Wooden railway sleepers. Photo: Creative Commons / LooiNL

KiwiRail to pay $110,000 for contractor struck by train

New Zealand rail operator KiwiRail has accepted the judgement of the Auckland District Court, which ordered it pay $110,000 to the family of a Downer contractor who was severely injured when the digger he was operating was struck by a train in the central North Island region in June 2014.

KiwiRail group general manager Todd Moyle said the state-owned business, which is responsible for rail operations in New Zealand, would willingly pay reparations to the family of Paul Anderson, who has spent more than 12 months in hospital after the incident.

“KiwiRail completed a thorough investigation of what happened and found that we had not taken all practical steps to ensure that everyone working at the site was off the track before a train came through,” Moyle said.

“As a result, this terrible accident occurred.”

According to WorkSafe New Zealand, the incident occurred on June 17, 2014, when Anderson – a Downer contractor – was carrying out work for KiwiRail in a digger on the Raurimu Spiral, National Park.

Worksafe says KiwiRail track workers gave a north-bound goods train permission to drive through the site, and the train did not have time to stop once the digger came into view.

Anderson sustained severe traumatic brain injury and severe chest and lung trauma, according to WorkSafe.

“Multiple failings by KiwiRail have had a devastating impact on the victim’s life,” WorkSafe chief inspector Keith Steward said, adding that the incident was entirely preventable.

“[Anderson] continues to live with these tragic consequences to this very day.

“Every worker has a right to trust that their employer is looking out for their safety and that the necessary safey precautions and systems for managing potential risks are in place.”

Moyle says KiwiRail has made changes following reviews into the safety procedures across its rail network.

“We recognised that we needed to do more to protect our teams when they are working on the network and make sure that no trains enter worksites unless all workers and all equipment is off the track.

“As a result of these changes, all worksites across the country now have a register to record all personnel and vehicles operating near the tracks.”

Additionally, KiwiRail has introduced a ‘lock-on lock-off’ procedure.

Moyle explains: “Before going on to the track everyone at a site, whether working or visiting, is issued with a padlock which has to be attached to a board held by the site protector. When the person comes off the track, they remove their padlock. A train will be allowed to pass through the site only when all padlocks are removed.”

Moyle offered his sincere apologies to Anderson’s family.

“They live every day with the consequences of this accident and while we make the reparations willingly, we understand no amount of money can change what happened.

“The safety of everyone who works for us and who travels with us is our primary concern, and we will continue to work to prevent an accident like this from happening again.”

Sydney Metro Video Help Point. Graphic: Sydney Metro Northwest

Customer info deal awarded for Sydney Metro

Sydney Metro Northwest operator Northwest Rapid Transit has awarded a $75 million contract for hi-tech customer information and communications systems along the network.

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance said on Friday the consortium in charge of Sydney Metro Northwest had awarded the contract to electrical systems business Thales Australia.

Currently under construction, Sydney Metro Northwest will connect several growth suburbs in the north-west of Sydney to the main rail network at Epping.

The project involves the construction of twin 15.5km tunnels and several kilometres of skytrain, along with eight new railway stations, and the conversion of the existing Epping to Chatswood rail link to the new metro style railway, to create one contiguous line between Rouse Hill and Chatswood.

“Sydney’s new metro line will use advanced passenger information technology, including Video Help Points at all metro stations,” Constance said.

“The latest communications and surveillance systems will monitor the new metro network, taking customer experience to a new level with direct video links to staff at the metro control centre via these Video Help Points.”

Constance said seeing a face instead of simply hearing a voice at a help point is an added customer safety benefit.

He said traditional customer service assistants would still be at every station and will move throughout the network.

But the Thales system will provide a new level of customer focus, he explained.

“Customers will have access to real-time service information using technology like smartphone apps, digital information screens on the trains and electronic signage in and around stations,” Constance said. “A modern video technology system will be used to monitor and analyse the hundreds of CCTV cameras on the network to deliver fast, safe and reliable services.”

Thales Australia vice president of ground transportation systems Mick Spiers said the company could provide a world class solution to the Sydney Metro Northwest line.

“We’re looking forward to delivering technology that will contribute to fast, safe and reliable journeys for Sydney commuters,” Spiers said.

Constance said the deal would bring to Sydney expertise from other major transport projects in cities like London, Paris, Dubai and Hong Kong.

“This is another important step forward that again puts our customers at the centre of this exciting Australian-first metro rail project,” the minister added.

Bendigo line communications. Photo: 4Tel

Bendigo line getting passenger display system

Victorian minister for public transport Jacinta Allan has announced the roll out of the Regional Passenger Information and Display System along the Bendigo rail line with Clarkefield Station to be the first system to be operational on Tuesday, September 15.

Real-time travel information will soon be available to passengers on the Bendigo line, with new technology being rolled out at 10 stations.

Allan said electronic displays, public address announcement messages and customer information points will be installed at Clarkefield, Riddells Creek, Gisborne, Macedon, Woodend, Kyneton, Malmsbury, Castlemaine, Kangaroo Flat and Bendigo.

The minister said the initiative would give passengers automated, accurate and timely information about train times, service changes and platform alterations.

“Real-time technology is great news for Bendigo-line passengers, who now have access to timely metropolitan-style travel updates,” Allan explained.

“It means passengers know exactly when their train is going to arrive, even if something unexpected happens that affects services.”

The new displays, which are expected to be operational by October, will also aid customers with hearing and visual impairments, with the improved audio and visual information making it easier to access real-time train information.

Local members for Bendigo and Macedon, Maree Edwards and Mary-Anne Thomas respectively, welcomed the news.

“Real-time travel information makes it easier for locals to plan their journey by giving them up-to-date information about their train,” Edwards said.

“This is great news for everyone in Macedon, but particularly those with hearing and visual impairments, who will soon have access to better audio and visual technology at their local station,” Thomas added.

The technology will also progressively being installed at 33 V/Line stations on the Geelong, Ballarat and Gippsland lines, with all works set to be complete before the end of the year.

V-set train at Central station. Photo: Creative Commons / Alexanderino

NSW to pay $1.5m to 8-year-old train fall victim

The State of NSW has been ordered to pay more than $1.5 million in damages to a man who fell from a moving train when he was eight years old.

Corey Fuller-Lyons, now 23, sustained severe injuries when he fell from an intercity train as it rounded a bend between Morisset and Dora Creek railway stations on the Main North Line near Lake Macquarie on January 29, 2001.

The train was travelling at around 100km/h when Corey fell through the front left door of the front carriage at around 12.09pm.

According to police, the boy missed a power line, before sliding roughly 20 metres down a 3 metre embankment, sustaining severe injuries.

Despite this, Corey – described as average sized for an eight-year-old – was able to climb the embankment, walk across both tracks and climb a safety fence before being noticed by passing motorists, who alerted police and ambulance officers.

He was airlifted to Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital where he stayed for four days.

Corey was diagnosed with a compound frontal skull fracture with missing bone and exposed dura – the membrane surrounding the brain – as well as a fractured bone in his right arm, splintered teeth, swelling around his face and multiple abrasions and lacerations over the rest of his body.

Twelve years later, in 2013, Corey sued the State of New South Wales for negligence.

It was submitted to the Supreme Court of NSW that he must have become wedged in the door of the train prior to its departure from Morisset, and that station or train staff should have discovered this before the train departed.

It was also submitted the State was negligent in failing to commission a traction interlock, which was fitted on the train but not in operation. Corey’s representatives contended the system would have prevented the train from departing Morisset while its doors were impeded from closing.

The State denied negligence.

The State contended Corey had deliberately interfered with the doors with the assistance of his brothers: he was travelling that day with Dominic, 11, and Nathan, 15.

Corey’s mother Nita Lyons said the boys, who had travelled to Central station from Sydenham, were supposed to be meeting friends at St Peters, four stations south of Central on the Bankstown line. Instead they had boarded a train from Central to Newcastle – a fact not explained in any of the court cases.

Corey’s brothers told the court they had been seated in the main saloon of the carriage while Corey “got up to wander around”. Both brothers denied being in the vestibule – the carriage’s entry way, where the doors are – when Corey fell.

The seating area in the carriage, a DJM V-set model, is separated from the vestibule by an internal door.

Supreme Court Justice Robert Beech-Jones found in Corey’s favour in the 2013 case, saying the State owed a duty to “exercise due care for the safety of passengers from dangers likely to arise out of the ordinary use of the [train and] which might reasonably be expected.”

Justice Beech-Jones considered the most likely explanation for the accident that Corey became caught between the doors as they closed at Morisset station, leaving part of his torso and at least one of his arms and legs outside the train – enough for him to be thrown from the train as it rounded the bend.

Morisset is a curved station, making it hard for the train guard, in the back carriage, to see the front of the train, which in this case was four carriages – or roughly 100 metres – long.

A customer service attendant was often stationed on the platform to assist the guard. While the train guard could not recall whether an attendant was on the platform at that day, records show there was one rostered on. He was identified in the 2013 trial, but it was found he had passed away in 2008.

In summary, Justice Beech-Jones held the state vicariously liable for the negligent failure of a railway employee to keep a proper lookout before signalling for the train to depart.

This initial judgement resulted in Corey being awarded $1,536,954.55 in damages; an amount made up of general damages, past and future economic loss, cost of past and future care, and medical expenses.

The State successfully appealed that decision in December 2014.

The State initially challenged the finding that Nathan and Dominic had not been involved in interfering with the doors, but this challenge was rejected.

However, the Court of Appeal accepted an alternate hypothesis posited by the State: that Corey wedged the door open with his shoulder, arm or leg at Morisset, but not with enough of his body to attract the staff’s attention.

Then, once the train was moving, Corey could have wedged more of his body between the doors, until he was thrown from the train, according to the hypothesis.

Satisfied that this alternative explanation was just as likely as Justice Beech-Jones’ initial explanation, the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling.

On Wednesday, September 2, the Court of Appeal’s ruling was itself overturned, this time by the High Court of Australia.

“The Court of Appeal erred in overturning the primary judge’s ultimate factual finding,” the High Court said in a statement on Wednesday.

“[Justice Beech Jones’ finding] was a correct finding notwithstanding that other possible explanations could not be excluded … it was an error to reject the primary judge’s finding on the basis that [Corey’s representatives] had failed to exclude one alternative hypothesis that had not been explored in evidence.”

The High Court returned the full $1.54 million damages order to Corey and his representatives.

Nathan Fuller-Lyons, the eldest of the three brothers on the train in 2001, is now a train driver for Transport for NSW.

Wooden railway sleepers. Photo: Creative Commons / LooiNL

Trad puts Brisbane rail capacity among ‘top priorities’

Queensland will move to re-establish the ready-to-proceed status of the former Cross River Rail project, and has formally ruled out a combined bus and train option for the route.

State transport minister Jackie Trad says the government is “moving ahead” with planning to deliver extra capacity to the Brisbane rail network, an issue she says is one of the state’s top priorities.

Trad said last week the Palaszczuk Government is committed to transforming and revitalising the rail network in South East Queensland, with the view of providing a more efficient public transport system “that can cope with forecast demand”.

“Increasing the capacity of our rail network is one of our top priorities, we are working to identify solutions,” Trad, who is also deputy premier, said.

“Our assessment will include an investigation of elements of the Cross River Rail and Bus and Train projects to identify a preferred solution to address these capacity issues.

“It will also include a detailed assessment of the feasibility of introducing New Generation Signalling to the inner city rail network.

“Improved signalling would allow for a higher frequency of services on our most constrained part of the network, unlocking additional capacity that would benefit the entire region.”

Trad said “considerable” cost and time savings could be achieved during the evaluation phase, “by using planning prepared as part of the previous projects”.

“However, there will be no combination of buses and trains in the Cross River Rail design going forward,” she said.

“Buses and trains play different roles in our transport network and combining them in the same corridor does not make sense.”

The minister said the project team would deliver an updated business case of a preferred project to be considered by Government.

“The Queensland Government will include a complete business case as part of a funding submission to Infrastructure Australia and the Federal Government for this urgently needed project,” she said.

“We will also seek to re-establish the ready-to-proceed status previously applied to the Cross River Rail project.”

Coal Train Photo Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

Telstra, ARTC sign ten-year NTCS deal

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has announced a multi-million dollar, ten-year deal with Telstra, for the ASX-listed telecoms business to provide ongoing telecommunications to the national rail freight network.

Announced on Tuesday, August 25, the deal comprises the security of supply, maintenance and enhancement to the Telstra-powered National Train Communications System (NTCS).

ARTC boss John Fullerton said securing the NTCS was essential to ensuring future rail freight success, with a solid digital platform in place to exploit for safety, efficiency and capacity benefits.

“NTCS will provide a platform for many of the new and exciting innovations being developed by ARTC,” Fullerton said.

“Using the Telstra NextG network, applications such as safe travelling distance technology (proximity alerting), real-time locomotive tracking, sophisticated track and wayside monitoring technology, situational awareness system and the next generation of train management – the Advanced Train Management System – all become possible.”

Fullerton said the deal demonstrated the strong relationship between the two businesses.

The ARTC manages 8500km of the national rail freight network.

The ARTC switched off its old, analogue telecommunications network in December 2014, moving to a single, nationwide, digital platform, which includes freight trains operating on other rail networks that aren’t managed by ARTC – a factor the company says makes it easier for different operators to do business across the country.

The move to the NextG network is the first time a rail access provider has moved from a private to a public telecommunications network for railway operations in Australia, the ARTC says.

70 base stations have been built specifically for the ARTC to make up the NTCS communications infrastructure.

Telstra Global Enterprise and Services chief customer officer Martijn Blanken said the company was helping the ARTC develop the rail industry.

“Together, with the ARTC’s vision for rail innovation and Telstra’s agile communications network, we have co-created a mobile and cloud-based solution that will help move the national freight sector forward,” Blanken said.

“The communication network is built on our world class Telstra NextG network and supported by our satellite offering, so ARTC has the peace of mind that we can provide redundancy for any black spots along the rail corridor.

“We have also transitioned ARTC into a private cloud environment, built on VCE Vblock, which will significantly reduce the resources it needs to host the applications the NTCS runs on,” he added.

Revitalising Newcastle. Photo: Revitalising Newcastle

Newcastle Light Rail tender released

Transport for NSW is seeking a technical advisor for the Newcastle Light Rail project.

An open request for tenders was published to NSW eTendering on August 11, seeking “experienced and suitably qualified organisations for the provision  of engineering, urban design and light rail systems advice for the Newcastle Light Rail project”.

The Newcastle Light Rail line is proposed to run from the Wickham Transport Interchange – currently under construction – through to the Newcastle CBD, at Pacific Park.

To make way for the development, the state government shut down the heavy rail line into Newcastle at Hamilton station on Boxing Day last year. When Wickham Transport Interchange is completed, the line will re-open as far as Wickham.

The long term plan to destroy the heavy rail line beyond Wickham has drawn heavy criticism – and a lawsuit – from community group Save Our Rail.

With the state of that case currently in limbo in the Court of Appeal, the government is moving on with its plan to deliver a light rail network to Newcastle. A fortnight after it revealed the design for the new interchange, TfNSW announced the technical advisor tender.

“Make no mistake, we are getting on with the job of delivering these key revitalisation projects for the people of Newcastle,” state transport minister Andrew Constance said. “This tender represents the next step towards delivering light rail and follows geotechnical investigations that took place earlier this year.”

The tender calls for suitably qualified organisations to fulfil the role of technical advisor. Tenderers must be able to demonstrate specialist experience in engineering, urban design and light rail systems.

Specifically, TfNSW says it will only consider tenderers who have undertaken the design of a light rail “or other relevant rail infrastructure” development project worth more than $50 million, within the last five years.

“We are committed to getting light rail in Newcastle right,” Constance continued.

“To do this, we need the right people to advise us on a range of technical studies that will feed into the planning process.

“The delivery of a well-planned light rail network in Newcastle will help reignite confidence in the region, boosting jobs and visitor numbers.”

Further consultation and the release of planning documents for Newcastle Light Rail are expected in late 2015.

Sydney Train

UGL Unipart wins Tangara upgrade deal

The joint venture of engineer UGL and logistics consultant Unipart has announced a $131 million deal to upgrade Transport for NSW’s Tangara fleet, and will include Mitsubishi in the works.

Sydney’s Tangara electric multiple units (EMUs) were manufactured by UGL predecessor Goninan, under a 450 carriage contract awarded in 1986. Built at Goninan’s Broadmeadow site and delivered between 1988 and 1995, the Tangaras represent Sydney’s third generation of passenger rolling stock.

With the first generation (the ‘red rattlers’) long gone, and the majority of the second generation phased out, the Tangaras are now among the oldest EMUs on the Sydney Trains network.

 

Tangara details. Graphic: Sydney Trains
Tangara details. Graphic: Sydney Trains

 

UGL Unipart Rail Services is a 70/30 joint venture, which holds the Sydney Trains Level 3 maintenance contract, meaning it provides heavy maintenance and supply chain services to 1,050 passenger cars in the metropolitan fleet.

The new $131 million contract, awarded to the joint venture last week, means UGL Unipart Rail will carry out a technology upgrade of the 446 Tangara railcars still in service.

UGL said the technology upgrade “extends the life of the existing Tangara fleet and aligns the railcars with the latest generation of trains on the Sydney network”.

The scope of works includes management, design, supply, integration, testing and commissioning of the upgrade to train operation systems, door systems and other customer experience enhancements.

Mitsubishi Electric will be responsible for the train operation system upgrade, along with associated design and other technology or traction related systems, UGL explained.

UGL boss Ross Taylor said the contract was the result of a close, 20-year working relationship between UGL and the NSW government.

“We have undertaken strategic technology projects such as the Digital Train Radio Systems, completed a refurbishment of the Tangara fleet in 2014 under budget and ahead of schedule and have an ongoing role in the maintenance of rolling stock,” Taylor detailed.

“This contract further demonstrates the capability of UGL Unipart Rail to add value to the Sydney fleet and we look forward to working with our customer to achieve their goals in enhancing the transportation system for Sydney commuters.”

Hyperloop. Artist's impression: SpaceX

The future of rail travel, and why it doesn’t look like Hyperloop

As the world’s population becomes increasingly urbanised, it is estimated that the number of journeys measured in passenger-kilometres will triple by 2050. Roads simply can’t absorb this increase, but what can? Roberto Palacin investigates.


Railways, with their greater capacity for carrying more people, quickly and with greater energy efficiency, are the best bet to become our mobility backbone. Of course, engineers’ imaginations have created many alternatives to the original steel-on-steel approach to the railway. Maglev and the much-publicised but so far theoretical Hyperloop are often regarded as the ones to watch – but do they really represent the future of rail travel?

 

Maglev

Magnetic levitation (maglev) uses powerful magnets to propel the train along dedicated lines that are as straight as possible. The attractive forces between electronically controlled electromagnets in the vehicle and the ferromagnetic guide rails pull the vehicle up, while additional guidance magnets keep it laterally on track. This version of the technology was developed in Germany and is currently used to link Shanghai airport with the city centre at speeds of 430kph (267mph).

However it’s perhaps Japan that is most associated with maglev. The nation that established the modern era of high-speed trains is also attempting to define the next chapter. Superconducting magnetic levitation (SCMaglev) has been in development for decades but was recently approved to run from Tokyo to Osaka from 2027, when it will complete the 500km (311 mile) journey in just over an hour. Unlike the Transrapid system in Shanghai, the Japanese maglev principle uses more powerful “superconducting” magnets and a guideway design based on repulsive rather than attractive forces.

But while maglev is technically possible, its commercial viability is questionable. There is an extremely high initial infrastructure cost – Japan’s SCMaglev line is expected to cost ¥9 trillion (US$72 billion). It also cannot be integrated with existing rail networks and has a phenomenal energy demand, during both construction and operation. This casts serious doubts about maglev’s true potential as an alternative to conventional high-speed technology.

 

Hyperloop

Hyperloop is an elegant idea: travelling seamlessly at 1,220kph (that’s right, 760mph – just under the speed of sound) in gracefully designed pods that arrive as often as every 30 seconds is very appealing. The concept is based around very straight tubes with a partial vacuum applied under the pods. These pods have an electric compressor fan on their nose which actively transfers high-pressure air from the front to the rear, creating an air cushion once a linear electric motor has launched the pod. All this would be battery and solar powered.

Technically it’s a challenging design, although if someone can make it happen it’s the man who proposed the idea, Elon Musk, the man behind SpaceX and Tesla. However, Hyperloop is not rail travel. It is, as Musk puts it, a fifth mode of transport (after trains, cars, boats and planes). It’s designed to link Los Angeles to San Francisco; cities hundreds of miles apart that can be connected in an almost straight line over a relative flat landscape. This simply isn’t an option in much of the world.

Ultimately, if Hyperloop happens at all it will be a stand-alone system. It’s no substitute for rail.

 

What else?

In practice, the vast majority of us will continue to travel on trains that are not dissimilar to those that are around today. The UK is about to take delivery of 122 trains that will be the workhorses of most intercity travel for decades to come. They could still be in service come 2050, albeit following several refurbishments.

Greater automation are expected to dominate not just rail but all types of travel. Automatic train operation is already used in some urban railways which allows for shorter distances between trains on the same line. It is anticipated that in the future all mainline trains will be able to communicate with each other, meaning significantly more trains on the track, increasing capacity and service levels.

This in turn will make physical line-side signalling equipment redundant, leading to more simple layouts for new lines. Better use of energy on electrically powered intercity rail travel will likely play a significant role. For instance, energy storage systems and advanced substations will allow a shift to smarter rail systems.

Future predictions are to be treated with caution. But state-of-the-art railway investment around the globe is still largely based on the steel-on-steel principle of trains on tracks. And there’s no reason to doubt that this will be the define future of rail travel in coming decades – just as it has done since the birth of rail nearly 200 years ago.


Roberto Palacin is senior research associate, Railway Systems Research Group at Newcastle University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

Union station rail incident. Photo: Oneida County

How was boy, 13, able to cause train wreck?

VIDEO: US officials have released stunning footage of a rail car ploughing into a station after a 13-year-old boy allegedly set the car in motion while playing in a rail yard.

Footage shows a single, uncontrolled rail car travelling towards Union Station, in Utica, New York, before it slams into the railway station’s building, narrowly avoiding bystanders waiting to board an Amtrak passenger service.

According to reports, nobody was killed in the incident, and just one minor injury was recorded.

The wagon was filled with plastic pellets, and weighed more than 100 tonnes at the time of the collision, according to Utica Police Lieutenant Steve Hauck, who spoke the following day with local radio station WIBX.

Hauck said the wagon travelled downhill for several miles, hitting a car (resulting in the minor injury) on its way to Union Station.

At Union Station, the wagon reached the end of a runoff track which backed onto the station building.

It rammed into an antique locomotive stationed at the end of the track, resulting in damage Oneida County said will be very costly to undo.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bama0f7N23o

 

Police later ascertained a 13-year-old set the car in motion, while playing in a rail yard. According to an AP report, police allege the child accidentally kicked the rail car’s latch while playing on it, setting the wagon in motion.

Oneida County has accepted the judgement of Utica Police Department investigators, that the child had no criminal intent.

But county executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr. says someone else should have to pay to fix the damage.

“Of continued concern is how it was possible for a 13-year-old child to set this train car in motion through the City of Utica,” Picente said on July 31.

“I understand that the Federal Railroad Administration has concluded that proper procedure was followed. That is astounding.

“There was significant danger to our citizens and there is significant damage to our train station and someone is responsible and it isn’t the taxpayers of Oneida County. Oneida County Government has done nothing wrong. Oneida County taxpayers have done nothing wrong.”

Picente said the county was owed a better explanation than ‘proper procedure’ was followed.

“I call on the FRA and the NTSB to give this government and the people of this county a real explanation,” he campaigned.

“If ‘proper procedure’ can result in an accident caused by a 13-year-old playing on a rail car that has sat unattended for 14 days, someone should change the procedure – immediately.”