Melbourne to trial real-time crowding data

As part of an overhaul of the PTV app, Melbourne commuters will be able to see how full their train is before boarding.

The technology will first undergo a trial with a small group of public transport users on trains and buses in Melbourne.

Data will come from passenger counting sensors and predictive modelling technology and be fed into real-time updates displayed on the PTV app.

Victorian minister for Public Transport and Roads Ben Carroll said the trial will enable passengers to return to public transport safely.

“The coronavirus pandemic has presented an opportunity for us to rethink how we travel around the state – we want these passenger modelling trials to help people travel more reliably and safely,” he said.

“While everyone has been doing the right thing and staying home over the past few months, we’ve been hard at work to make Victorians’ journeys easier and safer as we move towards a COVID Normal world.”

In addition to crowding data, real-time location information on buses and trains will be communicated through the app.

The updated app will also allow travellers to top up their myki cards and view their balance.

New personalisation features include saving home and work locations, searching favourite journeys, stops, and stations, and improved journey planning capabilities for more predictable journeys.

The needs of blind and low-vision passengers have been incorporated in the app’s redesign, and VoiceOver and TalkBack capabilities enable the app to be fully accessible. Neil King, national manager digital access at Vision Australia said the functions would be welcomed by those with a disability.

“Public transport is vital for people with disability. The Department of Transport’s decision to consider accessibility at the outset of the design process means important public transport information is now fully available to all Victorians.”

Based on current trials and feedback further functionality may be added to the app in the future.

Budget should target new projects and upgrades: ARA

New projects and upgrades to existing technology should be considered for funding as part of the federal budget, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Caroline Wilkie has said.

With the budget to be handed down on October 6 and early announcements already coming out, Wilkie said that rail was ready to contribute to Australia’s economic recovery.

“There is a significant pipeline of rail investment that could be fast tracked to generate more jobs and opportunity to support our economic recovery,” said Wilkie.

“This is work that will make a difference right now while leaving a lasting legacy for the cities and towns that benefit from new rail projects.”

A number of rail projects are awaiting federal funding to take the next step. The Melbourne Airport Rail Link will proceed once final funding from the federal government confirmed, as can the resumption of the Murray Basin Rail Project, with a business case sitting with Canberra.

In addition to new construction, funding for technology upgrades such as the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s Advanced Train Management System, would provide long term benefits. Infrastructure upgrades such as level crossing removals are another way the federal government’s funding to rail would conitrbute to wider economic outcomes.

“At a time where we desperately need more people in jobs and more certainty for those rebounding from the economic hardships of the pandemic, we need to see more projects started sooner to build the country back up again,” said Wilkie.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack has indicated that major infrastructure projects will be part of the 2020 budget, however no particular projects have been tipped yet. The federal government has indicated that money allocated to the states for infrastructure will be needed to be spent quickly and may be a condition of further funding.

Next generation height and slew limiters ensure safety in the rail corridor

The new Sentinel Safety product range from PRM Engineering Services includes the latest generation Height and Slew Limiters to allow safe operation around powerlines and within confined spaces. Already in use by rail operators around Australia, the Sentinel Height & Slew range of products can be configured for height only, slew only or height and slew operation to suit your machine or site requirements.

The Sentinel Height and Slew limiters are perfect for the safe operation of excavators, loaders, skid steers and backhoes when working under overhead powerlines, in and around bridges and inside tunnels and can be installed on new and old machines alike. The Sentinel Height and Slew limiters have also been designed with rail operators in mind, with rail specific systems that meet the machine safety requirements of multiple rail authorities.

The Sentinel Height and Slew limiters have been used by rail authorities Australia wide for a several years and can be retrofitted to any machine with articulated booms.  Based on these years of experience PRM Engineering Services has developed several features such as predictive height stopping to prevent overshoot, fail to safe motion stop valving, blade and offset boom stops to ensure the operator cannot inadvertently go over height or slew limits and optional password protected menus for supervisor restricted control of limiter related settings.

PRM has also recently released two new optional features; HV Powerline Detection and Automatic Attachment Recognition. By combining the functionality of our widely used Sentinel Height and Slew limiters with a patented Sentinel HV Aerial Module, the system can ensure safe operation around powerlines from the moment the machine is turned on. The system prevents the machine moving within the exclusion zone around powerlines and motion-cut valving prevents the machine from moving closer while allowing the operator to direct the machine away from the electricity source.

Automatic attachment recognition allows the system to recognise up to seven attachments and automatically adjust height settings for the system without operator input. Automatic attachment recognition reduces the risk of incorrect attachment selection and can be used with or without supervisor approval as required.

Brisbane-based PRM Engineering Services are passionate about safety and have a long-standing heritage of safety system design and installation since 2002. With experience in the rail and earthmoving industries, PRM Engineering Services have become integrators and developers of a number of unique safety and control systems that meet customer requirements. These projects have ranged in scope from customisations of height or slew systems through to full redesign of control systems for on-track rail vehicles. Ongoing local support has been provided by the PRM Engineering team during the testing, installation, and operational phases of the technology.

Along with our team of talented engineers, the PRM Group of companies can also assist with the installation or modification of electrical, hydraulic, and control systems for heavy machinery, enabling PRM Engineering Services to offer end-to end innovative and customised solutions to our wide range of customers.

To find out more follow this link: https://prmengineering.com.au/.

reality modelling

Webinar: Leverage reality modelling for linear infrastructure projects

The use of infrastructure digital twins within the road and rail industry is continuing to gain momentum. The starting point of creating a digital twin is capturing the digital representation of the physical asset, its digital context. This process can involve reality data being captured from many different systems and devices, from planes, drones, and handheld cameras to terrestrial laser scanners and mobile mapping systems.

This webinar will explore how Bentley’s reality modelling solutions can help you capture, manage, analyse and share this real-world digital context to accelerate decision making during the design, construction and operations phases of large-scale civil infrastructure projects.

In this webinar learn about:

• The benefits of reality modelling for Road and Rail
• How to capture, manage, analyse and share your reality data
• Insights from existing local and international industry use cases
• Live Q&A with local reality modelling experts.

Register for the live webinar here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_EUYrlSHbRwKnKSWmzWe67Q.

Cloud

Data-driven maintenance: taking rail profiling to the cloud

Lifting data from the digital grave and into the cloud has opened up possibilities for rail maintenance. Autech explains how.

Twenty years ago, Swiss rail maintenance machine manufacturer Autech began providing its customers with an innovative way to measure their tracks. Using electronic measurement data collected by maintenance and measurement machines, rail infrastructure owners and operators could see the cross-sections of their rails, enabling an understanding of the wear and tear of this critical infrastructure.

Despite having this data on hand, CTO of Autech, Peter Merz found that it was not being put to use.

“What we saw is then they piled up the data, they printed it out and put it in the archive, and basically this data was lost.”

While some aggregated data was put into enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, the fine-grain measurements that could provide a maintenance engineer with insights were unavailable.

“The individual measurements were deleted or put in a storage system and were buried in the digital grave,” said Merz.

Having had this experience, Merz and the team at Autech began working on creating a cloud-based solution that would enable rail engineers to easily make use of the data they were collecting. The software system they developed has been named RailCloud.

“RailCloud really plots the view of the maintenance field engineers, so they can see their track, the overall condition of the track, but also the data on the individual section, even a single cross-section measurement,” said Merz.

RailCloud takes measurements collected in the field and combines them in a single, analysable database that is presented based on the geography of the rail track. The software’s base layer is a map of the system, and asset data stored in the cloud is overlaid on that map.

“It starts with the topography, the mapping, so the field engineer can go to this crossing, this intersection and so on. This is connected to the measurement systems, so the measurement systems automatically upload data, located by GPS,” said Merz.

“You can connect your measurement equipment to your network environment, so the data is automatically sorted, assigned, and allocated.”

The cloud-based software can then assign work orders and maintenance tasks based on thresholds set by the operator. In addition, having the data collected together, operators can now begin to predict rates of wear and trends, enabling predictive maintenance regimes.

“Of course, it’s a continuous thing – every year you make the measurements, every year you plan your maintenance. But with RailCloud we kept it quite light weight to make it simple and smart. You really can work on a daily basis with it, collecting measurement data, network, topology, workflows. Then you get data driven maintenance.”

DATA FROM THE SOURCE
To collect data on track condition and wear rates, Autech have recently developed RailXS, bringing together 30 years of rail measurement knowledge.

“The big advantage is it is very lightweight, it’s about 60-70kg and it can be mounted on any suitable rollingstock equipment,” said Merz. “This can be a dedicated equipment, it can be a small trolley, it can be an existing maintenance rollingstock, but it also can be a regular rollingstock.”

By mounting on regular rollingstock, measurement does not have to wait for track maintenance periods or shutdowns and can be done many times in one day.

The data is collected through laser optical sensors, which can record track parameters and the rail profile. Data is then automatically uploaded to the cloud platform RailCloud either via WiFi or a mobile internet connection. If this is not available, the data is stored and then uploaded once the vehicle returns to the depot or an area of internet connectivity. Before uploading, the measurement data is tagged with a location, either through GPS locating or RFID readers. Having these automatic systems means the data is ready to be utilised by the rail maintenance engineer, rather than having to be sorted or allocated.

“By transferring the data into the RailCloud it’s automatically allocated, you don’t have to work again. You can introduce filters to smoothen, aggregate, or transfer the data, or to do additional calculations, but the real key is to automatically map the data to your network and then there is no manual interaction needed again,” said Merz.

THE KEY TO PREDICTIVE MAINTENANCE
During the development process, the focus for RailCloud was to keep the software as lightweight as the measurement systems that supported it. This has enabled the software to be adopted by smaller operators, without the need for expensive experts and consultants to set up the system. Already, the system is in use on the tram networks of Zürich and Amsterdam where it has driven smarter maintenance practices.

“In Zürich, one of the departments wanted to do a replacement and the maintenance department said no we don’t need this replacement yet,” said Merz. “Using the RailCloud data they could prove that instead of a replacement being due every 5 years, it’s only in 12 years. RailCloud is driving fact- based decisions.”

Due to its flexibility, and the lack of a need for scheduled measurements by specialised vehicles, RailCloud can help operators take the next step to predictive maintenance.

“The big advantage is that you don’t measure every five years or every three years, you can regularly measure four times a year or even once a month,” said Merz. “You can set your intervals according to your needs, but in fact if you measure five times a year or 12 times a year, you have much better prognosis points of your wear rates.”

As wear rates are not linear, having more data points can enable a clearer picture of the wear curve to appear than what would be possible if measurements are only conducted every few years, said Merz.

“If you measure once a month you really see the trend or the curve, of your wear rate, and you see also deviation or if it changes in behaviour. That’s a big advantage, not just to know the state the track is in but what will happen.

“It’s the key to go into predictive maintenance.”

Fibre optic network in WA rail easements takes next step forward

A project to install fibre optic cables along nearly 5,000km of rail easements has taken a major step forward to construction.

The project, called WA SuperNet is now seeking private sector funding and engagement with Infrastructure WA and Infrastructure Australia to cover the project’s $160 million cost.

Once completed, fibre optic cables will run alongside 4,700km of Arc Infrastructure’s rail track throughout WA’s grain belt.

In addition to providing connectivity for rural businesses and communities, the fibre optic cables will future proof the freight rail network, allowing for communications and the future installation of in-cab signalling, when required. Further developments such as real-time video feeds could also be supported with the fibre optic network.

Fibre optic connections are already in use on the South West main line to support rail communication between Perth and Bunbury.

Arc Infrastructure have supported the project so far with $10m in capital contributions. CEO Murray Cook is a board member of WA SuperNet and said the company was getting behind improving regional connectivity.

“Arc Infrastructure has submitted the WA SuperNet Grainbelt Digital Enhancement Project as part of Infrastructure WA’s Discussion Paper consultation process. We are fully supportive of the focus on regional digital connectivity in IWA’s Discussion Paper and look forward to supporting the development of the 20-year State Infrastructure Strategy,” said Cook.

WA SuperNet will now begin discussions with telecommunication operators to establish partnerships to develop the infrastructure.

WA SuperNet Chairman Tim Shanahan said the installation of the technology would improve the rollout of connected technologies.

“We believe that fibre optic cable is the solution and is a proven technology that will future proof the Grainbelt of Western Australia and WA SuperNet has gathered significant support for this solution,” he said.

app

App improves track access safety protocols

Metro Trains Melbourne has released a new app to more safely and effectively manage track access.

The Work on Track app enables employees and contractors to determine the safest way to access track across the Metro network on a mobile, tablet, or desktop device.

Based on data collected by Metro trains that is then presented through a web-based map, the app generates the most appropriate track protection option and excludes unsuitable options.

According to Metro CEO Raymond O’Flaherty, the app reduces more inefficient processes.

“The track access process is largely paper-based across the Australian rail industry, so we created a smarter and simpler way to complete the maintenance that our passengers rely on for a reliable journey,” he said.

In developing the app, existing processes were inputted as requirements. Users must follow a workflow to deliver against those requirements.

Asset data is mapped to a GIS base map that includes geographic features. The app takes into account maximum line speed, structures, gradient, and curves in the corridor to determine whether there is adequate line of sight. If the app determines that the site does not meet the line of sight requirements or in more complex areas, users can select lookout-only protection.

With the technology now in use, contractors and Metro staff have been able to reduce the use of lookout only protection, indicating that safer options are being used.

“This shows it is already helping us to manage our safety risks,” said O’Flaherty. “And using the app before our crews arrive onsite allows us to get works started and completed faster while keeping our people, passengers and plant safe.”

Green and red sections indicate if minimum line of sight can be achieved.
Wellington

Wellington to investigate Snapper smart card on trains

Wellington will investigate allowing rail commuters to use Snapper cards to pay for their journeys.

Currently, passengers using trains in Wellington must pay either with cash on board or with pre-purchased paper tickets. Bus passengers can use the Snapper smart card.

According to Greater Wellington Council transport committee chair Roger Blakeley, the move to investigate Snapper payments on trains has arisen due to the experience of COVID-19 and the ability of smart cards to be used for contact tracing on public transport.

“As we saw with the alert levels we need to have safe contactless methods of payment available across the region’s network sooner rather than later. Enhancing fare collection efficiency also aligns with the future of national ticketing and the Council’s longstanding vision for a world-class integrated public transport network with high levels of accessibility, quality, reliability and flexibility,” said Blakeley.

Wellington is also looking to prevent revenue loss through the adoption of smarter ticketing.

Customers have also indicated a preference for payments with smart card technology, with satisfaction with payment services higher on buses, where Snapper can be used, than trains, said Metlink general manager Scott Gallacher.

“Our focus is on providing better services to passengers and, in our regular customer satisfaction survey, passengers tell us that convenience of paying is an area we can improve on with 68 per cent of rail passengers currently satisfied compared to 78 per cent with our bus passengers. Clearly there’s room for improvement here and Snapper on rail could have a profound impact,” said Gallacher.

Customer benefits such as fare discounts, faster boarding, and greater convenience and tracking of spend would flow from a smart card system.

A national ticketing solution (NTS) is currently being developed for New Zealand by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) Waka Kotahi and implementing Snapper infrastructure for trains would also allow for the transition to a national ticketing system once it is completed.

Torrens Connect

Torrens Connect takes on Adelaide tram operations

Torrens Connect has now assumed control over operations of Adelaide’s tram network and selected bus lines.

Announced as the successful tenderer for the outsourced operation of Adelaide’s tram services and some bus services in March, Torrens Connect took over operations from July 5 under an eight year contract.

The consortium of Torrens Transit, UGL Rail Services, and John Holland partnered with technology provider Trapeze Group to smoothen the transition process, occurring during the height of COVID-19.

Trapeze worked with Torrens Connect through the bid process and roll out of services, said Ben Dvoracek, Trapeze general manager for rail in Australia and New Zealand.

“We are proud to be part of this changeover, with Torrens Connect selecting Trapeze Group for both the bidding process and long-term roll-out of the planning and scheduling software solution. It was a pleasure to work with the team and facilitate implementation in less than four weeks.”

Trapeze, which provides planning and scheduling platforms as well as enterprise asset management and intelligent transport systems solutions for rail operators, was used to test plans ahead of operations. This testing and modelling process ensured that the transition occurred without any disruption or delay to services, schedules, or rosters. Torrens Connect staff received training from Trapeze locally to enable the smooth handover.

“Using the Trapeze software to run simulation models, Torrens Connect provided accurate optimised timetables that were quickly implemented without impacting operations,” said John Holland service delivery manager Rachel Parkin.

The contract covers 24 tram sets, 200 buses, and employment of over 250 staff.

As part of the privatisation of Adelaide’s public transport, operators are expected to undertake service improvements, with public consultation held earlier in 2020.