New Intercity Fleet

Blue Mountains Line ready for New Intercity Fleet

Upgrades to the Blue Mountains line to prepare for the introduction of the New Intercity Fleet are finished.

The $75 million upgrades included changes to platforms and the rail corridor, including the Ten Tunnels Deviation. Electrification infrastructure was also upgraded to be consistent with the rest of the network.

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that this would allow improved train services for the line.

“The Blue Mountains Line between Springwood and Lithgow has now been upgraded to a more consistent standard to match the rest of the electrified network, meaning the new trains can now run all the way to Lithgow,” he said.

“These upgrades will pave the way for the new fleet to provide better connections to places and opportunities for employment, education, business and enjoyment.”

The New Intercity Fleet will first begin running on the Central Coast and Newcastle line later in 2020, before being introduced to the Blue Mountains line and South Coast line. Testing will soon begin to Katoomba and then to Lithgow.

The new trains will improve customer comfort, said Minister for Regional Transport Paul Toole.

“Customers can expect more spacious seating, mobile device charging ports, modern heating and air conditioning and dedicated spaces for wheelchairs, luggage, prams and bicycles.”

The introduction of the New Intercity Fleet has been criticised, both for the need to upgrade stations to fit the new trains, as well as safety concerns raised by guards, with the RTBU refusing to staff the trains.


Filling the gap

Bombardier is helping rail operators achieve zero emissions on unelectrified track with its battery electric units while slashing lifecycle costs.

One of the key benefits of rail travel to the community is its low emissions. Whether powered via overhead lines or an electrified rail, trains offer fast, high volume mobility, and if powered by renewable energy, emissions free. That is, until the wire runs out.

In Australia, nationally there is 36,064 kilometres of track, but only a small portion of that in the major cities has an overhead power supply. In New Zealand, out of the total 4,128 kilometres of track, 589km is electrified. As the non-electrified sections of the network are often outside of major urban centres, getting regional travellers to travel by train presents the issue of running higher emitting vehicles, or undertaking costly electrification works on lines that have fewer services. These factors present an impediment to the zero emissions potential of rail transport, however one that is recently being overcome.

Launched in 2018, the Bombardier TALENT 3 train is a battery-electric multiple unit to fill the gap in-between electrification of entire rail networks and continued reliance on diesel-powered units. The TALENT 3 train can provide an operator with a 30 per cent reduction in the total cost of ownership, when compared to a conventional diesel multiple unit over a 30-year service life. The train is powered by Bombardier MITRAC traction batteries and can run on non-electrified lines for distances of up to 100km. The batteries utilise recent technological innovation in fast charging and high-density lithium ion batteries which can be charged in less than 10 minutes while running on an electrified section of track, or through recuperating otherwise lost energy when the train is braking.

The research and development work that went into the TALENT 3 train was supported by the German federal government, research institutions, and regional German transport operators. Additionally, the technology behind the train was developed by Bombardier in its Mannheim laboratory in Germany. The newly inaugurated €1 million ($1.72m) facility contributed to the battery components for the TALENT 3 train. In Europe, the demand for battery electric units is increasing, as shown in recent orders for trials of the trains in multiple countries.

In Germany, the innovation involved in the development and production of the TALENT 3 train was recognised in late 2018, when Bombardier won the Berlin Brandenburg innovation award. In particular the jury singled out the role that battery electric trains could provide to Germany’s non electrified network. The train could already operate on 30 per cent of the country’s non-electrified lines, and if cost- effective electrification was done at end points, 75 per cent of lines that currently run diesel-powered services could be operated with battery power.

Commenting on the project, Bombardier’s head of sales – Australia and New Zealand, Todd Garvey, highlighted how the train would overcome network limitations.

“It was Bombardier’s goal to develop a quiet and eco-friendly train for passengers, while also offering operators the best alternative to higher emittting diesel trains on both cost and safety aspects.”

In Australia and New Zealand, where there are already proposals for the electrification of sections of regional and intercity track, the Bombardier TALENT 3 train could readily operate on lines such as the Hunter Line, a variety of V/Line services in Victoria, and partially electrified sections of track in New Zealand. However, the flexibility of battery- electric trains enables new connections to be made.

“The BEMU – as we call it – has massive potential in the ANZ market as the cost barriers to deploy widescale electrification are considerable.

“Our BEMU provides operators and governments with a zero-emission alternative to diesel propelled vehicles across their extended networks. Once the electric line runs out, the batteries kick in and the vehicle can continue running as normal for up to 100 kilometres.

“The only additional infrastructure then would be strategically placed charging stations throughout the regional network that the vehicle can plug into, to recharge the battery,” said Garvey.

“This presents big savings and reduces the need for a large-scale civil works program. These battery trains are also quieter, and this is good in greenfield residential areas, for example, where diesel trains might not be the preferred option.”

The key to realising the benefits of battery trains is their flexibility. Not only do they reduce a network’s total emissions but eliminate the immediate impact of emissions caused by the trains themselves. Emissions from diesel powered vehicles can limit their use in inner city areas and confined spaces such as tunnels. In addition, Bombardier’s TALENT 3 can achieve a significant reduction in noise, when compared to conventional DMUs.

Combining the latest in battery technology and a pedigree of innovation, the TALENT 3 provides zero emissions mobility to a much wider audience.

NZ Greens propose electrification, fast regional rail

The New Zealand Greens have put forward the construction of fast inter-city rail links as a way to stimulate New Zealand’s economy.

Currently under stage 4 restrictions, economic activity in New Zealand has almost been shut down, but the country is looking to come out of its self-imposed hibernation by the end of April.

To get the economy back up and running the NZ Greens are looking at electrification and improvements to regional rail.

Although the fourth largest party in the New Zealand parliament, the Greens have supported the leading Labour Party with confidence and supply. Green Party Transport Spokesperson Julie Anne Genter is Associate minister of Health and Transport in the current government.

The proposal of works includes connecting Auckland with Hamilton, Tauranga, and Whangearei, Wellington with Masterton, Palmerston North and Whanganui, and Christchurch with Rangiora, Ashburton and Timaru.

Currently, train services between Auckland and Wellington are partially electrified, while rail services out of Christchurch are hauled by diesel locomotives. Green Party Co-leader and Climate Change spokesperson James Shaw said the project would tackle the twin issues of economic growth and cutting emissions.

“The large intercity rail project proposed will provide meaningful work whilst driving us towards a sustainable, green, zero carbon future.

“Building rail creates more jobs than building motorways and helps us tackle climate change at the same time.”

The party has broken up the proposal into two stages. The first stage would involve electrification and improvements to existing track to allow for speeds of up to 110km/h. The second stage would include building new higher-speed track for tilt trains capable of travelling up to 160km/h and bypasses to create more direct routes. The party estimates that the cost of the program would be NZ$9 billion ($8.6bn) over 10 years.

Genter said that the investment would tie together metropolitan centres and the regions.

“We’re proposing a nation-wide intercity rapid rail programme that would bring our provincial centres and biggest cities closer together through fast, electric passenger rail. This will create real alternatives to driving or flying for people who want to travel around the country for work, to see their family and friends, or for domestic tourism.”

AusRAIL: Surge protection in the era of digitisation

Electrical engineering manufacturer, Phoenix Contact says it’s developed the world’s first intelligent system for surge protection, integrating the essential solution into the Internet of Things.


Surge protection is critical to the smooth running of trains, because railway technology depends on highly sensitive electric and electronic systems. These systems require a high degree of availability in order to avoid delaying critical operational processes, and inducing high costs associated with downtimes and maintenance.

Disruptions to the functioning of this technology, however, can be easily caused by a myriad of factors, such as weather events – especially lightning strikes, aging systems, or damage to conductors, interlocking components, modules or computer systems.

With the ongoing digitisation of the rail industry becoming more and more comprehensive, applying to every component and system across the sector, there is now an intelligent system for surge protection.

Phoenix Contact, which provides Surge Protection Devices (SPDs), has this year released a surge protection monitoring solution called “ImpulseCheck” which enables the continuous monitoring of the surge protection system’s
electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and the installed SPDs, and facilitates preventative maintenance in order to comprehensively reduce overall maintenance costs and increase the reliability of services.

Phoenix Contact’s national marketing manager in Australia, John Ortika, spoke to Rail Express about the world first.

“Products that we previously would have just installed and operated, we now want more information and more detailed information on them continuously. Are they still functioning at maximum capacity? Are they doing what they’re supposed to be doing? Is there potentially a failure down the track that we can cater for and remove before it actually happens?”

ImpulseCheck monitors every single arrestor, detecting electromagnetic interference and surge currents on each active conductor, allocates a time stamp to the event, and then transfers the data to a cloud interface called “ProfiCloud”.

In ProfiCloud, the state of health for each mode of protection is analysed based on the recorded events.

“It’s the first solution on the market that dynamically and continuously monitors for surges and actually measures their frequency so that you’ve got an exact idea of how large the surge was and how often they’ve occurred, because it’s time-stamped,” says Ortika.

Once data from the monitoring system is input into the cloud system, Phoenix Contact conducts predictive analytics to offer remote diagnosis, identifying the error cause and offering prognosis of the potential disruption to the rail operator so they can conduct predictive maintenance on their systems with a precise picture. This enables the maximisation of system availability, avoiding breakdowns and reducing maintenance efforts.

“We can tell them, for example, based on the number of surge events that have occurred in your system, the surge protection components are starting to wear out and should be replaced prior to them failing, therefore allowing predictive maintenance and ensuring maximum system availability. It’s real time information and it’s accessible via a cloud interface, so its 24/7 basically,” Ortika says.

“Where previously, all of this involved guesswork, oh there was a lightning storm the other week and that might have damaged it, now we’ll have real time-stamped data to be able to really work out what has caused the issues that brought the system down or caused the component to fail.”

External sensors allow the system to be easily installed or retrofitted in both new and existing systems. Ortika says the implementation process is incredibly simple.

“In a few easy steps, you can affix the sensors to the connecting cables of the power supply or an SPD that is actively monitored. That’s easily retrofitted to the cable, so you don’t really have to stop the system in any way, shape, or form.”

But ImpulseCheck is not the only rail related solution Phoenix Contact offers, according to Ortika.

“Another one that’s been of interest to the rail industry, amongst others, are our power supplies and UPS systems, and again it’s about providing more information to the operator, continuously and in real time, about the availability and status of the power supply and the battery back-up system, knowing continuously that the battery is fully charged or what discharge level it’s at so that appropriate actions can then take place. Or, also knowing whether the battery lifetime is close to expiring, whether its nine years left or two months, so that the appropriate action by the operator can then be decided upon, and the operator is able to schedule maintenance rather than reacting when the battery is no longer functional.”

The significance of the data that ImpulseCheck gathers goes beyond preventative maintenance. With detailed data mining, it can provide the trends which operators will be able to react to and ensure the smooth operation of the railways.

“The analytics and what you do with the data that makes that data relevant and useable in a real application, that’s going to develop further over time.”

With its in-house machine building experience, Phoenix Contact knows the requirements of digitalisation and integrated data flow, from the engineering through the product life cycle. The future, Ortika believes, will see even further gains in the digitisation of all components of rail operation.

“We’ll see more and more electrical and electronic components being further and more deeply integrated into the operational system so that, right down to what were considered simple components in the past, we have the ability to see what affect they have on the overall lifetime and availability of the system.”


Visit Phoenix Contact at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 247.