Delivering technological innovation in Australia

Omada Rail Systems is bringing exciting and innovative technology to the Australian rail industry.

Through a strong focus on youth development and carefully selected company partnerships, Omada Rail Systems is capable of delivering globally recognised technology across Australia. Omada is partnered with two UK based companies, Gioconda Rail and KeTech, both of which are renowned for taking the first step and pushing technological boundaries. Through their usual services of signalling design, systems integration, testing and commissioning, and telecommunications engineering, Omada is capable of introducing these technologies into Australia.

The directors at Omada are committed to working with their team to identify and implement process innovations. With the promise of providing clients with the best value for money, the Omada leadership understands that a focus on quality and efficiency is key. The company has a growing reputation for delivering high quality work and going the extra mile to ensure the client’s satisfaction. This is largely due to a strong work ethic and philosophy of teamwork, allowing for a fast and safe turnaround of projects. Omada has outlined a plan to further increase capacity for delivering larger projects by implementing efficient processes and resources; backed by bringing in additional quality engineers to the team.

Omada interlocking simulator
Omada is building an inhouse relay interlocking system and test panel, to demonstrate signalling design and testing fundamentals. This project is designed to be predominantly worked on by Omada’s graduate engineers, allowing them to further develop their knowledge of signalling design principles. Once complete, this will serve as a platform for high quality inhouse training for all of the current Omada engineering team and for future graduate intakes. With this project targeting completion early in 2021, Omada believes this unique project will set them well above the pack.

Gioconda
Omada and Gioconda joined forces more than 12 months ago, with the mutual goal of enhancing asset management, signal sighting, and driver briefing activities in Australia. Gioconda services stem from their base specialties of railway filming and 3D modelling.

Gioconda’s services include:

  • Railway filming
  • Video asset mapping
  • BIM and 3D visualisation and modelling
  • Signal sighting
  • Driver briefing and training packages

A powerful tool and process for inspecting the railway as part of design, Gioconda’s asset mapping tool has sparked a great deal of interest from Australian companies looking for more effective methods of asset management. Gioconda have previously delivered multiple projects for Metro Trains Melbourne such as a virtual signal sighting and driver briefing package for the Mernda project and a driver briefing package for the Burke Road Grade Separation project. Omada and Gioconda have brought this technology to many major operators through presentations, with high levels of interest. According to Omada director Luke Craven, “The Gioconda software is a remarkably efficient and powerful tool. By bringing the railway into the office, it has massive benefits with regards to safety and cost.”

KeTech
KeTech has been at the forefront of real time information systems for 20 years and, like Omada, has recently experienced substantial growth. Providing real-time passenger and driver information systems, KeTech’s team offer their clients a reliable, fully integrated information system.

KeTech’s products and services include:

  • Passenger information systems
  • Customer information systems
  • Connected Driver Advisory Systems (C-DAS)
  • Driver-only operated CCTV system

With a strong focus on being one step ahead, a passion to challenge the impossible and meticulous attention to detail, KeTech is set well above its competition. KeTech is able to combine its passenger, customer and driver information systems to work in unison, as a universal information system (UIS), capable of providing passengers and operators with live updates and information such as arrival and departure times, seat allocations, platform alterations, toilet availability, and much more. Designed to vastly improve customer experience, operational efficiency and support a safer journey, KeTech’s UIS is truly ground-breaking. Omada and KeTech’s leaders are closely aligned in their desire to bring this technology into Australia. With operators constantly looking to improve customer satisfaction figures and operational efficiency, KeTech’s products are a proven solution.

The three companies previously shared an exhibition stand at AusRAIL PLUS 2019 and have since seen a great deal of interest from Australian based companies. If you would like to find out more about Omada Rail Systems, KeTech, or Gioconda visit: https://www.omadarail.com/services/

The road to 100

Bombardier’s Wendy McMillan describes how the company is creating a rail manufacturing centre of excellence as it reaches a major milestone.

Announcing the Victorian government’s purchase of 50 new trams for the Melbourne network in 2010, then Public Transport Minister Martin Pakula, highlighted what the first order of locally made trams in 20 years would mean for the state.

“The order is a boost to our tram fleet and is a fantastic endorsement of our local manufacturing industry with major components built at Dandenong as well as assembly and testing.”

Three years later, and a different public transport minister was riding the first of the E-Class trams as it left the Southbank depot and travelled on route 96.

“The E-Class tram will mean an improved ride for passengers with pivoting bogies and air-conditioning designed specifically for Melbourne,” said Terry Mulder, who noted the considerable difference the tram would make for the city and Melbourne’s commuters. “Each E-Class tram can carry 210 passengers, which is significantly more than other trams on the network.”

The company behind this series of trams, Bombardier, is now approaching production of the 100th E-Class vehicle, and the trams, proudly adorned with the ‘Made in Melbourne, For Melbourne’ motto, have become testament to the benefits of local manufacturing. Wendy McMillan, President Australia and New Zealand at Bombardier Transportation, said that by being made in Melbourne, the global mobility provider can “think global, act local”.

“It means you’ve got the full suite,” said McMillan. “We have the engineering capability to match what you actually bid, product assurance and design safety, and then you go into production.”

With the Dandenong workshop now completing vehicle 86 in the series, each tram is the result of Bombardier’s local and global expertise.

“If we look at the E-Class, you have industrial design in Brisbane, and we have at least a third of the global capability of industrial design in our Milton office. What it means is that you have a collaboration between functions, either here or overseas, full collaboration to actually bring the book together for the customer to enable sign off,” said McMillan.

In addition to the trams manufactured in Dandenong, Bombardier also produces the Vlocity 160 DMU for Victoria’s regional network. On both products, Bombardier has been able to update and vary the design locally in line with changes to requirements. Having local engineering capabilities is essential to these changes.

“There might be new standards that come in that the customer may wish to do a variation for,” said McMillan. “For example on LRV crashworthiness, it might be lines of sight, there might be driver requirements that change from the operator. Having engineering presence on the ground enables you to have that assurance.”

The first introduction of the E-Class trams saw improvements in accessibility for travellers by increasing the number of low floor trams running on the network. In addition, the enhanced capacity built into the design of the trams has become increasingly important.

“With COVID-19, larger capacity is a nice thing in hindsight because that allows more people on that tram, so that will give the highest capacity for the Yarra Trams fleet. That obviously means greater access and equity for the commuter and it also ensures that it’s the smoothest ride,” said McMillan.

Other improvements included positive feedback for safety standards in the driver’s cab, and Bombardier has worked with research institutions to look at other areas where design innovation can be introduced to respond to the particularities of Melbourne’s network.

“We’ve worked with a tertiary institution around visibility, line of sight, windscreens, and cameras outside the vehicle so that the driver is fully aware of their surroundings,” said McMillan. “The Melbourne network is not a closed network, it has a high interface with vehicles, whether they’re private drivers, Ubers, taxis, trucks, so we’re working with Yarra Trams and the Victorian government to plan a trial of an Obstacle Detection Assistance System (ODAS) that warns a driver about cars and passengers in front of the tram.”

In addition to upgrades, being local means that Bombardier are working on the trams every day, both in Dandenong and at maintenance depots.

“There was an incident today, an interface with a car or a truck on one of our trams. We hold spares for that. Our ability being on the ground means that we can work quickly, with Yarra Trams at their site in Preston, to repair those vehicles and have them back out. We can do that sourcing from both the Dandenong site and also with Yarra Trams,” said McMillan.

Photography by RailGallery.com.au

STRENGTHENING LOCAL MANUFACTURING
Bombardier’s presence in Dandenong continues over half a century of rail manufacturing heritage in south-east Melbourne. First opened by Commonwealth Engineering, then taken over by ABB, the current Bombardier plant is built in such a way to provide the best services for the Australian rail industry.

“Because the site itself has got access to the main line it’s very accessible both for V/ Line and Yarra Trams. We have an LRV test track there too and that gives us the ability to do a lot of work for the Victorian government and Yarra Trams on site,” said McMillan.

As McMillan highlights, it’s this collaborative relationship that has developed over the decades that has allowed Bombardier to serve the largest tram network in the world with local knowledge and production.

“We’re in production up to 91, well on the way up to 100 with the E-Class. That’s a big achievement and we can’t do that without our customer the Department of Transport and the State government, as well as a lot of hard work and dedication from our partners in the supply chain,” said McMillan. “We’ve worked to get the right quality supply chain partners, to get it right first time, minimise rework, while having capacity for repairs.”

Across Dandenong and the wider south- east Melbourne region, Bombardier has been key to the flourishing manufacturing ecosystem. The 11,000 manufacturers in south-east Melbourne employ 105,000 people, with each manufacturing job supporting four more jobs in other sectors, according to peak industry body South East Melbourne Manufacturing Alliance (SEMMA). Manufacturing large, complex systems such as rollingstock here enables a flow on effect across the entire region.

“Once we actually manufacture the design, we have an extraordinary, capable, local supply chain, and that’s around the Dandenong area in addition to Australia and New Zealand,” said McMillan. “Then there’s the multiplier impact, and obviously it’s in addition to the employment of those in the local community.”

The light rail operation alone employs more than 70 people directly, while enabling training through apprenticeships and partnerships with local education providers.

“Whether it’s safety training, welding, base manufacturing, or other skill sets, we have apprentices at the site and are close to Chisholm TAFE,” said McMillan. “Each quarter I give out service awards, and the incredible clusters around 5, 10, 15, 20, even 35 years, it blows you away.

“Another aspect is we’ve got a welding school that we offer to external training facilities, but you can’t do this unless you’re a good member of the community. We’re really trying to do not only the right things for the right reasons but really be proactive. We’ve done that in the bushfire appeal, we have an MoU that we’ve just signed with community development organisation St Kilda Gatehouse.”

Photography by RailGallery.com.au

BUILDING FROM A SUSTAINABLE BASE
Having these deep links to the community has become more important than ever. When COVID-19 hit, one unintended consequence of the local content requirement meant that there was minimal disruption to Bombardier’s manufacturing.

“We’ve been fortunate in our management and the local content policy assists in this regard in having suppliers around,” said McMillan. “Certainly, all supply chains were seriously disrupted and still are to an extent, but the actual impacts to us on these lines have been fairly minimal in a Victorian context. We were at one stage the only Bombardier Transportation site, apart from the China joint ventures, that were open in the world because of the unfortunate state of COVID and its impacts, particularly in Europe, the UK, and the Americas.”

While the disruptions of COVID-19 has an immediate impact on operations, McMillan also sees a role for rollingstock to play in enabling governments to respond. As governments look for ever greater value for money in transportation programs, changing the interaction between rollingstock and fixed infrastructure could provide a way forward.

“We’ve seen a request from clients to really stretch the rollingstock offer to match the associated network infrastructure. They look at expenditure and the interface in both. That might mean just your tram stops, how many of those need to go out, can rollingstock do something different about that? We’re very happy to look at the design possibilities in that regard as well,” said McMillan.

In addition, broader mobility trends will continue. As Melbourne looks to upgrade its network, innovations in light rail vehicles can overcome the limitations of a legacy network. Bombardier is involved in early design work for the next generation of trams, a defined benefit of which will be onboard energy storage to reduce the need for upgrades to the power network.

Another area for future development is integrating tram networks with the wider transportation system. Operating between heavy rail and active transport modes such as walking and cycling, McMillan sees an ongoing role for light rail in solving the ‘last mile’ of passenger movements.

“You have your last mile in logistics and you certainly have that in passenger movement. You’ve got the disruption of Uber and those operations as well in terms of how people still commute and get to nodes of heavy rail stations and meeting that with bike, so we are designing for bicycle capacity on our trains and trams.”

Increasing demand on Victoria’s regional network is leading to new thinking about the role of regional commuter trains, particularly to reduce emissions from diesel-powered units on unelectrified lines.

“In terms of regional-type commuter we can do a bi-mode diesel train, or a battery-electric train, and that can be introduced here. It could be utilised around the growth areas of the South East where we are but particularly to Ballarat and Geelong,” said McMillan.

Another area where Bombardier is involved in the next generation of transport networks is in delivering the signalling for the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project, as part of the Rail Systems Alliance (RSA). This is one area in particular where McMillian sees the local and the global coming together once again.

“Being basically in the same time-zone as Southeast Asia, and having very significant labs in Bangkok, assists with the RSA contract that’s on the ground here. You’ve got to be global for benefits and function shares. No one wants to reinvent the wheel and no customer wants that to happen on their program so that’s the benefit that we offer particularly in the services category.”

In the meantime, however, the day to day operations at Dandenong continue, with safety always the focus.

“At the Dandenong site we’ve achieved a safety record there and that is a result of every one of your staff, management down,” said McMillan.

Photography by RailGallery.com.au
Rail Manufacturing CRC

Closure of Rail Manufacturing CRC leaves room for R&D investment

The Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) held its last event on June 25 and officially closed on July 1 leaving a gap in the Australian rail industry’s research and development landscape.

Established in 2014, the Rail Manufacturing CRC has left a legacy in the form of new products for commercialisation, including passenger information systems installed at Wynyard Station in Sydney and prototypes of supercapacitor control systems and composite brake discs.

Stuart Thomson, Rail Manufacturing CRC CEO, said that more work needs to be done to build off the centre’s successes.

“New models of cooperation between industry and researchers, individual state governments and the Commonwealth Government will need to be explored. A national strategy for rail and rail innovation would be a great impetus for ensuring a future innovative rail sector.”

Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), said that the CRC’s work is already having an impact.

“The Rail Manufacturing CRC has worked alongside rail manufacturers and operators to deliver new technology and innovation that will make a real difference to the industry,” said Wilkie.

“The CRC’s collaborative focus has delivered some great results and the team can be very proud of its record of achievement.”

With the CRC now closed and no immediate plans for a replacement, Wilkie notes there is more need than ever for support for collaboration between industry and research organisations.

“New funding is now essential to keep the focus on technology and innovation in rail.”

Thomson said that with the current levels of investment in rail, there is an opportunity to grow local manufacturing.

“There is a need to strengthen the domestic rail supply chain. By providing incentives for SMEs to invest in research and development, and encouraging global suppliers currently not investing in local innovation or local supply chains to invest in the long term future of the local rail sector, this will create future advanced manufacturing businesses and employment opportunities.”

As the Australian rail industry adopts digital technology and smart systems, this investment should be supported with local research and development.

“Technology will play an increasing role in the rail industry and continued investment is essential to make sure Australia remains at the forefront of innovation,” said Wilkie.

“It is more important than ever that this work continues as the industry prepares for new growth.”

Projects conducted by the Rail Manufacturing CRC have been highly regarded, with the Dwell Track technology winning the CRC Association’s annual Excellence in Innovation award. In addition, projects have led to industry implementation, with CRRC, Bombardier, and Downer having already put the projects to work.

In a recent interview with Rail Express, Thomson said that the CRC was able to design research that met the needs of industry.

“The industry has faced, and will continue to face, infrastructure and innovation challenges in Australia. By developing research projects and teaming up experts to support the industry, we are ensuring innovation meets industry’s needs and requirements to deliver the transformational change required in the rail sector.”

Projects completed by the Rail Manufacturing CRC can be found here: https://www.rmcrc.com.au/.

Going green with geosynthetics

A manufacturer in Albury, New South Wales is recycling plastic bottles into green geotextile materials for use within major infrastructure projects to aid with anything from separation, filtration, drainage and cushioning; meet Geofabrics.

Geofabrics turns Australian waste plastic into a viable and beneficial geotextile for rail construction through its local manufacturing facilities.

For over 40 years Geofabrics has been providing the infrastructure sector with tailored geotextile solutions. It all began in the 1970’s when the ‘to-be’ owners of Geofabrics came across geotextiles being used for road construction in Europe.

In 1978, Geofabrics got its start in Melbourne and expanded quickly across the country. There are now two Geofabrics manufacturing sites in Australia, one in NSW and one in Queensland.

The Albury factory in NSW is home to all of the company’s rail infrastructure construction industry geotextiles. While Geofabrics has a wide range of different products for construction, its newest fabric made with recycled plastic is bidim Green.

Bidim Green is made from Australian recyclable materials and Peter Tzelepis, executive director of sales and business development at Geofabrics says it can be applied across nearly every civil engineering construction project.

The fabric can be used in the track base to provide separation and filtration under below rail construction materials such as ballast.

“The idea for bidim Green came from the issues around circular economy and waste. One of our key sectors for Geofabrics is waste management services and over the last two to three years we have seen this issue develop and we know there is a real need to do something with our waste plastic,” Tzelepis said.

“Our vision was that our product will go into the ground to serve a purpose, it’s not going into a landfill. We simply saw it as a great opportunity to support the circular economy.”

Locally made and sourced materials, such as the recycled plastic, are an important factor in the manufacturing process for all Geofabrics products. The company has a specific technical department and innovation sector that works with Australian companies to provide solutions tailored to local conditions.

“Australian conditions are quite unique, from isolation to UV exposure, even rock sizes in road construction can vary in different parts of the country and there might not always be a quarry nearby to provide materials for every rail project,” Tzelepis said.

“Geofabrics and its products like bidim Green, which is placed underneath the rail formation, are there to reduce the amount of excavation and virgin materials needed on these major infrastructure projects.”

“Another uniquely Australian challenge is the UV exposure. When looking at a UV radiation map of Australia different places have varied exposure to UV which can degrade a geotextile if left exposed for a period of time,” he said.

“To ensure we can provide the right solution we have real time testing on bidim Green at our offices all over Australia to see how it performs with different exposure. We are building the performance of our product to the climatic and environmental changes in different Australian regions.”

The bidim Green range has been rigorously tested at our Geosynthetic Research, Innovation and Design (GRID) laboratory located in Queensland for durability performance. The durability of any geotextile is important so that it can resist damage during the construction phase. During this phase, the geotextile can be punctured by very angular rocks – such as ballast – or heavy machinery pushing into the soft capping layer under the track. The geotextile to be selected must have multi directional strength and bidim Green offers that benefit. The GRID laboratory simulates performance of a geotextile for specific project situations and is available to Geofabrics Australia’s customers.

Geofabrics are currently working through a process with the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia to certify bidim Green, to facilitate wider use on Australia’s infrastructure projects.

With demand from governments to use recycled products in infrastructure projects, such as Victoria’s Recycled First program and NSW’s Waste and Recycling Infrastructure Fund, Tzelepis said bidim Green is another product contractors can consider to make their projects environmentally friendly.

“We know we have to make our materials sustainable, I take my recycling bin out to the kerb every second week, if I know my recycling is going to be picked up and used on projects like my road, that is fantastic.”

Goldschmidt

Going for gold

More than a century since the beginning of the Thermit welding process, the family-owned German business has now combined its companies under the Goldschmidt brand.

As a fully owned subsidiary of the Goldschmidt companies, Thermit Australia shares in the 120 year history of the business and is well supported by the innovative and collaborative spirit of over 20 Goldschmidt companies around the world.

Thermit Australia is the Goldschmidt Company responsible for supporting the Oceania and South East Asia regions. Operating from sites just outside of Sydney in NSW and Brisbane in QLD, Thermit Australia is well situated to partner with the local railway industry, providing aluminothermic welding and glued insulated joint supply across the region.

SMART RAIL SOLUTIONS
Goldschmidt is a global market leader for rail joining, modern construction of railway track, and track infrastructure inspection and maintenance. In March this year, Hans-Jürgen Mundinger, CEO of Goldschmidt presented the new brand.

Mundinger said Goldschmidt is in a strong position in the global growth market for future mobility and a leader for digital high-tech products and services for the railways. Through the global network of the Goldschmidt companies, Thermit Australia has formed important partnerships and enabled the Australian business to reliably supply a broader range of quality products to railways and contractors in the region.

“We have grown dynamically over the last 10 years and have taken over numerous companies which kept their brands in a transition stage. Now it is time to grow even closer together under one brand,” Mundinger said.

Given the increase in investment in passenger and freight rail transport, there is a healthy demand worldwide for products and services required for the intelligent modernisation of railway infrastructure. Asia has the highest number of large-scale rail projects as China and Japan continue to invest significantly.

“Rail transport has a key role to play in the realisation of environmental targets. Modern railway systems have to run smoothly and require tailor-made predictive maintenance and service. For this purpose, Goldschmidt offers a one-stop shop in all the international growth markets for high quality products and services under one brand,” Mundinger said.

ENGINEERING EXCELLENCE
The spirit of Professor Goldschmidt, the inventor of the Thermit welding process, is still imbued in the company today through the drive to do everything better, to improve existing processes, and develop new ones. Goldschmidt is systematically integrating its products in a digital network. The DARI® (Data Acquisition for Rail Infrastructure) database system developed in-house stores measurement and inspection process data via its cloud system. DARI® integrates the data recorded by the app in the cloud. Customers who use the Goldschmidt digital app have mobile access to all of the digital applications of the company. “The Goldschmidt brand stands for high quality innovative products on six different continents worldwide. This allows our customers to concentrate on the smooth, comfortable and reliable transportation of people and freight,” Mundinger said. Complex infrastructure projects require an intelligent control system which meets the highest requirements. Tools and machines that are integrated into a digital network enable the global coordination of maintenance actions and the collection and analysis of process data is essential in order to guarantee the mobility of the future.

Thales

Thales signalling solutions deployed in four locations

Thales will roll out its SelTrac Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) system in three new cities, with one system recently entering service.

In Hangzhou, China, in its joint venture with Shanghai Electric Company, Thales SEC Transport (TST) recently celebrated Hangzhou Metro Line 16 entering revenue service. The 35.12km line can operate at speeds up to 120km/h and has utilised the SelTrac CBTC technology.

Functions of the signalling system deployed in Hangzhou include automatic train supervision (ATS), triple redundancy, automatic train protection (ATP) for engineering vehicles, and switch protection in intermittent automatic train protect (IATP) mode.

The newline will connect the Hangzhou city centre with the growing Lin’an District, enabling sustainable population growth said Jérôme Bendell, vice president of Thales North Asia and CEO of Thales in China.

“An efficient metro is essential for the commercial success and growth of any great city. Thales is proud to bring a proven expertise and decades of transit infrastructure experience to Hangzhou Line 16 that will contribute to the transportation foundation for Hangzhou’s growth and evolution.”

Three other metropolises have selected Thales CBTC signalling systems for new lines and capacity increases. In Seoul, as part of the modernisation of Incheon Subway Line 2, Thales is working with local Korean signalling company DaeaTi to increase the depot capacity, allowing for the driverless trains to be parked safely.

Thales is also delivering its vehicle on board controller (VOBC) with train contractor Woojin Ind.

In Istanbul, the SelTrac CBTC system will be installed on the new M10 line. This will be the second line in Istanbul with the technology, and will now link Turkey’s second busiest airport with Istanbul and its growing suburbs.

Again delivering as TST, the SelTrac CBTC system will provide the signalling for the new metro line 4 in Nangchang, in eastern China. The new line will be the longest in Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi Province, as well as having the largest number of stations.

Dominique Gaiardo, vice president and managing director for Thales’ urban rail signalling business, said that Thales tailors its solution to the needs of each customer and the requirements of passengers in each city.

“During the Covid-19 period, we are continuing to work together with our global partners in major cities such as Incheon, Istanbul, and Nanchang. Thales is committed to providing state-of-the-art SelTrac CBTC signalling technology.”

Manco

An elevated solution

Working collaboratively with a customer, Manco have been able to design and deliver a bespoke solution customised for the rail projects of today.

In Australia and New Zealand, perhaps the most distinctive feature of the major rail infrastructure projects is that on the whole, they are hidden from view. Whether it be the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane, the new Sydney Metro lines, the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, or in Auckland, the City Rail Link, the major elements of the new rail lines are deep underground.

Installing track, wiring, and associated systems many metres below ground level requires new thinking when it comes to the equipment and plant needed to build the new rail lines.

Steven Waugh, power systems manager – transport and technology at UGL Limited is more aware than most of the intricacies involved in some of these projects. UGL is working on both the Line-wide works for the Sydney Metro as part of the Systems Connect joint venture and the rail integration and systems contract as part of the UNITY Alliance joint venture on Cross River Rail. In these projects innovative equipment is required to respond to current needs.

At the time of writing, Waugh is just a week away from receiving delivery of a new combined scissor lift platform and wire manipulator from Manco Rail. The bespoke piece of equipment was designed in partnership between UGL and Manco specifically for the requirements of modern rail projects, the first being the need to limit exhaust fumes when working in confined tunnels.

“Instead of retrofitting old plant, we went with a new truck that has the best emissions controls available,” said Waugh.

More significantly, however, Waugh is just about to complete the process of working with Manco to develop a unique platform that will be put to use on projects such as Sydney Metro and Cross River Rail.

“The combined scissor platform and wire manipulator is going to be ideal for wire runs or traction wiring runs. We will be able to do wire retrievals and install new catenary and contact wire.”

Bringing together what would normally be two separate pieces of equipment will enable Waugh to tackle the complexities of current projects.

“The wire manipulator is for when you’re running wires so you can get your staggers right as you run the wire out, but then a scissor platform can do things like install sections, insulator switches, and doing bigger jobs all at once with a number of people on a platform.”

The platform mounted onto the back of a hi-rail truck is extendable, to allow for more people to work on the platform at one time.

“The platform is designed to be quite large so that we have a number of people on it at once and safely do all the things we need to do,” said Waugh.

To meet UGL’s specifications, Manco designed a platform which, when raised can expand horizontally.

“This enables us to work safely in tunnels and to install equipment on the side of the tunnels. This is quite a bespoke unit that Manco did for us, to our specifications, so that we can have it as a multipurpose unit.”

Unlike standard catenary wires, electric trains running through tunnels draw their power from beams mounted into the ceiling of the tunnel and it’s here that the large platform comes in handy.

“In the tunnel it’s a rigid bar conductor so the length of that platform allows us to have two people on each end of the bar, installing it into the roof. That would be very impractical with a normal elevated work platform (EWP),” said Waugh.

Being a “multipurpose unit” has other efficiencies, particularly when getting equipment in and out of tunnels is easier said than done.

“It takes time to bring machines in and out, because these things on rail only move at 15km/h. Doing one thing with one machine then bringing another machine in takes a significant amount of time.”

For example, even in surface-level wire installation, Waugh has seen rail authorities which have one machine with a pantograph for mounting the overhead wire, and a second EWP for measurement.

“They’ve got two machines doing the same job that we can do with one machine, so that’s where I think we can start to get efficiencies because of the multiple things we can do at once.”

Another advantage of the unit that Manco have designed is its flexibility. The equipment can be reconfigured by an operator for the job at hand.

“It’s modular too,” said Waugh. “I could get a forklift, take that whole scissor platform off and, because it sits on container-type pins, put a flat tray on it and use it as a hi-rail truck, then I can transport materials. That’s the beauty of it, I could drop on another module on it, even a concrete agitator, or another module that is a smaller, Manco EWP.”

THE OUTCOME OF COLLABORATION
The flexibility, multipurpose nature, and instant applicability of the platform is a result, in part, of the close and collaborative relationship that UGL and Manco had throughout the design and build process.

“The process and collaboration were great, they listened to what we wanted and then worked through that,” said Waugh.

An OEM based in New Zealand with branches in Australia, Manco was able to quickly respond to the needs of UGL and come up with a solution that met their requirements.

“They’ve been doing this for a long time, and they were able to listen, which was the key piece.”

In addition, Manco knew the environment that UGL was operating in, and was able to suit the design of the platform to fit the safety requirements of various rail access regimes in Australia.

“There are some challenges that come with a thing like this, where you’ve got moving platforms and multiple uses,” said Waugh. “One particular one area was ensuring the safety railing will met the legislation and all the requirements in terms of safety and testing that. With Manco, that was just something that we worked through, it didn’t take very long and they came up with the designs.”

When the project neared completion, Waugh and a colleague visited the Manco workshop in New Zealand in person to finalise all details so that the equipment would be ready for delivery. The ease of being able to connect further simplified the process.

“Obviously it’s better to be geographically closer but there’s a couple of other advantages; there’s the collaboration on the engineering, and then being able to get out of us what we want and turn that into what it is,” said Waugh. “Then there’s also the testing and engineering part and the certification part and that’s been a bigger part than even I expected. Having local people that can do that testing, that are familiar with all the different rail networks, and assist with getting that certification done has been helpful.”

Manco was able to work with independent certifiers to ensure that the unique solution met all of UGL’s requirements to work on rail networks around Australia.

“These engineers know what the requirements are, and they ensure that the machines are tested correctly and can provide the test results to meet those requirements.”

Ultimately, Waugh said that the new platform will be an asset to UGL’s fleet. “It was designed for the work UGL is involved in and so we can see how it will benefit those major projects because of its multifaceted capabilities. We see it as something that will be an asset to the project and give us some great productivities,” he said.

associations

Global railway associations highlight post-COVID mobility improvements

A trio of global railway associations have noted that rail is part of the solution to the linked crises of climate change and coronavirus (COVID-19).

In a joint statement, the associations highlight how mobility is key to creating trade and prosperity, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In Europe, rail accounts for 7.6 per cent of passenger and 17.6 per cent of freight transport, while only producing 0.5 per cent of the continent’s greenhouse gas emissions.

During the COVID-19 crisis, rail also provided an essential service, by enabling the movement of essential workers and crucial goods.

Noting that the current ways of doing business are not enough in future, the International Union of Railways (UIC), the International Association for Public Transport (UITP), and the European Rail Industry Association (UNIFE), set out areas where mobility will need to be improved, committing to a sense of urgency in updating transportation.

“Railways have demonstrated their resilience and their capacity to deliver essential services even in these difficult circumstances. We all know that railway and public transport are the key for a sustainable future, provided that they are able to implement seamless multimodal mobility networks,” said François Davenne, UIC director general.

The three primary areas for change are customer experience, increased capacity, and an increased recognition of the importance of collective travel on rail rather than in individual vehicles. Technologies such as flow management to adapt to consumer patters, the design of intelligent infrastructure networks to optimise existing systems, and autonomous rail vehicles are identified as areas for rail to pursue.

Together, the associations welcomed work done by the EU to boost rail travel, but also pointed to the need to continue to invest in infrastructure, rollingstock, and research to meet future challenges, said Philippe Citroen, UNIFE director general.

“UNIFE believes that the [European Commission]’s recent Multiannual Financial Framework and Next Generation EU proposals are powerful recovery instruments that can help complete EU Green Deal objectives, but they must be mobilised for the decarbonisation of European transportation. This is only possible through a greater multimodal mobility shift with rail at its backbone.”

Recognising the value of public transport will be indispensable to ensuring the resilience of cities in the future said Mohamed Mezghani, UITP secretary general.

“Public transport and the environment are inextricably linked and with a strong local network, emissions are lowered and our cities become healthier and more sustainable.”

laser sensors

Targeting accuracy and precision with laser sensors

Bestech is providing the local rail industry with access to products such as laser sensors that are used in driving advanced solutions.

The fundamentals of rail wheel interaction have been established for many decades. The conical shape of the wheels allows for the wheel set to shift while rounding a curve, and for the train to stay on track. These engineering principles have served railways well for centuries, however engineers are now looking for a way to reduce rail wear, allowing the tracks to operate longer without maintenance.

In a trial underway in the UK, an array of optoNCDT 1420 compact laser triangulation sensors from Micro-Epsilon have been installed to provide the measurement behind the ActiWheel solution. The sensors guide the ActiWheel traction system to produce more driving force on one side of the wheelset to ensure the train travels down the centreline of the track. The solution would overcome the compromises and issues that result from the combination of a solid axle and wheel coning and reduce wear on the wheel and the rail.

ActiWheel relies upon precise and accurate measurements from the optoNCDT sensors to provide the information for the artificial intelligence software that drives the motors that are individually affixed to each wheel. The optoNCDT sensors measure the lateral position of the wheel, relative to the rail, and according to Neil Cooney, technical director at the UK company behind ActiWheel, SET, the particular specifications of the sensor made it the perfect fit.

“We initially approached Micro-Epsilon for a suitable sensor and were very impressed with the application engineer who demonstrated the optoNCDT 1420 sensor to us. The sensor met all our technical requirements in terms of its flexibility, resolution and robustness. We are measuring down to 0.1mm accuracy and lateral movement can be up to a maximum of 20mm,” said Cooney.

This is not the only application of laser sensors in the rail industry. Sensors such as the optoNCDT have been widely used for maintenance of rail tracks and to measure wear and tear. This is in addition to track guiding devices that are installed below the train, which also use laser sensors. The conditions within these applications require a certain kind of sensor.

“These require a compact sensor that can be easily installed and provide accurate and reliable measurement at high speed,” said Wirhan Prationo, marketing engineer at Bestech, which distribute sensors from Micro-Epsilon in Australia.

As seen in its adoption for the innovative ActiWheel solution, the compact optoNCDT is optimised for the rail industry as a laser triangulation sensor.

“It combines speed, size, performance and versatility for measurement applications in the rail industry. This compact laser triangulation sensor is suitable for measuring distance and displacement up to 500mm with maximum sampling speed of 4kHz. It also can be easily integrated in restricted and narrow installation space,” said Prationo.

In the ActiWheel case, the sensor was particularly useful when it came to ensuring that the data collected was only that which was required, said Cooney.

“We’ve also been impressed by the filtering function, which filters out noise from dirt, dust, grease and pieces of bent metal on the rail head, which means we can trust the measurement data,” said Cooney.

To use the sensors, SET created a frame that lies beneath the wheel axle of the train, 400mm from the rail head. The sensors are located in front of the flange and point towards the rail head. The data from this assembly is then transferred to the ActiWheel control system via a 4-20mA analogue signal. Operation and configuration can be done using the web- based interface. While these are the settings used by the ActiWheel team there are other information channels available.

“The optoNCDT laser triangulation sensor offers a range of different output signals that enable easy integration of the sensor into any industrial control system,” said Prationo. “The sensors are operated through the web interface and they also have additional analysis features, such as video signal display, signal peak selection, background noise filtering and signal averaging. A mobile data acquisition unit can be used to collect the data, which can be connected to the computer on board.”

With the trial ongoing in the UK, the optoNCDT’s technical specifications have been tested in a variety of environments. Rated to an IP65 protection level, the system is housed within a casing that is impenetrable by dirt and dust.

During the demonstration, the optoNCDT sensors were able to read accurate data in the harsh environment underneath the train, where dust, dirt, and moisture are present. They also delivered consistent reading irrespective of whether it’s a cold, wet, rainy or bright sunny day. After running for a couple of thousand miles the sensors did not need cleaning.

While the further development of ActiWheel promises much for reducing rolling contact fatigue, this is only one potential application of the optoNCDT sensors.

Located in Australia, Bestech is able to collaborate with rail organisations seeking to leverage the precision and accuracy of laser sensor technology.

“Bestech have more than 40 years of experiences in sensors and instrumentation for solving test and measurement challenges in the industry,” said Prationo. “We offer not only high-quality products, but also our technical expertise and support to assist with real-time application to correctly gather the data you require. Bestech can also customise the product to fit into certain requirements, such as different cable length, integration with mobile data acquisition system or signal conditioning to fit into the existing devices.”

“Our team is supported by highly- trained applications engineers and product specialists with a wealth of experience in sensor applications for measurement of physical parameters in the industry.”

NSW government highlights rail manufacturer using recycled materials

The NSW government has once again returned to the regional town of Albury to highlight a local manufacturer supplying innovative sustainable materials to the infrastructure and construction industries.

NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, Industry and Trade John Barilaro said that industrial innovation was occurring at the Albury plant to develop a new, sustainable geotextile.

“Geofabrics’ groundbreaking product is a great example of regional excellence and shows exactly what our skilled regional workforce can achieve when given the conditions to succeed.”

The company had previously been producing a wide range of geotextiles that are used in rail and construction projects to seal and stabilise soil and control liquids. In 2019, Barilaro highlighted the company to a visiting group of international delegates, however the Deputy Premier has returned to Albury to showcase a new product from Geofabrics. The company has succeeded in developing a  product that is made from locally sourced recycled plastics.

Known as Bidim Green, the new geotextile responds to calls for increased sustainability in major infrastructure projects, said Dennis Grech, CEO and managing director of Geofabrics Australasia.

“Many infrastructure projects are calling for improved sustainability and we’re the only Australian manufacturer in the market here that is using recycled Australian plastics as a component of a geotextile, helping to reduce waste to landfill,” he said.

The product closes the loop in terms of plastics in Australia, by providing a way to re-use plastic bottles and containers locally, said Barilaro.

“This is a company that’s been operating in regional NSW for more than 30 years, with a staff that is proud to go to work each day and create world-leading products that make an absolute difference to the quality and convenience of our everyday lives.”