WA budget includes $1.7bn for rail projects

The Western Australia government will invest $1.7 billion in Metronet projects in this financial year.

The figure comes from the WA state budget, released on October 8, and is in addition to the $1.5bn in federal funding for Metronet.

Projects to be funded this year include the Forrestfield-Airport Link project, which is expected to be completed in late 2021, the first $275.3 million for locally made rollingstock and the assembly and manufacturing facility in Bellevue, and $195m for the Thornlie-Cockburn link.

In addition, level crossings, new stations and carparks, and the extension of existing rail lines are included in the 2020-2021 budget.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the total investment over the forward estimates would support the WA economy out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To keep our local economy strong, the state Budget delivers a record $27 billion in infrastructure investment over the next four years, including construction and manufacturing work for Metronet and major roads across WA,” he said.

“We’ve worked hard to establish a major pipeline of work to support local jobs and help guide Western Australia’s economy out of the COVID-19 pandemic, while ensuring we’re delivering and building major projects for tomorrow.”

The funding in this year’s budget ensures that current projects can continue and procurement can take the next step forward in the 2020-2021 financial year. Contracts are expected to be signed and work to begin shortly on the Byford Rail Extension, New Midland Station, and level crossing removals on the Inner Armadale Line. Final negotiations for the construction contract for the Morley-Ellenbrook line are expected to be completed soon.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said skills and training would be part of the major construction investment.

“These projects won’t just change the way we travel, they will also have a huge role in supporting local jobs and training opportunities, with more than 10,000 jobs expected to be supported as part of these METRONET investments,” she said.

“This year’s investment will allow for continued delivery of the Thornlie-Cockburn Link, Yanchep Rail Extension and Forrestfield-Airport Link, but we’re not stopping there.

“Even more projects are in the pipeline, ensuring we’re delivering and building the infrastructure needed for tomorrow.”

Albanese launches Labor’s Rail Manufacturing Plan

A National Rail Manufacturing Plan would be formed to ensure that federal money spent on rail projects in Australia leads to local manufacturing of rollingstock if Labor was elected federally.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese used his budget reply speech to announce the plan, which could identify and optimise the opportunities to build freight and passenger trains in Australia.

Included in the plan are measures such as the establishment of an Office of National Rail industry Coordination (ONRIC) to audit the adequacy, capacity, and condition of passenger trains and develop priority plans. Labor would also reinstate the Rail Supplier Advocate to help small to medium sized enterprises find national and export opportunities and create a Rail Industry Innovation Council to spur more local research & development.

Labor estimates that the plan would create up to 659 full-time jobs, and boost Australia’s GDP by up to $5 billion.

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie said a coordinated approach to rail manufacturing would help local industry and governments.

“Rail manufacturers currently have to navigate a very fragmented market to address different approaches between state and territories,” Wilkie said.

“This severely limits the industry’s ability to gain the scale it needs to create efficiencies and foster more innovation in the Australian market.

“Policies that support a strong Australian rail manufacturing sector will ultimately lead to better deals for governments and create more jobs in the process.”

Local manufacturers of rollingstock also reacted positively to the Labor plan. Todd Garvey, Head of Sales Australia and New Zealand at Bombardier Transportation said that coordination would ensure that Australia’s rail manufacturing industry continues to thrive.

“Bombardier was encouraged by the focus on our industry in the budget reply speech by the Opposition Leader on October 8. In particular, the establishment of the ONRIC within the Department of Industry and the commitment to ‘manufacturing trains here’ in Australia.”

Garvey noted that Bombardier’s factory in Dandenong builds trains and trams not only for Victoria, but other states including South Australia.

The ARA has been pushing for consistency across state governments in rollingstock and signalling tenders to better leverage existing local capabilities.

Around Australia, the rollingstock manufacturing and repair industry generates $2.4bn and employs over 4,000 people, half outside metropolitan areas. Garvey highlighted that Bombardier’s presence in south east Melbourne supports a wider manufacturing ecosystem.

“In Dandenong we employ over 200 manufacturing workers and support a vibrant rail supply chain in south east Melbourne. This supply chain supports our carriage building, welding and fit out for our trams and trains. This is important, our local content on the VLocity trains is 69 per cent and around 55 per cent for our E-Class trams. Not only this but in Victoria alone we have a significant servicing and maintenance business operating out of West Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat East.”

Wilkie said that a focus on innovation now would set up Australia’s rail manufacturing industry for the future.

“Investment in R&D and innovation leads to a better infrastructure network for Australians and improved efficiencies for industry,” she said.

“Government and industry must work together to advance rail technology and innovation adoption, based on clear policy settings that provide the certainty needed for long term investment.”

Garvey said that in Bombardier’s case, local manufacturing was building a skills base for quality Australian manufacturing.

“Bombardier is committed to building rail cars in Australia. Not only are we committed to this industry but also to the next generation. We have apprentices at Dandenong and a commitment to diversity. Our on-site welding school is testament to this fact and we will not stop making trains and trams to the highest quality Australian standards.”

Hydrogen

Hydrogen train test in the Netherlands meets all requirements

Hydrogen trains have met all four test requirements in a trial conducted in the Dutch province of Groningen.

Local operator Arriva trialled Alstom’s Coradia iLint trains, in partnership with railway infrastructure manager ProRail and energy company Engie over two weeks in March, 2020. The trains were tested on the line between Groningen and Leeuwarden.

The trial had four objectives for the hydrogen-powered trains: authorisation by the Dutch national safety assessor to run on the Dutch railway network; zero emissions in the commercial service of the current timetable; quick and easy refuelling; and familiarising the general public with hydrogen mobility.

On all four objectives, the trains met the requirements.

“The tests have demonstrated how our hydrogen train is mature in terms of availability and reliability, providing the same performance as diesel equipment, and with the benefit of low noise and zero emissions. The Coradia iLint hydrogen train supports the transition towards global sustainable transport systems,” said Bernard Belvaux, managing director, Alstom Benelux.

To meet the commercial service performance requirement, the trains were tested on an all stations service and an express timetable. The trains were tested on fuel consumption, compatibility with infrastructure, acceleration, braking, docking, and maximum speed. All went without a hitch.

During the trials, the trains were found to be significantly quieter than current diesel trains. Drivers were also familiarised with the trains and found them smooth, comfortable, and easy to drive.

Powered by hydrogen produced from renewable energy, refuelling went faster than expected and was conducted safely.

The Netherlands follows Germany in testing Alstom’s hydrogen-powered trainsets.

“After Germany, the Netherlands is the second country in Europe where the Alstom’s hydrogen train has proven itself a unique emissions-free solution for non-electrified lines,” said Belvaux.

Other trails and plans for implementation are being developed in Austria, Italy, and the UK.

Bombardier Movia

Bombardier awarded maintenance, communications contracts in Singapore

Bombardier will provide maintenance services for 636 Bombardier Movia metro cars currently being delivered for Singapore’s North-South and East-West Lines.

The maintenance contract extends Bombardier’s provision of rollingstock and services to the city, with the company providing two orders of metro cars.

The contract is the second services contract of this scope for Bombardier in Singapore, after being awarded a 10-year maintenance and spares support contract for 32 Innovia Automated People Mover (APM) used on the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit line.

The Movie metro trainsets will arrive from 2021 and are being manufactured in China by the Bombardier and Changchun Railway Vehicles joint venture.

Jayaram Naidu, president of Southeast Asia region, for Bombardier Transportation said the company would support the growth of Singapore’s public transport network.

“We are proud to continue playing such a major role, contributing to Singapore’s public transport network and supporting our customer’s ambitious expansion plan to grow its rail network to 360 km by the 2030s.”

Naidu said the company would ensure the trains maximise their availability.

“We will maintain their assets to the highest levels of reliability and availability throughout their lifecycle and ensure that the trains move people safely and on-time to their destinations.”

Earlier in September, Bombardier also won the contract to enhance the communication system on currently in service Movia rollingstock on the Singapore Downtown line. The upgrades cover digitalising the dynamic route map display from LED to LCD, installing train control monitoring system and automatic track inspection system software.

“This new contract to boost the performance and functionality of the MOVIA metro fleet on Singapore’s Downtown line is testament to Bombardier’s pioneering technology advances in train optimisation and upgrades for our customers. Singapore has always been a showcase for Bombardier’s innovative mobility solutions, from driverless technologies to TCMS methodologies,” said Naidu.

The driverless Movia metro trains on the Downtown line operate on one of the longest automated systems.

New Intercity Fleet reach Lithgow after Blue Mountains Line upgrades

Testing of the New Intercity Fleet has seen the electric trains reach Lithgow, the first new electric train to do so since the final V-Set was introduced.

Until recently, newer regional electric trains such as the Oscar train sets and the Tangara fleet have not been able to travel past Springwood due to limitations on the line.

Tight bends and narrow tunnels mean that only Narrow Electric standard rollingstock have been able to travel west of Springwood, meaning V-Sets were the only regional trains to take passengers further.

Engineering works to widen the line and extend platforms mean that the new trains are now able to run to Lithgow, said Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole.

“This is such an exciting development for the thousands of customers who travel between the city and these areas, particularly for Lithgow customers because it has only been made possible due to upgrades on the Blue Mountains Line,” he said.

Running the trains to Lithgow is part of the testing of the New Intercity Fleet before they enter passenger service later this year. The trains will first travel on the Central Coast and Newcastle lines, before the Blue Mountains and South Coast lines.

“Over the next few months we’ll see more of these trains tested on the Blue Mountains Line, mostly at night and on weekends,” said Toole.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said the new trains had a number of upgraded features.

“Customers on the New Intercity Fleet will enjoy more spacious two-by-two seating, mobile device charging ports, modern heating and air conditioning, and dedicated spaces for luggage, prams and bicycles,” Constance said.

“Automatic Selective Door Operation, obstruction detection and traction interlocking are just some of the safety features on these new trains.”

Unions have expressed concerns about the operation of doors on the trains, with guards unable to open their doors before the rest of the train doors.

Alstom results

Alstom and Bombardier sign agreement for sale with revised price

The purchase of Bombardier Transportation by Alstom has taken the next step forward, with a definitive Sale and Purchase Agreement signed by the two parties.

The sale involves a €300 million ($486m) write-down of the value of Bombardier Transportation from the figure quoted in the Memorandum of Understanding which announced the sale process.

When the MoU was announced in February, Bombardier Transportation was valued at between €5.8 and €6.2 billion ($9.4 to $10bn). The revised price values Bombardier’s transport business at €5.5 to €5.9bn ($8.9 to 9.5bn). Alstom expects the proceeds will likely amount to up to €5.3bn based on post-closing adjustment and obligations.

Henri Poupart-Lafarge chairman and CEO of Alstom said the sale would strengthen Alstom’s presence in the market.

“Bombardier Transportation will bring to Alstom complementary geographical presence to broaden Alstom’s commercial reach in key growing markets, strong product complementarities in rolling stock, strategic scale in services and signalling, industrial capacity in key countries, a leading portfolio offering and additional R&D capabilities to invest in green and smart innovation,” he said.

Éric Martel, president and CEO of Bombardier Inc said the sale would adjust the profile of the business.

Today’s announcement marks a significant milestone towards achieving our near-term priorities and repositioning Bombardier as a pure-play business jet company,” he said. “The proceeds from this transaction will allow us to begin reshaping our capital structure and start addressing our balance sheet through debt paydown, so that we can achieve the full potential of our incredibly talented employees and our industry leading business jet portfolio.”

According to a statement from Alstom, the company expects to find synergies of €400m ($648m) in four to five years after the sale.

The sale is expected to be closed in the first quarter of 2021 with the sale having cleared antitrust processes in the EU as well as Australia.

hydrogen

Hydrogen trains trialled in passenger service in Austria

The next European operator to begin trails of hydrogen trains will be Austrian rail company ÖBB.

In partnership with Alstom, ÖBB will run the hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint in passenger service until the end of November in a trial.

The Coradia iLint has been trialled successfully in Northern Germany and trials in the Netherlands have been conducted in 2020. Agreements with rail companies in Italy and the UK have also been signed in 2020 to progress the delivery of hydrogen-powered rollingstock in those countries.

In the Austrian trial, the trains will be run on unelectrified lines in the south of the country which are geographically challenging.

Jörg Nikutta, Alstom’s CEO in Germany and Austria said the trains would fill a gap in the decarbonisation of rail.

“The train’s emission-free drive technology offers a climate-friendly alternative to conventional diesel trains, especially on non-electrified lines.”

Andreas Matthä, CEO of ÖBB-Holding AG said the company was looking at new technology that could make rail more environmentally friendly.

“As the largest climate protection company in Austria, we are actively shaping the mobility of the future with technological alternatives.”

The Austrian trial comes as the UK rail sector looks to fully decarbonise, with hydrogen-powered trains to play a key role. The Interim Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy, put together by Network Rail in partnership with the rail industry, sets out which lines will be electrified and where alternative traction technologies will be used to meet the net zero carbon emissions target.

The strategy identified 11,700 kilometres of track where electrification would take place, battery operation on 400km and hydrogen on 900km. To do this, between 150 and 200 battery and hydrogen trains would be required.

VLocity

Redesigned VLocity trains win two Good Design Awards

Bombardier’s VLocity trains have won two design awards at the Australian Good Design Awards.

The locally-designed and built regional trains, which had a redesign in April 2020 as part of the order for new trains to run on Victoria’s standard gauge network, won the Gold Good Design Award and the Best Interior Design Award.

The Best Interior Design Award recognised improvements to safety and accessibility on the trains. A new front to the train improved crashworthiness and new accessibility and comfort measures inside the train cabin were designed for the needs of older travellers and those with disabilities.

Wendy McMillan, president Australia and New Zealand at Bombardier Transportation said that the awards are a result of collaboration.

“These two awards recognise the efforts and strong collaboration between Bombardier Transportation, Department of Transport, V/Line and the participating stakeholders, which led to the development of this user-friendly train design.”

Improvements to the driver’s cabin included a focus on safety.

The Interior Design Award also recognised innovations in the manufacture of the trains, which is being done locally, in Dandenong. Recycled materials are in use in the train and the use of advanced manufacturing and material technologies increase safety and efficiency while reducing cost and weight.

The Bombardier design team reflected that rollingstock design is a unique task.

“This award acknowledges the unique challenges our Industrial Design team face, balancing the vast demographic of user needs against the many constraints of rollingstock functionality in the public transport sector. Our interior design needs to meet legislative requirements, endure high frequency of use, satisfy public safety, and embrace inclusivity.”

The Good Design Awards are Australia’s peak design awards and have been running since 1958 making them one of the oldest and most prestigious international design awards in the world. This is not the first time that the VLocity trains have been recognised. In 2005, the trains’ original design won the Australian Design Award, the first train in the history of the competition to do so.

McMillan said the company and its passengers are proud of the recognition.

“We are very proud of the new VLocity train and the people of regional Victoria can now share in this pride too. I would also like to thank the Victorian Government for their ongoing support for Bombardier and our VLocity trains.”

The redesign included accessibility upgrades.

Sydney Train

Build trains locally and create thousands of jobs: Weld Australia

There is the potential for thousands of jobs to be created in Australia and to support the country’s economic recovery from COVID-19 if more trains were built locally, according to CEO of Weld Australia, Geoff Crittenden.

Reforming procurement practices in Australia would have deep benefits for local and national comments, said Crittenden who leads Weld Australia, the peak body for welders in Australia.

“State government rail procurement practices that support local welders and fabricators would create thousands of jobs, supporting local families and local economies in a post COVID-19 world. It would facilitate technology transfer and drive some of the world’s most innovative research and development,” said Crittenden.

The call for local manufacturing follows the NSW government’s dismissal of the talents of local rail manufacturers, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying that Australians were “not good at building trains” and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance train manufacturing does not exist in Australia.

While Crittenden highlighted that Australia and NSW has a heritage of building technically advanced train fleets, he also pointed to the potential for future improvements.

“With a long-term procurement commitment from the state governments, rail industry manufacturers would have the confidence to reinvest in their own capabilities, strengthening the industry from within. This type of business innovation strengthens businesses and creates new and better jobs, which together support a move to higher living standards. Innovation investment by business is crucial to our ongoing prosperity. It would make Australia home to a world-leading rail industry, with the capability to build and export superior quality trains.”

Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Senator for Western Australia Louise Pratt said that Commonwealth funding should be directed towards local manufacturing, including rail.

“As COVID-19 has highlighted how sensitive we are to global supply chains and as unemployment is rising, particularly in regional areas, now more than ever we need a plan for manufacturing which includes rail.”

With an extensive local maintenance and repair industry, the cost of whole of life support means that it makes sense to build more trains locally, according to Crittenden.

“If our state governments adopted a nationally consistent procurement process that considered whole of life costs and prioritised local content, not only would it create thousands of jobs, it would deliver better quality public transport. Locally fabricated trains would adhere to all relevant Australian and international Standards, reducing expensive rework and repair. Cheap imports from overseas often cost more in the long run,” he said.

Having more consistent procurement standards between different states would improve the competitiveness of Australia-based manufacturers, highlighted Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie.

“We have long been calling for a national procurement process for rail manufacturing to give the industry greater scale, promote efficiency and create more local jobs which are supported by advanced manufacturing techniques from industry.”

In a tendering framework released in May, the ARA said that greater harmonisation of specifications was one area that would reduce the cost of tendering in Australia.