Sections of the Hunter Valley rail network will be shut down from February 9 to 12 to allow for major maintenance work. Read more
With all of the New Generation Rollingstock now in passenger service, Bombardier is now ensuring the fleet’s service, safety, and reliability from its base in Wulkuraka.
With the purchase of the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR), Queensland made the largest ever single investment in public transport in the state’s history. Not only did this introduce new rollingstock, but brought rail in Queensland back to where it all began, in Ipswich.
The QTECTIC consortium – of which Bombardier Transportation (BT) is a member – is delivering the NGR program and has constructed a purpose-built maintenance facility at Wulkuraka, west of Ipswich.
For decades, Ipswich was the centre of rail construction, maintenance and technology in Queensland. Over 150 years ago, the very first train to run in Queensland steamed through Wulkuraka on its way from North Ipswich to Grandchester, just west of Ipswich.
Fast forward to December 2015 and the Wulkuraka Maintenance Centre was handed over to Bombardier to receive the first NGR train in February 2016 for early testing. The depot completion then occurred in June 2016, a major milestone for the project. The first three trains were accepted in October-November 2017. By December the first three trains were in passenger service. At the end of 2019, the final train in the 75-strong fleet had arrived and was accepted into passenger service. This marked a key turning point for the facility, as it now became solely focused on ensuring the modern trains meet and exceed the ongoing performance to ensure the travelling public enjoy safe, reliable and clean trains all while providing passenger comfort.
To meet this challenge, Bombardier Transportation recently brought on Ben Wagener, an experienced rail manager with a safety-first mindset in alignment with Bombardier’s ethos, as general manager on the QNGR program. Having most recently managed maintenance in NSW for Aurizon, Wagener saw the opportunity for a new challenge.
“Bombardier Transportation is a global leader in rail and rollingstock and I was very keen to be a part of a place where safety of all personnel is a key part of the maintenance philosophy. I also wanted to leverage the latest vehicle technology at the purpose built Wulkuraka facility to assist in delivering infrastructure critical to the people of Queensland,” said Wagener.
“Being part of a public-private partnership (PPP) creates a new dynamic for me and a project like this brings challenges and opportunities. There are multiple stakeholders such as delivery consortium QTECTIC, the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, our union partners at the RTBU and AMWU, and of course our subcontractors. I also have previous relationships within Queensland Rail which I was keen to reignite. So, this is a really interesting place to be as there is a diversity of equally valuable views around the table,” said Wagener.
“The opportunity opens new pathways into executive management and, having studied my MBA, it was simply an offer I could not refuse.”
Getting performance levels to meet goals is a key outcome of any maintenance contract, and with Bombardier contracted to deliver maintenance to 2045, having an innovative rail maintenance centre sets the team up for success.
“Everything is safety focused. All of the kit and facility is new, there are less hazards and legacy infrastructure to deal with, and the movement of vehicles is easy due to the size of the facility. This should also eliminate many depot capacity constraints,” said Wagener.
“Ultimately, if you have the right tools and right equipment in the right location, you will have a quality outcome. We are here for the long haul in Queensland, so our goal is to always keep our people safe and delight our customers and
the commuting public.”
Of course, early teething issues have had to be overcome, but the opportunity to work on advanced pieces of rollingstock that are critical for the state’s growth has motivated Wagener’s team.
“The team is working on world class technology. It’s exciting to be involved in this, using enhanced metrics and computerised processes,” said Wagener. “I’m focused on building this sense of camaraderie among the team around our shared purpose for the people of Queensland. Having a place that people are proud to work at drives efficiency in our processes.”
The access to the latest fleet performance data generated by the locally designed trains has informed maintenance practices so far.
“There is an opportunity to align asset management standard 55001, sustainability, and the maintenance required on some of the new technology,” said Wagener.
While the maintenance of the NGR fleet presents new opportunities, it is supported by Bombardier’s knowledge and experience when it comes to the maintenance and servicing of rollingstock.
Wagener’s team in Queensland share relationships with key Bombardier suppliers and systems that are deployed on other Bombardier fleets around Australia and internationally.
“We very much work as a team and we draw insights and processes from other locations that can help us at a new facility like we have at Wulkuraka and outstations,” said Wagener. “Further to this, we have a baseline of standard processes and procedures across the services business and support from multiple projects not only around the nation, but the globe.”
These common systems and processes provide the backbone for Bombardier’s ongoing commitment to Queensland’s transport and mobility.
“We are here for the long haul and the safe performance of these vehicles is a key priority. We are growing industry capacity through our work with the Rail Manufacturing CRC and have apprentices on site and we always want more. Building the next generation of rail workers for Queensland is important for our site and also BT more generally,” said Wagener.
This support of the industry also extends to contracts with local suppliers and subcontractors. The community is also invited to be involved with the project over the next 25 years as it becomes enmeshed in the Wulkuraka environment.
“We want to be sustainable centre of excellence and support this community and our people,” said Wagener.
As the population of Queensland grows and is concentrated in the south east region, the increase in rail network capacity engendered by the NGR will be reliant upon the continuation of a heritage of expertise at the Wulkuraka maintenance site.
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.”
Level crossings in the Hunter network are undergoing maintenance to improve safety for trains and motorists.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is carrying out the works during a shutdown of the network from Newcastle to Ulan and Turrawan.
From September 22 to 25, 1,000 workers will conduct 500 maintenance jobs not limited to level crossings. These will include upgrading 3,500 metres of track, replacing 13,200 metres of rail, and regularly scheduled maintenance activities.
ARTC General Executive Hunter Valley Network Wayne Johnson said the level crossing work was in addition to regular maintenance.
“In the upcoming rail shutdown, in addition to our regular maintenance work, level crossings will be getting some special attention with tamping being carried out on 34 level crossings,” he said.
“A tamping machine is used to pack (or tamp) the track ballast under railway tracks to make the tracks more durable. The base of the level crossing is replaced and stabilised to improve the geometry of the track and this also helps improve the surface so vehicles will experience a smoother ride as a result.
“Tamping the levels crossings allows safer access across the railway crossings for vehicle traffic.”
Level crossings, of which only 21 per cent nationally are active, are a critical safety concern for the rail industry, and Johnson warned motorists of the consequences of not driving safely near level crossings.
“Tragically, every year too many people lose their lives in level crossing collisions, while there are more than 1,000 ‘near misses’ each year – the difference between a fatal collision and a near collision can be just seconds,” he said.
“With a bumper grain season ahead, we can expect high volumes of freight trains coming from the central areas of the state, so people need to be vigilant with level crossings in the regional parts of New South Wales.”
Maintenance is expected to finish on September 25.
KiwiRail has extended a shutdown of the Eastern Line between Quay Park and Westfield for another two weeks to enable urgent upgrades to the Auckland railway network.
The Eastern Line will now remain closed until September 21.
KiwiRail is conducting repairs across the Auckland network after testing revealed that 100km of rail needs repairing or replacing. The entire Auckland network is restricted to speeds of 40km/h.
KiwiRail chief operating officer Todd Moyle said that significant work had already been done.
“We have made a good start on the Eastern Line with 1,000 sleepers replaced and close to 6km of new rail laid so far.”
To meet the targeted amount of work completed, teams are working at all times.
“Allowing KiwiRail around the clock access to the track over a four-week period is an efficient and productive way of working and enables our teams to keep momentum and get through a larger amount of work,” said Moyle.
The replacement of significant amounts of rail began in August after testing found that the rail was in a worse condition than previously thought.
However, New Zealand media have reported that a consultant’s report in December 2019 identified $200 million of work was required due to inadequate maintenance and underinvestment in rail infrastructure.
Up to a quarter of all rail on the 190km network will need to be replaced, with grinding required elsewhere.
A shortage of locally based track-welders has also contributed to the maintenance backlog.
While maintenance and repairs are conducted, Auckland Transport is providing commuters with replacement buses. Auckland Transport executive general manager integrated networks Mark Lambert said the repairs were essential.
“This work by KiwiRail is urgently needed and we will continue to support our customers with bus replacement services and other support for as long as we need to.”
The New Zealand government has made major commitments to rail, including a NZ$1bn upgrade package for the Auckland rail network. Prior to 2019, however, investment in the rail network nationally was limited to the minimum needed to keep the network operating. The investment that was made was reactive, rather than planning for the network’s future needs.
Major rail works will be carried out during a possession of NSW regional lines from Saturday, September 5 to Monday, September 7.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) will be conducting the works, which include rail maintenance and enhancement works from Albury to Moss Vale and Cootamundra to Parkes.
Known as the annual ‘super possession’, the rail lines in both regions will be shut down over the weekend for yearly maintenance work.
ARTC general manager of asset management – interstate Brian Green described the works that would take place.
“This year’s works include track re-railing, resurfacing and reconditioning, as well as level crossing upgrades, track ballasting, turnout maintenance and bridge maintenance,” he said.
Preparatory works have been underway since August 29 and demobilisation is expected to continue until September 11.
Green said that ARTC works to ensure that as much is done as possible during the shutdown period.
“ARTC makes the most of these short windows to carry out jobs in a planned approach that minimises the impact of major works on train operations and reduces the potential for unplanned downtime on these sections of the rail corridor.”
Passenger services are being replaced by coaches and those in the community are advised to be aware of extra vehicles.
“Our work teams will endeavour to minimise any noise and disruptions the works may cause,” said Green.
“We also ask people in communities close to the rail corridor to be cautious during the shutdown period and keep an eye out for increased vehicle movements in and out of work sites.”
Extra measures are also in place to limit the chance of any spread of COVID-19.
“COVID-19 requires ongoing vigilance in many aspects. The health and safety throughout the works is of critical importance so we have ongoing strict hygiene protocols in place to minimise potential risks to the community and the teams involved in the maintenance shutdown,” said Green.
“All of the combined frontline teams continue to practice social distancing and minimising interactions with the local community. For example, where we previously we would have door knocked to inform nearby neighbours of the upcoming works, we will do a letterbox drop of information ﬂyers instead.”
The ARTC will carry out major works to renew track and infrastructure on the Hunter Valley Coal Network during a shutdown.
Maintenance work will include replacing an almost 100 year old bridge at Qurindi over the Jacob and Joseph Creek.
The original steel bridge was built in 1927 and will be replaced with a new 85-metre long steel bridge.
ARTC group executive Hunter Valley Wayne Johnson said work had been underway for some time already.
“The Quirindi works have been underway since last October with significant earthworks, concrete piling and concrete preparation now complete,” he said.
“It’s a huge undertaking to remove the existing steel bridge and then to install by crane 28 precast concrete bridge girders and a new steel walkway and access stairs.”
Across work sites on the Hunter Valley Coal Network from Kooragang Island in Newcastle to the Ulan region, the ARTC will attempt to minimise wastage by reusing spoil. The excavated materials will be reused on the project or diverted through local waste recyclers.
“We did the first trial in March this year where spoil was screened, crushed and tested for suitability to use for a rail reconditioning project and we used it again successfully during the May shutdown for the reconditioning of 240 metres of track,” Johnson said.
“For this shutdown, recycled material will be used to recondition 330 metres of track.”
From August 3-7 work will be carried out on 100 separate points around the network from Muswellbrook to Narrabri. In addition to bridge replacement work at Quirindi, bridges will be renewed at Gunnedah, along with replacing 270 transoms on the Aberdeen bridge. 1,850 metres of track formation will be upgraded while preventative and routine maintenance tasks are undertaken.
Between Kooragang Island and Ulan works will commence on August 4 and finish on August 6. 700 workers on 400 jobs will complete works such as laying 10 kilometres of new track, upgrading 450 metres of track formation, ballast replacement of 450m of track and the initiation of major construction works on the Muswellbrook bridges replacement.
The Victorian government has detailed transport works that will receive funding as part of its $2.7 billion Building Works program.
Announced in May, programs to be carried out as part of the program include upgrades to regional freight and passenger lines.
$83 million will be spent on improving 400 kilometres of freight only rail lines by replacing sleepers, repairing ballast, and renewing level crossing equipment.
$36m will be spent on the maintenance of the V/Line Classic Fleet, to be carried out by Bombardier. This will support 20 jobs for engineers, repair workers, and cleaners to maintain the V/Line fleet.
$7.5m will go towards upgrades to track for the regional passenger network, enabling more reliable services Deer Park Junction to Ballarat, Ballarat to Ararat, Donnybrook to Seymour, Corio to Waurn Ponds and the Bendigo East Track.
Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said that the upgrades would enable more efficient connections between primary producers and export facilities.
“The upgrades will mean produce can be transported from farm to port much more quickly, opening up key markets to Victorian farmers,” she said.
“These investments in our rail freight network are part of our ongoing commitment to boost our export power and support regional jobs.”
Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said the improvements would provide more reliable services for regional travellers, connecting regional centres and localities.
“We’re building on our unprecedented investment in regional rail, and this maintenance blitz will be a boost for local jobs and keep Victoria moving as we recover from the coronavirus crisis.”
In addition to the announced measures, funding from the Building Works package has also been earmarked for the maintenance and restoration of trams. Other works also include improving stations and stops across Victoria and managing rail corridors through the removal of rubbish and graffiti and the management of vegetation.
Working with Sydney Trains, Freightquip has provided a shunting solution that is low noise and zero emissions.
When Sydney Trains was looking to replace two shunting vehicles, in use at the Hornsby and Mortdale depots, it needed a solution that was low noise, low emission and had the ability to complete the same shunting task as previously. To fulfil this requirement, the transport agency turned to local freight handling equipment supplier Freightquip.
Neil McDonell, general manager rail at Freightquip, said that after winning a competitive tender process, Freightquip worked with Sydney Trains to get the right fit.
“The relationship started with developing the specification for the machine, so we spent a lot of time with Sydney Trains, after the tender process, refining the specification and from there developing that into a technical specification that went into the contract that we went and built,” said McDonell.
Sydney Trains had a number of requirements that Freightquip had to fulfil, the first being able to move trains weighing many tonnes.
“The big thing for them is having a machine that could achieve the shunting task, but then also having very low noise emissions because of the locations of the depots,” said McDonell.
Both the Hornsby and Mortdale depots are located in residential areas and are surrounded by houses. This required Sydney Trains to minimise any emissions, both noise and exhaust.
“They’re surrounded by residents, so they have very stringent guidelines imposed on them that they have to meet. It was a mammoth effort to be able to give them something that achieved those levels of emissions,” said McDonell.
The solution that McDonell and Freightquip turned to was the Zephir LOK E, a fully electric rail vehicle placer.
“Zephir produce the largest electric shunter in the world and we as the Australian agents are able to offer that,” said McDonell.
The LOK E is an evolution of Zephir’s range of rail towing vehicles. Founded in the late 1960s, the company has been an early innovator in designing equipment that can complete the same task with zero emissions.
“Twenty years ago, Zephir started making small electric shunt vehicles, then as the need and demand rose from customers who wanted electric, zero emissions, and the low noise vehicles, but couldn’t sacrifice the towing capability of the machine. That led then the next evolution,” said McDonell.
“Starting with the smallest model, Zephir then grew the technology and grew their understanding so that now, the largest diesel machine they produce, they can also produce as an electric machine.”
While the new electric vehicle would have no exhaust emissions, Freightquip still had to meet Sydney Trains’ noise requirement of 45 decibels or less, seven metres in front of the machine, which was below what was standard for the LOK E. Here, Freightquip drew on past experience to come up with the solution in partnership with Zephir.
“We had done work previously with a diesel machine in a similar but different environment, where we had to reduce the noise levels of the diesel machine,” said McDonell. “We were able to take that knowledge and apply it to an electric machine, which comes with very low noise emissions anyway but still has things like hydraulic pumps and compressors that we had to factor in.”
To insulate the noise of the onboard pumps and compressors, Freightquip adapted the existing insulation while changing the concept design to direct the noise. The rear grill was also replaced to reduce the noise levels.
This particular design process was the outcome of consultation that Freightquip conducted with Sydney Trains and the staff onsite.
“We spent a lot of time with the client, understanding what the end user needs, those who are actually going to operate it in the depots. We had meetings with the depot personnel themselves and they were part of the then final specification and options selection process,” said McDonell.
Beyond the noise requirements, Freightquip also designed the stabling sites for the rail vehicle placers and identified and overcame and track infrastructure issues. These were done early on so that any concerns were resolved prior to the vehicles coming on site. In addition, the product design was altered to ensure that the vehicle met Australian specifications for safety and compliance.
With the vehicles now installed, Freightquip will provide ongoing support.
“We supply all the technical support,” said McDonell. “We do the full lifecycle support from scheduled servicing on these machines in accordance with the manufacturer’s service schedules, we support these machines with parts, right through to the end of the lifecycle of the machine.”
With the innovation that Zephir has conducted to provide the machines, the electric versions of each of the models are cost competitive with the diesel version. Reduced lifecycle cost from a 70 per cent reduction in moving parts and simpler maintenance, in addition to the reduced cost of powering the vehicle, have made the electric versions the product of choice.
Visit Freightquip at their homepage.
On Thursday, June 18, Rail Express hosted a webinar with Bentley Systems on the value digital twins can bring to the rail industry, in particular, the application of digital twins to manage intelligent asset maintenance.
In the following webinar, Andrew Smith, the Solutions Executive responsible for Bentley’s Rail and Transit solution, outlined how rail organisations can harness the explosion of data to provide actionable insights across their rail networks. Smith, using real-world examples, explained that beyond a computer aided design (CAD) or building information modelling (BIM) tool, digital twins are an information rich, real-time representation of a rail asset which can enable rail owners and operators to reach new levels of organisational maturity through the optimisation and predictive forecasting of maintenance and upkeep work.
At their most effective, digital twins can take the potential of big data and apply these benefits using artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) to maximise the value of rail assets.
“A digital twin provides capabilities to manage, maintain, analyse, and report against your transportation network,” said Smith.
To download and watch the webinar please fill out the form below: