Local ingenuity from Bombardier keeping the wheels turning

In Adelaide, Bombardier have developed an in-house remote diagnostics system.

For over 15 years, the South Australian (SA) Department of Planning, Transport and infrastructure (DPTI) and Bombardier Transportation (BT) have been working together to ensure the safe and efficient running of heavy rail fleets. Their aim is to provide the traveling public with high levels of customer satisfaction and increased availability, by working closely and listening actively to feedback to develop a deep understanding of SA’s specific needs.

Reliability is perhaps the highest priority when it comes to the operations of networks and ongoing rollingstock maintenance and performance is key.

Keeping trains on the tracks and moving passengers safely is a cornerstone of any operation and through BT’s through life support, intrinsic knowledge of the SA network, and true collaboration with DPTI, BT has been able to continue to provide high levels of mean distance between failure (MDBF) and ensure fleet performance.

These realities are front-and-centre for both DPTI and BT, which has manufactured and has the contract for the ongoing maintenance of Adelaide’s EMU fleet. The A-City fleet, currently comprised of 22 three carriage sets, with another 12 on order, were the first electrical units to operate on the Adelaide network.

Introduced in July 2013, with the first entering service in February 2014, the fleet has begun to require modernisation to improve services to the traveling public, through implementation of technical enhancements in the through life support of the vehicles.

According to Todd Garvey, Bombardier Transportation’s head of sales, Australia and New Zealand, a unique solution was required to update the fleet and keep performance of the trains at the high level required for the Adelaide network.

“The system allows real time analysis of signals that can ensure the vehicle is safe to run without attending site,” said Garvey.

The remote diagnostics solution can measure an array of vehicle specifics, including engine speed, temperature, oil pressure, HVAC temperature, converter diagnostics, and other faults.

With this information provided to remote maintenance managers, faults can be reset while a train is in service.

“The quick benefit seen by all is being able to reset faults remotely in traffic such as HVAC and convertor issues; these improve on time running and passenger comfort,” said Garvey.

Not only does the system increase uptime but works to enhance vehicle safety. One example of this is having remote awareness of the door safety interlock. The remote diagnostics solution allows for this safety critical element to be monitored and fixed without returning to a maintenance facility.

A COLLABORATIVE HOME-GROWN SOLUTION
While remote diagnostics are not unique to this fleet, the solution is a demonstration of value creation through collaborative engagement between DPTI and BT, and has empowered BT to develop a system that is based on its local knowledge of the conditions in which the A-City fleet were operating. As a relatively small fleet, the return on investment in implementing and off-the-shelf solution was prohibitive.

“Therefore, it was necessary to engineer a bespoke solution to maximise the return on investment to get to a point of providing real benefit to the operation,” said Garvey.

In addition to supplying and manufacturing the A-City fleet, BT has also provided maintenance services out of Adelaide’s Dry Creek railcar depot.

Site general manger for Bombardier Transportation at Dry Creek Brenton Valladares said the local expertise that BT has in SA was essential for this project.

“Our local experts Carl Parr and Graham Schier – an electrical engineer and IT guru respectively – have together been with Bombardier Transportation for over 45 years across the world,” said Valladares. “Graham is a shopfloor electrician, born and bred in Adelaide, apprenticed by BT with exceptional IT skills that were identified and leveraged for the project. This combination of using in-house talent from both the shopfloor and engineering function to deliver a high-quality solution make this project unique.”

Parr and Schier worked with BT’s local partners and global network to develop a custom-built solution to run real-time remote diagnostics on the A-City fleet.

With capital investment and a true partnership approach with the SA government, BT developed the concept and the system integration with third-party suppliers. How the system works is that onboard equipment is networked via the existing service port of each system to a hardware gateway. This gateway is then connected to a secure remote server. The requested data is sent to an alternate server hosted by Hasler that analyses the signals, looking for data matches that align with predetermined events. Hasler also supply the data logger hardware and platform event diagnostics.

“One of the key challenges was networking the legacy systems into the program. These were overcome with some reverse engineering. The support from DPTI on this project has been marvellous and their ongoing backing of innovation, rail in SA, and BT is something we value greatly.” said Valladares.

When the data aligns with the predetermined events an alert is sent via email or other notification to the maintenance facility. Two full time team members are dedicated to monitoring and reviewing the system now that it is in place.

DELIVERING BENEFITS
As the A-City fleet has undergone further modernisation, one of the elements to be aware of was the learning curve for drivers. By taking these diagnostics out of the train cab and into the hands of remote maintenance personnel, drivers are supported to focus on the new elements of the trains.

This new technology is a great asset for both Bombardier and DPTI said Garvey.

“With these upgrades and changes occurring across multiple systems in the fleet, remote access provides real time information, thereby reducing the learning curve for the drivers, this is a great asset for us and DPTI” said Garvey.

Another unique facet of the maintenance and upkeep of the A-City fleet is the structure of the depots. Adelaide’s mix of electrified and unelectrified lines has meant that the Dry Creek depot is unelectrified. This means that when maintenance does need to occur, the EMUs are hauled into the facility. Having remote diagnostics enables access to the vehicle’s systems without needing to go into the yards as often.

“We have also seen improved turn-around times for maintenance due to having an improved understanding of the faults prior to the asset arriving at Bombardier’s facilities,” said Garvey.

“In addition, there are reduced nuisance faults (less time on NFF) and more cars remaining in traffic. We are also able to reset faults in service, so that maintenance can be planned at an appropriate time.”

With the system now rolled out across the fleet, the system has doubled the KPI that was set for it in parallel with other project work. The system has now reached figures of above 100,000 MDBF, highlighting the effect that the delivery of local ingenuity, backed up by global expertise, can have on a unique train fleet.