sustainability

Embedding sustainability in times of uncertainty

No longer an optional addition, rail infrastructure projects are looking to mandate sustainability as part of the project’s outcomes, and are looking to their long-term impact on people and environment.

Incorporating sustainability into the construction of a rail project may seem like an oxymoron. As rail transport gets people out of cars and into electrically powered trains, and goods off trucks and onto more efficient freight trains, isn’t rail by its very nature sustainable?

Ainsley Simpson, CEO of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA), argues that this is not the case.

“Just because it’s rail doesn’t make it more sustainable, similarly just because a wind farm produces renewable energy doesn’t mean that it’s been planned in the most sustainable way. It doesn’t mean it’s been designed in the most sustainable way, and certainly not that it has been constructed in the most sustainable way.”

Simpson’s argument that sustainability need to be a bigger focus in infrastructure construction is backed by some heavy hitters within the infrastructure sector, with Infrastructure Australia noting in its 2019 Infrastructure Audit that governments “often do not incorporate sustainability or resilience into their final infrastructure projects”.

“We do see occasionally on project or programs of work, contractual requirements or even preferred options around resilience and sustainability,” said Peter Colacino, chief of policy and research at Infrastructure Australia. “And obviously their inclusion time to time points to their exclusion the rest of the time.”

Researchers have also pointed to the emissions intensity of large infrastructure projects. In a 2017 study, researchers from the University of NSW, The University of Sydney, and the University of Melbourne found that while direct emissions from the construction sector in Australia were low, at 1.9 per cent of Australia’s direct emissions in 2013, emissions contributed by infrastructure when measured by final demand made up almost a fifth of Australia’s carbon footprint, 18.1 per cent. This calculation involved looking at not only the carbon emissions involved in the process of building, but those that were emitted in the course of manufacturing the building materials and providing other services, what’s known as embodied emissions.

In rail projects, which have a lifetime of 100 years, carbon emissions from the construction process and embodied emissions within construction materials can account for almost half of all emissions over the asset’s lifetime.

With these figures in hand, rail projects being built now are looking at how they can cut the emissions involved in construction and ensure that rail infrastructure is sustainable from all perspectives. One project that Simpson highlights as leading the way is the Sydney Metro project in combining operational, design, and construction impacts.

“Sydney Metro included all of the embodied energy and the construction materials that were being used, so they looked at using low- emission concrete and more recycled steel, which had a considerable reduction in the footprint of their project. They also had a look at how they might reduce operational energy, through design and the ways in which they operate the trainsets themselves, and then they’ve got the power purchasing agreement where they are offsetting 100 per cent of their operational energy with renewable energy. That’s a first in Australia, nothing has been done like that ever before.”

While this is a commendable example, looking across the field as a whole, Colacino argues that there needs to be greater consistency in the way that the infrastructure sector approaches thinking about the long-term future of their assets.

“A strong message in the 2019 audit is that there’s no consistent approach to resilience, and I think we’ve seen in this year – perhaps more than any year for people within the last century – just how critical resilience is, whether it’s floods that follow bushfires on the south coast of NSW, or of course the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which is affecting us now. We’ve seen this compounding impact.”

Where sustainability has been incorporated into projects, it is often because of efforts initiated at the beginning of a project or at a leadership level. While Infrastructure Australia found that until now governments were not often including sustainability, in rail at least, Simpson and Colacino have seen a greater focus on sustainability.

“We’re definitely seeing a greater consideration of social and environmental issues, and I think the challenge is around putting a cost around some of those issues and assessing them to monetise and then cost them,” said Colacino.

Simpson similarly noted a shift in the way that governments approach sustainability. “Particularly in the last three years there has been almost a doubling of emphasis and importance placed on sustainability,” said Simpson.“What we’ve seen is a significant shift for the transport sector that is largely being driven by government authorities wanting to demonstrate best practice and government wanting to ensure that social and community outcomes are being delivered by their projects.

“The way that they’re doing that is contractualising sustainability performance measurement.”

CONTRACTING SUSTAINABILITY
The shift in the way that infrastructure authorities and governments are thinking about sustainability can be seen in the sustainability reports put out with each project. No longer a catalogue of emissions reduced, or waste avoided at the end of the project, the reports are now stipulating how contractors and subcontractors are mandated to find sustainable solutions and are becoming much more of a compliance document than a public relations exercise.

As Sydney Metro outlines in its June 2019 update to the 2017-2024 Sydney Metro City and Southwest Sustainability Strategy, targets within the strategy will be embedded within contract requirements. Outcomes to be included in contracts include Aboriginal participation, apprenticeships offered, emissions and pollution, and climate change resilience.

The appearance of such initiatives in contract documents highlights how previously qualitative values have begun to be quantified. Colacino sees some more creative thinking occurring to incorporate these factors.

“If you think about quality of life and you’re considering the way that people perceive social time or access to recreational facilities, they are difficult to monetise. Therefore, we need to make sure we’re considering the range of tools that are available to improve decision-making. That means thinking about building a better evidence base about the impact of some of these themes on people’s lives.”

This ensures that the push towards sustainability does not end when the project finishes, but percolates throughout the supply chain in the practices and norms of the sector.

One way this can be measured is in the bulk of projects now receiving Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) ratings, certified by ISCA. As the CEO, Simpson oversees how these projects are able to prove that they have met standards and thresholds for sustainability.

“Three years ago, we had $65 billion of infrastructure under rating, now it’s over 170bn.”

Each state in Australia has different requirements about what projects have to measure their performance, starting at projects above $100 million in Queensland and Western Australia, projects above $50m, all state significant works in NSW and capital works above $10m in the ACT. In Victoria, where major projects such as the Level Crossing Removal Project have been split up into smaller packages, each of the packages are being rated. With all states having committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and the federal government having signed onto the Paris agreement, infrastructure will be one
area where governments are looking to find environmental outcomes.

Outside of government mandates, being able to prove and certify with an independent third body that projects are sustainable is also being encouraged by the private sector.

“There’s a shift with investors as well and they’re interested in investing in infrastructure that has got resilience and is inclusive and will drive a low carbon economy into the future,” said Simpson.

Colacino has also heard from industry that private sector funding is encouraging sustainable thinking.

“Consideration around sustainability issues are growing as a focus for investors and there’s a whole class of funds that are specifically looking for those projects.”

While large rail projects have the funding and resources to be able to implement sustainability plans and comply with audit requirements, smaller contractors carrying out smaller packages of work may not be able to commit to the same level of sustainability. Simpson looks to larger infrastructure organisations to lead the way.

“There’s going to need to be investment in making sure that Tier 2 and 3 contractors are able to deliver these outcomes and are appropriately resourced and skilled and supported to do that.”

Additionally, embedding sustainability into brownfield projects and ongoing maintenance presents another area where sustainable outcomes can be embedded into work practices, and not act as an addition.

“While we’ve got this pipeline of new infrastructure building coming up, I don’t think that we should forget the tremendous asset base that we already have and that there is some low hanging fruit in how we maintain and operate that infrastructure,” said Simpson.

Within these contracted requirements for new and existing infrastructure, what a sustainable outcome means will be distinct for each project.

For updating existing infrastructure, Metro Trains Melbourne targeted improving water consumption in 2019, and by conducting a water audit leaks were able to be found, which reduced water consumption across the network by 35 per cent.

In Auckland, City Rail Link has looked to engage with local Maori iwi, or tribes, to ensure that in its construction phase, the project benefits the local community.

Another emerging area of focus is the move to a circular economy, said Colacino.

“Increasingly, we’re seeing consideration around recycled materials, reducing the use of water in construction, sourcing sustainable products like timber, and of course there’s waste.”

Whether driven by government targets, private sector investment, or civil construction practices, sustainability will increasingly become part of all projects as a way to mitigate against an uncertain future, said Colacino.

“If you look over the long term, issues of sustainability become increasingly important. We’re existing in a rapidly changing, uncertain market and COVID-19 is the standout example of that at the moment, but cyber-attack is a key risk for many infrastructure projects and equally factors like natural hazards, fire and flood.

“As you look beyond the immediacy of delivering a project to the long-term issues of market health and community outcomes, sustainability will always be a core consideration and so it should be.”

Rail industry ready to lead recovery

If the current project pipeline is maintained, rail could lead Australia’s economic recovery after the shocks of coronavirus (COVID-19), the results of a survey of the rail industry show.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has released the results of a survey of its members which has highlighted that major players in the rail sector are looking to local manufacturers and producers to strengthen their supply chains.

The turn to local suppliers comes after the rail industry identified the biggest impact of COVID-19 as being constraints on international shipment of goods.

ARA chief executive officer Caroline Wilkie said that the survey results highlight an opportunity for Australia.

“Many businesses are looking to change their supply chains in the future and this presents a real opportunity for Australian manufacturers and suppliers.”

In a sign of positivity for the sector, the survey respondents said that most of the negative impacts of COVID-19 such as deferred investment, workforce expansion, or capital expenditure would only be in the short to medium term.

“A third of respondents could be back to full capacity within a month of the return to normal operations if the policy settings and project pipeline is right,” said Wilkie.

“Suppliers and contractors stand ready to bounce back quickly to support the recovery.”

Wilkie said that while the survey results were promising for local suppliers, government action could be the make or break factor. A firm commitment to the current infrastructure supply chain and additional stimulus measures would enable the rail industry to work with local suppliers.

“This is the perfect time for governments to streamline procurement processes and boost local content policies to support the generation of new jobs in the rail supply chain,” said Wilkie.

The insights from the ARA survey come after a number of bodies have highlighted the importance of infrastructure spending to lead Australia out of the COVID-19 crisis. On May 20, Engineers Australia released a nine-point plan, with point number one being “Keep the focus on infrastructure projects”.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia noted that the $60 billion difference between the estimated and actual cost of JobKeeper could be directed into productivity-boosting infrastructure.

“Now the federal government has additional balance sheet capacity it should look to investments that can deliver the most bang for stimulus buck,” said CEO Adrian Dwyer.

“Infrastructure investment supported the national economy before COVID-19 and it’s the right policy tool to support our way out of this crisis.”

Geotextile made from Australian recycled plastics now available

Australia’s first geotextile made from locally sourced recycled plastics is now on the market.

Developed by Geofabrics Australasia, the Bidim Green geotextile is made from recycled plastic bottles, sourced from Australian recycling bins.

The geotextile is designed to be used in infrastructure projects, including rail, and is manufactured at Geofabrics Australasia’s site in Albury, NSW.

Dennis Grech, CEO and managing director of Geofabrics Australasia, said that the product is an example of the emerging circular economy.

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

“Bidim Green has been made in Australia, developed and tested in Australia, and I am proud to lead a business that contributes to maintaining and creating local jobs and to reduce the environmental impact of our business and our customer’s projects on the Australian community,” said Grech.

Many infrastructure projects are increasingly looking to source a greater amount of their materials from sustainable sources, and in February 2020, Victoria’s Major Transport Infrastructure Project announced its Recycle First initiative, which unifies the approach to sourcing recycled products across Victoria’s $70 billion Big Build program.

Grech said that Bidim Green directly responds to such initiatives.

“Bidim Green is an addition to our world-leading Bidim geotextile range and contains Australian-sourced recycled plastics. It responds to the increasing call for greater recycled content in the construction and infrastructure industry.”

The recycled content in Bidim Green includes the polymer raw material, as well as the product’s consumables. This includes the plastic wrap and core, which are also made from locally sourced recycled plastics.

Geotextiles are used in the rail sector to separate the capping layer from the ballast layer, to provide separation and filtration in rail formation.

Contracts announced for More Trains, More Services infrastructure upgrades

The NSW government has announced the two successful tenderers as part of the next stage of construction on the $4.3 billion More Trains, More Services upgrades.

The Next Rail partnership of John Holland and Jacobs will fulfil the contract between Central and Hurstville, and Transport for Tomorrow – made up of Laing O’Rouke and KBR – will work from Mortdale to Kiama. Each contract is worth about $300 million.

The program of works includes upgrades to rail infrastructure such as stabling yards, signalling, track, station platforms, and power supply on the South Coast, Illawarra and T8 Airport Lines.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that the works would enable better services on each line.

“The work will support the introduction of new suburban and intercity trains and allow us to deliver more frequent train services, with less wait times and a more comfortable journey for customers on the T4 Illawarra, T8 Airport and South Coast lines,” he said.

“We’re prioritising these lines because they are among the busiest on the network, catering for 440,000 trips in a typical day, which is around one third of daily rail customers.”

Construction will begin in the middle of 2020 and be completed ahead of the service improvements, which are scheduled for late 2022.

Passengers will see a 20 per cent increase in peak services on the T4 Illawarra Line, with space for up to 3,600 more travellers, equivalent to an extra three services an hour in the peak from interchanges such as Hurstville and Sutherland. There will be a 60 per cent increase on the T8 Airport line at the International, Domestic, Mascot, and Green Square stations with the capacity for an extra 2,400 passengers.

On the South Coast Line station platforms will be lengthened to accommodate the 10 car trains of the New Intercity Fleet trains as well as an extra off peak service each hour between Wollongong and the Sydney CBD, bringing frequency to a train every 30 minutes.

Constance said that the work will allow for an employment boost across a number of professions, including engineers, trades workers, and apprentices.

“Today’s announcement means we are keeping people in work and creating about 350 direct new jobs and around 200 indirect jobs located either in Sydney or on the South Coast.”

Metlink train in Wellington. Photo: Creative Commons / Simons27

Wellington begins procurement process for new regional trains

The Greater Wellington and Horizons Regional Councils have locked in $5 million in funding for a business case for new regional passenger trains.

The funding comes from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and begins the procurement process for regional trains that are expected to cost $300m.

The two councils, which cover cities including Wellington, Whanganui, and Palmerston North, are seeking to increase rail capacity to serve their growing populations, said chair of Greater Wellington Regional Council Daran Ponter.

“Earlier this year the Government announced $211m for track improvements and this is another important piece of the puzzle. While the new trains will stop passengers being packed in like sardines in the next five years, we expect them to provide a resilient and reliable service that not only meets the needs of customers but also aids population and economic growth over the next 10-15 years.”

Lines in the regional network have seen increases in patronage. On the Wairarapa Line, patronage grew from 680,000 boardings in 2009 to 780,000 in 2019, with a 24 per cent increase in peak patronage. On the Manawatū line, average growth over the past four years has been 3.1 per cent.

With the $5m in funding, the councils will conduct a market assessment, investigate risks and costs, and complete the detailed business case. Kapiti Coast councillor and environment chair Penny Gaylor said that new trains would greatly benefit the region.

“We’ve long championed electric or dual mode fleets to replace older diesel trains to lower carbon emissions and this funding brings us a step closer to that reality. Investing in a modern rail fleet also enables us to use the trains across the whole network, bringing extra capacity to Kapiti passengers and encouraging more people to make the shift from cars to public transport.”

The Wellington network currently operates a mixed fleet of 83 Matangi EMUs, manufactured by a consortium of Hyundai Rotem and Mitsui, and three diesel locomotives which haul 24 passenger carriages. Although the EMUs were introduced in the last decade, the diesel locomotives and carriages have been in service since the 1970s.

Wairarapa councillor and deputy chair of Greater Wellington Adrienne Staples said that new units would improve services.

“Getting new trains would be a great win for regional rail passengers and the economy. Passengers will benefit from more capacity and increased frequency and more connections between Manawatu, Horowhenua, Wairarapa and Wellington will provide economic benefits at a time when we need to look to smarter ways of working and connecting people.”

Locally-made concrete beams support level crossing removal

Locally-made concrete beams have been installed at the Cardinia Road level crossing removal project.

The crossing, located in Pakenham, south-east Melbourne, will be replaced with a road bridge over the rail line.

The 24 beams, locally-made in the regional Victorian town of Kilmore, are up to 32 metres long and weigh up to 60 tonnes each. The beams were trucked to site and installed with cranes.

The Cardinia Road level crossing removal is part of a wider works blitz on the Pakenham line, with work also underway on removing crossings at Clyde Road, Berwick, and South Gippsland Highway, Dandenong.

Once finished the 77,000 vehicles that use the three level crossings will more smoothly move through the area and will not have to wait while boom gates are down for a third of the morning peak. In total, 17 level crossings are being removed on the Pakenham line.

A construction blitz is also about to kick off at Balcombe Road, in Mentone. Boom gates were removed on Friday, May 15 and a five-week road closure begun as part of a nine-week construction period.

The Balcombe Road level crossing removal is part of the largest level crossing construction blitz with 1,700 people working in Cheltenham and Mentone for 64 days.

At the end of the works, three level crossings will be gone, with the rail line lowered and road bridges built above the rail corridor.

Balcombe Road will reopen on Tuesday, June 23, and the new Mentone station opening on Monday, August 3.

Prior to their removal, the boom gates at Balcombe Road were down for 49 minutes in the morning peak, with congestion backing up to the Nepean highway.

$328m for transport upgrades around Victoria

300km of regional rail track and 15 train stations will be upgraded as part of a $2.7 billion spending plan to help Victoria recover after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The spending will be spread across the economy, including education, social housing, and tourism upgrades, however $328 million is targeted at the transport sector.

Part of the funding will go towards upgrades of trains and trams and is in addition to the $107bn Big Build program.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that the funding will go to projects that will begin immediately.

“We’re getting to work on hundreds of new projects across the state, meaning shovels in the ground – and boots in the mud – within a matter of weeks and months,” he said.

“From upgrading our roads and rail, to critical maintenance for social housing and new projects for our tourist destinations, this package will create jobs for our local tradies and so many others – and support local businesses all over Victoria.”

$90m will be invested in upgrading and replacing sleepers, structures, and signalling across the regional rail network. This funding will cover the renewal of 300km of sleepers and ballast across the regional network.

$62.6m will go towards the maintenance and restoration of trams and regional trains. Over half of this funding will go towards improving the reliability of V/Line trains.

$23m will be spent on improving stations and stops, including better seating, passenger information, toilets, and accessibility upgrades.

$5.6m will be spent on removing rubbish and graffiti as well as managing vegetation along transport corridors.

Chief executive of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia Adrian Dwyer said that the funding was well structured.

“The phase one package provides the right blend of projects and programs that will support job creation and stimulate economic activity,” he said.

“The focus on new and existing projects across schools, social housing, and road and rail maintenance means that the benefits of this stimulus will be broad-based.”

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said that the funding will help the wider economy.

“We’ve always said Victoria is the engine room of the nation – with this package, we’re cranking the engine and kickstarting our economy.”

The entire funding package is expected to create 3,700 direct jobs with many thousands more in the supply chain. For companies which need to hire extra employees, the Victorian government has mandated that new hires are to be found through the Working for Victoria scheme.

In a press conference on May 18, Andrews said that this announcement would be followed by other announcements which will target particular sectors. Andrews would not confirm whether the Melbourne Airport Rail Link would be announced, however he suggested that a decision would be made soon.

ARA calls for tender changes to maximise benefit of rail

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has called for an update of tendering procedures around Australia to accelerate job-creating rail projects.

Releasing a new tendering framework, the ARA included 21 recommendations to improve the procurement process for rollingstock and signalling equipment.

ARA CEO, Caroline Wilkie said that implementing these recommendations would extend the benefits of rail infrastructure and supply contracts.

“Australian tendering costs are higher than global benchmarks and that makes it harder to get projects out of the planning phase into delivery,” said Wilkie.

“As governments look to bring on new projects to speed our post-pandemic economic recovery, simple and fast tendering processes will be needed to get people quickly back to work.”

In the framework, the ARA’s recommendations include changes to market sounding and pre-project engagement, a one-time national pre-qualification scheme, a simplified probity management process, clear requirements at the point of early contractor involvement, a harmonisation of specifications, and a cost recovery process for rollingstock design.

“Small measures like a one-time-only pre-qualification process and standardised templates, terms and conditions would make a big difference and reduce costs for both government and the private sector,” said Wilkie.

The ARA commended the NSW Government Action Plan, which it said set the standard for procurement and should be the benchmark for other states.

“A nationally consistent procurement process would cut red tape and focus tender discussions on the all-important project outcomes,” said Wilkie.

Today, Australian tendering costs are approximately 1-2 per cent of a project’s total cost, well over the international benchmark of 0.5 per cent. Bringing Australia into line with other countries would allow for reduced project pricing as well as improving participation by reducing the risk profile for tenderers.

“It is important tender processes are fit for purpose and resourced to succeed so projects can move from planning to delivery as soon as possible,” said Wilkie.

In a speech to the shadow cabinet on May 11, federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s call for more local content in rollingstock. Albanese said that trains should be built in Australia, and pointed to examples in Queensland, Victoria, and WA.

Wilkie noted that well-managed procurement processes can create employment in Australia.

“Now more than ever we need government and industry working together to get projects up and running to deliver jobs for all Australians.”

GS1

Let’s get moving

2019 was the year to get on board with Project i-TRACE. Bonnie Ryan from GS1 Australia highlights the importance of standardising the capture of data and is calling on the rail industry to get moving on digitalisation.

The Australian rail industry is preparing to digitalise the management of rail assets for increased efficiency around the network and to move more customers and freight in cities that are becoming more congested.

Bonnie Ryan, director of freight, logistics, and industrial sectors at GS1 Australia said the entire transport sector acknowledges that a critical focus should be on data regulation. Rail operators and suppliers are increasingly appreciating the benefits that digitalisation brings and understanding the dangers of ignoring its possibilities.

GS1 barcode numbers issued by an authorised GS1 organisation are unique, accurate, and based on current global standards. GS1 Australia works with key stakeholders in the Rail industry in order to improve supply chain management and the use of standards and processes both locally and globally. Through an industry-wide initiative pioneered by GS1 Australia and the Australasian Railway Association, Project i-TRACE is enhancing the digitalisation of operational processes.

THE YEAR TO GET MOVING
2019 was regarded as the year of implementation for Project i-TRACE. The traceability initiative firstly involves standardising the capture of data relating to all assets and materials in the rail industry, and by doing so, ensures a critical foundation upon which the rail industry can build its digital capabilities.

“Last year it was time to get on board, now we need to get moving,” Ryan said. Despite current restrictions and challenges in the current economic market, she said the industry is still active and bringing its business needs to the forefront of discussions. The ARA Project i-TRACE rail industry group is aiming to improve supply chain efficiency and visibility of operations by developing and adopting GS1 global standards. Ryan said the industry group is collaborating to determine how businesses can best navigate through the current climate and what further engagement and support is needed to help the rail suppliers adopt data capture technologies.

Communication is key, according to Ryan, in spreading the message that technologies including barcoding and RFID tagging will be fundamental components to a more efficient business and industry. The Project i-TRACE industry working group are further discussing how the industry is progressing with implementation. Ryan said measuring progress is underway. Operators will be surveying their suppliers in an effort to see where they are at with Project i-TRACE implementations. There is a need to instil a sense of urgency to action GS1 standards.

INDUSTRY ADOPTION
Project i-TRACE has at its core a focus on traceability. Ryan said i-TRACE will be implemented as an enabler for systems and is a very important part of the future of the rail business.

The Australian Transport and Infrastructure Council has affirmed the critical role the freight sector plays in providing essential supplies and services. Rail freight services stretch across state borders, servicing finely tuned supply chains across the nation and are the gateway to global markets. Ryan said it’s more critical than ever to review efficient supply chain management.

Ryan said for the rail, freight and logistics industry it has been business as usual, however unprecedented demand and restrictions to regular operations has allowed open-minded thinking towards better risk management and safety procedures. She said from conversations with executives in the rail sector, more companies are open to talking about technology initiatives that will help deliver business objectives in the long-term.

“We are engaged with all of Australia’s major rail operators. They all have representatives that sit on the Project i-TRACE industry work group and they’re all very committed to better control their assets, reduce costs and enhance productivity,” Ryan said. Major operators have different work to do than suppliers, as organising their systems to accept new data that they haven’t had before can be a challenge. Ryan said that operators can learn from one another to see the benefit of enhanced digital capabilities, but they’re all at different stages and have internal processes and data systems to review first.

V/Line was one of the first to adopt and implement i-TRACE in its supply chain processes to help achieve improved productivity outcomes.

“V/Line was early to adopt GS1 standards and continue to see success, however I’m proud to say that all major operators also have their own plans and projects after rapid adoption last year,” Ryan said.

WHAT STAGE IS THE RAIL INDUSTRY AT?
Ryan said the rail industry can learn from other sectors such as the retail and food industry, who are charging ahead with industry-wide standards, guidelines and solutions.

“Rail is different because movement of fast-consumer goods doesn’t apply. However, you don’t see pens and paper in major food retailers’ supply chains. Rail needs to build on its digital capabilities,” Ryan said.

With significant rail infrastructure investments earmarked for a range of projects across the country, embedding i-TRACE in the early construction phases in these projects is critical to delivering cost benefits over the life cycle of the asset, and avoiding the need to retrofit digital capabilities at a later stage.

BUILDING RAIL’S INDUSTRY CAPABILITIES
Ryan said rail is adopting technology including machine learning, artificial intelligence, and autonomous trains. She said the back-end systems and data management needs to be as impressive as railway innovation.

Australasian rail industry manufacturers, suppliers and service providers want to see investments in infrastructure innovation and that will improve the efficiency of the wider network.

Ryan said in order to deliver front-end innovation, having a good digital grounding will be critical to effectively exploiting these capabilities.

“The rail sector knows the importance of digital capabilities, and that’s why operators and suppliers are engaged in i-TRACE,” Ryan said.

She understands due to the scale of operations in the rail sector, the process of implementing global standards is a progressive working task.

“There will be a tipping point in a few years. i-TRACE will no longer be a project but will be business as usual,” Ryan said.

A critical steppingstone to build on rail’s digital capabilities will be building an appropriate digital framework.

Ryan adds not all data is equal, people can be sceptical about where it comes from and if it’s accurate so the only way to trust data is to have good governance and a framework so that you can measure data quality. The accuracy and validity of the data plays a crucial role in furthering downstream technological innovation.

“Having good governance, framework and set of standards in which to apply and adhere to gives the industry the platform to achieve success,” Ryan said.

Right now, Ryan is encouraging operators and suppliers to identify materials, register with GS1 and put the unique GS1 compliant codes on materials and products.

“That is essentially the first step, to begin the alignment of data,” Ryan said.

Ryan is proud to see rail working towards end to end traceability. i-TRACE benefits include improved maintenance and repair operations, reducing costs by automating operational procedures and improving traceability which is fundamental for through life support operations.

Alstom results

Alstom releases results for the 2019-2020 financial year

Alstom has released its results for the financial year 2019-2020, ending March 31, 2020.

The Paris-based, Euronext listed rollingstock and signalling manufacturer booked orders of €9.9 billion ($16.6bn) over the year, and had sales results totalling €8.2bn ($13.76bn).

The figures were driven by orders in Europe, including very high speed trains in France, metros, and regional trains, as well as Alstom’s winning of the Metronet railcar build and maintenance contract in Perth and the contract to supply further rollingstock and signalling to the Sydney Metro Southwest extension.

“Although considered a stabilisation year, Alstom enjoyed strong commercial momentum in a very dynamic railway market,” said Henri Poupart-Lafarge, Alstom chairman and chief executive officer.

“We won major orders especially in Europe and in Asia-Pacific. In addition, we secured pioneering orders for our green mobility solutions, illustrating the potential of such technologies and the dynamism of the shift to carbon free transportation modes.”

Research and development spending accounted for 3.7 per cent of sales in 2019/20, with focus particularly on emissions-free mobility, including electric motors, hydrogen fuel-cells, and battery traction systems. Alstom was awarded contracts for its hydrogen train and battery electric train in regions in Germany.

The effect of COVID-19 is not fully realised in these accounts, as they finish at the end of March, 2020, however Alstom noted that it would not issue dividends to shareholders in July. The company calculated that the impact on sales of COVID-19 is roughly €100 million ($167.9m), due to a slowdown of sales recognition. As of May 12 a restart of production is occurring, and the company expects a fast recovery in the rail market.

“Alstom considers the health and safety of its employees and stakeholders as its top priority during this period. We are confident for the resilience of Alstom’s business in the mid-term, given the fundamentals of the rail market and in particular, the need for greener mobility,” said Poupart-Lafarge.