140k ride ‘transformational’ Sydney Metro on opening day

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance has hailed Sydney Metro’s opening as a huge success, with almost 140,000 passenger journeys reported on its opening day on Sunday, and a successful first weekday on Monday.

Constance said 21,000 rode the Sydney Metro Northwest on its first morning peak, between 4.45am and 10am on Monday morning.

That came after tens of thousands flocked to the opening of the new line – the first passenger railway in Australia to be completely driverless.

Constance and Premier Gladys Berejiklian joined the public for a ribbon cutting ceremony on Sunday morning.

“This is truly an historic day for NSW with services starting on one of the world’s greatest metros,” Berejiklian said. “I am so excited that our hard work and discipline has paid off with this rail line opening on time and more than $1 billion under budget.”

“Sydney Metro will forever change how we get around Sydney,” Constance said. “It is a transformational public transport investment on par with the Sydney Harbour Bridge a century ago.”

While some in the media noted crowding at key stations like Epping and Chatswood, public feedback on the project has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Travelling on #SydneyMetro to work today,” one passenger Tweeted. “Left Castle Hill at 7:31am… arrived at Central at 8:24am – a trip that usually took 1hr 45mins and $110 in parking, tolls and petrol just took 53mins and $5… absolutely life changing.”

The Metro’s opening meant the debut of 13 new and upgraded platforms across 36 kilometres of metro railway, and a fleet of 22 new six-car, fully automated metro trains from Alstom.

Each trainset includes three double-doors per car on each side, compared to Sydney’s heavy passenger fleet, which features longer cars with two double-doors on each side. The trains are directed through Alstom’s CBTC signalling system, adapted for the specific needs of the Sydney Metro project.

As the Northwest portion of Sydney Metro opens between the northwest suburbs and Chatswood, construction for the Sydney Metro program’s next stage is well underway.

Sydney Metro City & Southwest will continue the new line on through northern Sydney, under the Sydney Harbour, through the CBD and beyond to Bankstown, in the southwest.

Driving customer satisfaction and business growth through safety

Bombardier Transportation Australia’s approach aims to promote safety as a driver of cultural change, and satisfaction for its end user.

In a competitive market, rollingstock manufacturers and maintenance operators are under constant pressure from customers to meet a range of performance targets. How does a business compete in this space while ensuring safety remains a top priority?

Bombardier Transportation’s Todd Garvey, Head of Sales, Australia and South East Asia Region, says the company’s new product safety management system is embracing safety as a driver of business transformation and customer satisfaction, helping the company’s workforce and customers understand safety as a key component of the total cost of ownership.

“In this industry there’s no exceptions for safety,” Garvey told RISSB’s Rail Safety 2019 conference in Melbourne in April. “For companies like Bombardier and others we must have an excellent safety record, because it’s a key value for our customers as it is for us. We put product safety at the beginning of the conversation with our customers, and this supports customer satisfaction and drive business growth.”

Garvey noted the importance of a company like Bombardier maintaining safety as its top priority, while simultaneously striving to meet the types of key performance measures expected by its manufacturing and maintenance customers – reliability, availability, cost efficiency and so on.

“High quality mobility solutions are needed to meet the transport task, and at Bombardier we’re dedicated to delivering and maintaining highly reliable products,” he said, “but the safety of our products is the main priority.”

Looking to enhance this position, Bombardier has been taking regular measures and efforts to better undertand the role it can play to improve rail safety, and how rail vehicles they manufacture and maintain fit into the environments in which they operatre. Bombardier’s Product Safety Policy is built on five commitments:

  • To define product safety requirements based on the applicable laws and regulations in each country.
  • To ensure that product safety requirements are fulfilled during the development and delivery of its products and services.
  • To proactively analyse incidents or accidents to continuously improve product safety performance.
  • To continually review and update its safety management process.
  • To deploy and maintain a robust Product Safety Management System within the organisation, to clearly define roles, responsibilities and improvement cycles.

“At the heart of the policy is people,” Garvey said. “We ensure that product safety is part of the induction process when employees join the company and regular trainings are conducted to eliminate complacency, and to foster a culture of change.”

Key to the policy was developing a clear structure for safety, making sure individuals understood their responsibilities at every stage.

“The program starts with executives within of each product group, who are responsible for the product safety within that group. Then there are independent technical experts within the business, who conduct audits, monitor safety performance, and ensure the structure is coordinated. There is also a product safety assurance team, and product engineers are also responsible for their product’s safety,” Garvey explained.

“These roles are well defined, it’s well known who’s who, and the skillsets of individuals are well suited to these roles so that they can be a very strong part of our business.

“Product safety is given a strict push from our leadership globally,” Garvey explained. “Because especially on a product that already has a really good safety record, it could have been easy to be complacent and ask, ‘Why should I do this?’. But everyone does it.

“Leadership ensures safety is not compromised when it comes to commercial challenges, and this leadership permeates through the product safety hierarchy, but also creates awareness within our organisation. Product safety doesn’t work unless we get the culture right.”

Collaboration

Garvey says Bombardier’s safety culture is a worldwide platform – if/when an incident occurs or an error is found anywhere in Bombardier’s global operation, that information is transmitted to all arms of the business.

“If we have a very small issue here in Australia it would be documented in our worldwide safety bulletin, and shared through that global network of individuals. Likewise, if there’s an incident on any of our products anywhere on the planet, it’s shared with us in a very short period of time, so we can also learn from it,” Garvey said. “It’s about learning and collaborating through our global opertions, and maintaining and improving the overall competence of our organisation.”

Safety in practice

A big part of the safety policy is growing more aware of the root causes for safety issues around the product line.

The policy targeted three key areas which had been the source of a disproportionate amount of safety issues: bolting and torqueing, software development, and the adherence to maintenance instructions, which collectively were responsible for around forty per cent of safety related incidents. Responding to this, Bombardier encouraged its workforce to speak up about safety issues they perceived. With bolting and torqueing as an example – it was found to be the source of around twenty per cent of safety related incidents – Garvey said Bombardier worked with employees to take stock of how issues were arising.

“Some of the root causes, which can seem quite simple, were improper torque settings, improper torqueing processes, issues with bolt quality, and issues with the wrong bolt size or coating,” he explained. “Messages to our employees were around communicating the gaps they saw in the torqueing process, only using qualified tools, and not to modify or alter those tools in any way.”

The targeted initiative was accompanied by powerful safety messaging across the business. One campaign depicted children riding Bombardier vehicles, accompanied with phrases like ‘Be Tom’s guardian angel. Make sure each and every bolt will hold, and the train runs safely.’ Posters were put up around the company’s offices, design studios, production halls, and meal rooms.

“The aim was to send the message that everyone is responsible for product safety, and it’s not just about the product; it’s about the people,” Garvey said.

“As you move through the product lifecycle, from the very first idea of a tender, to the end of the maintenance term of the contract, team members all along the way are being challenged to meet safety requirements, and understand the role they play in the safety of that product.

“They’re responsible when we go through a bidding process, when we offer a product to a customer, and when we’re delivering a product to a customer, to ensure the product throughout its lifecycle is going to be safe.”

Garvey said Bombardier had seen “a huge difference” in product safety related incidents from these targeted campaigns, and the results are “really pleasing to see”.

Total cost of ownership

A big part of Bombardier’s safety transformation was to understand the value of safety to customer satisfaction.

“When a fleet owner or operator is looking at their total cost of ownership, there’s a lot of traditional focus around the investment costs, management costs and operational costs of rollingstock,” Garvey explained. “But the highest potential cost to an operator could be an incident cost. From fatality and injury costs, to repair costs to the product and property, to the cost of ongoing investigation and litigation associated with a serious incident, and also the public relations cost – the potential brand damage, which can be quite hard to measure.

“We take any little safety issue seriously, because while it may not have led to a major issue today, maybe it will five years or ten years down the track,” he said. “Everybody is responsible for product safety, and everyone needs to understand the role they play in the product cycle, and how they can contribute positively to the safety culture within the organisation.”

GS1 conference heads to Sydney, V/Line recognised in Melbourne

Supply chain standards developer GS1 Australia will take its Nexus 2019 conference to Sydney this Friday, after Victorian operator V/Line was recognised during a successful Melbourne event on Tuesday.

V/Line was on May 14 presented with an i-TRACE Leadership Award at the GS1 Nexus 2019 Conference in Melbourne. The award recognises the regional operator’s industry leadership in implementing and adopting Project i-TRACE, a joint initiative between GS1 Australia and the Australasian Railway Association, towards standardised data for all assets and materials in the rail industry.

“We are delighted to see the success V/Line is having with this hugely beneficial project, and commend V/Line on its commitment to implement global data standards in their processes,” ARA chief executive Danny Broad said.

V/Line’s manager for asset reliability and performance, Michael Mowat, thanked the ARA, along with GS1 Australia, AusIndustry, and collaborators at Sydney Trains and Metro Trains Melbourne who he said have also helped develop the standards to suit the needs of Australia’s rail industry.

“Adopting a standardised approach to asset identification and driving internal and external implementation was just one part of the significant supply chain transformation V/Line has undertaken,” Mowat said. “However, this part has been fundamental in allowing us to further modernise and streamline the way we operate within our organisation.”

More than 45 companies and organisations are represented in the GS1 Nexus 2019 Conference program, including the ARA, the Australian Logistics Council, Sydney Trains, V/Line, Coles, Woolworths, Siemens, Amazon and Google.

After a successful event in Melbourne on May 14, the program heads to International Convention Centre in Sydney on Friday, May 17. Tickets are still available.

“We’re excited to bring together businesses and industries,” GS1 Australia CEO Maria Palazzolo said of the event, “as we explore new concepts and technologies, both local and global, to reduce supply chain complexity, keep costs down and enable clear trading partner exchanges with GS1 standards.”

Women

Finalists named for Women in Industry Awards

Individuals from major rail businesses are among the more than 70 finalists named across 10 categories ahead of the 2019 Women in Industry Awards on June 6.

Exceptional women from a range of industries will be recognised at the Women in Industry Awards, a gala dinner event and award ceremony being held at The Park in Melbourne on June 6.

Aurizon’s head of finance and regulation Loretta Lynch is among three finalists – announced this week – for the Excellence in Mining Award.

Natalie Bond, deputy general manager for Downer’s High Capacity Metro Trains Project team, has been named a finalist in both the Excellence in Manufacturing and Excellence in Engineering categories.

Linfox, which acquired Aurizon’s intermodal business earlier this year, has a number of finalists across several categories, including Tania Matthews for the Safety Advocacy Award, Kylie Fraser for Mentor of the Year, and Emily Reuter and Tina Dreher each for Rising Star of the Year.

AECOM principal engineer Claire Bennett is a finalist for Mentor of the Year.

And mining and rail group Roy Hill sees plant controller Paigan Hickmott in the finalist group for Rising Star of the Year, and planning manager Jodi Moffitt for Excellence in Mining.

The full list of finalists is available here.

Tickets for the event are also on sale – join Rail Express among other key partners for an evening of celebration.

When: Thursday 6 June 2019, 6.30pm

Where: The Park, Albert Park, Melbourne

Dress code: Cocktail

Bombardier signs $361m NGR modification deal

Bombardier Transportation has announced a $361 million contract from the Queensland Government to deliver modifications to the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) fleet.

Bombardier will coordinate with industry partner Downer EDI to undertake work to modify the NGR fleet in line with the state’s revised design specifications. The new contract covers design and delivery, as well as ongoing maintenance over the remaining term of the NGR public private partnership.

A recent inquiry found the $4.4 billion procurement of the NGR fleet was hamstrung by miscommunication and distrust between the state’s delivery agencies, which led to the approval of a design which was later found not to comply with disability standards.

This was despite the inquiry’s confirmation that Bombardier, the rollingstock lead in the delivery consortium, clearly outlining to the state no design could be made which complied to both the project guidelines, and the disability standards.

With the state now set on a set of rectification guidelines, Bombardier’s director for the NGR project Paul Brown said the company was proud to partner with the state to continue the fleet’s delivery.

“This variation order is an important request from our customer, and we will continue to work closely with them to deliver the NGR project in line with the enhanced specifications set out by the Queensland Government,” Brown said.

Bombardier’s new managing director in Australia, Wendy McMillan, said the NGR project was an important one for Queensland.

“With 70 per cent of Queensland’s future population growth targeted in the southeast region, the NGR fleet will bring a significant 26 per cent capacity increase to the South East Queensland rail network to meet the growing demand for rail services.”

Tailor-made fastening solutions from a local-owned supplier

When he acquired Infastech Engineered Fastening in 2017, Glenn Heffernan saw real opportunity in niche areas of Australia’s manufacturing and infrastructure sectors. Two years on, he reflects on the growth of the company, and what it can offer the rail sector.

 


Glenn Heffernan joined Infastech Australia as its financial controller in 2003, and became managing director in 2011. US multinational Stanley Black & Decker bought the Infastech group of companies in 2013.

Heffernan acquired Infastech Australia through a management buyout in September 2017. 18 months on, he’s very happy with the move.

“I saw a brighter future for the company, and a great opportunity to service the manufacturing industry in Australia,” Heffernan tells Rail Express. “When everyone else was looking at doom and gloom for the Australian manufacturing industry, I saw an excellent opportunity in niche markets and decided to focus my energy on servicing them.”

Among those markets, Heffernan saw rail and rollingstock manufacturing as key opportunities for a company like Infastech.

“We saw the expansion of the rail industry around Australia with the growing population,” he recalls. “And for us that was very broad: the construction of track and overhead infrastructure, railway stations, carriages, really the whole range.”

Heffernan’s outlook for rail has stayed positive since originally making that prediction. “I think as the population continues to grow there will be a lot more money spent by governments on passenger rail,” he says. “Over the last decade it was all about regional and freight rail construction, but as our population grows and our roads get more choked up, there’s a huge opportunity for public transport in general, trains in particular.”

Heffernan’s thoughts on the manufacturing sector are positive as well.

“Manufacturing over the last couple of years has had a bit of growth in Australia,” he says. “It definitely hasn’t deteriorated, or shrunk any further. The outflux of manufacturing we had going to other countries has slowed down from what I’ve seen, and local manufacturers are using their knowledge and expertise to do things a little differently, and I’m proud to be supporting them.”

As the exclusive distributor for Stanley Engineered Fastening (part of Stanley Black & Decker) covering Australia and New Zealand, Infastech Engineered Fastening offers a range of fastening solutions that are ideal for both the manufacturing and maintenance of wagons and rollingstock, as well as numerous track applications, such as turnouts and transoms.

Another of Infastech’s key points of difference is its capacity to provide tailored solutions to unique problems. Heffernan says Infastech leverages its own engineering department to directly overcome obstacles for its customers.

“We try to help customers with their problems rather than just getting them to buy from a catalogue,” he explains. “We’ll go and look at a customer’s production line, work out where their problems are, and work closely with them towards a solution We even design our own application-specific fasteners and design, build and install customised production tools. This gives our customers the flexibility to have the perfect turn-key package for their new project rather than settling for second best.”

Heffernan speaks highly of Infastech’s former owners, and maintains strong relationships with them globally. He explains, “Infastech Engineered Fastening’s new status in Australia as a local business means it can adapt to customers faster and more effectively, while still having access to the support and resources of a giant like Stanley.

“We’re no longer a global company, which makes us agile and very, very customer focused,” he says. “Sometimes at a large multinational change can be slow, but things happen very quickly around here these days.

“For us, as a local company, decisions are made locally. They’re made quickly. And they’re all to service our customers.”

Labor commits $200m more to Metronet

The Federal Labor Opposition has promised to spend an additional $200 million on the WA Government’s Metronet rail program, including $50 million to support local rollingstock manufacturing.

Shadow transport minister Anthony Albanese on March 21 said an elected Labor Government at the upcoming Federal election would spend $50 million to fund construction of a new railcar manufacturing facility at Bellevue.

He also committed an additional $150 million to build the Morley-Ellenbrook line, bringing Federal Labor’s total commitment to that project to $850 million.

The extra Morley-Ellenbrook funding will help build a new platform at the upgraded Bayswater station, where the future Morley-Ellenbrook line will connect to the existing Midland line.

Meanwhile the $50 million for the railcar manufacturing facility will support the state government’s plans to locally manufacture 246 new railcars under the Metronet program.

Shortlisted parties recently submitted formal tenders for that train order.

Albanese said local manufacturing would be paramount to the continued success of rail in Australia.

“Over the coming two decades, governments around the country will invest billions of dollars in new passenger and freight rail projects,” he said in a statement.

“While Coalition governments have been happy to source new rollingstock offshore, Federal Labor would ensure that, as far as possible, manufacturing associated with this work is conducted locally.”

Labor has committed to a National Rail Manufacturing Plan, which would see it work with states, businesses, training providers and unions to turn new railway projects into local manufacturing jobs.

“Labor is determined to ensure that we not only invest in better public transport across Australia, but also use those investments to create jobs and training opportunities for young Australians.”

WA premier Mark McGowan said he was happy to see Federal Labor aiming to out-bid the Coalition for rail spending in the west.

“Bill Shorten’s original $700 million commitment to the Morley-Ellenbrook line put pressure on the Federal Government to commit $500 million as part of last year’s budget,” the premier said. “This additional funding boost will help my government get on with the job and delivering this important job-creating infrastructure for the growing north-eastern suburbs.”

Reims tramway. Photo: Oliver Probert

Alstom keeping its options open with catenary-free choices

Alstom Systems Solutions Director Jean-François Blanc says the company’s flexible approach to light rail projects is ideal for a mode designed to fit into an existing transport setting.

Blanc recently spoke at the Australasian Railway Association’s Light Rail 2019 conference, about how the company is pressing forward with battery and supercapacitor onboard power supply solutions to facilitate ‘wire free’ operations, but is also delivering its alternate, third rail ground-based power supply system, known as APS.

“Alstom aims to have the widest range of catenary free solutions,” Blanc told the Melbourne conference last week. “The approach for us is not one system that we want to compare to the competition, but instead to say, ‘What’s the best fit for a city or environment?’

“I can tell you that no environment, no project is like another. There’s a lot of factors that go into that choice.”

Broadly speaking, he says those factors break down into three categories: environmental, including temperature and climate factors; desired cost, both capital and ongoing; and the key elements of the proposed asset, including uphill and downhill sections, the number and type of intersections, the desired number and length of rollingstock, and so on.

Blanc, who spoke with Rail Express ahead of the event, says this versatile approach to light rail solutions is ideal for a mode which is desired for its flexibility.

“Light rail is expandable, in terms of range but also in terms of capacity and performance,” he said in January. “Light rail can handle from around 3,000 passengers per hour per direction, up to around 13,000, and once you’ve got the infrastructure you can go up to 13,000 with minimal major infrastructure construction.”

Blanc says Alstom encourages customers to leave the specifications of light rail projects as open as possible, so a thorough analysis can be conducted during tender stage, both on capital expenditure, and operating costs. He says striking the balance between capital and operational expenditure goes a long way towards finding the best solution for catenary free operation.

A system like APS may represent a higher capital expenditure than onboard energy systems, but in turn has the same performance outputs as catenary in terms of gradient, and represents a relatively low operational cost. Onboard energy systems represent a different balance of costs, with the energy systems certainly not designed to last as long as the 30-year lifetime of the rollingstock. The dynamics of these different options are further influenced by the length of the route, the length of desired catenary free sections, and the number of vehicles in the fleet, which contributes significantly to the capital and operational expenditures of the onboard energy system solution.

For now, Blanc says Alstom is doing a good job of presenting all the options to the market.

“In July 2018 we opened the Nice Line 2 system, fully with supercapacitors using a safe ground charging system. Today in Taiwan we are delivering trams to expand their light rail system, with supercapacitors using overhead charging point,” he told Rail Express.

“But in Qatar we are delivering APS, because the temperatures are so high that there would be too much energy demand to keep onboard energy systems cool.”

Perth TAFE to become rollingstock training centre

WA’s McGowan Government says Perth’s Midland TAFE campus will be transformed into a training centre for the state’s Metronet rail program.

The Midland campus, just three kilometres from the future Metronet railcar workshops, will be redeveloped into a specialist centre to provide the specific technical and support skills required for the fleet’s manufacture and maintenance.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said a Labor Government would support the transformation with $3 million in federal funding.

The Metronet railcar contract, worth $1.5 billion, is currently under procurement, with a shortlist named last August.

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan said he was pleased to make the announcement just days before the 25th anniversary of the closure of the old Midland rail workshops.

“The Midland METRONET Trade Training Centre will ensure Western Australians are in the box seat to capitalise on jobs and training opportunities created through METRONET,” he said.

“As METRONET gets underway, the world-class training facilities at Midland TAFE will ensure Western Australian workers are well equipped to manufacture the next generation of railcars.”

The winning bidder for the Metronet railcar contract will deliver 246 carriages from a facility in Bellevue. The government has expressed a desired target of 50 per cent local manufacturing for the vehicles.

The 246 carriages will operated in 41 six-car sets.

17 of these sets (102 railcars) will be needed from 2021 to service the expansions to Perth’s rail network as they come online, under the Metronet program.

The remaining 24 sets (144 railcars) will be part of a follow-on order, to replace Perth’s ageing A-series railcars between 2023 and 2028.

“The METRONET Trade Training Centre will complete the railcar manufacturing hub in Midland, which will support the local economy and create life and vitality in the area,” state transport minister Rita Saffioti said.

“It will complement our commitment to ensure at least 50 per cent of METRONET railcars are manufactured in WA.

“This is about preparing WA workers for the huge pipeline of future rail projects – not just across Perth, but wider Australia – and ensuring they have the skills to build and maintain our expanding rail systems.”

Versatility key to riding light rail wave

Rail Express spoke with Alstom’s Jean-François Blanc, about the success of light rail in the region, the latest in cutting edge technology, and what that could mean for projects and fleets in Auckland and Melbourne.


Alstom Systems Solutions Director Jean-François Blanc says he can understand the success light rail is having throughout Australia and New Zealand.

“Light rail is the most open and easily accessible transit system for passengers,” he tells Rail Express from Paris. “It’s so easy to board, so easy to disembark, and there’s a lot of light inside the vehicle. It is for sure the easiest public transport offered to disabled passengers with abundant, large doors and full low floor access. When you ride a light rail vehicle into the city it’s like you’re walking into the city.”

More than just how it looks and feels, Blanc – who will speak at next week’s ARA Light Rail 2019 conference in Melbourne – says light rail provides an ideal practical solution.

“It’s expandable, in terms of range but also in terms of capacity and performance,” he says. “Light rail can handle from around 3,000 passengers per hour per direction, up to around 13,000, and once you’ve got the infrastructure you can go up to 13,000 with minimal major infrastructure construction.”

Collectively these factors make light rail a valuable transport solution from a whole-of-life investment perspective, alongside larger scale assets like metro lines, when managing fast-growing cities.

Blanc says Australia’s cities – and their residents – are proving they now understand this. “In Australia there are cities that never stopped using trams, like Melbourne, and there are cities that are now re-introducing trams after soe years such as Sydney, or newly discovering the benefits of trams, like the Gold Coast. It’s a very promising market, where people are understanding the benefits and the effectiveness of these systems for citizens – and also that it needs to be complementary to other modes of transport.”

Across the Tasman there’s another fresh opportunity for light rail solution providers: New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), together with Auckland Transport, is clearly showing commitment to deliver light rail between the city’s centre and the large southern suburb Māngere, and into the city’s northwest, by 2028. Like cities in Australia, Auckland says it has chosen light rail for being more reliable than buses, and for providing better access than buses and heavy rail. It is also targeted at reducing congestion, supporting sustainable growth, improving amenity, and providing more choices and better connections throughout the local transport network, according to the NZTA.

“The scale of the project is very large,” Blanc says. “In Auckland authorities are not familiar with light rail systems and a delivery in turnkey, under clear performance objectives, is a guarantee of best management of all technical interfaces and of project management integration risks. It would allow also to foster interest from companies around the world to deliver it.”

Blanc stresses Alstom’s process would always involve mobilising local teams and developing local expertise, but that the project would leverage Alstom’s global experience and support.

“We’ve been delivering over seventeen turnkeys around the world for light rail, so we know what it means to mobilise a mega project in a country. We’ve been doing it across many continents, in the Middle East, South America, Africa, and we know our customers ask us to have this flexibility.”

Light rail rollingstock of the future

Blanc says the Auckland project has one particularity: to reach the airport it would likely call for long inter-station distances, and he says Alstom’s new rollingstock – the Citadis X05 – is particularly well suited for this.

“This is a rollingstock with a top speed of 80km/h,” he says, “which is good for the longer-range stations, and we have built them with very good heat exchange despite being low floor vehicles where the bogie and engine setups have to be quite confined.” He notes the X05 is the vehicle being delivered for the Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail project, where X05s are being coupled together in pairs, to form a fleet of 67-metre vehicles.

Auckland is also yet another city which could investigate catenary-free operation, a technology field Blanc says Alstom leads the way. Alstom is pressing forward with onboard power supply solutions to facilitate ‘wire-less’ operations, but also its ‘third rail’ groundbased power supply system, known as APS.

“Our approach for catenary-free operations is to understand the main characteristics of the project alignments – gradients, curves, crossings, temperature and other environment conditions, and of course what quality of service level the end customer would like to see possible. All of this contributes to choosing an optimum system, be it ground power or onboard, and when it’s onboard it could be battery or supercapacitor.”

Blanc says Alstom encourages customers to leave the specifications of light rail projects as open as possible, so a thorough analysis can be conducted during tender stage, both on capital expenditure, and operating costs. Along with the aforementioned alignment factors, striking the balance between capital and operational expenditure goes a long way towards finding the best solution for catenary free operation.

A system like APS may represent a higher capital expenditure than onboard energy systems, but in turn has the same performance outputs as catenary in terms of gradient, and represents a relatively low operational cost. Onboard energy systems represent a different balance of costs, with the energy systems certainly not designed to last as long as the 30-year lifetime of the rollingstock. The dynamics of these different options are further influenced by the length of the route, the length of desired catenary free sections, and the number of vehicles in the fleet, which contributes significantly to the capital and operational expenditures of the onboard energy system solution.

For now, Blanc says, Alstom is doing a good job of presenting all the options to the market.

“In July 2018 we opened the Nice Line 2 system, fully with supercapacitors using a safe ground charging system. Today in Taiwan we are delivering trams to expand their light rail system, with supercapacitors using overhead charging point. But in Qatar we are delivering APS, because the temperatures are so high that there would be too much energy demand to keep onboard energy systems cool.”

Melbourne fleet

Blanc says Alstom is a key candidate to deliver the next fleet of light rail vehicles for Melbourne.

“We have a good understanding of Melbourne, having provided the first Citadis there in 2000,” he says. “We understand Melbourne being the biggest fleet in the world, they have a variety of rollingstock and requirements, and Alstom can offer solutions from 23 metres upwards. Citadis is a very flexible platform, with the required modularity to suit this.”

Blanc notes the environment and extensive size of Melbourne’s light rail system places additional demand on rollingstock providers.

“In Melbourne, energy efficiency is key to reduce strain on the network, due to some of the shortest tram headways in the world,” he says. “Anybody would have to tackle this fleet with vehicles which are light, and do not consume a lot of energy, and particularly make room for improved ventilation and air conditioning. Now, with the Citadis X05 trams we’ve reduced the energy consumption, so we think it’s a very strong asset for that.”

He notes Alstom is continuously developing technology to further reduce demand for power during peak periods, including energy regenerative technology.

Blanc also says Alstom’s advancements in the field of collision avoidance could be a good addition in Melbourne.

“Melbourne’s [tram system] is a system that is highly integrated into the city, and into the car traffic. It’s more of a streetcar, than what one might call a tramway. And so assistance to drivers is seen by us as very important. This can reduce the level of stress on the drivers, and improve the safety performance.”

Another newer technology is the digital connectivity of Alstom’s trams to both the operator and the maintainer of the fleet, allowing access to critical operational and system performance data. “We first developed this around 2005 for maintenance, and to look at – when failures occur – what happened some seconds before and some seconds after a failure. This allows you to understand how and why it happened, and to start to be able to perform predictive maintenance, rather than corrective.”

Alstom has a tradition with local manufacturing of railway vehicles within Vitoria for decades, thanks to its Ballarat assembly plant.

Contact: www.alstom.com