John Anderson - Toowoomba City Council

Anderson calls for rail innovation

Australian Centre for Rail Innovation (ACRI) boss John Anderson says innovation in the rail industry could be the key to the future prosperity of Australia’s logistics sector.

“For every kilogram of weight removed from a locomotive, you can add another kilogram of goods,” Anderson told the Australian Logistics Council’s annual forum last week.

“When carriages are made stronger and lighter, again more freight can be carried.”

Addressing some 400 guests at the ALC forum, Anderson said alternative materials that do not compromise safety, performance, recyclability or add to maintenance costs present great opportunities for rail and more research into materials technology is needed.

Given Australia’s world-leading position in the area of heavy haul, he said, export opportunities await.

As well as research into materials technology, Anderson believes further nuanced research is needed to highlight the safety and economic gains before governments and the public can be persuaded of the case for change and the case for investing.

“When the research base is persuasive, a national bipartisan rail policy is more likely to emerge. That will benefit all in the industry and, more importantly, consumers and business who directly or indirectly use rail.”

Anderson said more research was also needed in areas of:

  • track conditioning monitoring
  • technologies for improving rolling stock performance
  • new technologies for improving worker and passenger safety and operational efficiency
  • improving transport mobility in urban centres
  • economic analysis for calculation projections for population and freight movements for planning purposes
  • calculating the costs and efficiency of links between rail and other modes of transport

The former deputy prime minister stressed the importance of concentrating on where rail does well or where expansion will pay off rather than wasting resources, saying: “You can only make that judgement after the research has been done”.

“Australian rail manufacturing faces strong competition,” he added, “particularly from China, and suffers from inadequate infrastructure, historic under-investment and the legacy of interstate rivalry.

“This is perhaps why the case for research into better methods is more pressing.”

Anderson said ACRI hopes to “publish research to the widest possible audience and to contribute more broadly to the Australian and New Zealand public debate about rail transport and transport more broadly, with the aim of delivering economic and safety benefits to the whole community”.

He argued that rail needs national standards and national regulation in matters like product approval and validation, bidding processes, safety, wayside energy storage, data and communication, intermodal cargo handling, electronic systems, and risk management.

ACRI was launched in 2014 to build upon the research base generated by the Cooperative Research Centre for Rail Innovation, which was part of the Federal Government’s general program of scientific research and ended after seven years on June 30, 2014.


Originally published in Lloyd’s List Australia.

SA train derailmend April 2014. Photo: ATSB

SA derailment: ATSB says ARTC risk control ‘ineffective’

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has found that the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s risk control processes were ineffective in the lead-up to a derailment in South Australia midway through last year.

Early in the morning of April 10, 2014, SCT Logistics train 3MP9 derailed after travelling over track that had been undercut by floodwaters near a culvert between Tarcoola and Malbooma, SA.

Around 300 metres behind the lead loco, 18 wagons derailed, with eight rolling onto their sides.

SA derailment. Photo - ATSB
Photo: ATSB

 

There were no injuries to the crew or bystanders, but there was significant damage to the track, rolling stock and freight goods, according to the bureau.

What the ATSB found during its investigation launched shortly after the incident, was that floodwaters caused scouring of the track formation, compromising its capacity to support the train.

The ATSB determined that runoff from the heavy rain that had fallen in the catchment area adjacent to Malbooma on April 9, 2014, caused a flash flood event.

“The volume of floodwater exceeded the capacity of a double drainage culvert designed for a 1:50 year average flood recurrence interval,” the ATSB said in its report, released yesterday.

“This resulted in water overtopping the track formation with ballast and sub-grade scouring on the south side of the track.”

As a result of the scouring, the track couldn’t support the train in certain areas. The resulting deformation caused the derailment, according to the bureau.

 

Role of the ARTC

According to the report, Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) risk control processes were ineffective in developing and implementing changes to operational procedures from the findings of previous incident investigations.

“The ARTC did not have a comprehensive system in place to identify and actively manage the risks to their network from severe weather events, and had not established a register for recording ‘special locations’ for the management of track infrastructure prone to flooding,” the bureau found.

There were no anomalies found with the operation of the train or the condition of rolling stock before the derailment.

SA derailment. Photo: ATSB
Photo: ATSB

 

As a result of the investigation, the ARTC has implemented Operational Procedure OPP-01-05 ‘Monitoring and Responding to Extreme Weather Events in the East-West Corridor’ and has purchased and installed remote weather monitoring and recording stations at Barton, Cook, Rawlinna and Zanthus, according to the ATSB.

Automated alerts will be provided by the weather stations, which will be linked to the Early Warning Network.

The ARTC has also installed four water flow monitors at culverts identified through a hydrology study of the Trans Australia Railway. Field evaluation of this equipment is currently being undertaken.

The ARTC is also optimising its inspection and maintenance activities with upgrades to its electronic asset management system underway. This process will include the recording of ‘special locations’ affected by severe weather events.

“To ensure that the safety of rail operations is not compromised during severe weather events, it is essential that rail transport operators have robust and responsive systems in place to actively monitor and manage the foreseeable risks,” the safety bureau concluded.

Click to view the full ATSB report.

Mineral Resources bulk ore transport system BOTS

MinRes boss comments on ‘iron ore monorail’

Chris Ellison, managing director of Mineral Resources, has spoken publicly about the company’s ambitious plan to construct a first-of-its-kind, driverless monorail for iron ore transport in the Pilbara.

The bulk ore transport system (BOTS) was described by Mineral Resources in its half yearly presentation late in February as “occupying a niche between heavy rail and conveyor”.

“BOTS is an autonomous system utilising electrically powered, purpose designed wagons to transport bulk ore materials.”

The first instance of BOTS, which is set to be built for BC Iron’s Iron Valley mine – but will have around 30mtpa of excess capacity for third parties – will consist of 13 bottom-dumper wagons and one ‘power car’ per set, with each wagon bearing a 15 tonne payload.

Each 2km driverless train will consist of 20 to 24 sets, which translates to between 260 and 312 wagons, and up to 4600 tonnes in total payload.

BOTS will be able to travel at 80km/h fully loaded, will have fully redundant communications, and will be controlled via a remote operations control centre, Mineral Resources said in February.

Despite being a line of wagons on rails, Mineral Resources insists BOTS is not simply a ‘railway’, with the distinction coming down to how the wagons are moved.

“Unlike a railway system, BOTS does not rely upon a locomotive to pull the wagons,” the company explained, “but instead utilises a diesel/LNG powered electricity generation system that distributes electricity to the individual wagons for self-propulsion.

“BOTS vehicles will move on a purpose built, elevated structure that will pass over existing road and rail infrastructure and will not impact existing surface water flows.”

Road and rail crossings, as well as creek crossings, will be navigated by 45m span trusses up to 10m high. Creek crossings will be reinforced for high flow and debris protection.

Mineral Resources thinks the BOTS can “revolutionise” transport of bulk ore, by offering a cost effective solution in the face of the iron ore price slump, while also being environmentally responsible, and focusing on a reduced development footprint, and an easy removal down the line.

Ellison, in an interview with Fairfax this week, said the project was designed to be a solution for miners when – as he believes – the iron ore price drops below US$50 a tonne.

“We want to make money when iron ore is sub-US$50 a tonne and we want our clients to as well,” Ellison was quoted as saying by the AFR.

“What we really think we can do is help Australian mining get down to the lower quartile [in terms of costs]. What it needs to be is Australia competing with other countries, not each other, if we want to make Australia wealthy.

“If iron ore is going to China and Japan, it’s better if it’s Australian iron ore.”

The first BOTS project will provide 12mtpa of capacity for BC Iron’s mine, Iron Valley – a 331km journey from the export facilities at Port Hedland.

“Other mines along the route could add an extra 30mtpa of iron ore,” Mineral Resources said in February, with “discussions in progress” relating to that capacity.

The company hopes to start work on the project by the end of this year. It hopes to handle the first Iron Valley ore on BOTS by mid-2017. It says the WA government has been positive in its response to BOTS.

If the ambitious Pilbara project goes ahead, and is successful, Mineral Resources says it has “wide-spread potential applications” across the entire bulk commodities industry.

Parramatta Station

Network struggles force Baird to offer only modest rail promise

NSW premier Mike Baird and transport minister Gladys Berejiklian have promised two extra express services in the morning on the train line between Parramatta and the City, but say they will have to upgrade the network before that can be delivered.

Baird and Berejiklian on Monday vowed to invest in new infrastructure, signalling and power supply in Western Sydney, allowing for the extra train services, but Berejiklian later told the media that this would likely mean the extra services – two each morning; totalling ten a week – wouldn’t be online until 2016 or 2017.

“We’re focused on improving the lives of people across NSW and a priority is delivering fast, reliable and convenient public transport services,” Baird said.

“Labor slashed hundreds of rail services in government and left public transport in a complete mess.”

Baird explained that “significant infrastructure” is needed to deliver the additional train services, including upgrading signalling between Westmead and Granville, power upgrades and more tracks at Parramatta for extra trains. Work is expected to take two to three years.

Berejiklian said these projects make up the first stage of the Western Sydney Rail Upgrade Program, a multi-billion dollar project promised by the Baird Government which will deliver more trains services to Western Sydney.

“The additional express services are just the beginning of benefits that will be realised through the government’s plans,” Berejiklian said.

“A fast-tracked Second Harbour Crossing and Western Sydney Rail upgrade will allow us to deliver a 60% increase in capacity throughout the network, moving an extra 100,000 people per hour.”

Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee said the extra express train services from Parramatta to the CBD will no doubt be extremely popular with locals.

“This is fantastic news for the Parramatta community – I know so many people will benefit from these express services and have more time to spend with family and friends,” Lee said.

“The Baird Government has delivered major improvements across public transport and we are listening to the community and will continue to deliver what they want.”

‘Near miss’ videos aim to shock

British Transport Police has made waves online with its new YouTube series featuring near misses around rail level crossings in the UK, as part of a new campaign to raise awareness to the dangers of rail.

‘Operation Look’ is the BTP’s program aimed at reducing the amount of accidents and near misses that occur every year at level crossings in Britain.

BTP’s YouTube channel has received thousands of views so far this week, as it has uploaded a number of videos from CCTV and other cameras, which have captured nearly catastrophic near-misses at rail crossings.

The series can be viewed here.

Also as part of Operation Look, BTP officers will be carrying out additional high-visibility patrols at a number of locations this week, but it’s BTP’s YouTube channel which is getting more attention.

During 2014, 337 motorists failed to obey warning lights or lowering barriers at level crossings in Scotland alone – where the BTP is focusing its awareness operation.

“Many of these drivers had got into the habit of deliberately misusing crossings, with figures showing people of all ages willing to risk their lives to shave a few minutes off their journey,” BTP said.

BTP’s inspector Becky Warren said: “All too often people get into the habit of taking risks at crossings and our message is simple. Use crossings safely.

“It may be tempting to jump a light to shave a minute or two off your journey, but every time you do, you endanger your life and the lives of other road and rail users. Fail to obey the signals and you may also end up with a driving ban or a criminal record. Is it really worth the risk?”

“Level crossings create a risk for people that we want to remove. Where possible we close them, and we have already closed more than 900 in the past five years,” said Darren Furness, head of level crossings for Network Rail, which is joining BTP in the awareness campaign.

“Those we cannot close we aim to make safer and awareness events like these mean we can meet and talk to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians about the dangers and how to stay safe.”

Downer lands $1bn deal with Pacific National

Australian engineering group Downer EDI has won a ten-year maintenance contract with rail operator Pacific National, that the engineer values at around $1bn.

Downer announced to the ASX today that it had struck a deal with Pacific National, a subsidiary business of transport and infrastructure business Asciano.

Downer chief executive Grant Fenn said the agreement was an important development in Downer Rail’s aim to provide “total rail asset solutions” to its customers.

“Under the agreement, Downer will provide a full suite of asset management services for over 300 Pacific National locomotives,” Fenn said.

“This includes a range of scheduled and unscheduled maintenance services and a 24 hour Fleet Control Centre.

“The new features of the agreement include remote monitoring of the assets and inspections while in service to ensure more locomotives are available for service,” he continued.

“The locomotives are out on the tracks for longer hours and that they run at higher levels of reliability.”

Pacific National moves roughly 145mt of cargo each year. The company delivers rail operations for coal and other bulk solids, as well as container transport and specialised freight, such as steel.

The Pacific National deal announced today was the second bulk handling contract win for Downer so far this year. The company announced on January 5 that it had won a deal to maintain haul truck fleets at two coal mines in Queensland’s Bowen Basin.

That contract commenced on February 1, and is worth about $60m. Around 110 people will be employed to service 90 haul trucks.

Sydney Train

Rolling stock defect detector wins award

Sydney Trains has won an award for an innovative system that is installed on the track to provide early detection of rolling stock defects.

The Project Management Achievement Award, in the Developmental Projects category at the 2014 Australian Institute of Project Management’s NSW Chapter, was awarded for Sydney Trains Third Generation Hot Box Detector Systems Project.

The awards were opened by NSW governor Marie Bashir.The Third Generation Hot Box Detector Systems Project was delivered by the Sydney Trains Maintenance Directorate’s Operational Technology team.

Part of a suite of condition monitoring systems, Hot Box Detector systems are installed on the track to provide early detection of rolling stock defects, so they can be rectified before they damage rolling stock and infrastructure, or pose a risk to public safety.

The Third Generation Hot Box Detector Systems project was particularly complex as it involved the introduction of new technology, was multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder, had safety and operational impacts, and was industrially sensitive, Sydney Trains said.

Nonetheless, the project was delivered on time and under budget, a factor the state government agency said demonstrated its capability in project managing the procurement, trial and rollout of the latest technology to enhance network safety and service reliability.

Project manager Codruta Bastucescu accepted the award on behalf of Sydney Trains.“I was very grateful for the opportunity to manage this project. Like all disciplinary projects, it was a great team effort involving over 100 people over the course of five years. I was honoured to accept the award on behalf of Sydney Trains,” Codruta said.

Recognising 40 years of railway innovation

Australia’s premier applied research centre in railway technology last week celebrated four decades of innovative solutions in mining and commuter rail systems.

A Celebration of 40 Years of Railway Research andTechnology was held last Thursday at the Park Hyatt, Melbourne, to celebrate the 40 years of railway research and technology by Monash University’s Institute of Railway Technology (IRT).

Originally part of research activities undertaken for the companies now known as BHP Billiton Iron Ore and Rio Tinto Iron Ore, IRT is now an applied research centre at Monash University. It provides technical assistance to the world’s three biggest iron ore producers, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Vale (Brazil), and more than 90 other railway entities, including leading commuter rail authorities.

IRT, which has clients in several countries, specialises in providing comprehensive solutions to technical issues in existing rail systems, whether they transport iron ore, freight or commuters. IRT is also a leader in remotely monitoring tracks and rolling stock using cutting-edge technology to detect faults before catastrophic failures occur.

Monash University’s senior deputy vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor (research) Professor Edwina Cornish, congratulated IRT on leading the Australian railway technology field for four decades.

“The Institute of Railway Technology is a great example of how universities and industry can collaborate to develop solutions that drive technology forward,” Prof Cornish said.

“IRT was born out of industry need and now real-world problems continue to drive its agenda.”

Director of IRT, Ravi Ravitharan, said the institute was set to build on its success.

“IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements of the rail industry,” Ravitharan said.

“Being part of Australia’s largest university, IRT is well-placed to continue to lead the railway research and technology needs of the rejuvenated railway industry.”

The Victorian minister for public transport Terry Mulder, delivered the keynote address at the gala dinner and general manager of infrastructure at the Hong Kong rail authority MTR, Richard Keefe, and rail engineering manager at Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Leland LeBreton, both long term clients of IRT, also spoke at the event.

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | Newcastle City Hall
www.informa.com.au/heavyhaulrail

IRT: leading technology development for mining

While the Australian economy is enjoying a fortunate position due to the thriving mining industry, research and technology have been integral factors which have enabled the mining industry to reach its current position.

As part of one of the main technology service providers for the railway industry, the personnel at the Institute of Railway Technology (IRT) at Monash University have been supporting the mining industry’s railway operations over the last four decades. IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements at the same time as reducing risks and costs, ultimately improving the bottom line of their clients.

The latest technology IRT has developed is the instrumented revenue vehicle which is a fully flexible automated measurement platform to continuously monitor and provide feedback on both rail condition and train operation. This technology is designed to be installed in standard vehicles which are embedded within a normal operation.

The IRT instrumented vehicle technology has several key advantages over previous maintenance inspection methods. With the objective of increasing production rates, mining operations are often under pressure to reduce railway track downtime. The ramifications of reducing track downtime are that it would minimize traditional track measurements and maintenance activities. This could result in a significant increase in operational risks because of a lack of maintenance and an inability to identify deterioration of track condition in a timely manner.

IRT’s instrumented vehicle technology measures the condition of a railway system during normal rail operations without requiring any track downtime. In addition, IRT’s technology measures the dynamic responses of normal vehicles during loaded and empty operating conditions under standard speed profiles. Unlike previous track recording vehicle measurements, IRT technology measurements are a direct indication of the loads being imposed on the rail network in a usual operating environment.

By Ravi Ravitharan*

It is also important to note that the information collected using the IRT’s instrumented vehicletechnology is available for railway operations within a twelve hour period. It is anticipated that in the near future real time reporting of track and train related issues would be also available.

The above technology is widely used in railway systems in mining operations and now available to all railway operations including passenger and freight, to assist with both track and rolling stock management.

The IRT instrumented vehicle technology measurements have shown an excellent correlation with track inspector findings. Now these measurements are being used extensively for track maintenance activities, and to restrict line speed to mitigate damage to and risk from deterioration of the track structure.

Assessment of the effectiveness of maintenance operations, operational planning and maintenance programming are other benefits of the new technology IRT has developed.

IRT’s instrumented vehicle technology has also been used for analysis of train driving strategies and in-train forces, train driver training, derailment investigations, analysis of the dynamic effect on bridges, dumper indexing for minimization of coupler loads and assistance with the design of new rolling stock.

IRT, the premier track and vehicle railway engineering research centre in Australia, focuses on developing new technologies that could be integrated into existing processes to provide rail operators with the ability to effectively manage their resources.

*Ravi Ravitharan is director, Institute of Railway Technology, Monash University

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | City Hall Newcastle
For more information email: kara.clifton@informa.com.au

Wireless technology boosts Tasmanian level crossing safety

An intelligent wireless advance warning and safety system, SafeZone, that is beyond Australian safety standards has been installed at 13 level crossings across Tasmania.

The Federally funded $4m project, delivered by the Tasmanian Government in conjunction with TasRail, provides wireless roadside active advance warning signs with twin flashing lights around 200-300 metres in advance of the level crossings, and in-road centreline alert beacons between the advance warning sign and the crossing.

Australian company, Inventis Technology, which developed SafeZone over the past two years, said the key to the technology was that it addressed basic human behaviour, rather than being a variant on existing static roadside or over-road signs.

Inventis Technology national sales manager Peter Macarthur said the key to SafeZone was that it addressed basic human behaviour, rather than being a variant on existing static roadside or over-road signs.

“SafeZone places the key element of a warning system in a driver’s and their passengers’ field of vision where it is more likely to be acknowledged. It more instinctively ‘switches on’ a person’s ‘alert state’,” Macarthur said.

“By doing this repeatedly and in plenty of time to elicit a response, SafeZone is hoped to become an important part of the rail safety improvement in all states.”

Macarthur said that discussions are underway with a number of transport authorities to deploy thetechnology for use at dangerous level crossings and the overhwleming response has been that thetechnology fits well with current holistic, integrated approaches to safety improvement.

“Now is the time for Australian Transport Council members and representatives to truly assess for themselves the safety and behavioural impact SafeZone is having on road and rail users in Tasmania,” Macarthur said.

SafeZone been installed at level crossings across Tasmania including Tea Tree, Evandale, Perth, Conara, Colebrook, Avoca, Ormley, Burnie, Highclere and Hampshire.