ETCS

Upgrading the heart of the Brisbane’s rail system

The implementation of ETCS on the South East Queensland network highlights the many benefits of modern signalling systems.

In major capital cities, transport operators are looking to get more and more out of their assets as populations grow and the demand for sustainable mobility increases. In many cases, the rail systems that have formed the backbone for public transport have been upgraded with new, modern signalling systems to bring trains closer together and increase the frequency and volume of services.

Brisbane has been no exception and is currently beginning the implementation of European Train Control System (ETCS) as part of the Cross River Rail (CRR) project. However, as Simon Cook, project director ETCS at CRR highlights, there is more than one reason why modern signalling is being rolled out.

“The interesting thing with ETCS and this project is that it is delivering a range of benefits for different people and organisations,” said Cook.

Cook lists three main goals for the system, safety, capacity and reliability, which reflect the priorities of the different agencies involved in the project.

“For Queensland Rail safety and reliability would be the top two things, for the Department of Transport and Main Roads – who is the project sponsor and has responsibility for the overall network and how to manage the patronage increases – capacity and reliability are front of mind.”

When addressing the goal of safety, the deployment of ETCS on the Brisbane network, both in the newly constructed tunnel and on the inner-city network between Northgate and Milton stations, allows for a major upgrade in safety systems.

“The current signalling has been in place for a long time, so bringing in a modern signalling system with automatic train protection is really important as the number of trains and customers on the network increases,” said Cook.

Cook highlights that reducing the occurrence of signals passed at danger (SPADs) is one example where the network will directly benefit.

“A SPAD is very disruptive as well as having potential safety implications and it’s one of the key safety metrics of railways. “If you’ve got automatic train protection so the train will brake to prevent overspeed or avoid exceeding movement authority, then that’s an absolute gamechanger and with a good train management system and an in-cab signalling system for drivers then it’s a smoother, more reliable journey for customers as well.”

To address the second goal of capacity, the deployment of ETCS is about futureproofing the Brisbane and South-East Queensland network.

“The Queensland Rail network hasn’t seen the same level of growth over the past five years as other states, but it has lifted over the last year. ETCS and the CRR project has been put in because of the really big growth that’s forecast in patronage on the Gold Coast line and the Sunshine Coast line.”

Based on 2019 census figures, the City of Brisbane and the Gold Coast added the largest number of people for any local government area in Australia.

The final goal is reliability, an area where Cook highlights Brisbane’s rail network can become more efficient and meet international benchmarks.

“There are ageing assets on the network and you could just keep replacing like for like but the deployment of ETCS was a really good opportunity to bring assets up to a new standard to really drive up some increases in performance and reliability.”

Ultimately, ETCS will allow for automatic train operation through the new tunnel, simplifying one of the most complex parts of the South East Queensland rail network. Ensuring reliability here will lead to benefits on other lines.

“What we don’t want to do in Queensland is end up with a situation where we’ve got a range of bespoke signalling systems, so we are really keen to stick to a standardised approach spreading across our network and operators, and that’s the reason for selecting ETCS,” said Cook.

FIRST DEPLOYMENT
The ETCS project officially roared to life at the tail end of 2019 when Hitachi was announced as the successful tenderer for the ETCS systems. The $634 million project was initially a standalone upgrade to the network under the auspices of Queensland Rail, however in 2018 the project was moved to the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority, and is now one of three works packages, along with the Tunnels, Stations, and Development project and the Rail, Integration and Systems project.

According to Cook, ETCS sits alongside the two other packages, and while construction has begun on CRR, ETCS has begun its staged approach to implementation.

“Signalling is the absolute heart of the railway system and any change to that system is going to be potentially disruptive for customers, for maintenance crews who have to learn completely new equipment, and for rail traffic crew and signallers who have to learn a completely new system. You don’t take that on lightly, and the change task is probably bigger than the technology task so the way that we’re going about it is a staged approach.”

The first program of testing will be carried out on the Shorncliffe line. The line was chosen to be a test track due to its lower patronage and separation from the rest of the network. Preparations are underway to fit out Queensland Rail’s 160 and 260 series trains.

“We are finalising the preliminary design for the Shorncliffe line and starting off detailed design next month for the first fleet of trains,” said Cook.

“The idea with using the Shorncliffe line as a pilot area is that we can test our trains there along with the other technologies that we’re going to see in the tunnel at opening. Platform screen doors are another bit of equipment that will be new to the Queensland Rail network so we can either simulate or even install small sections of platform screen doors on the Shorncliffe line and check the integration with the trains and the signalling all work.”

DELIVERING FOR THE END USER
Cook says that for him and his team within the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority (CRRDA), their aim is to ensure the systems that Hitachi provides fit with the Queensland network.

“For me as project director and my team, we’re fairly agnostic over the actual technology, but we’re here to deliver the right system at the right time for Queensland Rail and for the DTMR.”

This has been done so far through the colocation of the CRRDA and Queensland Rail teams and operational readiness work beginning at the outset.

“Operational readiness lessons are something that we picked up from looking at other projects,” said Cook. “You can’t start too early on that. You need to really understand the whole change that’s going to come to the railway through this, so a lot of effort is on focusing on training package, design, consultation with the train crew and signallers on what the changes will mean for them, and of course looking forward to the design for the rest of the network.”

Although there are no other operational examples of automatic train operation over ETCS on passenger rail in Australia, Cook has looked to overseas project for lessons about ensuring that the CRRDA is not only looking from an engineer’s perspective but an end-user’s view of how the system will work.

“I’ve spent a bit of time learning about Thameslink in the UK, which did take a bit of settling down, but there are certainly a few really good takeaways there from an operational perspective; understanding how they worked with their train crew, the teething troubles they had and understanding how train drivers and other operational staff will really interact with the system.”

Queensland Rail have contributed to the design of human factors along the project, and will continue to take on board the views of front line staff.

“At the end of the day they’re the people that will be driving these trains and they’re the people that will be controlling the signalling, so it has to be right for them,” said Cook.

Rail Systems Alliance delivering high capacity signalling for Melbourne’s rail future

Dealing with rapid population growth has led to Melbourne upgrading the signalling system on two of its most congested lines. Rail Systems Alliance is ensuring the benefits are felt for years to come.

Over the past 10 years, the story of Australia’s cities has been rewritten. While Sydney had been dominant for the previous century, no account of the urbanisation of Australia in the second decade of the 21st century could ignore the rapid growth of Melbourne.

The relative growth of Melbourne is most clearly illustrated by the fact that Melbourne adds a Darwin-worth of population each year, overtaking Sydney in population size by 2026. Much of this growth has been concentrated in two areas, the west and the south-east of Melbourne and the rail lines that serve these expanding areas are reaching capacity. This has necessitated Victoria’s Big Build, the largest infrastructure building programme in the state’s history, of which rail plays a major part, highlights David Ness, package director, Rail Systems, Rail Projects Victoria.

“There’s a number of initiatives underway to help alleviate that population growth, one is the introduction of larger trains that can carry more passengers, and then the second part is the provision of High Capacity Signalling (HCS) on the corridor that lets us run more trains, more often.

“What ties all of that together is the Metro Tunnel project that connects those two corridors, Dandenong in the south-east and Sunshine/Sunbury in the west, and allows us to untangle the existing rail network. It’s a combination of things but HCS is the centre point, allowing you to operate more efficiently on the corridor.”

The HCS project, now in its testing phase, is being delivered by Rail Systems Alliance, a partnership between Bombardier Transportation, CPB Contractors, and Metro Trains Melbourne. The project will introduce Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) technology, the BOMBARDIER CITYFLO 650 rail control solution, on both the Sunbury and Cranbourne/Pakenham lines as well as in the newly built Metro Tunnel, creating a new end- to-end rail line from Sunbury to Cranbourne and Pakenham. The two existing lines are some of the most complex in the Melbourne network, not only serving commuter trains, but regional passenger lines and freight services, requiring a mixed-mode solution, said Tim Hunter, alliance manager, Rail Systems Alliance, Metro Tunnel Project.

“What is unique about Melbourne is the fact that we’re upgrading existing lines, on brownfield sites, as well as the greenfield site in the tunnel. That means that we can continue running the existing trains on the existing lines at the same time as we do the upgrades. As the vehicles become fitted with the CBTC technology then they can run either in the conventional signalling or CBTC mode. The beauty of it is that it’s a mixed mode solution for the existing lines.”

The introduction of moving block rather than fixed block signalling will enable a step change in capacity, even under mixed conditions.

“We’re expecting to open with around 18 trains per hour when we will still have a mixture of CBTC trains and regional and freight trains,” said Ness. “But, as time progresses, the system itself has a capacity of 24 trains per hour. That means it actually has a higher capacity to recover from disruptions that may occur, and the Metro Tunnel will be capable of 24 trains per hour.”

ENSURING EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION
Getting to this targeted level of capacity on the first introduction of CBTC technology on an existing rail line in Australia has required a collaborative approach, facilitated by the nature of the Rail Systems Alliance.

“We went through a pretty extensive, year-long competitive alliance tender process,” said Ness. During the process, Rail Projects Victoria looked at the system’s capabilities, the ability to minimise disruption during integration, and did site visits to other HCS projects internationally.

“On a balanced score card of value for money, being able to address our technical requirements, being able to address mixed mode, being able to work within an alliance framework – which is intrinsic to the way we’re approaching the job – Bombardier Transportation, CPB Contractors and Metro Trains Melbourne were
the successful tenderers,” said Ness.

Taking an alliance approach to project delivery allowed for the project to effectively interact with the many other stakeholders involved. While the technology promises to increase capacity and relieve the strain on Melbourne’s rail network, its success depends upon all elements of the wider project working together.

“We have the technology challenge, in that what we’re introducing into the system is new, but that change is not just operational, it affects the entire way in which the network is run,” said Ness.

The introduction of HCS in Melbourne requires the project to interact with a variety of stakeholders, including the rest of the Melbourne rail network, the other consortiums on the Metro Tunnel Project, and the procurement of larger trains, which is being delivered in parallel.

“The alliancing model provides the most flexibility to adapt and move while maintaining your focus on that end game,” said Ness.“It’s very difficult to do a project like this with just a fixed scope, fixed dates, fixed price, fixed everything. Having a target price that you can adapt and working together with the client has been proven to be the best model.”

In practice, this has enabled a regime of extensive testing for the technology on the rail line. On the Mernda Line wayside equipment has been installed and two existing X’Trapolis trains have been fitted with the Bombardier CBTC equipment. Dynamic testing is now underway. The project has also involved the operator, Metro Trains Melbourne, to prepare the end user – the drivers and operators of Melbourne’s trains, as Hunter outlines.

“We’re setting up additional labs so we can test the train management system for the new trains alongside HCS. We are also taking the equipment and systems that have been implemented inside the tunnel and then testing that with our systems in the lab, so that when we go to implement on site we will have done as much testing as we can offsite. This will make implementation testing and fault finding a lot smoother.”

The hands-on approach to testing enables the end users (for example, train drivers) to become “super users” as the design develops and the new technology is introduced as part of the project.

“We have user working groups within Metro Trains Melbourne to facilitate operational and maintenance input,” said Hunter. “We’ve done a lot of on-site training, we’ve taken them to Bombardier’s CBTC facilities in Bangkok, Madrid and Pittsburgh and shown them what has been done on other projects, and how the technology works. This collaboration is critical to successfully implement HCS on this project.”

Hunter explains that each piece of equipment that drivers or operators use goes through an extensive human-centred design process, with safety front of mind.

“It’s a tremendous amount of work but I’ve learnt from other projects that it’s essential because in the end we want the people who will be using the technology to really feel as though they own it.”

One example where this has occurred is in the design and purchasing of the desks that will be used at operations centres in Sunshine and Dandenong.

“We’ve got the actual desk that we’re proposing to use in the control centres in our office in Bourke Street and we invite people from Metro Trains Melbourne to come and look at, sit at, use, and test it.”

PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE OF HCS
While signalling upgrades on two of Melbourne’s busiest lines will have an immediate benefit for commuters, Rail Systems Alliance has also been aware of the need to ensure that investment in the project benefits the wider rail industry. While experiencing unprecedented investment, the rail industry is looking at a looming skills crisis. As one of the first rollouts of CBTC technology, the HCS project aims to train the next generation of signalling engineers.

“We’ve got roughly 35 cadets coming through the project,” said Hunter. “We’re working closely with the Victorian government and the Local Jobs First – Major Project Skills Guarantee but it’s important that we’re building a base for future projects.”

While signalling projects such as HCS have needed to hire talent internationally, Hunter hopes that this won’t continue to be the case.

“We’ve had to bring a lot of people in from overseas – including myself – who have done these kinds of projects around the world but that’s not a sustainable model. What you actually want is a strong, capable, local team, so that’s what we’re setting out to do. We’ve got cadets working on signalling design, onboard equipment, the control systems, the communications systems, the radio systems, systems engineering, and systems safety assurance.”

Having such a major project occurring in Melbourne has a drawcard for attracting the next generation of engineers to rail.

“As soon as they join, I sit down with them and talk about the project and how exciting engineering is on these kinds of projects.”

“University is a good starting place for technical knowledge, but to have the opportunity to work on a project of this size and this complexity on their doorstep is too good to miss,” said Hunter.

While there’s no concrete plan to roll out HCS beyond the existing project scope at this stage, efficiencies of already implementing the technology mean that any future upgrades would be even smoother.

With a competent and experienced local workforce, and upgrades in place on two of Melbourne’s most complex lines, Melbourne would be well-placed to extend HCS over the rest of the existing rail network said Ness.

“Our focus right now is to successfully deliver HCS on the Sunbury and Cranbourne/ Pakenham corridor. However, if you look at Melbourne’s growth, and some of the pressures on the rail network, HCS may be one future option to get the most out of the existing infrastructure,” said Ness.

Gippsland

Joint funding for Gippsland Line upgrades

The Victorian and Commonwealth governments have committed $300 million to upgrades on the Gippsland Line, as part of the Regional Rail Revival program.

The upgrades will improve service reliability between Pakenham and Traralgon, easing congestion on metropolitan lines in the process.

According to the Victorian government, the works will create 400 jobs in the region. A contractor is expected to be appointed shortly and works will begin before the end of 2020, with a targeted completion date in late 2022.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan announced the rail upgrades along with improvements to the Princes Highway East at Flynn and Kilmany.

“These important projects will provide safer, more reliable roads and train services for locals and tourists alike,” said Allan.

Regional Rail Revival projects on the Gippsland line include signalling upgrades, a new crossing loop and track duplication, additional platforms, level crossing upgrades, and a new stabling facility near Traralgon. Construction is already underway on a new bridge across the Avon River in Stratford.

The current funding announcement will enable track duplication, extending the Morwell crossing loop, and second platforms at four stations, including Bunyip and Longwarry.

Once complete, trains will be able to run every 40 minutes between Melbourne and Traralgon in off-peak periods.

The package of works will be delivered alongside the signalling works on the Bendigo and Echuca Line.

Member for Eastern Victoria Jane Garrett said that the project will provide local opportunities.

“The Regional Rail Revival will enhance our regional economies, create local jobs and provide valuable opportunities for local suppliers as the state recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Gippsland region was heavily impacted by the 2019-2020 bushfires, prior to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We know It’s been a very difficult year for Gippsland communities – this funding will help to boost the local economy and create jobs while building the transport infrastructure Gippslanders need,” said Allan.

Delivering technological innovation in Australia

Omada Rail Systems is bringing exciting and innovative technology to the Australian rail industry.

Through a strong focus on youth development and carefully selected company partnerships, Omada Rail Systems is capable of delivering globally recognised technology across Australia. Omada is partnered with two UK based companies, Gioconda Rail and KeTech, both of which are renowned for taking the first step and pushing technological boundaries. Through their usual services of signalling design, systems integration, testing and commissioning, and telecommunications engineering, Omada is capable of introducing these technologies into Australia.

The directors at Omada are committed to working with their team to identify and implement process innovations. With the promise of providing clients with the best value for money, the Omada leadership understands that a focus on quality and efficiency is key. The company has a growing reputation for delivering high quality work and going the extra mile to ensure the client’s satisfaction. This is largely due to a strong work ethic and philosophy of teamwork, allowing for a fast and safe turnaround of projects. Omada has outlined a plan to further increase capacity for delivering larger projects by implementing efficient processes and resources; backed by bringing in additional quality engineers to the team.

Omada interlocking simulator
Omada is building an inhouse relay interlocking system and test panel, to demonstrate signalling design and testing fundamentals. This project is designed to be predominantly worked on by Omada’s graduate engineers, allowing them to further develop their knowledge of signalling design principles. Once complete, this will serve as a platform for high quality inhouse training for all of the current Omada engineering team and for future graduate intakes. With this project targeting completion early in 2021, Omada believes this unique project will set them well above the pack.

Gioconda
Omada and Gioconda joined forces more than 12 months ago, with the mutual goal of enhancing asset management, signal sighting, and driver briefing activities in Australia. Gioconda services stem from their base specialties of railway filming and 3D modelling.

Gioconda’s services include:

  • Railway filming
  • Video asset mapping
  • BIM and 3D visualisation and modelling
  • Signal sighting
  • Driver briefing and training packages

A powerful tool and process for inspecting the railway as part of design, Gioconda’s asset mapping tool has sparked a great deal of interest from Australian companies looking for more effective methods of asset management. Gioconda have previously delivered multiple projects for Metro Trains Melbourne such as a virtual signal sighting and driver briefing package for the Mernda project and a driver briefing package for the Burke Road Grade Separation project. Omada and Gioconda have brought this technology to many major operators through presentations, with high levels of interest. According to Omada director Luke Craven, “The Gioconda software is a remarkably efficient and powerful tool. By bringing the railway into the office, it has massive benefits with regards to safety and cost.”

KeTech
KeTech has been at the forefront of real time information systems for 20 years and, like Omada, has recently experienced substantial growth. Providing real-time passenger and driver information systems, KeTech’s team offer their clients a reliable, fully integrated information system.

KeTech’s products and services include:

  • Passenger information systems
  • Customer information systems
  • Connected Driver Advisory Systems (C-DAS)
  • Driver-only operated CCTV system

With a strong focus on being one step ahead, a passion to challenge the impossible and meticulous attention to detail, KeTech is set well above its competition. KeTech is able to combine its passenger, customer and driver information systems to work in unison, as a universal information system (UIS), capable of providing passengers and operators with live updates and information such as arrival and departure times, seat allocations, platform alterations, toilet availability, and much more. Designed to vastly improve customer experience, operational efficiency and support a safer journey, KeTech’s UIS is truly ground-breaking. Omada and KeTech’s leaders are closely aligned in their desire to bring this technology into Australia. With operators constantly looking to improve customer satisfaction figures and operational efficiency, KeTech’s products are a proven solution.

The three companies previously shared an exhibition stand at AusRAIL PLUS 2019 and have since seen a great deal of interest from Australian based companies. If you would like to find out more about Omada Rail Systems, KeTech, or Gioconda visit: https://www.omadarail.com/services/

Bendigo

Extra funding for Bendigo and Echuca Line upgrades

An improved electronic train ordering system will be installed on the Bendigo and Echuca Line, after the Victorian and federal governments agreed to a $300 million funding boost.

The modernised train ordering system will be a first for Victoria and enable fast and more frequent services to Echuca and more services between Epsom, Eaglehawk and Bendigo.

Bendigo and the surrounding region will benefit from over three times the number of week-day return services to Echuca, one more than what was previously promised.

The electronic train ordering system will use the existing telecommunication networks and radio equipment in use on V/Line trains, improving safety and frequency.

Once deployed on the Echuca Line, the technology could be rolled out across the entire V/Line network.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the improvements would lift the region’s economy.

“These critical upgrades will mean better services for passengers while creating jobs and providing a much- needed boost to the regional economy through and beyond the pandemic,” she said.

In addition to the train ordering system, ten level crossings between Eaglehawk and Bendigo will be upgraded with improved train detection technology. This technology will make the level crossings safer while allowing more services to run.

The $300m funding boost is in addition to other improvements being carried out on the regional rail line. Three new stations at Goornong, Raywood, and Huntley will be constructed to allow Metro-style services between Bendigo and surrounding communities.

“This extra funding will get shovels in the ground faster – delivering more trains more often for Bendigo and Echuca passengers,” said Allan.

The combined funding increases the total investment in Victoria’s regional rail network, under the Regional Rail Revival banner, to over $2 billion.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said the funding would enable better connections between Victoria’s cities and regions.

“This funding will significantly boost the Regional Rail Revival Package, helping to improve conditions for train passengers on their journeys to and from Melbourne.”

Australasian Railway Association CEO Caroline Wilkie said that it was heartening to see rail recognised as a sector that can support long-term economic recovery.

“It is good to see funding for projects that will provide an immediate boost to our economy while also supporting long term value for the community,” said Wilkie.

Further work on the Bendigo Echuca Line upgrade will look into improving the frequency of services between Bendigo and Kyneton, and the reopening of Harcourt station.

Alstom

Alstom using AI solution to manage social distancing in Panama

Alstom is using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to manage passenger flow and maintain social distancing.

The system is currently in use on the Panama Metro, where Alstom has deployed its Mastria multimodal supervision and mobility orchestration solution.

Initially used to manage passenger crowding in peak periods, the system has been adapted to maintain social distancing requirements due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The ability of this tool to analyse millions of pieces data in real time makes it an indispensable ally for operators at all times, but especially in the current context. Simply put, it matches transport offer to demand, no matter the conditions,” said Stephane Feray-Beaumont, vice president innovation & smart mobility of Alstom Digital Mobility.

The system gathers data from a various of data sources, including train weight sensors, ticketing machines, traffic signalling, management systems, surveillance cameras, and mobile network.

This data is then fed into an algorithm, which determines when the network is reaching its capacity limit. The operator can then carry out actions in response to the data, whether that be increasing train frequency, adjusting entry to the system, managing people on the platform, or suggesting changes to transport systems that feed into the rail network.

Since being installed on the Panama Metro late in 2019, Mastria has been mining the system’s data to be able to intelligently predict when the system will be reaching capacity through machine learning techniques. After three months, the system could predict saturation up to 30 minutes before it was visibly observed, enabling remedial action to be taken, and reducing wait times in stations by 12 per cent.

During COVID-19, the system has been used to limit train loads to 40 per cent of maximum capacity. To achieve this, new features such as real time monitoring of passenger density and flows, simulating limiting access to stations, and analysing the distribution of passengers along trains have been developed.

When the COVID-19 threat recedes, Panamanian operators will be able to use the new features to manage the return to public transport, said Feray-Beaumont.

“All experts agree that public transportation, and particularly rail, will continue to be the backbone of urban mobility. Artificial intelligence will be our best travel partner in this new era of mobility.”

Thales to support NSW digital strategy

Global technology provider and rail signalling manufacturer Thales will develop a leading digital control, communication, and signalling centre in Sydney.

The announcement follows Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s $1.6 billion Digital Restart Fund which aims to make NSW the digital capital of the southern hemisphere.

Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins said that the announcement enables Thales to commit to basing its digital innovation in Sydney.

“This is incredibly exciting for the many innovative companies operating in this state. To back the NSW ambition, we are committed to establishing a digital innovation lab in western Sydney to develop digital solutions for public transport,” said Jenkins.

Thales supplies digital transport systems to Sydney Metro and has supplied telemetry solutions to Sydney Trains.

Jenkins said that Thales would be drawing on its global expertise and tailoring the solutions to the needs of NSW and Transport for NSW, focusing on Metro, light rail, transport cyber security, and digital rail signalling.

“The Digital Innovation Lab will continue to grow smart jobs in western Sydney, enhancing our existing team of world-class engineers and software developers already based in our Transport business.”

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said that investment in digital technology would drive the state’s economy.

“This record investment in technology recognises that digital infrastructure is as important as transport infrastructure to the State’s economic growth.

“We must be fast followers in the Digital Revolution to accelerate agility, lift productivity and generate the jobs of tomorrow.”

The $1.6bn in funding also includes $240 million to enhance NSW’s cyber security capability, the biggest single investment in cyber security in Australia’s history, said Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello.

Cyber security is also a focus for Thales.

“It’s never been more important that our public transport systems are protected with the highest levels of cyber security, which Thales delivers to public transport operators around the world,” said Jenkins.

Mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity improved on Central Coast line

Governments at the state and federal level and the private sector are funding improvements to mobile connectivity along the Central Coast line.

In addition, passengers and residents can now access Wi-Fi at 19 train stations between Hornsby and Wyong. The improvements hope to reduce black spots and resolve connectivity issues across the 68-kilometre section.

Federal Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said that these improvements would increase productivity and improve passenger amenity.

“The Morrison Government is committed to improving connectivity and reducing black spots along the Central Coast rail corridor, allowing passengers to use their travel time to work remotely or connect with friends and family,” he said.

Federal member for Berowra Julian Leeser said that the improvements would be welcomed by the local community.

“The rail corridor is a vital link for many. Significant black spots along the train line have been causing calls to drop out and have made it impossible to work on the train. This project will provide new connectivity and continuous mobile coverage along the rail corridor, helping to boost productivity.”

The federal government contributed $12 million to the project, with the NSW state government contributing $4m and Telstra $13m.

The Wi-Fi service is now available at all stations between Hornsby and Wyong.

The tunnels, hills, and valleys of the line create black spots for mobile coverage, which will be rectified following the project.

Thales

Thales signalling solutions deployed in four locations

Thales will roll out its SelTrac Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) system in three new cities, with one system recently entering service.

In Hangzhou, China, in its joint venture with Shanghai Electric Company, Thales SEC Transport (TST) recently celebrated Hangzhou Metro Line 16 entering revenue service. The 35.12km line can operate at speeds up to 120km/h and has utilised the SelTrac CBTC technology.

Functions of the signalling system deployed in Hangzhou include automatic train supervision (ATS), triple redundancy, automatic train protection (ATP) for engineering vehicles, and switch protection in intermittent automatic train protect (IATP) mode.

The newline will connect the Hangzhou city centre with the growing Lin’an District, enabling sustainable population growth said Jérôme Bendell, vice president of Thales North Asia and CEO of Thales in China.

“An efficient metro is essential for the commercial success and growth of any great city. Thales is proud to bring a proven expertise and decades of transit infrastructure experience to Hangzhou Line 16 that will contribute to the transportation foundation for Hangzhou’s growth and evolution.”

Three other metropolises have selected Thales CBTC signalling systems for new lines and capacity increases. In Seoul, as part of the modernisation of Incheon Subway Line 2, Thales is working with local Korean signalling company DaeaTi to increase the depot capacity, allowing for the driverless trains to be parked safely.

Thales is also delivering its vehicle on board controller (VOBC) with train contractor Woojin Ind.

In Istanbul, the SelTrac CBTC system will be installed on the new M10 line. This will be the second line in Istanbul with the technology, and will now link Turkey’s second busiest airport with Istanbul and its growing suburbs.

Again delivering as TST, the SelTrac CBTC system will provide the signalling for the new metro line 4 in Nangchang, in eastern China. The new line will be the longest in Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi Province, as well as having the largest number of stations.

Dominique Gaiardo, vice president and managing director for Thales’ urban rail signalling business, said that Thales tailors its solution to the needs of each customer and the requirements of passengers in each city.

“During the Covid-19 period, we are continuing to work together with our global partners in major cities such as Incheon, Istanbul, and Nanchang. Thales is committed to providing state-of-the-art SelTrac CBTC signalling technology.”

Manco

An elevated solution

Working collaboratively with a customer, Manco have been able to design and deliver a bespoke solution customised for the rail projects of today.

In Australia and New Zealand, perhaps the most distinctive feature of the major rail infrastructure projects is that on the whole, they are hidden from view. Whether it be the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane, the new Sydney Metro lines, the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, or in Auckland, the City Rail Link, the major elements of the new rail lines are deep underground.

Installing track, wiring, and associated systems many metres below ground level requires new thinking when it comes to the equipment and plant needed to build the new rail lines.

Steven Waugh, power systems manager – transport and technology at UGL Limited is more aware than most of the intricacies involved in some of these projects. UGL is working on both the Line-wide works for the Sydney Metro as part of the Systems Connect joint venture and the rail integration and systems contract as part of the UNITY Alliance joint venture on Cross River Rail. In these projects innovative equipment is required to respond to current needs.

At the time of writing, Waugh is just a week away from receiving delivery of a new combined scissor lift platform and wire manipulator from Manco Rail. The bespoke piece of equipment was designed in partnership between UGL and Manco specifically for the requirements of modern rail projects, the first being the need to limit exhaust fumes when working in confined tunnels.

“Instead of retrofitting old plant, we went with a new truck that has the best emissions controls available,” said Waugh.

More significantly, however, Waugh is just about to complete the process of working with Manco to develop a unique platform that will be put to use on projects such as Sydney Metro and Cross River Rail.

“The combined scissor platform and wire manipulator is going to be ideal for wire runs or traction wiring runs. We will be able to do wire retrievals and install new catenary and contact wire.”

Bringing together what would normally be two separate pieces of equipment will enable Waugh to tackle the complexities of current projects.

“The wire manipulator is for when you’re running wires so you can get your staggers right as you run the wire out, but then a scissor platform can do things like install sections, insulator switches, and doing bigger jobs all at once with a number of people on a platform.”

The platform mounted onto the back of a hi-rail truck is extendable, to allow for more people to work on the platform at one time.

“The platform is designed to be quite large so that we have a number of people on it at once and safely do all the things we need to do,” said Waugh.

To meet UGL’s specifications, Manco designed a platform which, when raised can expand horizontally.

“This enables us to work safely in tunnels and to install equipment on the side of the tunnels. This is quite a bespoke unit that Manco did for us, to our specifications, so that we can have it as a multipurpose unit.”

Unlike standard catenary wires, electric trains running through tunnels draw their power from beams mounted into the ceiling of the tunnel and it’s here that the large platform comes in handy.

“In the tunnel it’s a rigid bar conductor so the length of that platform allows us to have two people on each end of the bar, installing it into the roof. That would be very impractical with a normal elevated work platform (EWP),” said Waugh.

Being a “multipurpose unit” has other efficiencies, particularly when getting equipment in and out of tunnels is easier said than done.

“It takes time to bring machines in and out, because these things on rail only move at 15km/h. Doing one thing with one machine then bringing another machine in takes a significant amount of time.”

For example, even in surface-level wire installation, Waugh has seen rail authorities which have one machine with a pantograph for mounting the overhead wire, and a second EWP for measurement.

“They’ve got two machines doing the same job that we can do with one machine, so that’s where I think we can start to get efficiencies because of the multiple things we can do at once.”

Another advantage of the unit that Manco have designed is its flexibility. The equipment can be reconfigured by an operator for the job at hand.

“It’s modular too,” said Waugh. “I could get a forklift, take that whole scissor platform off and, because it sits on container-type pins, put a flat tray on it and use it as a hi-rail truck, then I can transport materials. That’s the beauty of it, I could drop on another module on it, even a concrete agitator, or another module that is a smaller, Manco EWP.”

THE OUTCOME OF COLLABORATION
The flexibility, multipurpose nature, and instant applicability of the platform is a result, in part, of the close and collaborative relationship that UGL and Manco had throughout the design and build process.

“The process and collaboration were great, they listened to what we wanted and then worked through that,” said Waugh.

An OEM based in New Zealand with branches in Australia, Manco was able to quickly respond to the needs of UGL and come up with a solution that met their requirements.

“They’ve been doing this for a long time, and they were able to listen, which was the key piece.”

In addition, Manco knew the environment that UGL was operating in, and was able to suit the design of the platform to fit the safety requirements of various rail access regimes in Australia.

“There are some challenges that come with a thing like this, where you’ve got moving platforms and multiple uses,” said Waugh. “One particular one area was ensuring the safety railing will met the legislation and all the requirements in terms of safety and testing that. With Manco, that was just something that we worked through, it didn’t take very long and they came up with the designs.”

When the project neared completion, Waugh and a colleague visited the Manco workshop in New Zealand in person to finalise all details so that the equipment would be ready for delivery. The ease of being able to connect further simplified the process.

“Obviously it’s better to be geographically closer but there’s a couple of other advantages; there’s the collaboration on the engineering, and then being able to get out of us what we want and turn that into what it is,” said Waugh. “Then there’s also the testing and engineering part and the certification part and that’s been a bigger part than even I expected. Having local people that can do that testing, that are familiar with all the different rail networks, and assist with getting that certification done has been helpful.”

Manco was able to work with independent certifiers to ensure that the unique solution met all of UGL’s requirements to work on rail networks around Australia.

“These engineers know what the requirements are, and they ensure that the machines are tested correctly and can provide the test results to meet those requirements.”

Ultimately, Waugh said that the new platform will be an asset to UGL’s fleet. “It was designed for the work UGL is involved in and so we can see how it will benefit those major projects because of its multifaceted capabilities. We see it as something that will be an asset to the project and give us some great productivities,” he said.