Ensuring ‘line of sight’ on complex projects

On a complex mega-project, all stakeholders must be kept fully across the project’s requirements and safety assurance measures, as well as how that project is being integrated into the existing infrastructure. Rail Express speaks with Acmena about finding the most simple solution to this robust challenge.


To its credit, Australia is a jurisdiction where safety is the top priority during the delivery of any major infrastructure project. For operators, owners and contractors working on such projects in the rail sector, safety is overseen by the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR).

But with major projects getting bigger and more complex, and with the list of stakeholders for any given project growing longer every time a new complexity is added, keeping everyone on the same page in terms of requirements can be a serious challenge.

In 2012, the same year ONRSR was established, a trio of systems engineering and safety management experts – Sue Milner, Katherine Eastaughffe and Graeme Cutler – formed Acmena, with the goal to combine a unique mix of systems engineering, human factors, systems assurance and engineering management experience to help clients deliver critical, complex projects in less time and with greater certainty.

“At the time the company was founded there were increasing expectations around what accredited rail operators had to demonstrate when they were making significant changes to their network, or when there were major rail projects,” Eastaughffe tells Rail Express. “There is now a requirement for quite rigorous safety cases to be put together that also demonstrate human factors are being considered throughout design.”

Acmena works across a number of highly regulated, safety critical industries, including infrastructure, healthcare, aviation and rail. It is currently involved in several major projects including Cross River Rail in Queensland, and the Digital Systems project and Sydney Metro in New South Wales.

Eastaughffe says the company’s primary aim is to help clients develop what she calls a “line of sight”, from beginning to end, of a project’s requirements, integration and assurance data. Key to this is developing a central repository, accessible and updateable by the project proponent and its contractors.

“These projects are generally quite complex, and the successful integration of all the different elements requires specialist systems engineering skills,” Eastaughffe says. “What’s most important is bringing all the elements together in a way that allows you to meet expectations.”

In one example, Acmena was engaged by Rail Projects Victoria’s technical advisor on the Metro Tunnel Project in Melbourne, the Aurecon/Jacobs/Mott Macdonald joint venture, to help set up the central repository of requirements for the massive project.

“Having one single repository for all the various organisations involved meant Rail Projects Victoria could get a clear line of sight on what the objectives of the project were, right through to what people were actually delivering on the ground,” Eastaughffe explains.

“That project is still in progress of course, but we were involved in designing and setting up that repository, and providing ongoing advice to all the organisations in working in that repository.”

As an IBM Business Partner, Acmena guided the project team in the appropriate use and execution of the IBM Requirements Management DOORS Next cloud-based platform as the project’s requirements management tool.

The cloud-based platform means a centralised solution and framework can be created to support concurrent multiple party use, from stakeholders to contractors. The solution is designed to let all parties work within their own separate areas, while also being able to trace and connect to project-wide data for integration and assurance purposes.

“This is the first time a centralised approach has been used on a rail project like this,” RPV’s Manager of Systems Architecture, Integration and Assurance Marc Chadwick said. “It’s usually a very dislocated environment. It can be difficult to move information around and have proper synchronisation and timing. Putting it into the cloud allows it to stay in sync, so you’ve got the right information on your desktop.”

The central repository allowed Public Transport Victoria, Metro Trains Melbourne, and the project’s independent safety assessor to set the project’s requirements, assurance and integration goals, and meant all tenderers across the major delivery contracts were able to directly address those goals through their bids. The successful tenderers therefore already had that information to hand, and were able to get on with the job. From there those goals and their outcomes are able to be tracked through delivery and commissioning.

Some more work done by Acmena in Victoria was on the Caulfield to Dandenong (CTD) package of level crossing removals. The company was selected in early 2016 to join the CTD Alliance, comprised of Metro Trains Melbourne and four major construction and engineering contractors, to provide systems engineering and assurance across the project. With more than 450 designers, planners and engineers involved across the project, CTD was one of the most complex rail projects ever attempted in Victoria.

“One of the biggest challenges was the sheer scale of the project, having so many people involved across the project in design, construction and everything in between,” Level Crossing Removal Project Systems Engineering Manager, Kyla Brown, said. “Managing that was quite difficult, as was maintaining the flow of communication between people to make sure everyone was informed.”

Eastaughffe says a data repository – once again facilitated through the IBM solution – was a crucial component to this execution. “We had the database of potential safety hazards related to the design for the project, and we were able to link those directly to what elements in the design mitigated, or removed those risks,” Eastaughffe explains.

“When risks are identified during a project’s development, people need to understand how those risks are being reduced as much as reasonably practicable through the design. Whether that’s the design of the station, the viaduct, the signalling system – all of those have associated risks and we need to understand how they can best be addressed, making the project inherently safer through its design process.

“In the data repository we captured those risks, and we linked them to specific design requirements that were then shown to be correctly addressed in design. We could then link those again to tests that were undertaken to prove they were correctly implemented.

“So we had that clear line of sight from what the critical safety issues were on the project, to what had been done about them, and proving it had been correctly implemented.”

From the founding of the company in 2012, areas of improvement in the systems engineering processes have been identified. Acmena has developed a standardised approach to improve such processes and remove pain points. Supported by new technologies (DOORS Next SaaS), the innovative approach has been used by Acmena on major projects like the Metro Tunnel, CTD, Digital Systems and Cross River Rail, and is now becoming an industry best practice/standard.

Government organisations like the Level Crossing Removal Authority in Victoria, the Public Transport Authority in WA, and the City Rail Link in Auckland are using it as their preferred approach for major rail projects.

“We’ve been disruptors in this way,” Eastaughffe says. “A lot of projects are made up of similar elements, so we’ve created a more standardised approach which makes it more efficient for our clients.

“We’ve got that combination of very good knowledge of how the tools work, but also the industry knowledge of what’s going to be important to the accredited rail operator, and ultimately the rail safety regulator. Being able to match the use of the tools to the regulatory expectations is where we really stand out.”


Contact: acmena.com.au

Perth B-series train. Credit: Creative Commons / DBZ2313

WA infrastructure package a win for Metronet

 A $940 million infrastructure package for projects across Western Australia, including Metronet, was jointly announced by the federal and state governments on Wednesday.

The bulk of the funding will go towards eight existing road and rail projects, while a total of more than $200 million, contributed by both governments, will fund six new projects.

Among the new projects, $80 million is slated for the construction of a new Metronet station at Lakelands on the Mandurah rail line. Of this, $64 million is contributed by federal government and $16 million by the state.

The total amount of federal funding for WA’s infrastructure will rise to $5.4 billion from about $4.5 billion over the next four years after a further $868 million federal injection.

“This new agreement with the Commonwealth comes on top of the almost 500 road and Metronet projects currently underway or in the pipeline – when complete it will be an unprecedented transformation of our transport network,” premier of WA Mark McGowan said.

McGowan said the package of works will generate around 1,000 jobs, adding to the thousands of other jobs being created by other WA infrastructure projects that are either under construction or in the pipeline.

“The package of works has something for Perth’s northern, eastern and southern suburbs which are all experiencing significant population growth,” WA minister for transport Rita Saffioti said

“The State Government put forward an ambitious timeframe for the existing projects and we’re working hard to get new contracts underway, as soon as possible, including having to work through Federal environmental processes.”

VIDEO: Sydney’s intercity fleet trains revealed

Transport for NSW has provided a first look inside the “state-of-the-art” fleet of intercity trains which are due to arrive later this year.

The new fleet is intended to service long distance, intercity lines from Sydney to the Central Coast, Newcastle, the Blue Mountains and the South Coast line.

Testing of the new trains is underway in the manufacturing facility, as well as a purpose-built test track, in South Korea, though the fleet is not due to begin servicing the line until 2021.

Transport for NSW (TfNSW), on Friday, released animations based on detailed designs of the new trains.

The fleet will “provide a new level of comfort and convenience” according to TfNSW.

Key differences include wider, two-by-two seating with arm rests, tray tables, and high seat backs, charging ports for mobile devices, dedicated space for luggage, prams and bicycles, and dedicated space for wheelchairs and accessible toilets.

TfNSW also says that the new trains will include improvements to customer information, through digital information screens and announcements, CCTV and help points.

Despite the reduction in seating, with around 28 fewer seats in every carriage, the fleet will include a boost of 2 extra carriages on the South Coast Line during peak hour services, after TfNSW purchased an extra 42 carriages to bring up the total to 554 carriages.

In 2018 a life-size model of the train was used to conduct end-user engagement intended to inform and refine train designs. Those involved in the feedback process included vision, mobility, hearing and cognitive impaired groups, as well as elderly users and those travelling with children, luggage and bicycles.

Once the first of the new trains have arrived in Australia later this year, they will undergo network testing.

Elevated rail to remove four Preston crossings

Early works will begin next year towards the removal of four level crossings and construction of two new stations in Preston, the Victorian government has said.

Two new stations will be built, along with a two-kilometre stretch of elevated rail to remove four dangerous and congested level crossings, with a targeted completion of 2022. The work will remove crossings at Bell Street, Cramer Street, Murray Road and Oakaver Road.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrew said around 82,000 vehicles go through the four crossings each day, with Bell Street the busiest at around 52,000 per day.

“Another four level crossings are being removed so we can run more trains more often, with work to begin next year,” the premier said. “This project will deliver new stations, faster services and less congestion on local streets – as well as new, green open space for the community.”

Andrews said detailed planning and engineering had determined the best way to deliver the work was to elevate that section of the Mernda line and use an innovative U-Trough design. The work will also straighten the track at Bell and Preston stations, to allow for greater capacity.

The work will also mean a small number of property acquisitions.

The government said the project team is contacting owners and residents and will work closely with them throughout the process. A Voluntary Purchase Scheme has been used on previous projects, and the same principles will be applied on the Preston project to identify any eligible homes, the state said.

The government noted the project needs to be delivered with minimal disruption to the Mernda line, as it provides access to the Epping train maintenance facility, which services about half of Melbourne’s train fleet.

The next stage of community consultation will start soon, with locals encouraged to have their say on what they want to see in the new open space. In addition, a community advisory panel will be established to enable locals to directly contribute to the design of the two kilometres of new open space created by elevating the line.

“While we get in and remove the level crossings, we’ll also build two new stations and work with the community on the two kilometres of open space they will get to enjoy,” transport infrastructure minister Jacinta Allan said.

Grain growers win access to grain freight rail network

A dispute over access to Western Australia’s Grain Freight Rail Network has ended, but grain trucks will still be used while the freight line remains closed.

Arc Infrastructure, which manages the freight rail network on behalf of the state government, and grain handling co-operative CBH Group have been in arbitration since since 2016 after failing to agree over the cost of access to the state’s grain rail network.

The outcome, CBH Group announced on November 1, provides CBH and grain growers access to the rail network at least until the end of 2026.

“The arbitrated outcome has resulted in our growers being in a better position than if we hadn’t sought access under the Code, resulting in a sustainable, long-term access agreement with minimum performance standards for the grain rail freight network,” said CBH Chairman Wally Newman.

“Our objective had always been to achieve a fair price for the level of performance provided so that WA grain growers can remain internationally competitive.

CBH claimed Arc had demanded “unreasonable” price rises, while the Canadian-owned rail operator said the costs of maintaining and upgrading ageing lines were significant and needed to be passed on.

Due to the deterioration of the Tier 3 lines, however, said Newman, they would not be re-opened as part of the arbitrated outcome. The Tier 3 network was closed by the state government in 2014 due to concerns over its viability and maintenance costs.

“Unfortunately, after years under ‘care and maintenance’ the capital costs associated with re-opening Tier 3 lines, as part of the arbitrated outcome, were substantial and the investment required was simply uneconomical for CBH to accept on behalf of growers as it would have required freight rates to increase significantly,” said Newman.

“While the costs are confidential, due to arbitration obligations, accepting these costs would have significantly impacted the international competitiveness of growers and the entire Western Australian grain industry as a whole.”

“In order to avoid a repeat of our experience, CBH will continue to engage in the State Government’s review of the Railways Access Code and push for substantial and immediate changes, with the objective of gaining reasonable access prices, greater transparency and more appropriate timelines for decisions,” said CBH Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Wilson.

“CBH will also continue to drive for fundamental changes to the Western Australian transport landscape in an effort to maximise tonnes we move on rail and to ensure we have the least cost pathway to export markets, keeping our growers internationally competitive and in support of our regional communities.”

Vital maintenance complete on Victorian regional tracks

Vital maintenance is now complete on regional tracks in Victoria, Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne announced yesterday.

More than 60 staff worked on the $3.4 million project, replacing old track and point machines with more reliable infrastructure.

“The track that was replaced at Southern Cross Station is one of the most used and most complex pieces of track on the regional network – which is why this maintenance work is so important,” said Horne.

Passenger trains began using the replaced two critical sections of track near Southern Cross Station on the morning of Friday 25 October, after extensive testing of the new infrastructure had been completed.

The tracks funnel regional trains to and from Southern Cross Station, forming a crucial part of the network.

“Replacing the aging track with new modern infrastructure will improve performance and reduce the risk of delays or disruptions due to track faults in the area.”

The new tracks were laid with the help of installing machines and safety systems, which control the movement of the tracks to direct trains to and from different platforms.

During the work, trains were not running on the Albury line so that staff could perform major maintenance on standard gauge trains. The Australian Rail Track Corporation also used the opportunity to expedite the removal of several temporary speed restrictions between Seymour and Albury.

Trains from all regional lines will now benefit, according to the government, as disruptions at Southern Cross Station often have flow on impacts to the entire network.


Inland Rail seeks improvement ideas

The federal government is seeking ideas on how to improve national connectivity and drive supply chain productivity from the 1,700km freight rail line, as part of a $44 million Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program.

Supply chain managers, local businesses, community representatives and freight and train operators are invited to submit projects for investigation under the program, according to a government statement on Tuesday.

Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the first round of business cases under the program are due by the end of October. Suitable projects will be matched with a service provider funded by the Australian Government under the program.

“The Australian Government has invested up to $9.3 billion in the construction of Inland Rail and we are committed to maximising the returns for our industries, cities and regional towns to benefit from the fast, reliable and joined-up freight network,” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said.

Under the two-year Inland Rail II Program, there is funding for a $20 million Inland Rail Productivity Enhancement Program (PEP) to assess the costs and benefits of proposed improvements to the interface between supply chains and Inland Rail, with a view to improving supply chain and community resilience.

Another Inland Rail II program is the $24 million Inland Rail Country Lines Improvement Program (CLIP) to assess the costs and benefits of proposed improvements to country lines that intersect with Inland Rail, with a view to potentially accommodating longer, heavier and faster trains.

“A CSIRO pilot study from earlier this year demonstrated Inland Rail will bring average costs savings of $76 per tonne for key agricultural products,” Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government Mark Coulton said.

“We know every town and supply chain is different and a one-size-fits-all approach to connect communities to Inland Rail won’t work.

“Inland Rail will connect our regions to an enhanced national freight network, and no one knows better how to maximise these connections than regional producers and communities.

“We are encouraging local people to come forward with innovative ideas and are committed to testing value ideas through a rigorous business case process.

Under the programme, which was announced in the 2019 Budget, strategic business cases will investigate opportunities to upgrade the Gilgandra-Coonamble line, improve road/rail interface at Narrabri and enhance the connection at Baradine’s grain silo to facilitate better connections between local communities and Inland rail.

The local city council of Logan, in central Queensland, says it will provide submissions to the Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport – which is currently examining the project management of Inland Rail. The council says that the proposed route runs through what will become one of the city’s most populated areas, and that residents have raised concerns over it.

Melbourne Airport Rail Link under contention

The Victorian treasurer has indicated the government may not accept a proposal for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link which would see the line privately owned and operated, despite pressure from the federal government.

Treasurer Tim Pallas, at a business event late last week, discussed a cheaper, above-ground route in complete contrast to the high-speed multibillion-dollar airport rail tunnel federal government would like built.

Despite an initial $5 billion commitment from the Victorian government, Pallas said the government might delay building the twin rail tunnels between the CBD and Sunshine, due to potentially rising project costs.

The Victorian government says it has not ruled out the airport tunnel option, according to The Age.

Private consortium AirRail recently offered $5 billion towards the airport tunnel project in return for owning and operating it.

The federal government, in turn, says that the 7-kilometre tunnels are crucial for the Geelong fast rail project, towards which it has committed $2 billion.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, Alan Tudge, said the federal government wanted a high-speed airport rail service, and was working  with the state government towards this, according to The Age.

“We want to see the Melbourne Airport Rail Link built as soon as possible.”

KiwiRail seeks construction contractors for North Auckland Line rejuvenation

Kiwirail has begun surveying the rail corridor for Northland line upgrades, and says it is seeking local contractors to conduct the work.

Survey teams have commenced gathering detailed ground and asset information towards designing bridge replacements and planning essential tunnel maintenance. This stage is expected to take five weeks and likely be completed at the end of November, according to a statement from the operator.

Kiwirail intends to hire consultant for the bridge replacement and tunnel works in early December.

“Northland’s railway lines are underused at the moment because of their condition. The NAL is around 100 years old, is currently mothballed north of Kauri (above Whangarei) and the whole line has been in a state of ‘managed decline’ until its future was determined. The survey work is a major step in turning that around,” said KiwiRail Chief Operating Officer Capital Projects David Gordon.

With the government having invested $94.8 million towards the North Auckland Line, from the Provincial Growth Fund, this year much needed maintenance can now commence.

“Where possible, we want to use local firms for the work. There will be a mix of larger and smaller jobs making up the overall programme of works, so we wanted to ensure the local industry was aware of the opportunities not just for large companies, but also for smaller scale contractors,” said Gordon.

“We have ensured that where possible the work is broken into bite-sized pieces suitable for smaller contractors.”

As such, KiwiRail provided an industry briefing for Northland contracting and construction companies about future work opportunities last week. The briefing session in Whangarei was attended by more than 40 people.

“Working in the rail corridor brings with it special safety requirements that are different from working on roads and other civil construction activity. At yesterday’s session we provided information about those requirements and the support we can provide to ensure contractors qualify,” said Gordon.

Victoria’s Reservoir Station to open in December

The new Reservoir Station is set to open in Victoria once removal of a dangerous and congested level crossing has finished, Victoria’s Level Crossing Removal Project announced last week.

The High Street level crossing removed within the year, and trains will start travelling on the Reservoir rail bridge and stopping at the new Reservoir Station from mid- December this year.

Before the new station can open, however, workers will demolish the old Reservoir Station platforms and install new track and overhead wires.

Once the old ground-level tracks are removed, work will begin to complete the new station with new lifts, staff facilities, awaiting room, kiosk and parking facilities. This will be completed in 2020.

Landscaping work will also commence towards new community spaces, including the planting of 330 extra trees. This is intended to improve pedestrian connectivity between Edwardes Street and Broadway.

The current temporary station facilities on High Street will still be in use until the new station facilities are complete in 2020, including the temporary access via stairs.

Passengers who require lift access will be provided with alternative transport between Regent and Reservoir stations, according to a government statement.