Queensland Labor promises $1bn pipeline of local train manufacturing

The Queensland Labor government has promised that if returned at the upcoming state election it would create a $1 billion rail manufacturing pipeline in Maryborough.

Labor would purchase 20 new trains at a cost of $600 million to be built in Maryborough. This is in addition to the $300m, 10-year pipeline of maintenance work of the existing Queensland Rail fleet and the $85m invested in refurbishing the New Generation Rollingstock to make the trains compliant with the Disability Act.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also announced $1m for a business case for the replacement of regional carriages, which is expected to lead to $150m in works also delivered by Downer.

“This $1 billion train building program heralds a new and ambitious chapter for manufacturing, not just for Maryborough, but for Queensland,” said Palaszczuk.

“This long-term future pipeline of work means there will be rewarding long-term career paths for our young people in trades like boilermaking, fitter machining and as electricians.”

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie said the investment highlighted Australia’s local manufacturing capabilities.

“This commitment would transform the face of Queensland manufacturing and shows once and for all that trains can and should be built here in Australia,” said Wilkie.

“We are pleased this commitment has recognised Australia’s extensive expertise in the field and the need to invest to this scale in the local industry.”

Queensland Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the tender process would require the trains to be built in Maryborough.

“Train manufacturers will be invited to bid in a procurement process to build the next fleet of passenger trains in Maryborough, with an order for 20 new six-car trains needed to support more frequent services once Cross River Rail opens in 2025,” he said.

“The initial order could be followed with an option to build up to 45 additional six-car trains in Maryborough, to meet future demand on the Citytrain network.”

In addition to trains built in Queensland for the Queensland network, Perth’s B-Series trains were manufactured in Maryborough.

Queensland’s latest train fleet, the New Generation Rollingstock, were manufactured overseas, however whilst compliant with the specification under which they were ordered, had to be retrofitted to meet Australian accessibility requirements

“This investment in rail manufacturing would ensure the trains operating on the state’s newest passenger rail line are absolutely fit for purpose and made for Australian conditions by the people that know them best,” said Wilkie.

Warrnambool Line upgrades

Warrnambool line track and signalling upgrades commence

Signalling and track infrastructure upgrades on the Warrnambool Line have begun.

The jointly funded, state and federal project aims to enable more services to run between Warrnambool and Geelong, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“It’s pleasing to see this vital project get underway, with signalling upgrades and a crossing loop at Boorcan to play a key part in boosting reliability of the line and allowing more services to be introduced,” McCormack said.

“The addition of the crossing loop will boost the number of services to the line, benefiting a growing number of regional travellers.”

The first works underway involve the installation of underground cabling to enable signalling upgrades along the line.

The construction of a 2.2km passing loop between Boorcan Road and Oswell Road in Boorcan will begin in the coming weeks.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said the entire program would be finished in late 2021.

“Thanks to these upgrades, passengers on the Warrnambool Line will benefit from a much-needed fifth weekday return service, providing extra travel options for people in Victoria’s South West,” Allan said.

Rail Projects Victoria awarded Downer the contract to carry out the works, in addition to its work on the Geelong line.

Other upgrades along the Warrnambool line have just completed, with the renovation of 12 level crossings now complete. Crossings had new boom gates, bells, lights, and better train detection technology fitted.

Federal Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said the work was completed while minimising the threat of any spread of COVID-19.

“More than 170 workers have been involved in the level crossing upgrades since works began in January, with V/Line crews working around 28,500 hours under modified conditions to reduce the spread of coronavirus.”

Patronage on the line has grown steadily over the past years, with patronage on the adjoining Geelong line growing significantly, by 131.5 per cent from 2014-15 to 2018-19.

State Member for Western Victoria Gayle Tierney said the improvements would benefit the region.

“With work on signalling and the crossing loop now underway residents can soon expect more frequent services and better reliability,” she said.

“This project is also providing jobs for people in the region, which is especially important during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Automated, continuous process for embedded rail track receives research funding

A $4 million Australian research project will look to automate the construction of embedded rail track (ERT), with the potential to apply the technology in the construction of heavy-haul and high-speed rail.

The project has received $1.5 million in funding through the federal government’s Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) grant scheme, as well as cash and in-kind contribution from the research partners.

Currently, ERT is only used in limited lengths due to the high cost and length of time that it takes to lay the concrete-embedded slab track. However, ERT is much safer than regular ballasted track, and with fewer components, needs less regular maintenance.

The University of Wollongong (UoW) is one of the project participants and project leader Philip Commins from UoW said the project would look to utilise advanced robotics to lay the track. Over the course of the project, the team from UoW will be looking into how this technology can be used to lay slab track with millimetre-level accuracy.

“Do you need multiple robots, or, is there another process to do this? Do you need material handling or is there another process where you remove material rather than trying to hold material, or add material in place? There’s a whole host of ideas that we’re going to be investigating to find which one works best and how do we then proceed to make this process robust in a harsh Australian environment,” said Commins.

With ERT laid in concrete, there is less room for error in construction than when construction ballasted track. In the current manual process, this need for accuracy means that track is laid in 50 metre segments. To overcome this, one area the project will explore will be how to continuously lay ERT.

“Ultimately we think that to drive down the cost the time of installation we want to do this in a continuous fashion,” said Commins. “We want to say, ‘We’re starting here today and we need to get to there by the end of today,’ and the machine ideally shouldn’t stop.”

To get to this goal, the research project will take two years to identify challenges, and find the hardware and software solutions required, as well as the needs for materials and logistics.

The project also involves the University of Technology Sydney, Downer, Embedded Rail Technology, and Antoun Civil.

Rail Manufacturing CRC

Closure of Rail Manufacturing CRC leaves room for R&D investment

The Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) held its last event on June 25 and officially closed on July 1 leaving a gap in the Australian rail industry’s research and development landscape.

Established in 2014, the Rail Manufacturing CRC has left a legacy in the form of new products for commercialisation, including passenger information systems installed at Wynyard Station in Sydney and prototypes of supercapacitor control systems and composite brake discs.

Stuart Thomson, Rail Manufacturing CRC CEO, said that more work needs to be done to build off the centre’s successes.

“New models of cooperation between industry and researchers, individual state governments and the Commonwealth Government will need to be explored. A national strategy for rail and rail innovation would be a great impetus for ensuring a future innovative rail sector.”

Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), said that the CRC’s work is already having an impact.

“The Rail Manufacturing CRC has worked alongside rail manufacturers and operators to deliver new technology and innovation that will make a real difference to the industry,” said Wilkie.

“The CRC’s collaborative focus has delivered some great results and the team can be very proud of its record of achievement.”

With the CRC now closed and no immediate plans for a replacement, Wilkie notes there is more need than ever for support for collaboration between industry and research organisations.

“New funding is now essential to keep the focus on technology and innovation in rail.”

Thomson said that with the current levels of investment in rail, there is an opportunity to grow local manufacturing.

“There is a need to strengthen the domestic rail supply chain. By providing incentives for SMEs to invest in research and development, and encouraging global suppliers currently not investing in local innovation or local supply chains to invest in the long term future of the local rail sector, this will create future advanced manufacturing businesses and employment opportunities.”

As the Australian rail industry adopts digital technology and smart systems, this investment should be supported with local research and development.

“Technology will play an increasing role in the rail industry and continued investment is essential to make sure Australia remains at the forefront of innovation,” said Wilkie.

“It is more important than ever that this work continues as the industry prepares for new growth.”

Projects conducted by the Rail Manufacturing CRC have been highly regarded, with the Dwell Track technology winning the CRC Association’s annual Excellence in Innovation award. In addition, projects have led to industry implementation, with CRRC, Bombardier, and Downer having already put the projects to work.

In a recent interview with Rail Express, Thomson said that the CRC was able to design research that met the needs of industry.

“The industry has faced, and will continue to face, infrastructure and innovation challenges in Australia. By developing research projects and teaming up experts to support the industry, we are ensuring innovation meets industry’s needs and requirements to deliver the transformational change required in the rail sector.”

Projects completed by the Rail Manufacturing CRC can be found here: https://www.rmcrc.com.au/.

rail manufacturing

Culture of innovation

Stuart Thomson, CEO and managing director of the Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre shares how the industry has collaborated on innovation, research, and development across the past six years.

Formed in 2014, the Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has continued to work closely with the industry to assist the rail sector to adopt future digital technologies and address coming workforce needs.

Stuart Thomson, CEO and managing director of the Rail Manufacturing CRC said engagement from the rail sector, universities, and research institutions has been the key to collaborative research and development. Co- funded by the Commonwealth government, the Rail Manufacturing CRC provides a platform for the rail industry to work together to increase its capacity to innovate.

COLLABORATIVE FRAMEWORK
Thomson said what distinguishes the Rail Manufacturing CRC is its approach to cross- sectoral research. Bringing together the depth of research in universities and the applied knowledge of the rail industry, along with the support of the federal government, the Rail Manufacturing CRC can advance innovation across manufacturing, design and modelling. After six years in operation, the Rail Manufacturing CRC is coming to the end of its tenure on June 30 this year, with the Centre now working to complete its final projects.

“The Rail Manufacturing CRC has worked closely with the rail sector to deliver industry focused projects. During this time of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team has been working to wrap up projects and manage financial and reporting requirements required before the Centre closes,” Thomson said.

Since 2014, the Rail Manufacturing CRC has been driving the development of products, technologies, and supply chain networks to enhance the competitiveness of Australia’s rail manufacturing industry. Thomson said that despite the closure of the Centre, the CRC has created a culture of innovation that will continue to grow.

“The industry has faced, and will continue to face, infrastructure and innovation challenges in Australia. By developing research projects and teaming up experts to support the industry, we are ensuring innovation meets industry’s needs and requirements to deliver the transformational change required in the rail sector,” Thomson said.

DEVELOPING AUSTRALIAN RAIL MANUFACTURING
Thomson said multinationals have invested in the programs run by the Rail Manufacturing CRC because there is technical expertise based in Australia’s heavy-haul and passenger rail experience that companies know can genuinely assist their businesses. The next challenge for the industry is making sure there’s a pipeline of work to enable investment in capital, research and development, and innovation.

Within the Australian rail sector, a great deal of focus in the last six years has been devoted to the development of condition-based monitoring systems and applications. Thomson said the Rail Manufacturing CRC has worked on a variety of condition-based monitoring projects, including the development of battery control systems that can extend maintenance cycles, the modelling of wheel bearing wear to determine the best maintenance practices, and developing weld modelling software to assist in improving the quality of welding in rail manufacture.

In collaboration with major rail operators, the Rail Manufacturing CRC has initiated projects to develop models to assess predictive maintenance of rail switches for an operator’s network. Predictive monitoring of rail infrastructure has also allowed the Centre to innovate the use of vision systems to identify maintenance needs on overhead wires and associated infrastructure.

The Rail Manufacturing CRC has worked with Downer and the University of Technology Sydney to develop a new technology called Dwell Track. The new innovation utilises 3D infra-red vision to measure passenger congestion on platforms. This information can be used to better understand passenger movement and to assist operators make decisions to limit congestion, alter platform designs, and – in the future – provide real time information to rail staff and passengers. The technology has since been tested in real time at a train station in an Australian capital city.

Thomson said many of the projects at the Rail Manufacturing CRC have a high probability of future commercial success. “We have six technologies that are likely to yield commercial returns in the near future, so that’s quite an achievement,” he said.

Thomson credits the input of the Centre’s PhD scholarship students who have contributed to research projects. Thomson noted they represent the next generation of highly skilled rail employees. “There is a great deal of discussion around future skills gaps and developing the next generation of rail employees. We anticipate that the vast majority of our rail postgraduates, 51 in total, will seek careers in the rail sector, especially if the sector increases local manufacturing post COVID-19.” Thomson said.

CONTINUING INDUSTRY-FOCUSED RESEARCH
Thomson wants Australia to maintain core national manufacturing and capabilities. “Particularly in Victoria there is a lot of movement happening around local manufacturing because there’s a requirement for at least 50 per cent of components in the rolling stock be produced in Victoria,” he said. Thomson believes the industry is working towards a harmonisation of standards and operations. Putting further policies and governance structures to support rail manufacturing in place will allow market growth and further investment in rail.

Further research and development in the rail sector will support the industry in adopting new technologies, building new local industries, and assisting the sector to increase productivity, safety, and sustainability. The Rail Manufacturing CRC expects its programs will benefit ongoing collaboration after the Centre closes its doors.

“A culture of collaboration has evolved over the past six years and will continue to develop. We’ve seen some incredible outcomes and, for example, I think over the next few years there will be a major interest in energy storage for rail,” Thomson said. The Centre has conducted research in energy storage control systems, and also in the battery area looking at lithium technologies for use in trains. Thomson said back-up systems, rolling stock, and below rail condition monitoring are a highly focused research area too.

“The growth the rail industry needs will most likely happen in the next few years,” Thomson said. Improvements in technology and data collection has aided the acceleration of innovation and Thomson believes automation across rail manufacturing and operations will be heightened. “The sector can expect to see increasing automation and the use of artificial intelligence to monitor and control systems and subsystems above and below rail,” he said.

“New skill sets and innovation from the Rail Manufacturing CRC programs has provided a springboard for industry to engage and collaborate,” said Thomson. “I think it’s a very exciting time for the future of Australia’s rail sector. The industry can expect to see advancements in technology that will be highly relevant for major train operations within the country, and will have global reach and applicability.”

Contractor selected for Denny Avenue level crossing works

Downer EDI has been selected as the preferred proponent to deliver the entire Denny Avenue level crossing removal project, part of the Western Australia Metronet project.

In December 2019, Downer was named as the contractor who will deliver the rail component package, however in an announcement on February 17, WA Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti confirmed that Downer will deliver the entire works program.

“Denny Avenue will join a program of six METRONET projects under construction during 2020, which will upgrade Perth’s rail network and create and support local jobs,” said Saffioti.

Although the two construction contracts are separate, the entire works program will involve the removal of the level crossing at Denny Avenue, the realignment of Third Avenue, lowering Davis Road to pass under the elevated rail line, new cul-de-sacs for Third and Slee avenues, and works on Albany Hgihway.

Other works will include widening Davis Road from two to four lanes, and the installation of three traffic lights at Albany Highway, Streich Avenue, and Railway Avenue.

“Denny Avenue is the first of up to eight level crossings to be removed as part of METRONET, with all but one on the Armadale train line,” said Saffioti.

In addition to the road and rail infrastructure works, the Kelmscott town centre will be revitalised, with landscaping, tree planting, and civic works.

“This project will not only remove a dangerous crossing and reduce road congestion, it will also give locals an enhanced Kelmscott town centre to enjoy,” said Saffioti.

Contractor announced for Geelong and Warrnambool line upgrades

Upgrades to the Geelong and Warrnambool line will be carried out by Downer, Rail Projects Victoria announced.

As part of the $1.75 billion Regional Rail Revival program, Downer will deliver signalling upgrades between Waurn Ponds and Warrnambool and a new crossing loop at Boorcan to increase reliability and improve recovery times on the Warrnambool line.

On the Geelong Line Downer will construct a second platform, duplicated track, a pedestrian overpass, improved and new parking, bicycle storage facilities, and more CCTV, lighting, and myki machines.

According to Mark Mackay, executive general manager transport projects at Downer, the project will draw upon Downer’s expertise.

“Our committed team of experts will deliver an integrated solution, future-proofed to minimise rework and maximise opportunities for passengers and the community,” he said.

Construction will begin in mid-2020 and completion is hoped for by late 2021.

In addition, Downer will construct a new stabling facility at Waurn Ponds for the overnight stabling of V/Line trains for more frequent future services.

Elsewhere as part of the upgrades on the Regional Rail Revival program, planning works are being undertaken on Stage 2 of the Geelong Line Upgrade, which includes the Waurn Ponds Duplication Project. Track will be duplicated from South Geelong to Waurn Ponds, and level crossings will be removed at Fyans Street and Surf Coast Highway. South Geelong and Marshall stations will also be upgraded.

Downer will utilise its knowledge gained from the Waurn Ponds station in 2014, as well as work on the Bendigo station upgrade, and the High Capacity Metro Trains maintenance facility.