportunities, that we should be looking for on the back of this enormous infrastructure spend, particularly in transport. From that discussion, there emerged three key areas of focus.”

The three priority areas that would come out of the August meeting were skills and labour, common standards, and interoperability. The Transport and Infrastructure Council tasked the National Transport Commission to develop a National Rail Action Plan (NRAP), which, chair of the NTC Carolyn Walsh highlighted, built upon the current investment in the rail industry.

“The Rail Action Plan isn’t starting from scratch and saying nothing has happened before; it is drawing together the threads of a lot of things that have been happening over recent years like the development of Inland Rail, the ARTC’s investment in ATMS, Sydney Trains investment in Digital Systems, the Cross River Rail in Queensland.”

These investments were driven by the recognition at a political level that rail had to play a greater role in moving people and goods if Australia was going to improve productivity and reduce emissions.

“There’s been acknowledgement across governments for a number of years now about the freight task. There’s a strong sense that we’ve got a freight task that cannot be dealt with without investment in both roads and rail, but particularly rail for long-haul freight,” said Walsh.

“The growth of our metropolitan cities has been huge so we’ve seen much greater investment in public transport over the last 10-15 years which is terrific. Coupled with that is the recognition of the impact of climate change, and the importance of getting better environmental outcomes through our transport networks, both in terms of freight and passenger.”

What Broad and others had realised, and impressed upon ministers, was that the rail industry in Australia had an enormous opportunity, with all major capitals investing in significant modernisations of their rail network and interstate projects such as Inland Rail. However, this also represented the chance of a pitfall, and one that the Australian rail industry has been learning from for the past century and a half.

“The industry had collectively with government recognised the extent of that we’ve got to get all of those things right to make sure that we don’t create the break of gauge in the future,” said Walsh. “For those investments that are going to take the next 10 years to put in place and enable in-cab signalling for instance, how do we ensure we don’t get the future break of gauge, as those investments come together.”

Walsh noted that with a national pipeline of investment, individual rail infrastructure managers in each state were thinking about how to think about each network as a part of a national set of railways.

To make this happen, working groups for each focus area under the NRAP were formed, with Wilkie co-chairing the skills and labour group, Walsh co-chairing the interoperability group, and Deborah Spring, CEO of the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB), co-chairing the harmonisation group. Each group will also have a representative from industry as the other co-chair, including the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), the Victorian Department of Transport and the South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. In addition, members of each working group will comprise representatives from each state as well as industry representatives from RISSB and the ARA.

With buy-in from the Commonwealth, states, and industry, Walsh noted that the tone of the conversations was energising.

“People are very keen to take advantage of the fact that we do have significant investment,” she said. “Often, we’re all talking about how to cut back, how to find efficiencies, and we are looking to find efficiencies, but this is an opportunity on the back of money and investment going into rail. I think we’ve hit a time where those three planks of industry, the standards setters, and the policy makers are all seeing this as an opportunity.”

Photography by RailGallery.com.au

FINDING THE NEXT GENERATION OF RAIL WORKERS
The issue that Broad had honed in on in his presentation in 2019 was that without a fundamental change to the way that rail skills and qualifications were taught, the rail industry would have a skills crisis. This assertion was supported by a report commissioned by the ARA and published in 2018, which assessed the skills pipeline for the rail sector. As Wilkie noted, the findings were clear.

“We don’t have the incoming workforce to meet the requirements of rail projects. ARA members right now don’t have enough people coming through in terms of apprentices, younger people, people with experience, or people moving into the sector.”

In addition to the lack of people, the 2018 ARA report found that qualifications in one state were not always recognised in another.

“The report identified a number of areas of improvement and action that were required and a lot of that was activity that really required a national approach,” said Wilkie. Walsh also noted that rail is not the only infrastructure sector experiencing a boom.

“There’s two elements of it, the first is whether we have the skills base in Australia generally to be able to deliver on this broad range of infrastructure projects – roads, rail, hospitals, and schools are all competing with each other for the best engineers, leading the cost of infrastructure to go up unless we manage the supply of skills. There’s also how to make rail attractive as an industry in a modern world? It can have a reputation as quite a 19th century technology, when actually with all these investments we’re moving to a 21st century technology, which is very attractive to people developing engineering, IT, and other skills.”

Currently, the lack of skilled workers coming into the rail sector has led to reports of companies poaching staff, or having to hire overseas, increasing costs.

“What we really need to be looking at is how do we get more people into the mix, how do we develop more people and bring more people in, because it is getting difficult to take people from one project to the other,” said Wilkie.

Already, as the working group has had early meetings, Wilkie can see a need for the clear definition of pathways for school students and graduates who want to work in the rail industry. In addition, the working group will be looking at how to enable ongoing training, whether delivered by TAFEs or private registered training organisations.

“Talking to members across the country, every state has shortages in a variety of areas,” said Wilkie. “I was speaking to someone the other day about driver shortages in Western Australia, I’ve spoken to other people about signallers. We’re talking about issues of how you train people on the job, how do you get school children interested in the career. It’s really starting from the beginning to end, and what COVID also throws into the mix is how do you get people that might have been in other sectors with transferrable skills into the rail sector as well.”

Wilkie also highlighted that as rail is identified as a sustainable mobility technology, encouraging investment, this can also be a way for the sector to promote rail to younger workers.

“The ARA and the industry need to do more to talk about the environmental credentials of rail. For the younger generation, a sector like ours that is so good in the sustainability arena and makes such a big difference in terms of environmental footprint is something that we need to promote.

“It’s also promoting diversity. It’s about talking to women about why rail would work for them in their life. The perception of the railway sector if you talk to most younger people it would be of an older sector, which just from going to AusRAIL we know that’s not true. It’s a dynamic industry with lots of diversity from younger and older people who have a lot to add and a lot to bring and I think it’s an exciting sector to be part of.”

SCALING UP THE AUSTRALIAN RAIL INDUSTRY
Australia’s rail industry has long been hampered by the legacies of federation, with each state having their own standards and regulations for railways, and this has led to the proliferation of standards for the component parts of railways and infrastructure.

Currently, it is estimated that there are more than 10 different standards for the thickness of glass required for a passenger train carriage. Not only does this limit the ability of rail suppliers from competing in different states and increases the cost of procurement, it prevents the Australian rail supply industry from competing for international contracts.

“Harmonisation is about how do we actually get common standards of the component parts of railways, so that we’re actually building scale in the capacity of the Australian industry to be able to tender for those projects,” said Walsh.

In addition, distinct standards mean staff are largely tied to one state or rail network, said Wilkie.

“We’re talking about the ability of different operators to be able to move from state to state, and that links back with the ability of staff to move between state.”

What the working group aims to do, is also reduce the cost of operating when freight trains, for example, have to traverse across state borders.

“Another example that I’m given is you’ll have an operator who is working in the freight area and they have a number of different folders in their cab that’s relevant to the rules and regulations on the network in Victoria and they go across to NSW and there’s a different set of rules,” said Wilkie. “It’s about making that consistent, so it makes for a better safety outcome but also a more efficient outcome as well.”

Deborah Spring, RISSB’s executive chair and CEO, is co-chairing the harmonisation working group with Ben Phyland, head of rollingstock development, network integration at the Victorian Department of Transport. Already, a number of standards have been harmonised across states through RISSB’s Priority Planning Process (PPP).

“Six standards in the harmonisation section were raised through the PPP forum so we were able to put them on our plan and in fact four of them started to progress while the NRAP was being finalised, which I think shows the importance of the plan and also how RISSB is a conduit for industry,” said Spring.

Three standards identified in the NRAP, common standards for glazing, bogies, and interior crashworthiness have already been completed, with standards for egress, energy storage, HVAC and emissions now being worked on. As Spring describes, the harmonisation process under the NRAP is an extension of RISSB’s current work program.

“When we’re looking at a standard, we look across the industry’s existing standards, both domestically and internationally, and use that as a starting point for the development of our standards,” said Spring. “We also call for development groups and then we have our five existing standing committees right now, who then have a governance layer on top of that. So, these standards are developed in collaboration with industry, drawing upon industry’s expertise, and looking internationally as well.”

Beyond individual standards for components, the NRAP also calls for common rules for safe work. These will be developed out of the National Rules Project that RISSB is finalising.

“The next step of that project is that we have taken the Australian Network Rules and Procedures (ANRP) and gone out to industry with a survey asking, ‘With the 62 rules here, which ones would add the most value to be nationally harmonised and which ones would be easy to harmonise?’ We came up with a matrix to try and identify those rules which will be high value and initially easy to implement. We then set up a national industry reference group of all the senior safety leaders and executives throughout the rail industry to oversee the progression of work,” said Spring.

What this process has developed is a template for the standardisation and harmonisation of rules across the Australian rail industry. While certain rules are identified in the NRAP, their harmonisation will be the first of a pipeline of rules, where RISSB will focus on harmonising those rules that bring value to the rail industry.

“A lot of people talk about harmonising and standardising, but our approach is it should be done when it’s adding value and not just for the sake of it,” said Spring.

A NEW NATIONAL NETWORK
Being able to move people and goods via rail from one side of Australia to the other has been a relatively recent phenomenon. While the Indian Pacific first ran from Sydney to Perth in 1970, making the journey smooth for freight has also been a major challenge, Spring points out.

“I started in National Rail when we took over the assets from the five states and at that point, to get a container from Brisbane to Perth, nothing talked to each other. Not only did we not have one gauge, we didn’t have standard procedures, we couldn’t track anything, we couldn’t book anything, even the tariff system, nothing worked,” said Spring. “We made that seamless and we’ve got to be able to make it seamless now where you can go across the country and it doesn’t make a difference which system you’re using – the critical information getting to the driver is right, timely, and accurate.”

Having this history in mind, current projects are aware of the need to ensure interoperability, said Walsh.

“We’re looking at new type of railways that have got interconnecting points. The ARTC railway joins with the Sydney Trains railway and they’re both investing in technologies for in-cab signalling, but they are different systems. That’s ok, because you’ve got a different rationale for those systems in different operating environments, but they’ve got to be able to talk to each other so that you’ve got a seamless operation and you’re getting the maximum efficiency and safety out of the system.”

To enable the various systems that rail infrastructure managers and operators are investing in to work with each other, the NRAP working group on interoperability will be identifying how to develop standard operating rules that enable control and communication systems to interact. Walsh, who is co-chairing the group with Simon Ormsby, group executive strategy at the ARTC, highlights that the solution will not be one size fits all.

“The goal does not need to be for all of the networks to have the same technology because there is a rationale for why you would have a different signalling system for long-haul freight across deserts compared to what you need in the city where you want to get every inch out of the headway.”

For example, with digital train control systems being rolled out simultaneously on the nation freight network and on the Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Brisbane networks, Walsh noted that there needs to be a national conversation about how these systems will work together.

“I don’t think that we’re looking at for ARTC to convince Sydney Trains that they should both use the ATMS system or Sydney Trains has to convince ARTC to use ETCS, but I do think we need to have those early conversations about how they talk to each other and what is the investment we need to make sure that all rollingstock has the capacity to operate over both of those systems.”

This convergence of technological and financial change, while one of a successive number of national waves of reform, is in part unique due to the collaboration of government and industry in Australia’s contemporary rail industry.

‘Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s it was all about investing in a standard gauge so that people didn’t have to get out of the train and change the train at Albury to continue on down to Melbourne,” said Walsh. “Then in the 90s it was all about competition policy and there was a lot of attention in government about separating above and below rail and getting competition into the freight industry. Then in the ‘00s it was all about getting a single national regulator and this next wave, as we get this investment, is about how do we make sure, in partnership with RISSB as the standards setter and the railways that adopt those standards and adapt them, that we’re now not going to get the future break of gauge.”


Harmonising standards in rollingstock
and signalling will enable Australia’s rail manufacturing sector to be more competitive. Photography by RailGallery.com.au.

MAKING A LONG-TERM IMPACT
None of the NRAP co-chairs that spoke with Rail Express suggested that once the items listed on the plan were complete would the job of growing the workforce, harmonising standards or improving interoperability be finished. In fact, the NRAP hopes to set the groundwork for ongoing collaborative reform in the rail sector.

“The action plan is focusing on these three issues to begin with, but I think it’s legacy over time will be a way of thinking about the national rail system as a system that we need to make sure works collectively together,” said Walsh.

“In the past it’s happened bilaterally, you’ll get ARTC talking to Sydney Trains about the interface of trains into Sydney, but actually at the other end of the country you’ve got Arc as the infrastructure manager from Kalgoorlie to Perth so now we’re actually saying this has to be a national conversation and a multi-lateral conversation around some of these issues.”

For Wilkie, the reform’s significance is having the decision-makers working together.

“In each of those three working groups there’s a representative from each state government, so it means everyone is in the room, everyone is part of the conversation. That’s why I’m so positive about this whole process. It’s shown that the ministers take it seriously, we have all of the right people in the room and now it’s up to us to use this opportunity to really make effective change.”

As Spring highlights, the reform process is a model of what the co-regulatory environment of the rail industry can achieve and avoids the need for top-down mandating of standards or rules.

“My approach is if a standard is good and it adds value and it’s had wide consultation, then in a way industry should be wanting to adopt it. These self-mandated standards then really support the coregulatory environment.”

All-in-all, the work on the NRAP signals that rail’s time has come, said Walsh.

“I grew up in Yass in the 70s watching the Hume Highway be duplicated, and at the same time we weren’t seeing a railway having that same level of investment.

“Partly that was because there didn’t appear to be the drivers – economically, environmentally – to have that investment. I think that’s really shifted in the last 20 years. There is pressure on the infrastructure in terms of the demand, as well as responding to the environmental and safety concerns of the community.”

Preparing for the growth ahead

CEO of the ARA Caroline Wilkie writes that a cohort of young people looking for opportunities have the talents to fill rail’s skills gap.

In a year that has been more about preserving jobs than creating them, the concept of skills shortages can be a difficult one to reconcile.

However, the impact of this year’s events has not changed the fact that a very real and significant skills gap looms in the rail industry.

The Australasian Railway Association’s (ARA) 2018 skills capability study found the rail industry was staring down the barrel of a 24 per cent skills gap on current employment levels by 2024.

The gap existed across the spectrum, from technicians, trades and operators to managers and rail professionals.

Clearly, this is an area where action is needed if we are to make the most of the significant investment pipeline of the coming decades.

The National Rail Action Plan skills and labour working group, which I co-chair, is currently looking at how the industry can address this issue.

The group is bringing together key people from across the industry to inform this
work and I look forward to reporting on our progress as time goes on.

In the meantime, the ARA is continuing to advance its skills agenda.

As more rail projects come online, there will obviously be a need for the development of skill sets that are specific to the rail industry.

We will need a stronger focus on skills and education to achieve this.

The ARA is advocating for the development of a dedicated skills academy that offers targeted solutions to meet the industry’s future needs.

This will not only ensure the focus is firmly on the technical requirements of the industry but will also ensure a strong culture of safety and excellence can be embedded in training programs before people even enter the rail workforce.

And the time to create this capability is now. Because young people in particular are looking for new and rewarding career opportunities more than ever.

Even before the impact of COVID-19, conditions were not good for those just starting their careers.

In July, the Productivity Commission released a working paper that found the weak labour market that had emerged after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis had been bad news for young people.

In the decade that followed, there were full time jobs became harder to come by as part time employment began to rise.

Young people started on lower wages and found it harder to find their chosen roles, despite having a good education behind them.

For those who took a job that was less than what they hoped for just to get their start, their career trajectory did not always recover, and better jobs did not always come along.

Those challenges have only been compounded this year, with young people hit harder than most by job losses and employment insecurity in the wake
of the pandemic.

In this toughest of climates, there will be exceptional young people looking for career options that will last a lifetime, take them all over the world if they choose, and allow them to work in diverse roles on exciting projects.

What better time than now for the rail industry to step forward?

As an industry, a key part of attracting the best young people to work in
rail over the coming years will be highlighting the benefits we have to offer – both to individuals and the broader community.

The ARA’s Young Leaders Advisory Board has identified sustainability as one of its focus areas to do just that.

Speaking to the industry’s young leaders, we have heard time and again how the sustainability credentials of the industry, and the essential community service it provides, has been a driving force in determining their future in rail.

They tell us that seeing the industry’s role in helping people and businesses in their daily life is part of what makes them enjoy working in rail so much.

They also see the value of sustainable, long term infrastructure development in rail that can take more congestion off our roads and better connect our cities and towns than ever before.

The fact that the projects they work on are exciting, dynamic, innovative and ever- changing is icing on the cake.

It is these benefits that has led to many of our young leaders staking their claim for a long-term career in rail.

And it is these benefits, together with the opportunity to gain the skills needed to succeed in the industry, that will help us attract the next cohort of rail workers.

So, while we deal with the challenges 2020 has given us, we must also prepare for the growth that will follow in the years ahead.

Having the right people with the right skills in place will be key to our success.

Trapeze

A deep understanding: Trapeze’s EAM solution for rail

Designed with the rail worker in mind, Trapeze has an EAM solution built for the transportation industry.

On the walls of the asset management facilities for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) commuter rail services a sign in 2-inch high font reads, “If it’s not in Trapeze it never happened”.

Across the 13 commuter rail lines that operate under the MBTA, asset management is conducted through Trapeze’s enterprise asset management (EAM) platform. Used by six of the top ten largest rail networks in the US, the program provides a single source of truth for all assets within a rail organisation. Making this system successful, however, depends on it being adopted by all stakeholders throughout a rail network operator, making the second line in the MBTA banner even more important: “FEED TRAPEZE”.

Having maintenance workers, technicians, and engineers use a system such as Trapeze by nature, is one of the top three issues for the successful deployment of an enterprise asset management solution, noted Brett Koenig, industry solutions manager (enterprise asset management) at Trapeze.

“It’s a tool that at a large rail property will directly be used by, in many cases, hundreds of staff, if not thousands of staff,” said Koenig. “If we take one example in North America, Chicago Transit have 2,000 technicians that use our system every day to fix rollingstock assets, so that topic of what we call ‘change management’ or ‘cultural change’ is a really important one.”

To make the use of EAM second-nature, Trapeze has been designed with the rail worker in mind.

“The first thing, from a product perspective, is having a system built for the industry that is just drop dead simple for end users. If we talk about a technician fixing a railcar, most people in maintenance would agree they don’t want those guys messing around in computer systems any longer than necessary. What they want is for the system to help them do their job, by telling them about repeat problems, by quickly showing them the work history, by looking up parts, but then to be able to swiftly get back to fixing the asset itself.”

Trapeze provides EAM specifically to the rail and transportation industry and is designed to ensure that all rail network assets are operating in a state of good repair through intelligent asset management. The solution allows asset managers, owners, and capital planners to evaluate their equipment from a whole-of- lifecycle perspective and make evidence-based decisions about when to repair an asset, when to upgrade and when to decommission.

“The capital planning tools allow asset owners to be able to see where this physical infrastructure is in terms of its remaining useful life and then make good business decisions around whether it is cost effective for us to rehabilitate this particular series of railcar to extend their useful life, or should we replace them all together, based upon how they’ve been performing,” said Koenig.

In a shorter timeframe, Trapeze can also monitor and schedule daily maintenance through work and materials management to keep safety critical assets in safe working order.

While these and other similar functions are common to many asset management tools, Koenig highlights that Trapeze is built by and for the rail industry.

“What sets us apart is understanding the workflows and the roles within a rail enterprise at a deep level. If you take our work management capabilities, we built from the ground up screens designed specifically for rail supervisors, technicians, materials management, and parts clerks based upon how they interact.”

Beyond the workshop, Trapeze also has mobile capability for track workers and facilities maintenance. This enables Trapeze to encompass the complexities of a railway organisation, with both discrete and linear assets which can be at various stages of digital maturity.

“It’s not only just the vehicle side, as critical as the vehicles are, but it’s also the track and wayside infrastructure and the facilities and building maintenance. Across all of those areas you’ve got smart infrastructure and what we do at Trapeze is define the assets properly from the get-go, not only defining their master asset records, but the full engineering-approved configuration of those assets,” said Koenig. That gets into things like the parent/child relationships, the serialisation, and the other types of attributes that are critical for the assets to operate safely.”

Across such a broad array of different assets, made by any number of OEMs, Trapeze has a flexible tool that can receive data and interface with the digital components to provide real- time information on an asset’s health.

Recently, Trapeze was deployed on the Denver commuter rail network, and, being a greenfield deployment, was able to notify operations management in real time of any emerging faults in the system.

“We built a full integration with all of their SCADA systems as well as their onboard fault codes,” said Koenig. “The beautiful part about that is they’re being notified in real time about these problems before the component failure happens. As the fault occurs, it’s triggered into the EAM, the appropriate maintenance personnel are notified, and they can immediately get on it.”

Keolis Boston has made Trapeze second nature to rail maintenance staff.

A SINGLE SOURCE OF TRUTH
Until recently, preventative and corrective maintenance was often carried out in silos. This limited the ability of railway operators to see trends within their maintenance data that could be used to schedule risk-based maintenance programs in rollingstock and track assets. Having a system such as Trapeze in place combines asset divisions, whether it be rollingstock, track, signalling, or facilities management to be able to extend the life and value of an asset.

“All of that data can be used to make better decisions around risk based maintenance, which assets are performing better than other series or other manufacturers’ assets, which ones should we be decommissioning sooner, versus which ones should we be extending the life of because it’s a high-quality piece of infrastructure that we want to keep going,” said Koenig. “All of that comes down again to the single source of truth and underscores why you really want to start with a solution that has the ability to track everything.”

To improve financial outcomes, maintenance workflows can be linked to purchasing decisions through integration with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

To improve operational outcomes, ensuring that maintenance is being conducted in a synchronised fashion stops bottlenecks from occurring when a system reaches a critical safety threshold.

For Australian commuters, this was illustrated in 2019 when an escalator linking platforms 9 and 10 at Southern Cross Station, in Melbourne, broke down, causing overcrowding as the escalator took over a week to fix. According to Michael Scollo, industry solutions manager (enterprise asset management) at Trapeze, this can happen when a system doesn’t have a holistic view and interface with all of the asset classes that need to be managed and maintained in a rail network.

“You can have great business processes for maintenance of way and rollingstock but overlooking a mechanical asset such as a lift can cause downtime for two weeks in a specific train station.”

Understanding that these systems are inextricably linked in a system such as a rail network is what distinguishes Trapeze, said Koenig.

“In rail, the assets and workflows are so complex that the model that we see working most effectively is a best-of-breed model where the folks in asset management and maintenance get a tool that is tailor made for what they do and then that tool set is integrated with the ERP system.”

In contrast, said Ben Dvoracek, general manager of rail, Australia and New Zealand for Trapeze, attempting to apply a non-rail specific ERP system to manage maintenance won’t cover the complexity of rail maintenance. In addition, while the system may be up to date when deployed, a non-rail specific solution cannot account for the changes within the rail industry.

“One of the things that we have seen is when an ERP system is deployed for finance or HR a decision can often be made to customise the ERP solution to support rail maintenance and asset management activities. Although the system can be adapted to do good things, when you’re not investing consistently into rail maintenance functionality and because it isn’t built for rail maintenance staff, the system usage and operational efficiency drops.”

DEVELOPING FUTURE CAPABILITIES
To keep users up-to-date with the latest Trapeze has to offer, the company provides regular updates that draw on the best practices of global rail organisations. User organisations are able to vote on the most needed upgrades, which are released in new versions of the software. In addition, to keep users making the most of the improvements in functionality, Trapeze delivers training and refresher courses for new staff as generations turn over within a rail organisation.

Currently, said Koenig, Trapeze is looking into releasing a network restrictions capability before the end of 2020.

“Essentially it’s a capability for maintenance and operations to both track any areas along the alignment that need to be operating at a slower speed than it was normally designed for. We’re going to provide the ability to track those slow zones on the screen of the track manager who can see the assets in the linear reference system including all of the work laid out on an embedded map.”

Other future rail-specific improvements include track possession modules, linear visualisations based on geometry measurement, all highlighting how the tool is an EAM designed for rail.

Click here to learn more about the Trapeze Enterprise Asset Management Solution.

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Women

Women in Industry winners announced

On Monday, August 24, the winners of the Women in Industry awards for 2020 were announced.

Judge Melissa Donald, board member of the National Association of Women in Operations said that the quality of nominations made judging difficult.

“The calibre of nominees was so impressive, with a range of experience and backgrounds, which made judging challenging. Congratulations to the winners, whose achievements can inspire more women and men to pursue careers in operations and continue to drive better gender balance across all industries.”

The winners of each category are:

Social Leader of the Year – Jackie Lewis-Gray – BAE Systems Australia

Rising Star of the Year, sponsored by Atlas Copco – Alicia Heskett – Shell Australia (QGC)

Business Development Success of the Year – Rachael Ashfield – ifm efector

Industry Advocacy Award – Rose Read – National Waste & Recycling Industry Council

Safety Advocacy Award, sponsored by BOC ltd – Nadine Youssef – Sydney Trains

Mentor of the Year – Dayle Stevens – AGL Energy

Excellence in Manufacturing – Rochelle Avinu – Leica Biosystems

Excellence in Mining – Sarah Withell – Whitehaven Coal Limited

Excellence in Engineering, sponsored by BAE Systems Australia – Elizabeth Taylor – RedR International

Excellence in Transport – Melissa Strong – Lindsay Australia Limited

Hayley Rohrlach, 2020 chair of the National Committee for Women in Engineering said that the awards should serve as encouragement for all to continue to grow the industries they work in.

“I hope they can continue their advocacy and sharing their enjoyment for engineering and STEM as a whole into the community to continue to bring (or retain) female engineers into the profession.”