WA businesses receive capability funding

West Australian businesses have received funding to prepare to locally deliver rollingstock for the state’s Metronet project.

Eight businesses have won funding as part of the Local Capability Fund (LCF) under the Metronet Railcar Procurement round.

Businesses which have received up to $20,000 include refurbishment services provider Frontline Rail, the WA branch of rail transport maintenance and engineering business Chess Engineering, as well as specialist engineering and service providers.

The funding can be used by the businesses for capacity-building, planning, improvements to internal infrastructure, equipment, training, and certifications.

Applications for the fund remain open until January 31, or until funds are exhausted.

Under the contract to deliver new rollingstock for the Metronet project, rail car manufacturer Alstom will utilise local businesses for 50 per cent of the contract.

When complete, Alstom will produce 246 new C-series railcars and six diesel railcars. The railcars will be built in WA at the new Bellevue Assembly Facility.

Rail innovation centre to complement manufacturing facility

Siemens will build a rail industry innovation centre in Goole, East Yorkshire, after the company submitted plans to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

The centre will form part of the Rail Accelerator and Innovation Solutions Hub for Enterprise (RaisE).

The centre will focus on research, development, and innovation, and is located alongside Siemens Mobility’s rail manufacturing centre, announced in 2018, and scheduled to be completed by 2025.

The factory will build the trains for London’s Piccadilly line, which Siemens secured the contract to build in November 2018. Siemens will supply its Inspiro model to the line, beginning in 2023.

According to Sambit Banerjee, managing director, rolling stock and customer services for Siemens Mobility, the latest announcement covers facilities designed to support manufacturing and the wider industry.

“As well as accommodating support teams for our new rail manufacturing facilities, this building and other later related facilities will offer significant benefits to partners from industry and academia.”

Banerjee highlighted that the combined research and manufacturing facilities will share insights.

“This is the first phase of development of a cluster of facilities focused on innovation and research and development that will create a high-tech centre of excellence for the UK rail industry,” he said.

“The objectives of RaisE are consistent with our ambitions to establish a world-class rail village at Goole, combining manufacturing facilities with digital-led innovation to drive technological advances across the rail network and industry.”

Hull based developer Wykeland Group will construct the facility.

Metro Trains Comeng EMU. Photo: Zed Fitzhume / Creative Commons

Tech upgrades for Comeng fleet

Passengers on Melbourne’s Comeng train fleet will get clearer and simpler journey information thanks to the progressive rollout of new information systems planned by the state government.

A Comeng test train fitted with upgraded communications equipment is in revenue service on the Metro Trains network in the Victorian capital, ahead of the planned rollout of the technology on 29 trains over the next 12 months.

Upgrades include real-time high definition information, colour passenger information displays with dynamic route maps and clearer destination screens on the outside of trains. There’s also high definition CCTV cameras being installed, along with better speakers and improved hearing aid links for audio announcements.

The upgrades are part of the third stage of the state’s $75 million investment to modernise the Comeng fleet, which was first commissioned in 1982.

The third stage also includes upgrading air compression systems powering the brakes, doors, pantographs and traction systems across the fleet.

The first and second stages of the program included safety upgrades for the Comengs’ doors, upgrades to interiors and exteriors, and enclosing the walkways between carriages.

“We’ve invested a record amount into new rollingstock and we’re modernising our current fleet to give passengers a better ride,” public transport minister Melissa Horne said.

“By upgrading critical systems, passengers will have clearer, simpler information and more reliable services so they can get home sooner.”

Metro Trains is also retrofitting thousands of wireless data recorders to the X’Trapolis and Siemens fleets for real-time condition monitoring.

“Monitoring trains in real-time will lead to a safer and better performing railway – that’s great news for passengers,” Metro CEO Raymond O’Flaherty said. “Using real-time data means a smarter approach to train maintenance and fewer faults impacting passengers.”

Alstom finalises $1.3 billion contract for WA’s biggest railcar order

Alstom will build 246 Metronet railcars as well as a manufacturing and assembly plant in Bellevue, Western Australia, after the project contract was finalised this week.

According to the state government, the railcar manufacturing order “has come in $347 million under the original budget of $1.6 billion”. Under the 10-year contract at least 50 per cent of the railcars will be built locally.

As part of the project, Alstom will establish a base in WA at the 12,000 square metre plant near the old Midland Railway Workshops where railcar maintenance will also be carried out for the next 30 years.

“Work will start on building the new production plant in Bellevue and completed in 2021 next year, on top of six other Metronet projects that will be under construction in 2020 alone,” WA premier Mark McGowan said.

Since the closure of the Midland Railway Workshops in 1994, WA’s trains have been predominately built in Queensland with only two per cent of the work completed in WA. The local work will create 200 jobs as well as a number of indirect jobs, according to the WA government.

“Not only were local jobs lost, it was also more expensive to outsource railcar supply. The cost per railcar under the last order of B-Series trains was $4.05 million, while the cost under the new C-Series contract is around $2.97 million,” a government spokesperson has said.

Local companies have already been awarded contracts for fitting out the Bellevue railcar plant, including a $3.8 million contract awarded to Vector Lifting for the delivery of lifting jacks, a bogie press and bogie turntables has. An $850,000 contract for the supply of four cranes was recently awarded to Bassendean manufacturer Eilbeck.

“We’ve secured a quality deal for the state, by bundling multiple railcar orders into one super-contract, we have encouraged the market to make very competitive bids for the work,” minister for transport Rita Saffioti said.

“Importantly, this project will also deliver two three-car sets to replace The Australind and provide South-West residents with the reliable rail service they deserve.”

The contract includes 246 railcars, arranged in 41 six-car EMU sets, for additional Metronet capacity and to replace the ageing A-Series. It also includes six railcars to replace the existing Australind service, which will be delivered as two three-car DMU sets.

The first C-series trains produced at the Bellevue plant will be ready to use on the network in 2022 and will have an operational life of 35 years.  The new Australind railcars are expected to be ready in 2022-23.

Alstom Australia & New Zealand managing director Mark Coxon said the contract structure would allow the state to manage Perth’s projected future growth while re-establishing its rail manufacturing industry.

“We are delighted to have been awarded this contract and look forward to partnering with the state of Western Australia to deliver this significant project,” Coxon said.

Better technology including LED lighting, USB charging points and regenerative braking will also be installed to make the new trains more efficient. Once operational, Alstom’s HealthHub predictive maintenance tools will be used to optimise performance and reliability.

“The project will see the transfer of the latest railway technologies and manufacturing processes to Western Australia, establishing the most technologically advanced train manufacturing and maintenance sites in Australia,” an Alstom spokesperson said.

The company is also set to partner with local TAFE and training organisations to create new fast-tracked training and skills development programmes.

Palaszczuk joins Downer to celebrate 150 years at Maryborough

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk joined Downer employees, industry leaders and government representatives on December 6 to celebrate 150 years of manufacturing at Maryborough.

At a ceremony to recognise those who have contributed to Downer’s history building trains, sugar mills and ships at the workshops on the Fraser Coast, the premier credited the facility for being “the very heart of this historic Queensland city”.

“Downer’s motto is ‘Relationships creating success’ and that rings especially true in Maryborough,” Palaszczuk said. “Since the first Queensland Government contract was awarded back in 1896, the workshop has designed and built our long-haul tilt trains, delivered hundreds of units for our suburban and interurban rail network, and soon will perform essential accessibility upgrades on 75 New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains as part of an $85 million rectification contract.”

On top of this, Downer also recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Queensland Rail to develop a new strategic partnership agreement. The ten-year agreement will see closer collaboration, increased regional investment and better outcomes for Queensland’s rail passengers.

Tim Young, EGM for Downer’s Rollingstock Services, said the partnership will help secure the future of manufacturing in regional Queensland and cement Downer’s longer-term relationship with a key customer.

“We’re proud to today be celebrating the 150-year milestone of our operations in Maryborough,” he said. “For many years, this facility has been recognised as a leading manufacturer of rollingstock, supplying more than 900 rail cars and 1,000 locomotives to customers around Australia.

“With a strong pipeline of work for our factory, and the signing of this MOU with Queensland Rail, we hope to see this facility evolve and grow, enhancing our ongoing commitment to the Fraser Coast region.”

Queensland Rail CEO Nick Easy said the operator was proud to continue its longstanding partnership with Maryborough.

“This agreement will offer a range of improvements for Queensland Rail’s rollingstock maintenance program, including better collaboration, planning and value for money outcomes,” Easy said. “Like Queensland Rail, Downer has played a pivotal role in Queensland’s rail industry, being the original manufacturer of both Queensland Rail’s suburban and long-distance trains for many years.”

AusRAIL: Boosting service intervals for traction motors

SKF tells Rail Express about how the latest methods of bearing protection, including insulating coatings, hybrid bearings and sealed bearing units, can help extend maintenance intervals for traction motors in the rail sector.


In modern rail industry traction engines, AC motors have almost completely replaced DC motors as they present several advantages, including higher efficiency, reduced wear, less maintenance and greater power density. That’s not to say they are problemfree, however.

One consequence of using AC motors typically in combination with frequency converters is an increased risk of stray, high frequency currents. These can cause surface erosion of bearings, leading to potential failure. This then requires more frequent servicing – which undermines the original efficiency gains.

SKF Australia’s general manager rail, Anthony Clack, says the company aims to provide a range of solutions to help designers and users of traction motors extend maintenance intervals and boost efficiency. He says all solutions rely on SKF’s proven ability to protect bearings – to various degrees – from the conditions within AC motors.

Hybrid approach

The most important technology is hybrid bearings, in which the steel rolling elements are replaced with ones made of ceramics. This material provides very high current insulation, so is resistant to the “damaging” effects of AC motors.

“Hybrid bearings have the high resistance and low capacitance needed to withstand these conditions,” Clack said.

Some of the advantages of running these bearings include: high wear resistance; lower friction; higher speed capabilities; and no cold welding effects under poor lubrication or low load conditions. However, one main attribute of hybrid bearings is that they run cooler than conventional bearings, thanks to their lower friction. This has a profound effect on bearing life because it ensures that lubricant lasts longer.

“For grease-lubricated bearings – which are used in almost all traction motors – the maintenance interval is usually determined by the grease life. This is mainly affected by contamination, mechanical stressing and temperature,” Clack said.

A temperature rise of just a few degrees can have a huge effect – while a 15°C rise in bearing temperature will cut grease life in approximately half. At the same time, the insulative nature of ceramics ensures there is no electrical “burning” of the grease. In this way, adopting hybrid bearings can help to more than double the grease life – with a subsequent extension of the maintenance interval.

Yet, despite their many advantages, hybrid bearings have traditionally been considered unaffordable for general applications. However, recent manufacturing advances have helped to bring the price of hybrid bearings closer to that of standard bearings.

“For smaller bearings, it has been possible to reduce the price gap significantly – though large hybrid bearings are still more expensive than their standard equivalents. Taking lifecycle cost into account – rather than simply purchase cost – makes hybrid bearings even more attractive,” Clack explained.

An added advantage is that hybrid bearings can be swapped directly for their standard equivalents, as a direct retrofit replacement. Insulated coating Hybrid solutions – particularly the hybrid TMBU – will guarantee the longest possible extension of maintenance interval.

However, Clack says not all applications require such an extension – and not all budgets will stretch far enough. A more basic solution is to use specially treated Insocoat bearings – which are standard steel bearings with an insulated coating that gives a degree of resistance against stray electric currents.

Insocoat bearings are useful for designers who are not yet ready to make the switch to hybrid bearings due to missing experience with ceramic materials. They can also be incorporated into a TMBU arrangement.

SKF is currently expanding the capabilities of its Insocoat products. Last year, for instance, it launched a new product that works more effectively in humid conditions – making it highly appropriate for rail applications in certain regions. In addition, SKF will increase coating thickness on Insocoat bearings, to improve their effectiveness.


Visit SKF Australia at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 286.

23 more Alstom trains for Sydney Metro

Alstom will deliver signalling and 23 more driverless trains for the Sydney Metro City and Southwest project, after the Northwest Rapid Transit (NRT) consortium’s public private partnership was extended to the new line last week.

The state on November 22 announced it had approved Sydney Metro’s decision to exercise a pre-agreed extension to the existing NRT PPP, which was awarded in 2014 for the operation of trains and signalling along the Sydney Metro Northwest line, which opened earlier this year.

The extension means the consortium will operate along the entire 66-kilometre line between Rouse Hill and Bankstown, once the Sydney Metro City and Southwest portion opens between Chatswood and Bankstown in 2024.

Alstom’s portion of the news, worth around $570 million, makes it responsible for the project management, design, supply, manufacturing, testing and commissioning of 23 six-car fully-automated Metropolis trains, along with its Urbalis 400 Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) signalling system.

Alstom will build the 23 new trains at its manufacturing centre in Sri City, India, as it did with the 22 Metropolis trains operating on Sydney Metro Northwest.

The contract also includes an option to purchase more trains if required.

“Sydney Metro has been a game changer for the travelling public of Sydney and Alstom is delighted to continue to be a part of this iconic project,” Alstom’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand Mark Coxon said. “It strengthens Alstom’s position as the market leader for the supply of railway technologies in Australia.”

The extension news came as Sydney Metro Northwest reached more than 11 million customer journeys, in just its first five months of operation.

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance said expected operational issues in the first few months of operation were becoming less frequent, with 99 per cent of train services delivered in September and October.

“Like all new railways right around the world, there has been a period of bedding in and we apologise to our customers for the small number of issues that have occurred,” he said.

“Performance has been improving on a month-to-month basis as we settle in the new service and integrate metro rail with the community and Sydney’s wider public transport system.”

Hybrid plan for Regional Rail Fleet

New South Wales’ new Regional Rail Fleet will be built with bi-mode technology to allow both diesel and electric operation, for an estimated cost saving of $2 million a year.

Along with a saving in diesel fuel costs, the government estimates $1 million per annum in health and environmental benefits by reducing carbon emissions by more than 540 tonnes annually – the equivalent of around 77 Australian households. The trains will also be quieter during their electric operation.

Similar trains are already in action in the United Kingdom, the USA, France, Spain and Japan.

NSW regional transport and roads minister Paul Toole said the technology demonstrated the state was “leading the charge” for more efficient and sustainable rail travel.

“This means when our trains enter electrified parts of NSW’s rail network they can connect to overhead power,” Toole said. “NSW’s electrified network reaches as far as Broadmeadow in the north, Lithgow in the west, Kiama in the south and Macarthur in the south west.”

Toole said the diesel engines themselves would also be efficient, low emission models.

“The NSW government is committed to delivering modern and comfortable public transport for the bush. Commuters will be able to charge their phones, recline their seats on longer regional journeys and use their laptops while travelling.”

The new fleet of 29 trains will be rolled out progressively from 2023, and maintained at a new facility in Dubbo.

CRRC focuses on cutting-edge technology to develop freight wagon range

Rail Express speaks with CRRC about the latest developments from its cutting-edge freight wagon supply business headquartered in Qiqihar, in China’s northeast, and its plans for global growth.


CRRC’S Qiqihar Rolling Stock Company, known as QRRS, is the core subsidiary for its operations in Qiqihar City, and the pillar enterprise in the freight wagon sector for CRRC. Over the last 20 years, QRRS has provided more than 17,000 wagons to Australia and New Zealand. Its range of ore wagons, grain hopper wagons, coal hopper wagons, container flat wagons, articulated wagons, side dumping wagons, ballast wagons, tank wagons and others has found success in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, along with the eastern states, South Australia, and on both South and North Island in New Zealand.

CRRC representatives Wang Xiojun and Li Lina tell Rail Express QRRS’s team of nearly 150 designers, CAE engineers and testing engineers have been hard at work improving and optimising the manufacturer’s suite of freight wagons.

“As the largest freight wagon supplier in China and one of the most important freight wagon suppliers around the world, QRRS owns independently a full set of testing facilities and systems for complete wagons and key components – such as car body, bogie, coupler and brakes – and follows strictly to the relevant recognised quality systems, such as ISO, IRIS and other local ones,” Li and Wang tell Rail Express.

With a particular focus on the Australian market, QRRS has designed and manufactured wagons with axle loads ranging from 20, 23, 25, 26.5, 30, 35.7 and up to 40 tonnes. The configuration of the wagons has evolved from a carbon steel car body with a 120 brake system, a 13EF coupler, MT-2 draft gear and ride control bogie; to a stainless-steel car body employing a Wabtec/Knorr air and ECP brake system, an extra capacity coupler, draft gear and ZK1 bogie, which is QRRS IP. Operation speeds for the 40t wagons have been improved to 100km/h with a maximum traction tonnage of 57600t.

“At present, the 40t axle load ore wagons developed and manufactured by QRRS are popular with several ore mining companies in Australia, and have become the most advanced wagon in satisfying the operational requirements in West Australia,” Li and Wang say. “Said wagons have been in service for more than a decade and satisfy nearly all the heavy haul transportation requirements in the world.”

The 40t axle load wagons are designed to provide high speed and stable ride control. The design’s lightweight car body, low wheel track force and empty/loaded dynamics have helped increase loading capacity of the wagon by 10 per cent, and service axle to 44t, to let a single wagon can carry almost 155 tonnes of ore.

“Meanwhile, the new type rotary coupler, fixed coupler and forge yoke developed by QRRS can help further improve the loading capacity of the wagon, and a train of 30,000t to 50,000t traction tonnage can be satisfied, which has become the train with biggest axle load, highest loading capacity and largest traction tonnage all around the world,” Li and Wang explain.

Research & development

Not satisfied, QRRS plans to soon launch its 45t axle load wagon into the Australian market. CRRC credits this latest development, along with the ongoing optimisation of its existing fleet of wagons, to its dedicated team of research and development experts.

“Over the years, QRRS has insisted on strengthening the construction of information and research platforms to improve research and development efficiency and quality,” Li and Wang say.

“Parallel design technology was implemented in the product development phase, supported by the PDM data management system, and through a collaborative R&D using CAD, CAE, CAPP, CAM and other technologies, to realise fundamental changes in product development concepts, management models and business processes.”

More modern technologies, like 3D design (Pro/E), and computer simulation for strength, stiffness, modulus, dynamics, and fatigue simulation analysis, have also played a key role.

“These technologies have signifi cantly improved design methods, shortened the development cycle, and improved product reliability,” Li and Wang say. “The product development period and process preparation period has been shortened from six to nine months, to fi ve to ten weeks. The efficient and reliable new product development capability can satisfy the demand of high reliability and short delivery time for domestic and international markets respectively.”

QRRS says it aims to leverage both independent and integrated innovation to develop a world-class technology innovation platform, product development platform and basic research platform. Additionally, the company says a completed management system and support system will improve the basic research and application technology in freight wagon development, to help build a worldwide leading heavy-haul and fast freight wagon research and development platform.

Photo: CRRC


Testing lab

Just as important as R&D is a thorough testing program. In its laboratory facility, QRRS covers all the testing needed for a railway freight wagon, such as static strength, impact, dynamics and fatigue test for the wagon and its key components.

QRRS’s lab is the first of any Chinese wagon manufacturer approved by China’s National Accreditation Service (CNAS) for Conformity Assessment. It is also the only special tank container impact test laboratory authorised by China Classification Society, and the lab’s Metrology and Testing centre is also approved by CNAS for Conformity Assessment.

Equipment available to QRRS testers includes a coupler fatigue test rig, the only curve negotiation simulation test bench in China, the country’s leading warping stiffness test bench, an industry-leading 1500kN fatigue test bench, a 5000kN longitudinal force test bench, 5000kN press, a three-coordinate inspection and measuring machine, and more. Additionally, QRRS possesses a full scale wagon fatigue and vibration test rig it says can acquire the data of 25 years’ operation of a wagon in just 20 days of testing.

“The QRRS laboratory is not just for newly-developed products, but also for testing items for other freight wagon companies and institutes in China,” Li and Wang add. “The testing capability of the laboratory takes the leading position in freight wagon sections in China.”

Global strategy

Along with freight wagon design, manufacturing and maintenance covered by QRRS, CRRC’s operations in Qiqihar also produce special purpose containers for rail, railway cranes, and air conditioning for passenger rail and waste water treatment systems.

In addition to Australia and New Zealand, CRRC’s Qiqihar businesses have sent rollingstock to 52 countries, including the United States, Brazil and Kazakhstan.

The company says by focusing on its big local and global market through big marketing and a big customer strategy, it has transformed from a product manufacturer to a well-rounded manufacturing service provider.

“The international business has always adhered to the customer-oriented and ‘technology plus quality’ direction,” Li and Wang conclude, “adopting a progressive combination of business models to export Chinese products and services to 60 countries and regions.

“Product exports, product plus maintenance services, product plus technology, and capital output, cover 40 per cent of the world’s railway lines in 146 countries.”

Contact QRRS’s International Business Department: zhanghui.qh@crrcgc.cc, Ph: +86 138 4621 0186

Metronet depot contract details released

The tender to build a new railcar manufacturing facility in Bellevue for the Western Australian government’s Metronet program has been released to market.

The $50 million assembly and maintenance facility will be 180 metres long, and will include offices, workshops and storage areas to support the 246 new C-series railcars which will be built and maintained there.

The state said the facility will be fitted out when the contract to deliver the trains is finalised with Alstom later this year.

The facility will require two overhead cranes capable of lifting 25 tonnes apiece, and one heavy maintenance railroad with a crane which can lift 10 tonnes, all of which is currently out to tender.

The winning construction contractor will also be required to build a secondary high-voltage testing building.

A tender is expected to be awarded in late 2019.

WA premier Mark McGowan said the construction of a Bellevue facility would bring rail manufacturing back to the Midland area for the first time since the Midland Railway Workshops were closed in 1994.

“The release of today’s tender to construct the Bellevue depot is another step towards bringing railcar manufacturing back to Western Australia,” he said. “It means hundreds of quality, local jobs, more training and apprenticeship opportunities for our kids and WA made trains, on our new WA built Metronet lines.”

Transport minister Rita Saffioti said railcar manufacturing was a key election commitment by WA Labor.

“This is the largest railcar order in WA history,” she said. “We’ve done that deliberately to maximise competition for this large contract, thus maximising the amount of local content companies are willing to commit to.

“We’re committed to bringing back local manufacturing, and ensuring these new trains are built by local people. They’re our trains, and they should be our jobs as well.”