Improving safety with a transparent, reliable platform

An Australian business helping machinery owners and operators ensure their equipment is safe to use has developed into the world’s largest plant and equipment safety platform.

Many in the rail industry who have witnessed the catastrophic results of incidents involving non-compliant or poorly maintained plant will agree: The significance of ensuring plant meets minimum safety standards cannot be overstated.

Thankfully, there have been several initiatives over the past decade to ensure high safety standards are met and maintained in the rail sector. Plant Assessor is one business that has helped establish these important benchmarks.

Founded in Australia in 2004, Plant Assessor is now used by more than 1,500 businesses and organisations throughout Australia and New Zealand to help capture and share machinery information, and create machine-specific risk assessments and SOPs, ensuring equipment is safe to use and is accompanied by the right safety information.

Major clients in the rail sector include Sydney Trains, V/Line, John Holland, McConnell Dowell, Downer Group, Lend Lease, CPB, Rhomberg Rail and many others.

This wide reach has major benefits: Plant Assessor’s database of more than 105,000 makes and models of equipment, specifications and safety requirements includes a broad range of equipment unique to rail; machines like tampers, ballast regulators, grinders, clippers, tensors, and so on.


Applying the RRV Standard

The company’s contribution to the rail sector also extends to its involvement in developing the AS/RISSB 7502:2016 Road Rail Vehicles Standard, released in mid-2016. Plant Assessor technical director Paul Dean sat on the committee responsible for developing the Standard.

Before the Standard was developed, compliance requirements for road-rail vehicles (RRVs) were determined by the numerous rail infrastructure managers across the country, leading to a proliferation of different compliance requirements.

To remedy this, the National Standard contains extensive detail across 31 sections covering every element of design, manufacture, use, inspection, testing and maintenance of RRVs.

Following its issue, Plant Assessor created new specific inspection surveys and risk assessments allowing users to apply the requirements of AS/RISSB 7502:2016 to their equipment.

Plant Assessor told Rail Express contractors and rail infrastructure managers are still approaching their application of the Standard cautiously, and the company is keen to help many in the industry come to terms with the practical aspects of compliance with it.


Sydney Trains: A success story

Plant Assessor counts Sydney Trains as a great example of an organisation that has revolutionised plant safety management in a crucial area of its business.

Sydney Trains’ Plant Hire Services Division is responsible for procuring and scheduling more than 1500 pieces of specialised plant and equipment from a panel of more than 200 suppliers. It conducts extensive maintenance and construction activity across the network each year.

Prior to choosing Plant Assessor, Sydney Trains maintained a traditional plant safety inspection regime via a team of inspectors who assessed each piece of equipment on a rotating basis using a generic, paper-based inspection process.

Plant Assessor says the Sydney Trains team found this process difficult, because:

  • it relied heavily upon subjective judgements by inspectors who had different experience and training;
  • the manual process resulted in slow inspection times, and;
  • the generic nature of the inspections resulted in significant gaps of key information.

Suppliers were often frustrated by the variable and subjective nature of the assessments, and this led to disagreements at times, over the true safety status of certain machines.

On top of this, administrating a paper-based system was understandably time-consuming, and cumbersome.

Plant Assessor’s platform aims to solve these issues. Outdated systems that make it difficult to ensure the minimum standard for plant and equipment safety is being effectively upheld, are replaced with a more consistent, efficient, and transparent system.

For Sydney Trains, Plant Assessor replaced the manual inspection system with its cloud-based safety inspection platform. It tailored this platform to Sydney Trains’ needs, accommodating organisation-specific safety requirements to ensure all equipment was suitable for work in the rail corridor, as well as meeting Sydney Trains’ specific additional safety requirements for different types of equipment.

The Plant Assessor platform was also integrated with the existing Sydney Trains Plant Hire Services database, so inspections could be quickly and easily shared with suppliers.

Plant Assessor says the new system provided Sydney Trains with a system improved in multiple ways:

  • Consistency: The new platform ensures inspections are consistent over time and between different inspectors.
  • Accuracy: Plant Assessor ensures inspections are up to date with the latest developments in legislation, along with relevant technical and manufacturer standards.
  • Mobility: Inspectors undertake inspections using tablet computers supplied by Plant Assessor, minimising paperwork and facilitating faster inspections.
  • Transparency: All corrective actions identified during an inspection can be updated and managed online, allowing plant safety status to be checked 24/7 on any web-enabled device.
  • Collaboration: Plant Assessor allows the sharing of comprehensive inspection and safety information with the owner/supplier of each item of plant inspected. This information includes hazard details, risk ratings and risk treatments along with details of the required legal and manufacturers standards related to each risk treatment.

Plant Assessor has made Sydney Trains’ complex plant hire and service task easier and faster, and reduced disagreements between the various parties involved in the supply of equipment. Most importantly, it has helped make working in the rail corridor, and travelling on Sydney Trains, safer for everyone.



NZ reverses plan to scrap KiwiRail’s electric locos

The New Zealand Government will spend $35 million over the next four years to refurbish 15 electric locomotives for use on the North Island’s Main Trunk Line, reversing an earlier decision to replace the services with diesel trains.

KiwiRail will refurbish the trains so they can continue to run between Hamilton and Palmerston North.

The government-owned operator has said only eight of the trains are currently able to be used, and break down on average every 30,000 kilometres, well below KiwiRail’s target of 50,000 kilometres.

KiwiRail acting chief executive Todd Moyle welcomed the news from the Government, which he said would extend the life of the electric locos by 10 years.

“When the KiwiRail Board made the decision to retire the electric fleet which runs between Hamilton and Palmerston North, it was to improve reliability for our customers,” Moyle said on October 30.

“But as we said at the time, this was not a forever decision and the Government’s commitment to invest $35 million in the refurbishment provides the certainty to continue their use for the near future.”

KiwiRail plans to refurbish the locos at its Hutt Workshops over the next three to four years, creating four to eight new jobs. The team responsible for maintaining the locos will also be restored to its full staffing level.

“KiwiRail’s decision in late 2016 to retire the [electric locos] was a difficult one that came after two years of consideration and consultation with experts and unions,” Moyle said.

“In the end it was a commercial decision based on the funding available at the time.”

Deputy PM and shareholding minister Winston Peters said refurbishing the trains was the right choice for the environment and the economy.

“We’re making the right decision for the long term,” Peters said.

“Replacing electric locomotives with diesel would be a step backwards. By refurbishing these locomotives here, we’re creating jobs … and supporting our local rail industry. It just makes sense.”

First night tests completed for Newcastle light rail vehicle

The first Newcastle wireless light rail vehicle passed its initial test this week, moving along Hunter Street using its own power.

Testing began after the completion of a series of safety checks following the arrival of the vehicle from Spain last month.

Newcastle’s light rail vehicles feature energy storage units that are charged at each stop on the network during the boarding of passengers.

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance said that first powered test was a milestone on the way towards day time testing.

“Powered testing allows us to check things like the brakes, onboard energy storage and charging systems, while at the same time provides valuable training for crews in the new light rail system,” Constance said.

“Last night’s test involved running the vehicle along Hunter Street and checking the brakes and charging points at each stop.”

Testing is to continue at night over the coming weeks and will include simulations such as filling the tram with weights to mimic the load of full passenger capacity and checks to the traffic signal interactions at pedestrian crossings and intersections.

Night tests ensure the system is operating safely and efficiently under controlled conditions. Day time tests commence in the coming weeks and will involve simulated timetables and driver training.

Newcastle light rail services are scheduled to begin in early 2019.

More local content for future X’Trapolis trains

Alstom Ballarat will produce new X’Trapolis 2.0 trains beyond 2019, after it agreed to update its design to incorporate more local content.

The manufacturer recently came to terms with the State Government on a program to update the X’Trapolis trainsets it delivers to the Melbourne Metro network.

The X’Trapolis 2.0 design will be used for all future deliveries after the current five-train order, which is due for completion by the end of 2019.

Alstom will deliver the five six-carriage X’Trapolis trains after the State Government provided $103.5 million for the additional trains in its 2018-19 Budget.

A total of 24 X’Trapolis trains have been funded by the Victorian Government, with 17 already in service.

“This announcement keeps high skilled jobs in Ballarat, and it keeps Alstom in Victoria,” state transport minister Jacinta Allan said.

“We’re building the state’s largest single order of new trains in Victoria – supporting and creating more than 10,000 jobs across the state.”

65 workers are currently employed at Alstom’s Ballarat workshop for X’Trapolis fit-outs and necessary modifications, including four apprentices and trainees.

“Preparing for the next generation X’Trapolis will strengthen this industry and ensure we continue building the trains and projects that get Victorians home safer and sooner,” Allan said.

Design works approved for new North East line VLocity fleet

The Victorian government has conditionally approved the scope of works for new VLocity trains for the North East Line, upgrade works for which are to begin next year.

The new long-haul trains are being built by Bombardier Transportation Australia, and provide similar to other VLocity trains currently in operation across the regional network.

The new trains are being specifically designed to meet the needs of the North East line and will be built and ready to take passengers once the $235 million upgrade to the line is complete.

The state government announcement that it had reached an agreement with Bombardier to complete the design of the bogies for the new standard gauge VLocity trains. VLocity trains have not previously been fitted with standard gauge bogies, so the bogies will take the longest to design, construct and gain safety accreditation.

“The trains that run on the North East Line will be one of a kind – you can’t just buy them off the shelf, that’s why we’ve already started doing the work with Bombardier to ensure they’re ready to go,” Labor MP for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said.

Bombardier is also delivering the next stages of design work for the new standard gauge VLocity trains for the North East Line, including the provision of facilities for food and drink options, sufficient luggage space and room for bikes.

“We said we’d have the trains ready by the time the track is finished – and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” state transport minister Jacinta Allan said.

“Finalising the scope of works is an important step forward and we will continue to work with the Commonwealth government to ensure passengers are the priority as works begin.”

W-Class Tram. Photo: Yarra Trams

Final W-Class trams to be restored

The final six unrestored W-Class trams are being removed from Melbourne’s City Circle so they can be stripped back and rebuilt for re-entry into service by 2020.

Acting Public Transport Victoria chief executive Alan Fedda said City Circle trams will operate every 30 minutes from October 15, before being progressively returned to the current 12-minute frequency as restored trams come back into service.

Six of the iconic W-Class trams have been restored since PTV’s restoration program began in 2012.

Work is currently underway on another three, and three more will soon be removed from operations for restoration.

Fedda said the trams are being stripped back to bare metal, before a major rebuild takes place to improve safety and reliability.

“These upgrades will bring the entire W-Class tram fleet up to modern safety standards and ensure they continue to be a Melbourne icon for years to come,” he said.

“When these historic trams were first introduced on the network, Melburnians paid for things with pounds and shillings and King George was Australia’s monarch.

“So, given their age, the engineers at the Bendigo Workshops are carefully bringing them into the modern age, while retaining their distinctive, historic character.”

Along with improving the safety of the fleet, the W-Class restoration program includes a reinforced driver’s cabin, new electronics and wiring, and restoring the iconic green and gold livery.

The safety upgrade program will include the trams operated by the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant.

PTV said it and Yarra Trams have been in discussions with the company that operates the restaurant trams to identify options for their continued operations.

Additional services will be added to Yarra Trams’ Route 30 along La Trobe Street on the weekend, to ensure passengers in the north of the CBD have regular tram services despite reduced frequency on the City Circle route.

PTV says a permanent boost to weekend and weekday evening services on Route 30 will be implemented in 2019.

ARA to develop partnership with British rail association

The Australasian Railway Association and the UK’s Railway Industry Association have agreed to work more closely together to benefit rail supply industries in both companies.

The ARA and RIA announced their new Memorandum of Understanding at InnoTrans in Berlin on September 19.

Together, the associations represent roughly 360 members. The sides said they share many common interests and deliver common services in their markets, which face similar opportunities and challenges.

“Both the UK and Australian rail sectors are expected to see continued significant investment in rail, but face issues recruiting new entrants into the rail industry, upskilling those already in the sector, smoothing out rail funding pipelines, and promoting the benefits of rail as a key driver of economic growth,” the associations said in a joint statement.

Chief executive Danny Broad said the new allegiance would provide benefits to all members of the ARA.

“It’s an extremely exciting time to be in the rail industry in Australia and New Zealand with investment in new rail infrastructure and rollingstock over the next fifteen years forecast to be around $100 billion,” Broad said.

“Working and collaborating with the RIA on common industry challenges will provide consolidation of ideas for possible suitable outcomes for the rail sectors covered by both the ARA and RIA.”

RIA chief executive Darren Caplan said the partnership would help members develop new trade links and cooperation, “which is especially important as the UK prepares to leave the EU”.

“I see lots of common ground to form this working relationship, for the benefit of both RIA, ARA and our respective members – and we look forward to collaborating in the very near future!”

Bombardier Transportation boss upbeat on Australian market

Bombardier Transportation president Laurent Troger says he sees a significant amount of opportunities coming from Australia over the next 10 years.

Troger spoke with Rail Express on the sidelines of the InnoTrans exhibition in Berlin on Wednesday.

He echoed Bombardier’s recent annual report, which singled out Australia as a key growth market.

“Australia is a fantastic opportunity to grow,” Troger told Rail Express. “Politicians have decided to invest massively in rail infrastructure, and also in new trains. We are well positioned in both the infrastructure side, and the train side.

“We can see those projects emerging consistently. That’s not only a political promise, that’s real projects.”

Troger says Bombardier is well positioned to take advantage of the growing Australian market thanks to its history in the region, and its approach.

“We are today delivering some critical projects in Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth,” he said. “What is clear is a solution for Australia requires some customisation.

“You cannot take a product or solution from elsewhere, land in Australia and say, ‘Here it is.’ So the fact we’ve been in Australia for so many years; we know the local product well, and we can connect this with a global product solution.

“We know to customise only what needs to be customised, and so we have a unique advantage in this area.”

Troger said Bombardier had “a significant amount of resources” in Australia, adding “we intend to grow these resources”.

“Australia has quite a fantastic momentum,” he said. “Urbanisation in Australia is growing very fast. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth; these are very big localisations. The demand is going to be important.”

Troger said political support for rail in Australia is in line with a growing preference for rail from politicians around the world.

“Politicians have realised the mobility equation cannot be solved by cars, and by new roads. There is a need for an alternative solution, and they have realised that rail and trains are a very good alternative as a mobility solution,” he said.

“Everywhere you go in the world, you see a direct correlation between the GDP and the passenger traffic. The more you grow your economy, the more you have to move people.”

E-Class Melbourne tram. Photo: Liam Davies

10 more trams ordered from Bombardier Dandenong

The Victorian Government has ordered another 10 E-Class trams to be built at Bombardier’s Dandenong workshops, in a deal to bring the fleet of modern, high-capacity E-Class trams to 90.

Transport minister Jacinta Allan said the $83 million contract would support 100 direct jobs at Bombardier’s Dandenong site, and an additional 500 jobs in the local supply chain.

“We’re ensuring more E-Class trams are on the way, supporting local jobs and helping Victorians get where they need to go,” Allan said.

“As they come off the production line, we’re getting them on the tram lines that need them most – as we continue to build a better, comfortable and more reliable public transport network.”

The 69th E-Class tram entered operation last week, and the 70th is due in coming weeks. Bombardier was scheduled to deliver another 10 after that; this contract makes it 20.

Based on Bombardier’s Flexity product line, the E-Class are three section, four bogie articulated trams the government says are Victoria’s biggest and most accessible.

The low floor trams have room for more than 200 passengers.

The latest E-Class trams to roll off the production line feature increased safety features like a new cab design, eight extra hand rails and more handles.

Member for Dandenong Gabrielle Williams said the Labor Party was giving certainty to industry and supporting local jobs.

“Only Labor can build the public transport network Victorians need,” Williams said.

Bombardier launches new branding at InnoTrans

Rail technology and rollingstock manufacturer Bombardier Transportion has used the first day of InnoTrans 2018 in Berlin to launch its new corporate identity and product design.

The company on September 17 launched its new branding and slogan, “Together we move”.

Bombardier Transportation president Laurent Troger said the company was now halfway through its five-year transportation program, making the new branding a “strategic next step in positioning our company for the future”.

“As a trusted long-term partner to over 200 cities worldwide, our performance makes a difference every day,” Troger said. “Our complete value chain of high performing mobility solutions are catalysts for helping cities across the world grow and their economies develop.”

Bombardier says it worked with Peugeot Design Lab on the changes, with the aim of leveraging Peugeot’s design expertise from the automotive industry to create a recognisable and clean concept which can be applied consistently across all of Bombardier’s vehicle platforms.


Graphic: Bombardier


Product engine rolling stock, product management & engineering president Pierre-Yves Cohen said the company wants passengers to recognise they are traveling on a Bombardier train, and to feel good about that.

“That’s why we undertook a strategic initiative to reposition Bombardier Transportation with a strong and unique product branding, which embodies what our company is about: quality, performance and style,” Cohen said.

Bombardier’s InnoTrans stand aims leverage the latest digital technologies to illustrate how its high-performance mobility solutions have helped cites across the globe develop.

A virtual reality exhibit takes visitors on an immersive 360° journey in cities across the world in Bombardier rollingstock. An interactive tool helps customers consider the advantages of a complete mobility solution including options for signalling, components, services, as well as operations and maintenance.