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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delivering technological innovation in Australia

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

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

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

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

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

Gioconda’s services include:

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

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

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

KeTech’s products and services include:

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

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

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

Alstom

Alstom using AI solution to manage social distancing in Panama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digital

HS2 going digital to save time, cost, carbon

On the most expensive railway on earth, the pressure to get the build right first time is leading to the project team innovating in digital engineering.

In the design and construction of the UK’s HS2, a high-speed rail line connecting London with Birmingham, teams are collaborating and using digital twins to design, construct and maintain the railway. The client, the UK government, hopes to achieve savings in the order of £250 million ($450m) through digital engineering.

Beginning underneath central London, the project team, a joint venture of Skanska, Costain and STRABAG (SCS) needed a digital model that could incorporate the complicated interfaces of building under the ancient metropolis. The system that they turned to is Bentley Systems’ suite of digital tools.

Roberto Alberola, BIM information manager for Typsa which is working for SCS on the project, described why a digital solution was needed.

“The complexity of the project demanded a very high level of control of the technical outputs (models, drawings, data), so the ‘traditional’ approach – using standardized content, trusting existing or external databases and going with software defaults wouldn’t suffice.

“We created a complete custom live working environment for Bentley’s OpenBuildings Designer that lives in ProjectWise, ensuring that the models are built from a centralised library so that all the information is added consistently, achieving the highest data quality required to feed in all the downstream processes.”

Already, with the project in its early construction phases, the benefit of going digital is being realised. Through better sequencing reduced delays have allowed for better control, while enabling improvements in speed, accuracy, and efficiency. Alberola said that using 4D planning has created a 30 per cent reduction in planning time so far.

Not only will using digital tools in the design and construct phase benefit the delivery of the project, but also the project’s outcomes and legacy. The digital solution not only accounts for financial cost, but also the carbon and emissions cost. Reducing waste early on ultimately leads to a better outcome for all stakeholders.

Rail Manufacturing CRC

Closure of Rail Manufacturing CRC leaves room for R&D investment

The Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) held its last event on June 25 and officially closed on July 1 leaving a gap in the Australian rail industry’s research and development landscape.

Established in 2014, the Rail Manufacturing CRC has left a legacy in the form of new products for commercialisation, including passenger information systems installed at Wynyard Station in Sydney and prototypes of supercapacitor control systems and composite brake discs.

Stuart Thomson, Rail Manufacturing CRC CEO, said that more work needs to be done to build off the centre’s successes.

“New models of cooperation between industry and researchers, individual state governments and the Commonwealth Government will need to be explored. A national strategy for rail and rail innovation would be a great impetus for ensuring a future innovative rail sector.”

Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), said that the CRC’s work is already having an impact.

“The Rail Manufacturing CRC has worked alongside rail manufacturers and operators to deliver new technology and innovation that will make a real difference to the industry,” said Wilkie.

“The CRC’s collaborative focus has delivered some great results and the team can be very proud of its record of achievement.”

With the CRC now closed and no immediate plans for a replacement, Wilkie notes there is more need than ever for support for collaboration between industry and research organisations.

“New funding is now essential to keep the focus on technology and innovation in rail.”

Thomson said that with the current levels of investment in rail, there is an opportunity to grow local manufacturing.

“There is a need to strengthen the domestic rail supply chain. By providing incentives for SMEs to invest in research and development, and encouraging global suppliers currently not investing in local innovation or local supply chains to invest in the long term future of the local rail sector, this will create future advanced manufacturing businesses and employment opportunities.”

As the Australian rail industry adopts digital technology and smart systems, this investment should be supported with local research and development.

“Technology will play an increasing role in the rail industry and continued investment is essential to make sure Australia remains at the forefront of innovation,” said Wilkie.

“It is more important than ever that this work continues as the industry prepares for new growth.”

Projects conducted by the Rail Manufacturing CRC have been highly regarded, with the Dwell Track technology winning the CRC Association’s annual Excellence in Innovation award. In addition, projects have led to industry implementation, with CRRC, Bombardier, and Downer having already put the projects to work.

In a recent interview with Rail Express, Thomson said that the CRC was able to design research that met the needs of industry.

“The industry has faced, and will continue to face, infrastructure and innovation challenges in Australia. By developing research projects and teaming up experts to support the industry, we are ensuring innovation meets industry’s needs and requirements to deliver the transformational change required in the rail sector.”

Projects completed by the Rail Manufacturing CRC can be found here: https://www.rmcrc.com.au/.

Thales to support NSW digital strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cyber security is also a focus for Thales.

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

Mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity improved on Central Coast line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peak fares cut by 50 per cent in NSW

To encourage commuters to travel outside of peak periods, Transport for NSW is lowering fares across the Sydney network.

Outside of the peaks, which run from 6.30am to 10am, and 3pm to 7pm in Sydney and 6am to 10am on Intercity Trains, fares will be discounted by 50 per cent.

This is the first time that bus and light rail passengers will benefit from discounted, off-peak fares.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that most passengers would benefit.

“The vast majority of commuters will benefit from these changes with either cheaper travel or no change to their fares. A third of commuters will save an average of $3.60 a week based on current travel patterns,” he said.

TFNSW will also waive the CPI increase and have not acted upon recommendations from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to increase fares by 20 per cent over four years.

The 50 per cent discount will run for three months, and then fares will shift back to 30 per cent for off peak travel, and bus and light rail passengers will be able to access the 30 per cent benefit.

“We want everyone to remember they have a role to play in making the public transport network as safe as possible. Our frontline transport staff have been doing an amazing job during this unprecedented time and we urge customers to keep showing them their respect and understanding,” said Constance.

A new all-day travel cap on Saturday and Sunday will also be set at $8.05 to help spread weekend public transport loads and encourage commuters to use public transport on the weekends.

Fares will increase on short bus and light rail journeys under three kilometres in the peak, to encourage active transport such as walking or cycling, as well as to try to shift commuters out of the peak periods.

Year in Infrastructure

Year in Infrastructure conference goes digital

Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure 2020 conference will be held digitally in October.

The move to digital will allow for greater global participation in the annual infrastructure conference.

The program includes the live judging of Year In Infrastructure 2020 awards and the final ceremony, as well as talks and workshops.

Confirmed sessions include Greg Bentley, CEO of Bentley Systems in conversation with top-tier infrastructure executives on how they are meeting resilience challenges through digital advancement.

Keith Bentley, founder and chief technology officer, will discuss examples of deployed digital twins with those who have successfully adopted the technology.

Six sector-specific sessions will be held on October 20, with one specifically focused on the implications of digital twins for the rail and transit sector. These will involve interactive panel discussions with industry and business leaders.

Finally, the latest advances in Bentley Systems applications and cloud services will be on display with interactive demonstrations of the technology in the field.

The Year in Infrastructure conference is hosted by Bentley Systems, a software provider of design, construction, and operations solutions for infrastructure.