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.

TfNSW keen to move on from weekend delays

Transport for NSW says thousands of passengers still made it to major events over the weekend, despite a pair of incidents causing delays across the Sydney Trains network.

Transport on Sunday apologised to commuters affected by delays and information outages starting Friday evening.

Services on the T1 North Shore Line became delayed on Friday night due to an issue with the overhead wires at Wynyard.

“As a result, one train became stuck mid-section outbound between Wynyard and the Harbour Bridge,” Transport said in a statement.

“This required a partial closure of the line between North Sydney and Central stations. Network Control and technicians worked to quickly implement a solution to safely assist customers off that train and to avoid causing further delays to people on nearby services.”

Train services continued with buses supplementing services during the period of the disruption.

Transport said repairs to the overhead wires were carried out overnight and completed by Saturday morning.

In a separate incident, technicians conducting an IT upgrade to increase the speed and capacity across ran into an issue early on Saturday, resulting in some operational systems taking time to come back online.

“The systems affected included passenger information display screens and app updates, network control and crew allocation,” Transport said.

“While IT system upgrades are common and rarely result in disruption, Transport for NSW will investigate the cause to prevent similar instances in the future.”

Transport said despite the delays, thousands of people were delivered to major events, including a Katy Perry concert on Friday night, and the AFL and Bledisloe Cup at Sydney Olympic Park on Saturday.

Nonetheless the RTBU – the train drivers’ union – has called on transport minister Andrew Constance to order a review of the IT issue.

“The situation on Saturday was incredibly difficult for everyone involved, especially for the commuters who were left stranded for hours on end,” RTBU secretary Alex Claassens said.

“It was nice to see the transport minister come out and address the situation and remind commuters that rail workers weren’t to blame for the issues, but what we really need to see now are steps being taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“Commuters and workers not only deserve a detailed explanation as to what went wrong, but also a commitment that everything possible is being done to ensure we won’t see a repeat of the issues in the future.”

Wireless brake-testing developer to target China

A Queensland workshop is promoting its wireless brake-testing system to the Chinese market, thanks in part to State Government grant.

Electronic & Mechanical Calibrations specialises in the sale, repair and calibration of electronic and mechanical instruments, working out of its shop in Clontarf, north of Brisbane.

Founder Carlos Ortega says his company is Australia’s only wireless brake-testing system specialist.

Clients include Queensland Rail, Aurizon, Pacific National and Progress Rail, along with airline industry clients, who can also use the wireless brake-testing technology, Ortega said.

“We are also in discussions with companies in China to export our testing kit for their use there.”

Electronic & Mechanical Calibrations’ brake testers allow operators to take simultaneous brake readings on a laptop from up to 100 metres away from the running wheel.

The company was recently sponsored by the Queensland Government to showcase its technology at the Myriad technology exhibition and conference in Brisbane in May.

Ortega said the opportunity exposed his business to new markets locally, across Australia and around the world.

“We connected with a software supplier that can design dedicated systems for kits that we assemble, and with other firms whose tools we can calibrate,” he added.

Member for Redcliffe Yvette D’Ath said the sponsorship came via the Advancing Regional Innovation Program.

“This wireless brake-testing system is a great example of the clever innovations coming out our community that improve industry across the entire state,” D’Ath said.

“Transport industries now have a better way to check the brakes on their vehicles to ensure the highest level of safety for passengers and employees.

“We’re proud to support innovative companies like this to achieve great things and create sustainable jobs in our community.”

Free parking with Opal: Trial extended to Kogarah

Commuters will be able to use their Opal card to secure 18 hours of free parking at Kogarah station in Sydney’s south, under a Park & Ride trial being conducted by the State Government.

Kogarah will in September join Ashfield as the Sydney train stations being trialled for the free Opal Park & Ride program, after the latter station was entered into the program in May.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the trial would address data showing up to 46% of people who use commuter car parks do not catch public transport.

Under the new program, commuters will be able to use their Opal card to park, for free, for up to 18 hours in one of the assigned commuter car spaces at the train station.

Trials of the scheme at bus Park & Ride facilities on the Northern Beaches have grown the share of commuters using the carparks to 90%.

“We know parking at train stations can be a real issue for customers, with spaces often used by those who aren’t catching public transport,” Berejiklian said on August 4. “But now we can use Opal technology to prioritise those catching a train, bus or ferry.”

State transport minister Andrew Constance said the success of the trial on the Northern Beaches boded well for the scheme across the rail network.

“We have also seen great results at Ashfield [train station] with more than 6,000 customers making use of the free parking in the first full month,” Constance said, “and we expect to see the same great results at Kogarah.”

Kogarah station’s commuter carpark has 348 spaces spread across seven levels.

Understanding fare evasion: New research suggests combined approach

A new Australian study has looked into the complex nature of fare evasion on passenger rail networks, classifying fare evaders into three distinct categories.

New research from Dr Alexa Delbosc and Professor Graham Currie from Monash University’s Department of Civil Engineering responds to a perspective shift toward profiling the fare evader, or understanding the customer motivations to fare evade.

Reviewing past studies from around the globe, and conducting a study of their own on Melbourne’s public transport networks, Delbosc and Currie’s research found that while 20% to 40% of city residents admit to fare evading at some point, their motivations are varied.

The researchers categorised fare evaders into three distinct categories: deliberate, unintentional, and accidental.

Deliberate fare evaders are those who will avoid paying their fare when they view the benefits outweigh the risks.

“Despite making up the lowest percentage of the market, our study in Melbourne found that ‘deliberate’ fare evaders are responsible for the majority fare evasion trips and, by extension, foregone revenue,” Delbosc said.

Unintentional fare evaders are a larger group, but offend less frequently, doing so when they believe their capacity to pay has been made too difficult. Faulty ticket machines and difficult-to-use ticketing systems are examples of the sorts of excuses used by this group.

“We found that ‘unintentional’ evaders are on the fence,” Delbosc explained.

“They want to pay their way but are relatively quick to fare evade if ticketing is made too difficult. Every barrier to easy ticketing – such as complex fare structures, long ticket queues or difficulty ‘topping up’ their smartcard – provides a potential excuse to fare evade in the minds of this group of people.”

Delbosc and Currie’s work looked at creating a demographic profile of those most likely to fare evade, but the researchers point out “this perspective has little use beyond profiling and is ethically questionable”.

Instead, the researchers suggest a combined approach of increased fines for fare evasion – to target the more frequent, deliberate offenders – and new ticketing infrastructure and marketing campaigns – to reduce the amount of unintentional evasion taking place.

The full paper is available here.