29th International Railway Safety Council Conference wraps up in Perth: Glasgow announced to host 30th


The 29th International Railway Safety Council (IRSC) conference, jointly organised by the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB), the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR), and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was an outstanding success.

Themed Innovation and Technology: Changing the Future of Rail Safety, the conference attracted more than 220 attendees from over 20 countries to Perth.

Delegates representing government, regulators, operators, network managers, investigators, and suppliers from across Australia and overseas were inspired by speakers who highlighted current practices in their region and encouraged conference attendees to push through barriers to innovation and embrace new technologies.

This year’s IRSC conference included three stakeholder group meetings, over 25 presentations and four fantastic site visits, including a tour of Speno Rail Maintenance Australia’s maintenance facility, Roy Hill’s remote operations centre and a full day visit to Roy Hill’s operations and the Port Hedland Port in the Pilbara, over 1,600 kilometres from Perth.

With presentations ranging from rail safety and the fourth industrial revolution, digital train control and virtual certification, to risk analysis methodology and equipment safety and compliance management, the range of topics and presenters reflected the diverse interests of everyone attending the conference.  In addition to stakeholder meetings, and keynote presentations, this year’s conference featured plenty of networking opportunities for attendees and partners alike.

Following an informal welcome reception at the City of Perth Surf Life Saving Club on Sunday, 13 October which included a performance by the Wadambah Dance Group, the conference was officially opened on Monday, 14 October with a welcome speech by RISSB’s Executive Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Deborah Spring. As part of this speech, Deborah highlighted how Standards can promote and enhance innovation as well as improve safety and drive efficiency.

After Deborah’s opening speech, topics ranging from digital transformation of the rail sector, risk analysis methodology, rail safety and the fourth industrial revolution, to operational and financial management, were discussed during the day.

Kay Doyle and Cathal Mangan from Iarnród Eireann / Irish Rail opened the day’s first session on Demonstrating Safety in New Technology with a presentation on Digitalisation Reducing Risk in Irish Rail sharing their experiences in effectively capturing historical information and retaining corporate knowledge before it’s lost in the sands of time. Frédéric Delorme from SNCF, France then pushed delegates’ thinking on rail safety and the fourth industrial revolution.

The conference then changed sub-theme to Don’t Save Yourself into Trouble where industry experts Dr Peaceman Sopazi, from the Railway Safety Regulator, South Africa; Frédéric Henon from SNCF, France; and Tian Jun, from the NRA, P. R. China outlined the tension between operational demands and financial constraints and how to address these to ensure proper funding for safety.

The day continued with three presentations focused on conference sub-theme Risk Management and Assurance.  Laurent Cebulski from Etablissement Public de Sécurité Ferroviaire (EPSF), France; Jaime Maguire from Harsco Rail, USA; and Eva-Lotta Högberg, Swedish Accident Investigation Authority, Sweden; and Tim Proctor from Indec Consulting, Australia encouraged delegates to think about the integration of technology and people in an established network.

The first day of the annual conference concluded with a gala dinner at Sandalford Wines at Caversham. Visitors were given the chance to pat a koala and kangaroo, as well as listen to an Australian bush band. The keynote speaker, Naomi Frauenfelder, Executive Director of TrackSafe, gave a moving speech on the importance of focusing on the mental wellbeing of employees to drive a safety culture.

Nat Nagy of ATSB opened Day 2 of the conference with a safety thought, challenging delegates to maintain a “restless vigilance” in regards to safety.


The 29th IRSC Organising Committee – Julie Bullas (ONRSR), Nat Nagy (ATSB) and Deborah Spring (RISSB).


Day 2 presentations commenced with Sue McCarrey, Australia’s National Rail Safety Regulator addressing the sub-theme Demonstrating Safety in New Technology and providing a regional perspective on regulation and innovation to a global safety conversation. Bringing insights from the other side of the world, Allan Spence from Network Rail, challenged conventional notions of a robust safety management system and the need to get behind the KPI numbers to understand what is really happening – a poignant and powerful presentation which earnt him the Best Presentation Award at the conference.  Rounding out the remainder of the morning were presentations by Laurent Cebulski from EPSF, France and KC Cheung from Hong Kong SAR Government.

A highlight of the morning’s agenda was a presentation by the Honourable Rita Saffioti. Western Australia’s Minister for Transport; Planning. Rita spoke with passion about the extensive range of rail initiatives in Western Australia, encompassing passenger rail networks including METRONET and its long-term blueprint and freight rail networks including enhanced connection to ports.

The day continued with afternoon presentations based on three sub-themes:

  • Regulation and innovation – performance (systems) based regulation.
  • Automation Challenges, and
  • Competence and Skills in a More Automated Industry.

Talks focused on how the global rail industry is pushing technological boundaries to create safer and smarter transport practices.

Day 2 presenters included: Jen Ablitt from the Office of Rail and Road, UK; Raden Kusumo from the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator, Australia; Samuel Boucher from SNCF, France; Dr Peaceman Sopazi, from the Railway Safety Regulator, South Africa; and Rodrigo Alvarez and Fersy Ramon Philip Castillo (Corby) from Rail Systems Australia.

Day 2 produced our winner for the Best Paper Award which went to Rodrigo and Corby for their paper entitled The Sixth Sensor: How IoT Smart Sensors Can Address Operational Challenges Introduced by Increasing Automation in Railways; a very thought-provoking presentation showing that there are still some very clever solutions to some of the rail industry’s most fundamental modernisation problems.

The final day of the conference was devoted to sub-themes Risk Management and Assurance and Demonstrating Safety in New Technology. Presentations took a deep dive into how the digital rail revolution has brought with it new opportunities as well as fresh challenges. Challenges that require organisations to focus on culture, process, people and the application of new technology.

This topic was further explored by keynote speaker Captain David Evans who was the check captain on board flight QF32 which suffered an “uncontained engine failure” resulting in serious damage to the almost brand new A380. Captain David Evans was very much part of the drama as it unfolded. Drawing on an extraordinary turn of events, David shared his personal journey as a Captain who also experienced the shock of finding himself in a potentially fatal circumstance, reminding all delegates that when things go wrong, nothing can replace the human in helping us to make the right decisions.

To get a better appreciation of a dynamic global rail landscape and how others are benefitting from the implementation of new technology, delegates heard from: Mark Barrett from aquipa, Australia; David Milburn and Mike Erskine from GHD, Australia; Dave Farman from IDS Corporation, UK; Tony Crosby, 4Tel, Australia; Manprit Singh Baweja, Fogtec Brandschutz & GmbH Co. KG, India and Mr Toshiyuki Murai from JREU, Japan.

The IRSC delegates appreciated the efforts that Mr Toshiyuki Murai and Mr Makoto Kato from JREU, Japan made in attending the conference, given the devastation caused by Typhoon Hagibis.

Kirby Jang, IRSC Acting Secretary, provided an update on the Core Group meeting held on the evening of Day 2 of the conference, highlighting that key outcomes included endorsement of a new leadership and governance model and selection of hosts for future IRSC conferences.

RISSB board and staff.

IRSC Organising Committee and Arc Infrastructure.

Concluding the conference, was a handover ceremony during which time Glasgow was revealed as the 2020 host city for the 30th IRSC which will be hosted by the Rail Safety Standards Board (RSSB), Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR), and Network Rail.

Overall, the conference was a huge success with attendees walking away from it challenged with new ideas on how innovation and technology is changing the future of rail safety and plenty to discuss including intelligent systems, artificial intelligence, and assurance and regulation with new connections made.

Thank you to everyone who helped to make this year’s conference a success including the 29th IRSC organising committee of Deborah Spring (RISSB), Julie Bullas (ONRSR) and Nat Nagy (ATSB), and conference delegates for participating and sharing knowledge in the rail safety conversation.

A big thank you also to our IRSC 2019 partners and exhibitors: Arc Infrastructure, Speno Rail Maintenance Australia, Magnetic, International Railway Journal, Railway Gazette International, European Union Agency for Railways, Harsco Rail, Aquipa, HIMA, Roy Hill and the Pilbara Ports Authority.

The presentations and papers from the 29th IRSC will be made available on the following websites: www.international-railway-safety-council.com and www.rissb.com.au in the near future. RISSB will also be working with presenters to create webinars.

On behalf of the 29th IRSC organising committee and next year’s hosts, we invite you to join us at the next IRSC conference in Glasgow in October 2020.


RISSB and representatives from rail industry bodies.

Trials commence for Queensland’s Smart Ticketing system

Trials of a new $371 million Smart Ticketing system are now underway at Brisbane’s Central Station.

Four express gates, with a variety of new technological features, are being trialled at the Edward Street exit at Brisbane’s busiest train station.

Designed to improve customers’ exit times, the gates can be opened with go cards between 7am and 9am for a month, from October 22 to November 22.

The trial is expected to provide insights into customer behaviour at gates and how the gates can be made to be more effective for rolling out of the Smart Ticketing system across the state.

“These trials and tests are part of building a world-class ticketing system for Queensland,” said Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey.

“It’s a crucial step in creating system that means all Queenslanders will be able to use their smartphone, smartwatch, credit card or debit to easily catch public transport.

Queensland University of Technology and Queensland research firm Spout Logic will partner with the state government for the compilation of an independent academic research report on the key findings of the trial and recommendations for future gate improvements.

Researchers say that the trial will determine the future of the new, streamlined system for passengers.

“The Express Gates trial is consistent with [the Department of Transport and Main Roads] goals as a customer-centric organisation. Before deploying major expensive changes to the existing system, TransLink is field-testing the effects on travellers, of alternative ways like this to operate fare gates,” said Transport and Main Roads Chair Professor Alexander Paz.

Smart Ticketing equipment will also be installed on North Stradbroke Island Buses, for trials of the new on-board ticketing hardware later this month.

WA opens Metronet Training Centre

Western Australia is investing $1.25 million towards a Metronet Trade Training Centre to equip locals with the skills needed to build METRONET railcars.

Midland TAFE will become a specialist Metronet Trade Training Centre next year The $1.25 million will go towards new fabrication training equipment, and the redevelopment of workshops to provide the specific technical and support skills required for railcar manufacturing and METRONET maintenance.

The TAFE is three kilometres from the site of the new Metronet Bellevue Assembly Facility where the new C-Series railcars will be commissioned.

Tenders recently opened for the contract to build the Metronet Bellevue railcar depot where Metronet’s railcars will be built and maintained, according to Transport Minister Rita Saffioti. The government is also currently finalising its order of railcars to be built at the new facility.

“The Metronet Trade Training Centre is part of a new hub of railcar manufacturing in Midland, which will allow us to deliver on our commitment to build at least 50 per cent of all METRONET railcars locally in WA,” said Saffioti.

“Midland TAFE will provide world-class training to meet the demand of our Metronet program in courses including engineering, metal fabrication, instrumentation and electrotechnology,” said Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery.

Local students will also receive a 50 per cent reduction in fees for certain Metronet TAFE courses, including in civil construction and plant operations, as part of a ‘lower fees, local skills’ policy that will reduce TAFE fees for 34 high priority courses.

“We will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure the training needs of our Metronet rail projects are met,” said Ellery.

Metronet’s Morley-Ellenbrook route revealed

The WA government has revealed the planned route for the new Metronet urban rail extension to the growing Ellenbrook town centre in Perth’s northeast.

The 21-kilometre rail extension will run from Ellenbrook, down the western side of New Lord Street, through land north of Marshall Road and then down the middle of Tonkin Highway, to connect with the Midland Line at Bayswater station.



Along the route five stations will be built: Ellenbrook, Whiteman Park, Malaga, Noranda and Morley. Measures will also be taken to facilitate a future station at Bennett Springs East, once population growth justifies its construction.

WA premier Mark McGowan said on August 4 the state was finalising a business case for the line, ahead of its submission to Infrastructure Australia.

“The rail line to Ellenbrook is the signature Metronet project. We promised to build it, and we’re delivering on that promise,” McGowan said.

“This is a transformational project for our rail network – delivering world-class public transport to residents of Ellenbrook and the north-eastern suburbs. It is another job-creating Metronet project and will also help reduce congestion on local roads.”

The state says Perth’s north-eastern suburbs are some of Australia’s fastest-growing, with the population there expected to almost double in the 25 years to 2031, to more than 415,000.

With travel times from the area already unacceptable, transport minister Rita Saffioti said the major project was needed ahead of further growth.

“Currently it takes residents in Ellenbrook around one hour to get to the CBD when using public transport,” Saffioti said. “The Morley-Ellenbrook Line will halve that journey time.”

Transport for NSW introducing $50 weekly travel cap for Opal

The New South Wales Government will start placing a weekly cost cap of $50 on Opal cards from Monday June 24.

The new cap is about 20 per cent lower than the current cap of $63.20 a week, and is expected to save public transport users up to $686 a year. These savings will also extend to users of the recently launched North West Metro, saving $563 a year for an adult customer travelling to and from Tallawong station and Central five days a week.

Examples of regular weekly commuters who could save $686 a year under the new plans include those travelling from Meadowban to Barangaroo via ferry, Tuggerah to Central and Kiama to Sutherland routes.

State premier Gladys Berejiklian said that the new cap would help to ease cost pressures for around 55,000 customers across NSW public transport services (including ferries).

Caps for concession holders will also be reduced as part of the plans. Opal card benefits such as weekly travel rewards and transfer discounts will also survive the new cap.

“We want to make public transport more affordable and that is why we are lowering the cap,” Ms Berejiklian said. “From Monday adults will pay no more than $50 a week and the concession cap will also be reduced from $31.60 to $25 a week.”

State transport minister Andrew Constance added that from Monday fares would rise in line with inflation at 1.9 per cent as opposed to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) recommendation  of 4.2 per cent.

“This means catching the train, bus, ferry, metro or light rail is still a much cheaper option than driving,” he said.

GrainCorp train. Photo: GrainCorp

GrainCorp secures drought insurance plan

East coast grain handler GrainCorp has outlined the terms of a ten-year insurance deal to smooth out its annual revenue figures and shield it from severe drought conditions like those seen during the most recent winter crop.

GrainCorp on June 7 outlined the details of a new risk management agreement with White Rock Insurance, a subsidiary of Aon plc.

From FY20, GrainCorp will receive $15 from White Rock for every tonne its winter crop falls below a threshold of 15.3 million tonnes, up to an annual maximum of $80 million.

However, if GrainCorp’s winter crop exceeds an upper production threshold of 19.3 million tonnes, it would instead pay White Rock $15 per excess tonne, up to an annual maximum of $70 million.

In addition, the deal states that neither party would have to pay the other more than $270 million net, over the full ten-year term.

“The contract will smooth GrainCorp’s cash flow and allow for longer term capital allocation and business planning through the cycle,” GrainCorp CEO Mark Palmquist said.

Had the deal been in place, GrainCorp would have received a full $80 million payment from White Rock during the most recent 2018/19 grain crop, which was heavily impacted by drought.

However, the grain handler would have had to pay White Rock a full $70 million payment in both 2010/11 and 2016/17, years with strong harvests, along with $35 million in 2011/12 and $13 million in 2012/13.

The risk-balancing move comes after a takeover bid from Long Term Asset Partners fell through last month. That bid was largely based around a model whereby grain production would be underwritten by Allianz, making GrainCorp a more appealing asset for financial partners.

Labor lays out details of city infrastructure plan

Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has elaborated on Labor plans to partner with local and state governments through its City Partnerships program.

The program is intended to replace the Coalition’s City Deals program in the event Labor wins the upcoming federal election. Minister Albanese referred to the Liberal and Nationals plan as “ad hoc and politically motivated”.

The scope of the program includes extensive public transport plans, including new and expanded services through the inner and outer suburbs and investment in high speed rail to grow regional cities.

Other plans include the implementation of a national Park and Ride fund to invest in parking facilities at train stations across Australia.

The deal is planed to re-establish Infrastructure Australia’s Major Cities Unit, establish an expert panel and make changes to the National Urban Policy.

Labor has also promised $10 billion towards Melbourne’s ambitious Suburban Rail Loop, as previously reported.

“Labor will pursue a genuine partnership with local government and state governments, as well as with business and community to deliver this vision,” Albanese said in a statement

The program will also look into areas such as housing affordability, national bike paths, technology investment and the expansion of the Western Sydney Deal to incorporate Blacktown City Council.

“This election is a choice between Labor’s plan to invest in communities around Australia, or bigger tax loopholes for the top end of town under the Liberals and Nationals,” Albanese continued.

“After six years of cuts and chaos under the Liberals and Nationals, our united Labor team is ready.”

Europe’s DUAGON-MEN-GROUP snaps up Aussie firm OEM Technology Solutions

Sydney-based railway control and automation firm OEM Technology Solutions has been acquired by major European firm DUAGON-MEN-GROUP.

DUAGON-MEN-GROUP in April signed an agreement to acquire 100 per cent of the shares of OEM Technology Solutions, which was launched in Sydney 25 years ago.

In addition to programmable controllers, I/O products and gateways, OEM Technology Solutions offers cloud software services for diagnostics and condition-based monitoring.

Since its inception OEM has delivered more than 35,000 systems for use in railways. 90 per cent of its revenue comes from the rail sector, and 45 per cent of its revenue comes from export markets, with OEM systems in use in South East Asia, China, Europe, the UK, North and South America, Africa and the Middle East.

Company founders James McLeod and Richard Gobee said they were committed to staying on at the business as it was incorporated into DUAGON-MEN-GROUP’s global network. They also said they remained committed to local jobs in railway electronics engineering – OEM employs around 35 at its headquarters in Artarmon, on Sydney’s North Shore.

“We are very excited to continue and further accelerate our success story together with the DUAGON-MEN-GROUP,” McLeod and Gobee said.

The DUAGON-MEN-GROUP will provide support for all of OEM Technology Solutions’ products and services globally, and has also committed to make further investment in OEM’s research and development centre in Sydney.

In return, the OEM Technology Solutions headquarters will act as an Australia and Asia Pacific sales and support centre for DUAGON-MEN-GROUP’s product range.

Since it was established in 1993, OEM Technology Solutions has specialised in the design and development of industrial computer and communications solutions for the global railway technology market. Its products include programmable controllers, remote I/O modules and wireless communication gateways for typical applications like climate control and air conditioning, internal emergency door release and powerpack control for rail vehicles.

OEM also provides a Software as a Service (SaaS) to connect all these on-board systems and devices to their Train Ecosystem analytics cloud, providing the client with a comprehensive view into their operations.

The DUAGON-MEN-GROUP is the result of a merger between Swiss based duagon, a leading supplier of train communication and control components, and German based MEN – a provider of robust embedded computing solutions.

Following the OEM acquisition DUAGON-MEN-GROUP has over 400 employees based in Switzerland, Germany, France, China, Australia and the United States.


Canberra light rail depot opens

ACT transport minister Meegan Fitzharris says Canberra’s new ‘nerve centre’ for light rail will help ensure the system works efficiently and is an enjoyable experience for Canberrans.

With operations expected to begin in April, the new Canberra Metro depot in Mitchell will house 14 light rail vehicles and operate 24/7, 365 days a year, Fitzharris said.

“It’s really exciting to see the depot now fully up and running, supporting the light rail system as it enters the final stages of testing,” the minister said.

“The commissioning of the depot is another important milestone in the light rail project that brings us closer to passenger services commencing.”

Roughly 100 staff, including 33 drivers and 16 customer service officers will be based out of the depot. A number of operational control centre duty managers will work at the site to monitor the light rail corridor day and night.

Canberra Metro CEO Glenn Stockton said the depot features some of the latest technology available.

“GPS tracking systems across the network enable us to provide real-time route information so that passengers always know when the next LRV is arriving,” he said. “Within the operational control centre, not only will trained operators manage and supervise the performance of the light rail system, they’ll also work with emergency services in responding to and providing an immediate response to any incidents along the alignment.”

“The first sod for the project was turned here on this site just over 31 months ago,” Minister Fitzharris said. “It’s come a long way during that time and it’s great to see the depot now up and running.”

Transperth launches safety campaign following escalator injuries

Perth’s public transport operator Transperth ran an escalator safety campaign in December to respond to a high number of safety incidents reported in the prior 12 months.

Trained staff were on hand to advise older passengers about the safe use of escalators, and when they perhaps should use station lifts instead.

Spokesman David Hynes said 80 escalator-related safety incidents had been reported to the operator in the past 12 month, with many involving seniors.

“It’s an unfortunate fact of getting older that people are more at risk of falling in any situation, and the speed and close-quarters of escalator travel can increase that risk,” Hynes said.

“Trips and falls can and do happen on our network and can be very serious, which is why we’ve launched this campaign.”