Cutting out the noise for PA systems

Chatswood railway station in Sydney has implemented a new Digital PA system that promises to cut out the interruptions.


Announcements are an important component of train station organisation, but lots can get lost in the noise and bustle of a busy station. PA systems can sometimes overlap due to the sheer frequency of announcements that have to be made at any one time.

Chatswood railway station on Sydney’s North Shore Line was one such station facing the consequences of this. So many trains were passing through the station – which serves roughly 60,000 passengers a day and sees a train pass through every three minutes on average – that it was not a practical solution to have one announcement playing on each platform at a time.

Given the station’s popularity and configuration of four tracks split into two islands, it was making announcements hard to prioritise for Sydney Trains and Sydney Metro, both of which used the station for their North Shore Line and Northwest services respectively.

Since there is only one audio system at the station and both operators needed to play announcements at the same time, Sydney Trains and Sydney Metro worked together with audio specialist supplier tm stagetec systems to find a more practical solution.

Both Sydney Trains and Sydney Metro stated that they wanted their operators to be able to broadcast simultaneous announcements on adjacent platforms so that waiting passengers would be able to hear and understand the announcements on their platform, without being disrupted by similar and simultaneous announcements emanating from the other platform a few metres away.

The project team came up with three proposed solutions in how to deal with the increasingly troublesome occurrence.

The first proposed option was to prioritise the announcements between operators. However, it was decided by the team that due to the frequency of announcements to be played, it was nearly impossible to prioritise the announcements without compromising to other types of announcements such as safety or track works.

The second proposed idea was to install a physical barrier in the middle of the island platform to block the sound spilling over to the other platform. However, since there was a lot of devices already installed along the platforms, and Chatswood is categorised as an Emergency Warning & Intercommunication System (EWIS) station requiring a full fi re assessment before adding new materials or devices to the platforms, the idea was dropped.

The third option, involving sophisticated sound isolating technology, was the one that eventually won out, says Charles Chan, an audio services manager at Sydney Trains who led design and project management on the project alongside colleague Nixon Edward.

“Chatswood Station consists of two island platforms: Platform 1 & 2 and Platform 3 & 4,” Chan says. “Platform 1 and Platform 4 are operated by Sydney Trains where Platform 2 and 3 are operated by Sydney Metro. Both operators are required to play the announcements in accordance to their individual schedule.

“Acoustic modelling and demonstration were conducted with a positive outcome. Therefore, it was decided to proceed with a new Digital Array Speaker solution to meet the business and operational needs for both operators.”

tm stagetec systems settled on Plane Array CS-90 speakers from subsidiary EDC Acoustics, which led distribution and system design integration on the project. EDC had to program the PA systems to a very narrow radiation pattern in the horizontal plane so that they could be steered to the desired target area and maintain that focus over a wide bandwidth. The CS-90 speakers, being tall, narrow column-style speakers, were especially well suited to this task.

The CS-90s could utilise computer-controlled wavefront control in 3D, allowing users to direct and shape wave fronts to meet the needs of the task at hand, in this case to isolate the sound output to a particular island without the risk of overlap from an announcement on a different platform. This not only provided a benefit for the commuters but would help to avoid noise leaking to other areas outside of the station as well.

It was a challenging project for EDC, according to David Connor, the audio and electroacoustic designer charged with leading the acoustic modelling side of the project.

“This was a psychoacoustic challenge as well as a technical challenge because the other platform announcements have meaning and further disrupt the brain when compared to incoherent noise,” he says.

“Delivering this level of isolation in such a short distance is a difficult task that was further compounded by secondary sound arrivals in the form of reflections, echoes and reverberation. In order to achieve the objectives, the loudspeakers had to be focussed very specifically.”

The setup was designed so that the difference in total sound level between the two PA system announcements would be more than 15 decibels (dB) in a range between 250 hertz and 8 kilohertz.

These figures were chosen as they were generally considered to deliver the minimum headroom required to deliver significant intelligibility in the presence of noise, according to Connor.

Acoustic echo cancellation and ambient noise systems were also installed to allow automatic, real-time level adjustment at each individual platform to ensure that passengers could still hear announcements while waiting for either train or metro services.

“The design solution performance was predicted with the goal of more than 15 decibels only being realisable from 630 hertz to 4 kilohertz,” Connor explains. “Less than 10 decibels could be achieved from 400 Hz to 8 kHz.

After much analysis, this was deemed to be the best practical result possible, and the installation proceeded. Since the speaker systems were implemented at Chatswood earlier this year, tm stagetec systems, Sydney Trains, and Sydney Metro have all received significant positive feedback.

“After the system was commissioned the realworld performance was measured by creating a graph comparing the design predictions with the real-world measurements that found they were very similar,” Connor explains. “Hats off to science.”

Digital Rail experts to talk emerging tech, key trends

With the increasing demand for faster, reliable and state-of-the-art rail services, it’s no wonder major railway organisations and authorities across the country are harnessing technology innovation that will transform rail experiences for the future.

Some of rail’s key digital systems, data and analytics experts will gather to discuss key trends and new technologies in the digital rail sector, in Sydney from August 26 to 28 at the Digital Rail 2019 conference.

A full agenda and brochure have been released for the event, which is being run by IQPC Australia.

Speakers include:

  • Gerald Schinagl, Digital Innovation Manager, OBB (Austrian Federal Railways)
  • Chris Bennetts, Executive Director, Digital Products & Services, Customer Services, Transport for NSW
  • Sarah Capstick, Executive Director (Transition) NGTS Project, Department of Transport and Main Roads QLD
  • Warwick Talbot, Deputy Executive Director, Engineering & System Integrity, Sydney Trains
  • Paul Davies, Communication & Sustainability Manager, Northwest Rapid Transit
  • Ryan Townsendd, Manager, Digital Engineering, Sydney Metro
  • Simon Sinnott, Systems Engineering Manager, Metro Trains Melbourne
  • Stephen Lemon, Digital Systems Program Director, Transport for NSW
  • Helen Williams, Director, Rail Systems Development, Transport for NSW
  • Yvie Hough, Product and User Experience Manager, TrackSense
  • Tiago Pinto, WW Transport Solution Architect, Huawei Transport Solutions Group
  • Anthony Loui, Senior Transportation Planning Manager Metro Operations Liaison & Planning, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)
  • Sudath Amaratunga, Technical Manager – Precincts & Infrastructure, Infrastructure & Services, Transport for NSW
  • Simon Vaux, Director Digital Engineering, Infrastructure & Services, Transport for NSW
  • Laura Stewart, Design to Innovate Partner, Aurecon
  • Jeroen Weimar, Chief Executive Officer, Public Transport Victoria
  • Professor Graham Currie, Director of Monash Infrastructure, Chair of Public Transport, Professor in Transport Engineering, Monash University

For tickets and more information, click here.

Rolling railway maintenance to a digital destination

In the rail industry time is valuable currency. SKF’s latest digital innovation is proven to extend maintenance levels and keep rolling stock rolling as much as possible.

Condition-based maintenance (CBM), which involves measuring and monitoring parameters such as vibration and temperature to spot anomalies at an early stage, has been applied for a long time in many industries. The monitoring aspect is commonly known as conditioning monitoring.

Historically, the rail industry’s maintenance regime is to service trains on a time or mileage basis. Though this approach has been used successfully for many years, it does not take account of whether parts actually need replacing.

Inspection can only take place when trains aren’t running, and maintenance actions require rollingstock to be taken out of service, or lines to be closed for extended periods.

As such, maintenance costs remain one of the biggest concerns for the industry, due to aging train fleets and the increasing need for train availability.

Adoption of CBM is steadily growing thanks to significant innovations and the availability of technology. Digitalisation is making a major difference towards how maintenance is executed and can enable the customer to extend
maintenance intervals. This can have beneficial effects on, for example, train availability.

The less time rollingstock spends in maintenance, the more time it can spend carrying passengers or cargo – this is important at a time when the sector is seeing increased pressures on demand. It can also help with reducing lifecycle costs and inventory management of spare parts, due to the early warnings provided by condition monitoring of any risks and possibilities of incidents.

SKF combined CBM with its knowledge in bearings and other components and developed an entirely rail-focused version of its highly successful Multilog IMx platform. This latest innovation combines rolling stock and track condition monitoring in a single, easily customised solution.

The next step in train digitalisation

Multilog IMx-Rail is a multi-channel, on-line condition monitoring system based on new rail approved components. It is the next step in train digitalisation, allowing operators to implement condition-based maintenance that can help achieve goals such as TCO reduction, higher availability, the avoidance of unplanned stoppages and longer maintenance intervals.

Available for OEM installation and as a retrofit solution, the Multilog IMx-Rail offers advance warning of rolling stock rotating part issues on wheel bearings, gearboxes and motors, as well as data collection from many other components. The system can also provide a track health map with line faults located, identified and recorded with market-leading accuracy.

The Multilog IMx-Rail system can also be integrated easily with SKF’s Cloud services for data storage, data sharing and for SKF Remote Diagnostic Services. Its versatility, combined with SKF’s expertise at monitoring rotating components across many industries, enables the quick analysis and prioritisation of any planned rolling stock maintenance.

Proven on the tracks

Multilog IMx-Rail is already demonstrating its capabilities in the field. To provide a sense of how the system typically works, on a standard commercial train, for example, the self-contained package of sensors and electronics is mounted onto one of the train’s bogies, under a carriage.

In everyday operation, the unit measures and records acceleration and vibration signals, it then processes this data and transmits all the information wirelessly to a back-office collection point, where reported information can trigger required actions.

Next, a dedicated software system, also provided by SKF, uses smart algorithms to analyse the sensor’s data, along with information on the train’s location and operating conditions. The software system, called “@ptitude Observer”, identifies, locates and accurately records rail track abnormalities that might generate wear or damage to the train’s wheels, passenger discomfort, or noise on particular parts of the track. Maintenance staff can then use that information to trigger a more detailed inspection of the area of track identified.

Multilog IMx-Rail doesn’t only help operators understand the condition of wheels and track. The system is also designed to identify vibrations caused by other problems on the train, such as faulty bearings. Operators around the world are already using this approach to avoid breakdowns and optimise their rolling stock maintenance schedules.

As rail traffic increases, the role of digitalisation and condition monitoring solutions, such as the Multilog IMx-Rail, will become increasingly more important in boosting rolling stock efficiency and keeping trains on track.

Uber app to add Sydney public transport

Sydney will become the first city in the southern hemisphere to have its public transport integrated into popular ridesharing app Uber.

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance on July 30 said Transport for NSW would collaborate with the ridesharing company to encourage more people out of their cars and onto the public transport network.

“We welcome the decision by Uber to choose Sydney as the first city in the southern hemisphere to benefit from up to date public transport information within its ride sharing app,” Constance said.

“This collaboration will help people make better decisions on how to get around the city and reduce congestion on our roads.

“When customers enter their destination in the Uber app they’ll see ‘public transport’ as an option. Nearby transport hubs, timetable and pricing information will be displayed on the screen of their smart phone, making them even more aware of the alternative options to using a car.”

The app will include real time departure and arrival times for public transport, and walking directions to and from the stops involved.

Uber Australia and New Zealand’s head of cities Kate Stannett said the company was looking beyond ridesharing with the view of becoming a true transport platform.

“We want to help people replace their private car with their phone,” Stannett said.

“To do this people need an alternative that is faster, easier and cheaper than owning your own car.

“An integrated platform of different transport options aims to reduce congestion on our roads. This is good for everyone, including rideshare drivers and riders using the Uber app.”

Transport for NSW said it is also working with Uber to provide ticketing and payment functionality within the Uber app.

A dessan for life

Drawing on many years of systems integration experience within signalling technology, Hitachi Information Control Systems Europe (HICSE) has added a new feather to the cap of its dessan Rail product suite. HICSE’s dessan Rail products, developed to improve efficiency, safety and performance, now includes a new integration, dessan Design.

Early scheme plan drawings can be edited and created by clicking and dropping objects from a pre-existing library of signalling components. This allows users to design and edit in real time, significantly speeding up decision making related to stakeholder engagement and design optimisation.

dessan Design has been developed with the principles of intelligent design in mind to make things easier for track designers in the earliest stages of signalling design.

The program can monitor the validity of a track diagram while it is being drawn, while warning icons are able to pop up and alert the user with an error description on the diagram in case there are any issues in the design.

The ability to automatically check for basic errors in this way greatly reduces potential reworking during later design stages. dessan Design also provides several advanced scalability options that allow ongoing development without the need for specialist third-party technology.

“Creating the right environment was essential to ensure easy adoption,” says Denise Watkins, sales manager at HICSE. “The objective was to use the latest technology to design a highly intuitive, userfriendly tool with a modern interface that was simple to deploy globally.”

User experience (UX) was another central tenet of dessan Design’s creation. To understand what was important to users when using the software, Hitachi utilised performance research from UK-based client Network Rail. dessan Design can be used on platforms that use valid Standard Data Exchange Format (SDEF) files, with other data export formats also being available. This allows for deployment across a wide range of users in both the UK and international rail signalling supply chain, helping both rail companies and passengers.

dessan Design has so far received positive feedback from a soft launch at the Railtex exposition in the UK, though it is still too early to provide a full assessment of the potential scope of the product’s integrational impact on the dessan Rail suite as a whole.

HICSE also specialises in high-fidelity simulation which can replicate the signalling infrastructure and operations of any part of the rail network.

“Design decisions and/or errors can be difficult and costly to amend on a live railway. So before committing to or investing in new or altered infrastructure it makes sense to use this type of technology to fully test the integrity of a design in a virtual environment, especially when engineering and operational options are being considered,” says Watkins.

A good example of the effectiveness of dessan Rail software was its use on the major £200 million ($362 million) re-signalling project to improve the railway in and around Derby station, UK. HICSE was engaged by Network Rail to produce a detailed micro simulation model for the planned rail infrastructure using dessan Model.

“Although the station itself was modernised in 2013, the track layout had not been improved for nearly 50 years and the signalling had not been comprehensively upgraded since the 1960s,” Watkins says. “During this time, the number of passengers travelling through Derby has more than doubled.” “It was the biggest investment and improvement program at Derby for decades and now provides better journeys for thousands of passengers every year.”

The project involved the creation of five design options that could be demonstrated to companies in real time (including perturbed operations).

According to Steve Taylor, Network Rail Senior Project Engineer for the remodelling project, this on-the-fly flexibility has proven essential for stakeholder meetings.

“I believe without this simulation tool the Derby remodelling would be fully reliant on simpler and retrospective modelling much later in the design process,” he says. “Therefore, the tool enabled the project to demonstrate to the sponsor value for money much earlier.”

Overall, HICSE has high hopes that dessan Design will bring overall improvements to the efficiency and accuracy of signalling project design, with future scope for automated design and testing. “As rail transport demand continues to expand worldwide, it is increasingly important to boost performance levels,” concludes Watkins.

A better bet for balise

Pandrol (Vortok) has developed a balise mount system that could change the game for on-track install times. Rail Express speaks with Pandrol’s Craig Mulvay.

Balise are an important component of modern rail signalling technology and a familiar sight on the rail track.

Craig Mulvay, a technical and commercial development manager at rail track systems specialist Pandrol (Vortok) explains that balise serve primarily as a beacon on European train control systems (ETCS) that can accurately provide a train’s location (along with other data) through communication with trainborne receivers.

It is important that balise be correctly and securely fitted to rail tracks due to the need for accurate positioning and the safety critical data balise transmit. The Pandrol (Vortok) Balise Mount Systems (BMS) are commonly installed as mechanical fasteners for ECTS balise but can also be used to mount Communications-based Train Control (CBTC) transponders as well (along with the capability to be adapted to any signalling technology).

Traditionally, balise-fitting installations have been considered a rather laborious process, requiring either the removal of ballast from around sleepers or sleeper drilling and anchoring, processes that can risk damage to sleepers and cost more money down the line.

The Pandrol (Vortok) BMS is set to aid this with a duo of products designed to facilitate easier balise installations in a fraction of the time.

The BMS On Sleeper beam and BMS Clamp Beam hold several benefits for both installers and end users. For one, the integrity of the sleepers is maintained since the beams do not require any drilling with power tools to be fit balise into position. Instead, installation can be facilitated cleanly using commercially available hand tools. This reduces installation and removal periods significantly, with Pandrol (Vortok) estimating ontrack times of less than two minutes per beam for the On Sleeper type beams. This in turn improves project management flexibility for operators as well.


Pandrol’s new Double Clamp Balise Mount System (BMS). Top photo is the On Sleeper BMS with Fastclip fastening system.


The installation is so quick that it can also help to reduce (or even entirely eliminate) the need for track possession in brown field sites.

Balise positioning being set by design rather than the competence level of the installer significantly reducing the risk of read errors between balise and receiver.

“Normally the procedure would require track position as you would not be able to do the job within traffic,” Mulvay explains. “In addition, getting power tools on site adds time and equipment liability.”

The products are suitable for fitting balise from several different manufacturers, including Bombardier, Siemens, Hitachi and Alstom.

The On Sleeper Beams use the existing rail fastening as an attachment point and are capable of interfacing with all major fastening systems, such as Pandrol’s own e-clip, Fastclip and Nabla, as well as Schwihag, Vossloh, K-Plates, Delkor and directly to timber sleepers. This helps to avoid the requirement for installation of additional components that could require training or added time for installs.

For example on the E-Clip system; “Very simple hand tools can be used to extract the e-clip and equally put it back in – we use the heel load (the reactionary load) of the e-clip to hold down our beam,” says Mulvay. “We take the clip out with the hand tool, get the beam in position and reinstall the clips.”

The biggest advantage of positioning the balise over the sleeper is that the bed between the sleepers can remain unoccupied, which is handy for allowing automatic railway maintenance applications such as ballast consolidation machines to maintain access to the space between the sleepers.

Clamp beams, by contrast, are placed between sleepers and are secured to track via mechanical clamping to the underside of the running rail foot and are available in single or double clamp beam formations.

Mulvay explains that the development of the double clamp beam variant came about as a response to the needs of high-speed rail lines in Germany.

“The development of double clamp beams originated in Germany from a phenomenon known as ‘ice bombs’ or ‘ice shedding’”, Mulvay says.

“Ice shedding can become a more common as trains travel through tunnels where the environment is a bit warmer, chunks of ice that have built up on the trains can melt,” he explains. “When they are exposed to the sudden pressure change on exiting a tunnel, those big chunks of ice can shed from the train, so in Germany (among other countries) they have a requirement that all equipment mounted on track be required to withstand the impact of these ice strikes. It proved quite the challenge in terms of engineering.”

The Pandrol (Vortok) team tested the strength of the single clamp beam by hitting it with a 4kg billet of ice at 176km/h, which was suitable for slow- and standard-speed tracks, but insufficient for high-speed rail, which led to the development of a double clamp system capable of withstanding greater punishment of up to 330km/h strikes.

The BMS products build on Pandrol’s 20 years of equipment mounting experience dating back to the launch of the original Vortok Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) in the year 2000.

The company’s innovations on the TPWS, which served as something of a progenitor of Pandrol (Vortok) modern BMS systems, included the use of track fasteners as a fixing point and pultruded fibreglass as a structural material to support the signalling asset.

TPWS innovated in its the use of pultruded fibreglass, which was considered an excellent material for use on the railway in terms of its strength-to-weight ratio, and its ability to withstand the often harsh environments of the railway. The natural electrical isolation properties of the material also ensure existing track circuit signalling technology is unimpeded.


The Vortok Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS).


The company then followed up its initial success on the TPWS with its first official BMS, the H-Frame, followed by the heavy-duty Automatic Warning System (AWS) Rapid Fit Frame, capable of carrying up to three AWS magnets of over 70kg each. Pandrol (Vortok)’s experience with the development of mounting systems has helped to inform the design decisions on the on sleeper and clamp beam.


The Automatic Warning System (AWS) Rapid Fit Frame.

Agenda finalised ahead of next week’s Digitalize 2019

More than 51 speakers and panellists have been confirmed for next week’s digital technology and industry 4.0 event, Digitalize 2019.

The event, now in its fourth year, will take place in Brisbane on July 23. Organiser Siemens this week says delegates can expect more than 40 external speakers, and 11 global and local representatives from Siemens to speak or take part in panel sessions at the event.

This year’s conference will explore Australia’s digital future across the four core themes: workforce of the future, intelligent infrastructure, the country’s energy transition and Industry 4.0.

Speakers and panellists include:

  • Sophia Hamblin Wang, Chief Operations Officer, Mineral Carbonation International (MCi)
  • David Chuter, Chief Executive Officer, Innovative Manufacturing CRC
  • Warwick Sommer, Chief Executive Officer, AmpControl
  • Ron Victor, Chief Executive Officer, IOTium
  • Brad Flanagan, Director, Digital & Cyber Risk, Deloitte
  • Justin Nga, APAC ICS Cybersecurity Manager PAS
  • Callum Reeves, Co-owner, Kaiju Brewery
  • Simon Carr, Co-owner, Brogan’s Way Gin Distillery
  • Warren Bradford, Director, Deacam Industrial Electrical Engineering
  • Rafael Amaral, Chief Technology Officer, Nukon
  • Vikram Kalkat, Senior Manager and Didi Ismawan, Manager, Kaspersky
  • Jon Clarke, Head of Smart Building Delivery, Dexus
  • Philip Downie, Facilities Management Solutions Director, Serco Asia Pacific
  • Adrian Fahey, Chief Executive Officer, Sage Automation
  • Megan Houghton, Executive General Manager, Energy Solutions, ERM Power
  • Alexandre Torday, Global Head of Professional Services, Aimsun
  • Adam Bryant, Head of Customer Solution Architects, Asia Pacific, Nokia
  • Paul Gleeson, Managing Director Energy, Resources and Manufacturing, Aurecon


Also joining the speakers will be representatives from universities like Swinburne University of Technology, University of Technology Sydney, University of Queensland, University of Western Australia and University of Tasmania.

Digitalize 2019 is sponsored by Platinum sponsor Dell EMC, Gold sponsors Phoenix PLM and Sage Automation, and coffee cart sponsor APS Industrial.

Find out more:

New South Wales pushes on with rail automation

Rail Express speaks with experts from Alstom about the signalling revolution underway in New South Wales, and how modern technology helps drive capacity and performance.


The opening of Sydney Metro Northwest in May represented the first revenue services for a completely driverless passenger train in Australia.

The new line’s Alstom trains operate at the highest grade of automation as defined by the International Association of Public Transport, which defines five Grades of Automation (GoA) as follows:

  • GoA 0 is traditional on-site train operation, without any automatic systems assisting the driver or controlling the vehicle.
  • GoA 1 sees the train driver remain in full control, while being advised by an Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system, which checks the train’s speed against what is permitted by the signalling, and can help adjust speeds to stick to a timetable or improve capacity.
  • GoA 2 uses ATP and Automatic Train Operation (ATO), which drives the train during regular operations, but still uses a driver to control doors and operate the train in the event of a disruption.
  • GoA 3 removes the driver, leaving a train attendant to open and close the doors and operate the train in the event of a disruption.
  • GoA 4 is a completely automatic train system, with no staff onboard. Movement and door operations are all controlled automatically.

With GoA 4 now implemented on the Sydney Metro, Transport for NSW continues its rollout of GoA 1 through its ongoing ATP program across the electrified Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink network, including the South Coast Line as far as Kiama, the Blue Mountains Line to Lithgow, and the Central Coast / Newcastle Line.

Rollout includes installation of balises in the rail corridor between existing trackside infrastructure to monitor train speeds, and the installation of equipment on board all suburban and Intercity train fleets, and is set to continue until at least 2020.

Meanwhile, the state will incorporate the ATP program and achieve GoA 2 on the Sydney Trains network through its Digital Systems program. Announced last year, Digital Systems is an $880 million investment in ETCS Level 2 technology, ATO, and a Traffic Management System for more effective incident management and service regulation across the network.

Alstom has worked with Transport for NSW on its ATP program for the last seven years, it delivered the rollingstock and signalling for Sydney Metro Northwest, and it is one of the top candidates in the ongoing procurement of the Digital Systems platform, which is expected to roll out in stages from the early 2020s.

With all that in mind, Alstom’s ETCS Solutions Director Vincent Passau gives Rail Express his thoughts on how operators can use ATO as a tool to improve their operations.

“When we speak about ATO, it is not simply an onboard function. It is the way you regulate and optimise the capacity of your network,” he says.

“An integrated Traffic Management System (TMS) gives a global view of the complete performance of your system; you know where your trains are, how they are behaving, where they are in comparison to the timetable.”

Passau says the accurate tracking of trains provided through modern onboard and trackside technology further aids the performance of a TMS.

“Iconis [Alstom’s mainline TMS solution] is working well in combination with ETCS technology, because the data being sent by ETCS are giving us very accurate information about the train. Not just the track section the train is on, but its exact location, speed, and its mode of operation, so our system can detect not just if a train is late, but why it is late, and adjust automatically.”

The technology allows the transfer of instructions in the other direction, telling a train to speed up or slow down within safe limits, to better comply to its timetable and to improve capacity and performance on a network-wide level.

“Once the train receives the information from the control centre, it will have the expected speed profile and the arrival time at the next station, and the ATO will compute a speed profile to achieve that within the safety limits, and while using energy in the most efficient way.”

At the control centre, Alstom’s Iconis system incorporates automatic path management functions with the goal of achieving greater efficiency on large networks with dense traffic.

Implemented in Bologna, Italy, the system automatically routed 80 per cent of traffic, and achieved a 15 per cent capacity boost. “Because you have better stability, you can increase your margins and operate your network in the most efficient way,” Passau says.

Passau says Alstom’s systems, as well as its onboard and trackside technologies, are designed with the potential for a transition between GoA 2 and GoA 4 in mind.

“Every transportation segment of rail is going towards ATO, and then we see it progressively moving from GoA 2 with a driver, to GoA 3, where it is driverless but you have a person on the train in case of incidents, or to support the passengers should they need it, up to the unattended Grade of Automation 4.

“The important element is moving fromGoA 2 to GoA 4, and key to this is replacing the driver not so much with something that can drive the train, but with something that can react to unexpected situations.”

Local track record with global support

“We’ve built up a reputation for solutions in rollingstock, signalling, systems and services, and we like to think we can take very small components – effectively products and their sub-components – to standalone solutions, all the way to bundled offers of two or more of our solutions,” Alstom Australia’s Customer Director NSW Alan Trestour says.

In Melbourne, Alstom continues to deliver its Metropolis trainsets. For the Sydney CBD & South East Light Rail project, Alstom is delivering traction power substations, overhead catenary systems, rollingstock, signalling, passenger information systems and the ongoing maintenance of those solutions.

Alstom delivered and will maintain the new rollingstock for the recently-opened Sydney Metro Northwest, and will also maintain the CBTC signalling solution it provided for the new line.

Alstom’s Mainline Platform VP Jean-Marc Nizet, visiting Australia in April, reflected on how the company was responding to an increased desire for modern signalling technology around the world.

“Just as you have in Australia, there is a growing demand all over the place for signalling for railways,” he told Rail Express. “The biggest challenge we face as an industry is having the competence to sustain all that.

“To respond to this we have our global strategy, which first aims to provide our customers with strong local teams, to help with all aspects of a project – whether it’s engineering, maintenance or design – but to then support that team with global network of knowledge bases.”

Melbourne Tram. Photo:

Yarra Trams operations centre to benefit from new tech

The Yarra Trams Operation Centre is receiving a new ‘mega-wall’ of information screens that will help controllers monitor real-time data more effectively. 

The upgrade will incorporate information such as VicRoads traffic data, CCTV from the tram network and passenger tweets so that it is easily accessible on the screens.

A dedicated station for planned and unplanned disruptions has also been added, allowing controllers to switch to ‘crisis mode’ to quickly and effectively plan tram diversions should incidents such as accidents, protests or traffic occur. The staff at the centre are able to provide advice to drivers and passenger information teams should issues occur.

The upgrades come at a time when Yarra Trams is introducing its newest generation of controllers, who have undergone hundreds of hours of training involving the operations centre, including a five-week program driving E-Class trams.

“These upgrades are just another way we’re improving the reliability of our public transport system – minimising disruptions and improving the passenger experience,” said Victorian Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne.

“As our city continues to grow, we’re investing in the latest technology to get people where they need to go as quickly and safely as possible.”

The Yarra Trams Operation Centre monitors more than 5,000 journeys and receives up to 1,800 calls from drivers across Melbourne’s network every day.

Thales increasing local footprint with Transport Competence Centre

Multinational technology provider Thales is intensifying its focus on the rail market in Australia and New Zealand, with plans to rapidly grow its local transportation capabilities in New South Wales, then extending to other states.

Thales Group’s Australian GM for Transport Elias Barakat tells Rail Express the company is leveraging recent success and the presence of more opportunities, to develop a Transport Competence Centre at its site in Rydalmere, in Sydney’s west.

Such a Centre would include a rail innovation lab and test facility in Sydney, including all the equipment and people necessary to engineer, test, commission and demonstrate Thales’ signalling and communications solutions for the metro, light rail, and mainline rail sectors.

“We’ve already been able to establish our local capability in metro rail off the back of our work on the Sydney Metro Northwest project,” Barakat says, referring to Thales’ work providing a Central Control System and Communication System for the newly-opened metro line. “At our Rydalmere lab we’ve set up an integration and test facility for a metro central control system and comms solutions – passenger information, public address and so on. We’ve recruited local talent, and brought in team members from overseas who have become local through that.”

Next, to build on the Centre’s light rail capabilities, Thales will leverage its delivery of the signalling and communications systems for the Parramatta Light Rail project.

“In terms of setting up our capabilities for light rail, Parramatta Light Rail is acting as the first cab off the rank. We are currently working with Thales Italy, the solution lead for light rail systems within Thales, but our intention is to do more of this light rail work in Australia, and rely less on Italy.”

And finally, for mainline, Thales has worked in the past on Sydney Trains’ Common Telemetry Infrastructure Platform and provided mainline signalling products such as axle counters to a number of customers across Australia. Now, Thales is targeting Transport for NSW’s $880 million Digital Systems program, which will bring ETCS Level 2, Automatic Train Operation, and a modern Traffic Management System to the Sydney Trains network. Barakat says Thales is also incorporating demonstrations to showcase these signalling solutions into their Sydney facility.

“We have good capabilities and products in both areas of signalling and Traffic Management Systems globally, but our focus at the moment is setting up a team here [in Sydney] made up of people with knowledge of the local network, and more experts from our Thales organisation in Germany and Spain who have been brought here.”

Barakat says the presence of a local Transport Competence Centre will majorly benefit its customers.

“The most important element of this is to give clients people who can support them in the same time zone, speaking the same language, all the while supported by a robust global network,” he explains. “This enables better and quicker service for their questions and queries. And it facilitates a closer working relationship with our clients and partners at earlier stages of the delivery process.”

Moreover, Barakat says, rising demand for solutions that can help operators boost the capacity of their networks is further justifying Thales’ decision to grow its transport footprint in Australia.

“The transport market in Australia is on a steep growth curve, and that’s generating a lot of interest from global players,” he says. “I think the development especially towards ETCS Level 2 and modern Traffic Management Systems give Thales the opportunity to become a major player in the Australian market, and we definitely are on a trajectory to do that.”