Friday 7th Aug, 2020

Harmonising standards: a national approach to rail manufacturing and maintenance

Rail worker manufacturing. Photo: RailGallery.com.au / Courtesy of Bombardier
Photo: RailGallery.com.au / Courtesy of Bombardier

Victoria is leading the drive for a national harmonisation of rollingstock standards in Australia.

Rollingstock manufacturing and maintenance currently lacks an overall, consistent national approach to standards, with states and territories possessing their own differing approaches. Harmonisation of standards for rollingstock procurement, manufacture and maintenance has been considered as a potential pathway to the reduction of manufacturing costs and, also, as crucial to supporting the further development of local content production.

At AusRAIL in Canberra in November last year, Neil Gibbs from Transport for Victoria updated the conference audience about the developments being made towards the harmonisation of rollingstock standards in Australia. The Victorian Government has taken a leading role in advocating for the harmonisation in standards, which aligns with its objective of improving supply chain performance in the state and to boost the competitiveness of its local manufacturing sector. That is, the competitiveness within both the Australian market and with imports from outside of Australia.

“In Victoria, there are three tier-one rollingstock manufacturers and Australia’s largest rollingstock supplier base,” Gibbs said. “That supplier base supports, across the country, 10,000 employees. The objective of rollingstock harmonisation is to sustain and support further development of the manufacturing base.”

In its submission to the Australian Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC) in August 2016, the Victorian Government outlined five areas in which it determined rollingstock standardisation ought to be pursued, with the outcome that TIC agreed to the prioritisation of harmonised standards in two areas: train bogies and windows/glazing. The reason for picking these areas, according to Gibbs, was that they seemed to the most readily applicable across all state and territory jurisdictions.

The Victorian Government then initiated and seed-funded a client group comprising representatives from the state governments of NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. The Rail Industry and Standards Board RISSB was engaged to author documents through a development group with representation of government agencies, rail operators, manufacturers, maintainers, along with rail research institutions.

“In doing this work, we found that the target audience was procurers of rollingstock,” said Gibbs. “This led not to the development of a standard, but instead a guideline for developing specifications.”

The guidelines for bogie and window procurement, developed by RISSB in consultation with representatives of state government agencies, the rail industry and the rail technology sector, were released to transport procurement agencies in October 2017. The guidelines, Gibbs said, were developed with the intention of being used by both companies and state governments when procuring rollingstock and by manufacturers when procuring bogies, glass or glazing.

According to a study authored by David Anderson from Transport for Victoria, the pilot guidelines set the path for future developments in harmonisation of standards. “Australia stands to benefit considerably from nationally consistent rail manufacturing standards,” the report states. “Higher production volumes and lower unit costs for standardised componentry will aid the rollingstock industry’s longterm sustainability. A long-term outlook encourages investment, and jobs through greater local content, as well as delivering better value from money for rollingstock procurements.”

Gibbs also raised the point that if harmonisation is aligned with international standards, it would be able to support the connection of local suppliers not only wider national opportunities, but to global ones as well. “A connection can be made through the harmonisation of standards themselves so that they are aligned with international standards, and that will then assist local suppliers substitute for overseas equipment and participate in export opportunities,” Gibbs said. “Another form of connection of suppliers to opportunities through establishing greater market awareness through trade delegations. Just recently, there was very successful delegation to Innotrans in Germany that established connections between international suppliers and local suppliers.”

Gibbs said that additional manufacturing support can be provided by state industry participation policy and through acquiring local content in procurements. As an example, he outlined the Victorian government’s approach, which includes a policy of enforcing a minimum 50 per cent local manufacturing content requirements for all rollingstock projects valued over $50 million and tender evaluation weightings of 10 per cent for industry development, 10 per cent for job outcomes and 80 per cent for technical, performance, risk and delivery matters.

“So, given that this is now law, it will be applied any forthcoming procurements in Victoria for new regional trains and next generation trams,” Gibbs explained. “In terms of the next generation trams, in Melbourne we have the objective through this program to replace all of the high floor trams by 2032. This leads us to the expectation that this will see the procurement of between 220 and 250 trams, which is a huge order.”

Gibbs explained that “supply chain development” in the procurement of rollingstock by the state government in Victoria was “the new norm”, and was recently applied to the High Capacity Metro Train (HCMT) project. The project’s consortium partners – Downer, CRRC and Plenary Group – partnered with Toyota, the Chisholm Institute and Swinburne University to transition and re-skill manufacturing workers from the automotive sector.

Suppliers on the HCMT project were selected on the basis that they demonstrate a commitment to develop local manufacturing facilities in Victoria. Bogie frames works were awarded to Hofmann Engineering in Benidgo, traction motors to Times Electric in Morwell, HVAC works to Sigma in Derrimut, and Pantographs to Austbreck in Hallam.

Gibbs said the development of national harmonised standards would support higher returns on investment for these types of local suppliers and provide a base for cost-effective manufacturing innovations. “If we can secure good return on investment, it will enable companies to carry out effective innovation and not be penalised by it. The objective, in Victorian rollingstock procurements, is to eliminate peaks and troughs in procurements and create a steady and stable flow of production and returns on investment.”

Gibbs said the next steps in harmonisation would be industry engagement sessions between state government agencies and the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) early in 2019 to gather industry feedback. “We have a document that is ready to be published by RISSB, and will use the engagement sessions to introduce that document,” said Gibbs. This is will be followed by the issuing of the guidelines for bogies and windows by the relevant state agencies.

The creation of a national market for transport-related products and services is being advocated by the Victorian Government to create a long-term order pipeline across Australian jurisdictions. For this to be realised, it would have to be collaborated through the Council of Australian Governments and its Ministerial Transport and Infrastructure Council.


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