Improving information for passengers and operators

Omada Rail Systems is introducing innovative and world-leading technology into Australia, providing solutions for both rail operators and passengers.

Unexpected delays or cancellations of trains cause issues for both operators and passengers alike. For passengers, it is common to see reasons such as ‘signalling fault’ or ‘police incident’. This provides very little insight as to the cause of the issue and can cause frustration among passengers both on, and waiting for, trains. For operators, delays can result in complaints, missed KPIs or fines. Furthermore, the operator has to identify and potentially resolve the issue that is causing the delay.

Omada Rail Systems specialises in signalling and telecommunications services, and also has the capability to implement solutions to improve the experience of passengers and operators during delays. Utilising their industry contacts and reputation for quality, the Omada team is excited to introduce these innovations into Australia.

Real-time passenger information system
Omada has partnered with Ketech, a company based in the UK which has specialised in Real Time Information systems for over 20 years. Ketech’s cloud-based Passenger Information System aggregates real-time data and delivers live updates to passengers via on-train displays every few seconds, displaying dynamic journey information, journey progress, and more. This real-time information can be sent directly to display and via PA-announcements to specific fleets to update passengers affected on delays, the cause, and new ETAs. In the UK, this has been shown to significantly improve customer satisfaction during delays as customers feel more at ease knowing they are being provided with accurate and timely updates. Two of the biggest factors that determine operator customer satisfaction ratings are the way an operator handles delays, and the reliability of their trains. Ketech’s Passenger Information system is modular and can be fitted into new or existing third party or legacy systems.

With systems integration and telecommunications expertise, Omada Rail Systems has the capabilities to effectively assist in the implementation of these products across Australia, lifting communication and customer experience to the next level.

Identify and resolve
Beyond ensuring that customers remain safe and satisfied, operators face a plethora of challenges including that of presenting a convincing business case for new technical solutions to address issues, and obtain management support.

This stems from a problem often identified as most pressing amongst operators, which is managing maintenance and operational costs. Reducing costs can be achieved through several means, including introducing more efficient processes. Omada Rail Systems is introducing technology that assists in creating a more efficient process of locating, accessing, and utilising data to identify when maintenance is required. Through their partnership with Gioconda Rail, Omada has the capability to introduce a globally recognised technology into Australia.

Centralised asset information
Gioconda Rail is a global leader in asset mapping, signal sighting, driver briefing, and 3D modelling services, delivering bespoke software that allows operators to access survey information on assets in existing & proposed locations. On-site photographs or other documents can be linked to these locations, allowing operators to locate an asset within the HD video, and have files such as pictures, relevant documents, drawings, sighting forms, etc, available instantly and in one place. Having all of this information readily available in one location makes this process much more efficient. Google Maps is able to flag each individual asset, allowing identification of various asset types and nearby access points.

Screen capture of 3D rendering of Mernda station for desktop-based signal sighting assessment.

This is achieved through a process of filming the network in 4K resolution, associating GPS data and known locations to specific frames, asset mapping the railway and identifying more than 70 different types of assets. This data can be output in Excel, CAD, JPEG, and google maps. While technology similar to this does exist in Australia, Gioconda’s system goes further to improve the interface usability and reusability of information for the client. Data reusability is a key element to Gioconda’s ability to provide a number of services from just one data collection run.

Having completed work on several recent projects in Melbourne and Sydney, Gioconda is experienced in the Australian market. Projects include examples of driver briefing programs, in both HD and virtual reality, and desktop signal sighting services.

For more information on Omada’s capability in delivering these solutions Australia wide, head to their website at Omadarail.com.

Omada graduate program

Learning rail’s complexity: Omada’s graduate signalling engineers

With no prior knowledge of the rail industry, Omada’s graduate engineers have been introduced to the complex and rewarding world of rail signalling.

In early March, Omada launched their graduate program with the goal of increasing one of the rail workforce’s most lacking resources, that of rail signalling engineers. Nicholas Soilleux and Nathan Murphy were the first two engineers to join the Omada Rail Systems graduate program.

Soilleux joined Omada with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering, from the University of Queensland. For Murphy, joining Omada was an insight into an industry he had previously known little about. Having recently graduated from Queensland University of Technology with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical and Aerospace Engineering (Honours), he had also completed an engineering internship at Aviation Australia.

“It was only once I joined the rail industry that I realised how important and integral the signalling field is to the safe and effective operation of railway networks,” said Murphy.

Having gotten a glimpse of the industry as it stands, Murphy acknowledged the great potential that the rail industry holds for young engineers.

“This is a great opportunity to work in a very stable field, with many future career paths. A great benefit is being able to work under the mentorship of skilled and experienced engineers who have all been amazingly helpful.”

With their appetite whetted for what was to come in a career in the rail industry, Murphy and Soilleux were quickly inaugurated into the world of rail signalling under the guidance of Omada’s directors Luke Craven, Mark Hadfield, and Christopher Miller, along with Signalling Design Engineer and Tester, Neil Shineton.

Over the course of the three-year program, graduates will complete their Post-graduate Diploma in Railway Signalling, while being involved in practical work including design, testing, and construction work.

During the first months of the program, a new challenge arose. To comply with restrictions caused by COVID-19, Omada shifted to working from home in late March. Training has continued through this shift utilising video calls to conduct online training and tutorials. These are complemented with exercises, such as filling out example control tables for interlockings. But despite having to working from home, the progress of the training program has not been restricted. As Murphy pointed out, major achievements have been made.

“I have achieved Metro Trains Melbourne (MTM) assistant signal design competency and have been able to design circuits for a project that I’ll hopefully see implemented,” he said. “Gaining competency to go on site and being able to get into the real nitty gritty of the signalling systems and the real- life application of the signalling designs has been a real milestone.”

Having been introduced to the contemporary world of rail signalling, Murphy also highlighted that the technology he is working with now is a far cry from what previous generations of signalling engineers would have grappled with.

“Signalling systems are extremely complex and integral to the safe and effective operation of the networks. I’ve been able to see how the systems design for the railway has developed since its first inception in the early 1800s in England.”

These insights have emerged through Omada’s inhouse Basic Signalling Training (BST) course, delivered in the first year and providing the basis for further training
over the three-year program. The BST course is designed to expose those with no background in rail to the complexities of the industry and enable them to build on a base knowledge of signalling principles, work on site safely and competently, and effectively use design tools and software such as MicroStation.

Just two months into the program, Murphy and Soilleux were able to get first-hand experience on Omada’s project at the Rail Academy in Newport, Victoria. While under mentorship and strict guidance, the graduates collected the information needed to upgrade the signalling equipment at theAcademy. The aim of this project to upgrade the signalling infrastructure, is to result in the Rail Academy being one of the best equipped specialist rail training facilities in the world.

Nathan Murphy pictured working on site during his first year in the Omada graduate program.

With Murphy and Soilleux now halfway through their first year of training, in September another new face joined the program. Gavin McDowell, who had a previous career in electrical engineering, took the opportunity to involve himself in the graduate program as a way to begin a career change into rail.

Similar to Murphy and Soilleux, McDowell saw the opportunity to be part of an expanding organisation.

“I was motivated to join Omada as it is a rapidly growing company with lots of experience working within the railway industry. I was also motivated by their goal of becoming the leading provider of railway signalling engineering services in Australia,” he said.

Gavin McDowell has previous experience as an electrical engineer, before joining Omada.

Already, McDowell has been exposed to the different railway standards and networks while gaining an insight into design procedures, interlocking systems, and track circuits, providing a foundation for his future career.

Omada will soon be looking for candidates to bring into their graduate program’s second intake. If you or someone you know are interested in joining the
rail industry, Omada’s graduate program is a strong platform for personal and professional development.

Ballarat Line Upgrade

Final testing and commissioning on Ballarat Line Upgrade confirmed

The final phase of testing and commissioning for the Ballarat Line Upgrade will be carried out during late December 2020 and January 2021.

The jointly funded project is in its final stages after construction was completed in 2019, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack.

“We’re excited to see the Ballarat Line Upgrade at this final stage, preparing the line for those much-needed extra services and better reliability for passengers in these growing communities,” said McCormack.

“It’s been more than three years in the making and nearly 1.6 million hours of work by dedicated crews, and we’re now on the home stretch to delivering huge benefits for passengers.”

Once critical safety testing is completed and drivers are trained for the new elements of the line, passengers will be able to take advantage of further increases to services between Ballarat and Melbourne, said Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan.

“We’re thrilled passengers will soon see the full benefits of the Ballarat Line Upgrade, but first we must complete this crucial final step on the project, as we integrate new track, a new signalling system and other infrastructure onto the existing rail line,” said Allan.

“It’s one of the most critical tasks undertaken on the project to date and it’s taken time to get the right resources in place to deliver this final piece of the project.”

While construction was largely finished in 2019, the new signalling system, which will allow more trains to run more frequently, was the last element of the project to be bedded in.

“Our rail experts have continued complex and extensive signalling design and planning work throughout the year in preparation for the commissioning, and passengers will soon enjoy the benefits of this hard work,” said Allan.

While buses replace trains, 500 metres of track duplication between Bacchus Marsh and Maddingley and at two level crossings in Ballan will be installed.

Once services return to the line, the new second platforms at Ballan, Bacchus Marsh, and Wendouree will open. The new station at Cobblebank has already opened and other stations have benefited from upgrades.

Already, two extra peak weekday services have been running between Melton and Southern Cross Station. Once complete, trains will run every 40 minutes in the off peak.