Exploring the possibilities of 5G for future railway communications

While some have been aware of FRMCS as the next standard for rail communications, with standards expected to be finalised circa 2022 to 2023 and proof of concepts and trials running from 2020 to 2025, and it is expected that we will see early deployments in Europe from 2025 onwards, the possibilities of how this communications platform and 5G can reshape the railways is now beginning to be understood. Read more

Opal Travel

Opal Travel app to include real-time social distancing alerts

Transport for NSW will deliver real-time alerts for COVID-19-safe train travel through the Opal Travel app.

The alerts will enable passengers on Sydney Trains and Sydney Metro services to be alerted based on the capacity of the service they typically travel on, allowing commuters to make decisions to further social distancing.

The COVID-19 alerts are in addition to existing alerts on trackwork, delays, and major incidents.

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that the function would further enable safe use of public transport.

“The new feature is a world leading piece of innovation that uses real-time capacity and predictive data to help customers make better choices when travelling,” said Constance.

“We have already implemented the green dots across the network, and the notifications are another way we can help maintain physical distancing and keep people COVID safe.”

The new function was rolled out to the app in just 12 weeks and utilised data that already existed.

The developers of the alert function hope that the feature will make passengers feel more comfortable and safer when using public transport.

The alerts have been personalised based on the user’s preferences, and further feedback is hoped to help improve the design.

The Opal Travel app was updated with real-time departure information for public transport in October, similar to the information displayed on screen as stations. Other information such as vehicle position, transfer information, as well as disruptions such as trackwork or delays are also now available through the app.

These function further integrate customer information within the Opal Travel app. While passengers were able to use third party apps for real time travel data, Opal payment functions were only accessible through the Opal Travel App.

The function is expected to roll out to light rail, ferry, and bus passengers in the near future.

Predictive maintenance

Bombardier launches predictive maintenance service for rail signalling

Global rail manufacturer and signalling and rollingstock provider Bombardier has launched a new predictive maintenance service designed for rail signalling infrastructure.

Named EBI Sense, the technology turns asset performance data into insights, enabling decision-making on maintenance to reduce disruptions and increase availability.

Richard Hunter, president, rail control solutions, Bombardier Transportation, said the service would utilises the latest technology, such as wireless sensors, and web-based interfaces.

“The launch of our innovative, cloud-native, predictive maintenance service for signalling is a transformative step towards realising the benefits of digitalisation for railway performance,” said Hunter.

The system is designed for widely distributed rail systems including trackside assets such as point machines and track circuits.

Based off the data collected, algorithms can predict equipment failure and schedule maintenance.

The subscription-based service is designed to be easy to use on a mobile app or web browser.

The system was developed in-house by Bombardier’s Sweden-based rail control solutions services team.

“Developed through a combination of technology and expertise combined with the latest exciting digital enablers, EBI Sense is a true reflection of our commitment to continuously innovate and add value for our customers across their system’s entire lifecycle,” said Hunter.

AssetWise

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Rail and transit owners have recognised the potential for better outcomes by using digital twins in analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning in simulations and decision support throughout the lifecycle of design, construction, and operations.

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Year in Infrastructure conference highlights digital twin innovation

At the Year in Infrastructure conference, hosted by infrastructure software company Bentley Systems, audiences were told that adoption of digital tools for infrastructure delivery and operations will only accelerate after the experience of COVID-19.

With global investment in infrastructure as method of economic recovery coming together with the impetus for more sustainable methods of construction and mobility, efficiencies through using digital tools are becoming unavoidable.

Through the use of digital twins for modelling and simulations in the design and construction phase, or for monitoring asset and network performance in the operational stage, more environmentally friendly materials can be used, waste can be reduced, while costs can be reduced and timelines shortened.

In addition, as COVID-19 has demonstrated, projects will still need to continue even when workforces are dispersed, either working from home, or across countries without being able to easily meet in person.

These factors have meant that digital tools such as those supplied by Bentley Systems are invaluable for infrastructure builders, managers, and operators.

Another macro factor that is impacting on the adoption of digital tools in the infrastructure space is the possibilities of big data and IoT. With more data being collected than ever, modelling and simulation software will be needed to make sense of this data and allow it to be seen as a productive resource.

One example of the benefit of digital twins can be seen in the adoption of digital engineering tools in the design and construction of the world’s tallest rail pier girder bridge in northern India. Constructed by Indian Railways, the railway bridge is required to support high-speed and broad gauge trains for the next century in difficult terrain. Seismic events and strong winds were also a concern for the 141 metre tall bridge.

On of the Year in Infrastructure Awards finalists, Indian Railways is using Bentley tools including OpenRail, PLAXIS, and STAAD, and the project has been able to make savings of US$24.61 million ($34.58m). These efficiencies were found through the better selection of types of materials and construction methodologies.

Once the bridge is complete, embedded instruments and drone surveys will be used to monitor the health of the bridge remotely, with a digital twin used to simulate how the bridge is behaving and the effect of inputs. This will ensure the infrastructure manager will be able to make timely decisions to ensure the sustainability of the bridge.

Melbourne to trial real-time crowding data

As part of an overhaul of the PTV app, Melbourne commuters will be able to see how full their train is before boarding.

The technology will first undergo a trial with a small group of public transport users on trains and buses in Melbourne.

Data will come from passenger counting sensors and predictive modelling technology and be fed into real-time updates displayed on the PTV app.

Victorian minister for Public Transport and Roads Ben Carroll said the trial will enable passengers to return to public transport safely.

“The coronavirus pandemic has presented an opportunity for us to rethink how we travel around the state – we want these passenger modelling trials to help people travel more reliably and safely,” he said.

“While everyone has been doing the right thing and staying home over the past few months, we’ve been hard at work to make Victorians’ journeys easier and safer as we move towards a COVID Normal world.”

In addition to crowding data, real-time location information on buses and trains will be communicated through the app.

The updated app will also allow travellers to top up their myki cards and view their balance.

New personalisation features include saving home and work locations, searching favourite journeys, stops, and stations, and improved journey planning capabilities for more predictable journeys.

The needs of blind and low-vision passengers have been incorporated in the app’s redesign, and VoiceOver and TalkBack capabilities enable the app to be fully accessible. Neil King, national manager digital access at Vision Australia said the functions would be welcomed by those with a disability.

“Public transport is vital for people with disability. The Department of Transport’s decision to consider accessibility at the outset of the design process means important public transport information is now fully available to all Victorians.”

Based on current trials and feedback further functionality may be added to the app in the future.