Celebrating 20 years

Founded in March 2000 by Derel and Sue Wust, 4Tel is a family owned business that has grown exponentially in the past 20 years.

Originally starting out as a telecommunication consultancy, 4Tel has evolved to be a multifunctional software and hardware business, with multiple engagements in Australia and internationally. With over 20 years in the military, Derel has grown his vision into a business that employees over 50 staff.

Throughout the years, Derel, alongside the management team of Tony Crosby, Mark Wood, Graham Hjort, and with the recent addition of Joanne Wust as CEO, has expanded 4Tel into sectors such as heavy rail (above and below rail operators), light rail, ports, ferries, mines, coaches/buses, and government transport agencies. With the expansion into different sectors, 4Tel’s suite of software has expanded immensely.

With the commissioning of 4Trak in 2008, 4Tel’s began a goal of creating software that would reinvent the way companies track and receive live transport information. This software has enhanced productivity for major organisations across Australia and created a market need for a software that the industry now relies on. The network-wide situational awareness provided by 4Trak gives teams the ability to optimise operational decisions faster, with greater accuracy and simplified communication paths to remotely located assets and personnel. Knowing the real-time location of trains, vehicles, and staff in the rail corridor allows operations staff to monitor delays and issues for better management and customer service delivery. Using data collected from 4Trak, the business has continued to create and expand their software suite.

4Tel’s overall goal is to protect people and assets, and this has led to a suite of innovative software solutions. This includes, 4PTW (ETW and eTap), a trackwork safety application that improves the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of track maintenance activities. 4Port, a software application that enables operators to monitor and record large sets of data regarding truck movements and container lifts for stevedoring operations. 4PIDS, which is 4Tel’s implementation of passenger information displays. 4Site, an application that monitors the status of remote field equipment. 4ASW, a positive train control system that uses GPS location-based precision, suited to areas with vital field infrastructure. 4WPS a worksite protection solution using real-time location data of trains, Protection Officers, and track machines to create a virtual geo-worksite boundary to alert workers of approaching trains. 4Trip, a comprehensive train planning software solution for managing the development and release of service timetables, including the planning of work on track activities. 4ABS which utilises a MySQL or SQL database and webpages to display access and billing history data for better management of rail network access over an intranet or the internet. 4ASSETS which is used to manage the static information about devices and their maintenance history for better asset control. 4LRMS is a system that is equipped to manage and streamline key components of a modern metropolitan light rail network.

With John Holland Rail successfully obtaining the CRN tender in 2012, 4Tel have played a substantial role in implementing several control systems to further help maintain the 5,800km of track. Significantly, 4Tel has implemented Electronic Authorities into the CRN, which is the digitisation of the paper- based train order authorities. This simplified the system immensely and automated work so the train driver and controller could focus more on keeping people safe. Moving to safety, 4Tel’s proximity reminder system, that utilises the onboard ICE radio, warns a driver of a train or hi-rails of the approaching authority limit to prevent an out of authority event. This safety has been further tightened with the addition of the application ETW.

While these systems have been implemented, 4Tel have designed, constructed and commissioned the operations centre and technologies, all while providing 24/7 onsite technical support.

The next step for 4Tel will be delving into artificial intelligence. 4Tel’s Horus system is an Advanced Driver Advisory System (ADAS) using real-time sensors and software to assist a driver in the safe operation of a locomotive. Horus proves the functionality to apply software processes to conduct the computationally intensive algorithms for object detection, localisation, awareness, dynamics, and route monitoring. 4Tel’s Horus can be used by above rail operators to assist in safely moving their people and assets across the multiple open networks of Australia.

The system can uniquely incorporate all the train running information (run ID, braking profile, authority limits, speed, location, signal info, etc.), with the day of operational information from the network (speed limits, Conditions Affecting Network, work-on-track activities, etc.). In addition, the Horus machine vision and sensor technology detects abnormal items within the corridor, to alert the driver to an un-safe situation in real-time.

Digital innovation with a customer focus

Rather than seeing digitialisation as an end in itself, rail projects are using signalling technology to answer pressing questions.

Driving the digital transformation of industry are four levers – digital data, connectivity, automation, and digital customer access – according to global consultancy Roland Berger.

In the rail industry, these levers are being pulled, however instead of being an end in itself, the move towards digital rail is an enabler of a host of other improvements to services.

These outcomes were on display at the Train Control and Management Systems summit, held in Sydney from February 19 to 21. While each individual project used its own combination of data, connectivity, automation, and digital customer access, the end outcome was driven by the industry need.

One of these projects is the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) Advanced Train Management System (ATMS). Although begun over a decade ago in 2008 with a proof of concept trial, as ARTC operation readiness manager – ATMS, Gary Evans described, the technology has been driven by its outcome and is nearing its first deployment in 2020.

“ATMS will bring improvements in our network rail capacity, operational flexibility, train service availability, transit times, and rail safety, and it will replace trackside signalling by providing precise locations of trains.”

While adopting virtual block authority management similar to other advanced train control systems, ATMS retains the trackside infrastructure.

“Trackside infrastructure is something ARTC does very well and the project monitors the environment, the occupancy of the points, so our system has track circuits over the switches,” said Evans.

Across the ARTC network of 8,500km of track, interlocking between sections of signalling and track will be centralised.

“It’s a high-fidelity track database, it’s rated to Safety Integrity Level (SIL) 3 and it enables virtual block authority management. The blocks within which the trains operate are usually a physical block and they are separated by signals, what we do with this system is that we can break it down into virtual, electronic blocks and currently, for the proof of concept we ran about 200m electronic blocks, the ones that we are using at the moment are 500m in length,” said Evans.

The new virtual block system will allow a granularity of control not previously possible.

“In terms of train operation, a train will go through a physical block today every 20 minutes. A train that will go through this same infrastructure will probably consume in the order of eight of these electronic blocks but as it is moving through it will report back at 15 second intervals,” said Evans.

“ATMS is rated for four minute headways for 1,800m trains travelling at 115 km/h.”

While the technology in itself is a step forward for the control and management of train systems, the implementation of the ATMS and the use of the four levels of digital transformation is ultimately about delivering a service for the customer, in this case, freight operators across Australia. This has led to ATMS’s unique features. Having to serve a number of freight operators at various points throughout the freight network that stretches from Kalgoorlie to Newcastle, has led to interoperability being a key facet of ATMS. Retaining trackside infrastructure allows for unequipped train traffic to use the system, and the trainborne interface was developed in consultation with operators.

“We did a lot of work with the operators on the driver interface unit. The first one that was put in front of them was a European-style one, which was a dial type set up and we almost had a walkout of the operators because it didn’t give them a lot of information and it required them to be fixated with that dashboard whereas they wanted something that didn’t require that. We worked together collaborative to come up with the current system.”

The resulting interface gives drivers a 10km look ahead, and relays information on train speed and speed limits in real time. Using location determination systems onboard the train, the system can alert a driver, operator, and controller if the train is exceeding limits.

Evans summarised the benefits of the ATMS system.

“Improved safety authority and speed level enforcement, improved trackside safety for trackside workers, increased rail capacity, improved service reliability, improving the structure of maintenance costs, more flexibility in the network, and safer management of trains.”

While Australia’s rail industry has been plagued by different technologies and standards in each state, the ARTC regards ATMS as a technology to synchronise rail control and management, for the benefit of the end user.

“ARTC’s customers traverse three states so it’s very important for us to take the lead and ATMS provides us a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually have a harmonised rule set,” said Evans.

Having this in place will allow for further innovations driven by the digitalisation of rail control.

“Future enhancements that we will work through is a path to semi automation or automation of operational systems, and integration with fuel and energy management systems.”

Having data on how a train is travelling will allow operators to more efficiently plan routes while identifying driving behaviours that increase fuel costs.

For example, rather than running at full speed through a section of track before coming to a complete stop at a signal, freight drivers can be told the optimum speed to travel to reach that signal as it turns green. Looking further afield, ATMS could lead to driver-only operation. In these cases, digital rail is not so much about the technology itself, but the enhancements that can come from its implementation.

“ARTC wants to be an enabler for its customers and not a disabler,” said Evans.

DIGITALISATION AS A SOLUTION TO DEMOGRAPHIC, ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES
As Australian rail infrastructure managers and operators adopt their local digital systems, international examples provide guidance on the motivations and outcomes of digitalisation programs. Perhaps none are more comprehensive than the digital rail system being rolled out across all of Germany’s 33,000km of rail. Beginning with the trans-European corridor, the Stuttgart S-Bahn and specified high speed lines, Joern Schlichting, head of the ETCS program at Deutsche Bahn (DB), outlined the significance of the project.

“In terms of automatic train operation (ATO) and ETCS, this is the future. That means fundamentally, a new rail system.”

According to Schlichting, Germany’s existing rail control system was performing sufficiently, and not reaching obsolescence. This made the attractiveness of the business case for adopting ETCS, however penalties within the agreement with other EU member states overcame that.

“The projected penalties would have been at least €1 billion if we didn’t equip these corridors. So, the German government said if we have to spend €1bn on penalties or equipment, let’s spend it on equipment.”

This presented an opportunity for DB and its rail infrastructure arm, DB Netz to rethink how the adoption of ETCS could be a further enabler for other issues the rail network was facing.

“Why not stop to think about how could we make the best out of it?”

This approach enabled DB to utilise the digital rail technology to confront two critical issues facing the sector – a demographic exodus and a modal shift from road to rail to reduce carbon emissions.

“What we found that is as long as we talked about ETCS as a technology issue in terms of replacing one thing by another thing there was no business case. As soon as we started to think about what the real business drivers are – what are our threats – then we found out our demographic issue is one of the worst,” said Schlichting.

In 2011, DB estimated that in the next 10-15 years, 50 per cent of mission-critical staff will retire. Replacing this staff cohort with a younger generation would require a rethink of the type of work train operators would be doing, particularly in regards to legacy systems such as interlockings.

“With these old interlockings, we have one maintenance area where we have 18 generations of interlockings, so you can imagine it’s a nightmare for people working there to be able to maintain them.”

Moving to digital systems would overcome this legacy issue and enable a younger, digital-native generation to easily fit into the systems and ways of working.

“Actually ETCS is more of an enabler. ETCS is a tool in order to bring about a completely new redesign of the rail system,” said Schlichting.

The other element that digitalisation could go towards is the relative carbon footprint of transport in Germany. Although Germany has committed to a 95 per cent carbon reduction by 2050, transport has been a sector that has been stubborn in reducing its emissions, falling by only 0.6 per cent between 1990 and 2018, compared to energy which dropped by 33 per cent. The magnitude of the task is not lost on Schlichting.

“We have to move transport from road to rail, so that means we need to create the capacity, but in the past our network has been shrinking.”

Driven by cost cutting directives, DB has reduced its workforce from 120,000 to 40,000 in the past 15 years and has also torn up tracks and points. However, now the system is required to double passenger traffic by 2030, and cargo traffic by 30 per cent. Digitalisation and the improvement of signalling thus becomes a way to increase the shrinking system’s capacity.

“How can we do this with an existing network that has been shrinking in the past and without having any money at the time for loads of new lines?” asked Schlichting.“Digitising it is the chance to create more traffic.”

At the core of this digitalisation push is the adoption of ETCS technology, common across Europe, which with a focus on outcomes, Schlichting describes as a “language”. Once the system and vehicles are talking to each other in this language, then further technology improvements can be introduced when the users demand it, just like new vocabulary.

An artist’s impression of Sydney Trains’ Rail Operations Centre.

DESIGNING A CUSTOMER FOCUS INTO RAIL OPERATIONS
In some ways, Sydney Trains is experiencing a similar issue to DB, albeit on a smaller scale, as population pressures and urban development cause more Sydneysiders to use the network. As the acting executive director, Digital Systems Business Integration (DSBI) at Sydney Trains, Andrew Constantinou sees these impacts in the operations of the network.

“Increased patronage effectively translates into our ability to create more services and our ability to create reliable services and that’s where the ROC plays into.”

The Rail Operations Centre (ROC) is a new, purpose-built building in Alexandria, Sydney which has brought together the rail management centre, the infrastructure control centre, security monitoring facility and two signal boxes, covering most of the geography of Sydney Rail. A customer and operator demand for precise, accurate information has led to the streamlining of operations into one centre and finding a way to simplify communications.

“Part of the scope is to develop a new concept of operations,” said Constantinou. “We have introduced a new incident management system that took away a lot of those phone calls, and developed a dashboard so that all areas in the ROC can understand what is the mission for that particular incident and who is dealing with what priorities.”

In this case, the digital systems that were built into the ROC had to be designed with the end user in mind, the rail operator, and to minimise disruptions on the network.

“It really starts with bringing all your people together. We started with seven design principles and I focus on the top two – collaboration and communication – because if you can build a high-performing control room floor that fosters good communication and good collaboration, you start ticking the other boxes which are underneath it,” said Constantinou.

While individual controllers’ roles were driven by the train systems they were operating, the human demands of communication were paramount.

“We looked at what communication happened. So what communication happened face to face, on the control room floor, over the telephone, and through various subsystems?

“We did that two-fold. We did that in normal mode and we did that in degraded mode. That gave us an idea around who spoke to whom and when did they speak to whom,” said Constantinou.

Ahead of designing the space, Constantinou’s team conducted a role matrix to see where the patterns in operations were, particularly in degraded mode.

With the Sydney Trains network compressing from 15 lines across the suburban network into six in the CBD, getting those critical staff together would be key for functional communication.

“We were able to say 50 roles in network operations were similar and should be sitting next to each other,” said Constantinou. “We quickly worked out which ones were the more critical to operations, which of those roles needed more supervision, which should be configured in a way that they have more supervision around them, and that led to a functional link analysis to understand if there were any functional commonality in the roles.”

With these findings, operations staff were then given a VR headset so that they could inspect the draft design and see how it fitted with their behaviour.

“We set up outside every control centre with a basic fit out where people would come in and put on the masks. They would walk around the desks and the control room floor and we would take every comment down to see how we could respond to it,” said Constantinou.

Following this was trial runs in defined scenarios, such as a tree falling over a rail corridor and a train colliding with the tree.

“You can see the phone calls that go in from the driver to the area controller and the different colours are typically people who would’ve been located in different control centres,” said Constantinou.

“They would’ve, through situational awareness, overheard the conversation because they’re sitting at the right proximity, or they would’ve been able to swing around and talk to these people.

“If you start doing the maths, it’s all the way from a two minute to a 10-minute saving threading through that scenario, so it’s good to know we can save time,” said Constantinou.

At the newly designed ROC, which opened in mid 2019, data, connectivity, and customer access came together, however with the outcome determined by the end user, not the technology itself.

Real time data assisting social distancing

To enable commuters to continue travelling safely and to protect the health of staff, Auckland Transport (AT) has updated the AT Mobile app to allow train passengers to see if physical distancing will be possible before they board the train.

The app displays a live occupancy status, whether the train is likely empty, likely space available, likely near the limit of safe distancing, and likely not accepting passengers. The live data is drawn from tap on and off points, where travellers have used their AT HOP cards.

Across the AT network, 15,000 trips are being made per day, despite the New Zealand government’s Level 4 restrictions. These journeys are being made by essential workers, those needing to travel for medical reasons, or to access essential services.

According to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, the solution was developed in a rapid time frame.

“It enables AT to ensure that it meets the rule of trains as well of buses running at no more than 20 per cent capacity to ensure passengers can maintain 2 metres of separation. This allows passengers travelling to essential work or to access essential services to know that they will be safe using public transport,” he said.

Once the lockdown period is over, users will continue to have access to the service, to avoid crowding and provide better customer information.

The service was previously available on buses, and was rolled out to trains this week, noted AT chief executive Shane Ellison.

“Those who are travelling on trains for essential trips are now able to make an informed decision about which service to take for their health and safety. I’m very proud of the team for making this update happen so quickly.”

Other updates are providing clearer information on updates to the transport network.

In Australia, while Transport for NSW (TfNSW) is not currently considering using real time data to assist passengers with social distancing, there are other ways for passengers to learn about train occupancy levels.

“TfNSW already provides passenger load data for bus and train services to apps such as TripView and NextThere which can assist customers with selecting the most suitable service to board,” said a TfNSW spokesperson.

Although patronage dropped by 75 to 85 per cent in the four weeks to March 31 across all modes in NSW, services are continuing to be maintained.

“TfNSW understands the important role public transport plays in the daily lives of commuters, especially in the regions, and there are currently no plans to reduce services of trains, buses and ferries across the vast network,” said the spokesperson.

“By maintaining the existing level of service on the NSW public transport network, customers are able to better practice social distancing when using the network for essential travel.”

Precise measurement for effective rail track maintenance

Overcoming the limitations of manual inspection of rail track wear is simplified with Bestech’s laser profile scanner.

The number of train travellers on major metropolitan railways are growing with annual increase of 3 per cent in Sydney, and almost 10 per cent in Melbourne since 2010, according to Infrastructure Australia and the Australian Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE). The effective maintenance of rail and track is one way that operators and infrastructure managers can safely increase capacity on their networks, as the Victorian government’s submission to the Select Committee on Train Services outlined.

In New South Wales, passenger trips have surpassed the numbers predicted for 2030, with train patronage having already increased by 30 per cent when compared to those in 2011, based on NSW government figures. Meanwhile in Melbourne, Metro Trains Melbourne has added 10,000 more train services in the last 10 years to meet patronage levels of 229.6 million passenger travels in 2019.

These extra services put extra loads and stresses on the existing rail infrastructure which wear them faster. Some of these services are also run on ageing tracks and legacy networks, meaning maintenance has to keep up with the increasing demand, to avoid disruptions or potentially fatal accidents. Traditional maintenance techniques for rail tracks rely on manual inspection to visually detect the wear.

As maintenance managers are looking to improve efficiency on their regular maintenance schedules, this traditional inspection method is no longer feasible or reliable enough.

To meet these challenges, there is a need for a device or system that is able to accurately profile rail tracks and automatically determine their wear and tear. One way that this can be achieved is to use laser profile scanners.

As a leading sensors and instrumentation company in Oceania, Bestech Australia supply design and manufacture sensors for measurement of physical parameters. Bestech has been supplying the Australian rail industry with the scanCONTROL laser profile scanner from Micro-Epsilon for rail monitoring applications.

“The scanControl has been previously used for measuring the wear and tear of the rail head,” said Bestech marketing engineer, Wirhan Prationo. “If the wear is too high, engineers can be notified so essential maintenance should be scheduled. Leaving the track as is could potentially derail the trains running on it, which can be fatal.”

Instead of manual inspections, which can be costly and inaccurate due to their reliance on human operators, scanControl can automatically determine wear and tear on the rail head at high speed. A minimum of two scanCONTROL scanners are required to measure the entire rail head profile. Mounted onto a measurement wagon, an array of four synchronously operated sensors can record profile data at speeds of up to 100km/h. The collected data is continuously compared with target profile in the evaluation software.

The deviation from a defined tolerance limit is marked on the map, allowing the maintenance operator to precisely locate the location to conduct repair.

“The laser profile scanner from MicroEpsilon is considered one of the highest performing laser profile scanners in its class due to their high accuracy and measuring rate. The sensor head is also equipped with intelligence for solving various measurement tasks such as profile, width, depth, edge, groove, gap, angle, flatness, deformations, and many other properties. It can also be individually programmed by integrators for custom requirement. All scanCONTROL sensors are equipped with Real-Time- Surface-Compensation feature for reliable measurement under rapidly changing conditions. More importantly, the sensors also come with GPS synchronisation which allow mapping of the entire railway tracks and fast identification of the problematic location,” said Prationo.

The non-contact profile measurement using laser scanners provides an
innovative, time saving solution for rail wear identification as compared with the conventional visual inspection technique. Customers can manually specify permissible deviation through the user-friendly interface. The data can be transferred to the cloud software application to create a detailed, interactive map of the entire rail network.

The scanCONTROL profile scanners offer a high precision and resolution scan which allows for up-to-date maintenance programs to be carried out, and directed to those sections of a track which require them most. The laser scanners can record data at a maximum speed of 10kHz at a resolution of 1,280 points/profile in the x-axis and 1μm in the z-axis.

The laser scanners are also designed to withstand harsh conditions and tested to reliably operate within a temperature range of -20 to 70°C and in strong sunlight. They are also able to withstand vibrations from the wagon or when used in an industrial environment.

Furthermore, the system has been designed with the user in mind, being compatible with image processing tools, said Prationo.

“Each scanControl scanner complies with the GigE vision standard of the Australian Imaging Association (AIA) which is widely used in image processing and supported by all conventional vision tools. This standard is essential to ensure fast and smooth integration with different image processing software for 3D profile evaluation.”

In addition to applications in the heavy rail sector, scanControl scanners have been used by light rail track maintenance providers. Mounted to a measurement wagon, two scanControl units produced a profile measurement of tram rails. The laser scanners can be integrated into the measurement system using a free SDK.

“The scanners are used to map a cross- section profile of the rail. The measured data can be compared with the stored reference data to automatically recognise wear,” said Prationo.

The data profile can be transmitted to the cloud software applications for a detailed, interactive map of the rail network, where the respective condition of the single section of the rail can be highlighted and reviewed.

In the manufacturing of railway sleepers, the scanCONTROL laser scanners can also be used as part of quality control. The process requires a high-speed, high-precision system with robust design, which the scanCONTROL scanners offer.

The implementation of advanced sensor technology such as the scanCONTROL
has proven to deliver effectiveness and efficiency in the rail industry.

“As a leading company in sensors and instrumentation in Australia and New Zealand, Bestech Australia offers not only the product, but also technical support and complete turn-key solutions for test and measurement requirements in the industry. We have more than 15 application engineers with various background to support you in understanding your applications and offer tailored solutions for your measuring requirements,” said Prationo.

Measuring lateral position of rail bogie relative to the tracks

It is crucial to ensure that the health of the tracks are regularly monitored as the train can potentially derail if the tracks are damaged.

The laser profile scanners are ideal to scan the wear and tear on the rail tracks and have been previously used for this type of measurement applications.

3D printing expertise called in for fight against COVID-19

The skills and expertise of the rail industry have not only been demonstrated in ensuring that the movement of people and goods is uninhibited during the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In Barcelona, railcar and signalling manufacturer Alstom has been utilising the knowledge of its industrial prototyping team to build visors for face shields and ventilator valves which are being delivered to hospitals.

The initiative is in partnership with 3Dcovid19.org which has been coordinating additive manufacturing facilities to provide parts for the healthcare sector in Spain.

“3D printing has gained prominence due to its particular usefulness for creating equipment to protect against COVID-19, as it can be used to manufacture materials currently suffering severe shortages such as face masks, mechanical respirators and even door openers, among others,” said Jaume Altesa, who heads Alstom’s 3D printing hub in Santa Perpètua, Barcelona.

“The aim is to help the healthcare community by manufacturing parts that meet appropriate quality and safety standard.”

Due to the rapid modifications enabled by 3D printing, developers and designers that previously produced parts for new trains have pivoted to making in-demand medical supplies.

At the same facilities, computer aided design (CAD) experts are working on portable personal protectors for door handles and incorporating new anti-bacterial materials in masks.

When not working on products to equip front-line health workers, Alstom’s 3D printing division works to make prototypes and 3D printed parts quickly and cost-competitively for new trains and for customers who require spare parts, while also facilitating manufacturing and maintenance operations. The company’s “Industry of the Future” programme is part of the Smart Operations initiative. Internally, 3D printing is used to make tools for factories, prototypes for design validation, rapidly made mould and series parts with roughly 70 references in plastic and metal.

PTA Radio Systems Replacement project falls victim to US-China trade war

The consortium delivering the digital radio systems project in Perth has fallen apart.

An alliance of Huawei Australia and UGL (HUGL) won the contract to upgrade radio communications for Western Australia’s Public Transport Authority (PTA) in 2018, however on March 27, 2020 WA Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti announced that the current contract will no longer proceed.

The HUGL consortium fell victim to increasing trade restrictions placed on Chinese exports by the US government, with restrictions imposed in August 2019 cited by the WA government as the tipping point.

In 2017, the WA government announced the $120 million project, which would involve installing new towers and poles with digital-friendly infrastructure, to enable the replacement of the current analogue radio system with a digital one. This involved all radio devices in trains, security vehicles, and handheld radios. Moving to a digital system would allow for data as well as audio to be transmitted by radio. Future Automatic Train Control systems, which PTA has aimed to install as part of the Metronet project, would utilise the digital radio systems.

Since the contract was awarded, the parties have had to grapple with restrictions placed trade between the US and China. Tariffs imposed on Chinese exports would increase the uncertainty around the cost of the project, timelines, and effectiveness of the final solution.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the State Government’s project – which is limited to a radio network for train drivers and transit guards – has been caught up in the ongoing trade dispute between the US and China,” said Saffioti.

The WA government has indicated in a statement that it will continue with the project, although it will be delayed.

“Given the trade dispute, and the current economic and health crisis facing the world, the PTA has recommended a fresh approach for the radio replacement project,” said Saffioti.

“The PTA will continue its plans to deliver a new digital radio system for our expanding public transport system.”

Potential options include the withdrawal of Huawei Australia from the contract, or the termination of the contract as a whole. The PTA will look to preserve current subcontract arrangements.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has extended the deadline for the PTA to vacate the analogue radio spectrum to beyond 2021.

Bentley Systems acquires GroupBC

Global software and digital twin provider, Bentley Systems has acquired GroupBC.

GroupBC is a software as a service (SaaS) provider that has been widely adopted in the UK infrastructure sector. GroupBC’s common data environment (CDE) solutions including BC Projects and BC Enterprise+ are used for information management in construction and asset estates. Teams can collaborate, manage, and share documents, data, and spatial information on the central, secure cloud-based platform.

Developed in the UK, these CDEs have been adopted as best practices there, and subsequently globally, with the UK standard for construction project information management adopted by the global standard ISO 19650.

“Our many UK users, projects, and owners in common with GroupBC will gain a lot from our joining forces to advance CDEs through digital twins,” said Simon Horlsey, UK regional executive for Bentley Systems. “I have been tasked by Bentley management to help the UK to continue to lead the world in going digital for infrastructure advancement, and our new offerings and colleagues from GroupBC bring essential momentum as we pool resources to meet our market’s expanded ‘infrastructure revolution’ requirements.”

As contemporary systems, Bentley’s ProjectWise and GroupBC’s information management software will improve the collaborative BIM available to infrastructure construction projects across the entire lifecycle.

Additionally, Bentley will use its iTwin Services to connect GroupBC CDEs and ProjectWise CDEs to fully enable 4D mixed reality and analytics visibility across previously disparate CDEs for construction and engineering.

Chief technology officer for Bentley Systems, Keith Bentley, spelt out how this would improve services for customers.

“With the help of our new GroupBC colleagues, we will now be able to better serve engineers, contractors, and owners by bringing together their collective IT (information management), OT (operational technologies including reality modeling), and ET (engineering models),” he said.

Learn how you can maximise your existing investments in track maintenance by consolidating data silos

While rail and transit organisations are great at collecting various forms of data, they typically struggle to effectively analyse it in order to inform decision making. With the ongoing digital transformation, the increasing volume and speed at which data can be collected, and therefore needs to be consumed, is becoming a significant problem for track maintenance teams.

Compounding this is the likelihood that data is coming from multiple hardware suppliers, each providing their own independent software solution for its analysis, resulting in the creation of data silos across the organisation. What is needed is a solution that is hardware-neutral. A system that provides the ability to consolidate and manage all third-party information, thereby providing easy access to data it can trust as the basis of all types of analysis, including for example linear analytics related to track maintenance.

The data silo obstacles for rail and transit

With data coming from multiple sources and in many formats, the variety of this information often exceeds the understanding of a single person. Different teams will likely use a range of isolated datasets to perform specific activities across a network, and different team members will typically use and understand the different types of data in a number of ways, so the system should allow for the seamless sharing of datasets between the business units involved. In a world where so-called ‘Big Data’ is increasingly the basis for critical decisions within an organisation, any solution they deploy needs to address four substantial obstacles of these ‘Linear Data’ silos.

Watch the on-demand Tech Talk: The Benefits of Consolidating Data Silos.

The barcode revolution: Standardising the industry

Thermit Australia’s Andrew Carter tells Rail Express how the company is implementing GS1 data standards and why global standards should be part of normal business.

As technological initiatives coordinate the Australian rail sector, the global standards that shape the entire industry will allow organisations to realise significant benefits as they streamline their operations. That’s why the Board of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) is encouraging the implementation of GS1 global data standards across the Australasian rail industry to prepare it for its digital future.

For Andrew Carter, operations manager at Thermit Australia, suppliers of aluminothermic welding and glued insulated joints, it was a no brainer to start implementing GS1 standards and realise the vision towards a national approach of rail technology.

Carter has been involved in businesses that supply to the rail industry for the past 20 years. He took on a new role at Thermit Australia five years ago to manage operational interests. Carter has seen the industry evolve over the years, however, the biggest change to digitalisation in operations at the company occurred two years ago, when regional Victorian operator V/Line requested

Thermit to implement GS1 barcoding in 2018. Thermit Australia is one of 24 companies within the global Goldschmidt Thermit Group – a supplier of products and services for railway tracks. In the group’s 120 years of operation, this global standard had never been implemented before.

The Australian company was the first business across the international group to adopt GS1 barcoding. Initially looking to implement the standard as a standalone company within the Goldschmidt Thermit Group, the head office in Germany had also been investigating implementing GS1 standards across all of the group companies.

MODIFYING AND IMPROVING OPERATION
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) is encouraging the industry to act on digital capabilities and automation of operational processes by using GS1 global data standards.

The ARA resolved for 2019 to be the year of building rail’s digital capability through a transformational joint initiative with GS1 called Project i-TRACE. The ARA and GS1 established an i-TRACE working group to help support the ambitious goal of rapid adoption of standardising the entire industry.

Thermit Australia had already implemented the GS1 standards, spearheading this initiative a whole year before the 2019 Project i-TRACE action plan.

Two years before V/Line had discussions with the ARA to adopt GS1 standards, the Victorian government-owned corporation was already having significant issues around tracking critical spares in the inventory of the company’s maintenance groups and project works.

V/Line consulted Thermit Australia to help standardise the identification (codification) and barcode labelling of stock to help fast track the management of inventory at V/Line’s main warehouse in Lara and the company’s additional 33 inventory depots across Victoria.

V/Line was the first customer that Thermit Australia had that wanted the introduction of GS1 standards, so the company had to undergo operational changes to its welding consumables labelling in order to meet V/Line’s product requests.

Carter said implementing a new system meant facing new challenges, but Carter said GS1 Australia assisted Thermit in understanding the practices for standards in the industry and building the system to improve data quality and barcoding.

“We knew we needed to adopt a GS1 coding based on a group wide format, so the key aspects of the project were to implement the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) labelling on products for our customers, with V/Line being the first.”

Carter said throughout the initial process of modifying operations to comply with GS1 standards, V/Line provided valuable feedback to Thermit, ensuring the company can providing a suitable format that meets their requirements.

Thermit Australia had minor modifications during the implementation stage, sending V/Line prototype labels for review before supplying the final GS1 barcoded products, said Carter.

“We didn’t have to worry about V/Line coming back to us saying our barcoding wasn’t in line with their expectations as we engaged with GS1 the whole way through the first implementation stage,” he said.

Carter said the open collaboration between V/Line and GS1 Australia helped Thermit refine the style and format of labelling, according to the guidelines.

“GS1 Australia were of great assistance to help us implement the new barcoding guidelines, they would look at what we produced and then we created prototypes and got valuable feedback from V/Line.

“The first trial run of product with labels was sent to V/Line at the end of January 2019. Following feedback, some modifications were made and finalised at the end of March 2019 to provide them the efficiency they wanted through product handling,” Carter said.

“I’m very happy we’ve been proactive in embracing the GS1 barcoding standards as a supplier to the rail industry. It was an expectation in V/Line’s contract requirements and it potentially is a tender advantage as more requests for GS1 barcoding are rising within the industry.

“Once we implemented the barcoding with V/Line we have rolled it out to every customer that continues to request it, expanding our GS1 labelling process to major passenger rail networks including Metro Trains, Sydney Trains, and Queensland Rail.”

DRIVING TOWARDS DIGITALISATION

Carter said engaging with GS1 standards meant developing IT systems that aligned with the standard’s automating operational procedures.

Thermit Australia has two operational sites located in Somersby, NSW and Clontarf in QLD. Somersby was the initial facility using the barcoding standard as the site manufactures and provides welding consumables and implementation.

“The existing label generation at Somersby was a standalone system that required the manual transfer of data from our Navision ERP system into the label creation software,” Carter said.

“We decided to make this process more efficient and looked into having the ERP software send data automatically to the label software to generate the new GS1 compliant labels.”

After the company engaged its inhouse and external ERP software consultant, along with label manufacturer Wedderburn, Thermit Australia established that a new label generation software was required.

The new software, called Bartender, was compatible with the company’s existing label printing hardware, making the implementation process smoother, Carter explained.

“Our ERP system needed to be customised to allow the capture and transfer of the required data to the Bartender software,” he said.

By the end of June 2019, the new GS1 compliant product identification labelling was rolled out, with all customers receiving GTIN labels on the weld kits.

Since then, work has been commencing on adding GS1 barcoding to other products, with the first crucibles to be supplied to the market early this year.

Carter said the Clontarf site where labels are manufactured to be attached to the rail and installed in track will catch up in time.

At Clontarf, the existing product label is an aluminium tag with stamped data, and through the second half of 2019 Thermit investigated options to find a solution to add the GS1 data to the aluminium tag, Carter said.

“Dot peening was pursued with a new supplier and samples were sent to GS1 Australia and V/Line for assessment, they provided positive feedback however there were reliability issues reading the tags in different lighting environments.

“The readability of the dot peen on the aluminium is not satisfactory for the scanners that are already being used by our customers, so we are currently looking at a alternative materials instead and this work is ongoing.” Carter predicts over time the rail industry will more broadly see the benefits of adopting global standards, staying ahead and being up to speed with current standards has improved the efficiency of operations at Thermit Australia.

“This implementation project is driven by the industry and remains a key priority for us, so we will continue to endeavour to meet the requirements of our customers.”