Shipping containers. Photo: Shutterstock

Common data set could save Australian supply chain $1bn a year

A new discussion paper from the Australian Logistics Council calls for a common data set for Australia’s supply chains.

The paper, released on October 23, examines how the power of technology and data can best be harnessed to enhance supply chain efficiency for businesses and consumers.

It cites an industry pilot study which estimated the overall economic benefit to Australia through the widespread adoption of Global Data Standards (GDS) at a billion dollars per annum.

“Plainly, technology and data will play a pivotal role in in the future operation of Australia’s supply chains, allowing Australia to meet its rapidly growing freight task more safely and efficiently,” ALC interim chief Lachlan Benson said.

“However, to make certain that happens, there is a significant amount of work to be done to improve the quality and availability of data available to policy makers and industry participants regarding the operation and performance of our supply chains.”

The ALC developed the discussion paper with input from its Technology Committee.

Benson said the paper sets out a practical pathway to achieve a common data set, via a series of recommendations to address crucial issues.

“Actions include improving supply chain visibility, developing a common data standard for Australia’s logistics industry, enhancing confidence regarding the privacy and ownership of data, and aligning international data standards to boost efficiency in global trade,” Benson said.

“There are substantial economic benefits to be realised by focussing on these issues, as was clearly recognised by the ALC Board when it endorsed the adoption of GDS by logistics industry participants earlier this year.”

PTA keen to move on from data leak

WA’s Public Transport Authority has accepted the recommendations of the Corruption and Crime Commission after an employee allegedly leaked the personal details of 1,750 staff to the Rail Tram and Bus Union.

A man who worked as a senior catenary maintainer for PTA between May 2012 and December 2017 is accused in a new CCC report of intentionally transferring files containing the annual leave details, rates of pay and dates of birth of fellow staff.

According to the CCC report the man allegedly gave this information to the RTBU during negotiations towards an industrial agreement for the Network and Infrastructure Division, which would include catenary maintainers.

The CCC report classifies the incident as “serious misconduct”.

“The information provided to the RTBU was subsequently used by the union organiser at a negotiation meeting between RTBU and PTA,” the Commission said in a short statement.

“The information was used as leverage by the union organiser to highlight the differences between the ways annual leave was being dealt with amongst PTA employees.”

The Commission has recommended the PTA tightens access controls over confidential information, and that it reinforces the seriousness of accessing confidential information to all of its staff.

“Public sector agencies collect, hold and disseminate a range of confidential and sensitive information which should only be used for legitimate purposes,” the Commission said.

“[This case] serves as a reminder to all public sector agencies of the importance of IT security measures, particularly when it comes to accessing confidential information; and to the public officers accessing this information the need to ensure it is managed appropriately.

In a short response to the Commission’s report, the PTA said it reported the matter to the CCC in 2017.

The PTA has also carried out its own investigation, and says its findings and recommendations “mirror” those of the Commission’s report.

“Dealing with confidential information is a normal part of the operations of virtually all businesses, and it is the responsibility of all employees to respect that confidentiality. This is even more so for government employees, who are bound by the Public Sector Act,” the PTA said.

“The PTA is already implementing a series of enhancements to security protocols, and will continue to look at ways we can educate staff about their obligations under our code of conduct.”

AutoHaul moving almost half of Rio’s iron ore

Rio Tinto is averaging 34 autonomous trains every day on its Pilbara network, and AutoHaul trains now make up 45 percent of daily rail kilometres for the miner’s iron ore operations.

Rio revealed the figures in its September quarterly report, released on October 16.

“The automation of the Pilbara train system (AutoHaul) is in ramp-up, with a steady increase in the number of trains in autonomous mode over the third quarter,” the miner told the ASX.

“Autonomous mode operations have increased to an average of 34 trains per day, equating to 290,000 kilometres (or 45 percent of daily kilometres) completed in this mode.”

The ramp-up is significant, considering the first AutoHaul train ran in mid-July.

Rio said it expects to fully implement the AutoHaul program by the end of 2018.

The mining company’s Pilbara iron ore operation produced 82.5 million tonnes in the third quarter, down 3 percent year-on-year and 3 percent compared to quarter two.

Rio said the production dip was due to “planned maintenance cycles,” as well as safety pauses across the entire operation after a truck operator was fatally injured at the Paraburdoo mine on August 15.

Railway digitalisation: Answering Australia’s congestion challenge

Australia, already one of the most urbanised countries in the developed world, must find a way to deal with ongoing population growth while transport networks are already pushing capacity. Thales Australia’s Sam Keayes spoke with Rail Express about the crucial role railway digitalisation will play.

Sam Keayes is Thales Australia’s VP for Ground Transportation Systems and Secure Communications & Information Systems. Keayes, who hails from the UK, says Australia may just be the global hotspot for railway digitalisation over the next decade.

“A lot of our customers have big ambitions, but I don’t think there are many customers globally that have as big ambitions as the various state and federal governments within Australia, in terms of improving the way people and freight are moved around on rail,” Keayes told Rail Express in August.

“There’s a huge population growth forecast in Australia, concentrated in an incredibly urbanised environment. We’re simply not going to be able to deal with that growth in passenger and freight volumes using the current technology.

“We’re going to need to push more rollingstock down the existing infrastructure; we’re also going to need to build more infrastructure; and we’re going to need to get the elements of transportation working more effectively together.”

New technology also allows the transportation network to be more reliable, and for maintenance to be more efficient.

“The huge amount of data we’re getting off every centre and every device that we’ve got on the rail network now provides huge opportunities for predictive maintenance, asset management, and giving passengers more information to plan and bridge their journeys.

“That technology, I think, can make almost as big a difference as building new infrastructure, and adding more capacity to existing infrastructure.”

Thales poised to take part

Thales’ Ground Transportation division employs 8,200 around the world, out of a total Thales workforce of around 65,000.

Its systems operate in more than 40 major cities, like London, Paris, Dubai and Hong Kong, and help move 3 billion passengers every year. The company has worked for major clients like the London Underground, which is using Thales’ SelTrac CBTC to modernise its signalling infrastructure.

“Essentially Thales is the partner of our customers to provide them with innovative, high tech solutions,” Keayes explains.

“Whether they’re trying to connect people to their jobs, or create a ‘thirty minutes to anywhere’ city, or to provide a safer, more secure transportation solution, they rely on us to provide the innovation and the right technology solutions to be able to achieve their objectives.”

Thales splits its railway digitalisation capabilities across three main offerings: rail signalling, passenger safety, and passenger services.

Thales employs 3,600 people in Australia working across several industries and a multitude of disciplines. At any one time a team of up to 100 are working on ground transportation systems out of the company’s Rydalmere office, west of Sydney.

“Incidentally,” Keayes notes, “we are desperate to get the Parramatta Light Rail and Sydney Metro West projects up and running as quickly as we can to service our own facility at Rydalmere.”

Thales counts Sydney Trains as a key ongoing customer, but has also delivered projects like Auckland’s contactless ticketing system, the AT HOP card.

Keayes isn’t shy about Thales’ ambitions to do more work in the region.

“In Australia we’ve had a long history of selling train protection products like axle counters, like track protection warning systems for customers like Metro Trains Melbourne, Queensland Rail, Aurizon, Rio Tinto and others around the country.

“Our aspiration is to expand that business, to build the full suite of signalling and rail traffic management systems into Australia, to ensure trains can run smoothly and safely throughout the rail network.”

Sydney Metro work a demonstration of value

Thales is working on Sydney Metro Northwest, where it is delivering the project’s Central Control System and Communication System, as a key supplier to the Northwest Rapid Transit consortium.

Keayes says the Northwest work is a prime example of Thales’ local capabilities integrating both software and hardware.

“In Sydney Metro Northwest,” he says, “all of the CCTV cameras, help points, access control, intrusion detection, telephony, passenger information systems and PA systems are integrated together with the control system software.”

Northwest is also a demonstration of Thales’ local and global experience working on both greenfield and brownfield projects: a significant portion of the Sydney Metro Northwest route is newly constructed railway, but the project also involves converting the existing rail line between Epping and Chatswood to a new Metro standard.

“When you’re building a greenfield system, you have the space, the ability to work throughout the day, and the ability to test systems in the lab before putting it out into the field,” Keayes explains.

“Operating on brownfield sites, you need to understand what’s there first. That’s very often the most challenging part of the project; getting a handle on the legacy systems that are there, their configuration state, what documentation and engineering underpins it.

“Only then can you understand what you need to replace, what you need to interface with, and then develop those interfaces if they’re required, so that the commissioning goes smoothly.”

R&D giving a competitive edge

Thales invests close to a billion Euro into research and development annually, and a huge amount of that work applies to its ground transportation capabilities. The company’s global reach allows it to conduct and apply this research in many markets.

As an added layer of value, Thales does a significant amount of work in cybersecurity, and this capability enhances the company’s ground transportation offering.

“Our R&D investment allows us to develop new digital solutions, new software platforms, and new signalling systems,” Keayes states, “and it allows us to maintain these systems for our customers.”

Thales’ Advanced Railway Management and Information System (ARAMIS) is one example of a product benefitting from ongoing R&D. In place in 16 countries, ARAMIS controls around 52,000 trains each day.

“That is not a simple product development,” Keayes says. “It requires continual investment to take advantage of new digital technologies, upgrades of old systems, and the like, with a future technology roadmap.

“In our DNA we are a technology company. We invest in R&D for our own technology, and to better understand the technology that’s around to interface with. We really put the time and effort into understanding how different systems will behave under different networks and operating conditions, so that our customers can make the right technology choices.”

Culture key to Australian success

Keayes says Thales’ commitment to growing its local capabilities, combined with a strong customer focus, should help it grow in the Australian market.

“One of the reasons I’m so confident in our ability to bring more of Thales’ global portfolio into Australia, is because over the last few years we’ve had a very good track record of delivery, and we’ve got a culture to do whatever it takes to deliver for our customers,” he says.

“Delivery, delivery and delivery are our top three priorities.”

Metro Trains Australia awarded contract for ARA online skills program

The Australasian Rail Assocation (ARA) has awarded a new five-year contract to Metro Trains Australia (MTA) for the delivery of its national competency system, the Rail Industry Worker Program (RIW).

The RIW Program enables the management of rail worker skills across Australia, providing a single online platform accessible to workers across different state networks.

The program is owned and endorsed by the ARA on behalf of ARA Members and RIW participants.

ARA CEO, Danny Broad, said that MTA and its partners would now become the new service provider of the program following a competitive tender process.

“The RIW Program has grown considerably since it started, both in terms of participation and the breadth of requirements for participants,” Broad said.

“The RIW Program will continue to support organisations in meeting legal and regulatory obligations, as well as maximising safety.”

The system will use the latest smartcard technology and a secure database compatible with multiple platforms, including smartphones and real-time business intelligence reporting.

MTA’s acting managing director, Leah Waymark, said that the RIW Program played a key role in enabling national rail safety by offering a seamless system for workers to manage their competencies online.

“The competency management system is world class and our technology partner, Reference Point Limited, is the proven force behind the systems which keep rail, road and other key industry and infrastructure workers safe right across the UK,” Waymark said.

“The RIW solution will be Australian based and supported by multiple Australian companies to deliver locally where possible.”

Information sessions on the RIW Program will be held prior to the system going live on 30 March 2019.

TasRail Wagons. Photo: TasRail

TasRail forced to derail runaway train at Devonport

Tasmanian freight rail operator TasRail has confirmed it was forced to derail a runaway train north of Devonport on Friday, in an incident which left two bystanders with minor injuries.

A train being loaded with cement and operated via remote control departed without any command from its operator, just before 9am on September 21, according to a preliminary report from the federal safety bureau.

TasRail’s Network Control Centre soon alerted Tasmania Police to the incident.

TasRail then diverted the train to a dead end siding track with a permanent derailer.

Roughly 12 minutes after the train’s journey began, it arrived at the stops in the yard, and one locomotive and seven wagons were derailed.

Tasmania Police said the train derailed on Formby Road, opposite the Post Office, roughly 100 metres from the Harbour Master Café.

Two members of the public standing nearby sustained injuries. Both were discharged from hospital later that day.

TasRail says it immediately suspended use of the remote control hand-held technology at its freight terminals following the incident, but noted it has been using the technology for more than 15 years.

It will wait until the results of investigations by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and National Rail Regulator before reconsidering its use of the devices.

Crews worked over the weekend, and TasRail said on Sunday afternoon (September 23) it expected to see the mainline through Devonport re-opened overnight.

TasRail chief executive officer Steven Dietrich paid tribute to all involved in the recovery operations, noting they had worked under stressful and challenging conditions to empty wagons, lift wagons with a crane, focus on track repairs and liaise with customers.

“I thank every single TasRail employee who has contributed to this recovery operation and also recognise the patience of our important customers as services are being restored,” Dietrich said on Sunday.

“From the moment we were alerted to this incident, it has been a huge team effort across all terminals and on site in Devonport to activate and implement our Emergency Response Protocol.”

Dietrich also gave his sincere thanks to Tasmania Police, and emergency personnel who treated the two injured bystanders.

“I have today again spoke to the people who were injured and I am delighted to hear they are recovering well,” Dietrich said. “I again expressed TasRail’s thoughts and best wishes for a speedy recovery.”

ARA to develop partnership with British rail association

The Australasian Railway Association and the UK’s Railway Industry Association have agreed to work more closely together to benefit rail supply industries in both companies.

The ARA and RIA announced their new Memorandum of Understanding at InnoTrans in Berlin on September 19.

Together, the associations represent roughly 360 members. The sides said they share many common interests and deliver common services in their markets, which face similar opportunities and challenges.

“Both the UK and Australian rail sectors are expected to see continued significant investment in rail, but face issues recruiting new entrants into the rail industry, upskilling those already in the sector, smoothing out rail funding pipelines, and promoting the benefits of rail as a key driver of economic growth,” the associations said in a joint statement.

Chief executive Danny Broad said the new allegiance would provide benefits to all members of the ARA.

“It’s an extremely exciting time to be in the rail industry in Australia and New Zealand with investment in new rail infrastructure and rollingstock over the next fifteen years forecast to be around $100 billion,” Broad said.

“Working and collaborating with the RIA on common industry challenges will provide consolidation of ideas for possible suitable outcomes for the rail sectors covered by both the ARA and RIA.”

RIA chief executive Darren Caplan said the partnership would help members develop new trade links and cooperation, “which is especially important as the UK prepares to leave the EU”.

“I see lots of common ground to form this working relationship, for the benefit of both RIA, ARA and our respective members – and we look forward to collaborating in the very near future!”

Perth B-series train. Credit: Creative Commons / DBZ2313

WiFi trial launched on Perth network

Two Perth train stations have been WiFi-enabled, and a pair of trains will soon follow, as part of a trial of the technology on the city’s transport network.

WiFi was launched this week at Subiaco and Elizabeth Quay stations on the Perth, with passengers notified via the stations’ signage.

The Public Transport Authority plans to roll out the service to a pair of trains by the end of 2018.

Users will be granted up to 150MB of data per device, every 24 hours.

State transport minister Rita Saffioti said the results of the trial would be rolled out more widely.

“As the McGowan Government continues to progress Metronet, we are looking at other measures that could attract more people to public transport,” Saffioti said.

“I am pleased to announce that this trial can now begin after a lengthy period of negotiations.

“I would urge anyone who has used the system to contact Transperth with their feedback.”

The WiFi service is being delivered by Optus, and the contract allows for the trial to proceed with no direct costs to the State Government.

Meanwhile, the State Government has invested $33.8 million towards upgrading Transperth’s SmartRider ticketing system, to cater for future patronage growth expected as part of Metronet and to accommodate advances in technology.

Cubic awarded contract to deliver Sydney transport management system

The New South Wales government will make a $123 million investment in establishing a predictive, data-driven transport management system in Sydney by the end of the decade, with over $50 million in works awarded to Cubic Transportation Systems this week.

Cubic will provide Transport for NSW (TfNSW) with a new technology platform, the Intelligent Congestion Management Program (ICMP), which will co-ordinate, manage and monitor Sydney’s pubic transport system and road networks.

The new system will reportedly reduce congestion, improve major event planning and enable faster response to incidents on the transport network. It will also provide real-time information and advice to the public regarding disruptions.

Cubic will work with its partners WSP, PTV Group, Mentz and Microsoft to deliver the platform, which will replace the existing system that Cubic built to manage Sydney’s traffic prior to the onset of the 2000 Olympic Games.

The contract is for a term of five years and seven months, with options for two three-year extensions.

Matt Cole, Cubic president, said that the project would position Sydney as a global leader in multi-modal transport-management operations.

“[This] announcement will enable Cubic to commercialise this new technology and bring additional innovation to Transport for NSW, enabling the organisation to remain at the forefront of transport management technology,” Cole said.

“It will also create a whole new stream of high tech jobs in NSW, producing ground-breaking innovations that we can export to the world.”

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance said that the system would be designed to help Sydney manage the introduction of driverless Metro trains next year and the eventual introduction of automated automobiles in the future.

“This $123 million investment will future proof our transport management system for these innovations so we can better manage congestion and respond to incidents faster, as well as preparing for new transport infrastructure in the pipeline,” Constance said.

“It makes us more responsive to incidents by automating current manual processes using data. The goal is to predict 30 minutes into the future and act in 5 minutes – this helps to divert traffic, co-ordinate public transport and provide real-time information to customers about any disruptions or alternative routes.”

Constance added that the contract with Cubic marked a continuation of the state’s strong collaboration with the company, which has been operating the Opal travel card system.

“This ongoing relationship will ensure we receive continuous product enhancements and upgrades, while minimising additional investment, to deliver innovation for many years, Constance said.

The government expects the new system to be up and running by 2020.

ComOps secures $3m extension of Sydney Trains deal

Workforce management firm ComOps has secured a two-year, $3 million deal to extend its contract with Sydney Trains.

ComOps on Tuesday said it had re-signed a long-term contract with Sydney Trains for another two years, with an option for an additional one-year extension.

The contract is valued at $1.5 million per annum.

Sydney Trains employs ComOps’ Microster product to roster its 8,000 customer service, maintenance and operations staff.

It has used ComOps since 2006, and the company says it has made a number of enhancements to the technology over the last 12 months, which it believes give it a major competitive advantage.

ComOps, listed on the ASX, said the Sydney Trains contract greatly enhances its predictable monthly recurring revenue stream.

“ComOps continues to grow its base of predictable, recurring revenue streams with blue chip customers such as Transport NSW,” chief executive officer Chris Fydler said. “Recurring revenue now accounts for almost 65% of our total revenue base.”

The $3 million extension with Sydney Trains comes after ComOps secured a five-year, $1 million contract with the NSW Government bus operator State Transport Authority in May.