Harnessing the rail boom to improve safety outcomes

There is a concerted effort underway across the rail industry in Australia to leverage the current investment in the rail sector to improve safety outcomes.

Speakers at the 20th annual Rail Industry Safety & Standards Board (RISSB) Rail Safety Conference 2020 highlighted that with the many major projects occurring concurrently around Australia, there is the opportunity to reset and improve when it comes to safety.

John Langron, rail safety manager Sydney Metro outlined how this is happening in practice on Australia’s largest public transport project. With construction underway on the CBD and South West portion of the project, new safety practices and methods are being implemented and normalised to improve overall safety culture.

While Langron noted that on such a high visibility project there is an expectation that the project will provide safer outcomes, the size of the project is also an opportunity. In the construction phase, Sydney Metro has implemented processes that are “a step above a normal maintenance job” said Langron.

These include daily preliminary checks before starting work, including drug and alcohol testing and verification of workers’ qualifications.

On major worksites such as at Central Station, large concrete barriers have been erected to separate work sites and the live rail environment, which also reduce dust and noise pollution for passengers on the adjacent platforms.

Ways of working have shifted too. Sydney Metro has instituted a prohibition on lookout protection working and conducted on-track works under local possession authorities (LPA). Through forward planning and collaboration with Sydney Trains, this has ensured that works are done on time at a higher level of safety.

Changing safety culture however takes more that physical and administrative controls. As Langron pointed out, with a new project a new culture can be established with the formation of the organisation. There is an “Opportunity for creating the culture that Sydney Metro wants” said Langron.

The culture from the top then sets the standard for within the organisation and the principle contracts and rail transport operators that Sydney Metro interacts with. Having had this experience of working alongside Sydney Metro, Sydney Trains has now shifted to doing more routine maintenance tasks during night time when no trains are running, according to Langron.

Report highlights challenges and opportunities for rail’s response to COVID-19

Global technology provider Thales has released a new report highlighting the challenges of and solutions to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in the rail transport sector.

Acknowledging that in many cases transport networks have been on the front line of responding to COVID-19, the report’s authors write that transport operators will need to develop new ways of operating.

“There is no historical precedent for this, no model to work from. The challenge is huge,” the report highlights.

Since the arrival of COVID-19 onto the global stage, a range of challenges have emerged for transport operators. The report categorises these into four sectors: revenue, health, mobility, and climate challenges.

For operators which rely on fare revenue for operations, rapid drops in ridership numbers have had a severe financial impact. In addition, extra cleaning and the introduction of social distancing measures has increased costs, while restrictions on capacity have limited revenue.

Transport has also been identified as an area of concern when it comes to the transmission and spread of COVID-19, placing extra responsibilities on transport operators to ensure the health of their passengers and staff.

Maintaining mobility while staff work from home and cybersecurity threats increase is also a challenge for operators.

Finally, climate challenges have not been altered by COVID-19, and the rail sector continues to play a part in helping communities achieve their emissions goals.

To meet these challenges, Thales has catalogued a range of digital tools which can assist transport operators. These range from using cameras to detect body temperature and compliance with mask wearing, and integrating traffic management systems to reduce crowding by smoothing connections between modes and services, to technologies for remote operations and infrastructure maintenance.

While some of these solutions are in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis, in other cases, the pandemic has served to highlight areas where existing issues need to be overcome. For example, the adoption of flexible train services to adapt to changes in demand and the provision of dynamic passenger information systems.

Amid these uncertainties, Thales highlights that rail operators should start asking more fundamental questions about their services to ensure that once the immediate crisis is over, they continue to provide adaptive and appropriate mobility solutions.

“For now, the priority is restoring services and rebuilding trust,” write the report’s authors. “Looking to the future, the trends point to a need for next-generation transportation systems. Access to secure, diverse and reliable sources of mobility will be vital not only to ensure long-term economic recovery, but also to address wider societal goals.”

Read the report here: https://thalesgroup-myfeed.com/ThalesTransport_Covid19_Whitepaper?elqCampaignId=458.

Making way for a new ticketing system for Canberra’s light rail

The current MyWay ticketing system will be replaced by a new and advanced ticketing system for Canberra’s public transport network.

Transport Minister Chris Steel said Transport Canberra had begun a procurement process for the new system.

“With a modern ticketing system, transport users will be able to pay for their bus or light rail fare using their credit card to tap on and off, as well as other flexible payment options including with their phone, smart device, travel cards and other options,” Steel said.

A spokesperson on behalf of Steel said that the ACT government was yet to select a contractor to provide the system.

A new app will include reliable real-time travel information and updates with GPS data allowing travellers to check details of their connecting services.

Steel said the new system’s high tech features will provide more data than through the current MyWay System to support public transport planners and operations.

He said the new system is likely to be rolled out next year or in 2022 after a lengthy development and transition period.

The cost of the new account based system will be released once the procurement process is finalised towards the middle of the year.

“The Territory continues to undertake further investigations as part of the broader procurement process which is confidential until that process is completed,” Steel said.

The new system will include reliable real time travel information and updates with GPS data and will enable passengers on light rail services to discard MyWay cards as they will no longer need to buy and load money on them.

“We’ve heard from public transport users that they want better real time information to inform their travel plans,” Steele said.

“Many Canberrans have been to other cities around the world where it is much easier to use public transport than it is here because of modern ticketing systems.

“A good ticketing system is really important to improve the transit experience.”