Thales successfully delivers CCS for Sydney Metro

Technology firm Thales has announced the successful rollout of its Central Control and Communication System for the Sydney Metro North West rail system.

The company detailed its work on the project, which commenced operations in May, on August 21.

The Central Control System ensures seamless rail operations, including real-time control mechanisms and data for various diverse systems, while providing a ‘big picture’ holistic view of the entire network.

Meanwhile the Communications System links up the public address and passenger information systems, CCTV and digital information boards, into a centralised system allowing a fully integrated operation.

“We’re proud to have delivered technology that will contribute to fast, safe and reliable journeys for Sydney commuters,” Thales Ground Transportation Australia Vice President Peter Bull said.

“The Sydney Metro project will define our great city for many years to come, encouraging growth and building continued prosperity.”

Thales was selected by the Northwest Rapid Transit consortium to deliver the technology in 2015. NRT was the lead consortium selected by the state government to deliver work for the $7.3 billion Sydney Metro North West project.

Rail Movement Planner brings Brazilian know-how Down Under

Brazil-based CFlex is now Rail Movement Planner. Rail Express finds out what prompted the change as the company continues its international growth.


Brazilian technology company Rail Movement Planner (RMP) has been in the rail game for a while now, but not as you’d know it. The company was founded as CFlex MPC in Campinas, Brazil (around an hour’s drive north of Sāo Paulo) in 2015, where it quickly made a name for itself for its CFlex Movement Planner product.

The company has now changed its name to Rail Movement Planner, having rewritten and evolved the CFlex Movement Planner consistently since 2015.

“The name ‘CFlex’ was too generic,” explains RMP president Elesbao Oliveira. “If you Google it you can find many companies that are not related to the railroad world.

“So, to improve our presence in the market and increase our visibility, the Rail Movement Planner company was born on June 3, 2019.”

Rail Movement Planner (RMP) is a state-ofthe-art solution for real-time circulation planning and train dispatching that can provide fully integrated timetabling, conflict detection and problem-solving services for rail operators.

This helps to improve the visibility of planned train circulation, allowing train controllers to increase the average speed of trains, which can lead to several productivity benefits.

It’s also possible to create and configure a regularity operational scenario where the RMP engine will prioritise the regularity of the train circulation.

“RMP optimises train circulation automatically or at the train controller’s request, delivering optimised and feasible train circulation plans in just a few seconds,” Oliveira says. “These plans take into consideration all constraints imposed by the dynamics of any complex train operation and fully comply with customer quality standards and safety rules.”

The system is already in place at several railroad operating centres worldwide, including Australia, where the solution is used by mining powerhouse Rio Tinto to provide effective planning of the company’s freight trains.

In the railroad’s operation centre, train controllers use our solution to plan the train circulation and have a great visibility of what’s coming in the next hours or days,” Oliveira says. “It’s also possible to apply restrictions to the plan — track blocks, speed restrictions, mandatory movements, high priority trains, trains’ dependencies — to simulate and validate the planned circulation.”

The company also operates internationally in territories such as Argentina, Chile and Canada, and has received significant government support in the domestic Brazilian market from the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP, Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa de Estad de São Paulo) and Studies and Projects Financing Agency (FINEP, Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos).

The collaboration took place over three phases: concept, development and marketing, resulting in the successful rollout of the RMP product.

“Our partnerships with FAPESP and FINEP have served to successfully evolve and commercialise Rail Movement Planner,” says Carlos Carneiro, RMP vice president. “We also have another important partnership with the State University of Campinas, one of the best Brazilian universities. This partnership allows RMP access to brilliant human resources and cutting-edge researchers.”

RMP uses three levels of optimisation that are suited to different levels of train planning.

The first level of optimisation is the Basic Engine, which is built to address around 95 per cent of railroad planning issues, according to RMP, taking factors such as network topology, train specifics and basic operating rules into account.

“Basic Engine uses a meta-heuristic algorithm that is very effective and fast, with a typical response time of around five to 10 seconds” Daniel Oshiro, RMP project manager explains.

Adaptive Engine, the second optimisation level, is purely heuristicbased design capable of accommodating algorithms written in Java or Drools. It is intended to solve issues that cannot be properly solved by Basic Engine. Examples of this can include issues introduced through the specific idiosyncrasies and preferences of train controllers, or other special operational rules not otherwise covered by Basic Engine implementation.

The third level of optimisation refers to RMP’s Meta Planning Engine (MPE). Indeed, MPE is a powerful software optimisation architecture that allows RMP to run in parallel to several instances of the Basic Engine to address complex network issues. MPE also encompasses an Artificial Intelligence (AI) evaluator to select the optimal plan for users.

“The RMP integration layer encompasses mechanisms to provide and consume services, message mediation, service orchestration, service governance, business process management and service monitoring across all three optimisation levels,” Oshiro says. “RMP is scalable, expandable and was designed to fit any size of railroad operation.”

It also includes support for exploratory data analysis (EDA), model-driven architecture (MDA), and other enterprise integration patterns. It also provides support for industry standards such as WS-*, representational state transfer (REST), and other binary and nonbinary protocols. Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities such as security, reliable messaging and throttling are also built into RMP.

To ensure RMP runs as effectively as possible, round-the-clock services support and comprehensive user training are also available. Training is provided for managerial groups, train control groups, IT and other key users.

The managerial training is attended by managers and operation coordinators and focuses on introducing system support philosophies, basic architecture and functionalities to management.

Training for train control groups discusses system usability and how to generate effective train circulation plans. IT and key user training is an advanced course that focuses on high-level system functionalities, database maintenance and troubleshooting techniques for end users.

Overall, RMP is confident that it will continue to make a name for itself in the industry, even if the name itself has changed.

Major power upgrades in Melbourne

Overhead power will be switched off for two days across Melbourne’s rail network while it undergoes significant power upgrades and essential maintenance, the Department of Transport has said.

Power will be turned off from 9pm on Friday, August 30, until the early hours of Monday morning, September 2.

During the shutdown new overhead wiring will be installed, and a Victorian-first double-storey substation will be set up at Southern Cross station.

While the network is shutdown, crews will take advantage with platform resurfacing works and drainage improvements planned at South Yarra station, where new ground tactiles will be installed to help blind or low vision passengers get on and off trains more safely.

Department of Transport head of transport services Jeroen Weimar said the work would help power bigger and better trains, signals and communications on the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines.

“While we understand that this may cause significant disruption to passengers, we belive this is the least disruptive time and best opportunity to complete these essential works,” Weimar said.

“These works are part of an important investment to deliver a public transport network that our passengers want and deserve.”

Turnkey rail signalling, level crossing tech from Australian provider

Rail Express speaks with Aldridge Railway Signals experts David Aldridge and Phil Anderson about the group’s turnkey rail signal offering, and a new approach to the design and manufacture of automated railway crossings.

Aldridge Railway Signals has supplied signals in Australia since 1989. Today, it exports signals to New Zealand, Ireland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar, where it has opened an office. In another turn of growth, the company has established an arm dedicated to the complete design, construction, testing and commissioning of signalling projects, named Aldridge Signal Infrastructure (ASI).

Established by Aldridge in 2015 with a small team boasting more than 100 years of collective experience in rail, ASI has continually developed its internal team of specialists.

ASI Managing Director Phil Anderson says the business has gone to great length to engage leaders in the signalling field, particularly around the benefits of a single provider to administer the design, installation, testing and commissioning of turnkey signalling solutions.

“This approach can help minimise a client’s exposure to variations, lower their project management and administration costs, and can provide them with tighter control over project outcomes,” Anderson tells Rail Express. “It also mitigates the client’s exposure to project delays which can arise when they must engage multiple stakeholders to deliver the work. Additional time and cost savings come in a similar way when it comes to WHSE, Quality and Environmental issues; a single provider means uniformity of project control systems.”

ASI breaks each project into eight discrete steps: client concept design and specification; rail signal functional specification; supply and manufacture; site installation; testing; commissioning; site demobilisation; warranty. The aim is to ensure all projects are delivered on time and on budget with zero harm, meeting the client’s project coals.

Anderson says ASI puts a team of highly skilled professionals behind each step of this turnkey process. During peak work periods, ASI also engages a pool of highly experienced, trusted and respected subcontractors.

“ASI has a network of subcontractors that are engaged on a needs basis,” he explains. “These subcontractors are a critical part of project delivery and as such regular open communication is in place with all subcontractors providing early warning of upcoming works. ASI acknowledges that the rail industry has limited qualified resources and as such shares its resources with other subcontractors if an when required. This willingness to assist others attributes to the high level of cooperation and support ASI receives in return.”

Since its launch in 2015, ASI has delivered a number of projects. At Moorebank in Sydney, ASI upgraded the existing Westrace MKI Interlocking to the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC)’s first Westrace MKII interlocking through the Sydney Intermodal Terminal Alliance (SIMTA) Terminal.

Regional work has included the Georges Plains Crossing Loop; a new loop between Bathurst and Newbridge on the Main West Line. The project, delivered for John Holland CRN, included four new level crossings and in-section controlled signals for following movements in the Georges Plains to Newbridge section.

ASI has also upgraded eleven level crossings throughout New South Wales for the ARTC and John Holland CRN under the Level Crossing Improvement Project.

New regional offices

Recognising the importance of upplying services to the Southern and South Western districts of NSW, ASI opened an office and manufacturing facility in Goulburn in June 2019.

The facility’s team includes four Signal Engineers, four Signal Electricians, a Workshop Supervisor and many Signal Installers.

Aldridge says the facility will provide engineering and support services to all clients, and lead the building of signalling location cases, walk in huts and ancillary equipment.

Recognising the importance of supplying its services to Inland Rail, Aldridge says it won’t be long before offices will be announced in other regional locations.

A better solution for rural crossings

Automated railway crossings traditionally come at a significant capital and ongoing cost. The installation of remote track sensors often means kilometres of trenches must be dug trackside for cabling.

Ongoing costs and inconveniences can arise particularly in rural areas, where traditional track circuit based solutions can be made unreliable due to oxidation of rail surfaces, and other failures due to materials on the tracks such as oil, leaf litter, crushed ballast and sand; factors all exacerbated by the range of environmental conditions such as extreme temperatures and rainfall. Additionally, traditional track circuits have high power requirements requiring mains infrastructure for continuous operation.

These sorts of factors can make automated railway crossings prohibitively expensive for many rural locations, leading to the use of passive systems, unpowered in many situations.

With projects like Inland Rail set to boost traffic on regional rail, Aldridge’s Managing Director, David Aldridge, says the company’s Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) business, has been developing the Wireless Level Crossing (WLX) solution, which takes on the challenge of designing a better, safer and cheaper automated level crossing system for rural intersections.

Aldridge says the WLX avoids the problems and high costs associated with track circuits and cabling for automated level crossings by incorporating low power high security radio technology with inductive sensor technology to detect trains approaching a level crossing.

Wireless technology communicates information about the approaching rail vehicles to wayside equipment which provides a warning to road users. System power is derived from solar panels, and communication back to a central server uses 3G/4G to log and manage system data. User access is managed from the central server.

Should sensors need to be located in cuttings or on bends, relay towers (repeaters) can be set up between the sensor transmission tower and the railway crossing to prevent transmission loss.

“There are no cables between any warning devices which electrically isolates the warning elements, further increasing the resilience of the system,” Aldridge explains. “The inductive wheel sensor’s detection electronics are integrated into the main controller, increasing the reliability and reducing the cost of the system. Battery and solar powered technology also significantly reduces the costs for remote sites that have no power.”

This suits the primary aim of the WLX system: to provide a low-cost and low-maintenance alternative for delivery of safety-critical warnings to road users at railway level crossings. In addition, the WLX provides back-to-base monitoring and real-time reporting of every installed device thus allowing for increased efficiency in maintenance activities.

“The WLX system is designed to SIL3 standards, and has two independent RX5 warning signals per level crossing, further increasing resilience,” Aldridge adds.

A pre-production version currently being installed for type approval with the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) at a rural NSW site. Subject to receipt of that final approval, the WLX product will be ready for commercialisation to other RIMs in Australia and overseas from early 2020. This new system represents a completely new approach to the design and construction of automated railway crossings, making them particularly attractive to remote, rural locations.

The WLX System is built and tested in the Aldridge manufacturing factory in Sydney. The WLX System is extensively tested before shipping to site. Very little work on site is required to install and commission the WLX System greatly reducing the installation and commissioning costs compared to a traditional level crossing system.


Digital Rail experts to talk emerging tech, key trends

With the increasing demand for faster, reliable and state-of-the-art rail services, it’s no wonder major railway organisations and authorities across the country are harnessing technology innovation that will transform rail experiences for the future.

Some of rail’s key digital systems, data and analytics experts will gather to discuss key trends and new technologies in the digital rail sector, in Sydney from August 26 to 28 at the Digital Rail 2019 conference.

A full agenda and brochure have been released for the event, which is being run by IQPC Australia.

Speakers include:

  • Gerald Schinagl, Digital Innovation Manager, OBB (Austrian Federal Railways)
  • Chris Bennetts, Executive Director, Digital Products & Services, Customer Services, Transport for NSW
  • Sarah Capstick, Executive Director (Transition) NGTS Project, Department of Transport and Main Roads QLD
  • Warwick Talbot, Deputy Executive Director, Engineering & System Integrity, Sydney Trains
  • Paul Davies, Communication & Sustainability Manager, Northwest Rapid Transit
  • Ryan Townsendd, Manager, Digital Engineering, Sydney Metro
  • Simon Sinnott, Systems Engineering Manager, Metro Trains Melbourne
  • Stephen Lemon, Digital Systems Program Director, Transport for NSW
  • Helen Williams, Director, Rail Systems Development, Transport for NSW
  • Yvie Hough, Product and User Experience Manager, TrackSense
  • Tiago Pinto, WW Transport Solution Architect, Huawei Transport Solutions Group
  • Anthony Loui, Senior Transportation Planning Manager Metro Operations Liaison & Planning, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)
  • Sudath Amaratunga, Technical Manager – Precincts & Infrastructure, Infrastructure & Services, Transport for NSW
  • Simon Vaux, Director Digital Engineering, Infrastructure & Services, Transport for NSW
  • Laura Stewart, Design to Innovate Partner, Aurecon
  • Jeroen Weimar, Chief Executive Officer, Public Transport Victoria
  • Professor Graham Currie, Director of Monash Infrastructure, Chair of Public Transport, Professor in Transport Engineering, Monash University

For tickets and more information, click here.

Bringing the World to the West

The 2019 International Railway Safety Council Conference comes to Australia in October, with the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board proudly nominated to host.

Innovation, technology and risk management will all be on the agenda at the 2019 International Railway Safety Council conference in Perth this October.

The International Railway Safety Council (IRSC) provides a forum for an in-depth exchange of experience and lessons for improving railway safety and is exclusively devoted to railway safety issues.

The Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB) is very pleased to have been nominated the host of IRSC 2019 at the committee’s meeting in Ireland last year. The conference is being co-organised by RISSB, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), and the Office of the National Safety Regulator (ONRSR) and will be held at the Hyatt Regency Perth on 13-18 October 2019.

The theme of this year’s conference is Innovation and Technology: Changing the Future of Rail Safety. Presentations will focus on three conference sub-themes:

  • Ensuring Railway Safety in New Technology and Work Practices
  • Maintaining Interoperability in Innovation
  • Can Risk Management and Assurance Keep Pace with Technology?

Delegates from around the world will join expert speakers from Australia to share ideas and develop an understanding of the role all stakeholders can play in improving industry’s safety record.

In Australia, rail safety is managed under a co-regulatory model and has one of the safest, most productive global railway networks. Each year almost one billion passenger journeys transport Australians on heavy and light rail networks in capital cities and on regional services.

Around 1.3 billion tonnes of freight, primarily bulk commodities, are moved on rail each year. (Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics and the Australasian Railway Association, 2018). The Pilbara region in Western Australia accounts for over 90% of Australia’s iron ore exports. With more than 44, 000 km of track, Australia has the sixth largest rail network in the world and Melbourne has the longest tram network in the world.

Hosting this conference will provide an opportunity to share Australian experiences as well as learn from our overseas counterparts who may face similar safety challenges, increasing our collective understanding of how to meet the demands of the future.

The IRSC organising committee launched its full program last month featuring leading national and international speakers. Keynote speaker, Captain David Evans, Check Captain on board QF32 during an uncontained engine failure, will join a diversity of industry leaders to discuss the complex challenges facing rail safety professionals.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Laurent Cebulski – Authorisations Director, Etablissement Public de Sécurité Ferroviaire, (France)
  • Eva-Lotta Högberg, Senior Rail Safety Investigator, Swedish Accident Investigation Authority (Sweden)
  • Sue McCarrey – Chief Executive, ONRSR, (Australia)
  • CF Chan – Assistant Director/Railways, EMSD, Hong Kong SAR Government, (Hong Kong)
  • Jen Ablitt – Deputy Director, Safety Strategy, ORR and Head of Channel Tunnel Safety Authority, (United Kingdom)
  • Eunkyung Chae – Senior Researcher, Korea Railroad Research Institute (South Korea)
  • Jaime Maguire, Director of Safety Programs, Harsco Rail (USA)
  • Toshiyuki Murai, General Secretary, Morioka Sinkansen Branch, JREU (Japan)
  • David Milburn – Senior Technical Director, Global Leader – Digital Train Control, GHD, (Australia)
  • Manprit Singh Baweja – Regional Manager – APAC, FOGTEC BRANDSCHUTZ GMBH, (Germany)

Catering to everyone in the rail industry, the program also features stakeholder meetings, plenary sessions, technical visits (Speno Rail and Roy Hill’s Remote Operations Centre in Perth) a dynamic partners program and exciting social events, including a welcome reception sponsored by Arc Infrastructure.

Apart from the business sessions, the conference will give delegates a chance to relax, unwind and build their professional networks while experiencing all that Western Australia has to offer.

The conference will be formally launched at the delegate welcome reception at the iconic Perth Surf Lifesaving Club located just metres away from picturesque City Beach.

The best of the region’s fare will be showcased at the conference dinner at Sandalford Wines, Caversham (Swan Valley). Delegates will feast on seasonal local produce paired with Sandalford’s award-winning wines.

The partners program offers unique opportunities to experience all that West Australia has to offer on exclusive optional trips to Penguin Island, the Pinnacles Desert / Yanchep National Park, Swan Valley and Caversham Wildlife Park.

To access the IRSC 2019 agenda and to register to attend the event, visit the 2019 conference website:

Signalling expertise with proven results

Rail Express speaks with national signalling and electrical specialist JBE Group about its work providing rail signalling systems and maintenance.

Formerly Judge Bros Electrical, JBE has since 1992 worked to develop a reputation providing high quality services and turnkey solutions for all signalling and electrical industries.

Operations Manager Jack Hills tells Rail Express the JBE team strives to deliver dependable signalling and electrical systems while ensuring a cost-effective, efficient and expedient service.

“We provide complete services for signalling construction works, from turnkey finished products to conducting pre-feasibility studies, concept development, site management, construction, foundations, cable routes, decommissioning, testing and commissioning,” Hills says. “That could be for level crossings, traffic light integration, interlockings, turnouts, signals or track circuits.”

Alongside construction, the company has a strong presence in the signalling maintenance and fault response space.

“This includes civil support works, engineering, fault root cause analysis, incident investigation, refurbishment works and overhauls, asbestos removal, repairs and site acceptance testing for a range of signalling equipment including points machines, boom mechanisms, and Q-style relays,” Hills says.

On top of this, Hills says JBE – headquartered in Brisbane – can provide track protection officers competent in all Queensland networks. Officers are supplied in RCPO, PO1, PO2 and Hand signaller levels of competency. Hills notes a number of key rail contracts where the company has demonstrated its value.

JBE worked as the Principal Contractor upgrading 11 interlocking sites, commissioning 10 power equipment rooms and upgrading 200 signals to LED on the Brisbane, Cleveland and Gold Coast lines. The company’s role included principal management, construction, testing and commissioning with successful asset handover to the client.

JBE has also upgraded 200 signals on the North Coast line in Queensland, providing innovative solutions to refurbish life-expired railway signals.

Hills says JBE has “extensive experience in upgrading axle counters,” with recent works supporting the replacement of existing axle counters along the North Coast line. Furthermore, JBE performs signalling maintenance and fault response in South East Queensland intermodal and rail maintenance facilities.

“With complete maintenance scheduling, servicing and fault response our team is dedicated to the on-time running of services,” Hills says. “This service extends to asset renewal works to provide cost efficient solutions in prolonging aging technology that can still be maintained and kept safe for services.”

He concludes: “We have developed a reputation for the delivery of projects and now our clients can benefit from our team’s experience.”

Contact: corporate (at)

A better bet for balise

Pandrol (Vortok) has developed a balise mount system that could change the game for on-track install times. Rail Express speaks with Pandrol’s Craig Mulvay.

Balise are an important component of modern rail signalling technology and a familiar sight on the rail track.

Craig Mulvay, a technical and commercial development manager at rail track systems specialist Pandrol (Vortok) explains that balise serve primarily as a beacon on European train control systems (ETCS) that can accurately provide a train’s location (along with other data) through communication with trainborne receivers.

It is important that balise be correctly and securely fitted to rail tracks due to the need for accurate positioning and the safety critical data balise transmit. The Pandrol (Vortok) Balise Mount Systems (BMS) are commonly installed as mechanical fasteners for ECTS balise but can also be used to mount Communications-based Train Control (CBTC) transponders as well (along with the capability to be adapted to any signalling technology).

Traditionally, balise-fitting installations have been considered a rather laborious process, requiring either the removal of ballast from around sleepers or sleeper drilling and anchoring, processes that can risk damage to sleepers and cost more money down the line.

The Pandrol (Vortok) BMS is set to aid this with a duo of products designed to facilitate easier balise installations in a fraction of the time.

The BMS On Sleeper beam and BMS Clamp Beam hold several benefits for both installers and end users. For one, the integrity of the sleepers is maintained since the beams do not require any drilling with power tools to be fit balise into position. Instead, installation can be facilitated cleanly using commercially available hand tools. This reduces installation and removal periods significantly, with Pandrol (Vortok) estimating ontrack times of less than two minutes per beam for the On Sleeper type beams. This in turn improves project management flexibility for operators as well.


Pandrol’s new Double Clamp Balise Mount System (BMS). Top photo is the On Sleeper BMS with Fastclip fastening system.


The installation is so quick that it can also help to reduce (or even entirely eliminate) the need for track possession in brown field sites.

Balise positioning being set by design rather than the competence level of the installer significantly reducing the risk of read errors between balise and receiver.

“Normally the procedure would require track position as you would not be able to do the job within traffic,” Mulvay explains. “In addition, getting power tools on site adds time and equipment liability.”

The products are suitable for fitting balise from several different manufacturers, including Bombardier, Siemens, Hitachi and Alstom.

The On Sleeper Beams use the existing rail fastening as an attachment point and are capable of interfacing with all major fastening systems, such as Pandrol’s own e-clip, Fastclip and Nabla, as well as Schwihag, Vossloh, K-Plates, Delkor and directly to timber sleepers. This helps to avoid the requirement for installation of additional components that could require training or added time for installs.

For example on the E-Clip system; “Very simple hand tools can be used to extract the e-clip and equally put it back in – we use the heel load (the reactionary load) of the e-clip to hold down our beam,” says Mulvay. “We take the clip out with the hand tool, get the beam in position and reinstall the clips.”

The biggest advantage of positioning the balise over the sleeper is that the bed between the sleepers can remain unoccupied, which is handy for allowing automatic railway maintenance applications such as ballast consolidation machines to maintain access to the space between the sleepers.

Clamp beams, by contrast, are placed between sleepers and are secured to track via mechanical clamping to the underside of the running rail foot and are available in single or double clamp beam formations.

Mulvay explains that the development of the double clamp beam variant came about as a response to the needs of high-speed rail lines in Germany.

“The development of double clamp beams originated in Germany from a phenomenon known as ‘ice bombs’ or ‘ice shedding’”, Mulvay says.

“Ice shedding can become a more common as trains travel through tunnels where the environment is a bit warmer, chunks of ice that have built up on the trains can melt,” he explains. “When they are exposed to the sudden pressure change on exiting a tunnel, those big chunks of ice can shed from the train, so in Germany (among other countries) they have a requirement that all equipment mounted on track be required to withstand the impact of these ice strikes. It proved quite the challenge in terms of engineering.”

The Pandrol (Vortok) team tested the strength of the single clamp beam by hitting it with a 4kg billet of ice at 176km/h, which was suitable for slow- and standard-speed tracks, but insufficient for high-speed rail, which led to the development of a double clamp system capable of withstanding greater punishment of up to 330km/h strikes.

The BMS products build on Pandrol’s 20 years of equipment mounting experience dating back to the launch of the original Vortok Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) in the year 2000.

The company’s innovations on the TPWS, which served as something of a progenitor of Pandrol (Vortok) modern BMS systems, included the use of track fasteners as a fixing point and pultruded fibreglass as a structural material to support the signalling asset.

TPWS innovated in its the use of pultruded fibreglass, which was considered an excellent material for use on the railway in terms of its strength-to-weight ratio, and its ability to withstand the often harsh environments of the railway. The natural electrical isolation properties of the material also ensure existing track circuit signalling technology is unimpeded.


The Vortok Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS).


The company then followed up its initial success on the TPWS with its first official BMS, the H-Frame, followed by the heavy-duty Automatic Warning System (AWS) Rapid Fit Frame, capable of carrying up to three AWS magnets of over 70kg each. Pandrol (Vortok)’s experience with the development of mounting systems has helped to inform the design decisions on the on sleeper and clamp beam.


The Automatic Warning System (AWS) Rapid Fit Frame.

Agenda finalised ahead of next week’s Digitalize 2019

More than 51 speakers and panellists have been confirmed for next week’s digital technology and industry 4.0 event, Digitalize 2019.

The event, now in its fourth year, will take place in Brisbane on July 23. Organiser Siemens this week says delegates can expect more than 40 external speakers, and 11 global and local representatives from Siemens to speak or take part in panel sessions at the event.

This year’s conference will explore Australia’s digital future across the four core themes: workforce of the future, intelligent infrastructure, the country’s energy transition and Industry 4.0.

Speakers and panellists include:

  • Sophia Hamblin Wang, Chief Operations Officer, Mineral Carbonation International (MCi)
  • David Chuter, Chief Executive Officer, Innovative Manufacturing CRC
  • Warwick Sommer, Chief Executive Officer, AmpControl
  • Ron Victor, Chief Executive Officer, IOTium
  • Brad Flanagan, Director, Digital & Cyber Risk, Deloitte
  • Justin Nga, APAC ICS Cybersecurity Manager PAS
  • Callum Reeves, Co-owner, Kaiju Brewery
  • Simon Carr, Co-owner, Brogan’s Way Gin Distillery
  • Warren Bradford, Director, Deacam Industrial Electrical Engineering
  • Rafael Amaral, Chief Technology Officer, Nukon
  • Vikram Kalkat, Senior Manager and Didi Ismawan, Manager, Kaspersky
  • Jon Clarke, Head of Smart Building Delivery, Dexus
  • Philip Downie, Facilities Management Solutions Director, Serco Asia Pacific
  • Adrian Fahey, Chief Executive Officer, Sage Automation
  • Megan Houghton, Executive General Manager, Energy Solutions, ERM Power
  • Alexandre Torday, Global Head of Professional Services, Aimsun
  • Adam Bryant, Head of Customer Solution Architects, Asia Pacific, Nokia
  • Paul Gleeson, Managing Director Energy, Resources and Manufacturing, Aurecon


Also joining the speakers will be representatives from universities like Swinburne University of Technology, University of Technology Sydney, University of Queensland, University of Western Australia and University of Tasmania.

Digitalize 2019 is sponsored by Platinum sponsor Dell EMC, Gold sponsors Phoenix PLM and Sage Automation, and coffee cart sponsor APS Industrial.

Find out more:

New South Wales pushes on with rail automation

Rail Express speaks with experts from Alstom about the signalling revolution underway in New South Wales, and how modern technology helps drive capacity and performance.


The opening of Sydney Metro Northwest in May represented the first revenue services for a completely driverless passenger train in Australia.

The new line’s Alstom trains operate at the highest grade of automation as defined by the International Association of Public Transport, which defines five Grades of Automation (GoA) as follows:

  • GoA 0 is traditional on-site train operation, without any automatic systems assisting the driver or controlling the vehicle.
  • GoA 1 sees the train driver remain in full control, while being advised by an Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system, which checks the train’s speed against what is permitted by the signalling, and can help adjust speeds to stick to a timetable or improve capacity.
  • GoA 2 uses ATP and Automatic Train Operation (ATO), which drives the train during regular operations, but still uses a driver to control doors and operate the train in the event of a disruption.
  • GoA 3 removes the driver, leaving a train attendant to open and close the doors and operate the train in the event of a disruption.
  • GoA 4 is a completely automatic train system, with no staff onboard. Movement and door operations are all controlled automatically.

With GoA 4 now implemented on the Sydney Metro, Transport for NSW continues its rollout of GoA 1 through its ongoing ATP program across the electrified Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink network, including the South Coast Line as far as Kiama, the Blue Mountains Line to Lithgow, and the Central Coast / Newcastle Line.

Rollout includes installation of balises in the rail corridor between existing trackside infrastructure to monitor train speeds, and the installation of equipment on board all suburban and Intercity train fleets, and is set to continue until at least 2020.

Meanwhile, the state will incorporate the ATP program and achieve GoA 2 on the Sydney Trains network through its Digital Systems program. Announced last year, Digital Systems is an $880 million investment in ETCS Level 2 technology, ATO, and a Traffic Management System for more effective incident management and service regulation across the network.

Alstom has worked with Transport for NSW on its ATP program for the last seven years, it delivered the rollingstock and signalling for Sydney Metro Northwest, and it is one of the top candidates in the ongoing procurement of the Digital Systems platform, which is expected to roll out in stages from the early 2020s.

With all that in mind, Alstom’s ETCS Solutions Director Vincent Passau gives Rail Express his thoughts on how operators can use ATO as a tool to improve their operations.

“When we speak about ATO, it is not simply an onboard function. It is the way you regulate and optimise the capacity of your network,” he says.

“An integrated Traffic Management System (TMS) gives a global view of the complete performance of your system; you know where your trains are, how they are behaving, where they are in comparison to the timetable.”

Passau says the accurate tracking of trains provided through modern onboard and trackside technology further aids the performance of a TMS.

“Iconis [Alstom’s mainline TMS solution] is working well in combination with ETCS technology, because the data being sent by ETCS are giving us very accurate information about the train. Not just the track section the train is on, but its exact location, speed, and its mode of operation, so our system can detect not just if a train is late, but why it is late, and adjust automatically.”

The technology allows the transfer of instructions in the other direction, telling a train to speed up or slow down within safe limits, to better comply to its timetable and to improve capacity and performance on a network-wide level.

“Once the train receives the information from the control centre, it will have the expected speed profile and the arrival time at the next station, and the ATO will compute a speed profile to achieve that within the safety limits, and while using energy in the most efficient way.”

At the control centre, Alstom’s Iconis system incorporates automatic path management functions with the goal of achieving greater efficiency on large networks with dense traffic.

Implemented in Bologna, Italy, the system automatically routed 80 per cent of traffic, and achieved a 15 per cent capacity boost. “Because you have better stability, you can increase your margins and operate your network in the most efficient way,” Passau says.

Passau says Alstom’s systems, as well as its onboard and trackside technologies, are designed with the potential for a transition between GoA 2 and GoA 4 in mind.

“Every transportation segment of rail is going towards ATO, and then we see it progressively moving from GoA 2 with a driver, to GoA 3, where it is driverless but you have a person on the train in case of incidents, or to support the passengers should they need it, up to the unattended Grade of Automation 4.

“The important element is moving fromGoA 2 to GoA 4, and key to this is replacing the driver not so much with something that can drive the train, but with something that can react to unexpected situations.”

Local track record with global support

“We’ve built up a reputation for solutions in rollingstock, signalling, systems and services, and we like to think we can take very small components – effectively products and their sub-components – to standalone solutions, all the way to bundled offers of two or more of our solutions,” Alstom Australia’s Customer Director NSW Alan Trestour says.

In Melbourne, Alstom continues to deliver its Metropolis trainsets. For the Sydney CBD & South East Light Rail project, Alstom is delivering traction power substations, overhead catenary systems, rollingstock, signalling, passenger information systems and the ongoing maintenance of those solutions.

Alstom delivered and will maintain the new rollingstock for the recently-opened Sydney Metro Northwest, and will also maintain the CBTC signalling solution it provided for the new line.

Alstom’s Mainline Platform VP Jean-Marc Nizet, visiting Australia in April, reflected on how the company was responding to an increased desire for modern signalling technology around the world.

“Just as you have in Australia, there is a growing demand all over the place for signalling for railways,” he told Rail Express. “The biggest challenge we face as an industry is having the competence to sustain all that.

“To respond to this we have our global strategy, which first aims to provide our customers with strong local teams, to help with all aspects of a project – whether it’s engineering, maintenance or design – but to then support that team with global network of knowledge bases.”