‘Pave over the tracks’, think tank says

A British think tank has suggested commuters could pay 40% less for their journeys if the UK government ripped up some railways and replaced them with dedicated bus roads.

The Institute of Economic Affairs this week released a report, ‘Paving over the tracks: a better use of Britain’s railways?’

“The reluctance of policy makers to consider more efficient forms of public transport has led to expensive fares and sardine-like conditions for commuters across the country,” the IEA said on Tuesday.

According to the IEA’s report, above-ground commuter railways transport a quarter of a million passengers into London during the morning peak hour.

That works out to about 10,000 commuters per track, “many of whom have to stand during their journey”, the IEA said.

“150 express coaches, each seating 75 individuals would be able to carry the same number of commuters while occupying one seventh of the capacity of a one-lane busway, of a similar width to that required by a train,” the IEA said.

The British think tank said the busways could offer comparable, if not shorter travel times, and could do so at a cheaper cost than existing railways.

The IEA said rail had received a “disproportional” amount of funding compared to alternate modes of transport, and that this needed to be fixed.

“Individuals in the UK are far more likely to travel by car than train, with 90% of passengers and 70% of freight traffic carried by roads,” the group said. “Despite this disparity, state funding of railways is just 30% lower than that spent on roads.”

Report co-author and IEA transport head Dr Richard Wellings said politicians were to blame.

“Ongoing interference by politicians in the rail industry has led to everyone getting a raw deal,” Wellings said.

“Passengers face increasingly expensive fares only to fight their way onto trains during peak times and taxpayers continue to prop up an industry whose importance to the country is disproportionally small relative to the level of resources it receives.

“Adopting more efficient methods of transport could offer considerable benefits to passengers and the taxpayer alike. But only when the sector is liberalised from rigid state control, will we see such alternatives being seriously considered.”

The report can be viewed here.

 

5 most important storylines from Queensland election

The scrapping of government plans to help fund a proposed shared railway through Queensland’s resource-rich Galilee Basin is just one of the major storylines for rail and resources industry to monitor in the fallout of Queensland’s election.

Shared Galilee infrastructure on knife’s edge

Campbell Newman’s plans to set aside a portion of taxpayers’ money for the development of a shared rail line and associated infrastructure through the Galilee is on the ropes, with its future dependent on the balance of power in parliament.

Prior to the election Newman said a re-elected LNP Government would work to provide miners in the Galilee Basin with a shared rail line that would connect their proposed mining projects with Abbot Point, or another export facility, on the coast.

The now ex-premier said his party would provide at least some of the funds for the development of that infrastructure.

But Annastacia Palaszczuk, leader of the opposition going into the election, and likely the next premier of Queensland, is against the funding.

Palaszczuk said in the lead-up to Sunday’s election that Galilee miners should have to be viable to succeed without government support, and that such financial assistance for a shared piece of infrastructure would not come from a Labor Government.

However, without a majority in parliament, Labor would need to ally itself with smaller parties and independents.

Katter’s Australia Party, led by Rob Katter – the son of polarising former federal politician Bob Katter – could be key to Labor getting its policies through parliament, should the party not hold the majority vote.

At time of writing (with roughly 85% of all votes counted), predictions have Labor winning 44 or 45 seats. With 45, the party would have all the power it needs to get its legislation through parliament.

But with just 44 seats, Labor would need to ally itself with Katter’s party (2 seats), or Nicklin independent Peter Wellington (1 seat), or with all three seats, to form a majority vote.

If Labor holds 44 seats after the election, and the LNP holds 42, however, the LNP could strike a deal with Katter’s party and the independent Wellington, giving it the 45 voting seats it needs to have its way in parliament.

If the LNP holds the balance of power, it could still go through with its plans for the Galilee. And experts are predicting that in order to strike a deal with Katter’s party, Labor might have to commit to a similar level of funding for the Galilee project.

Sydney Train

Rolling stock defect detector wins award

Sydney Trains has won an award for an innovative system that is installed on the track to provide early detection of rolling stock defects.

The Project Management Achievement Award, in the Developmental Projects category at the 2014 Australian Institute of Project Management’s NSW Chapter, was awarded for Sydney Trains Third Generation Hot Box Detector Systems Project.

The awards were opened by NSW governor Marie Bashir.The Third Generation Hot Box Detector Systems Project was delivered by the Sydney Trains Maintenance Directorate’s Operational Technology team.

Part of a suite of condition monitoring systems, Hot Box Detector systems are installed on the track to provide early detection of rolling stock defects, so they can be rectified before they damage rolling stock and infrastructure, or pose a risk to public safety.

The Third Generation Hot Box Detector Systems project was particularly complex as it involved the introduction of new technology, was multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder, had safety and operational impacts, and was industrially sensitive, Sydney Trains said.

Nonetheless, the project was delivered on time and under budget, a factor the state government agency said demonstrated its capability in project managing the procurement, trial and rollout of the latest technology to enhance network safety and service reliability.

Project manager Codruta Bastucescu accepted the award on behalf of Sydney Trains.“I was very grateful for the opportunity to manage this project. Like all disciplinary projects, it was a great team effort involving over 100 people over the course of five years. I was honoured to accept the award on behalf of Sydney Trains,” Codruta said.

Berejiklian boosting fare evasion squad by 35%

NSW minister for transport Gladys Berejiklian has announced plans to expand the state’s squad of transport officers to more than 200, in an effort to crack down on fare evasion.

Recruitment has begun for 65 new transport officers, set to add to the 150 officers who already work alongside Police Transport Command to target fare evasion on public transport, Berejiklian said last week.

Officers checking tickets on trains, buses, ferries and light rail have issued more than 111,000 fines since May 2013.

“Our existing 150 Transport Officers are issuing the same amount of fines as Labor’s whole squad of old RailCorp transit officers,” Berejiklian said.

“Transport Officers work closely with the Police Transport Command, who in addition have issued more than 100,000 infringements on the transport network for offences including fare evasion.

“Fare evasion costs taxpayers millions of dollars a year, and while the majority of customers do the right thing, it’s frustrating when others don’t pay their way. It also means less money to spend on extra transport services and new infrastructure,” Berejiklian said.

The boost in numbers means transport officers will be able target Sydney hot spots and outer suburban areas, including Wollongong, the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast, the minister added.

“Transport officers are now equipped with a handheld smart device which automatically sends infringement notices in the post, meaning less time on administration and more time helping customers and reducing fare evasion,” she said.

“Transport officers also use hand-held Opal readers to scan customers’ Opal cards and ensure people have tapped on correctly – another important way we’re tackling fare evasion.”

Transport for NSW has also introduced an initiative to turn off concession sales at ticket machines at selected stations, ensuring customers need to show proof of entitlement.

“Since the move, concession sales have dropped by 10% and full price tickets increased by the same amount, meaning 4 million extra full price tickets will be purchased this year,” Berejiklian said.

“We are sending a strong message to those who might normally travel without tapping on with their Opal card, or carrying the right ticket or concession, that the days of getting away with fare evasion are over.”

Training for the additional transport officers will start in January and the first of the new officers will be on the job by April 2015.

Recognising 40 years of railway innovation

Australia’s premier applied research centre in railway technology last week celebrated four decades of innovative solutions in mining and commuter rail systems.

A Celebration of 40 Years of Railway Research andTechnology was held last Thursday at the Park Hyatt, Melbourne, to celebrate the 40 years of railway research and technology by Monash University’s Institute of Railway Technology (IRT).

Originally part of research activities undertaken for the companies now known as BHP Billiton Iron Ore and Rio Tinto Iron Ore, IRT is now an applied research centre at Monash University. It provides technical assistance to the world’s three biggest iron ore producers, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Vale (Brazil), and more than 90 other railway entities, including leading commuter rail authorities.

IRT, which has clients in several countries, specialises in providing comprehensive solutions to technical issues in existing rail systems, whether they transport iron ore, freight or commuters. IRT is also a leader in remotely monitoring tracks and rolling stock using cutting-edge technology to detect faults before catastrophic failures occur.

Monash University’s senior deputy vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor (research) Professor Edwina Cornish, congratulated IRT on leading the Australian railway technology field for four decades.

“The Institute of Railway Technology is a great example of how universities and industry can collaborate to develop solutions that drive technology forward,” Prof Cornish said.

“IRT was born out of industry need and now real-world problems continue to drive its agenda.”

Director of IRT, Ravi Ravitharan, said the institute was set to build on its success.

“IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements of the rail industry,” Ravitharan said.

“Being part of Australia’s largest university, IRT is well-placed to continue to lead the railway research and technology needs of the rejuvenated railway industry.”

The Victorian minister for public transport Terry Mulder, delivered the keynote address at the gala dinner and general manager of infrastructure at the Hong Kong rail authority MTR, Richard Keefe, and rail engineering manager at Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Leland LeBreton, both long term clients of IRT, also spoke at the event.

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | Newcastle City Hall
www.informa.com.au/heavyhaulrail

NSW police take charge of security on Sydney transport

The New South Wales Government has announced that the state’s police force will take over security for Sydney’s entire public transport network under a new dedicated Police Transport Command.

The new Police Transport Command (PTC) will see 610 dedicated police officers allocated to patrol trains, buses and ferries.

Police commissioner Andrew Scipione said the new police command will be created to bolster the state’s public transport network.

“The creation of the PTC will allow police to work more closely with the community to target those areas within our transport system where anti-social and criminal behaviour occurs,” Commissioner Scipione said.

Minister for police Michael Gallacher said the police will be trained to patrol in pairs, rather than transit officers who are routinely deployed in groups of three to five for safety reasons. Transit officers will focus on detecting fare evasion and minor compliance offences and their patrols will be expanded to cover buses and ferries.

“Improving safety and security requires a fundamentally different approach, and a well-led dedicated police command with the full complement of police powers will increase our ability to combat crime on the public transport network,” Gallacher said.

“The NSW Liberals & Nationals Government is determined to give police the powers, the resources and the backing they need to keep our community safe, and that includes protecting public transport passengers.”

Minister for transport Gladys Berejiklian said commuters wanted a strong police presence on the transport network as it was the best deterrent against crime.

“We are committed to making our public transport network as safe as possible,” Berejiklian said.

“We understand that feeling safe and secure is important to our customers, and that it is crucial to attracting more people to use public transport.

“Just as a police car on our roads puts drivers on their best behaviour, police officers patrolling our public transport network will serve as a deterrent against crime.

“While police will take the lead, transit officers will have their roles expanded to focus on fare evasion on buses and ferries as well as trains.”

Commissioner Scipione said recruitment processes would be completed by the end of 2014 when the PTC’s ranks will have grown to more than 600 officers, while 300 existing police officers currently attached to the Commuter Crime Unit will be available immediately.

“The great value of this new command is that police officers will come into contact with people who may have committed other more serious crimes,” he said

“It will enable the police to take into custody a lot of people wanted on other offences.

“Public transport, whether it’s rail, buses or ferries, are well-known as crime corridors used by criminals to go to commit a crime or to return from a crime.”’

The government’s increased police presence will build on existing security measures across Sydney’s rail network that include:

  • 9300 CCTV cameras targeting crime and commuters safety
  • 750 customer help points visible on CCTV which allow a person to communicate directly with CityRail staff
  • 7000 high intensity lights

IRT: leading technology development for mining

While the Australian economy is enjoying a fortunate position due to the thriving mining industry, research and technology have been integral factors which have enabled the mining industry to reach its current position.

As part of one of the main technology service providers for the railway industry, the personnel at the Institute of Railway Technology (IRT) at Monash University have been supporting the mining industry’s railway operations over the last four decades. IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements at the same time as reducing risks and costs, ultimately improving the bottom line of their clients.

The latest technology IRT has developed is the instrumented revenue vehicle which is a fully flexible automated measurement platform to continuously monitor and provide feedback on both rail condition and train operation. This technology is designed to be installed in standard vehicles which are embedded within a normal operation.

The IRT instrumented vehicle technology has several key advantages over previous maintenance inspection methods. With the objective of increasing production rates, mining operations are often under pressure to reduce railway track downtime. The ramifications of reducing track downtime are that it would minimize traditional track measurements and maintenance activities. This could result in a significant increase in operational risks because of a lack of maintenance and an inability to identify deterioration of track condition in a timely manner.

IRT’s instrumented vehicle technology measures the condition of a railway system during normal rail operations without requiring any track downtime. In addition, IRT’s technology measures the dynamic responses of normal vehicles during loaded and empty operating conditions under standard speed profiles. Unlike previous track recording vehicle measurements, IRT technology measurements are a direct indication of the loads being imposed on the rail network in a usual operating environment.

By Ravi Ravitharan*

It is also important to note that the information collected using the IRT’s instrumented vehicletechnology is available for railway operations within a twelve hour period. It is anticipated that in the near future real time reporting of track and train related issues would be also available.

The above technology is widely used in railway systems in mining operations and now available to all railway operations including passenger and freight, to assist with both track and rolling stock management.

The IRT instrumented vehicle technology measurements have shown an excellent correlation with track inspector findings. Now these measurements are being used extensively for track maintenance activities, and to restrict line speed to mitigate damage to and risk from deterioration of the track structure.

Assessment of the effectiveness of maintenance operations, operational planning and maintenance programming are other benefits of the new technology IRT has developed.

IRT’s instrumented vehicle technology has also been used for analysis of train driving strategies and in-train forces, train driver training, derailment investigations, analysis of the dynamic effect on bridges, dumper indexing for minimization of coupler loads and assistance with the design of new rolling stock.

IRT, the premier track and vehicle railway engineering research centre in Australia, focuses on developing new technologies that could be integrated into existing processes to provide rail operators with the ability to effectively manage their resources.

*Ravi Ravitharan is director, Institute of Railway Technology, Monash University

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | City Hall Newcastle
For more information email: kara.clifton@informa.com.au

Level crossing Victoria - Photo: Creative Commons

New technology to dramatically improve level crossing safety

A new $4m technology being developed at Victoria’s La Trobe University could significantly reduce and help to eliminate collisions, injuries and fatalities at Australia’s level crossings.

By Jennifer Perry

The technology could warn vehicles as they’re approaching a level crossing by using “mobile phone style” wireless networks that are integrated with GPS.

“The technology will have cars and trains ‘talking to each other’ and be able to warn of approaching danger from up to one kilometre away,” Victorian roads and ports minister Tim Pallas said upon launching the research project.

“Nowhere else in the world is the trial of this particular technology being proposed to the extent that we are doing in Victoria and focusing on its level crossing safety applications.”

Pallas said the research team at the university’s Centre for Technology Infusion estimated the technology could save around 37 lives at Australian road level crossings every year, as well as about $100m by eliminating rail crossing collisions.

The project is being funded by the Victorian Government, road industry research group AutoCRC and a number of rail industry partners.

The research team hopes to have the technology available within three years.

Rail technology roadmaps: a Canadian perspective

The recent Rail Technology Workshop saw senior rail executives come together to kick-start the development of a technology strategy and roadmap for the Australian rail industry for the next 30-40 years.

By Jennifer Perry

While many rail organisations have developed individual technology roadmaps, the workshop marked the first time that industry came together to work towards a common technological base.

With Canada a few steps ahead of Australia, having already got a technology roadmap in place, delegates benefitted from hearing the Canadian experience that was shared by Mike Roney, chair of Canada’s Railway Research Advisory Board.

Roney said that the Canadian rail industry used the Association of American Railroads’ (AAR) technologyroadmap as a basis for developing a specific Canadian technology strategy, and took more of a freight focus because that’s where “the money is made”.

“The AAR technology roadmap started when our chief executives said that even if the railways don’t gain market share, we still have to be carrying 80 per cent more tonnage on our lines 20 years into the future which requires us to spend a great deal of money on capacity improvements,” Roney said.
“The target we came to was if we can do 50 per cent of that improvement in capacity through technology then there is a great deal of value in that for the railways.”

Canada took many of the AAR’s technology roadmap principles into consideration when developing its own strategy, including the need to develop capacity without spending capital; making assets sweat; fuel efficiency and advanced power systems; reducing in-service failures; automated health monitoring of track and rollingstock; interoperability; positive train control; and information technology that supports improved customer service.

“The next piece of evidence we put together was the visioning of the top operating officers within Canadian National and Canadian Pacific – the two major Canadian freight railways – who were basically asked what they would like their railway to be when they grow up,” Roney said.

The resulting vision highlighted key strategic areas such as the need for new technologies to lower stress states and for the rail network to be fluid, scheduled and precise; the need for safety systems to be more vital, predictive and condition based and for technologies that reduce emissions, amongst others.
Some of the technologies that featured in this vision were wireless train control systems to improve safety and capacity, friction management to control the friction levels along rail lines and reduce fuel consumption, ECP braking and longer trains with distributed power.

Key stakeholders then came together to decide on what research priorities would form Canada’s joint industry government research program for its technology roadmap; Roney said that with a lack of industry funding for research, it was paramount that funding went to areas that “everyone up the line” recognised as the top priorities.

Research projects included human behavior and compliance, energy and the environment, railroading and harsh and changing environments, infrastructure integrity, human factors, operational fluidity and capacity and emerging technologies.

Roney’s views were welcomed by the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board’s (RISSB) general manager Kevin Taylor, who told Rail Express that with Canada “out there leading rail reform”, it had plenty of good case examples for Australia to follow including the development of a technologystrategy.
Taylor said that while the Rail Technology Strategy Workshop marked an important step in the industry’s development of a technology strategy, it was “just the start” of what may be a rather lengthy development and approval process.

“A project plan will be provided for RISSB’s approval in November, and subject to this approval, work will start in earnest,” he said.

Taylor also mentioned that it was important that broad industry buy-in was achieved in the development of the strategy and thus the RISSB process of consultation will be followed.

Environment checks for major infrastructure projects

A special compliance officer will monitor all major infrastructure projects in the Northern Territory, such as the Alice-Darwin railway, to ensure they comply with environmental requirements.

The Alice-Darwin railway has received some criticism since construction began over itsenvironmental record.

Complaints have centred around developer ADrail’s use of water and the impact of clearing on the Gouldian Finches habitat.

New environmental compliance officer Scott Whitney has started to work with ADrail to ensure allenvironmental guidelines are adhered to.