NSW EPA trying to put the brakes on rail freight

Draft changes to NSW environmental standards could end regional branch freight lines, warns an alliance of rail industry leaders.

The joint letter signed by freight operators, farmers, and grain growers, and seen by Rail Express, responds to draft NSW EPA standards for rollingstock emissions and noise.

The draft standards set a noise ceiling of 85 decibels, a similar volume to a lawnmower, which would rule out diesel locomotives of the type used to transport grain from silos to port.

The 48 Class locomotives which service these branch lines have a low axel load of 12.5 tonnes, and are able to run on the older steel track which are restricted to locomotive axle loads of 17 tonnes.

The letter outlines that rather than improving environmental outcomes, the restrictions on noise, if implemented would force grain to be transported by trucks. The authors write that this could lead to an extra 25,000 B-double trucks on a “conservative” estimate. This would generate a 500 per cent increase in CO2 emissions compared with rail freight.

“In short, proposed new EPA environmental standards for diesel locomotives will significantly increase net [greenhouse gas] emissions in regional NSW,” write the authors. “This is a perverse outcome.”

Other costs include increased road accidents and fatalities and job losses of locomotive drivers and seasonal silo workers.

Additionally, by forcing grain onto trucks, the cost of exporting grain would increase, placing pressure on farmers’ margins at a time when drought is impacting upon agricultural profitability.

Emissions standards proposed by the NSW EPA also place a restriction on rail freight. While emissions kits can be installed in diesel locomotives, the cost of installing them would be prohibitive and would increase the consumption of diesel by five per cent, increasing greenhouse gas emissions. The weight of these emission kits can also push a locomotive over the axel load threshold.

The signatories to the letter are:

Dean Dalla Valle, Pacific National CEO

Klaus Pamminger, GrainCorp COO

Dick Honan, Manildra Group chairman

Jason Ferguson, Southern Shorthaul Railroad director

Maurice James, Qube Holdings managing director

Matthew Madden, NSW Farmers Association Grains Committee chair

Danny Broad, Australasian Railway Association chair

Geoff Smith, SCT Logistics managing director

Luke Anderson, Genesee & Wyoming Australia CEO

Anthony Jones, LINX Cargo Care Group CEO

Ian Gibbs, CF Asia Pacific / CFCL Australia executive chairman

V/Line driver’s near-miss with a train after failing to stop at signals

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) rail safety investigation found a V/Line driver ran through a level crossing before the boom gates were down at Marshall, Victoria.

On January 2nd 2018 at around 2pm, V/Line train 7750 travelling to Geelong and 1305 V/Line travelling to Warrnambool were heading towards each other on a single track in suburban Geelong.

The two trains were 940m apart from colliding when a control room worker in Melbourne issued an emergency call instructing the drivers to stop.

The ATSB found that the driver of train 7750 did not respond to the Stop indications of signals MSL10 and MSL8 at Marshall.

The driver of train 7750 entered the single line section between Marshall and South Geelong and then into the Marshalltown level crossing before the crossing booms had lowered.

At approximately the same time, The 1305 V/Line Melbourne to Warrnambool service with two crew and 166 passengers on board had departed Geelong and was headed towards Marshall on the same single line section.

The trains were scheduled to cross using the loop track at Marshall.

The investigation report stated that in preparation for the cross of the two trains at Marshall, the train controller “was observing the signalling control and CCTV VDU when he saw train 7750 go through Marshall platform travelling too fast to stop at MSL10,”

“Realising that train 7750 would not be able to stop, the train controller made a fleet radio transmission to all trains in the area to ‘Red Light’ (Stop), the CCTV also allowed the train controller to confirm that train 7750 had stopped beyond the Marshalltown Road level crossing.”

The investigation concluded that the driver of V/Line train 7750 was most likely influenced by symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal, having not applied a nicotine patch on that day.

“Following this incident, the driver of train 7750 tested positive for an inactive metabolite of cannabis, with levels suggesting use within the previous 7 days,” the report stated.

It could not be determined whether that had affected the driver’s performance at the time of the incident.

Report authors say attempts by V/Line safety critical workers to stop smoking should be managed under medical supervision.

As a result of the incident, V/Line has installed a train protection system at Marshalltown Road level crossing to stop a train that has passed a signal at Danger, which has over-speed sensors to prevent a train entering the crossing when unprotected.

V/Line has continued with planning for the provision of three-position signalling for this section as part of other infrastructure projects.

The driver of train 7750 no longer works for V/Line.

CBH moves bumper crop by rail

Grain storage, handling, transport, marketing, and processing cooperative, CBH Group has announced that their rail infrastructure moved the largest amount of grain in the company’s history.

8.9 million tonnes of grain was moved by rail to port terminals in the 12 months to September 2019. These figures included six million tonnes of grain from the Kwinana Zone to the Kwinana Grain Terminal for bulk export.

These figures were the result of a record harvest of 16.4m tonnes, 13.8m tonnes of which was shipped from CBH Group’s four grain terminals. 6.2m tonnes were shipped from the Kwinana Grain Terminal.

While these figures were record breaking, global grain market forces left the group with a net loss after tax of $29.7 million and a deficit of $13.3 million.

During the year, CBH invested $285.3m in its network. These funds went towards an expansion of storage capacity, improving supply chain efficiency, and infrastructure maintenance.

CBH Group owns 574 wagons, 26 locomotives, and 12 trains, and in the 2019 year leased two additional locomotives and 131 standard and narrow gauge wagons for parts of the year. Due to the bumper year, three standard gauge fleets and nine narrow gauge fleets moved the grain crop.

AusRAIL: Boosting service intervals for traction motors

SKF tells Rail Express about how the latest methods of bearing protection, including insulating coatings, hybrid bearings and sealed bearing units, can help extend maintenance intervals for traction motors in the rail sector.

 


In modern rail industry traction engines, AC motors have almost completely replaced DC motors as they present several advantages, including higher efficiency, reduced wear, less maintenance and greater power density. That’s not to say they are problemfree, however.

One consequence of using AC motors typically in combination with frequency converters is an increased risk of stray, high frequency currents. These can cause surface erosion of bearings, leading to potential failure. This then requires more frequent servicing – which undermines the original efficiency gains.

SKF Australia’s general manager rail, Anthony Clack, says the company aims to provide a range of solutions to help designers and users of traction motors extend maintenance intervals and boost efficiency. He says all solutions rely on SKF’s proven ability to protect bearings – to various degrees – from the conditions within AC motors.

Hybrid approach

The most important technology is hybrid bearings, in which the steel rolling elements are replaced with ones made of ceramics. This material provides very high current insulation, so is resistant to the “damaging” effects of AC motors.

“Hybrid bearings have the high resistance and low capacitance needed to withstand these conditions,” Clack said.

Some of the advantages of running these bearings include: high wear resistance; lower friction; higher speed capabilities; and no cold welding effects under poor lubrication or low load conditions. However, one main attribute of hybrid bearings is that they run cooler than conventional bearings, thanks to their lower friction. This has a profound effect on bearing life because it ensures that lubricant lasts longer.

“For grease-lubricated bearings – which are used in almost all traction motors – the maintenance interval is usually determined by the grease life. This is mainly affected by contamination, mechanical stressing and temperature,” Clack said.

A temperature rise of just a few degrees can have a huge effect – while a 15°C rise in bearing temperature will cut grease life in approximately half. At the same time, the insulative nature of ceramics ensures there is no electrical “burning” of the grease. In this way, adopting hybrid bearings can help to more than double the grease life – with a subsequent extension of the maintenance interval.

Yet, despite their many advantages, hybrid bearings have traditionally been considered unaffordable for general applications. However, recent manufacturing advances have helped to bring the price of hybrid bearings closer to that of standard bearings.

“For smaller bearings, it has been possible to reduce the price gap significantly – though large hybrid bearings are still more expensive than their standard equivalents. Taking lifecycle cost into account – rather than simply purchase cost – makes hybrid bearings even more attractive,” Clack explained.

An added advantage is that hybrid bearings can be swapped directly for their standard equivalents, as a direct retrofit replacement. Insulated coating Hybrid solutions – particularly the hybrid TMBU – will guarantee the longest possible extension of maintenance interval.

However, Clack says not all applications require such an extension – and not all budgets will stretch far enough. A more basic solution is to use specially treated Insocoat bearings – which are standard steel bearings with an insulated coating that gives a degree of resistance against stray electric currents.

Insocoat bearings are useful for designers who are not yet ready to make the switch to hybrid bearings due to missing experience with ceramic materials. They can also be incorporated into a TMBU arrangement.

SKF is currently expanding the capabilities of its Insocoat products. Last year, for instance, it launched a new product that works more effectively in humid conditions – making it highly appropriate for rail applications in certain regions. In addition, SKF will increase coating thickness on Insocoat bearings, to improve their effectiveness.

 

Visit SKF Australia at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 286.

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.

AusRAIL: Rail adapting to ‘unprecedented boom’

In this exclusive Q&A, John Holland’s executive general manager for rail, Steve Butcher, tells Rail Express about the shifting rail landscape, the benefits of an integrated offering, and the challenges facing the sector.

 


Rail Express (REX): How is the landscape shifting for operations and maintenance contractors in the rail sector?

Steve Butcher (SB): There is an unprecedented increase in the investment governments are making into mass transit systems across Australia. As a result, Australian rail operators are adapting to a level of demand that has been lacking for a generation.

The demand has been greatest for mass transit systems in urban centres, where population density has driven an increase in funding for rail projects along the east coast.

The other shift we are seeing is a renewed focus on the customer, which is something we thrive on.

People-centred transport systems are now what governments expect, and our performance is tied to how well we design and manage the customer experience. Governments are also increasingly introducing KPIs for operators, which has driven better customer outcomes.

The importance of integrating the customer experience across modes and ensuring comfort, safety and reliability is now part of rail planning from the design stage.

Public transport increasingly becoming a data business has also created a range of new opportunities for operators, such as linking to on-demand services, and sharing real-time information with customers about reliability and patronage on services.

 

REX: What are the challenges faced by John Holland and others in this space, and how is John Holland adjusting to these challenges?

SB: This is a really exciting time for the Australian rail industry – it is a time of great transformation, both in terms of massive physical infrastructure and technological developments to reduce congestion and improve the customer experience.

We are very lucky to be in the thick of some of the most significant rail projects in Australia’s history, but
it is important we keep pace with the sheer volume of work that is out there.

Our rail business now makes up 47 per cent of John Holland’s total revenue, and with more than $100 billion worth of projects in the Australasian rail pipeline, we expect the demand on our people to continue to grow.

Adjusting to the increase in work has meant a very consistent recruitment strategy, where we have seen our rail employee numbers increase by 31.6 per cent since December last year.

Separately, we are working hard to improve work-life balance for people across all John Holland projects. This includes a pilot of flexible working arrangements across different projects.

During a boom, we know that we are in fierce competition for the best people – so we need to ensure we are the best place to work, both to attract new hires and to retain our expert rail people.

Other challenges in rail relate to bringing existing infrastructure up to modern standards. This covers everything from ensuring stations and platforms are accessible, to upgrading track to improve speed and reliability – which forms the bulk of the work we perform on the Country Regional Network in NSW.

Making rail competitive with road travel means maximising the performance of existing networks, both for passengers and freight operators.

To keep pace with technological advancements in the operations and maintenance space, we are seeking to draw on our in-house capacity and expand the pool of companies we joint venture with.

John Holland has a specialised internal technology, engineering and knowledge business which we can draw upon to drive innovation for our customers.

 


The bulk of John Holland’s work on the Country Regional Network involves upgrading track to improve speed and reliability.

 

REX: John Holland had an integrated involvement throughout the design and delivery of Sydney Metro Northwest. What are the benefits of that to the contractor, and what are the benefits to the customer?

SB: The clearest benefit of an integrated offering is that you take a whole of life view of what you are delivering, which means better customer outcomes and better value for money. In projects like Sydney Metro and Canberra Metro, where we have been involved in design, construction, through to operations and maintenance we were able to ensure the project was delivered on time.

With major projects there are daily risks that need to be managed. The benefit of having a consistent partner through all phases of a project means that you have an ability to accelerate or adjust the program to accommodate any changes you need to make. It also means that the design and construction is delivered with decisions being made that are in the best interests of the asset long term, and with consideration being given to the long-term maintenance needs of the project.

 

REX: Tunnelling has been identified as a difficult element to properly cost ahead of time in major infrastructure projects. What are some lessons learned from recent tunnelling projects that John Holland has been involved in, and what can be done to minimise risk?

SB: All major construction projects present different challenges, and it is our job to manage them. We should never underestimate this, however, on the Sydney Metro Northwest tunnels – the largest railway tunnels ever built in Australia – we were able to deliver them two months ahead of schedule.

We are currently delivering the Sydney Metro City and Southwest tunnels under Sydney Harbour which are more than 70 per cent complete.

 

REX: With a lot of major rail projects planned, in procurement, or under construction around Australia, how does a diversified, major contractor like John Holland balance its ambitions and avoid getting stretched too thin?

SB: The volume of work in the Australian rail industry shows no signs of slowing down, with mega projects like the Sydney Metro West and Greater West on the horizon. In other industry booms, you can generally see a tapering off, but there is no end in sight to Australia’s current infrastructure boom.

Every prospect is carefully assessed against our current and future pipeline, to make sure we have the people and expertise to deliver the best results for our customers. We also make sure that we match the growth in our projects to the growth of our people.

Since December, our rail team has grown steadily, to keep up with the number of projects we are bidding and delivering on.

 

REX: The rail sector has repeatedly called for a more clear and adhered-to pipeline for major projects, coordinated between state and federal governments. Do you think this is a realistic goal? How would it help a company like John Holland serve the industry?

SB: A consistent major project pipeline is crucial for the long-term viability of major infrastructure companies.

We are in an unprecedented boom at the moment, with tens of billions being spent on new rail infrastructure all along the east coast of Australia. As a business, we have had to be smart about what we bid for, and just as importantly, what we don’t bid on.

The biggest benefit of a long-term major project pipeline is that it allows companies like John Holland to better plan careers for our people. Not having a clear timeline means that people might move cities to work on committed projects, without knowing that there is a major opportunity in their hometown right around the corner.

The biggest benefit of this to our customers is consistency in the people and expertise delivering major projects.

 

Visit John Holland at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 39.

AusRAIL: Guiding rail’s digital transformation

Siemens Mobility’s Chris Whiteside talks about the potential savings new digital methods can provide a rail project from the design phase right through to operation.

 


Siemens Mobility has the goal to help customers achieve what seems impossible: zero unscheduled railway outages. The flagship tool it has developed to provide the underlying processes to support this goal is Railigent.

Siemens says Railigent is designed to make the best use of data to guide rail operators towards 100 per cent availability. Powered by the company’s open Internet of Things (IoT) operating system, MindSphere, Railigent applies artificial intelligence and sophisticated analytics to large volumes of rail data collected by IoT devices in the field.

Rather than just showing individual pieces of technology, Siemens Mobility is connecting all of the technology on display at its AusRAIL stand through Railigent, using cloud computing to provide real-time analysis.

Siemens’ head of digital services in the region, Chris Whiteside, tells Rail Express the exhibition and conference will be an opportunity for him and his team at the company’s Australian MindSphere Analytics Centre to demonstrate the benefits of rail digitalisation and the kind of analytics that can be done to provide an ultra-efficient rail operation.

“I’m really keen to understand where the industry wants to go with analytics, and working how we can make things more efficient and sustainable,” he says. “We’re very focused at the moment on infrastructure build, and there’s very little focus on efficiency.”

To that end, as part of AusRAIL’s IRSE technical conference stream, Whiteside will discuss how Building Information Modelling (BIM) and System Information Modelling (SIM) can enhance metro rail operations, and reduce risk, and both capital and operational expenditure.

“The model approach helps from the tendering and concept phase all the way through to the maintenance phase. It has benefits all the way through the life cycle. It’s the concept of taking the 2D drawings relied upon by the signalling and technology providers for these projects, and putting that information into a simulated model, and dealing with it from that perspective. Rather than a room full of drawings and lengthy manual/paper-based approval processes, you have a single digital model with all the necessary information, which can be referenced throughout the project,” Whiteside says.

“We know there is a lot of infrastructure build going on at the moment, and we know skilled resources are like gold – there’s a huge demand and a scarce supply – and that’s driving the costs of projects up. So we’re looking at digital methods traditionally used in the building space or in mining, oil and gas, to see if they can be applicable in the rail space.

“It can be quite a provocative subject, because there are the traditionalists who believe drawings are the only way to go. But the savings in time, effort, cost, and simply the reductions to wasted time and re-working, are significant.”

Whiteside and his team will deliver a pair of presentations on day one of AusRAIL – one at morning tea and one at lunch, which will be livestreamed over Facebook.

“We’ll have some of our data scientists from our analytics centre on hand,” Whiteside says. “They’ll be able to talk about the projects we’ve worked on so far, for example where we worked with Auckland Transport to reduce the amount of time it takes to look for faults on ETCS equipment, through the power of Railigent, and the data analytics that’s been done to create algorithms locally.”

Elsewhere, Siemens Mobility’s head of business development and strategy Charles Page will be chairing a session in the Rail Suppliers conference stream, and head of product innovation Stephen Baker will take part in the closing industry panel during the AusRAIL conference.

 

Visit Siemens at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 217.

AusRAIL: New Australian tech on show

Australian-owned rail equipment manufacturer, Melvelle Equipment is debuting two new technologies alongside its well-established range of portable rail maintenance and construction equipment solutions at AusRAIL PLUS.

 


A second-generation, family-owned business based in Newcastle, Melvelle Equipment leverages a local team of engineers to help solve problems for rail owners and maintenance businesses. In one example, last year it delivered its locally-designed and manufactured lightweight, rapid-deployment rail trolleys to the Melbourne Metro network, after discussions found there was a need among some rail operators for such a solution.

The company’s CEO, Andrew Melvelle, tells Rail Express Melvelle has had to book a larger stand at this year’s AusRAIL PLUS than it did two years ago in Brisbane, simply due to the wide range of successful products it has to display.

Along with its existing range, the company is debuting an electric battery pack to power its Trackpack solution, and its new Australian-designed rail tensor.

The battery pack to power Melvelle’s Trackpack is designed to serve as an alternative to the internal combustion, petrol and diesel engines. Melvelle’s Trackpack is a complete hydraulic power unit with boom arm and rail trolley, designed to allow the use of multiple hydraulic work heads without the need for numerous power supplies. The design, which uses adjustable counterbalance positioning, means weight on operator handles never exceeds five kilograms.

Melvelle says the electric battery solution was designed, like so many of the company’s products, to respond to a consumer need. “Our customers are seeing the benefits of going green with their power systems, and this is our offering in that space,” he said.

One customer Melvelle says has been particularly keen for a battery-powered solution is New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “Currently, they have our Trackpack system, but in the petrol version – or ‘gas’ as they call it,” he said. “They want to use more of our equipment in the underground, so they would prefer the battery power pack in that application.”

For now, the electric battery solution is suitable for several key workheads in the Trackpack range, but this will soon be expanded to the full range.

The second new product Melvelle is showing off at AusRAIL PLUS is its Australian-designed rail tensor, a tool used during both greenfield track construction, as well as track replacement and maintenance.

Melvelle says the tensor is designed with safety and ease-of-use at the forefront of design.

“The only components over 20 kilograms will be the cylinders,” he said. “And we’re applying some innovative ideas to alleviate some of the more common OH&S issues around this work.

“Currently, when a crew loads the tensor onto the rail, they build the tensor up upside down, balanced on the head of the rail, and then they flip it over. When they flip the tensor over, with the jaw arms and everything in it, it’s quite heavy and can be hard to control. We’ve got an innovative method of building the tension and
rotating it into position.”

Melvelle’s stand also features products from companies for whom Melvelle is an exclusive distributor in the region, including Rail Products UK, Knox Kershaw, Permaquip, ABTUS, ROV Group and Rotabroach.

 

Visit Melvelle at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 191.

AusRAIL: The new era of rail depots

Andrew Engineering’s Chris Parish tells Rail Express how the trend towards digital integration has impacted the fit out of rail depots.

 


Founded in 1951 as a small tooling company, Andrew Engineering has come to offer the design, manufacture and supply of special purpose machinery for a wide range of industries. In the late 1990s, the company shifted from being 85 per cent dedicated to supplying the automotive industry and became a major supplier to the rail industry.

“Around 2007, 2008 we had our first major rail project which was the bogie exchange system at the Auburn maintenance centre,” engineering director Chris Parish tells Rail Express.

“We completely regeared the business away from what was effectively a special purpose equipment supplier to the automotive industry to being a major supplier to the rail industry, as far as rolling stock maintenance equipment solutions go. So, in the last 10 years we’ve seen a 100 per cent, complete U-turn in the way we do business.”

Andrew Engineering was contracted to design, build and install a solution to remove and replace all 16 bogies of an eight-car Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) at the Downer Rail operated train depot for the maintenance of Millennium and Waratah trains.

Andrew Engineering was asked to replace the 16 bogies without the EMU moving and within a 12-hour cycle.

In response, the company designed, built, delivered and installed a first of its kind bogie exchange system (BES) consisting of 6 self-propelled bogie drop machines, 72 automated removable rails, 6 pairs of 12T vehicle jacks, 6 pairs of bogie jacks, 36 bogie drop stations and 3 bogie turntables. The new BES exceeded the facility’s cycle time requirements.

The company has, however, created railway products for decades, upgrading machines and equipment, in-house manufacture and OEM supply and delivering breakdown and on-call support, and so they have significant experience in the sector and are well acquainted with the Australian Standards of railway production.

As an engineering firm, they have also developed prototype parts, such as automated assembly systems, etc. “We can develop bespoke technology or provide off-the-shelf solutions,” Parish said.

What’s different about the business now, according to Parish, is that they are a one stop shop. “We provide a turnkey solution from depot fit-out through to life support, and we offer a full suite of products in order to maintain the vehicles effectively. We’re effectively a one stop shop to cover that particular area, whether it be in passenger rail or the freight area, we can efficiently provide a full solution and hand over the reins to the customer and say there you go – there’s your working facility.

“We can go right from the design and engineering through to manufacture or procurement, depending on whether or not we’re providing a third-party product such as a wheel lathes, or our own product such as a BES, turntables, lift platforms, these sorts of products.

“Along with the procurement comes the project management, the commercial management, the delivery, installation, conditioning and the full sign off, then at the end of it all the through life support. So, you have an organisation that can effectively take a project from the ideas phase through to full completion and through life support on the other side.”

In the passenger rail sector, Andrew Engineering has worked on a number of projects, one such being on the New Generation Rolling Stock maintenance facility for Bombardier Transportation at Wulkuraka, Queensland. In partnership with Laing O’Rourke, Andrew Engineering worked onsite to deliver, install and commission depot management systems and specialist rolling stock maintenance equipment and machinery for the NGRS Maintenance Workshop.

The purpose-built Wulkuraka facility was designed to maintain the 75 new trains purchased under the Queensland Government’s wider NGRS project for 30 years.

Within the freight sector, Andrew Engineering has worked on key projects such as the FMG Thomas Rail Yard in Port Hedland, Western Australia. In partnership with Niles-Simmons-Hegenschedit Group, Andrew Engineering delivered a full turnkey project of the fully automated ore car and wheel and axle repair shop.

The greenfield project was delivered from concept to fully operational within 22 months. Andrew Engineering worked onsite to deliver, install and manage all of the wheel shop machinery and remain the primary service and maintenance provider for this facility.

According to Parish, “Andrew Engineering has a highly skilled team of engineers and technicians to provide comprehensive support for rail depot equipment with custom designed rail wheels, turntables and automated handling systems also in our repertoire.”

This is what sets Andrew Engineering apart from its competitors, that they are a one stop shop in the full sense.

“We have a strong engineering focus, so we’re not just a reseller or an agent, we have a full understanding of the engineering aspects of the products and projects that we do, and we have the full project management and commercial management capability, so it doesn’t require third party to engage in that process, and we have in house capability on the technical side. We have a large number of tradespeople that work alongside with engineers and project managers all within the same organisation.

“We have a 3500 sqm facility where we can actually provide local solutions even with imported products, so for instance at the moment, in the construction industry we’re manufacturing building maintenance units at the moment for an overseas company who are actually behind in one of their projects and they’ve asked us to do a major fabrication here in our facility.”

Since entering the rail space, Andrew Engineering says it has seen the entire industry change and become much leaner.

“The drive for asset utilisation has been a big shift. Whereas before they would simply just buy a huge amount of stock of spares, and hold them as contingency spares, today they are a lot leaner. The emphasis now is on minimising capital investment and and maximising the output from assets. So the expectation of high quality performance of maintenance equipment is a lot higher these days.

“Another big thing for us is the rise in the desire for electronic depot protection systems, which we offer in partnership with Zonegreen, which takes people away from the conventional, mechanical locks and padlocks and more into the digital sphere. On a safety side, that’s been a big aspect.”

Having experienced and adapted to these changes in the industry, Andrew Engineering is confident in tackling the integration of equipment into the digitisation of asset management.

“Automatic tagging or RFID tagging, communication with asset information systems, we’re advancing into the idea of having all of the equipment digitally connected with real time information regarding performance and how that effects maintability and availability of assets, whether by allowing remote access, remote diagnostics, and automatic data collection and transfer.”

The Australian firm says it’s looking forward to seeing what the future will bring to the space.

 

Visit Andrew Engineering at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 82.

AusRAIL: Rail tech delivering consistent productivity gains for Roy Hill

Rail Express spoke with GE Transportation, a division of Wabtec Corporation, about its work with Roy Hill in the Pilbara.

 


When you set up a $10 billion mining operation complete with 344-kilometre railroad and bespoke port facility, that investment needs to start paying back in quick order.

Indeed, every efficiency, every saving and productivity boost counts at Roy Hill’s operations in the Pilbara, chaired by Gina Rinehart. What a difference a consistently, evenly loaded, remotecontrolled train makes.

The Roy Hill Remote Operations Centre in Perth runs a model railway. Completed in 2015, the railroad with its state-of-the-art rolling stock carries millions of tonnes of iron ore – blasted across eight pits, crushed, graded and blended at Roy Hill – from the mine to Port Hedland, where it is shipped to international markets.

In 2018, Roy Hill hit its nameplate goal – 55 million tonnes shipped. The strategies and technologies that enabled Roy Hill to ramp up to this run rate, and continue to increase production to a 60 million tonnes per annum run rate, are complex.

But senior executives agree that a collaborative relationship with Wabtec Corporation’s GE Transportation division – the manufacturers of Roy Hill’s ES44ACi locomotives and the integrated LOCOTROL remotely operated tower control system that goes with them – has helped drive greater value from the Roy Hill railroad.

“Back in the early days we aimed for five trains a day,” Roy Hill chief operating officer, Gerhard Veldsman said. Each train is almost two kilometres in length, consisting of two rakes comprising 116 cars each, with two locomotives at the front and another two locomotives between the rakes. At first, the average load of the cars was 138 tonnes.

Ore-carrying railways have until recently required an engineer driver to inch the ore cars painstakingly under the loading chutes, at a pace of around 0.2 to 0.5 kilometres an hour, but Roy Hill commenced its operations with the LOCOTROL tower control system. This extension of the LOCOTROL Distributed Power system allows the driver to leave the locomotive at the load-out point, and the LOCOTROL tower control system automatically carries out the loading, which on Roy Hill-length trains can take up to three hours.

“The train comes in, the system logs the loco numbers and it goes into remote control mode. Positioning sensors on either side of the chute spot the gaps in the ore cars, and the system automatically opens and closes the chute to fill each ore car,” Veldsman explained.

From the start, the LOCOTROL tower control system has allowed Roy Hill to utilise crews more efficiently rather than locally manage the load-out process. The greatest benefit has been the ability to smooth the variability in tonnes loaded per car due to the automation of the process.

Roy Hill and Wabtec have collaborated to hone the system such that, “When you look at a fully loaded train out in the yard the tops of the wagons look like they’ve been planned flat,” Veldsman said. “It’s a good indication of how steady the loading process is. When you get a lumpy ore car, you know there’s been a problem.”

Having the load spread evenly throughout each car also allows the train to be driven more consistently. Veldsman explained, “A smooth load across the bogie sets enhances a train’s ability to efficiently brake and handle curves when travelling.”

Consistent loading enabled by the LOCOTROL Remote Operator Control system has helped Roy Hill’s railway team to increase the number of cars per rake to 118 (236 cars per train), loaded to 142 tonnes each. Train frequency has gradually increased from the initial 5 trains every 24 hours, to 5.5 or 6 trains on average.

Another significant benefit that Roy Hill has attained by using the LOCOTROL tower control system is the ability to remotely drive the train at the mine that is some 1600 km away from Roy Hill’s Remote Operations Center in Perth.

In resource ventures that pre-date Roy Hill, operators sat in towers at each mine site. At Roy Hill, the crews that run 24-hour remote train load out operations sit in the comfort of the Perth Remote Operations Centre, and return to their homes at the end of their shifts. This allows Roy Hill employees to spend more time with their families and enables Roy Hill to attract and retain the best people in the industry.

As a result of improved working conditions, said Veldsman, “We haven’t had any turnover in the train-control system in three years.”

The executive team at Roy Hill is contemplating other applications of the LOCOTROL tower control system: to potentially assist load-out efficiency at the Port end of the track; or to control the “train in waiting” for loading. “We’re happy to collaborate with Wabtec regarding the technicalities and see if further efficiencies can be realised,” Veldsman says. He confirms the strong, collaborative working relationship Roy Hill has with Wabtec, and says Roy Hill’s role as a test bed for the research and development of the LOCOTROL tower control system has benefited the industry as a whole.

“It’s great that we’ve come up with several changes in software that Wabtec has recognised as good ideas and rolled out universally. As well as being good from a Roy Hill operational point of view, it’s helped improve the product for all industry users.”

“Wabtec sincerely values the collaborative relationship we have with Roy Hill and are thrilled to be a part of their ongoing success,” GE Transportation executive leader in Australia Claire Pierce adds.

 

Visit Wabtec at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 232.