TfNSW claims Opal has saved commuters $120m

NSW’s transfer discount for Adult Opal card users has saved commuters $120 million over the past year, according to the state government.

Approximately 5.1 million passengers who transfer between different modes of public transport using their Opal card have reportedly benefitted from the discount ($2 for Adult cards, $1 for concession) since it came into effect 12 months ago.

“Anything the NSW Government can do to ease cost of living pressures is important and we have always said we want as many people to move across trains, buses and ferries without being penalised. This anniversary Opal data shows we have achieved both of those aims,” NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

The premier said the benefits of the rebate had been experienced by over half of all Opal card users over the past year, especially in areas like Greater Parramatta, Western Sydney and South West Sydney.

“The NSW Government is committed to putting commuters first. Since Opal’s introduction in 2012, average Opal fares have not risen above CPI. While we’ve made plenty of improvements to public transport and are investing record amounts, we want to keep fares affordable,” she said.

Transport and infrastructure minister Andrew Constance said the transfer rebate encouraged more people to use public transport and leave their cars at home.

Multi-mode travellers have become big winners with Opal, in fact, since the transfer discount was introduced there are many areas where it’s now actually cheaper to catch the bus to the station and then jump on the train – a reduced fare and you don’t have to battle for parking,” Constance said.

However, according to Labor’s transport spokesperson Jodi McKay the cost of travel had been increased by 12.5 per cent on average, after the government last year scrapped the scheme in which commuters received 1 free trip per 8 paid trips in a week.

“People are paying more for public transport, not less,” McKay was quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Passengers now only receive a 50 per cent discount on all fares after their eighth paid journey for the week.

Your digital edition of the Rail Express September/October Issue is here!

Rail Express is pleased to release its 2017 September/October Issue, along with a special supplement on Freight Rail.

Click here to read Rail Express, September/October 2017
Click here to read our special Freight Rail supplement

In our second issue of Rail Express in 2017, we take a look at the cutting edge of this vast and important industry: Signalling & Communications. Around Australia, networks are getting busier, while the environments around them are moving faster, and becoming more complex every day. The job of keeping these networks safe, while also helping them be more efficient, makes this sector one of the most active in the field of research and development, and we take a look at some of the work on the table right now.

We also focus on the explosion of Civil Engineering & Construction taking place in just about every state and territory in Australia, and across the Tasman.

On page 30 we have a case study of some excellent work which has taken place in Sydney’s busy Town Hall station, aimed at improving the concourse and station areas for commuters, while also making maintenance work easier. On page 34 we take a look at the positive signs coming from the market, and on page 35, we profile one of the newest major pieces of work about to take place: Parramatta Light Rail.

Our supplement in this issue focuses on Freight Rail. With intermodal developments popping up around the region, and the wheels finally moving on Inland Rail, could rail soon take a serious bite out of the road industry’s market dominance on key freight routes? We also look at heavy haul rail in the supplement, including ongoing developments in Queensland and Western Australia.

Of course no Rail Express would be complete without our regular coverage of news from all around the region; we cover recent battles between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth, lots of news out of Infrastructure Australia, and plenty more.

Please enjoy reading this issue. I look forward to engaging with the industry ahead of our next issue, the AusRAIL PLUS special edition, and then we’re on to the event.

Click here to read Rail Express, September/October 2017
Click here to read our special Freight Rail supplement

Instructions: simply use your mouse to drag the pages just like you were reading a magazine. Alternatively, you can use the left and right arrows on your keyboard. To zoom in on a page, use the magnifying glass icon on the bottom centre menu. To download the magazine as a PDF, click the downward arrow icon in the bottom centre menu.

Rio’s first unmanned train a big step towards 360mtpa

Mining giant Rio Tinto’s first unmanned train as part of its AutoHaul program is a major step towards its goal of exporting 360 million tonnes of iron ore per annum from its Pilbara mine, rail and port network.

The ASX-listed miner completed its first fully autonomous rail journey, with a nearly 100-kilometre pilot run taking place without a driver on board, early this month. The train travelled, unmanned, from Wombat Junction to Paraburdoo.

The journey followed ongoing partial use of the AutoHaul technology across the network, which saw around 32% of rail kilometres performed in autonomous mode – with drivers on board – on Rio’s networks in the first half of 2017.

Rio says the driverless train technology and its associated infrastructure now ‘enhances’ 80% of its production tonnes, with early benefits including reduced variability and increased speed, as well as reduced in-train forces benefiting maintenance costs.

Fully driverless trains will also save an extra hour per average cycle, Rio says, thanks to fewer train stoppages for driver changes.

“This successful pilot run puts us firmly on track to meet our goal of operating the world’s first fully-autonomous heavy haul, long distance rail network, which will unlock significant safety and productivity benefits for the business,” Rio’s iron ore boss Chris Salisbury said.

“Gains from AutoHaul are already being realised … helping to reduce average cycle times. Rio Tinto is proud to be a leader in innovation and autonomous technology in the global mining industry which is delivering long-term competitive advantages as we build the mines of the future.”

Rio has invested millions over the last several years in its Mine of the Future program, which includes AutoHaul as one of its key projects. However, AutoHaul’s development has been slowed by technical issues.

Rio now believes it can fully commission AutoHaul by late 2018 – later than the miner had originally hoped.

Struggles during the commissioning of Rio’s driverless trains already cost it its target of 350 million tonnes of Pilbara production in 2016. Now the miner is on track for 330 million tonnes in 2017, and says the AutoHaul development should help it finally reach its long-term target of 360.

Also contributing to the 360mtpa target will be a ramp up in capacity from the Silvergrass mine, and other port and network upgrades.

Rio exports its iron ore from the Port of Dampier, which has publicly-listed trade figures, and Cape Lambert, which does not.

Based on the public figures, it can be roughly estimated that 130 million tonnes of Rio’s iron ore will be exported from Dampier in the 2017 calendar year, while around 200 million tonnes will be sent from Cape Lambert.

If the miner’s growth target of 360mtpa is spread evenly across the two sites, Dampier will be exporting around 142mtpa of Rio’s iron ore, while Cape Lambert will handle 218mtpa.

Sydney Train

EOI called for mobile coverage upgrades on Central Coast Line

Expressions of interest are being sought for a project to upgrade mobile telecommunications infrastructure between Wyong and Hornsby.

Investments of $12 million from the federal government and $4 million from the NSW government will go towards the project, which is to deliver improved mobile coverage as well as provide Wi-Fi at stations for up to an estimated 30,000 Central Coast commuters per day.

“Mobile drop outs and blackspots are incredibly frustrating for commuters along the Central Coast Line, and the Turnbull Government is delivering on its election commitment to fix the problem,” federal communications minister Mitch Fifield said.

Lucy Wicks, the federal member for Robertson, said the problem of mobile connectivity and blackspots was one of great concern to train-users on the Central Coast.

“When I’m at train stations like Gosford and Woy Woy listening to commuters early in the morning, many of them are asking about the progress of this vital commitment from the Coalition Government. Today’s announcement is good news for commuters,” Wicks said.

The government will work with mobile networks and infrastructure providers in the project to remove the coverage blackspots over the 60-kilometre stretch of rail.

“This is an important milestone in delivering better services to Central Coast commuters. This is part of a broader plan to deliver upgrades to NSW commuters, and details of train station Wi-Fi hotspot upgrades will be made available in due course,” state transport minister Andrew Constance said.

Expressions of interest for removing the mobile blackspots will close in November 2017, with a formal tender process commencing at the end of the year.

A further expression of interest will be announced by the state government for the installation of Wi-Fi at stations on the Central Coast line.

Siemens, Alstom merger could tackle Chinese giant

Rollingstock and rail systems manufacturer Alstom has confirmed talks are taking place between it and Siemens over a potential merger.

Siemens had reportedly been after a merger with Bombardier, but after reports surfaced on Monday of talks between Siemens and Alstom, the latter confirmed to investors a deal could be on the table.

“Alstom confirms being in discussions with Siemens in connection with a possible combination of Alstom with Siemens Mobility Division,” the France-based multinational said in a short statement.

“No final decision has been made, discussions are on-going and no agreement has been reached.”

A merger between two of Siemens, Alstom and Bombardier has been discussed by pundits for some time, as a way for the three Western powers to challenge massive Chinese competitor, CRRC.

Alstom and Siemens are both major players in Europe’s high speed rail market, with the former’s TGV model train, and the latter’s ICE rollingstock, making up a large portion of the trains in service across the major networks.

Alstom is of course also a major player in Australian passenger rollingstock, with ongoing light rail vehicle contracts in Melbourne, and future deliveries of metro and light rail rollingstock in Sydney.

Meanwhile, Siemens is mostly focused on the signalling, communications and technology side of the rail sector in Australia, although there are some Siemens trains running on the Melbourne Metro, via contracts delivered in the early 2000s.

ARA names Next Generation Scholarship winners

The Australasian Railway Association has announced the six rail graduates who have won AusRAIL 2017 Next Generation Scholarships.

ARA boss Danny Broad announced the names last week, saying he was pleased to highlight the innovative ideas of young individuals.

“The ideas of the recipients of the AusRAIL PLUS 2017 Next Generation Scholarship vary from focusing on targeting classrooms, hosting workshops and promoting the rail industry in lecture halls through industry partnerships with schools, TAFE and universities to creating mobile rail gaming apps,” Broad said.

“The winners are commended for their innovative approaches in being able to think about alternative methods of communicating to individuals in a way that promotes the rail industry positively.”

Six rail graduates were selected:

  • Alice Jordan-Baird, Project Advisor, Corporate Affairs & Communications, Transdev
  • Nicola Chung, Rail Networking Analyst, Transport for NSW
  • Asimina Vanderwert, Graduate Engineer, Metro Trains Melbourne
  • Maxim Karpyn, Instrumentation Engineer, Bombardier Transportation Australia
  • Jase Berry, Graduate Engineer/Lam-Thien Vu, Systems Engineer, Shoal Engineering.

Scholarship winners will receive complimentary attendance to the AusRAIL PLUS 2017 Conference and Exhibition, including the Welcome Reception, Exhibition Networking event, RTAA Yellow Tie and Gala Dinners, in November this year.

WA budget fund planning for new ATC signalling systems for Perth network

Funds for planning new signalling systems on Perth’s train network are another piece of transport spending in the McGowan government’s state budget.

$7.4 million over the next two years will go towards planning for the automatic train control (ATC) system, which will eventually replace the existing Transperth signalling system.

“Rather than a piecemeal approach of repairing or augmenting old infrastructure, we’re going on the front foot and planning for the future,” WA’s transport minister Rita Saffioti said.

“Investing in ATC technology will bring Perth’s rail public transport in line with global best practice for city railways.”

According to the government, the ATC uses “state-of-the-art” technology that will enable more frequent services from more trains (an increase of up to 150%) on the lines, allowing the network to meet the expected increase in passenger demand over the next 15 years.

“As new Metronet rail projects come online, ATC will enable the network to handle the extra train movements,” Saffioti said.

“It’s yet another way we’re making WA’s world-class public transport network even better.”

ATC systems enable trains to operate automatically (with or without driver supervision), and to safely follow each other at shorter intervals, thus enabling more services on a network.

Several networks in Southeast Asia already use such systems, and Sydney Metro Northwest will be the first passenger network in Australia to use the technology.

Photo: Auckland Transport

AT Mobile App gets 100,000 downloads in under 4 months

The new mobile app from Auckland Transport (AT) allowing users to plan, save, and track their train, bus and ferry services has been downloaded 100,000 times, the transport provider has said.

The AT Mobile App was launched in May this year in an effort make travel in the city “easier” and “more intuitive” for passengers.

It features an alert system that tells users how far away buses or train are from stops, enabling them to better judge when to leave home. The alerts can also be received on wearable devices.

A GPS location service tracks the user’s journey, which, according to Auckland Transport, makes finding unfamiliar bus stops and train stations easier to find, as notifications telling the user they have arrived at the location will be sent to their device.

Users also receive route specific notifications, such bus stop closures or major line disruptions, along with other news and updates from Auckland Transport.

Kevin Leith, AT Metro customer and market group manager, said that extensive feedback work had been carried out with customers to ensure the app provided a better travel experience.

“Because there are so many types of journeys Aucklanders make, it was essential that we got customer feedback. Since it launched in April, customers have provided insightful feedback that has let us not only make the necessary improvements but also given us ideas about extra functions that will make travel easier,” Leith said.

The ability to track services with the app is apparently one of the best-liked features of the app.

“They’ve told us it’s a simple thing that’s made a big difference,” Leith said. “There’s no more need to keep turning your head looking for your bus or train, taking the guess-work out of when to leave your house. You get an alert saying the bus is approaching your stop so you know exactly what’s happening.”

The AT Mobile app can be downloaded for both Apple and Android systems from Auckland Transport’s website.

Your digital edition of the Rail Express August Issue is here!

Rail Express is proud to announce the release of its 2017 August Issue, along with a special supplement on Women in Rail.

The issue represents a return to print for Rail Express outside of our annual AusRAIL Edition. It includes feature stories on State and Federal Budgets, major projects, disaster recovery in New Zealand and much, much more.

The Women in Rail supplement includes interviews, analysis and commentary on the state of gender equality in the rail workforce.

Click here to view the August Issue.

Click here to view the Women in Rail supplement.

Our next issue, due out in October, will include features on:

  • Civil Engineering & Contracting
  • Freight Rail
  • Signalling & Communications
  • Track & Below Rail Infrastructure
  • Predictive Maintenance
  • Recruitment & Training
  • Tendering

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Davies calls on governments to boost productivity spending

Infrastructure Australia chief executive officer Philip Davies says governments are often too focused on greenfield projects, and should direct more funding to projects which get the most out of existing roads and railways.

Davies addressed delegates on the first morning of the Australasian Railway Association’s Rail Freight Conference in Sydney on August 17.

“The principle issue around maintaining our competitiveness is making sure we’re getting the most out of our existing infrastructure,” he said.

“Politically, this has never been that interesting. It’s much easier to cut a ribbon on a new railway, or a new road, and it’s much harder to get brownie points by making a railway more efficient.”

Davies said investments in signalling and technology should be a key focus.

“I think it’s fair to say we’re probably a long way behind some other countries in the use of these,” he said.

“It’s critically important that we make the most of what we’ve got, and I think what will be very important will be having that difficult conversation with the voters, and the consumers of services.

“It’s really hard, though, because the politicians don’t like it particularly, and therefore the people in [the rail industry], who are doing great work identifying those opportunities, often find it very hard to get the funding to actually implement some of those great short-term investments with a really good payback.”

Davies also addressed the fallout following Infrastructure Australia’s negative assessment of the Queensland Government’s business case for Cross River Rail.

The IA’s assessment effectively rules out federal funding for the Brisbane rail tunnel project under its current business case, and drew harsh criticism from Queensland’s transport minister Jackie Trad and federal shadow infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese.

Davies said federal, state and territory, and local governments were all “on board” when they worked with Infrastructure Australia to develop the initial Infrastructure Priority List in 2015, but said attitudes change quickly when projects fail to qualify.

“When we have to assess projects that come in – mostly from state and territory governments – for Commonwealth funding, then suddenly we’re between the state treasurer, and the Commonwealth,” he reasoned.

“So inevitably there’s going to be some tension during that process, even though we make no funding decisions.”