Q&A: Thales contributing to light rail revival

In this exclusive interview, Andrea Bastianelli and Massimo Poli discuss the innovative, digital solutions Thales is bringing to light rail transit, including the future Parramatta Light Rail project.

Andrea Bastianelli, is Thales’s product line manager for Light Rail Transit (LRT) Management and Control Systems and is based in Florence, Italy.

Massimo Poli has spent his recent life as project manager of many of Thales LRT projects, and is currently in Australia as global project manager of Thales’ Parramatta LRT.

Rail Express (REX): What’s your perspective on the revival of light rail transit in Australia and around the world?

Massimo Poli: Transport needs and challenges vary from city to city and the flexibility of light rail provides each city with the means to adapt LRT solutions to best serve their transportation needs and solve their challenges.

For example, it is in used as the main public transport mode in medium sized cities like Florence, Palermo and Manchester, and in larger cities it is used to complement the likes of metros and/or buses, to guarantee a multimodal and efficient public transport journey.

It is often used to connect emerging neighbourhoods to the main transport ring in larger cities like Taipei, where the new districts of Danhai and Ankeng are connected to the metropolitan transport network via the LRT line, or in Shanghai where the new district of Songjiang is connected to the urban mass transport system through an LRT network. The same goes for the Brazilian city of Santos and, of course, Parramatta in Western Sydney.

In other cases, LRT lines are also used to connect two cities together, as is the case in Cosenza-Rende, Italy.

With flexibility and sustainability at its core, it is a pleasure to be directly contributing to the rebirth of this transport system all around the world. In recent years, Thales has been actively involved in the implementation of LRT projects in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia.

Andrea Bastianelli: The introduction of new generation LRT vehicles, with a low floor guaranteeing greater comfort and performance, has also contributed to the rebirth of this sector.

Newer project designs are increasingly providing lanes reserved for public transport. This has also ensured a more regular and punctual service.

If we also consider the characteristics of cost effectiveness, attractiveness and sustainability, it is easy to imagine why LRT networks become part of the cultural identity of the cities they serve – symbols of civic pride.

REX: So improved vehicles and corridors have been the key?

Poli: In part, yes. However, over the years every single LRT has been improved in order to provide a better value for money solution.

Thales has always provided control systems for public transport systems, including LRT. In particular, over the last 10 years or so, Thales has redeveloped
its solution designed specifically for this type of market, so that we can continue to deliver the highest levels of satisfaction – both for passengers and customers alike. Our solutions innovatively address the needs of passengers: Having a regular service, being informed accurately during normal operation or special events, security, and above all command and control systems that guarantee the movement of vehicles in a safe way.

REX: How does Thales help achieve that?

Poli: Our LRT solution provides the operator with an innovative command and control tool that performs functions in an integrated way; for example:

• Planning, automatic vehicle localisation, tram regulation, innovative priority management at road intersections, and signalling;

• Passenger information and comfort, and passenger security; and

• Remote control and communication.

Our new generation LRT solution was installed for the first time in the city of Palermo, in Italy. The architecture of the system and the technologies used give the system a high degree of flexibility, modularity and upgradability.

REX: And you’re always working to improve that offering?

Poli: Yes. Since the first commissioning of the first version of the new generation system, Thales has continued to regularly develop and improve its LRT solution based on experience and feedback from our customers.

One example is the development of a highly integrated control system that allows the optimisation (reduction) of hardware and software components on board, on the trackside and in the control centre, which in turn reduces equipment dimensions, installation complexity, maintenance requirements, simplifies configuration, and provides significant energy savings.

Another example is the development of an innovative architecture for the Automatic Vehicle Localisation (AVLS) function and priority request at road crossing and tram regulation, which provide the ability to automatically manage even special operating scenarios.

We’ve also worked to provide operators with a selection of technologies, so they can choose what’s appropriate to the operational scenario in question. An example would be the option of a passive RFID tag rather than inductive loops for vehicle detection.

Thales also provides additional tools such as configuration, simulation, playback functions including analysis tools and quality of service tools which are all focused on improving the LRT solution. This results in increased efficiency, reduced capital and operational costs, and a better customer experience.

REX: As we enter a new decade we can expect the further digitisation of systems
all throughout rail – what’s the roadmap for light rail?

Bastianelli: As Massimo described, Thales is continually updating and improving its LRT solution, to provide public transport operators and other customers with an increasingly efficient solution. The digitisation process of the LRT solution has been underway for several years.

Of particular note, some of the packages we are developing are focused on increasing the level of autonomy for light rail systems, some of which are already under test in Europe:

• Smart Positioning will allow the vehicle to geo-locate itself safely and autonomously using different sensors and information including Global Navigation Satellite Systems.

• Obstacle Avoidance to avoid collisions with possible obstacles on the LRV route.

• Broadband connectivity including the future operating scenario which will lead to autonomous driving for transport systems of this type implies. This required the ability of the vehicle to be always connected with the ground and control centre devices with large data exchanges between these devices.

• Of course for Thales, cybersecurity is integrated into our systems across all sectors, so such countermeasures have already been integrated into the solution and will also be configured in the next system that we are implementing for one of our customers.

These macro functions, combined with autonomous studies Thales is currently carrying out, will constitute the autonomous driving system for LRT-type transport, the implementation of which will follow the timeframes and recommendations that the national and international regulatory authorities are discussing.

During this transition period, macro functions will be added progressively to the standard solution in order to contribute with increasingly advanced systems in the implementation of efficient and sustainable LRT systems.

REX: Thales is sponsoring and taking part in the ARA’s Light Rail 2020 event in Canberra in March. What are you hoping to see discussed at the event?

Bastianelli: The message I would like to share is for customers to ensure they select delivery partners who have developed specific solutions for this market, with a high degree of innovation and additional functions in order to provide a regular and high quality service which is able to seamlessly manage normal operations as well as special events.

The selected partners should also have a clear vision on the future of digitalisation, without forgetting the knowledge of the specificities of the destination country.

High-capacity signalling test site under construction

A test site for high-capacity signalling is now being established at the Pakenham East Depot in Melbourne.

The test site will allow for the introduction of high-capacity signalling, described as “moving block” signalling systems, instead of “fixed block” systems. The new signalling system will enable trains to automatically adjust their speed, in order to maintain a safe distance from the train in front. This technology differs from current systems, which tell trains when it is safe to proceed to a new section of track via coloured signals.

High-capacity signalling is delivered by the Rail Systems Alliance, a consortium of CPB Contractors, Bombardier, Metro Trains Melbourne, and Rail Projects Victoria.

The test site will be constructed at Nar Nar Goon, in south east Melbourne. This will enable access to the high-capacity signalling platform and test track, situated inside the Pakenham East Depot.

Trackside equipment will be installed between March 2 and 6.

On the Melbourne network, high-capacity signalling will be installed on the Sunbury to Cranbourne/Pakenham line, as well as the Mernda Line between Epping and South Morang.

Signal control centres will be built at Sunshine and Dandenong. Signallers will support train movements across the lines from here, including through the Metro Tunnel.

In addition to the high-capacity signalling work, new high-capacity metro trains will be introduced on the Melbourne Metro network. On the platforms, floor-to-ceiling platform screen doors will be installed. These will reduce overcrowding, dwell times, and improve tunnel ventilation. These will be designed and supplied by Faiveley Transport. The platforms screen doors will also be tested at the Pakenham East depot.

Information sessions to be held for local involvement in N2N

Local suppliers in Narrabri and Moree can meet the shortlisted contractors for the Narrabri to North Star (N2N) leg of the Inland Rail project.

Inland Rail will hold two networking events in the two regional centres with the three shortlisted construction contractors. Local and Indigenous businesses can hear from the contracts and connect through one-on-one meetings.

According to chief executive of Inland Rail, Richard Wankmuller, the major contractors will be looking for local businesses to partner with.

“There are three excellent organisations bidding for this project including Lendlease Engineering Pty Ltd, RailFirst (a joint venture between Downer EDI and Seymour White) and Trans4m Rail (a joint venture between Rhomberg Rail Australia, John Holland and SEE Civil),” said Wankmuller.

“Each one will have representatives at this event to meet with local businesses and answer questions regarding potential supply opportunities on the N2NS project when construction starts.”

To make the most of the sessions, local contractors are encouraged to prepare and ‘elevator pitch’ and be able to showcase exactly what their business does and where it is located.

“I know there is excitement building along the N2NS alignment as we move towards construction and local businesses should be taking advantage of opportunities like these to promote their capabilities to the shortlisted contractors,” said Wankmuller.

According to Wankmuller, the successful primary contractor will be mandated to incorporate local industries.

“The successful contractor will be required to deliver significant local industry and workforce participation and training outcomes, and the Australian Rail Track Corporation will work very closely with them and other stakeholders to achieve these outcomes,” he said.

“We see Inland Rail as a way to create meaningful change in communities along the alignment by developing a pathway to support longer term economic development and employment outcomes.”

The sessions will be held on January 21, in Narrabri, and January 22, in Moree.

NSW government praised for resumption of services on Blue Mountains line

After fires forced the closure of the Blue Mountains line in late December and early January, limited services resumed between Mount Victoria and Lithgow on the evening of Monday, January 21.

Bushfires in the Blue Mountains area laid waste to a 25 kilometre stretch of railway, damaging signalling equipment and rail infrastructure. In early January services between Mount Victoria and Lithgow were expected to be closed for months, after being suspended since 19 December.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Paul Toole, highlighted that crews have been working on restoring services since the closure.

“Sydney Trains’ engineers have worked tirelessly to develop temporary systems that will allow us to restore rail connectivity and safely operate a limited number of freight trains from Monday evening and passenger trains from Tuesday 21 January,” he said.

“We recognise how important this rail connection is to passengers travelling to and from the west and to moving freight and we are doing everything possible to resume full services as soon as possible.”

Freight on Rail Group (FORG) of Australia chair Dean Dalla Valle, praised the NSW government for its swift resumption of services, noting that without the rail line, more freight had to be moved via roads.

“NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole MP and Sam Farraway MLC – both Bathurst boys – immediately understood the urgent need to restore rail freight services along the bushfire impacted section of track between Lithgow and Mount Victoria.”

The damage was so extensive that significant parts of the line will need to be wholly restored, said Toole.

“This will be a long recovery process as we are essentially rebuilding some parts of the operating system from scratch.”

Sydney Trains staff have removed over 300 trees and relaid kilometres of communication, electrical, and signal wiring.

Dalla Valle highlighted the nature of the NSW operator’s response.

“I’d also like to call out Sydney Trains Chief Executive Howard Collins OBE for rolling up his sleeves, quickly travelling to bushfire impacted zones to assess first-hand what needed to be done, and liaising closely with industry,” said Dalla Valle.

Schedules are still be altered to account for maintenance, said NSW TrainLink chief executive Pete Allaway.

“The first Bathurst Bullet, the Broken Hill XPLORER and most Dubbo XPT services will resume to a slightly altered timetable, with the remaining affected services to continue to be replaced by coaches and buses while repair work continues.”

V/Line driver’s near-miss with a train after failing to stop at signals

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) rail safety investigation found a V/Line driver ran through a level crossing before the boom gates were down at Marshall, Victoria.

On January 2nd 2018 at around 2pm, V/Line train 7750 travelling to Geelong and 1305 V/Line travelling to Warrnambool were heading towards each other on a single track in suburban Geelong.

The two trains were 940m apart from colliding when a control room worker in Melbourne issued an emergency call instructing the drivers to stop.

The ATSB found that the driver of train 7750 did not respond to the Stop indications of signals MSL10 and MSL8 at Marshall.

The driver of train 7750 entered the single line section between Marshall and South Geelong and then into the Marshalltown level crossing before the crossing booms had lowered.

At approximately the same time, The 1305 V/Line Melbourne to Warrnambool service with two crew and 166 passengers on board had departed Geelong and was headed towards Marshall on the same single line section.

The trains were scheduled to cross using the loop track at Marshall.

The investigation report stated that in preparation for the cross of the two trains at Marshall, the train controller “was observing the signalling control and CCTV VDU when he saw train 7750 go through Marshall platform travelling too fast to stop at MSL10,”

“Realising that train 7750 would not be able to stop, the train controller made a fleet radio transmission to all trains in the area to ‘Red Light’ (Stop), the CCTV also allowed the train controller to confirm that train 7750 had stopped beyond the Marshalltown Road level crossing.”

The investigation concluded that the driver of V/Line train 7750 was most likely influenced by symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal, having not applied a nicotine patch on that day.

“Following this incident, the driver of train 7750 tested positive for an inactive metabolite of cannabis, with levels suggesting use within the previous 7 days,” the report stated.

It could not be determined whether that had affected the driver’s performance at the time of the incident.

Report authors say attempts by V/Line safety critical workers to stop smoking should be managed under medical supervision.

As a result of the incident, V/Line has installed a train protection system at Marshalltown Road level crossing to stop a train that has passed a signal at Danger, which has over-speed sensors to prevent a train entering the crossing when unprotected.

V/Line has continued with planning for the provision of three-position signalling for this section as part of other infrastructure projects.

The driver of train 7750 no longer works for V/Line.

Siemens commits to Adani project

Joe Kaeser, president and CEO of German industrial conglomerate Siemens, has written an open letter clarifying the company’s decision to provide signalling services to Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Queensland.

Siemens was the target of protests at AusRAIL 2019, when protestors locked themselves to the stage during the AusRAIL gala dinner. Siemens offices around Australia were also targeted by anti-Adani protestors.

Kaeser wrote that Siemens’s commercial obligations tied the company to the project, highlighting that, “There is practically no legally and economically responsible way to unwind the contract without neglecting fiduciary duties.”

Other reasons that Kaeser identified in support of Siemens pursuing the project were reassurances from Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Matthew Canavan, a due diligence report, competing companies that would have completed the signalling project if Siemens had pulled out, and the mine’s approval by the Wangan and Jagalingou people.

The Siemens signalling project forms part of the 189km rail line that will link the Adani mine to the Port of Abbot Point. The railway will travel from the mine to Moranbah, where it joins the Goonyella rail system.

In response to the environmental concerns raised by protestors, Siemens will establish a Sustainability Committee, to give input to the company on environmental concerns.

Key to activist’s opposition to the Siemens rail project was the potential for a rail line to open up the entire Galilee coal basin for development, which according to Climate Analytics, would be equivalent to 2 per cent of global emissions, once burnt.

Thales to deliver City & Southwest control and comms system

Thales will deliver the Central Control and Communication system for the Sydney Metro City & Southwest project after it was awarded a $250 million contract by MTR Corporation on December 3.

The new contract will mean Thales will design, manufacture, supply, install, test and commission the system, designed to ensure seamless rail operations through the provision of real-time control mechanisms, and the integration and management of data from multiple third-party systems.

The communications system will connect the public address and passenger information systems and CCTV via a centralised system.

“We are very proud to sign this new contract with MTR,” Thales Ground Transportation Systems vice president Millar Crawford said. “The extension of Sydney Metro to City & Southwest will further improve the journeys of passengers, delivering a reliable public transport service. MTR, the Sydney Metro Authority and Transport for NSW can continue to rely on Thales’s engagement and expertise in urban mobility.”

City & Southwest will extend the recently-opened Sydney Metro Northwest route 28 kilometres, through the city and on to Bankstown.

“The Sydney Metro City & Southwest project will foster the growth of Thales’s Ground Transportation activities in New South Wales and Australia respectively,” Thales Ground Transportation Systems Australia vice president Peter Bull said.

“This project reinforces Thales’s global experience and expertise in the area of communication and supervision systems.”

AusRAIL: Guiding rail’s digital transformation

Siemens Mobility’s Chris Whiteside talks about the potential savings new digital methods can provide a rail project from the design phase right through to operation.

 


Siemens Mobility has the goal to help customers achieve what seems impossible: zero unscheduled railway outages. The flagship tool it has developed to provide the underlying processes to support this goal is Railigent.

Siemens says Railigent is designed to make the best use of data to guide rail operators towards 100 per cent availability. Powered by the company’s open Internet of Things (IoT) operating system, MindSphere, Railigent applies artificial intelligence and sophisticated analytics to large volumes of rail data collected by IoT devices in the field.

Rather than just showing individual pieces of technology, Siemens Mobility is connecting all of the technology on display at its AusRAIL stand through Railigent, using cloud computing to provide real-time analysis.

Siemens’ head of digital services in the region, Chris Whiteside, tells Rail Express the exhibition and conference will be an opportunity for him and his team at the company’s Australian MindSphere Analytics Centre to demonstrate the benefits of rail digitalisation and the kind of analytics that can be done to provide an ultra-efficient rail operation.

“I’m really keen to understand where the industry wants to go with analytics, and working how we can make things more efficient and sustainable,” he says. “We’re very focused at the moment on infrastructure build, and there’s very little focus on efficiency.”

To that end, as part of AusRAIL’s IRSE technical conference stream, Whiteside will discuss how Building Information Modelling (BIM) and System Information Modelling (SIM) can enhance metro rail operations, and reduce risk, and both capital and operational expenditure.

“The model approach helps from the tendering and concept phase all the way through to the maintenance phase. It has benefits all the way through the life cycle. It’s the concept of taking the 2D drawings relied upon by the signalling and technology providers for these projects, and putting that information into a simulated model, and dealing with it from that perspective. Rather than a room full of drawings and lengthy manual/paper-based approval processes, you have a single digital model with all the necessary information, which can be referenced throughout the project,” Whiteside says.

“We know there is a lot of infrastructure build going on at the moment, and we know skilled resources are like gold – there’s a huge demand and a scarce supply – and that’s driving the costs of projects up. So we’re looking at digital methods traditionally used in the building space or in mining, oil and gas, to see if they can be applicable in the rail space.

“It can be quite a provocative subject, because there are the traditionalists who believe drawings are the only way to go. But the savings in time, effort, cost, and simply the reductions to wasted time and re-working, are significant.”

Whiteside and his team will deliver a pair of presentations on day one of AusRAIL – one at morning tea and one at lunch, which will be livestreamed over Facebook.

“We’ll have some of our data scientists from our analytics centre on hand,” Whiteside says. “They’ll be able to talk about the projects we’ve worked on so far, for example where we worked with Auckland Transport to reduce the amount of time it takes to look for faults on ETCS equipment, through the power of Railigent, and the data analytics that’s been done to create algorithms locally.”

Elsewhere, Siemens Mobility’s head of business development and strategy Charles Page will be chairing a session in the Rail Suppliers conference stream, and head of product innovation Stephen Baker will take part in the closing industry panel during the AusRAIL conference.

 

Visit Siemens at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 217.

AusRAIL: Rail tech delivering consistent productivity gains for Roy Hill

Rail Express spoke with GE Transportation, a division of Wabtec Corporation, about its work with Roy Hill in the Pilbara.

 


When you set up a $10 billion mining operation complete with 344-kilometre railroad and bespoke port facility, that investment needs to start paying back in quick order.

Indeed, every efficiency, every saving and productivity boost counts at Roy Hill’s operations in the Pilbara, chaired by Gina Rinehart. What a difference a consistently, evenly loaded, remotecontrolled train makes.

The Roy Hill Remote Operations Centre in Perth runs a model railway. Completed in 2015, the railroad with its state-of-the-art rolling stock carries millions of tonnes of iron ore – blasted across eight pits, crushed, graded and blended at Roy Hill – from the mine to Port Hedland, where it is shipped to international markets.

In 2018, Roy Hill hit its nameplate goal – 55 million tonnes shipped. The strategies and technologies that enabled Roy Hill to ramp up to this run rate, and continue to increase production to a 60 million tonnes per annum run rate, are complex.

But senior executives agree that a collaborative relationship with Wabtec Corporation’s GE Transportation division – the manufacturers of Roy Hill’s ES44ACi locomotives and the integrated LOCOTROL remotely operated tower control system that goes with them – has helped drive greater value from the Roy Hill railroad.

“Back in the early days we aimed for five trains a day,” Roy Hill chief operating officer, Gerhard Veldsman said. Each train is almost two kilometres in length, consisting of two rakes comprising 116 cars each, with two locomotives at the front and another two locomotives between the rakes. At first, the average load of the cars was 138 tonnes.

Ore-carrying railways have until recently required an engineer driver to inch the ore cars painstakingly under the loading chutes, at a pace of around 0.2 to 0.5 kilometres an hour, but Roy Hill commenced its operations with the LOCOTROL tower control system. This extension of the LOCOTROL Distributed Power system allows the driver to leave the locomotive at the load-out point, and the LOCOTROL tower control system automatically carries out the loading, which on Roy Hill-length trains can take up to three hours.

“The train comes in, the system logs the loco numbers and it goes into remote control mode. Positioning sensors on either side of the chute spot the gaps in the ore cars, and the system automatically opens and closes the chute to fill each ore car,” Veldsman explained.

From the start, the LOCOTROL tower control system has allowed Roy Hill to utilise crews more efficiently rather than locally manage the load-out process. The greatest benefit has been the ability to smooth the variability in tonnes loaded per car due to the automation of the process.

Roy Hill and Wabtec have collaborated to hone the system such that, “When you look at a fully loaded train out in the yard the tops of the wagons look like they’ve been planned flat,” Veldsman said. “It’s a good indication of how steady the loading process is. When you get a lumpy ore car, you know there’s been a problem.”

Having the load spread evenly throughout each car also allows the train to be driven more consistently. Veldsman explained, “A smooth load across the bogie sets enhances a train’s ability to efficiently brake and handle curves when travelling.”

Consistent loading enabled by the LOCOTROL Remote Operator Control system has helped Roy Hill’s railway team to increase the number of cars per rake to 118 (236 cars per train), loaded to 142 tonnes each. Train frequency has gradually increased from the initial 5 trains every 24 hours, to 5.5 or 6 trains on average.

Another significant benefit that Roy Hill has attained by using the LOCOTROL tower control system is the ability to remotely drive the train at the mine that is some 1600 km away from Roy Hill’s Remote Operations Center in Perth.

In resource ventures that pre-date Roy Hill, operators sat in towers at each mine site. At Roy Hill, the crews that run 24-hour remote train load out operations sit in the comfort of the Perth Remote Operations Centre, and return to their homes at the end of their shifts. This allows Roy Hill employees to spend more time with their families and enables Roy Hill to attract and retain the best people in the industry.

As a result of improved working conditions, said Veldsman, “We haven’t had any turnover in the train-control system in three years.”

The executive team at Roy Hill is contemplating other applications of the LOCOTROL tower control system: to potentially assist load-out efficiency at the Port end of the track; or to control the “train in waiting” for loading. “We’re happy to collaborate with Wabtec regarding the technicalities and see if further efficiencies can be realised,” Veldsman says. He confirms the strong, collaborative working relationship Roy Hill has with Wabtec, and says Roy Hill’s role as a test bed for the research and development of the LOCOTROL tower control system has benefited the industry as a whole.

“It’s great that we’ve come up with several changes in software that Wabtec has recognised as good ideas and rolled out universally. As well as being good from a Roy Hill operational point of view, it’s helped improve the product for all industry users.”

“Wabtec sincerely values the collaborative relationship we have with Roy Hill and are thrilled to be a part of their ongoing success,” GE Transportation executive leader in Australia Claire Pierce adds.

 

Visit Wabtec at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 232.

AusRAIL: Digitalisation centre stage for Thales

Rail technology provider Thales talks rail digitalisation, and its plans to showcase its digital rail solutions portfolio at AusRAIL PLUS 2019 in Sydney.

 


Rail experts like Mark Smalley all around the region are excited about what’s going on in the Australasian rail sector, and even more excited about what’s to come. Smalley, business development manager for Ground Transportation Systems at Thales, says the range of major capital works underway and the shift towards transforming existing operational systems as part of the “digital rail revolution” are key areas for the business.

“Thales is excited by the unprecedented levels of investment, particularly in NSW, with such a significant backlog of transport infrastructure programs and the ambitious Future Transport 2056 strategy,” Smalley tells Rail Express. “With a strong local presence in Sydney, a credible portfolio of references and a pool of global expertise, we are well positioned to support this vision and are committed to ensuring our customers realise maximum return from this once in a generation investment program.”

One of the key success factors to achieving this vision, he says, is internationally proven, next generation digital technologies.

“This is key to modernising the underlying operational infrastructure to deliver much needed capacity improvements, and significant operational performance, cost and safety benefits for passengers, operators and freight services. These benefits are realised by everyone: commuters, transport operators, businesses; the whole economy. New technologies mean adopting and adapting to new ways of working, however.

“It’s important not to forget the people and process elements of technology programs,” Smalley says. “Understanding how the end user will interact with the new system is essential to ensuring long-term success and acceptance of the technology. Recognising this, we aim to ensure these Human Factors elements are captured and addressed throughout the design, development and implementation phases.”

Digitalisation at AusRAIL

Thales presence at AusRAIL PLUS 2019 in Sydney will focus on the theme of rail digitalisation. Attendees will include key members of the Sydney-based Ground Transportation Systems business, with technical specialists on-hand to support demonstrations and showcase Thales’ urban and mainline digital rail solutions.

These include Thales’ SelTrac Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) solution, which helps move over three billion people annually across 40 major cities, including London, New York, Singapore and Hong Kong. Thales launched the future-focused seventh generation of SelTrac, SelTrac G7, at Innotrans 2018, and will demonstrate it again at AusRAIL. “This is something I’m particularly looking forward to,” Smalley explains. “Having worked in London for several years on CBTC projects on the Underground network, I’m excited to apply this knowledge and experience here.”

Thales’ internationally proven rail Traffic Management System, ARAMIS, in operation in 18 different countries including Germany, Austria, Portugal, Denmark and the UK, will also be on display along with its complementary digital services platform solutions, TIRIS and Naia. “Our innovative Digital Services platform supports applications which specifically respond to the needs of rail operators today,” Smalley says.

“Naia uses big data analytics to understand passenger behaviour and journey patterns to improve passenger experience and boost operator revenues. TIRIS provides predictive maintenance capability for the assets deployed on the physical rail network, reducing maintenance costs and improving asset reliability.”

Finally, Thales will show off its innovative smart sensing solution, Lite4ce, which Smalley says will “fundamentally transform the way we obtain, gather and analyse data from the trackside to the operational control room”. “Lite4ce is a passive fibre optic axle counter device, meaning no need for outdoor electronics, power supply or copper cable,” he explains. “It is a balance between a disruptive technology with its new capabilities and staying compatible with signalling and operational rules applied by our customers today. It also meets our primary need for reliable train detection with low life-cycle costs. We are really excited to bring these technologies to the Australian market”.

Four-pillar transport strategy

Thales has prioritised four target sectors for rail in the region: Metro, Light Rail, Mainline Signalling and Control Systems, and Through Life Support Services. In Australia, Smalley and director of strategy, marketing and communications Sita Brown explain, the company aims to serve each with a good balance of local and global expertise, drawing upon a pool of 3,600 people in Australia, 8,200 global rail specialists, and a workforce of 80,000 worldwide.

“Within Metro, we’re delivering the mission-critical Communications and Central Control System for Sydney Metro, one of the most high-profi le transport infrastructure programs I think in the world, but certainly in the Southern Hemisphere and one which will fundamentally improve mobility options for millions of Sydneysiders,” Smalley says.

“Then there’s Parramatta Light Rail, where we’re working with our customer CAF to deliver the integrated rail systems package. This is Thales’ first foray into the light rail space within Australia, which is a huge and exciting opportunity for us.

“In terms of Mainline Signalling and Control Systems, Thales is also targeting Transport for NSW’s Digital Systems program, which will bring ETCS Level 2, Automatic Train Operation, and a modern Traffic Management System to the Sydney Trains network. Along with Sydney Metro, this is the most exciting rail systems program to land in Australia and is something that we’re very much hopeful we can play a part in.”

The fourth pillar of Thales’ rail business in Australia is the most recently added – Through Life Support Services. Smalley explains: “One of our global strengths is that we prefer to form long-term collaborative partnerships with our customers, where we not only deliver the technology to meet a specific project outcome, but where we also support and enhance the systems over time in line with our customer’s evolving operational needs. From our perspective this is the best way to do business.”

Local skills investment key

A substantial skills and capacity challenge stands as a major obstacle to the success for all this transport investment, and Smalley believes a focus on developing local skills and competency is an absolute necessity, not just for Thales in the Australasian market, but for the industry as a whole.

“This is a fundamental issue for the successful delivery and long-term return on investment for these programs and for sustainability of skills, capacity and capability in the region,” he says.

Recognising the need for a sustainable answer, Thales established a transport competence centre in Sydney. Including a dedicated transport graduate program to develop the next generation of rail specialists, the centre supports skills and workforce development in the region. Complete with a digital rail integration and test lab as well as technology and system demonstrators, Smalley says it is allowing Thales to address some of the key challenges associated with deploying technologies from overseas into the local ecosystem.

Emphasis has also been placed to ensure work at the competence centre engages local rail specialists, as well as Thales’ global network of experts to leverage best practices and lessons learned.

Smalley is keen to see Thales’ customers and partners embrace skills development in a similar way.

“For example, the proposed Rail Technology Campus in Sydney is a concept we’ve been particularly supportive of,” he says. “Both in terms of establishing facilities for off-site testing and integration, and a dedicated training centre to support ongoing skills development and competency management. This approach provides access to new technologies whilst also supporting both training and familiarisation without disturbing rail operations.”

An invaluable component of Thales’ skills-building strategy has also been its successful integration with its major project portfolio. “Across the business, we’ve been able to benefit from that on each of our major projects that we’re undertaking, we now have a pool of talented and ambitious graduates coming through with fresh ideas and new ways of working, which in turn is helping to challenge the status quo and drive innovation in what we’re doing. As a result, we’ve seen a lot of positive outcomes,” Smalley says. “Furthermore, it’s been really impressive and rewarding to see how the next generation of talent and graduates have risen to the challenge and embraced the opportunities presented within the rail sector.”

 

Visit Thales at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 107.