ETCS

Upgrading the heart of the Brisbane’s rail system

The implementation of ETCS on the South East Queensland network highlights the many benefits of modern signalling systems.

In major capital cities, transport operators are looking to get more and more out of their assets as populations grow and the demand for sustainable mobility increases. In many cases, the rail systems that have formed the backbone for public transport have been upgraded with new, modern signalling systems to bring trains closer together and increase the frequency and volume of services.

Brisbane has been no exception and is currently beginning the implementation of European Train Control System (ETCS) as part of the Cross River Rail (CRR) project. However, as Simon Cook, project director ETCS at CRR highlights, there is more than one reason why modern signalling is being rolled out.

“The interesting thing with ETCS and this project is that it is delivering a range of benefits for different people and organisations,” said Cook.

Cook lists three main goals for the system, safety, capacity and reliability, which reflect the priorities of the different agencies involved in the project.

“For Queensland Rail safety and reliability would be the top two things, for the Department of Transport and Main Roads – who is the project sponsor and has responsibility for the overall network and how to manage the patronage increases – capacity and reliability are front of mind.”

When addressing the goal of safety, the deployment of ETCS on the Brisbane network, both in the newly constructed tunnel and on the inner-city network between Northgate and Milton stations, allows for a major upgrade in safety systems.

“The current signalling has been in place for a long time, so bringing in a modern signalling system with automatic train protection is really important as the number of trains and customers on the network increases,” said Cook.

Cook highlights that reducing the occurrence of signals passed at danger (SPADs) is one example where the network will directly benefit.

“A SPAD is very disruptive as well as having potential safety implications and it’s one of the key safety metrics of railways. “If you’ve got automatic train protection so the train will brake to prevent overspeed or avoid exceeding movement authority, then that’s an absolute gamechanger and with a good train management system and an in-cab signalling system for drivers then it’s a smoother, more reliable journey for customers as well.”

To address the second goal of capacity, the deployment of ETCS is about futureproofing the Brisbane and South-East Queensland network.

“The Queensland Rail network hasn’t seen the same level of growth over the past five years as other states, but it has lifted over the last year. ETCS and the CRR project has been put in because of the really big growth that’s forecast in patronage on the Gold Coast line and the Sunshine Coast line.”

Based on 2019 census figures, the City of Brisbane and the Gold Coast added the largest number of people for any local government area in Australia.

The final goal is reliability, an area where Cook highlights Brisbane’s rail network can become more efficient and meet international benchmarks.

“There are ageing assets on the network and you could just keep replacing like for like but the deployment of ETCS was a really good opportunity to bring assets up to a new standard to really drive up some increases in performance and reliability.”

Ultimately, ETCS will allow for automatic train operation through the new tunnel, simplifying one of the most complex parts of the South East Queensland rail network. Ensuring reliability here will lead to benefits on other lines.

“What we don’t want to do in Queensland is end up with a situation where we’ve got a range of bespoke signalling systems, so we are really keen to stick to a standardised approach spreading across our network and operators, and that’s the reason for selecting ETCS,” said Cook.

FIRST DEPLOYMENT
The ETCS project officially roared to life at the tail end of 2019 when Hitachi was announced as the successful tenderer for the ETCS systems. The $634 million project was initially a standalone upgrade to the network under the auspices of Queensland Rail, however in 2018 the project was moved to the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority, and is now one of three works packages, along with the Tunnels, Stations, and Development project and the Rail, Integration and Systems project.

According to Cook, ETCS sits alongside the two other packages, and while construction has begun on CRR, ETCS has begun its staged approach to implementation.

“Signalling is the absolute heart of the railway system and any change to that system is going to be potentially disruptive for customers, for maintenance crews who have to learn completely new equipment, and for rail traffic crew and signallers who have to learn a completely new system. You don’t take that on lightly, and the change task is probably bigger than the technology task so the way that we’re going about it is a staged approach.”

The first program of testing will be carried out on the Shorncliffe line. The line was chosen to be a test track due to its lower patronage and separation from the rest of the network. Preparations are underway to fit out Queensland Rail’s 160 and 260 series trains.

“We are finalising the preliminary design for the Shorncliffe line and starting off detailed design next month for the first fleet of trains,” said Cook.

“The idea with using the Shorncliffe line as a pilot area is that we can test our trains there along with the other technologies that we’re going to see in the tunnel at opening. Platform screen doors are another bit of equipment that will be new to the Queensland Rail network so we can either simulate or even install small sections of platform screen doors on the Shorncliffe line and check the integration with the trains and the signalling all work.”

DELIVERING FOR THE END USER
Cook says that for him and his team within the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority (CRRDA), their aim is to ensure the systems that Hitachi provides fit with the Queensland network.

“For me as project director and my team, we’re fairly agnostic over the actual technology, but we’re here to deliver the right system at the right time for Queensland Rail and for the DTMR.”

This has been done so far through the colocation of the CRRDA and Queensland Rail teams and operational readiness work beginning at the outset.

“Operational readiness lessons are something that we picked up from looking at other projects,” said Cook. “You can’t start too early on that. You need to really understand the whole change that’s going to come to the railway through this, so a lot of effort is on focusing on training package, design, consultation with the train crew and signallers on what the changes will mean for them, and of course looking forward to the design for the rest of the network.”

Although there are no other operational examples of automatic train operation over ETCS on passenger rail in Australia, Cook has looked to overseas project for lessons about ensuring that the CRRDA is not only looking from an engineer’s perspective but an end-user’s view of how the system will work.

“I’ve spent a bit of time learning about Thameslink in the UK, which did take a bit of settling down, but there are certainly a few really good takeaways there from an operational perspective; understanding how they worked with their train crew, the teething troubles they had and understanding how train drivers and other operational staff will really interact with the system.”

Queensland Rail have contributed to the design of human factors along the project, and will continue to take on board the views of front line staff.

“At the end of the day they’re the people that will be driving these trains and they’re the people that will be controlling the signalling, so it has to be right for them,” said Cook.

Project update: Cross River Rail

Cross River Rail is Queensland’s largest ever public transport project. The Cross River Rail Authority’s program director David Lynch provided an overall project update at AusRAIL PLUS 2019.


While Queensland has enjoyed significant population growth in recent years, nearly 90 per cent of that growth has occurred within South East Queensland (SEQ). This region is expected to further increase its population by around 1.5 million over the next twenty years.

Cross River Rail will address a major bottleneck within this region. As such, it is Queensland’s highest priority infrastructure investment and the government has allocated $5.4 billion towards the project.

Currently, there is only one crossing over the Brisbane river and just four inner-city stations. Cross River Rail will unlock the bottleneck by providing a second river crossing, therefore doubling the capacity of the network and allowing more trains to run more often, as well as integrating with roads and bus services to enable a turn-up-and-go public transport system across the whole of SEQ.

The project incorporates a 10-kilometre rail line from Dutton Park to Bowen Hills, which includes 5.9 kilometres of twin tunnels under the Brisbane River and the CBD, with four new underground stations. A new European Train Control System (ETCS) signalling system is also being delivered to improve safety and assist in managing capacity constraints in the network. Numerous station upgrades between the Gold Coast and Brisbane and three new stations at the Gold Coast end the network are also planned.

According to Lynch, early works have now been officially completed, though these are relatively small in the overall scheme and context of the project.

“Our procurement processes are essentially complete as of the end of October, and construction is now underway across all three packages, with 4 to 5 years of construction and commissioning ahead,” Lynch said.

“All major work sites have now been handed over to the contractors.”

The mammoth project will be delivered under three major infrastructure packages of work: the Tunnel, Stations and Development (TSD) public-private partnership (PPP); the Rail, Integration and Systems (RIS) alliance; and the European Train Control System (ETCS).

The TSD PPP will deliver the underground section of the project, including the tunnel from Dutton Park to Normanby and the construction of four new underground stations. It includes all associated mechanical, electrical and safety systems, such as vertical transportation for passengers at underground stations, and above and underground track work, the tunnel portals and dive structures, traction power systems and selection rail operation and control infrastructure. The package also includes a property development opportunity above Albert Street station.

It will be delivered by the PULSE consortium, led by CIMIC Group companies: Pacific Partnerships, CPB Contractors, and UGL with international partners DIF, BAM and Ghella.

The RIS alliance will deliver the design, supply and installation of the supporting rail system, including rail civil and electrical works, rail operation systems and controls, as well as rail signalling and communications work. The alliance will also deliver accessibility upgrades to six suburban stations. The alliance will be responsible for the integration of Cross River Rail into Queensland Rail’s train network.

The RIS alliance, or “UNITY Alliance”, includes: CPB Contractors, UGL, AECOM and Jacobs, and partners HASSELL, RCS Australia, Acmena, Martinus Rail and Wired Overhead Solutions.

The ETCS signalling system will be introduced to enable increased capacity on the network. It will be rolled out over several stages starting with a pilot program on the Shorncliffe Line in 2022 with early works commencing in late 2019. As part of these early works, trains and tracks will be fitted out with ETCS equipment which sends continuous data about the position, direction and speed of trains and enables the system to calculate a safe maximum running speed for each train.

The ETCS will be delivered by Hitachi Rail STS, including Hitachi, Ansaldo STS and Systra.

A major component of the way in which Cross River Rail is being delivered is Project DNA, what Lynch explains refers to the CRRA’s Project Digital Network Approach.

“It is a complete digital twin of the Cross River Rail project. Now, we are currently working in the space of 3D and 4D, but developing additional dimensions as we move forward.”

The approach was inspired by lessons learnt from other projects, “where it’s been identified that having a fully integrated and holistic model very early in the process would have been of great advantage.”

Lynch explains how the digital twin was developed, “where previously we built separate systems and models, here we’re using a common data environment.”

“Essentially, it is one model with multiple applications to be used by multiple teams, so whether in the space of project delivery, program controls, communications and engagement or future precinct and planning and delivery, we’re using the one integrated model.”

“The approach we took to this was actually to develop this model before contracts were awarded.”

The model is built in three layers according to Lynch, the first being the Building Information Modeling (BIM) at the core of the model.

“The second layer gives us geographic information system (GIS) mapping, which enables us to move from the 2D into the 3D environment, while the third layer uses the unreal gaming engine to provide an interactive and virtual reality experience.”

The collaborative approach enabled by Project DNA helps in the design, construction, management and operation of the assets built, says Lynch. It will also improve the on-time and on-budget delivery of the project.