New date for AusRAIL PLUS

AusRAIL PLUS, the largest rail rail industry event in Australia and New Zealand, will now take place from Monday, 28 February – Wednesday, 2 March, 2022, at the International Convention Centre in Sydney. 

Hosted by the Australasian Railway Association, the annual conference brings together all facets of the rail industry under the one roof over three days, incorporating an expansive conference program combined with an extensive trade exhibition. 

Current Queensland border restrictions, and the ongoing uncertainty about when they will be lifted, has resulted in the need to seek new arrangements for the event, originally scheduled for December this year. 

With NSW’s roadmap out of lockdown confirming the state will be open for business in the new year, organisers are optimistic about a successful AusRAIL PLUS at the new venue, giving attendees the chance to network, share information and take advantage of an outstanding program. 


John Holland. Photo John Holland

Rigorous bidding phase key to PPP success, expert says

Extensive preparation for all aspects of a project during the bidding stage is crucial to the successful delivery of a Public Private Partnership, John Holland executive general manager of development and investments Tom Roche has said.

Roche recently spoke with Rail Express publisher Informa Australia ahead of Informa’s National PPP Summit on November 15-16 in Melbourne.

“You need to plan for success” Roche said. “And spend far more preparation time than you may initially anticipate.

“You need to plan for all the key elements of the project – design, construction and commissioning – from day one. The foundations of success are created during the bid phase of most projects.”

John Holland is no stranger to PPPs in the rail sector.

The construction and engineering group, which was recently acquired by China Communications Construction Company, is currently engaged in PPP contracts to help deliver Canberra’s Capital Metro light rail line, the Sydney Metro Northwest project, and several others.

Roche, who has enjoyed a three-decade career delivering PPPs, firmly believes a good contractor should be preparing as early as possible and building strong relationships with their public sector clients.

He also cites the importance of having sufficiently skilled staff, in areas like negotiation and design and client management.

“You need people who can present appropriate, well-thought out arguments, can present the value of their design and construction approach and bring the clients on the journey with them,” he told Informa.

“You need your best people in design development as well as construction in order to be sure that the project will progress well.”

On top of this, he argued staff must have a ‘partnership mentality’.

“Some people treat PPPs in the same way as traditional procurement models. It’s human nature,” he said. “Some look for ways to cut corners.”

Roche believes being seen to be doing your best and having the client’s interests at heart is conducive to a good relationship, and therefore to a successful project.

Tom Roche will speak at the National PPP Summit in Melbourne this November. As well as presenting strategic advice regarding the practical and logistical side of PPPs, he will discuss how he believes effective partnerships can be forged.

PPP Conference

Electronic Authority. Photo: 4Tel

Electronic Authority functionality a success on CRN

4Tel’s recent work installing Electronic Authority functionality on a NSW rail network is just one example of where digital technology can help the industry, managing director Derel Wust says.

A telecommunications engineer by trade, Wust says the rail industry can benefit significantly through the use of modern digital technologies to solve railway safety and operational problems.

“One issue the rail industry generally doesn’t understand is ‘digital’ communications, and the safety and efficiency benefits that can be derived from digital solutions,” Wust said in a Q&A with Rail Express affiliate Informa Insights this week.

“For example, the rail industry will often refer to the need for ‘vital communications’ to protect safety for the carriage of signalling data.

“However, in the digital world, communications are not vital as all communications use connectionless packets of data. Communications can be interrupted at any time.

“Therefore, safety is achieved by safe processes, not any given communications path used. The only common methodology between the two concepts is that systems need to ‘fail-safe’.”

4Tel develops and maintains systems as a subcontractor on John Holland’s Country Regional Network in NSW.

As part of its most recent work for John Holland, 4Tel has delivered Electronic Authority functionality within the Train Management and Control System’s computer-based Train Orders System.

Under the new system, Wust explained, an Electronic Authority is transmitted to the train as an encrypted digital message, and is then displayed on the train-fitted radio screen.

“Prior to this enhancement, a Movement Authority was issued by the Network Controller, initiating a voice telephone call to the train driver, and reading out the Electronic Authority contents for the driver to write down onto a form,” Wust explained.

“Voice-based authorities are time-consuming to issue and prone to human error. By digitising this process, we have increased safety and efficiency of both above and below rail operations without the need to fit any new equipment to a locomotive.”

This project went live on June 25 this year, and uptake has been very high, according to Wust.

“Just last week [July 19 to 25], we had an average of 91% of Electronic Authorities for the week and we anticipate reaching closer to 100% in the near future,” he said.

“The response from John Holland Network Controllers and the train drivers to the implementation of Electronic Authorities has been very positive.”

Wust will speak at the Telecommunications and Train Control Forum in Sydney next month. Click here for more information.

Major project safety measures apply to small projects, too

Bob Hammer gives his thoughts on the Office of the National Safety Regulator’s major projects guidelines released late last year.

Bob HammerI read with interest the guideline recently released by the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator [note] Major projects guideline version 1.0, 14 November 2014. Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator, Adelaide.[/note] and thought that the advice provided in the document applies as much to small projects as to large ones.

In fact I suspect that sometimes the smaller projects may be more at risk than large ones because they do not generate the same level of scrutiny.

One of the reminders in the guideline is that designers, manufacturers, suppliers and constructors of railway assets (regardless of the size of the project) have significant legal responsibilities. Section 53 of the Rail Safety National Law requires that (in my words), subject to the ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ test, these persons must ensure that whatever they are designing, supplying, manufacturing and/or building is safe, be able to demonstrate that it is safe and to provide the necessary information to enable the asset to be operated and maintained safely.

Although smaller rail projects are usually delivered under the management of and in compliance with the accredited rail transport operator’s safety management system the legal responsibility remains with the designer, manufacturer and/or supplier.

The guideline also states that “good practice dictates that effective risk-based system engineering and safety assurance processes should be implemented”.

Again, good advice for smaller projects provided that the processes are sized to match the level of risk within the project.

A question I like to pose is “How will I know that the asset delivered by this project will be safe to operate and maintain?”

From my experience, the sooner that question is asked and answered through the establishment of a safety assurance process the better the chance of delivering the project without major issues.

Another piece of good advice in the guideline is to consider the requirements of the operator and maintainer throughout the project lifecycle. I would go further and suggest that the operator and maintainer should be active stakeholders throughout the development, design and delivery process.

This helps to ensure that the asset can be safely operated and maintained after it is delivered.

I observed one major station upgrading project in Sydney that placed the platform lighting on a high canopy directly above the edge of the platform. The lighting outcomes were great, but in order to change a light fitting the maintainer now has to get a scissor lift onto the platform (no mean feat in itself), stop trains from running and turn off the traction power.

I suggest that the maintenance issues were not adequately considered during design!

I was fortunate to work on the design and delivery of the Airport Line in Sydney.

This was one of the first rail tunnels in NSW that did not include personnel refuges within the tunnel, meaning that maintenance workers were not permitted to enter the tunnel while trains were running (in itself a significant safety improvement).

The maintainer and the operator were very heavily involved in the design process and we were able to ensure that as much equipment as possible was placed in the stations where it could be maintained safely rather than in the tunnels.

Yarra Trams Clement Michel - Photo Yarra Trams

Know your accountabilities: The Yarra Trams safety journey

Yarra Trams chief executive Clément Michel insists accountability and strong employee-manager relationships are crucial to ensuring a safe transport network.

Michel, who was appointed chief operating officer at Keolis Downer (Victoria) Yarra Trams in 2009, before transitioning to chief executive in February 2013, spoke in late March at the Rail Safety 2015 Conference in Melbourne, organised by RISSB and Informa.

In 1988, an SNCF commuter service crashed into a stationary outbound train at the Gare de Lyon rail terminal in Paris, killing more than 50 people and injuring just as many.

Despite not joining the staff at Paris-Gare de Lyon until 2000, Michel recalled that he couldn’t help but feel a sense of responsibility when his predecessor showed him a box full of press materials, pictures, and news clippings about the incident, several years later.

From then on, Michel said, he has been inspired to instil a sense of accountability to his staff, to make them feel accountable to their organisation, and to its customers.

You can engineer a risk out only if you have somebody accountable to engineer it out. That is the transformation journey. – Clément Michel

Michel believes that in an ideal safety culture, people will consistently reflect, not to simply feel responsible for their actions, but to “feel accountable, and therefore be driven to act”.

During his presentation at the Melbourne gathering, Michel said at the heart of the issue lies employee-manager relationships.

Regardless of how many new structures and programs are established, Michel said there will always exist a high percentage of non-compliance to rules, when at the core of the organisation, employee-manager relationships are crumbling.

In the world of franchising models, there are things managers and employees are both accountable for, he said, explaining that when both sides are aware of these accountabilities, it is easier to work around pertinent issues, like safety risks, customer interaction, punctuality, processes, and leadership.

Upon arrival at Yarra Trams, Michel said he moved quickly to fix the rules and train the staff. An excellent simulator was crucial for initial driver training, he said, adding that proper and continuous training can help enhance an employee’s innate skills and talents, preparing them to do better in their assigned tasks.

Michel stressed the importance of monitoring all work through automated completion processes and programs.

An automated system, similar to the one Yarra Trams is currently using, enables managers to observe how all the employees are performing, Michel explained.

Michel concluded with an outline of the most important aspects of improving safety in a transport organisation. He said:

  • Accountabilities should be initially laid out on the table
  • Structures on the key processes and leadership must be clearly established
  • The accountability metric system (accountability matrix) must be absolutely clear and fully understood by everyone in the organisation
  • All managers should be held fully accountable for their regular directive reports
  • Managers should be held accountable for the safe outcome and safety of their teams. and the safety of their teams

RISSB and Informa will team up again for the RISSB National Rail Turnouts Workshop, to be held in Sydney from May 27 to 28. Click here for more information.

Related story: When rail meets road: Making rams safer with Clement Michel, Yarra Trams

Railroad turnout. Photo: Creative Commons / Centpacrr

Expert speakers to ‘turnout’ for RISSB workshop in May

Focusing on the up-skilling of industry workers, the RISSB National Rail Turnouts Workshop will look to exchange and transfer knowledge from a range of experts.

It is necessary to maintain a rail asset in great condition to obtain the longest life cycle possible, but without a sound understanding of the turnout and the issues or areas of concern, turnouts often do not receive early attention and can degrade quickly and lead to significant problems like derailment.

That’s what the experts say they want to help other industry experts with at the upcoming National Rail Turnouts Workshop, which will take place in Sydney on May 27 and 28.

In the lead up to the event, Informa Insights was lucky enough to delve into the mindsets of four of the speakers:

  • Glenn Lorenz –  Engineering Manager, Vossloh Cogifer
  • Laurie Wilson – Manager, Infrastructure & Engineering with RISSB
  • Jefferson Fern –  Business Development Manager, Vossloh
  • Franz Sodia –  CEO, VAE

Glenn Lorenz, Vossloh

Glenn Lorenz is Engineering Manager of Vossloh Cogifer Australia. He will be speaking at the RISSB National Rail Turnouts Workshop about pioneering turnout design.

Glenn, can you tell us a little about your professional background?

I first started as an Estimator in a Turnouts manufacturing firm Thompsons Kelly and Lewis in 1982, and that role was very much commercially orientated.

It led to a senior position in the Engineering department and I subsequently became the Engineering Manager at TKL in 2002. I then took on my current position as Engineering Manager at Vossloh Cogifer Australia in 2007.

What are your major concerns in your current role?

As my company is a designer and manufacturer, one of my biggest concerns is product being designed and produced outside of Australia.

Other concerns to our business is the current low price of iron ore and lack of major rail infrastructure projects.

Why do you see the Turnouts forum as an important industry event and why should people attend?

This event is the only forum which is specifically dedicated to Turnouts. To the best of my knowledge there is no other event that covers design, manufacture, installation, maintenance, operation etc.

Attendees should include installers, operators and maintainers who will potentially need an understanding of turnouts.

Who are you looking forward to hearing from at the forum?

It’s always interesting to hear the operator and maintainer viewpoints on turnouts, as well as listening to the other turnout designers and suppliers’ perspectives.


Laurie Wilson, RISSB

Laurie, can you tell us about the path to your current role?

I started many years ago in the railway sector as a short term job until I could find something better. I found the industry to be an exciting challenge every day and the more I learned about my role and the industry the more I wanted to learn.

Around 40 years and many varied roles later, I am still learning about aspects of the industry and my role within it. The industry is unique in that it allows staff to work and progress through its various departments and grow as an individual.

I progressed from a physically demanding role in the fields of Construction and Maintenance to a more office type role in education and development, progressing to training design through to Safety then safety investigations, management, Innovations management and now with RISSB as the Manager Infrastructure and Engineering.

What are your major concerns in your current role?

The development of standards has been undertaken for about six years now and Infrastructure has a good suite of standards on which industry can draw. My main concern is the education of industry in the content of the standards and the adoption and implementation by rail organisations.

What will you be speaking about?

I will be discussing the Standards development process and an overview of the content within the Turnouts and special track works standard.

Why do you see the Turnouts forum as an important industry event and why should people attend?

I was one of a few who used to teach turnout principles and construction and still believe it is an area that requires a good understanding. Modern turnouts are well designed and manufactured. Installing them in the field is a significant task. Manufacturers now construct and deliver to sites and some are installing them as well. This means it is getting harder for workers to gain an understanding of the importance of various components and the need for inspection and maintenance of safety critical areas. A need to maintain the asset in as good a condition as possible to obtain the longest life possible. Without a sound understanding of the turnout and the issues or areas of concern, turnouts do not receive early attention and can degrade quickly and lead to significant problems like derailment.

Who are you looking forward to hearing from at the forum?

I always look forward to the younger engineers stepping up and delivering presentations about what they have learned about turnouts. It is of course good to see the older engineers still passionate about rail in general and turnouts specifically.


Jefferson Fern, Vossloh

How did you arrive at your current role?

In my career I transitioned from technical to client facing roles. I really enjoy working on new projects and developing solutions for clients. Now in my current role with Vossloh I am drawing on my technical and client facing experience.

What are your current sector challenges?

My concern is how to best communicate options to the client from Vossloh’s broad experience base in Europe and around the globe. Then work with clients to develop better solutions for the current project.

What will you be speaking about at the RISSB National Rail Turnouts Workshop?

I will be speaking about the fundamentals of fastening systems and how they apply to turnouts. Then I will cover why non-ballasted track is becoming increasingly popular and will share a range of applications relating to turnouts, followed by a discussion on construction and maintenance considerations.

Why do you see this forum as an important industry event and why should people attend?

Turnouts are the most complex part of the track system so if you can understand or solve a problem relating to turnouts you will more than likely have a good appreciation for the whole track!

Who are you looking forward to hearing from at the forum?

The chairman announcing lunch!   But seriously… they will all be good. I am especially looking forward to John McLeod as he is new in the role in Sydney and comes from long experience in railways. I always like hearing about installation and construction methods and issues.

Franz Sodia – CEO, VAE

Franz, how did you come to be in your present role?

I started on the shop floor! Originally I was a gunsmith by trade and an officer in the Austrian Army. I followed this up with a Master in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA. I have now been working in the railway industry for voestalpine VAE since almost 20 years. For the last five years, I have been CEO of voestalpine Railway Systems in Australia.

What are your current professional challenges?

  • Adapting proven technical solutions from other countries for special Australian requirements
  • Introducing the concept of high initial quality as a key driver for low Life Cycle Costs
  • Introducing new generation of turnouts for axle loads greater than 40 tonnes
  • Introducing a new generation of hydraulic switch machines which allow tamping and do not need in-bearers
  • Introducing electronic condition monitoring systems for turnouts to enable condition based monitoring

At the conference I will be speaking about Turnouts for low life cycle costs, influenced by the factors above.

Why do you see the Turnouts forum as an important industry event and why should people attend?

This is THE event in Australia regarding turnout technology. Having a clear focus on this topic but still including and considering influences of other relevant sub-systems of the overall railway system.

Who are you looking forward to hearing from at the forum?

I’m looking forward to hearing from railway infrastructure authorities regarding their specific requirements and challenges, which require the technical expertise and contribution of the industry.


Don’t miss hearing from these great speakers and others at the RISSB National Rail Turnouts Workshop, 27 – 28 May in Sydney. View the full agenda here and book now.

Light rail the perfect match for modern lifestyles

Q&A with Sandrine Gaubert, Network Development Strategy Manager for Keolis Downer and works along the network teams for both Yarra Trams and Keolis Downer Gold Coast, who recently spoke at the Light Rail 2015 Conference.

Informa Insights sat down with Sandrine to talk about her background and the recent renaissance in light rail networks around the world.

Can you tell us a little about your professional background and the path to your current role?
My involvement in public transport has spanned the last two decades in both Europe and Australia. I have worked in a range of roles from market intelligence and network design to director of networks in France.

Like many people who have been in the bid environment, it is hard to shake off once you have the experience. The excitement of the bid process has brought me to Australia, where I am now working in the business development team. My role particularly looks at network design, marketing and new tenders. I work alongside the network design teams within Yarra Trams and also Keolis Downer Gold Coast to understand how to optimise our transport and customer service offering to the needs of the customer.

This is a central tenant of the way Keolis Downer operates. We are focused on thinking like a passenger.

Can you tell us one or two of the major highlights of your tenure overseeing this network/project?
The focus on sector reform and network optimisation as well as new projects in Australia is a real highlight of the role. I have been focused on translating our experience from around 20 networks globally into the Australian environment.

It is always exciting bring together best practice with the local experience and industry capabilities in order to tailor a solution for a network. There is an incredible capacity within Australia’s light rail industry and a real desire to drive innovation and to deliver world class networks.

I think it is important to share knowledge and experience, and the ARA-Informa light rail conference provides an important platform for these conversations.

Are there any particular light rail transport networks you admire and why?
The Keolis Group is the world’s largest operator of light rail, so we have a tremendous network of experience to draw from. Over the past 15 years, we have launched on average more than one new light rail system or extension.

Each of these projects have a story and a challenge around designing an efficient new network. The Divia network in Dijon is particularly interesting. Since 2012, there has been a major investment in the transport network of the city, including two new light rail lines and the reorganisation of the city’s bus network. A new bike share system has also been introduced and striking new branding.

The results have been outstanding customer satisfaction results, with both tram vehicle and tram stop ratings above 99 per cent and patronage growth of 20 per cent between 2012 and 2013.

A public transport network is very much a part of the community in which it is based. As such, how does Keolis Downer/KDR Gold Coast ensure that it has a contemporary and relevant CSR program?
Light rail is as much an urban design solution as it is a transport network. Light rail shapes a city, and if partnered with other transport options like cycling, biking, walking and effective interchanges it can redefine the very fabric of the city’s culture.

We know this at Keolis Downer and we are committed to delivering light rail that understands the drivers of a population’s movement and seeks to deliver transport that matches their way of life. From the foundations of our network design, through our Keoscopie tool, we seek to understand the needs of the community and to build a public transport solution tailored to the needs of the community.

Our corporate social responsibility program is heavily focused on ensuring we deliver a true partnership with our customers and the community to deliver what really matters to them. Continued roll-out of easy to access customer information and low floor trams in Melbourne helps to ensure the public transport network is accessible to the community, especially those members of the community who need it most. This focus on the vulnerable and fragile in the community is very important, even for the way we target safety messages. We are only able to do this with cooperation from government and the public transport authority, and PTV has also made this a major focus.

Most recently we have made the delivery of green operations a priority. The commitment to green depots reduces our water and energy footprint as well as ensuring sustainable treatment of waste. This has meant more sustainable designs and operations for our new networks as well as retrofitting greener systems to our depots in Melbourne.

We also have a major focus on gender diversity. This is a priority from our top level, where four of five senior representatives are female, to the whole workforce where the number of women in the workforce is above the industry average.

In your opinion, to what do we owe the recent renaissance in light rail, evident in Australia and throughout the world?
The resurgence of light rail in Australia is the product of the convergence of a number of factors. The strength of the property sector, particularly around in-fill development and urban renewal is a real driver as established areas try to manage growth without compounding traffic congestion.

This is particularly important in Sydney, whether in the east or the west, traffic congestion is becoming a major issue that communities and government are coming to grips with. Increasingly traffic congestion is an issue for smaller cities like Dijon, Tours and Canberra. The result is we have seen a number of community campaigns calling for the introduction of light rail or supporting particular routes.

Light rail is also matched to modern lifestyles. People want to travel, whether commuting, catching up with friends for coffee or travelling to sporting events on the weekend. The need for flexible travel is growing as cities grow.

Unlike other modes of transport, light rail systems are also extremely open. This allows people to pass across the tracks and for the city to remain uncluttered. This is great for business and we have seen the positive impacts in Melbourne, the Gold Coast and our other projects across Europe.

A city with light rail can expect to have lower levels of congestion and to be cleaner. Light rail vehicle can carry up to 300 people, taking these people out of cars and removing these emissions. Well-designed light rail, can also operate extremely quietly. This reduces road noise and improves the streetscape.

Click here to see all upcoming rail conferences hosted by Informa.

Are you interested in speaking at Light Rail 2016 Conference? Please click here.