Berejiklian criticised for NSW train manufacturing comments

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been criticised for comments that local manufacturers of rollingstock are not up to scratch.

On Wednesday, August 26, Berejiklian said at a media conference, “Australia and New South Wales are not good at building trains, that’s why we have to purchase them.”

The comments drew immediate push back from the NSW Labor party, with deputy leader Yasmin Catley saying that NSW should be investing more in locally manufactured public transport vehicles.

“Instead of running down our local industries at press conferences, Gladys Berejiklian should be giving them the opportunity to build our new ferries and trains,” Catley said.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance backed his leader’s comments, reportedly estimating the cost difference at 25 per cent more for locally manufactured trains, due to higher energy, labour, and raw material costs.

“I think most people know the car industry, the train industry, in terms of manufacturing here in Australia; we don’t have it, and there’s a reason for it,” said Constance.

Following these remarks, the NSW Labor leader, Jodi McKay announced that Labor would introduce a NSW Jobs First Bill, which would require tenderers on government contracts to support NSW jobs and industries.

The dispute has come as NSW puts the first of its second order of Chinese-manufactured Waratah Series 2 trains into service. The Korean-made New Intercity Fleet, which are replacing the Western Sydney-made V-Set and allowing the Newcastle-made H-Set to enter suburban service, are also in the early testing stage.

CEO of the Australasian Railway Association Caroline Wilkie said a national procurement process would enable locally-built trains to become more competitive with their overseas counterparts.

“The NSW Government’s procurement choices have eroded the manufacturing sector and make it harder for local operators to compete,” said Wilkie.

“Better coordination with their counterparts in other states and territories would see more trains manufactured locally and improve efficiencies and cost profiles across the life of the asset.”

Wilkie noted that only looking at the upfront cost of purchasing rollingstock ignored the cost of lifecycle support, and a whole of life cost approach should be taken.

In 2019, the Western Australia government signed an agreement with Alstom to manufacture 246 railcars in Bellevue, in eastern Perth. The contract will see at least 50 per cent of the railcars built locally and 30 years of maintenance. Announced in December 2019, the contract was $347 million under the $1.6 billion budget.

Wilkie said that with overseas trade and travel limited due to COVID-19, the value of local manufacturing was greater than ever.

“A nationally consistent procurement process would benefit both state government purchasers and the rail manufacturing industry itself,” she said.

“The NSW government says it is open to working with other state governments and industry to strengthen and standardise procurement processes – it’s now time for them to act.”

NRAP

The NRAP: Putting reform into action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography by RailGallery.com.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waratah

New Waratah Series 2 train in service 3 months ahead of schedule

The first of a second order of Waratah Series 2 trains has entered service this week, three months ahead of schedule.

The train is one of 17 Waratah Series 2 trains that will begin operating on the Sydney network as part of the second delivery. The rest are expected to commence service later in 2020 and early 2021, said Minister for Transport Andrew Constance.

“It is exciting to see this train on the tracks three months ahead of schedule, after it was one of 17 fast tracked for delivery at the start of 2019,” said Constance.

“The remainder of the trains will be delivered by the end of this year and will be rolled out progressively after testing.”

The investment in new rollingstock is part of the NSW government’s More Trains More Services program. The program also covers upgrades to signalling, the installation of new train control systems, traffic managements systems, and infrastructure improvements.

The $4.3 billion investment will increase the capacity of the current Sydney network to allow for further growth in passenger demand as seen over the past years, said Constance.

“We have seen rapid growth in the number of train journeys over the past few years, which is why it is so important that we invest in new trains and new infrastructure right across our rail network.”

Sydney Trains acting chief executive Suzanne Holden said the new trains would feature similar passenger-focused upgrades as those in the first delivery.

“They’ll feature air conditioning with advanced temperature control, high definition customer information screens, internal and external CCTV, as well as priority seating, wheelchair spaces and hearing aid loops,” she said.

The new trains will operate on the T2 Inner West & Leppington, T3 Bankstown, and T8 Airport & South lines.

The rest of the fleet will be delivered before the end of 2020. Once in Australia the trains will undergo testing and commissioning.

Metro

Rollingstock innovations keep Metro trains on track

Metro Trains Melbourne’s Comeng, Siemens and X’Trapolis fleets have undergone major maintenance to ensure the trains are kept to the highest standard and improve the experience for passengers.

Melbourne trains are being retrofitted with wireless data recorders to monitor key train systems, improve safety and reliability, and maintenance, enabling the trains are available to run on the network more often.

The On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system will give Metro engineers access to near real time data so they can monitor train performance, identify faults sooner, and maintain trains more efficiently.

Metro has recently installed the state-of-the-art technology on 174 three-carriage X’Trapolis train units.

The OBD project is being completed at the Newport rail workshops and has now moved on to the Siemens fleet.

The system is used to monitor everything including vibration in critical train bogie components, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, as well as passenger body-side doors, traction, auxiliary power supply, and passenger information systems.

This helps Metro diagnose and respond to potential issues sooner, reducing the risk of passengers being delayed by train faults.

Metro’s general manager of rolling stock, Dave Carlton said that Metro was completing a world first with this technology.

“We’re proud to be leading the largest-ever retrofit of remote condition monitoring equipment on an existing train fleet, globally,” he said.

“The data we collect from this technology is being shared across Metro, which benefits our operations, infrastructure and network development teams.”

Technical upgrades have also been carried out on the oldest vehicles in the Metro fleet. 75 per cent of the Comeng fleet, which in total numbers 179 trains are being overhauled, with passenger-facing and engineering improvements.

In 2017, a three-stage, $75 million upgrade project began, funded by the Victorian government.

Metro’s CEO Raymond O’Flaherty said the project will extend the life of the fleet.

“The Comeng fleet has served the people of Melbourne for almost 40 years, they are brilliant trains and they’ve certainly got more life left in them,” he said.

“We have very stringent maintenance programs for all our trains, that’s one of the reasons they are still so reliable. It’s also essential that we utilise all the technical advances that are available, and this life extension program makes sure that our passengers have the best possible experience on board.”

The life extension project has three stages, of which the first two are complete.

Stage one included critical-safety improvements to Comeng train doors – a feature now standard on all Metro trains.

Stage two was focused on the passenger experience, including rearranging and reupholstering seating, installing LED lights, new grab poles and straps, safer gang-way bellows, and new digital signage on the front of trains to give passengers destination information.

Upgrades have also been made to the driver’s instrument panel.

Stage three is the project’s final stage and is now almost complete. It involves upgrades to the passenger information system, with digital displays inside the carriages tracking the train’s journey in real-time.

Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said that upgrades would also increase safety for passengers, with new high definition CCTV cameras been fitted with a wider field of view that can be accessed remotely, which will support Metro and Victoria Police investigations.

“We can access camera footage remotely as soon as issues are reported – helping Metro and Victoria Police respond to incidents as quickly as possible and giving Victorians peace of mind that their journeys are safe.”

There are also improvements to hearing-aid links for people with additional needs and upgraded speakers for clearer on-board announcements.

On the engineering side, the trains’ air brakes are being overhauled, while the electrical relay panel and traction systems are being upgraded to support a safer journey.

For the Siemens fleet, Metro’s middle child, Metro partnered with accessibility group Vision Australia to support new safety upgrades for the Siemens fleet

New bellows were needed between carriages, which has instituted an “outer wall” that fills in the gap between the train and the platform.

By providing an exterior that is flat along the full length of the train, Metro has reduced the risk of falls for vision-impaired passengers who may mistake the gap for a door.

Since an upgrade program commenced in February this year, more than 20 per cent of Siemens trains have been upgraded with the new bellows.

As well as being safer for passengers, the upgrades also provide sound-proofing, making the carriages quieter for a more comfortable journey.

Together with Vision Australia, Metro used a mock-up train carriage to test the design to ensure it provided all the necessary safety features.

The mock-up train is used by Vision Australia to help familiarise vision-impaired passengers and enable them to move confidently around trains, while also teaching guide dogs how to navigate the network.

Carlton said this work was important for the community.

“The work we do to make sure our trains and stations are fully accessible for all our passengers is absolutely essential. Providing a public transport service means making sure that every person can use our network without limitation,” he said.

“These new gangways give us extra confidence that not only are we continuously improving safety, but we are improving the passenger experience. It’s not just about getting to your destination, it’s about getting to your destination as easily and comfortably as possible.”

A mock-up of a Siemens-class train for vision-impaired passengers.

ACCC clears Alstom’s acquisition of Bombardier

Alstom’s acquisition of Bombardier can go ahead in Australia, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announcing that it will not oppose the sale.

After Alstom formally announced it intended to acquire Bombardier, the ACCC launched an investigation, considering the effects of the acquisition on the market for light rail rollingstock, mainline rolling stock, and the supply of communications-based train control (CBTC) signalling systems.

After four months, the ACCC concluded that there was enough competition in the rail market, said chair Rod Sims.

“We decided not to oppose this acquisition as we found bids from other current and potential suppliers with strong global presence will continue to provide competitive tension for tenders for future rail projects. Sophisticated customers, including state governments, control these tender processes, and can structure tenders to foster competition,” said Sims.

A similar investigation occurred in Europe, with the European Commission also clearing the deal, subject to conditions offered by Alstom. These included the sale of Alstom’s Coradia Polyvalent range and production facilities, Bombardier’s Talent 3 trains and stake in the Zefiro V300 high-speed rail joint venture with Hitachi.

In its investigation, the ACCC considered local content policies in Victoria and Western Australia. Both Bombardier and Alstom manufacture rollingstock in Victoria, while Alstom was awarded the contract to manufacture and service WA’s new fleet of rollingstock. The ACCC specifically looked at how the acquisition would effect upcoming projects including Victoria’s Next Generation Trams program.

“Where customers have requirements or preferences for local industry involvement, suppliers without an existing presence have options to satisfy these criteria, including by partnering with local businesses,” said Sims.

Alstom confirmed that acquisition is expected to be finalised in the first half of 2021.

transport infrastructure

Major works continuing across Victoria’s transport infrastructure program

Works to remove level crossings on three lines through Melbourne will step up during spring, as work continues on transport infrastructure projects around Melbourne.

Fifteen level crossing projects are taking their next step in September. On the Upfield line, removals of four level crossings are underway along with the construction of two new stations.

On the Cranbourne line, duplication works will see buses replace trains from September 8-13. Four level crossings on that line are also set to go, getting it closer to being the first level crossing free line in Melbourne.

Sunbury line works are scheduled for November to enable the line to carry newer trains once the Metro Tunnel opens. These works involve track, power, and platform upgrades and will require a shutdown on the line from November 7-22 and on the Bendigo line from 7 to 21.

For the trains themselves, safety and performance testing of the new High Capacity Metro Trains will be conducted on the Werribee Line from late August

On the Metro Tunnel project, all four tunnel boring machines are in action and the twin tunnels are getting closer to completion.

The tram network will also benefit from maintenance works. Upgrades will be carried out in Malvern, South Melbourne, Parkville, and Pascoe Vale South. Tram stabling in East Melbourne will also be improved, to allow for more trams during special events.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said the works will have a wider benefit.

“These critical projects are building a better transport system, while supporting local jobs and Victoria’s economy,” she said.

Across all projects, tight hygiene controls are in place under Melbourne’s stage four restrictions and workforce numbers have been reduced.

“The safety of our workforce and the community is our priority – we are taking strict precautions to ensure our critical transport infrastructure projects can safely continue under coronavirus restrictions,” said Allan.

Agility

Agility for rail: Delivering on data

SSG Insight is delivering Agility, a modern CMMS with unique functionalities designed for the complexities of transportation.

Computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS), which record an organisation’s maintenance and asset management regimes have a history of over three decades. While the digitalisation of railways and transportation networks may have emerged as a talking point in the last 10 years, the digital management of maintenance procedures and asset history is much longer.

One company that has been on this journey since the early days is SSG Insight, which began 35 years ago offering its CMMS platform, Agility to the transportation and facilities management sectors.

James MacPherson, CEO of Asia Pacific and Canada for SSG Insight, describes how the company’s software has evolved.

“We started out providing a pure CMMS system, but over the years that’s morphed into a smarter integrated workplace management system. We provide maintenance management systems, performance management systems, and enterprise workplace management systems around the globe and specifically to the rail industry.”

As CMMS systems have grown, they have become much more than a log of maintenance requests and a record of actions undertaken. Today, the systems can be used to drive condition-based monitoring schemes, by interpreting asset data. This enables the platform itself to schedule work orders, provide condition assessments over an asset’s lifecycle, and monitor inventory levels and purchasing.

While these functionalities are common to many industries, including manufacturing, distribution, and utilities, for the rail sector, Agility takes the insights from the CMMS software and matches these to contract outcomes for transportation service provides.

“What we offer on top of a standard CMMS is performance management,” said MacPherson. “We can configure the system to self-manage the contracts.”

For transportation networks run by a private company under a contract with a municipal or regional transport authority, maintaining accurate and transparent maintenance logs is a key contract requirement. What Agility enables the providers to do, is automatically calculate maintenance or asset events against key performance indicators such as kilometres served or trips completed.

“In those scenarios the onus is on evidence and transparency, so those calculations around lost kilometres and trips, as an example, enable the contractor who’s running the transport network to be able to evidence why they may have lost kilometres on trips. This is specific for the rail industry, and it’s been developed especially for rail clients,” said MacPherson.

Agility provides real time dashboards that match a client’s needs.

OVERCOMING THE CONSTRAINTS OF LEGACY SYSTEMS
For the rail industry, implementing a smart CMMS system requires access to data being produced by an array of legacy systems. With experience deploying Agility on both brand- new systems opened as recently as 2019, and historical systems that were first horse-drawn and have been operating since the 19th century, SSG Insight knows how to collate data from a diversity of sources.

The different histories of different transport systems mean that data is not always organised in a way that is immediately interpretable and actionable.

“Specifically in the rail industry, we will sit down and discuss the legacy systems that operators have, the constraints that they have in terms of data and where servers are located, all of those types of things, because there’s a real mixed bag of rail systems out there.

One of the key offers to the rail industry is a consultative, outcomes-based approach,” said MacPherson.

With data often siloed into different areas, the effectiveness of a smart asset management solution is dependent upon getting disparate systems to talk to one another. In addition, distinct areas of operations may have their own, existing maintenance management systems, which will not be integrated across a network’s operations to be able to provide transparent information. SSG Insight has overcome this with its product Agility Connect, which can take data from any system, interpret it, and create an action.

“One of our recent examples is looking at creating a data-lake from lots of different systems and then analysing that data-lake and bringing those actionable insights back to the client from multiple systems,” said MacPherson. “That SCADA system there may not talk to anything, or if does talk to something, it’s got to go to a server behind 10 firewalls and it’s got to be housed in a room full of lead. But now, with a true software as a service (SaaS) deployment in secure Microsoft Azure, you have a huge amount of flexibility.”

Just like each area of operations may have its own data and control systems, in a complex transportation network there are multiple subcontractors or parties contributing to a network. By bringing data from these parties together without needing to replace each system, SSG Insight can provide a comprehensive look at a network’s assets and operations.

“We’re working on one project at the moment where there’s five CMMS systems, which clearly is untenable. So, what we do is we’ll assist with the service companies and the subcontractors with the issue of having multiple systems by creating a flexible and fully interpretable system,” said MacPherson. “If the individual CMMSs can’t go anywhere then we’ll just become the master of information and the master of the contract, so we’ll just integrate with them and pass the information back.”

In Nottingham, Agility is used by over 100 users.

IMPLEMENTATION
Knowing that no two transportation systems are the same, SSG Insight has developed Agility to be flexible to the needs and requirements of each mobility network, without the need to create a bespoke product each time.

“We don’t have to go to our development team and say, ‘Can you produce this for us?’ We have it all built into the configuration of the system so you can take the unique contract and build it in without having to change the commercial off the shelf (COTS) product,” said MacPherson.

“The system is designed by the users, for the users. All of the screens within the system ensure that the workflow is efficient and reduces repetitive entry, and then from that triggers the right set of actions for groups of individuals or the board or whoever, to be able to look at trends, analysis, whatever it might be.”

Agility has recently been deployed by Edinburgh Trams, a 14 kilometre, 16-stop network between Edinburgh Airport and the city centre. Here, an incumbent CMMS system had to remain in place, so Agility was overlaid on the system to take work orders and completion details created in the incumbent system and measure and track these actions in Agility against the operator’s contract.

“What will happen is we’ll take the asset register from the existing CMMS and then place the contract against it. Then we will feed that information back to the existing CMMS once the job is completed,” said MacPherson.

Automating the reporting of these tasks has a direct outcome by reducing paperwork and multiple handling, a tangible outcome for the client. By building KPI measurements to system requests, tasks are directly and automatically associated with reporting requirements, often replacing several manual processes.

“The system is built around the client,” said MacPherson. “We will sit with them and ask what is the process at the moment, and we’ll map that out and see that 70 per cent of that you can get rid of, because we can fully automate it. We can put it against the contract, and we can make it transparent, and we can make it auditable and you can see it in real time on the dashboard. Once we go through that process, we find that there’s a tangible sense of ‘Can you get it done tomorrow?’”

In Nottingham, where Agility has been deployed on the tram network for almost
10 years, the system is used by 135 users on 24/7 shifts. The platform collects passenger feedback, is used by service teams on mobile devices, and is the central control room log, making it the reference point for all operational event.

“We’ve gone from being a CMMS, to doing passenger feedback and then adding on to managing service-level agreements (SLA) and seeing which workflows can be improved or changed. The thing about Agility is that once a workflow is in the system it’s not fixed. If you suddenly realise that actually you could improve it then a customer can do it. They can change the question sets, they can change the notifications, they can change the steps that occur and if the contract changes, they can adjust in the performance measurement straight away,” said MacPherson.

Having the backing of a history of developing CMMS systems with the ability to continually innovate, Agility enables transportation to reap the benefits of the ever-expanding collection of data.

Canberra COVID

“People need to travel”

In one of the most disruptive events to occur since World War Two, transport leaders around Australia highlight the role that rail has played in getting Australia through COVID-19.

On Friday, March 13, thousands of spectators were queueing outside the gates to the Formula One Grand Prix in Albert Park, Melbourne. The late summer sun was beat down on the spectators as they waited for two hours to find out whether they would be let in. Finally, organisers confirmed that the event could not go ahead because of the fear of an outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). Extra trams were rapidly mobilised, and the crowds were herded onto public transport to take them back home, via the Melbourne CBD.

At the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) offices on Exhibition Street, director-general Corey Hannett was assessing the options for the state’s $70 billion of under- construction transport infrastructure spread across 119 major road and rail projects.

“I must admit, when the pandemic turned up in March, I think there were doubts that industry could work,” Hannett told Rail Express.

“At that time, we were looking right around the world at what was going on, and it was very clear that lots of countries were actually closing down.”

Indeed, other countries had entirely ceased all construction activity, except for projects specifically related to the COVID-19 response. In Ireland, almost €20bn ($32.57bn) worth of construction activity creased by March 28.

Unlike countries in Europe and Asia, at the time, the impact in Australia was relatively limited, with only 156 cases when Albert Park closed its gates. In Italy, deaths were already in the thousands.

“At the time, we really hadn’t had that massive impact from the COVID-19 infections that the rest of the world was experiencing, but it was fair to say we were very concerned that we had to make sure that we did things in a way that protected the workforce and the community,” said Hannett.

Across all of its sites, the MTIA and its delivery contractors put in place procedures to reduce the change of an outbreak at a construction site. Workers had to be spaced more the 1.5m apart, personal protective equipment was required, and extra hygiene measures were put in place. MTIA’s own staff moved to working from home and staggered shifts were enforced on work sites.

“Staggering when people start and finish toolbox meetings in the crib shed, getting extra crib sheds, getting extra cleaning in those crib sheds, getting an extra cleaning program of work across the whole sites,” lists Hannett.

All in all, roughly 18,000 people are employed to build road and rail projects under the MTIA umbrella across Melbourne and in regional Victoria. As of the end of June, there have been no significant disruptions to any of the construction programmes.

“I’m quite pleased to say so far so good, but we can only be as good as we are today and we need to keep that vigilance up and keep a heightened focus on making sure that we comply with the relevant rules to keep the community the workforce and ourselves safe.”

Hannett notes that while there has been a small loss in efficiency, the building program is continuing apace.

“In general, the program is in pretty good shape considering the pandemic which was forced upon us in March this year,” he said.

“I can’t imagine what the situation would be today if we had not had our 18,000 plus people not working.”

KEEPING THE COUNTRY MOVING
Canberrans had barely gotten the smell of bushfires out of their hair, clothing, and homes by the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit. After a torrid summer, Canberrans were using the newly commissioned light rail more than ever, which, according to ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel, led to an unexpected windfall.

“Thankfully in February this year, just prior to the pandemic starting, we actually increased the frequency of light rail to help manage the crowding that we had seen because we had so many people wanting to use light rail in Canberra.”

Frequency in the peaks was increased, and the peak period was stretched to 9.30am in the morning and 6.30pm in the evening. This extra capacity meant that the light rail could keep running and ensure that those workers who did need to travel were able to get to their jobs and people were able to access essential services during the lockdown.

To ensure the service was safe, a rapid program of adaptation was rolled out.

“We stepped up hygiene measures across public transport, including light rail, and one of the measures on light rail was to have automatic opening of the doors which wasn’t always the case on light rail,” said Steel.

Across the network, an extra 1,300 hours of cleaning was being conducted per week, and regular cleaners were assisted by over 30 workers hired by Transport Canberra who were stood down from their roles in the wider transport industry.

In Canberra and across Australia, most transport authorities are still encouraging passengers to travel outside of peak periods to avoid crowding. At the same time, Steel and others are concerned that road congestion is rising faster than public transport levels with the ACT at 85 per cent of pre-COVID traffic levels but public transport at less than half.

“We don’t want to see congestion reach even higher levels than it was before the pandemic because people are not using public transport, so we do need to encourage people back at an appropriate time,” said Steel.

“We’ve had for now several months the national cabinet and state premiers and chief ministers very clearly indicate to the community that they should avoid public transport during peak times and that is still the message.

“We also need to have an equally strong message at the appropriate time to welcome people back onto public transport – come and use it, it’s good for our community, it’s good for your health, it reduces congestion and all of the benefits that it provides.”

In Sydney, Howard Collins, chief operations officer for Transport for NSW and former chief executive of Sydney Trains cannot see a future where a return to public transport does not occur in some form.

“I just look at the maths and say we’re currently carrying 600,000 journeys across the transport network, about 350,000 people every day at the moment, compared with 1.3 million on rail before COVID. Where are those people – even if half of them come back – where are they going to go? I can’t imagine them all cycling down George Street. I can’t imagine we’ll get the cars moving more than about 5km/h if they all jumped in their cars. So, rail will have to take on that capacity, but it may be in a different context in terms of how we operate our train service.”

Prior to COVID-19, capacity on Sydney Trains was almost reaching breaking point, particularly in the peaks. With a 73 per cent drop in patronage, Collins is looking at the recovery from COVID-19 as a potential for change in the way the network operates.

“I think patronage will change, permanently. COVID-19, at the end of the day is an issue that has come along that has been really tragic and has been challenging, but it may well be a warning for things happening in the future. So, things have to change but I do believe that public transport and particularly rail is going to still have a major role.”

Collins is sceptical that there will be a wholescale shift to alternative working arrangements, such as working from home.

“Many people have said ‘Oh I’ll never going to be going to office anymore. I’m going to be working from home and I’ll be doing it in a café or bar or whatever it is.’ I do think there’s this human nature of getting together and while we all say we’re coping with Teams and remote working there will be a resurgence of people wanting to cluster and get together, whether that’s socially or for work reasons no matter how good our Zoom or Teams structure is. People will be back, but it will be different.”

During the lockdown, Sydney Trains has increased services during the peak to cope with demand, as well as run extra light rail services. With an unclear future still ahead, to many, what this has demonstrated is the need for flexibility in time-tabling and capacity.

“We certainly need greater flexibility and if you look at Sydney Metro, boy they can switch on and off a flattening peak or an increased fleet just by the press of a button, and the trains pop out of their depot without any care or concern,” said Collins.

“But we know that people still need to travel within certain times. If tradies still sign on as they do every day in Sydney at 7 o’clock then we’re still going to get that massive tradie peak. If schools still operate in the time scale that tends to suit both their parents and teachers, you’re not going to see the flattening of the peak. We will certainly see others spreading the load – particularly office workers – but I think it’s going to be more resistant to change than perhaps some of the theorists believe when it comes to peak services.”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Many have noted that COVID-19 is two crises. First, the health pandemic, and second, the economic crisis caused by the shutdown of businesses and the restrictions on movement and gathering. While testing, contact tracing, and medical care can limit the first crisis, there is more debate over how to grapple with the second.

Infrastructure spending has emerged as one way that governments are dealing with the economic crisis. Rail is one area of infrastructure that has been targeted with spending. Already, in Sydney, Metro Greater West, now known as Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport has had funding committed by both state and federal governments, to begin construction before the end of 2020. Approvals for Inland Rail have been fast- tracked. In Victoria, the Level Crossings Removal Project is ramping up and extra money is being spent on regional track and repairs to stations.

While some have argued that smaller infrastructure projects provide more benefits, according to Hannett, all projects should be seen as helping the wider economy.

“A project creates jobs, it boosts the economy, and it also has a significant economic benefit. The fact is. big or small. they do create jobs they do create economic benefit.”

Shadow Infrastructure Minister Catherine King highlighted that now is the time to invest in nation-building infrastructure.

“I think that one of the things that coronavirus crisis has shown us is that while we’ve had infrastructure projects and rail projects, we’ve sort of lacked any large scale, iconic infrastructure transport project,” she told Rail Express.

In May, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese reaffirmed the Labor Party’s commitment to high speed rail from Melbourne to Brisbane, via Sydney and Canberra. According to King, such a project goes well beyond reducing congestion on the air route between Melbourne and Sydney.

“One is the investment potential that it has, but also the nation building potential that it has, in terms of developing a much stronger sense of regional and decentralised regional towns from Melbourne from Sydney, all the way up to Brisbane, and the capacity and possibility of that as we grow as a nation.”

While COVID-19 has been a tragic event, the rail industry is beginning to emerge with a renewed focus on flexibility in operations and the nation-shaping role that rail infrastructure can have.

manufacturing

WA funds local manufacturing and maintenance of railcars

The Western Australian government will ensure more rollingstock maintenance and manufacturing happens in WA, with a $40 million investment and a new focus on building iron ore cars in the state.

$40m will go towards the maintenance of Western Australia’s new Australind fleet with the construction of an expanded Metronet Railcar Manufacturing and Assembly facility in Bellevue.

WA Premier Mark McGowan and Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti announced that the Bellevue site will be grow to include the maintenance of the new diesel multiple units (DMUs), manufactured by Alstom, which will replace the current Australind fleet.

The Bellevue facility will also service the Prospector and AvonLink railcars, WA’s infrastructure diagnostic vehicle, and track maintenance and rail shunting locomotives.

WA had previously brought railcar manufacturing back to the state with the announcement that 246 C-series railcars will be built with 50 per cent local content, said McGowan.

“One of my Government’s key election commitments was to return railcar manufacturing back to the Midland area,” he said.

“We’re delivering on this and now we’re doing what we can to ensure we’re removing interruptions in supply chains and allowing local businesses to take advantage of the great manufacturing opportunities in our State.”

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the scale of the project will provide opportunities for local workers and suppliers.

“Around 250 railcars will be produced at Bellevue over the next decade, while it will also serve as a permanent maintenance facility for the expanded METRONET fleet,” she said.

“This new $40 million diesel maintenance facility will be a new key element to the services provided at Bellevue and will provide local job and training opportunities for local Western Australians.”

In a joint statement, McGowan and Saffioti said that an “action group” will be created to investigate the viability of manufacturing and maintaining iron ore railcar wagons that service the iron ore rail network in the Pilbara. This manufacturing could occur in the Pilbara or other parts of WA. Currently, manufacture of iron ore wagons often happens in China.

The study will look at how initiatives can support the steel fabrication industry in WA, and maintenance opportunities for new and existing ore wagons.

A contract for the construction of the diesel maintenance facility will be awarded next year.

Construction of the main manufacturing site is underway and is expected to be completed later in 2020. Local manufacturers are now able to register to supply components to the railcars.

Local ingenuity from Bombardier keeping the wheels turning

In Adelaide, Bombardier have developed an in-house remote diagnostics system.

For over 15 years, the South Australian (SA) Department of Planning, Transport and infrastructure (DPTI) and Bombardier Transportation (BT) have been working together to ensure the safe and efficient running of heavy rail fleets. Their aim is to provide the traveling public with high levels of customer satisfaction and increased availability, by working closely and listening actively to feedback to develop a deep understanding of SA’s specific needs.

Reliability is perhaps the highest priority when it comes to the operations of networks and ongoing rollingstock maintenance and performance is key.

Keeping trains on the tracks and moving passengers safely is a cornerstone of any operation and through BT’s through life support, intrinsic knowledge of the SA network, and true collaboration with DPTI, BT has been able to continue to provide high levels of mean distance between failure (MDBF) and ensure fleet performance.

These realities are front-and-centre for both DPTI and BT, which has manufactured and has the contract for the ongoing maintenance of Adelaide’s EMU fleet. The A-City fleet, currently comprised of 22 three carriage sets, with another 12 on order, were the first electrical units to operate on the Adelaide network.

Introduced in July 2013, with the first entering service in February 2014, the fleet has begun to require modernisation to improve services to the traveling public, through implementation of technical enhancements in the through life support of the vehicles.

According to Todd Garvey, Bombardier Transportation’s head of sales, Australia and New Zealand, a unique solution was required to update the fleet and keep performance of the trains at the high level required for the Adelaide network.

“The system allows real time analysis of signals that can ensure the vehicle is safe to run without attending site,” said Garvey.

The remote diagnostics solution can measure an array of vehicle specifics, including engine speed, temperature, oil pressure, HVAC temperature, converter diagnostics, and other faults.

With this information provided to remote maintenance managers, faults can be reset while a train is in service.

“The quick benefit seen by all is being able to reset faults remotely in traffic such as HVAC and convertor issues; these improve on time running and passenger comfort,” said Garvey.

Not only does the system increase uptime but works to enhance vehicle safety. One example of this is having remote awareness of the door safety interlock. The remote diagnostics solution allows for this safety critical element to be monitored and fixed without returning to a maintenance facility.

A COLLABORATIVE HOME-GROWN SOLUTION
While remote diagnostics are not unique to this fleet, the solution is a demonstration of value creation through collaborative engagement between DPTI and BT, and has empowered BT to develop a system that is based on its local knowledge of the conditions in which the A-City fleet were operating. As a relatively small fleet, the return on investment in implementing and off-the-shelf solution was prohibitive.

“Therefore, it was necessary to engineer a bespoke solution to maximise the return on investment to get to a point of providing real benefit to the operation,” said Garvey.

In addition to supplying and manufacturing the A-City fleet, BT has also provided maintenance services out of Adelaide’s Dry Creek railcar depot.

Site general manger for Bombardier Transportation at Dry Creek Brenton Valladares said the local expertise that BT has in SA was essential for this project.

“Our local experts Carl Parr and Graham Schier – an electrical engineer and IT guru respectively – have together been with Bombardier Transportation for over 45 years across the world,” said Valladares. “Graham is a shopfloor electrician, born and bred in Adelaide, apprenticed by BT with exceptional IT skills that were identified and leveraged for the project. This combination of using in-house talent from both the shopfloor and engineering function to deliver a high-quality solution make this project unique.”

Parr and Schier worked with BT’s local partners and global network to develop a custom-built solution to run real-time remote diagnostics on the A-City fleet.

With capital investment and a true partnership approach with the SA government, BT developed the concept and the system integration with third-party suppliers. How the system works is that onboard equipment is networked via the existing service port of each system to a hardware gateway. This gateway is then connected to a secure remote server. The requested data is sent to an alternate server hosted by Hasler that analyses the signals, looking for data matches that align with predetermined events. Hasler also supply the data logger hardware and platform event diagnostics.

“One of the key challenges was networking the legacy systems into the program. These were overcome with some reverse engineering. The support from DPTI on this project has been marvellous and their ongoing backing of innovation, rail in SA, and BT is something we value greatly.” said Valladares.

When the data aligns with the predetermined events an alert is sent via email or other notification to the maintenance facility. Two full time team members are dedicated to monitoring and reviewing the system now that it is in place.

DELIVERING BENEFITS
As the A-City fleet has undergone further modernisation, one of the elements to be aware of was the learning curve for drivers. By taking these diagnostics out of the train cab and into the hands of remote maintenance personnel, drivers are supported to focus on the new elements of the trains.

This new technology is a great asset for both Bombardier and DPTI said Garvey.

“With these upgrades and changes occurring across multiple systems in the fleet, remote access provides real time information, thereby reducing the learning curve for the drivers, this is a great asset for us and DPTI” said Garvey.

Another unique facet of the maintenance and upkeep of the A-City fleet is the structure of the depots. Adelaide’s mix of electrified and unelectrified lines has meant that the Dry Creek depot is unelectrified. This means that when maintenance does need to occur, the EMUs are hauled into the facility. Having remote diagnostics enables access to the vehicle’s systems without needing to go into the yards as often.

“We have also seen improved turn-around times for maintenance due to having an improved understanding of the faults prior to the asset arriving at Bombardier’s facilities,” said Garvey.

“In addition, there are reduced nuisance faults (less time on NFF) and more cars remaining in traffic. We are also able to reset faults in service, so that maintenance can be planned at an appropriate time.”

With the system now rolled out across the fleet, the system has doubled the KPI that was set for it in parallel with other project work. The system has now reached figures of above 100,000 MDBF, highlighting the effect that the delivery of local ingenuity, backed up by global expertise, can have on a unique train fleet.