Gawler electrification tender process opened

The tender process for the electrification of Adelaide’s Gawler rail line has begun, with companies invited to register their interest for the roughly $300 million contract.

South Australian transport and infrastructure minister Stephen Mullighan said on May 9 the RoI period would open for interested parties on May 10.

He said the State Government would contribute $152.5 million to electrify the line to Salisbury, but a matching commitment from the Federal Government would be needed to complete the project.

“This is the first stage of a long-awaited project which will provide real transport benefits to commuters in Adelaide’s northern suburbs,” Mullighan said.

“The Gawler electrification project will enable faster, safer, more reliable and more comfortable rail services which will encourage more people to leave the car at home and take public transport.”

Companies with experience in rail electrification works are invited to register on the SA Tenders website. Those eligible will be invited to complete a full tender by July, so work can begin in early 2018.

The Gawler rail electrification works will include:

  • Installation of the overhead wiring system including masts and gantry supports
  • Installation of a new signalling system
  • Installation of an Automatic Train Protection system
  • Installation of a new fibre optic communications system cable
  • Installation of protective works and modifications to existing infrastructure
  • Service relocations, vegetation trimming and removal and other works necessary to enable the electrification to proceed

The contract will require all steel to be sourced from Australian-standard certified fabricators and mills.

According to the Government’s figures, patronage rose by more than 30% on the Gawler line over the seven years to 2016, making it Adelaide’s most popular line.

“Almost 5 million trips were recorded on the Gawler line last financial year and that doesn’t factor in the hundreds of thousands of free trips taken on our trains every year with services such as the MAC Footy Express,” the minister said.

“If not for the Federal Liberal Government’s decision to withdraw funding from the project when Tony Abbott was elected Prime Minister we would be able to complete even more of this important public transport project.”

Mullighan said the state would continue to lobby the Turnbull Government to recommit to the project.

Perth B-series train. Credit: Creative Commons / DBZ2313

Perth radio overhaul shortlist named

The five shortlisted parties for the $120 million contract to upgrade radio communications on Perth’s urban rail network have been named by WA’s Public Transport Authority (PTA).

State transport minister Rita Saffioti announced the results of an EOI stage for the tender on May 1.

PTA initially told Rail Express the shortlisted parties would not be named publicly. But the authority released the list on May 4.

The five parties in the running are as follows:

  • Ericsson Australia Pty Ltd
  • Huawei Technologies (Australia) Pty Ltd
  • Optus Administration Pty Ltd
  • ZTE (Australia) Pty Ltd
  • Ansaldo STS Pty Ltd

The winning bidder will be tasked with upgrading the existing analogue radio communications system on the Perth network, with a modern digital system.

Saffioti said the project would create a more efficient rail network, and support future expansions.

The work will involve installing new towers and poles with digital-friendly infrastructure, and the replacement of radio devices in trains and security vehicles, as well as handheld radios for mobile staff.

The contract will be awarded early next year, and the government wants the new system in place by late 2020, before the existing analogue system is switched off to comply with changed licensing and spectrum allocation requirements of the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

“The shift from analogue to digital has a number of benefits including improved transmission security as well as more flexibility to transmit not just audio but data as well,” Saffioti said.

“Radio systems are critical to train operations – they are used by operational staff carrying out tasks of almost every type, from customer service staff, to train drivers, train controllers, security and maintenance staff.

“It will also provide a platform for a future improved train control system.”

Saffioti encouraged the public to understand that while this $120 million in spending might not have the most visible results, it would result in a significant public transport improvement.

“An upgrade like this is highly technical and isn’t always visible to the public,” she explained.

“However, it is critical in ensuring the Transperth rail network is ready for future expansions – including METRONET.

“This project will help facilitate automatic train control in the future, in line with METRONET objectives.”


Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated PTA would not release the names of shortlisted parties. The PTA has since released the shortlist.

Backlash over mobile project’s North East snub

Controversy hit Victoria’s regional rail mobile connectivity project after a state minister dubbed concerns from left out North East passengers as “parochialism”.

The Victorian government is partnering with the three largest mobile carriers in Australia — Telstra, Optus and Vodafone — to significantly improve mobile connectivity and coverage for commuters using the Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Traralgon and Seymour rail lines.

Promoting the new $18 million initiative on ABC radio, state small business, innovation and trade minister Philip Dalidakis was asked by host Joseph Thomsen why the upgrades in mobile coverage were not going to be extended beyond Seymour to Albury-Wodonga.

“How long is a piece of string?” Dalidakis answered. “You’re focusing on what’s not being done, I want to focus on what we are doing.”

Dalidakis continued, stating that only $18 million was available “to get the best outcome we can”, and that the government thought the money was best spent on the five rail lines chosen.

“I understand the parochialism about extending it beyond Seymour to Albury-Wodonga,” he concluded.

Opposition member for Euroa Steph Ryan was quoted the in local paper The Border Mail, saying the minister’s statements were “outrageous” and dismissive of the needs of North East commuters, while member for Ovens Tim McCurdy was quoted as saying that Dalidakis needed “to get out beyond the tram tracks of Melbourne and understand what’s happening in regional Victoria”.

“When he thinks about regional Victoria he thinks of Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong and that’s all,” McCurdy said.

Government member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes defended Dalidakis, telling the The Border Mail that the minister was well aware of the problems facing the North East line, and that he was “prepared to look at considering funding to extend [coverage] to Shepparton and Albury-Wodonga lines down the track”.

The state’s regional trains have long had problems with mobile connectivity blackouts. Speaking to The Age, Paul Westcott, regional spokesman for the Public Transport Users Association, said that mobile connectivity problems have plagued the regional train line.

“I think travellers on all regional lines will be able to tell you there are spots depending on which telco you’re with that are a real problem,” he said.

The government’s partnership with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone means that the benefits of extended and improved coverage will be experienced by the customers of all three service providers.

At the time of the project’s announcement, minister Dalidakis called the project “a massive win for commuters on our five busiest regional rail corridors – no matter which network they use, they will see improvements”.  

Along with the construction of 35 new mobile towers, the project will implement in-train technology to improve the signal received by devices inside the train from outside mobile towers.

While such technology is already a feature of 30 European rail lines, Victoria’s will be the first to receive upgrades of this kind in Australia.

The new program’s pilot installation of the new mobile reception repeaters is reportedly already underway to boost coverage on the five regional lines from 50 to 95 percent. The government has stated that the repeaters, if successful, will be extended to the entire VLocity train fleet in 2018.

The government expects that the project, once complete, will boost productivity among regional business commuters and thus deliver an estimated $20 million per annum to the Victorian economy.

“Regular commuters spend up to 20 hours per week on regional trains and we need to keep them connected so they can keep in touch with their loved ones and use their travel time productively,” minister Dalidakis said.

Freight rail track - stock - credit Shutterstock (8)

Five Rail Express magazines in 2017

Rail Express will expand its offering in 2017 with five print editions, focusing on Women in Rail, Bulk & Freight, Urban Rail & Civil Contracting, and the AusRAIL PLUS annual conference in Brisbane.

The 2017 print schedule will include four Rail Express magazines, as well as the 6th annual Australasian Rail Directory.

All publications will be distributed throughout the year to thousands of readers in both print and digital formats. Plenty of opportunities are available for advertisers in both formats, and on our website.

Magazines will include up-to-date coverage of news and current affairs in the rail sector, and will also contain a special supplement, highlighting a key topic.


Rail Express, Issue 1; Supplement: Women in Rail

The first edition of Rail Express in 2017 will feature Women in Rail. The goal of gender equality is a key focus across all Australian and New Zealand industries, but rail lags behind many others, with women representing less than one fifth of the workforce from top to bottom. The Women in Rail feature will look at the politics, opportunities, barriers and initiatives present in the ongoing push for gender equality in the sector.


Rail Express, Issue 2; Supplement: Bulk & Freight

Hundreds of millions of tonnes of bulk and other freight is moved by rail in Australia and New Zealand every year. It is no surprise, then, that some of the great cutting-edge ideas, designs and operations come from the region. The Bulk & Freight feature, which will be included in the second issue of Rail Express in 2017, will cover the latest trends in bulk and freight rail, from operators, engineers, academics and more.


Rail Express, Issue 3; Supplement: Urban Rail & Civil Contracting

It’s almost impossible to find a major urban landscape in Australia or New Zealand that is without major ongoing or upcoming opportunities for engineers and civil contractors working in the rail space. Issue 3 of Rail Express will cover the region’s thriving urban landscapes, and the cornucopia of major and minor projects that are planned, ongoing, or recently completed in every major city.


Rail Express, Issue 4: AusRAIL Edition

To round out the year, Rail Express will return to produce its widely-read AusRAIL Edition. As the official partner magazine to AusRAIL PLUS, which takes place in Brisbane later this year, Rail Express will provide insight and analysis into the businesses, technologies and individuals on show during rail’s biggest annual event.


Australasian Rail Directory 2018

The Australasian Rail Directory, published once a year and launched at AusRAIL, is the definitive guide to who does what in the industry. In its 6th year, the directory is distributed to the project managers, engineers and decision makers across the rail sector.


To advertise in any Rail Express products, please contact Patrick Roberts at, or by calling (02) 9080 4015.

From Smart Cities 1.0 to 2.0: it’s not (only) about the tech

Australia has lagged behind some other countries in its investment in smart cities, but in retrospect that may not have been such a bad thing, Sarah Barns, Donald McNeill, Ellie Cosgrave, and Michele Acuto write.The Conversation

Australia, one of the world’s most urbanised nations, is looking to up its investment in digital technologies to make our cities work better.

In coming months, tech companies, local governments and other eligible organisations will be teaming up to apply for round one of the federal government’s A$50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program. The program is seeking ideas for prototypes and platforms that can help solve a local urban challenge of some kind.

As the draft guidelines suggest, project funding could be used for anything from managing waste better, making local precincts more liveable, or helping citizens become more engaged with their councils, to developing systems that help planners better predict local development impacts.

Compared to other areas of federal infrastructure spending – like roads – $50 million for smart city investments may not sound like much. But it’s a bit of a windfall for an area that has struggled to get off the ground in Australia for the past few years.

Australia has been in no hurry to become smart. Overseas, many cities have put significant effort into building their profile as smart cities. They have invested in technology acceleration, data analytics, visualisation and instrumentation programs, and so on.

Before launching the federal program, Australia had made relatively few investments in smart city programs. Those investments remained relatively modest.

The benefits of not rushing in

In retrospect, perhaps this wasn’t such a bad thing. It’s now widely recognised that, despite the rhetoric of technology vendors, much of the early investment in smart cities failed to demonstrate significant benefits to cities and their citizens.

This period of “Smart Cities 1.0” investment was dominated by relatively small or experimental prototypes involving separate systems and infrastructures. Think a Cisco smart light trial, combined with a smart parking app. These have been small, interesting prototypes, but not necessarily generating the efficiencies and value sometimes claimed for smart cities.

Adelaide and Cisco have run a smart street lighting trial in the CBD.

The embrace of relatively small or experimental prototypes in Smart Cities 1.0 created vertical “data silos” and failed to scale or demonstrate real benefits. The emerging logic of “Smart Cities 2.0” is quite different. Smart Cities 2.0 investments focus on creating platforms for data access, sharing, re-use and inter-operability.

Part of the reason for this shift lies in the changing nature of the technologies themselves. Our urban environments are turning into landscapes populated by more and more connected “Things” equipped with many different sensors for data capture and analytics. This is driving a growing need for inter-operable platforms and standards that give more players wider access to city data.

A city that invests in these platforms can kick-start a wider technology ecosystem, enabling innovation in city services to thrive.

The emerging critical infrastructures for Smart Cities 2.0 are turning out to be city data markets, data exchanges, and data protocols, standards and specifications. These have been developed by groups like the Hypercat and LORA alliances.

It is becoming more clear that these infrastructures will require more strategic collaborations between governments, industry, communities, citizens and researchers.

Reinventing government as ‘a platform’?

For those of us who are happy to hear tech vendors talk about data sharing and open innovation, this all sounds great. We do hope some of this thinking makes its way into the funding of pilots and prototypes under the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program.

But we should be mindful here that what is perhaps most radical about this new phase is not the technologies themselves, but the way they are repositioning the role of government.

Governments are increasingly positioning themselves as the “platform” for wider innovation in data services. Australia’s Digital Transformation Office has embraced this idea of services “built on a shared (data) core”. Many other agencies are following suit.

But if cities “run on information” are going to make a real difference, we need to think about how these new platforms can be used to overcome the endemic governance challenges our cities face.

Major Australian cities are made up of a patchwork of local government areas overlaid with state and federal jurisdictions responsible for transport, education, health and so on. No single agency “runs” the city. Many of them even work against each other.

The result is that instruments for strategic planning, like the metropolitan strategy, have tended to remain relatively weak. Modelled on the Greater London Authority, the Greater Sydney Commission represents a shift towards metropolitan-scale governance. This creates an opportunity to scale up investments in data infrastructures, building scalable city-wide data architecture like the London Data Store.

Though we might not be able to solve the endemic challenges of patchwork municipal governance, we can encourage our city governments to invest in data-rich platforms to help foster data-driven collaborations and services that benefit our cities.

Responsive governance the key

The ingredients of a smart city include a raft of technology innovations, as well as a willingness to experiment with new ways of doing things.

Today’s Internet of Things technologies, data analytics platforms and sensor-enabled services are sure to deliver new ways to understand, visualise and analyse the nature and scale of many of our most pressing urban challenges.

But solving challenges such as waste management, urban liveability and land-use planning will require more than technology investments, data-capture services or digital prototypes. Solutions will also depend on effective long-term partnerships within and beyond government.

While the digital infrastructure is no doubt important, it will be the city governments that invest in new ways to collaborate and co-innovate that will ultimately lead the way in delivering the smarter, more responsive services our cities so desperately need.

This article draws on a research paper by the authors in a new special issue of the international journal, Urban Policy and Research, on critical urban infrastructure. You can read other published articles in the series here.

Sarah Barns is Urban Studies Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University; Donald McNeill is Professor of Urban and Cultural Geography, Western Sydney University; Ellie Cosgrave is Research Associate, UCL, and Michele Acuto is Professor of Diplomacy and Urban Theory, UCLThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

V/Line train going through level crossing. Photo:

Five-week closure while axle counters fix level crossings

Axle counters will be installed on 12 level crossings on the Echuca line in Victoria, after a late boom gate closure last week.

V/Line replaced trains with buses on the Echuca line (a.k.a. the Deniliquin line) on March 20, after boom gates closed 15 seconds, rather than the regulated 25 seconds, before a train passed through a level crossing near Bendigo.

While V/Line stressed nobody was put in danger by the fault, it will not run passenger trains on the line until axle counters have been installed.

Victorian transport minister Jacinta Allan assured the public the axle counters “will ensure boom gates come down in time, every time”.

“We’re upgrading every active level crossing on the Echuca line to restore services as soon as possible.”

Buses will continue to replace trains until the work is complete, operating between Echuca and Bendigo, where passengers will be transferred to trains to Melbourne.

The outage will last at least five weeks, and could take up to seven weeks, Allan said.

But V/Line spokesperson Rob Curtain was quoted by local paper The Riverine Herald saying V/Line didn’t have a timeline for the works.

“This will be determined by the outcome of the investigation by our engineering experts,” he reportedly said on March 29.

State Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, is not happy.

Walsh, also quoted by The Riverine Herald, reportedly said: “I consider it totally unsatisfactory that it takes more than a week to fix a technical fault on a boom gate.

“Those sorts of things should be able to be fixed a lot quicker than that.

“Although [local residents] are unhappy about the speed of the [train], the overwhelming majority of people prefer to travel on the train than they do on a bus,” he added.

CAF AM class train Auckland. Photo: Creative Commons / Dc4444

Young ideas sought for NZ conference

The Australasian Railway Association is calling for rail professionals under 30 to submit their ideas for the Young Rail Professionals Pitching Competition at the New Zealand Rail conference in Auckland later this year.

Eligible professionals are invited to submit their ideas by May 5.

The ARA’s NZ Rail 2017 event will take place on June 27 and 28, 2017.

Successful applicants will be flown to Auckland and given two nights’ accommodation, a complimentary pass to attend the conference, and a ticket to the ARA’s NZ Rail Dinner on July 27.

The ARA is seeking concepts that target any aspect of rail, including the technical and engineering, customer service, strategic business planning, marketing, and technological sectors.

Entries must be 400-600 words and include a concept title, name and contact details, the instution and qualification entrants have underway or completed, the issue being addressed and the idea itself.

Entries will be judged by the organising committee, and successful applicants will be announced by the end of May.

Visit the official NZ Rail website for more information.

Queensland joins national safety scheme

Queensland is the final state to come in under the National Rail Safety Regulator umbrella, with legislation passed in State Parliament on Tuesday night.

The Rail Safety National Law (Queensland) Bill 2016 will bring a single national accreditation regime for rail transport operators across Australia.

The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) currently has jurisdiction over all states and territories other than Queensland.

That will change at midnight on June 30, 2017, thanks to the new regulation.

“Under the reforms, the ONRSR will become the rail safety regulator in Queensland and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau will operate as the rail safety investigator for no-blame investigations,” Queensland transport minister Jackie Trad said.

“This is a significant step forward and will improve the way safety risks are identified and managed by industry.

“By implementing these reforms in Queensland, we are cutting red tape for industry and making our railways safer.”

Trad said all permanent rail regulation staff currently working in Queensland would be offered a position with the ONRSR.

She said the reforms have also received strong support from Queensland’s 66 accredited rail operators.

Australasian Railway Association chief executive Danny Broad welcomed the news.

“The ARA has pushed for a single national rail safety regulator for a decade and it is fantastic to see another piece of the jigsaw go into place,” Broad said.

“The ARA thanks the Queensland Government for its support and looks forward to the transition.”

New owner for Rail Express

Rail Express, the leading industry title in Australian rail, has a new owner: Mohi Media.

Announcing the sale, Informa publishing director Peter Attwater said the company had decided to concentrate on other core areas of its business as opposed to trade publishing.

“It has been a great pleasure to have Rail Express in our stable, and I am delighted that the magazine and staff have found a new home with Mohi Media,” he said.

“I am sure it will continue to produce its high standard of content and I wish the whole team all the best,” he added.

The Mohi Media Team and Peter Attwater

(Left to Right) ABHR editor Charles Macdonald; Rail Express editor Oliver Probert; Mohi Media principal Mohi Media; Bulk Handling Equipment & Services Guide editor Ronda McCallum; ABHR and Rail Express national sales manager Patrick Roberts; Informa Australia publishing director Peter Attwater; and ABHR sales executive Margaret Shannon.

Mohi Media is a local, specialist publishing company. The business’ principal, Michael Mohi, is an experienced media executive with an extensive background in television, publishing and printing.

Michael has a long association with Rail Express. As senior executive for printing company Spotpress, he has handled the magazine’s printing and production for the past seven years.

For the last six months, Michael worked closely with the Rail Express team and Informa management during the magazine’s transition of ownership.

“I’ve been close to Rail Express for many years,” Michael explained.

“I’m very confident that the publication will grow over the next few years and I am currently developing new ideas with the team to build upon what is a very well established and important industry product.”

Michael, a Kiwi, has 45 years’ media experience. He worked as a radio and television journalist and current affairs producer with the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation and Television New Zealand. Crossing the Tasman, Michael joined TCN Nine as a director and amongst other duties was responsible for the network’s promotion of World Series Cricket.

In the 1980s he formed his own publishing business, successfully launching a raft of national magazines in Australia. He launched Countdown magazine with the ABC, the title becoming Australia’s biggest circulating youth music lifestyle magazine with a circulation of over 100,000 copies.

Mohi Media has also acquired Rail Express sister publication Australian Bulk Handling Review, also from Informa.

Inner West Light Rail, CAF rollingstock. Photo: Creative Commons / Abesty

Spotlight placed on light rail red signal breaches

An intense emphasis on stopping large trains from passing stop signals is great, but more attention is needed on the same issue impacting light rail, one rail expert has said.

Anjum Naweed is a researcher from CQUniversity, studying human factors and applied cognitive science.

Dr Naweed will on Wednesday chair the second day of the Australasian Railway Association’s Light Rail 2017 conference on the Gold Coast.

He says while there is an intense focus on preventing passenger trains and freight trains from passing signals when danger looms, less emphasis is placed on the issue in light rail systems.

While the ‘risk gradient’ might be different in light rail, the tram driver and safety, security and efficiency of the network are still under threat, he points out.

Dr Naweed’s presentation is centred around collision and derailment avoidance in trams and will aim to “unpack” the heavy human dimensions of a light rail system.

“The intensification of light rail that we’re currently seeing around the country presents an ideal time to determine the size of this problem and what could be done to mitigate it,” he says.

“At Light Rail 2017, I will provide an overview of the pertinent human dimensions of tram driving and collision avoidance in this domain, as a call to arms for increased focus on its prevention.”

Dr Naweed says it’s obvious why there’s a focus on SPADs (Signals Passed at Dangers) and derailment mitigation in heavy trains.

“In tram systems, SPADS are called Red Signal Breaches or RSBs,” he notes.

“But don’t let the change in terminology fool you. They are still one of the largest safe working failure modes around.

“The speed and size of trains mean that they carry significant derailment and collision risk. While trams are lighter and typically slower, they still carry significant implication for serious injury and loss of life, as we saw from the tragic tram derailment in Croydon last year.”

Light Rail 2017 is taking place at Crowne Plaza, Surfers Paradise.