New roof

New roof above Central Station taking shape

The new roof above the future Northern Concourse is currently being installed at Central Station in Sydney.

The roof is part of the redevelopment of Central Station as the hub expands to serve Sydney Metro services from 2024.

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said the feature roof will provide light and shade.

“The 80-metre-long and 40-metre-wide roof extends from the northern end of Platform 8 to Platform 16 and will sit more than 16 metres above ground to enable natural light to filter into the station,” he said.

The structure was manufactured and pre-assembled in the Hunter Valley town of Kurri Kurri, with segments transported to Sydney. There are 58 cassette roof sections, known as hockey sticks for their shape, and each weigh about five tonnes. In addition, eight girders weighing 30 tonnes and up to 21 metres long are being installed.

The perforated aluminium cladding panels enable air to flow through the roof, and the design includes 21 diamond-shaped skylights with lighting and speakers.

The roof is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with Central Walk to be open to commuters in 2022.

To enable passengers to change between the future Metro lines, Sydney Trains services, light rail services and buses, Central Walk will extend from Chalmers Street, underneath current platforms and provide access to the Metro station, 30 metres underneath Central.

Excavation has reached 18 metres below ground and breakthrough into the tunnel box is expected in the coming months.

Laing O’Rouke won the $955 million construction contract with architecture firm Woods Bagot and John McAslan + Partners.

Plan for Metro lines to South East Sydney

The NSW government has released the South East Sydney Transport Strategy and included in the preferred scenario two new metro lines to be built by 2041 and 2056.

The Strategy outlines how Transport for NSW expects to respond to growing population in South East Sydney, an area of the city stretching from Redfern to La Perouse and to Rockdale.

The first metro line would extend from the CBD to Green Square, and Randwick and terminate at La Perouse. The second would begin at Randwick and travel to Kogarah via Sydney Airport.

The CBD to La Perouse metro line would be an extension of Sydney Metro West, and is the first Metro line to be completed, in 2041.

Metro between Randwick and Kogarah would be delivered by 2056 and would extend beyond Kogarah to Miranda.

In addition to the new metro lines, a rapid bus network would link the south east. A Transport for NSW spokesperson said that the combination was preferred over light rail options.

“After considerable consultation with Councils and other key stakeholders, two new Metro lines were considered to be the most effective means to provide for the transport needs of South East Sydney into the coming decades. Light Rail was considered, but a Rapid Bus and Metro combination allowed for better outcomes in terms of delivery and connectivity.”

The Strategy also assumes that metro will connect Hurstville and Macquarie Park and Kogarah and Norwest.

The Strategy acknowledges that current transport infrastructure in the region is not meeting the needs of the population.

Stations on the Airport Line, the only heavy rail line that runs through the region, reach capacity by 7.15am. With three in six trains arriving over capacity and four in six trains departing over capacity between 7.45 and 8.45am. With further development forecast along the line there is a need for greater capacity.

“Transport for NSW recognises that as South East Sydney continues to grow over the coming 30 years, new lines will be needed to support existing infrastructure,” said the Transport for NSW spokesperson.

The Strategy also covers the Port Botany area and while not recommending further rail to the port beyond the Port Botany Rail Line Duplication project, does set out as an objective that Port Botany has “easy access by all modes to local commercial, industrial and employment precincts.” The Strategy however does not include passenger rail to Port Botany, only recommending that Port Botany be connected via bus and private vehicle to the rest of Sydney.

The Strategy marks a shift in transport planning for the South East region of Sydney. Instead of taking a “predict and provide” approach, the Strategy identifies a vision for the region and then indicates the proposed transport infrastructure. As written in the Strategy:

“This approach recognises that continuing to accept current mode share, and in particular high levels of private car use, is not going to realise the vision, rather it will lead to increased road congestion and reduced accessibility for local residents, workers and visitors.”

HealthHub

What’s under the bonnet?

Alstom are using the deployment of HealthHub on the Sydney Metro network as a showcase of what’s possible from an OEM when it comes to condition monitoring.

The level of technological sophistication on the Sydney Metro system is most easily seen when looking up and down the train. When straight, one can see from the front window to the back, without any barriers in between. The lack of a separate driver cabin, and the all-in-one nature of the train point to the cohesiveness of the connection between, train and remote operator.

What the passenger looking out the front or rear of the train cannot see, is the technology ensuring that these trains are running at their most optimum condition, while limiting the disruptions caused by trains having to be overhauled or pulled out of service.

Simon Belet, however, does see this side of the system, as he monitors the data which provide real time information of the status of the train, track, and systems, all the way down to the status of the ventilation vents.

The dashboard that Belet, OCC and HealthHub support officer for Alstom, is looking at, is Alstom’s HealthHub system. Taking data from sensors located throughout the train and on the track, HealthHub enables Sydney Metro’s operator, Metro Trains Sydney (MTS) to optimise their maintenance and ensure that the operational life of the trains is maximised.

Nicolas Thiebot, Alstom’s services director for Australia, described how the condition monitoring system works.

“The train subsystems are continuously monitored by the engineer on the ground, so we can have a real-time overview of the health of the train and we can make an informed decision for what to do with the trains when things do happen, or prevent an issue before it actually happens.”

Thiebot sees three primary ways how a condition monitoring system can benefit a rail operator.

“On subsystems like doors, HVAC, traction, and brakes, we usually estimate that depending on the system, 30-40 per cent of the faults can be mitigated before they create a service affecting failure by having someone like Simon monitoring HealthHub on a continuous basis.”

Sensors are condition logics are set up to send an alarm back to the HealthHub engineer and the operations control centre when a component goes beyond its normal operating range, and then the operator is able to make a decision as to how to respond, said Thiebot.

“The engineers get notified and they can say, ‘This one can run until the end of the day.’ or, ‘This one needs immediate attention. Let’s bring it back to the depot and inject a new train.’”

Preventing a failure which would otherwise lead to a disruption not only helps to ensure an optimal customer experience but also avoids delays to service and ensures a predictable and reliable service.

The second area where condition monitoring can find value is through the optimisation of the life of subsystems, particularly those that are exposed to wear. In Perth, where Alstom will build and maintain 41 electric and 2 diesel train sets, Alstom will install prognostics and health management or predictive maintenance sensors on systems such as doors and HVAC to guide maintenance over its 20-year contract.

“This will make sure that we have the best approach in terms of maintenance,” said Thiebot. “For something as simple as HVAC filters replacement, how do we measure the pressure drop differential before and after the filter to optimise the whole of life cost of those filters? Those filters typically can be around 3-4 per cent of your total lifecycle costs in terms of material cost. If we can extend them by 20-50 per cent from a nominal replacement frequency without any performance degradation, we can make significant savings – both financial and environmental.”

The final area is reducing the frequency of overhauls of entire train.

“The ultimate goal for me is the relaxation of maintenance overhaul,” said Thiebot. “Typically, we have maintenance overhauls based on mileage or based on time based frequencies. What we realised is that most of the OEMs tend to be a bit conservative, and if we can make informed decisions on when the overhaul is due based on the condition of the asset, we can potentially defer that overhaul by 1-3 years, sometimes even more.”

KEEPING A SYSTEM’S HEALTH IN CHECK
On the Sydney Metro system, Alstom’s Healthhub not only covers the trains but also catenary, track, and critical point machines. By having a comprehensive picture of the way that a system operates, Belet can direct maintenance personnel to conduct their upkeep most efficiently.

“When the train comes back to the workshop, we can give the information to the maintenance teams to maximise the number of operations that they could do and this could have big benefits for the reliability and the availability of the rollingstock,” said Belet.

Developed at Alstom’s Centre of Excellence in France, the web based, graphical user interface is then customised for the local network. In Sydney, the system has been deployed under trial for much of 2020.

With the Sydney Metro line operated by MTS, data is shared between Alstom and MTS to localise and maximise efficiency. One example of how this occurs would be in the case of a broken rail. Train-mounted sensors can identify the break in the rail, and cameras take an image of the area where the fault is thought to be. An email will then be sent to track maintenance manager and the operator of the line.

“The content of the email will be the position and the picture of the defect to let them analyse as quickly as possible if it’s a real defect or a false positive and what is the best move in terms of safety to take the best decision,” said Belet.

In testing, the system has achieved a time of just minutes between the time of detection to email reception.

Another area where the system can deliver value is in the wear profile of the carbon strip of the pantograph, where it connects with the catenary. By incorporating data from the train and the catenary, maintenance can be precisely located to a particular section of track.

By providing this information to the operations centre, when something does occur on a system, solutions can immediately be communicated.

“When trains do fail and you have a subsystem failing, usually the driver is under immense pressure to resume service as soon as possible, which can be quite debilitating,” said Thiebot.

“What we can do is when they have an issue, they ring the OCC, we connect real time and we have a display of what the system is showing so we can guide them over the phone as to what needs to be done. It’s the difference between managing a door fault in 30 seconds or one minute or compared to a 10- or 11-minute delay.”

A FLEXIBLE AND INTEGRATED SOLUTION
Today, Healthhub is deployed across Alstom’s operations on every continent. Although originally developed to monitor Alstom’s own fleet and equipment, around the globe, the system is able to incorporate data from third party components, and the central algorithm is constantly being updated with information based off these sources. In Sydney, the point machines have been supplied by Alstom and a third party and both have been successfully integrated in the HealthHub system.

When working with rollingstock manufactured by another car builder, Alstom employs the talents of its subsidiary Nomad Digital to instrument non-Alstom equipment to be able to leverage data out of the system. In Sydney, Alstom is potentially looking to extract data from non-Alstom light rail vehicles using this technology.

At the other end of the system, Healthhub can connect into an operator’s enterprise asset management system to interface with maintenance planning and scheduling.

“We can convert data coming from HealthHub into a service notification in an ERP system that eventually gets sent to the mobility tablet that the maintainer is using to do the work,” said Thiebot. “So you have the end to end automated process that takes something that happens on the network and creates a meaningful action for the customer.”

For Thiebot, the kind of intelligence that the system offers, and the ease of use, demonstrates how far condition monitoring has come, and the potential of the system.

“I was maintaining trains myself 10-15 years ago, and it was very tedious to go through the data mining and analysis phase. With very limited training, anyone who’s got a fairly broad understanding of the system can really make sense of the data and have meaningful action out of it.”

Sydney Metro seeking industry contribution to potential Pyrmont station

The NSW government is increasingly closing in on confirming Pyrmont as a station for the new Sydney Metro West line, which will run from Westmead via Parramatta to the Sydney CBD.

While stations have been confirmed at Westmead, Parramatta, Sydney Olympic Park, North Strathfield, Burwood North, Five Doc and The Bays in Rozelle, a question mark has hung over a station in Pyrmont.

This week, Sydney Metro released an invitation to participate to the private sector for a potential Metro station at Pyrmont. The market engagement process aims to provide feedback on the scope for financial and/or non-financial contribution from the private sector and/or commercial beneficiaries to a station in Pyrmont.

The engagement will include written submissions and one-on-one meetings with selected participants. The invitation to respond names landowners, business, other private sector and commercial entities as potential participants.

This engagement with the private sector follows the release of a planning strategy for the Pyrmont Peninsula, which includes multiple mentions of a potential station. The station would support the strategy’s vision for a connected and low-carbon peninsula. The strategy hopes to realise the benefits of a new station by making Pyrmont a “destination, rather than a point where journeys start”.

Announcing the strategy on July 31, Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that options were still being considered for the station.

“We’re still working through the potential for a Metro station in Pyrmont, but it has progressed to the next stage of the process.”

A new Metro station has previously been touted as a way to extend the Sydney CBD and connect the two peninsulas.

Constance said that further connections to Western Sydney would be required.

“Connecting Pyrmont with Western Sydney would encourage jobs, investment and economic growth. My job is to ensure the area is easily accessible and has the right transport options in place.”

Sydney Metro

Preparations taking place for next stage of Sydney Metro

Civil works are underway and stabling facilities are being constructed to connect the existing Sydney Metro line with its extension to the City and Southwest.

In Rouse Hill, the current stabling yards are being expanded with a new test track, stabling roads, and overhead wiring.

The enlarged depot will provide space for the extra 37 trains which will run on the expanded Sydney Metro line when it continues from Chatswood, via the Sydney CBD and onto Bankstown.

Systems Connect, a partnership between CPB Contractors and UGL Engineering is delivering the works, of which over 3.1 kilometres of track and 6,500 sleepers have been installed. Twelve thousand tonnes of ballast has also been delivered.

The facility will be operational by the end of 2021 and all works will be complete by 2022, ahead of the new line opening in 2024. A Sydney Metro spokesperson said this lead time would allow for bedding in the new rollingstock.

“The expanded depot will be used for testing and stabling of the new metro trains as they progressively arrive.

“New metro trains will arrive well in advance of the opening date for the necessary testing – there will be further updates closer to that time.”

At Chatswood, foundations are being laid to connect the existing Metro North West line to the tunnel which will take trains under Sydney Harbour before emerging in Sydenham.

Work has had to be delivered in a 48-hour shutdown of the current suburban rail services, to reduce disruption. 130 workers have been on the project, including moving 330 tonnes of soil, using piling rigs to drill 34 holes up to 8 metres deep. Future works will involve excavating 7,500 tonnes of material and repositioning the existing suburban rail line.

Limiting resources and using recycled materials has been a key focus of the project, both in the first stages of Sydney Metro and current upgrade works.

At the new stabling facility in Rouse Hill, crushed recycled glass used to bed down pipes, instead of sand, using 1,000 tonnes of recycled glass. Recycled road base made of old crumbled concrete is used to make the hardstands for laydown areas and a car park for staff.

Water saving measures include using recycled water, such as rainwater and runoff. Dust block is used to bind fine dust, instead of water.

KTK Australia denies forced labour allegations

Allegations that slave labour was used in the production of components used in a number of Australian rollingstock fleets have been strongly denied by KTK Australia.

In a statement, KTK Australia said that such allegations “are based on no official documents, interviews or testimony”.

The allegations stem from a US Department of Commerce blacklist that included KTK Australia’s parent company, KTK Group. The US Department of Commerce said that KTK Group was implicated in human rights violations such as the forced labour of Muslim minority groups from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

KTK Australia disputed the basis for these implications.

“KTK Group has never employed workers who are members of the Uyghur ethnic minority,” said the KTK Australia statement.

KTK Australia’s website lists its components as in use on a number of Australian rollingstock fleets. These include NSW’s New Intercity Fleet (NIF), and Sydney Metro, the X’Trapolis and High Capacity Metro Trains (HCMT) in Victoria, and Queensland’s Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR).

Bombardier, which manufactures the NGR fleet, said that it was closely looking into the allegations.

“Bombardier Transportation is aware of the recent action by the United States Commerce Department in relation to KTK Group Co. We are actively monitoring this new dynamic – impacting the transportation industry – and any effect this could have on our own supply chain, projects and products,” said a Bombardier Transportation spokesman.

In Bombardier’s Supplier Code of Conduct, which all suppliers must agree to, forced labour, modern slavery, and human trafficking are explicitly prohibited. The code outlines:

Bombardier will not engage in the use of forced or enslaved labour or human trafficking, nor will it tolerate their use at any level in its supply chains. Suppliers must not demand any work or service from any person under the menace of any penalty. For example, Suppliers’ employees must be free to leave work or terminate their employment with reasonable notice, and they are not required to surrender any government issued identification, passports or work permits as a condition of employment.

Alstom, which manufactures the Sydney Metro and X’Trapolis fleet, also prohibits forced labour in its supply chain. Its Ethics and Sustainable Development Charter requires that suppliers commit to the “elimination of all forms of illegal, forced or compulsory labour”.

A Victorian Department of Transport spokesperson said that it was assured that there is no evidence of forced labour in the supply chains of its rollingstock.

“We have asked our manufacturers to take additional steps to ensure the integrity of their supply chains, and we continue to monitor the situation and will consider further steps based on the outcomes of ongoing supply chain investigations.”

A Transport for NSW spokesperson highlighted that suppliers must comply with Australian laws covering subcontracting and reporting requirements.

“Transport for NSW also has rights to access and audit the supplier’s records and the materials, goods, workmanship or work methodology employed at any place where the supplier’s activities are being carried out.”

The NSW spokesperson said that the components in use on the NIF were from the French arm of KTK.

In a report published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), which is in part funded by the US State Department, KTK Group is named as one company that was involved in the transfer of Uyghurs out of Xinjiang. The report cites online news articles.

KTK Australia noted that the cited articles refer to non-Uyghur workers from Xinjiang constructing a playground in a city in Jiangsu province.

“KTK Group confirms that in 2018-19 it did employ a small number of workers from Xinjiang, who were not ethnically Uyghurs, all were properly employed and paid the same wage as all KTK other workers in the same positions,” the KTK Australia statement read.

The US Department of Commerce blacklist prohibits US companies from working with listed companies. KTK Group has no investments in the US and said the decision would not have a material impact on the business.

“KTK Group is a transparent company and we welcome any international customers to inspect our facilities and to audit our labour practices.”

Alstom to trial fully autonomous shunting in the Netherlands

French rail manufacturer Alstom has signed an agreement with Dutch infrastructure operator ProRail to test automatic shunting locomotives in 2021.

The tests aspire to a level 4 grade of automation (GoA4) where the trains will be fully automated, a first for shunting trains in the Netherlands.

Alstom will fit the automatic train operation (ATO) technology to diesel-hydraulic shunting locomotives owned by Lineas, the largest private rail freight operator in Europe. This technology will include automatic control technology, intelligence obstacle detection, and environment detection.

During the tests, train staff will remain aboard to ensure safety, however regular tasts such as starting and stopping, pushing wagons, controlling traction and brakes, and handling emergencies will be fully automated.

Bernard Belvaux, Alstom managing director for Benelux said that the trial would improve the operation of railways.

“This project is paving the way for fully digitalised railway. These tests will help the European rail system benefit from an increase in capacity, reduced energy consumption and cost while offering higher operational flexibility and improved punctuality. This test is fully in line with Alstom’s strategy to bring added value to our customers for smart and green mobility.”

Alstom has previously delivered ATO for metros around the world, including on the Sydney Metro, where the system also runs at a GoA4 level. This experience has enabled Alstom to demonstrate the benefits of an automated railway. By reducing headways and operating uniformly, automated trains can increase capacity, cut costs, and save energy.

ProRail has previously carried out tests with freight locomotives at GoA level 2, where a driver remains in control of doors and in the event of a disruption, with Alstom on a freight locomotive on the Betuweroute, a freight railway running from Rotterdam to Germany.

In May, Alstom announced that it would be trialling ATO on regional passenger trains in Germany in 2021.

Planning process accelerates over a billion dollars of NSW rail projects

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes is accelerating three major rail projects as well as development above the new Crows Nest Metro Station and around the CBD and South East Light Rail.

Stokes said that moving projects such as the $700 million Inland Rail from Narrabri to North Star, the $273m Botany Rail Duplication, and the $115m Cabramatta Rail Loop would enable the state to economically recover from coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The fast-tracked assessment program is a key part of the NSW Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan as we continue to get shovel-ready projects out the door to keep people in jobs and keep the economy moving.”

The proposal to revamp of Central Station as part of the Western Gateway project will also be accelerated. Transport for NSW is proposing new planning control to enable the development of a technology centre adjacent to the rail corridor.

All projects will be determined by August 14, 2020.

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie welcomed the announcement by Stokes.

“It is good to see the NSW government recognise the significant community benefits rail delivers by accelerating these projects,” she said.

“Infrastructure investment will be the cornerstone of our economic recovery and sustainable, long term rail projects will form an important part of that.”

Completion of the Inland Rail section as well as the Port Botany duplication and Cabramatta passing loop will improve NSW’s freight rail network, enabling further growth and reducing trucks on roads in Sydney and regional NSW.

Rail’s role to play in activating development in other precincts has been recognised in the proposal to increase building height and floor space controls near the light rail line in Kingsford and Kensington. In Crows Nest, Sydney Metro is proposing to increase the building height and floor space controls to enable development above the new station.

“This is a great example of improved project approvals processes making a real difference for businesses, jobs and the people that depend on them,” said Wilkie.

smart signal

Delivering a next generation smart signal

Required to develop a unique solution for a challenging requirement, Aldridge have implemented a smart signal built for the future.

Across the vast majority of most train networks, most signals have the sophistication of a light bulb – the signal is either on, or off. The increasing sophistication of new lines, and their requirements to deliver more in a smaller package, has required a new kind of smart signal.

Sydney-based rail signalling experts, Aldridge have developed a new smart signal which can provide a much greater amount of information in a tight environment. Already in use in some of the most advanced systems in the Asia-Pacific region, David Aldridge, managing director of Aldridge, explains what makes these signals smart.

“In a conventional signal, you might have an A or B on it, and then if you need to put a C on there you can’t do it; you need to build a whole new signal. This one you can reprogram to show an A, B, C, D, or whatever, that’s the difference – their ability to be able to generate all characters.”

The new signal can decode up to 10 110VAC selection inputs and generate a comprehensive range of alphanumeric characters and symbols on displays up to three digits wide. This solution was developed in house, as company engineer Craig Sharwood highlights.

“I can change a lot of the behaviour of the display that previously would be locked in hardware and any change would require a major change to circuit boards and documentation. Here I can just change the code that controls the signal and change an A to a B or a 1 to a 5.”

The flexibility of the signal does not end at the display, however, as it can be configured with any number of interlocking systems and has already been installed in divergent projects.

“The structure of the signal is such that I can adapt it to be compatible with whatever interface I have to connect the signal to,” said Sharwood. “it gives us some flexibility to make it talk and in whatever format that the customer would like.”

A PROVEN SOLUTION
The smart signals were first developed to be used on two projects in Southeast Asia, the MRT Purple Line in Bangkok and the KVMRT system in Kuala Lumpur. For both systems, Aldridge had to comply with the customer’s demand for a new kind of signal.

“The customer’s challenge required our signal to display numerous character combinations using encoded 110VAC signalling over a limited umber of control lines.

Our solution enabled this customer to achieve the desired signal display functionality at lower cost, by reducing cable harness conductor count and interface overheads,” said Sharwood.

With the technology proven on these projects, when the call came for a similar signal for the Sydney Metro Northwest project, Aldridge was able to supply their solution.

“We’d already designed the product for the two other projects in Asia,” said Aldridge.

“We had the technology running and then we reproduced it here using the same technology.”

Although the core technology was the same, the signal had been improved as a result of previous versions, giving the product an edge over other solutions, said Sharwood.

“We have refined it over several iterations with other clients, so it’s given it maturity as a product. It’s not just a drawing board situation, it’s something that’s in service.”

While the product had been updated, the size of the kinetic envelope on the Sydney Metro lines presented a new obstacle for Aldridge to overcome.

“One of the challenges was the actual size that they gave us which we had to bring the product down to, to miniaturise it,” said Aldridge.

“A normal signal here in Australia, or basically anywhere in the world, is 300mm in width and these had to brought down to 270mm.”

In bringing down the size of the signal, Aldridge also developed the system to be modular, so that it could continue to fit into the diverse requirements of each future rail project. For Sydney Metro, the signals combine a points position indicator, which indicates left, straight ahead or right, with a red horizontal bar for stop, and a separate main route indicator number. The two displays are electrically isolated, and the arrangement can be modified for the variation required.

“Every company has their own interlocking system – they’re all a little different – and then they also have different group requirements for reporting back to the controller from the signal, what happens in fail mode, and all those little parameters,” said Aldridge.

Being able to approach each project on its own terms with an applied solution that can be modified to fit has allowed Aldridge to step in on projects when other have pulled out at the last minute.

Four typical examples of how the smart signals could be configured, showing the route number and points direction.

DESIGNED TO BE SAFE FOR FUTURE APPLICATIONS
Currently, the signal is used as a non-vital signal on the Sydney Metro network. Aldridge has delivered 153 signals, including 55 smart running, 26 smart shunting, and 72 buffer stop signals, across the Sydney Metro project so far. Although automated, the system requires signals for manual operations, including shunting, that must be fully operational when the Metro is running.

As part of the safety measures in the signals, the two separate indicators can be monitored independently, while also performing their own self testing in a loop configuration.

“The most recent model is a higher safety integrity level (SIL) level than the original, so it monitors its own power supply and it monitors its outputs. It has a status output to say basically ‘I’m ok or not ok,’ so it’s not a signal that can be used for controlling, generating a stop, but it has sufficient reliability and controls built in to make it more than adequate for this non vital application,” said Sharwood.

While the current signal is not being used to convey a movement authority, the fundamentals of the system are such that further deployments could use the signal in what Sharwood terms a hybrid manner.

“The Aldridge smart signal has the potential to displace a lot of normal signals. Rather than just displaying characters in the array, on the same array it could be displaying signalling information.

“At the moment we’ve kept it separate, the smart signal is displaying digits and characters and we still have more conventional bar signals, but it’s possible with the right approach that we could have characters and arrows, bars, all sorts of different types of signalling, embedded in the display.”

THE ALDRIDGE DIFFERENCE
The development of the innovative smart signal required a different set of skills than what is normally required of a signal engineer, however just as mandatory was the existing expertise Aldridge had in hardwired signals.

“We have leveraged some components that we know are good and the rail industry feels comfortable using and re-using. We’ve used a small number of components that we know are basically the stalwarts of the industry and our product range and added the technology and added the smarts to succeed and satisfy customer requirements,” said Sharwood.

While the 5mm LED lights and other componentry may have resembled existing signals, there was a considerable amount of new thinking involved in the design.

“These signals bear almost no resemblance to any predecessor signals so in a lot of ways we had to start from scratch and basically design something completely new,” said Sharwood.

Pulling this exercise off however required belief from the top down.

“A lot of industries like rail get stuck with the things they know and the things that work over and over and suddenly that isn’t enough” said Sharwood.

“At some stage we have to go, ‘Ok, I have to make a big leap into modern technology.’ That’s what Aldridge did in this case.”

This approach is where Aldridge has been able to distinguish itself in its ability to find the right solution, with 70 years of experience and 30 within the rail industry.

“In general, we lead the customer a little bit in terms of what could possibly happen,” said Sharwood.

“They look to us to say, ‘How do we actually use this signal?’ Even down to the point of what size fuses should be used, what earthing should we have.

“Sometimes we assist the customer on their side of the fence to help them integrate into their network, and into their systems,” said Sharwood.