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.

Lankhorst expands KLP Hybrid Polymer Sleeper success into Australasia

Dutch company Lankhorst recently made its local entry with a significant order for its KLP steel-reinforced Hybrid Polymer Sleepers to the Australasian region.


The increasing scarcity of hardwood and the ban on creosote-treated wood for sleepers have created challenges in the maintenance of timber infrastructure.

Lifespan of timber sleepers is dropping and the replacement of timber with stiffer or weaker materials creates new problems. Lankhorst, a global firm whose Dutch origin began in 1803, has developed its modern Hybrid Polymer Sleeper to mimic the dynamic behaviour of a traditional wooden sleeper with an extended life span.

First installed on the Dutch rail network in 2006, KLP Hybrid Polymer Sleepers consist of highly ductile recycled polymer, reinforced with steel rebar. Lankorst says the steel reinforcement is located where it is most effective, and does not interfere with the installation of fastening systems. This helps it achieve longitudinal and lateral stiffness to maintain track gauge under all load and climate conditions, while the recycled polymer simultaneously acts as an effective impact absorber and sound damper, resulting in a reduced noise and longer lasting infrastructure.

Gerhard Klooster, business development director of Brisbane-based Link Asia Pacific (LinkAP) – which represents Lankhorst in Australia and New Zealand – tells Rail Express the combination of metal and synthetic material was immediately recognised by operators as a good solution to transition from traditional wooden sleepers.

“It did not take long for other track operators to see the logic and benefits of this design,” Klooster says. “KLP Sleepers are now operational in mainlines, bridges and turnouts in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Gabon, Malaysia and Mexico.” That success has continued more recently in the Australia and New Zealand region. After Lankhorst and LinkAP participated jointly in AusRAIL PLUS 2017, they were pleased to see an increased interest in the hybrid polymer product.

“We were impressed with the progressive approach towards new technologies,” Lankhorst commercial director Stefan Hofman says. “We are now reaping the first fruits from our joint efforts. We recently received a significant order for supply of mainline sleepers and turnouts in the Australasian region. We are working towards first delivery of product in early 2020.”

“We knew that the demand for alternative sleepers would increase with time,” LinkAP’s managing director Pieter-Jan van Driel adds. “We believe that no other product in the global market matches the comprehensive and balanced offering of the brilliantly engineered products from Lankhorst. We believe that the KLP sleeper products not only offer environmental and functional benefits, but also that their ‘value-for-money’ offer is in a sweet spot compared to alternative offerings.”

When asked what the future holds, Van Driel smiles. “We are in discussion with various Australasian track owners regarding test installations and type approvals,” is all he can say.

Engineered and tested solutions

Lankhorst technical director, Aran van Belkon, said the product is backed up by solid engineering and extensive laboratory testing, which has enabled its use in railways operating at speeds up to 180km/h.

“Hybrid polymer sleepers combine the consistency and durability of concrete sleepers with the favourable impact and sound damping behaviour of timber sleepers,” van Belkon said.

“With more than 13 years of practical product performance at various clients in a variety of applications in 11 countries, we have proof that our engineered hybrid solutions meet customer requirements.”

The combination of the respective strengths of steel and recycled polymers is designed to achieve a number of desirable objectives throughout the Lankhorst range of sleepers:

  • structural soundness, with dynamic stiffness comparable to timber sleeper it replaces;
  • staged implementation, with 1-in-2 to 1-in-4 interspersed implementation possible due to designed stiffness;
  • gauge stability, thanks to high lateral and vertical stability under working load across broad temperature range, due to steel/polymer combination and unique footprint;
  • safety, with no sudden catastrophic failures under extreme overload situation, only gradual deformation;
  • environmental, with a certified net carbon store, a negative CO2 footprint and full recyclability;
  • easy handling, as the range can be machined on-site and handles and installs like timber sleepers; and,
  • health benefits, as the sleepers contain no fibres, meaning no special respiratory equipment must be warn during installation.

To satisfy the demands of various clients for type approval over the years, Lankhorst has successfully put the range through a range of testing, including static and dynamic loading, destructive testing, water absorption, electrical insulation, UV testing, slip and wear resistance, storage, handling, screw spike pullout tests, flammability and more.

The result of the testing and implementation of the sleepers in the field is satisfied customers. Voestalpine, which has fitted dozens of bridges with KLP Bridge Transoms since 2010, says there is “no maintenance required [and] performance on all bridges is satisfactory”. LEAG’s head of rail track infrastructure in Germany, Torsten Scharnetzki, adds: “The KLP Switch Sleepers were installed in 2008, handle 25 tonne axle loads and have remained within tolerance without maintenance after 10 years accumulated exposure to more than 250 million tonnes of load passing.”

Varied range

Optimised KLP Mainline Sleepers, the “everyday” member of the Lankhorst range, are designed to use up to 30 per cent less material, resulting in a more economic and environmentally friendly product. A unique bottom profile and increased ballast on top of the sleeper are designed to offer the required lateral and vertical stability, even against uplift. The reduced weight allows for easier handling during installation and maintenance.

Meanwhile, the KLP Turnout & Crossing Sleepers are designed with an enhanced ability to absorb and distribute impact when compared against timber and concrete; a benefit at crossings and turnouts, which are typically exposed to severe impact and lateral forces. Unlike concrete (where every hole must be pre-cast), KLP Sleepers can be drilled and milled. This saves costs and time.

Finally, Klooster says its KLP Bridge Transoms benefit most from the hybrid design. “The steel reinforcement provides the strength required to easily handle the high bending moments in bridges with offset girder applications,” he says. “The design offers enough safety margin to ensure no gradual plastic deformation occurs.

Unballasted bridge structures are very stiff and do not have the ability to flex during load and unload cycles; this is where the KLP Sleeper’s polymer absorbs and spreads impact energy, resulting in lower loads in the bridge structure.”

Measurements conducted on a steel girder bridge in Amsterdam yielded a 3-5dB noise reduction, following replacement of timber sleepers with KLP Bridge Transoms, Klooster adds.

AusRAIL: Digitalisation centre stage for Thales

Rail technology provider Thales talks rail digitalisation, and its plans to showcase its digital rail solutions portfolio at AusRAIL PLUS 2019 in Sydney.


Rail experts like Mark Smalley all around the region are excited about what’s going on in the Australasian rail sector, and even more excited about what’s to come. Smalley, business development manager for Ground Transportation Systems at Thales, says the range of major capital works underway and the shift towards transforming existing operational systems as part of the “digital rail revolution” are key areas for the business.

“Thales is excited by the unprecedented levels of investment, particularly in NSW, with such a significant backlog of transport infrastructure programs and the ambitious Future Transport 2056 strategy,” Smalley tells Rail Express. “With a strong local presence in Sydney, a credible portfolio of references and a pool of global expertise, we are well positioned to support this vision and are committed to ensuring our customers realise maximum return from this once in a generation investment program.”

One of the key success factors to achieving this vision, he says, is internationally proven, next generation digital technologies.

“This is key to modernising the underlying operational infrastructure to deliver much needed capacity improvements, and significant operational performance, cost and safety benefits for passengers, operators and freight services. These benefits are realised by everyone: commuters, transport operators, businesses; the whole economy. New technologies mean adopting and adapting to new ways of working, however.

“It’s important not to forget the people and process elements of technology programs,” Smalley says. “Understanding how the end user will interact with the new system is essential to ensuring long-term success and acceptance of the technology. Recognising this, we aim to ensure these Human Factors elements are captured and addressed throughout the design, development and implementation phases.”

Digitalisation at AusRAIL

Thales presence at AusRAIL PLUS 2019 in Sydney will focus on the theme of rail digitalisation. Attendees will include key members of the Sydney-based Ground Transportation Systems business, with technical specialists on-hand to support demonstrations and showcase Thales’ urban and mainline digital rail solutions.

These include Thales’ SelTrac Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) solution, which helps move over three billion people annually across 40 major cities, including London, New York, Singapore and Hong Kong. Thales launched the future-focused seventh generation of SelTrac, SelTrac G7, at Innotrans 2018, and will demonstrate it again at AusRAIL. “This is something I’m particularly looking forward to,” Smalley explains. “Having worked in London for several years on CBTC projects on the Underground network, I’m excited to apply this knowledge and experience here.”

Thales’ internationally proven rail Traffic Management System, ARAMIS, in operation in 18 different countries including Germany, Austria, Portugal, Denmark and the UK, will also be on display along with its complementary digital services platform solutions, TIRIS and Naia. “Our innovative Digital Services platform supports applications which specifically respond to the needs of rail operators today,” Smalley says.

“Naia uses big data analytics to understand passenger behaviour and journey patterns to improve passenger experience and boost operator revenues. TIRIS provides predictive maintenance capability for the assets deployed on the physical rail network, reducing maintenance costs and improving asset reliability.”

Finally, Thales will show off its innovative smart sensing solution, Lite4ce, which Smalley says will “fundamentally transform the way we obtain, gather and analyse data from the trackside to the operational control room”. “Lite4ce is a passive fibre optic axle counter device, meaning no need for outdoor electronics, power supply or copper cable,” he explains. “It is a balance between a disruptive technology with its new capabilities and staying compatible with signalling and operational rules applied by our customers today. It also meets our primary need for reliable train detection with low life-cycle costs. We are really excited to bring these technologies to the Australian market”.

Four-pillar transport strategy

Thales has prioritised four target sectors for rail in the region: Metro, Light Rail, Mainline Signalling and Control Systems, and Through Life Support Services. In Australia, Smalley and director of strategy, marketing and communications Sita Brown explain, the company aims to serve each with a good balance of local and global expertise, drawing upon a pool of 3,600 people in Australia, 8,200 global rail specialists, and a workforce of 80,000 worldwide.

“Within Metro, we’re delivering the mission-critical Communications and Central Control System for Sydney Metro, one of the most high-profi le transport infrastructure programs I think in the world, but certainly in the Southern Hemisphere and one which will fundamentally improve mobility options for millions of Sydneysiders,” Smalley says.

“Then there’s Parramatta Light Rail, where we’re working with our customer CAF to deliver the integrated rail systems package. This is Thales’ first foray into the light rail space within Australia, which is a huge and exciting opportunity for us.

“In terms of Mainline Signalling and Control Systems, Thales is also targeting Transport for NSW’s Digital Systems program, which will bring ETCS Level 2, Automatic Train Operation, and a modern Traffic Management System to the Sydney Trains network. Along with Sydney Metro, this is the most exciting rail systems program to land in Australia and is something that we’re very much hopeful we can play a part in.”

The fourth pillar of Thales’ rail business in Australia is the most recently added – Through Life Support Services. Smalley explains: “One of our global strengths is that we prefer to form long-term collaborative partnerships with our customers, where we not only deliver the technology to meet a specific project outcome, but where we also support and enhance the systems over time in line with our customer’s evolving operational needs. From our perspective this is the best way to do business.”

Local skills investment key

A substantial skills and capacity challenge stands as a major obstacle to the success for all this transport investment, and Smalley believes a focus on developing local skills and competency is an absolute necessity, not just for Thales in the Australasian market, but for the industry as a whole.

“This is a fundamental issue for the successful delivery and long-term return on investment for these programs and for sustainability of skills, capacity and capability in the region,” he says.

Recognising the need for a sustainable answer, Thales established a transport competence centre in Sydney. Including a dedicated transport graduate program to develop the next generation of rail specialists, the centre supports skills and workforce development in the region. Complete with a digital rail integration and test lab as well as technology and system demonstrators, Smalley says it is allowing Thales to address some of the key challenges associated with deploying technologies from overseas into the local ecosystem.

Emphasis has also been placed to ensure work at the competence centre engages local rail specialists, as well as Thales’ global network of experts to leverage best practices and lessons learned.

Smalley is keen to see Thales’ customers and partners embrace skills development in a similar way.

“For example, the proposed Rail Technology Campus in Sydney is a concept we’ve been particularly supportive of,” he says. “Both in terms of establishing facilities for off-site testing and integration, and a dedicated training centre to support ongoing skills development and competency management. This approach provides access to new technologies whilst also supporting both training and familiarisation without disturbing rail operations.”

An invaluable component of Thales’ skills-building strategy has also been its successful integration with its major project portfolio. “Across the business, we’ve been able to benefit from that on each of our major projects that we’re undertaking, we now have a pool of talented and ambitious graduates coming through with fresh ideas and new ways of working, which in turn is helping to challenge the status quo and drive innovation in what we’re doing. As a result, we’ve seen a lot of positive outcomes,” Smalley says. “Furthermore, it’s been really impressive and rewarding to see how the next generation of talent and graduates have risen to the challenge and embraced the opportunities presented within the rail sector.”


Visit Thales at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 107.

AusRAIL: The digitalisation of supply chain management

When the Australasian Railway Association announced the industry-wide adoption of GS1’s ISO data standards in 2015, Project i-TRACE was established to help industry with their implementation across all stakeholder companies. Head of product innovation at Siemens Mobility, Stephen Baker, spoke to Rail Express about Siemens Mobility’s Project i-TRACE journey.

The digitalisation of supply chain management is well underway across a range of industries, and GS1 Australia says it is committed to making this process easier for the rail sector.

As a not-for-profit provider of standards and solutions for over 20 industry sectors, GS1 introduced barcoding to Australia in 1979 to enable its more than 20,000 member companies to implement their standards more efficiently. The barcodes are now scanned across the world over six billion times daily. When the rail industry agreed in 2015 that GS1 standards were the right choice to enable best practice supply chain management, the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) led industry working group initiated Project i-TRACE to help implement consistent identification (globally unique codes) and automatic data capture (barcoding) in organisations and value chains across the rail industry.

Efficiency within the rail industry is heavily reliant on successful supply chain management practices. Assuring material availability of the right quantities, the right qualities, at the right place and time with minimum effort and cost is crucial. Stronger life cycle traceability is needed for this, and best practice requires the uptake of the innovative technologies that are disrupting the sector.

“Around the world there is a realisation that the digitalisation of the rail industry is essential. Project i-TRACE is a fundamental building block towards achieving digital capability in the sector,” ARA CEO, Danny Broad, has said.

Project i-TRACE allows all stakeholders within the supply chain to follow a component, part or asset throughout its lifecycle (including maintenance) from procurement to disposal with ease. It is intended to help stakeholders identify products, electronically capture information about them and then share that information with relevant parties.

GS1 supplies a tracking technique to give a unique identification to all rail products including items such as point machines, tracks and signalling parts.

“Project i-TRACE allows us to trace every component from when it’s been manufactured all the way through to installation and to the whole of life performance of that asset,” Sydney Trains chief executive officer Howard Collins said when Sydney Trains began its digitalisation. “My message to all those involved in the rail industry whether you are a small supplier, all the way through to us as a big maintainer, is get on board with i-TRACE.”

Essentially, standardising the way materials in the rail industry supply chain are identified and marked enables “traceability and warranty management, which is fundamental for lifecycle tracking,” according to Stephen Baker, head of product innovation at Siemens Mobility in Australia. “This has always been a challenge for the industry,” Baker said.

Under Project i-TRACE, identification codes compliant with GS1 standards are encoded into a machine-readable GS1 DataMatrix barcode, usually directly laser-engraved. According to GS1, an engraved barcode is the best option in harsh environments where labels are likely to fall off, such as for rolling stock. One GS1 client developed a process whereby the DataMatrix barcode could be vulcanised into rubber parts, for others a sticker label is enough. Once the barcode has been affixed, product data can be read by using a scanner or smartphone with the appropriate software application installed. While Siemens Mobility is still in the process of implementing Project i-TRACE, Baker says the benefits of implementation are obvious.

“We’ve been able to laser engrave unique IDs onto black plate which are then placed on a product, which takes less than two minutes. Automating the manual processes saves time and eliminates the possibility of human error. The field technicians are then able to capture the maintenance history of these products while on site, which makes it so much easier and improves efficiency.”

Other benefits include reducing inventory write-offs and waste leading to optimal inventory management, improving maintenance and repair operations, and reducing cost with fewer transaction errors and better data quality.

“We see Project i-TRACE as an enabler,” Baker said. With Internet of Things (IoT) innovations allowing components to become smart, interconnected and capable of talking to each other for essential data capture which allows the monitoring of the performance of items, these components however need to become consistently identifiable.

“It’s easy enough to capture data in stock management, but how are you going to identify which component you are capturing? GS1 gives us the building blocks to implement these processes.

“i-TRACE is quick, and it’s comprehensive. It gives us access to all the necessary information, and we can understand the behaviour of our systems by looking closely into the analytics of the product’s lifecycle. For example, where before the only information you could get about a railway signal was that it was a railway signal, with i-TRACE you can now use the unique product ID to see an entire data matrix of information.

“With this ecosystem of knowledge, you can ensure best practice quality control, maintenance and accountability to your clients through a more agile process.”

While Project i-TRACE was designed to enhance supply chain management, for Baker it is more than that.

“For most, GS1 compliance is about getting the products to the end-user, but we see it as going beyond that. Once a product has been marked, it’s an asset,” he explained. “Traceability helps organisations provide a better service to their clients, with improvements to the maintenance and repair of assets. Implementing i-TRACE in our rail sectors will make railways easier and quicker to repair and cause a flow on effect to service delivery, helping reduce commuter disruption if things go wrong.

“Asset management is amazingly complex, the digitalisation enabled by Project i-TRACE makes it easier,” Baker said.

Especially for a manufacturer of safety equipment, wherein the high levels of accountability GS1 enables are vital. While Siemens Mobility is still in implementation mode, as one of the first in the industry to take part in the project which they commenced in March 2018, Baker has advice for organisations who want to implement the solution.

“The first step is budgeting, because the biggest challenge is the allocation of funding. Implementing Project i-Trace can be scaled up or down depending on the size of your organisation,” he said.

For a small trader it’s simply a matter of adding the unique ID to a docket, whereas for Siemens it was possible to use more sophisticated machinery. Products get marked at downstream. The key at this stage, during budgeting, is to have a good business case according to Baker, who recommends hiring expert consultants to provide the necessary analysis. The next step is the project plan.

“We began with a deep review of the process, got sign off on the business case and in the months following, started our internal working group. In 2019, our internal working group and internal activities with our program were being finalised and we received our unique marking machine for over 18,500 trackable items to be marked at our Port Melbourne manufacturing facility.”

While compliance with GS1’s standards is necessary, having been determined as enabling best practice by the ARA and industry representatives, implementation has been made all the easier for organisations of all sizes by GS1’s Project i-Trace.


Visit GS1 at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 236.

AusRAIL: For major projects, confidence is key

Confidence is a valuable asset in major transport project delivery. Systra Scott Lister speaks with Rail Express about the importance of quality expertise throughout the life of a major project to ensure an effective result.


Scott Lister was founded in 2009 by associates Mark Scott and Howard Lister as an engineering assurance, systems development, and project management and assessment firm. It was acquired in 2016 by Systra, and merged with Systra’s Australian branch in 2018 to form Systra Scott Lister as a single entity in Australia and New Zealand.

Business development director Patrick Desforges says this combination of local expertise with Systra’s global experience is well timed in the Australasian market. With an explosion of metro, light rail and bus rapid transit projects underway or planned right across the region, Desforges says Systra Scott Lister is leveraging this combination of local and global to help deliver better projects.

“Systra is focussing on the rail market that is at its core business, including projects like those in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Auckland,” Desforges told Rail Express. “Systra is targeting engineering services where we believe we can add value and offer a different approach, based on our experience in both local and international markets.”

Desforges sees parallels between major projects like the Sydney Metro program and foreign projects like the new Grand Paris Metro Express, and the Dubai Metro.

“Those projects are all aiming to implement an automatic metro in a dense area environment to increase transport capacity, offer better and quicker mobility solutions to the increasing community, and promote urban development,” he said.

Systra was the project manager in charge of building Dubai’s Red and Green MRT lines, working hand in hand with the local transport authority from 2003 on preliminary designs through to the inauguration of the second line in 2011.

From 2014, Systra carried out preliminary design studies for the extension project, and has remained a part of the project during its construction and commissioning, scheduled for 2020.

“A successful rail project is a project that has been well thought-out and studied from an early stage, e.g. the business case,” Desforges continued. “A new transport system must have good reasons to be implemented and address real issues and risks in the most efficient and appropriate way. A good procurement strategy together with active local community engagement and controlled budget and timeline are essential.”

Desforges says Systra Scott Lister’s involvement in AusRAIL PLUS – where it is a Silver Sponsor – is to further demonstrate its capabilities in the local market, supported with global experience.

“Systra’s story is relatively recent in Australia and New Zealand and we are always keen to participate in events that present a unique opportunity to talk about rail business with the local rail community. There are solutions Systra can bring to help achieve all of this market’s very challenging projects,” he said. “The key expertise offered by Systra globally and by Systra Scott Lister in Australia in all its rail projects is the systems integration and the knowledge of how to operate any kind of rail system, including light rail, automatic metro and high speed and fast train. Systra is also an international leader in CBTC and ETCS L2 high capacity signalling systems development.”

Desforges notes the origin of Systra itself – through the merger of the former engineering arms of French Railways (SNCF) and Paris Urban Transport Authority (RATP) – has provided it with a history of rail expertise.

“Our DNA is rail and we are able to cover all technical disciplines, all through a project’s life cycle – from business case and feasibility study, to testing and commissioning, through all levels of design development,” he said.


Systra Scott Lister is a Silver Sponsor of AusRAIL PLUS.

Ensuring ‘line of sight’ on complex projects

On a complex mega-project, all stakeholders must be kept fully across the project’s requirements and safety assurance measures, as well as how that project is being integrated into the existing infrastructure. Rail Express speaks with Acmena about finding the most simple solution to this robust challenge.


To its credit, Australia is a jurisdiction where safety is the top priority during the delivery of any major infrastructure project. For operators, owners and contractors working on such projects in the rail sector, safety is overseen by the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR).

But with major projects getting bigger and more complex, and with the list of stakeholders for any given project growing longer every time a new complexity is added, keeping everyone on the same page in terms of requirements can be a serious challenge.

In 2012, the same year ONRSR was established, a trio of systems engineering and safety management experts – Sue Milner, Katherine Eastaughffe and Graeme Cutler – formed Acmena, with the goal to combine a unique mix of systems engineering, human factors, systems assurance and engineering management experience to help clients deliver critical, complex projects in less time and with greater certainty.

“At the time the company was founded there were increasing expectations around what accredited rail operators had to demonstrate when they were making significant changes to their network, or when there were major rail projects,” Eastaughffe tells Rail Express. “There is now a requirement for quite rigorous safety cases to be put together that also demonstrate human factors are being considered throughout design.”

Acmena works across a number of highly regulated, safety critical industries, including infrastructure, healthcare, aviation and rail. It is currently involved in several major projects including Cross River Rail in Queensland, and the Digital Systems project and Sydney Metro in New South Wales.

Eastaughffe says the company’s primary aim is to help clients develop what she calls a “line of sight”, from beginning to end, of a project’s requirements, integration and assurance data. Key to this is developing a central repository, accessible and updateable by the project proponent and its contractors.

“These projects are generally quite complex, and the successful integration of all the different elements requires specialist systems engineering skills,” Eastaughffe says. “What’s most important is bringing all the elements together in a way that allows you to meet expectations.”

In one example, Acmena was engaged by Rail Projects Victoria’s technical advisor on the Metro Tunnel Project in Melbourne, the Aurecon/Jacobs/Mott Macdonald joint venture, to help set up the central repository of requirements for the massive project.

“Having one single repository for all the various organisations involved meant Rail Projects Victoria could get a clear line of sight on what the objectives of the project were, right through to what people were actually delivering on the ground,” Eastaughffe explains.

“That project is still in progress of course, but we were involved in designing and setting up that repository, and providing ongoing advice to all the organisations in working in that repository.”

As an IBM Business Partner, Acmena guided the project team in the appropriate use and execution of the IBM Requirements Management DOORS Next cloud-based platform as the project’s requirements management tool.

The cloud-based platform means a centralised solution and framework can be created to support concurrent multiple party use, from stakeholders to contractors. The solution is designed to let all parties work within their own separate areas, while also being able to trace and connect to project-wide data for integration and assurance purposes.

“This is the first time a centralised approach has been used on a rail project like this,” RPV’s Manager of Systems Architecture, Integration and Assurance Marc Chadwick said. “It’s usually a very dislocated environment. It can be difficult to move information around and have proper synchronisation and timing. Putting it into the cloud allows it to stay in sync, so you’ve got the right information on your desktop.”

The central repository allowed Public Transport Victoria, Metro Trains Melbourne, and the project’s independent safety assessor to set the project’s requirements, assurance and integration goals, and meant all tenderers across the major delivery contracts were able to directly address those goals through their bids. The successful tenderers therefore already had that information to hand, and were able to get on with the job. From there those goals and their outcomes are able to be tracked through delivery and commissioning.

Some more work done by Acmena in Victoria was on the Caulfield to Dandenong (CTD) package of level crossing removals. The company was selected in early 2016 to join the CTD Alliance, comprised of Metro Trains Melbourne and four major construction and engineering contractors, to provide systems engineering and assurance across the project. With more than 450 designers, planners and engineers involved across the project, CTD was one of the most complex rail projects ever attempted in Victoria.

“One of the biggest challenges was the sheer scale of the project, having so many people involved across the project in design, construction and everything in between,” Level Crossing Removal Project Systems Engineering Manager, Kyla Brown, said. “Managing that was quite difficult, as was maintaining the flow of communication between people to make sure everyone was informed.”

Eastaughffe says a data repository – once again facilitated through the IBM solution – was a crucial component to this execution. “We had the database of potential safety hazards related to the design for the project, and we were able to link those directly to what elements in the design mitigated, or removed those risks,” Eastaughffe explains.

“When risks are identified during a project’s development, people need to understand how those risks are being reduced as much as reasonably practicable through the design. Whether that’s the design of the station, the viaduct, the signalling system – all of those have associated risks and we need to understand how they can best be addressed, making the project inherently safer through its design process.

“In the data repository we captured those risks, and we linked them to specific design requirements that were then shown to be correctly addressed in design. We could then link those again to tests that were undertaken to prove they were correctly implemented.

“So we had that clear line of sight from what the critical safety issues were on the project, to what had been done about them, and proving it had been correctly implemented.”

From the founding of the company in 2012, areas of improvement in the systems engineering processes have been identified. Acmena has developed a standardised approach to improve such processes and remove pain points. Supported by new technologies (DOORS Next SaaS), the innovative approach has been used by Acmena on major projects like the Metro Tunnel, CTD, Digital Systems and Cross River Rail, and is now becoming an industry best practice/standard.

Government organisations like the Level Crossing Removal Authority in Victoria, the Public Transport Authority in WA, and the City Rail Link in Auckland are using it as their preferred approach for major rail projects.

“We’ve been disruptors in this way,” Eastaughffe says. “A lot of projects are made up of similar elements, so we’ve created a more standardised approach which makes it more efficient for our clients.

“We’ve got that combination of very good knowledge of how the tools work, but also the industry knowledge of what’s going to be important to the accredited rail operator, and ultimately the rail safety regulator. Being able to match the use of the tools to the regulatory expectations is where we really stand out.”



Container ships at East Swanson Dock, Patrick terminal. Photo: David Sexton

Infrastructure charges at ports to continue increasing

The container stevedoring industry has imposed higher infrastructure charges on trucks and rail operators at ports within the last year, according to the ACCC’s container stevedoring monitoring report, and charges are expected to continue to rise.

Revenues generated by the infrastructure charges rose by 63 per cent in 2018-19 on the previous year, the report shows. In addition to infrastructure charges, other landside access and ancillary terminal fees increased at ports.

“It is understandable that stevedores seek to recover some costs of upgrading port facilities from transport operators because they, like the shipping lines, benefit from the investment,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

The higher revenue has also helped the industry to offset an 8.1 per cent decline in average quayside revenue because of the increasing bargaining power of the shipping lines.

“But because port users have limited ability to move their business in response to a stevedore raising its infrastructure charge, the stevedores face less competitive pressure to keep the charges down. While the infrastructure charges only represent 12 per cent of the stevedores’ revenues today, the outcome of this may be that importers and exporters end up paying more to ship goods.”

Cargo owners contract with land transport operators to deliver their containers to and from ports and each stevedore is the sole provider of landside access, including to the rail network, to its respective terminal. Stevedores earn revenues from handling landside operations which are paid by truck and rail operators.

As such, the prices paid by land transport operators to use these terminals are largely set on a take-it or leave-it basis. Further, the distance between ports means competition between them is not very strong. Some are subject to oversight, however, such as rail handling fees, in certain states.

These services are essential, including the receiving and delivering of containers, yard services, storage, and other ancillary services to land transport operators.

Stevedores also generate more revenue for handling a full container from a landside perspective. This is because full containers incur infrastructure charges paid by truck and rail operators, while empty containers do not.

Road and rail land transport operators have raised significant concerns with the imposition of the charges given that they are not a product of commercial negotiation, according to the report.

Transport operators must use the stevedores to which they are directed and have no means to move their business in order to avoid price increases. Further, infrastructure charges will continue to increase, says the report.

The transport operators have also said that the increases impose a significant cash flow burden. Stevedores have increased the length of their payment terms, however, in order to assist with this.

“We understand from conversations with stakeholders that the transport industry is typically passing on the cost of the infrastructure charges to cargo owners. It also appears that many transport operators are adding an administrative fee on top of the infrastructure charge,” says the ACCC.

The scale of criticism from transport operators does suggest, however, that many are not able to fully recoup all the costs associated with the charges. This includes the burden on smaller operators needing to hold the debt until they receive payment from their customers.

“It therefore falls to cargo owners to ultimately impose a competitive restraint on infrastructure charge increases. Given that cargo owners have a degree of ability to switch to different shipping services, and by extension to a different stevedore, stevedores are not fully insulated from competitive forces in choosing to rebalance their prices towards the landside,” says the ACCC.

There are considerable limitations to cargo owners’ ability to competitively respond to the charge they concede.

Profitability across the stevedore industry, however, remains low with return on tangible assets falling from 27.8 per cent in 2011-12 to 3.8 per cent in 2018-19, though it varied between stevedores. This drop in returns is thought to be partly due to the growth in the industry’s asset base after investment in new container terminals in the east coast ports.

The increased charges helped lift the average revenue per container for the first time in seven years for the stevedoring industry, says the ACCC.

Shorten promises $20m for TAFE-focused rail technology campus

The Labor Party has proposed that it will invest $20 million into a Rail Technology Campus (RTC) at the Chullora rail precinct in New South Wales if it wins the federal election on Saturday.

Labor said that as a federal government it would partner with the rail industry and unions, as well as the NSW Government to establish a TAFE-focused campus complete with digital learning labs, VR simulators, mechanical plant and workshops, welding facilities and more.

Labor stated that the initiative would be co-funded by the NSW Government, with the RTC operating as a partnership between TAFE NSW, NSW rail agencies, Sydney Trains, and rail vendors, contractors and unions

The investment is part of $1 billion of proposed TAFE funding set out in Labor’s Fair Go Budget Plan.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) National Secretary Bob Nanva said that Labor’s plans would “fill a critical gap in the rail sector’s skills development framework”

Nanva added that rail training systems and institutions needed to keep pace with the development of the industry, which he said was rapidly changing. He also criticised the Coalition Government’s approach to public policy

“The jobs of tomorrow on the railways will bear little resemblance to the jobs of yesterday,” Nanva said.

“But there will always be a need for skilled workers who understand the technicalities of rail, and the complexities of modern transport networks.”

Light Rail

Light rail in Australia: An introduction

Light rail has quickly become one of Australia’s most exciting infrastructure platforms. A light rail development brings together disciplines like civil engineering, city planning, construction and rail engineering, with projects often involving several hundred contractors and sub-contractors – many coming from outside the rail sector.

Once popular throughout Australia, light rail vehicles – or trams – vanished from streets in all but two cities for over three decades.

However, a renaissance of light rail has, in recent years, seen new projects crop up all around the nation. With projects recently opened, in construction, or being planned in South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT, Rail Express takes a snapshot of the market in March 2019.

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