Operators terminate contracts with Transclean

Metro Trains Melbourne and Yarra Trams have terminated their contracts with services provider Transclean.

Transclean has been at the centre of the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission’s (IBAC) Operation Esperance, which has heard that Transclean boss George Haritos gave cash to V/Line CEO James Pinder and Metro Trains fleet operational manager Peter Bollas in return for favourable treatment.

There has been no allegations of any corrupt behaviour between Transclean and Yarra Trams.

On Friday, November 6, Metro Trains CEO Raymond O’Flaherty said that Transclean would no longer provide cleaning services to the Melbourne rail operator.

“A rigorous tender process is already underway to appoint a long-term cleaning supplier to provide the highest standard of daily cleaning for Metro’s train fleet,” he said.

“We will make further announcements regarding this ongoing tender process at the appropriate time.”

Metro Trains had already suspended and subsequently terminated the employment of Peter Bollas, with an auditor to review procurement and probity processes.

“Metro remains committed to the highest standards of integrity across our organisation.”

Transclean had been providing after-hours depot security services to Yarra Trams since 2017, however the operator will now be looking for a new contractor.

“Yarra Trams is terminating its contract with Transclean for after-hours depot security, and has provided the company 30 days’ notice,” said a Yarra Trams spokesperson.

A routine audit of Transclean found that there was procedure and performance issues with Transclean’s security services for Yarra Trams. These were raised with the company but were not responded to.

A separate company has provided cleaning services to Yarra Trams, including COVID-19 deep cleans.

O’Flaherty said that Metro was ensuring cleaning met community standards.

“I again want to reassure our passengers that we have a range of measures in place to ensure the daily cleaning and sanitisation of our trains meets the standards they expect. These measures include audit teams regularly checking the standard of this work.”

Inquiry hears of improper contractor payments and lax safety oversight at V/Line and Metro Trains Melbourne

The first days of hearings as part of an inquiry into the handling of Victorian public transport contracts have heard that individuals within rail operators V/Line and MTM failed to uphold ethical best practices when it came to contracts and hiring.

The current inquiry, Operation Esperance, is the second time in three years that V/Line has been the subject of an Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) investigation, with Operation Lansdowne in 2017 investigating the awarding of training contracts by the regional operator.

Operation Lansdowne found evidence of nepotism and improper procurement, and in hearings held since Monday this week, former CEO of V/Line James Pinder was heard offering a job to his friend and Metro Trains Melbourne fleet manager Peter Bollas to manage facility contracts, including all cleaning.

While Bollas did not ultimately take the job, Pinder acknowledged that the conversation he was having with Bollas was duplicitous, considering that V/Line was responding to the findings of Operation Lansdowne at the time.

“I accept now and I accept then it was inappropriate,” said Pinder.

Pinder has been the focus of the inquiry’s first three days, which has alleged that Pinder received a loan of $320,000 from cleaning contractor Transclean managing director George Haritos after awarding a V/Line cleaning contract. The inquiry has also heard that Pinder and Peter Bollas received monthly cash payments from Haritos of $8,000 to $10,000 each.

Pinder has said that the payments were part of a gambling syndicate that involved himself, Haritos and Bollas. Bollas has said that he was never involved in a gambling syndicate with Pinder.

Under questioning from counsel assisting Paul Lawrie, Pinder said that the funds that went through the syndicate were sometimes used by Haritos when Transclean was having cashflow issues and that Pinder couldn’t be sure whether the funds that he received were from Transclean or Haritos personally. The funds were always in round amounts and delivered discretely.

IBAC Commissioner Robert Redlich questioned why there needed to be secrecy around the distribution of funds from the gambling system and why Pinder had written a note to Haritos telling him to provide a false reason for the payment of that money.

Pinder replied, “Rightly or wrongly I was panicked and I thought that the fact that I was in a gambling syndicate with somebody that was a supplier to V/Line whilst not necessarily illegal was inappropriate.”

IBAC also heard that Transclean staff were in life threatening situations. In one incident, a cleaned went underneath a Metro Trains train coupling without appropriate protection when the train’s pantograph was connected to the overhead wiring, creating the risk of electrocution.

The incident occurred while Transclean was attempting to secure the stations cleaning contract with Metro Trains Melbourne. In an intercepted phone conversation between Pinder and Bollas, Bollas is heard discussing ways to underplay the incident as the fault of Transclean.

A Metro Trains spokesperson said that the operator was unable to comment.

“Metro is unable to comment while the hearings are ongoing.”

Upon contacting ARA, the spokesperson told Rail Express, “The rail industry has stringent processes in place to ensure procurement is grounded in principles that support a stronger, socially responsible industry for all of us. While this is a very unusual case, it is important we look to the outcomes of this process and learn from them.”

Metro Trains improves on performance figures in September

Metro Trains Melbourne has once again beat performance target records during September.

During the month, 99.4 per cent of scheduled services were delivered, and 97.6 per cent were on time.

A spokesperson for Metro said the operator was continuing to provide services during Melbourne’s lockdown for essential workers.

“The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t changed our commitment to delivering the best service for our passengers. We are always striving to improve our performance and run the safe and efficient services that Melburnians deserve.”

Performance figures were helped by fewer trespassers in September than in previous months and fewer weather-related incidents. Strong winds caused a tree to fall across rail lines on September 2, however, which delayed 81 trains.

Performance figures for Yarra Trams were also above target, with 98.5 per cent of services delivered and 95.7 per cent on time.

During September, renewal project on the tram network included upgrades to Glenferrie and Malvern roads and upgrade works along St Kilda light rail began.

During Melbourne’s second lockdown, beginning in August, night tram services were suspended, however Yarra Trams stated that the operator was working towards the resumption of these services while prioritising passenger and staff safety as restrictions begin to be lifted.

For regional operator V/Line, punctuality in September dipped from a high in August. 96.2 per cent of services were on time while 96.4 were on time in August. Reliability figures improved however, with 96.8 per cent of services delivered in September, compared to 96.6 per cent in August.

These figures were partly impacted by the closure of the Albury-Wodonga line where coaches have replaced trains since July.

Across the short distance network, services on the Seymour Line were the most reliable, while services on the Geelong Line were the most punctual. On the long distance lines, the Bairnsdale Line was the most reliable and the Swan Hill & Echuca line was the most punctual.

Metro Trains Melbourne providing pathways for overseas-qualified engineers

Five engineers from refugee and asylum seeker background have begun their Australian professional journey with Metro Trains Melbourne in 2020.

The Engineering Pathways Industry Cadetship or EPIC program provides pathways for qualified engineers from refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds to work in Australia.

Metro Trains in partnership with the Level Crossing Removal Project has placed five cadets this year in major transport infrastructure projects.

Metro’s Executive Director – Projects Peter Gleeson said the EPIC program enables those with overseas qualifications to contribute to Victoria’s Big Build.

“The EPIC program gives people pathways to further their engineering careers – with on-site experience, a recognised qualification, and exposure to some of the biggest transport projects the state has ever seen,” Gleeson said.

“There’s never been a better time to be part of the infrastructure transformation across our city, and with a huge demand for engineering skills, these cadets will only go from strength to strength.”

The EPIC program overcomes a significant barrier for those with engineering qualifications that were achieved overseas. Only those with qualifications from a select number of countries are recognised in Australia, leading to many with engineering qualifications who could contribute to the rail skills pipeline working outside of their field.

In a 2011 report, Perspectives on Migrants, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that 65 per cent of all recent migrants had a non-school qualification before arriving in Australia, however only a third of these had their overseas qualification recognised.

One of the cadets, Mayat Mnayrji, has worked on the South-Eastern Program Alliance for stations and VicTrack interface.

“The EPIC program is really fantastic, giving overseas engineers the opportunity to get more work experience and improve themselves, as well studying a very useful course.”

Ilab Qassab, who holds a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering (power and machine) from the University of Mosul, in Iraq, has been based in the Metropolitan Roads Program Alliance, working with the rail team.

“I am very proud to be one of the EPIC program cadets. This program gave us a great opportunity to start our career in Australia and achieve our goals as we came from other countries.”

In addition to an Australian qualification, cadets also gain valuable work experience on major projects. In the ABS report, 64 per cent of recent migrants said that a lack of Australian work experience or references was a barrier to their employment. Ali Firwana, originally from Gaza, Palestine holds a Bachelor of Industrial Engineer and is working as a combined services route site engineer on the Frankston Line.

“Having work experience and industry-focused education is incredibly useful, and I am learning new things on a daily basis with Metro.”

Gleeson said the work of the cadets is invaluable for Victoria’s infrastructure pipeline.

“These five cadets have been doing fantastic work for Metro to help shape the Victorian government’s Big Build, which is transforming our public transport network.”

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.
Metro

Rollingstock innovations keep Metro trains on track

Metro Trains Melbourne’s Comeng, Siemens and X’Trapolis fleets have undergone major maintenance to ensure the trains are kept to the highest standard and improve the experience for passengers.

Melbourne trains are being retrofitted with wireless data recorders to monitor key train systems, improve safety and reliability, and maintenance, enabling the trains are available to run on the network more often.

The On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system will give Metro engineers access to near real time data so they can monitor train performance, identify faults sooner, and maintain trains more efficiently.

Metro has recently installed the state-of-the-art technology on 174 three-carriage X’Trapolis train units.

The OBD project is being completed at the Newport rail workshops and has now moved on to the Siemens fleet.

The system is used to monitor everything including vibration in critical train bogie components, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, as well as passenger body-side doors, traction, auxiliary power supply, and passenger information systems.

This helps Metro diagnose and respond to potential issues sooner, reducing the risk of passengers being delayed by train faults.

Metro’s general manager of rolling stock, Dave Carlton said that Metro was completing a world first with this technology.

“We’re proud to be leading the largest-ever retrofit of remote condition monitoring equipment on an existing train fleet, globally,” he said.

“The data we collect from this technology is being shared across Metro, which benefits our operations, infrastructure and network development teams.”

Technical upgrades have also been carried out on the oldest vehicles in the Metro fleet. 75 per cent of the Comeng fleet, which in total numbers 179 trains are being overhauled, with passenger-facing and engineering improvements.

In 2017, a three-stage, $75 million upgrade project began, funded by the Victorian government.

Metro’s CEO Raymond O’Flaherty said the project will extend the life of the fleet.

“The Comeng fleet has served the people of Melbourne for almost 40 years, they are brilliant trains and they’ve certainly got more life left in them,” he said.

“We have very stringent maintenance programs for all our trains, that’s one of the reasons they are still so reliable. It’s also essential that we utilise all the technical advances that are available, and this life extension program makes sure that our passengers have the best possible experience on board.”

The life extension project has three stages, of which the first two are complete.

Stage one included critical-safety improvements to Comeng train doors – a feature now standard on all Metro trains.

Stage two was focused on the passenger experience, including rearranging and reupholstering seating, installing LED lights, new grab poles and straps, safer gang-way bellows, and new digital signage on the front of trains to give passengers destination information.

Upgrades have also been made to the driver’s instrument panel.

Stage three is the project’s final stage and is now almost complete. It involves upgrades to the passenger information system, with digital displays inside the carriages tracking the train’s journey in real-time.

Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said that upgrades would also increase safety for passengers, with new high definition CCTV cameras been fitted with a wider field of view that can be accessed remotely, which will support Metro and Victoria Police investigations.

“We can access camera footage remotely as soon as issues are reported – helping Metro and Victoria Police respond to incidents as quickly as possible and giving Victorians peace of mind that their journeys are safe.”

There are also improvements to hearing-aid links for people with additional needs and upgraded speakers for clearer on-board announcements.

On the engineering side, the trains’ air brakes are being overhauled, while the electrical relay panel and traction systems are being upgraded to support a safer journey.

For the Siemens fleet, Metro’s middle child, Metro partnered with accessibility group Vision Australia to support new safety upgrades for the Siemens fleet

New bellows were needed between carriages, which has instituted an “outer wall” that fills in the gap between the train and the platform.

By providing an exterior that is flat along the full length of the train, Metro has reduced the risk of falls for vision-impaired passengers who may mistake the gap for a door.

Since an upgrade program commenced in February this year, more than 20 per cent of Siemens trains have been upgraded with the new bellows.

As well as being safer for passengers, the upgrades also provide sound-proofing, making the carriages quieter for a more comfortable journey.

Together with Vision Australia, Metro used a mock-up train carriage to test the design to ensure it provided all the necessary safety features.

The mock-up train is used by Vision Australia to help familiarise vision-impaired passengers and enable them to move confidently around trains, while also teaching guide dogs how to navigate the network.

Carlton said this work was important for the community.

“The work we do to make sure our trains and stations are fully accessible for all our passengers is absolutely essential. Providing a public transport service means making sure that every person can use our network without limitation,” he said.

“These new gangways give us extra confidence that not only are we continuously improving safety, but we are improving the passenger experience. It’s not just about getting to your destination, it’s about getting to your destination as easily and comfortably as possible.”

A mock-up of a Siemens-class train for vision-impaired passengers.

Upgrades underway to keep Melbourne trains exceeding punctuality and reliability targets

Metro Trains Melbourne is working to improve the reliability of the network to continue to record some of the highest ever punctuality and reliability targets.

Punctuality and reliability figures for June for Victoria’s public transport network saw all operators meet or beat their targets, continuing the run of above target figures.

While not as high as May, 95.7 per cent of metropolitan trains ran on time, and Metro Trains Melbourne delivered 99 per cent of scheduled services. These services included extra trains to manage social-distanced demand.

“This makes it easier for passengers to stagger travel times and physically distance while travelling for one of the four essential reasons to leave home,” said a Metro spokesperson.

With patronage levels low and fewer disruptions to the network due to crowding and delays due to people getting on and off services, Metro is hoping to ensure the months of above target figures continue.

“To ensure we’re delivering the best possible service, we invest $12 million in our network every week to maintain our infrastructure, trains and technology,” said the Metro spokesperson.

These works include efforts to minimise delays due to trespassing, emergency services requests, equipment faults, external power outages, infrastructure upgrades, and extreme weather. Maintenance has also been determined based on data from last year of where common faults occur to rectify issues before they cause a disruption to services. Critical components such as points, track circuits, and signals are of particular focus.

Yarra Trams has also been completing upgrade works during June to increase reliability. Infrastructure upgrades in St Kilda and renewed tram tracks on Spring and Nicholson Streets were completed during the month.

Yarra Trams delivered 98.5 per cent of services, equal to its target, and 93.1 per cent of services were on time, well above the 82 per cent target.

Regional services also met their targets of 96 per cent of scheduled services and 92 per cent of services on time. In June 93.3 per cent of regional trains were on time and V/Line delivered 97.5 per cent of scheduled services.

The Seymour line was the most reliable of the short distance lines, with the Geelong line being the most punctual, while the Shepparton line was the most reliable of the long distance lines, with the Swan Hill and Echuca line the most punctual. Services on the Albury line however were often delayed, with only 42.7 per cent of services delivered on time.

Beaconsfield

New cark park to be built at Beaconsfield station

An extra 150 spaces will be added to Beaconsfield station, with a car park funded by the federal and Victorian governments.

The current 285-space car park at Beaconsfield station in the outer south east suburbs of Melbourne is often full by 7.30 in the morning, and over 250,000 commuters use the station each year. Commuters instead use nearby streets for parking.

Delivering the project are the Level Crossing Removal Project, Metro Trains Melbourne, and Fulton Hogan.

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said that commuters on the Pakenham line would not only be the ones who benefit.

“More parking spaces at trains stations means more people on public transport and more cars off the road.

“Beaconsfield Station is one of 30 sites identified as high priority across Victoria and this will make a big difference in the lives of local people.”

The car park will be built on vacant state-owned land next to the existing car park and will feature improved lighting and CCTV. Bicycle parking will also be facilitated, with the installation of new amenities such as a Parkiteer and 16 additional bike hoops.

Victorian Minister for Public Transport, Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll said that the investment would enable more people to use public transport.

“Victoria’s Big Build is revitalising transport in the south-east – we want all Victorians to be able to experience our huge investment in our transport infrastructure and be better connected than ever,” he said.

“The Victorian government is getting on with boosting capacity at station car parks that need it most – making sure everyone can use our public transport system without parking congestion being a barrier.”

Federal Member for La Trobe Jason Wood said that the upgrade was the first for an Urban Congestion Fund project in La Trobe.

Funding has also come from the federal Commuter Car Park Fund and the Victorian Car Parks for Commuters Fund.

Craigieburn parking underway

At Craigieburn, in Melbourne’s outer north, 745 new carparking spaces are under construction.

Member for Yuroke Ros Spence said that for the expanding area car parks meant more could travel via train.

“These new spaces will deliver a significant boost to car parking for Craigieburn Station and enable more people to access public transport in our rapidly growing community.”

The carpark is expected to be completed before the end of 2020 and will lift the total number of spaces at the station to over 1,000.

Surrounding streets will be improved to enable pedestrian access, as well as space for bicycles, lighting and CCTV.

Rail Systems Alliance delivering high capacity signalling for Melbourne’s rail future

Dealing with rapid population growth has led to Melbourne upgrading the signalling system on two of its most congested lines. Rail Systems Alliance is ensuring the benefits are felt for years to come.

Over the past 10 years, the story of Australia’s cities has been rewritten. While Sydney had been dominant for the previous century, no account of the urbanisation of Australia in the second decade of the 21st century could ignore the rapid growth of Melbourne.

The relative growth of Melbourne is most clearly illustrated by the fact that Melbourne adds a Darwin-worth of population each year, overtaking Sydney in population size by 2026. Much of this growth has been concentrated in two areas, the west and the south-east of Melbourne and the rail lines that serve these expanding areas are reaching capacity. This has necessitated Victoria’s Big Build, the largest infrastructure building programme in the state’s history, of which rail plays a major part, highlights David Ness, package director, Rail Systems, Rail Projects Victoria.

“There’s a number of initiatives underway to help alleviate that population growth, one is the introduction of larger trains that can carry more passengers, and then the second part is the provision of High Capacity Signalling (HCS) on the corridor that lets us run more trains, more often.

“What ties all of that together is the Metro Tunnel project that connects those two corridors, Dandenong in the south-east and Sunshine/Sunbury in the west, and allows us to untangle the existing rail network. It’s a combination of things but HCS is the centre point, allowing you to operate more efficiently on the corridor.”

The HCS project, now in its testing phase, is being delivered by Rail Systems Alliance, a partnership between Bombardier Transportation, CPB Contractors, and Metro Trains Melbourne. The project will introduce Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) technology, the BOMBARDIER CITYFLO 650 rail control solution, on both the Sunbury and Cranbourne/Pakenham lines as well as in the newly built Metro Tunnel, creating a new end- to-end rail line from Sunbury to Cranbourne and Pakenham. The two existing lines are some of the most complex in the Melbourne network, not only serving commuter trains, but regional passenger lines and freight services, requiring a mixed-mode solution, said Tim Hunter, alliance manager, Rail Systems Alliance, Metro Tunnel Project.

“What is unique about Melbourne is the fact that we’re upgrading existing lines, on brownfield sites, as well as the greenfield site in the tunnel. That means that we can continue running the existing trains on the existing lines at the same time as we do the upgrades. As the vehicles become fitted with the CBTC technology then they can run either in the conventional signalling or CBTC mode. The beauty of it is that it’s a mixed mode solution for the existing lines.”

The introduction of moving block rather than fixed block signalling will enable a step change in capacity, even under mixed conditions.

“We’re expecting to open with around 18 trains per hour when we will still have a mixture of CBTC trains and regional and freight trains,” said Ness. “But, as time progresses, the system itself has a capacity of 24 trains per hour. That means it actually has a higher capacity to recover from disruptions that may occur, and the Metro Tunnel will be capable of 24 trains per hour.”

ENSURING EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION
Getting to this targeted level of capacity on the first introduction of CBTC technology on an existing rail line in Australia has required a collaborative approach, facilitated by the nature of the Rail Systems Alliance.

“We went through a pretty extensive, year-long competitive alliance tender process,” said Ness. During the process, Rail Projects Victoria looked at the system’s capabilities, the ability to minimise disruption during integration, and did site visits to other HCS projects internationally.

“On a balanced score card of value for money, being able to address our technical requirements, being able to address mixed mode, being able to work within an alliance framework – which is intrinsic to the way we’re approaching the job – Bombardier Transportation, CPB Contractors and Metro Trains Melbourne were
the successful tenderers,” said Ness.

Taking an alliance approach to project delivery allowed for the project to effectively interact with the many other stakeholders involved. While the technology promises to increase capacity and relieve the strain on Melbourne’s rail network, its success depends upon all elements of the wider project working together.

“We have the technology challenge, in that what we’re introducing into the system is new, but that change is not just operational, it affects the entire way in which the network is run,” said Ness.

The introduction of HCS in Melbourne requires the project to interact with a variety of stakeholders, including the rest of the Melbourne rail network, the other consortiums on the Metro Tunnel Project, and the procurement of larger trains, which is being delivered in parallel.

“The alliancing model provides the most flexibility to adapt and move while maintaining your focus on that end game,” said Ness.“It’s very difficult to do a project like this with just a fixed scope, fixed dates, fixed price, fixed everything. Having a target price that you can adapt and working together with the client has been proven to be the best model.”

In practice, this has enabled a regime of extensive testing for the technology on the rail line. On the Mernda Line wayside equipment has been installed and two existing X’Trapolis trains have been fitted with the Bombardier CBTC equipment. Dynamic testing is now underway. The project has also involved the operator, Metro Trains Melbourne, to prepare the end user – the drivers and operators of Melbourne’s trains, as Hunter outlines.

“We’re setting up additional labs so we can test the train management system for the new trains alongside HCS. We are also taking the equipment and systems that have been implemented inside the tunnel and then testing that with our systems in the lab, so that when we go to implement on site we will have done as much testing as we can offsite. This will make implementation testing and fault finding a lot smoother.”

The hands-on approach to testing enables the end users (for example, train drivers) to become “super users” as the design develops and the new technology is introduced as part of the project.

“We have user working groups within Metro Trains Melbourne to facilitate operational and maintenance input,” said Hunter. “We’ve done a lot of on-site training, we’ve taken them to Bombardier’s CBTC facilities in Bangkok, Madrid and Pittsburgh and shown them what has been done on other projects, and how the technology works. This collaboration is critical to successfully implement HCS on this project.”

Hunter explains that each piece of equipment that drivers or operators use goes through an extensive human-centred design process, with safety front of mind.

“It’s a tremendous amount of work but I’ve learnt from other projects that it’s essential because in the end we want the people who will be using the technology to really feel as though they own it.”

One example where this has occurred is in the design and purchasing of the desks that will be used at operations centres in Sunshine and Dandenong.

“We’ve got the actual desk that we’re proposing to use in the control centres in our office in Bourke Street and we invite people from Metro Trains Melbourne to come and look at, sit at, use, and test it.”

PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE OF HCS
While signalling upgrades on two of Melbourne’s busiest lines will have an immediate benefit for commuters, Rail Systems Alliance has also been aware of the need to ensure that investment in the project benefits the wider rail industry. While experiencing unprecedented investment, the rail industry is looking at a looming skills crisis. As one of the first rollouts of CBTC technology, the HCS project aims to train the next generation of signalling engineers.

“We’ve got roughly 35 cadets coming through the project,” said Hunter. “We’re working closely with the Victorian government and the Local Jobs First – Major Project Skills Guarantee but it’s important that we’re building a base for future projects.”

While signalling projects such as HCS have needed to hire talent internationally, Hunter hopes that this won’t continue to be the case.

“We’ve had to bring a lot of people in from overseas – including myself – who have done these kinds of projects around the world but that’s not a sustainable model. What you actually want is a strong, capable, local team, so that’s what we’re setting out to do. We’ve got cadets working on signalling design, onboard equipment, the control systems, the communications systems, the radio systems, systems engineering, and systems safety assurance.”

Having such a major project occurring in Melbourne has a drawcard for attracting the next generation of engineers to rail.

“As soon as they join, I sit down with them and talk about the project and how exciting engineering is on these kinds of projects.”

“University is a good starting place for technical knowledge, but to have the opportunity to work on a project of this size and this complexity on their doorstep is too good to miss,” said Hunter.

While there’s no concrete plan to roll out HCS beyond the existing project scope at this stage, efficiencies of already implementing the technology mean that any future upgrades would be even smoother.

With a competent and experienced local workforce, and upgrades in place on two of Melbourne’s most complex lines, Melbourne would be well-placed to extend HCS over the rest of the existing rail network said Ness.

“Our focus right now is to successfully deliver HCS on the Sunbury and Cranbourne/ Pakenham corridor. However, if you look at Melbourne’s growth, and some of the pressures on the rail network, HCS may be one future option to get the most out of the existing infrastructure,” said Ness.