Melbourne Tram. Photo:

Yarra Trams operations centre to benefit from new tech

The Yarra Trams Operation Centre is receiving a new ‘mega-wall’ of information screens that will help controllers monitor real-time data more effectively. 

The upgrade will incorporate information such as VicRoads traffic data, CCTV from the tram network and passenger tweets so that it is easily accessible on the screens.

A dedicated station for planned and unplanned disruptions has also been added, allowing controllers to switch to ‘crisis mode’ to quickly and effectively plan tram diversions should incidents such as accidents, protests or traffic occur. The staff at the centre are able to provide advice to drivers and passenger information teams should issues occur.

The upgrades come at a time when Yarra Trams is introducing its newest generation of controllers, who have undergone hundreds of hours of training involving the operations centre, including a five-week program driving E-Class trams.

“These upgrades are just another way we’re improving the reliability of our public transport system – minimising disruptions and improving the passenger experience,” said Victorian Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne.

“As our city continues to grow, we’re investing in the latest technology to get people where they need to go as quickly and safely as possible.”

The Yarra Trams Operation Centre monitors more than 5,000 journeys and receives up to 1,800 calls from drivers across Melbourne’s network every day.

12 EMUs added to Bombardier’s SA trains contract

Adelaide will have at least 34 electric multiple unit (EMU) trains from Bombardier after 12 were added to the manufacturer’s orderbook late last week.

Bombardier said on June 28 it had won a contract variation from the South Australian Government. The variation calls for 12 three-car EMU trains for an undisclosed fee, to be manufactured at Bombardier’s Dandenong workshops in Victoria.

Once complete, the deal will bring Adelaide’s A-City EMU fleet to 34.

Bombardier Transportation’s President for South East Asia and Australia Region, Wendy McMillan, said the news was a welcome extension of what has been a good relationship for some time.

“Since 2005, Bombardier has been supporting Adelaide’s mobility needs with its diesel and electric commuter trains and this contract variation is another huge endorsement of our workforce and the quality of the products designed, built and maintained here in Australia,” McMillan said.

“We are proud to deepen our long-term partnership in this important market, built on a strong track record of delivery performance, best-in-class rail technology and value-adding long-term solutions; which has laid the foundation to further support South Australian Government’s great efforts to meet a higher demand for public transport that will ensure the comfort and ease of every passenger’s journey.”

The three-car A-City trains operate on Adelaide’s Seaford and Gawler line, and can accommodate 240 passengers seated and 300 more standing. The trains won a Good Design Award at the 2015 Australian International Design Awards, and the company says it achieves more than 60 per cent local content with each train.

Sydney’s last S-set train retired

After more than four decades in operation the last of Sydney’s S-set train fleet has been retired, meaning all of Sydney Trains’ rollingstock is now air-conditioned.

Sydney Trains boss Howard Collins and NSW transport minister Andrew Constance joined rail workers and their families on a farewell run from Central station across the Harbour Bridge to Lavender Bay on June 27, ahead of the final revenue S-set service on the T7 Olympic Park Line on June 28.

Among the first double deck trains in the world, the S-sets first hit Sydney’s railways in 1972. Most of the stainless steel electric multiple units were manufactured in Granville by Comeng, while others were built in Broadmeadow by A Goninan & Co.

“We’re proud of the history and evolution of railways in NSW, which is why a total of fourteen S-sets will be preserved,” Collins said. Transport Heritage NSW will hold a special public farewell on July 21.

Constance called the fleet’s retirement “the end of an era,” saying the S-sets had become an “icon of our railways” and had served Sydney well.

“However, our customers rightfully expect modern trains,” Constance said. “I am delighted that all 24 Waratah Series 2 trains are now in service, with another 17 on the way form next year, which is why we can now retire the S-sets.”

NZ details rail spending plans

The New Zealand Government has provided more detail for its rollingstock and rail revitalisation program after the recent budget committed roughly $1 billion to renewing the nation’s rail network.

In a detailed statement on June 25, a quartet of ministers provided more information on how New Zealand will spend the new rail money.

“We’re addressing the last three decades of under-investment in our rail system, and enabling growth that will ensure rail is sustainable,” deputy prime minister Winston Peters said.


The budget, revealed earlier this month, provides $375 million over two years to replace KiwiRail’s rollingstock that is at the end of its useable life, and to upgrade maintenance facilities deemed no longer fit-for-purpose.

Some of the money is a final payment for 15 new locomotives delivered to the North Island in October 2018.

Next, 48 long-haul locomotives predominantly on the South Island, 52 short-haul locomotives across New Zealand, and a small number of electric short-haul locomotives will be replaced over time, starting in FY23, with a new fleet of roughly 50 long-haul and 50 short-haul locos, and new electric short-haul locos.

“New locomotives mean more reliable services and less maintenance costs,” Peters said.

The rollingstock money will also see 900 flat-top container wagons replaced, with the worst of the old 900 to be retired, and a small portion to be re-purposed to carry logs. The wagon program will target the busiest rail corridors, with KiwiRail hoping to select a supplier and place an order in late 2019.

Finally, this portion of the budget funding will also see major upgrades at the key Hutt and Christchurch maintenance facilities, with work aimed at improving workshop layouts and seismic strengthening.

“Rail has huge benefits for New Zealanders’ wellbeing, including unlocking regional economic growth, reducing emissions and congestion, and preventing deaths and injuries,” finance minister Grant Robertson said.

“Our Government is already helping create 40 new jobs at KiwiRail’s Hutt Workshops through our investments in rail, including the new Hamilton to Auckland commuter service.”

$35 million will let KiwiRail progress design and procurement of a pair of rail-enabled ferries, to replace three ageing ferries currently used by Interislander.


The budget includes $331 million over two years to address the nation’s rail network.

“After the chaos for Auckland commuters last week, it’s important to reassure New Zealanders that we are investing in tracks, bridges, tunnels, signals and control systems around the country to make train services more reliable,” transport minister Phil Twyford said.

The ministers said this money will work to improve resilience and reliability of rail infrastructure through New Zealand, prioritised according to levels of risk and growth opportunities. It will also pay for new handling equipment (hoists and generators), mainly at Westfield/Southdown in Auckland, with the aim of more efficient processing of freight at the largest inland port in New Zealand.

The money will also facilitate mechanical renewals for existing rollingstock and the plant and equipment required to do this.

Finally, a new freight reservation, booking and tracking system will be set up for customer use, to provide real-time tracking of goods.

In addition to the prescribed funding, the budget also includes access to up to $300 million from the Provincial Growth Fund for regional rail projects. Associate transport minister Shane Jones said this was on top of the $183 million already given to rail by the Fund.

“We’ve re-opened the Napier to Wairoa line, which will be crucial for the local forestry sector and is expected to replace 15,000 truck journeys each year on the region’s roads, making them safer and reducing wear and tear,” Jones said.

“Despite it only being re-opened for two weeks, it has already created four jobs and KiwiRail expects to recruit even more staff. The value of rail to the economy carrying freight alone is over $350 million per year and as champion of the regions, I’m working to make sure that the regions get their fair share of the opportunities.”

Rail plan

“We can’t wait for the budget every year to make sure KiwiRail has the resources to keep their services on track. We plan to integrate rail alongside roads, motorways and all transport investments so that decision-makers can consider it alongside all transport options and invest in the best option,” Twyford said.

“Our Rail Plan, which will be released later this year, will outline the government’s strategic vision and give a 10-year programme of indicative investments and benefits.”


Note: All figures in New Zealand Dollars.

Final B-series railcar delivered to Perth

The West Australian Government aims to sign a deal for its next generation of passenger trainsets by the end of 2019, after taking delivery of the final B-series railcar from EDI Rail-Bombardier’s site in Queensland.

The last B-series trainset will enter service this week. It is the 78th three-car B-series set to enter service (234 cars in total), since the first set hit the Joondalup line in September 2004.

The B-series sets were built in Maryborough by a joint venture of Downer and Bombardier, and were designed to provide a 30 per cent capacity boost compared to Transperth’s initial electric two-car A-series model.

State transport minister Rita Saffioti was on hand at Nowergup Depot on June 22 to tour the site and take a look at the final B-series train.

“Nowergup Depot is the exact site where, 15 years ago, the B-series railcars were first revealed to the public by the Gallop Labor Government,” Saffioti said. “Since that date, 78 three-car trains have been fitted out at this facility, significantly boosting capacity on the Transperth network and setting the standard for modern, accessible and efficient public transport.”

Procurement is already underway for the next fleet of trains for Perth, the C-series, which will be six car sets. Budgeted at $1.6 billion, the contract will see 102 new railcars (17 sets) built to service new projects as they come online under the WA Government’s Metronet urban rail program. A further 144 railcars (24 sets) are being procured to replace the ageing A-series fleet.

The contract also includes a component for up to 30 years of maintenance of the fleet.

Delivery is set to begin in 2021, with the state set to sign a deal with a chosen supplier by the end of this year.

Three bidders were shortlisted last August for the contract: Alstom, a CAF/UGL pairing, and the Downer/Bombardier partnership.

The state wants trains with capacity for around 1,200 passengers, which works out to 200 per car. The trains are to have extra, wider doors, USB charging ports and eco-friendly measures.

Manufacturing will take place in WA, with a 50 per cent local manufacturing target. The project includes construction of a railcar assembly and commissioning facility at Bellevue.

“We’re committed to maximising jobs and local content on this project,” Saffioti said. “It’s only right that Western Australians reap the long-term economic benefits from the infrastructure they fund.”

WA submits ATC business case for federal funding

West Australian transport minister Rita Saffioti says a newly-submitted business case for Automatic Train Control (ATC) will pave the way for federal funding to improve signalling on Perth’s rail network.

The state government said on June 22 it had sent a business case for ATC to Infrastructure Australia. Approval from the independent advisory body would potentially facilitate funding support from the federal government.

The ATC program would gradually replace Perth’s ageing signalling network with a modern state-of-the-art digital version, Saffioti said.

“The McGowan Government continues to press the case for more federal funding for WA infrastructure projects, and putting our plans to Infrastructure Australia is a key part of that,” the minister said.

In September 2017 the McGowan Government committed $7.4 million over two years to plan its new signalling project, which will come under its Metronet urban rail program.

“Metronet is about thinking beyond the immediate future and anticipating what Perth’s future transport needs will be,” Saffioti said.

“Part of this will be making sure our existing network is modernised and continues to deliver what commuters need. Automatic Train Control is an exciting project that allows for future capacity growth and will give passengers more frequent, reliable, safe and punctual train operations.”

A material difference: Getting the specs right in today’s rail market

With a massive pipeline for rail and rollingstock in Australia and New Zealand, suppliers must be keenly aware of what’s on offer in the global market for modern materials desired by operators and track owners.

A growing push towards European standards for materials in rail supply has created a greater need for a range of specific, modern solutions.

Steven Creed and Nicholas Farrell from Dotmar Engineering Plastic Products (Dotmar EPP) tell Rail Express this trend has driven the need in Australia for a wider knowledge base, and a range of modern materials.

“We’re noticing a change in the level of specification for plastics in particular,” explains Creed, Dotmar EPP’s Business Development Manager. “Now the industry [in Australia] is following the trend of specifications out of Europe, particularly for passenger trains, we’re seeing rail manufacturers and maintenance suppliers grapple with those changes, and we’re seeing more of a very technical knowledge requirement in this space.”

Examples of heightened levels of specifications include toxicity and flammability measures. “There’s a lot of interest in specialist plastics for certain toxicity and smoke characteristics, especially for rollingstock going through tunnels and things like that,” Creed notes.

Farrell, the company’s Victorian sales representative, says the trend towards more stringent specifications has made Dotmar EPP more of an overall solutions provider, rather than just a supplier of specialised material.

“We are well set up to assist with technical knowledge and implement the right solution using the right material for an application,” Farrell says. “We’re able to assist rail companies within the manufacturing and maintenance spaces, helping them establish what polymers are best for certain applications, and then providing a solution based on client requirements through utilisation of our manufacturing capabilities, which include things like plastic routing, turning, milling and so on.

“We’ll take an inquiry from a company – a set of drawings and such to work with – and we can machine a part from there,” he says.

“If a customer doesn’t quite understand what exactly it is they require for a certain aspect of their maintenance or manufacturing program, we can help them out with finding the right material and solution, and then providing them with our machining capability.”

An importer, distributor, fabricator and machinist of a range of plastic products, Dotmar EPP within the rail sector supplies parts and solutions for manufacturing and maintenance operations, both for rollingstock and fixed rail infrastructure.

On the fixed infrastructure side of things, Dotmar EPP has provided clients with a range of products, including track pads and parts for signalling infrastructure. Dotmar EPP looks to provide track owners with a high level of customisation: “Some of the signal parts we’ve provided in the past have had specs going back to the 1920s,” Creed notes.

For the rollingstock side of things, Dotmar EPP not only supplies cutting edge parts for new trains, but also replacement parts for older rollingstock, and products like bushings and bearings.

Material offered by Dotmar for rail applications includes, but is not limited to Ertalyte (PETP), Ertalon (Nylon), Ertacetal (Acetal), Polystone P7000 (UHMWPE), Polystone P300 (HDPE), Palsun (Polycarbonate) and Ketron PEEK for applications such as bushings, centre bowl liners, wear pads, washers, track spacers, side guides and electrical insulators. The company is ISO 9001 accredited, and has a dedicated quality assessment facility and quality assessment process to ensure all goods that go out to customers are within their specs.

Deciding on the right drive system for your next RRV

One of the many considerations to be made by track builders and maintainers deciding on their next road rail vehicle (RRV) for hire, lease, or purchase, is which drive system is most preferable for the application. Rail Express speaks with Manco Engineering Group’s Craig Munro about the options.

Three types of drive systems are defined in the Australian Standard for RRVs: Type 1 – self powered rail wheels, Type 2 – friction drive, and type 3 – direct drive.

Craig Munro is Manco Engineering Group’s Chief Engineer for Rail. He tells Rail Express each drive system has a set of pros and cons which must be considered before leasing or purchasing an RRV.

Self-powered rail wheels

Self-powered rail wheels provide both traction and braking through the rail wheels. During rail operations road wheels or crawler tracks are lifted above the rails; there is no contact between the road and rail wheels.

“Although a higher capital investment is required for a Type 1 RRV, the benefit is its adaptability,” Munro explains. “Rail modules can be manufactured to handle one, two, or all three common rail gauges (narrow, standard and broad) as there is no dependence on road wheels to provide traction.”

The extra stability provided by a full rail base means Type 1 RRVs don’t require stabiliser legs to support an elevated work platform (EWP).

“Tractive effort is generally provided via hydrostatic closed loop pumps and motors, either utilising direct wheel mount hydraulic motors, or a chain drive system,” Munro continues.

“With today’s advanced hydraulic systems, this drive system can provide electrically controlled, infinitely variable speed with high torque and excellent traction. A Type 1 RRV equipped with an EWP can be easily driven on rail from the workman’s basket via interfaced electronics, something not readily achieved with Type 2 or Type 3 drive systems.”

Braking can be controlled either manually by the operators, or it can be safely interfaced with the drive system, automatically applying and releasing based on the drive circuit pressure readings, Munro adds.

Friction drive

Type 2 friction drive systems indirectly derive braking and traction from the road wheels to the rail wheels; this is achieved via contact from the road wheel directly onto the rail wheel, through contact from the road wheel onto a rail wheel extension hub, or via a layshaft transferring the tractive effort to the rail wheels through the use of a gearbox or chain drive.

“Issues with braking, and predominately concerns with roll away when transitioning to or from rail mode have seen this style of drive method fall out of favour in recent years,” Munro says. “While all-wheel braking can be employed to mitigate some of these issues, friction drive rail gear is now seen as old technology.”

Additionally, to be driven ‘cab first’ on the railway, a Type 2 RRV’s engine must be driven in reverse gears, which can over time lead to drive issues with the carrier vehicle, as standard gearing is not designed for extended use in reverse.

“Additionally, small contact patches on vehicle tyres can lead to premature wear and even failure of the contact tyres,” Munro says. “Additional service and maintenance procedures must be in place to monitor this, and if not, could lead to tyre blow outs.”

Direct drive

Type 3 direct drive RRVs rely on at least one pair of road wheels to remain in direct contact with the rail tracks to provide tractive effort and braking.

The steer axle on the vehicle is generally lifted clear of the rail track on larger vehicles, although all road wheels may remain in contact with the rail on smaller RRVs (e.g. an RRV based on a Toyota Landcruiser).

“Type 3 systems can have economic benefits over Type 1 systems through lower hydraulic and structural requirements,” Munro says. “However, direct drive systems have inherently lower traction due to the rubber-steel contact, especially in wet conditions where grip can drop to below a quarter of what can be achieved in steel-steel contact under the same conditions.

“Where significant grades are encountered, a self-powered rail wheel drive system may be the better choice.”

Operators considering a Type 3 RRV also have to understand how the load is shared between the carrier vehicle tyred axles and rail axles, Munro says. “If too little load is transferred to the rail axle, derailment can occur, especially with vehicles that have tandem rear drive bogies. Manufacturers are taking steps to address load share with active suspension systems coming to market. Manco Rail commissioned several RRV in early 2017 with airsuspension and continues to evolve these systems.”

Theoretically, direct drive systems would be capable of attaining top speeds similar to those attainable on the road, but safety at higher speeds must be carefully considered.

Similar to Type 2 friction drive systems, another setback of direct drive is tyre wear.

“Only a small contact patch is made with the rail track, and with a higher loading than seen with friction drive systems,” Munro explains. “This can ultimately lead to localised wear and/or tyre failure.”

Furthermore, as Type 3 RRVs do not lift road wheels inside the relevant structure gauge, additional measures must be undertaken to avoid causing damage to trackside componentry during operation. When using an EWP, chocking of the vehicle suspension systems and/or stabiliser legs may be required, and control of the RRV’s movement from the workman’s basket is not readily achieved, and an in-cab operator will need to drive the RRV along the rail tracks while the EWP is in use, which can lead to communication errors, lower productivity, and the increased chance of hazards for operators.

“Generally, direct drive systems are confined to use only on standard and broad-gauge rail tracks due to the need for direct road wheel to rail contact,” Munro summarises. “Smaller vehicles, such as the Toyota Landcruiser, can operate on narrow-gauge tracks with direct drive, however these smaller vehicles are generally not able to meet the needs of operators requiring EWP access to overhead wires or to transport large loads to worksites.

“Direct drive systems are a serious limitation for operators wanting a versatile machine capable of operating on all three track gauges using multi-gauge hi-rail gear.”

Contact: craig (at)

NZ budget provides $1bn for KiwiRail, extra money for City Rail Link

A $1 billion funding package will facilitate the “long overdue” redevelopment of KiwiRail, with money set aside for new rollingstock, track and supporting infrastructure.

KiwiRail will receive $375 million for new wagons and locomotives, $331 million in track and infrastructure, and funding to begin replacing its Interislander ferry fleet.

There’s also access to up to $300 million from the Provincial Growth Fund for regional rail projects.

Transport minister Phil Twyford said the budget put a strong focus on rebuilding rail as the backbone of a sustainable 21st century transport network, with plans for a long-term national rail plan to be developed this year.

“Our goal is to have a stronger rail network that sees more freight moved by rail and fewer heavy trucks on our roads, as well as better public transport options to give commuters choice,” Twyford said.

“Previous governments took a hands-off approach and left rail in a state of managed decline. That’s why we instigated the Future of Rail review to make sure we are taking a long-term approach to rehabilitating rail.

“Our New Zealand Rail Plan will outline the Government’s strategic vision and give a 10-year programme of indicative investments and benefits.”

The budget, announced on Thursday, will also provide $405.5 million in extra funding required for the City Rail Link, after the cost of the passenger rail project was revised upwards.

City Rail Link Ltd welcomed the announcements, which follows Auckland Council’s decision to add its share of extra funding earlier this month.

“Today’s budget news and the Council’s earlier decision are big and positive steps forward, and our sponsors’ confidence clears the way for us to get cracking on delivering a project that will have a huge impact on Aucklanders,” CRL chief executive Sean Sweeney said.

Australasian Railway Association CEO Danny Broad said the investments included in the budget would improve the reliability and competitiveness of rail services in New Zealand.

“We are seeing an investment boom in rail right across Australasia as governments are recognising the contribution of rail to ease congestion, add to economic productivity, reduce carbon emissions and improve road safety,” Broad said.

“We are particularly pleased with the announcement of the development of the New Zealand Rail Plan. Rail needs to be fully incorporated into regional and national transport planning, with appropriate funding mechanisms.”

Note: Figures in New Zealand Dollars.

ARA seeking next CEO; Broad endorsed to replace Herbert as chair

Danny Broad will finish up as CEO of the Australasian Railway Association, and has been endorsed to succeed Bob Herbert as Chairman at the end of 2019.

The ARA announced on Thursday evening both Broad and Herbert would conclude their terms as CEO and Chairman, respectively, at the end of the calendar year.

Herbert, appointed as Independent Chairman in 2015, said he was happy to leave the ARA in a strong position.

“The new constitution that was ratified by members in July 2016 has strengthened the governance arrangements of the organisation whilst providing an agreed structure that allows members to better direct the affairs of the ARA,” he said.

“Recognising the substantial contribution Danny Broad has made as CEO of the ARA and the importance of maintaining leadership continuity, the Board has unanimously endorsed Danny assuming the Chairman’s role at the end of 2019.”

Broad paid tribute to Herbert’s work helping transform the ARA.

“Bob is a hands-on Chairman, who played a leading role in setting up the new structure, and positioned the ARA to be advocating not just for increasing rail investment, but as a strong voice on key strategic issues, such as the need for a National Rail Plan and action on skills shortages.”

As for his news, Broad said after more than four years as ARA CEO, he feels the time is right to pass the reigns on to a new leader.

“Since taking on the role in October 2015, ARA membership has grown significantly, our engagement with member companies has strengthened, and the ARA has maintained its position as a respected industry body,” Broad said.

“The ARA is now well placed to work with the Australian and State and Territory governments as they implement substantial passenger and freight rail projects, and deal with significant infrastructure policy issues.”

The ARA Board has established an Appointments Committee, convened by Sydney Trains boss Howard Collins, to oversee the recruitment of a new ARA CEO over the next few months.

Herbert will maintain his role as Chairman of the TrackSAFE Foundation, the ARA-endorsed harm prevention charity for the rail sector.