Opal Travel

Opal Travel app to include real-time social distancing alerts

Transport for NSW will deliver real-time alerts for COVID-19-safe train travel through the Opal Travel app.

The alerts will enable passengers on Sydney Trains and Sydney Metro services to be alerted based on the capacity of the service they typically travel on, allowing commuters to make decisions to further social distancing.

The COVID-19 alerts are in addition to existing alerts on trackwork, delays, and major incidents.

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that the function would further enable safe use of public transport.

“The new feature is a world leading piece of innovation that uses real-time capacity and predictive data to help customers make better choices when travelling,” said Constance.

“We have already implemented the green dots across the network, and the notifications are another way we can help maintain physical distancing and keep people COVID safe.”

The new function was rolled out to the app in just 12 weeks and utilised data that already existed.

The developers of the alert function hope that the feature will make passengers feel more comfortable and safer when using public transport.

The alerts have been personalised based on the user’s preferences, and further feedback is hoped to help improve the design.

The Opal Travel app was updated with real-time departure information for public transport in October, similar to the information displayed on screen as stations. Other information such as vehicle position, transfer information, as well as disruptions such as trackwork or delays are also now available through the app.

These function further integrate customer information within the Opal Travel app. While passengers were able to use third party apps for real time travel data, Opal payment functions were only accessible through the Opal Travel App.

The function is expected to roll out to light rail, ferry, and bus passengers in the near future.

Industry involvement sought for ETCS and ATMS interoperability solution

Transport for NSW is seeking industry involvement on the design of an integration solution for next generation signalling systems.

With Sydney Trains in the process of rolling out European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 2 signalling as part of the Digital Systems program on sections of the T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line and the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) implementing its Advanced Train Management System (ATMS) across the interstate network, interoperability will be key for the effectiveness of these technologies in enabling more traffic to run through the Sydney network. Read more

rail track

Moving ahead with a career in rail track: From interest to specialist

A new qualification is plugging a skills gap in rail track engineering and for recent graduate, Jessica Fallico, turning an interest into a career specialisation.

The Diploma of Engineering Infrastructure (Rail) is transforming the rail industry by providing an accessible, holistic qualification for engineers and technicians.

Over several years, leaders in the NSW rail industry identified a skills gap in foundational rail track engineering. Although longer-term employees had skills built over time, there was no formal industry-specific qualification. Engineers couldn’t deepen their expertise or validate their existing skills.

The Diploma was created with the single intent to fill this gap. Graduates understand the ‘big picture’ of rail track infrastructure, from a strong foundation of skills.

For recent graduate, Jessica Fallico, this meant turning a career interest into a specialisation and a promotion. Here’s what Fallico found to be most beneficial for her career.

Understanding how theory translates to track
As a civil engineer working for Sydney Trains, Fallico recognised that she needed to know more about rail track engineering. Over the course of the Diploma, this all changed as Fallico learned the foundations of track structure interactions.

“The Diploma gave me a great overview of track components, train and track interactions, design and construction, defects, maintenance and operations.”

Fallico reflected, “It felt good when something I’d studied would happen on track in the ‘real world’. I could understand and resolve it competently, applying my deeper knowledge.”

Building confidence for career advancement
Sometimes, a little extra knowledge is what you need to gain an edge and move ahead to senior roles.

“Even though I was a qualified civil engineer, I wanted to understand how track structure interacts in the rail environment. I strongly believe that the knowledge and skills I’ve learnt have made me more capable and confident to perform my role.”

After completing the Diploma, Fallico was promoted to a Senior Track Engineer role with Sydney Trains. The move was smoother because of her wider understanding of all aspects of track assets and infrastructure. Today, Fallico applies her Diploma learnings daily in maintenance and defect management.

Learning straight from industry experts
Fallico says the teaching featured industry veterans who brought knowledge to life.

“I was amazed with the wealth of experience and extensive knowledge provided through the Diploma. Teachers shared their experiences and reviewed tough incidents that they had dealt with over the length of their careers.

“Because of this experience, assignments involved practical exercises like creating train timetables, planning construction projects, prioritising defects or managing and identifying repairs.”

Flexible study
The Diploma’s structure allows for study to fit around full-time roles, with flexible content and assignments. There’s time for conversation and clarification during the workshops, and live webinars happen in lunch hours. Fallico didn’t miss content, even when she couldn’t be there in person.

“All course contents and assignments were easily accessible online, allowing people to work at their own pace. We were also able to contact the course lecturers online if we had any issues or questions.”

Fallico encourages any track engineering team members to study the Diploma.

“Anyone who is enthusiastic about extending their career in rail track should study the Diploma. It develops an unparalleled understanding of how the whole track structure interacts with all its moving parts.

“You can study this qualification without a major impact on your work commitments. Learning while working helps you apply new knowledge and put it to work immediately.”

The Diploma of Engineering Infrastructure (Rail) is now open for enrolments in 2021. Backed by Engineering Education Australia and Transport for NSW, the nationally-accredited qualification is delivered by the University of Tasmania. Learn more >

Cowra Lines

Minister leaves door open for reinstatement of Cowra lines

NSW Minister for Regional Transport Paul Toole has indicated that the reinstatement of the Cowra rail lines could still go ahead, despite a feasibility study finding now option achieved a positive cost-benefit ratio.

Toole is pushing for further work to be done to see whether reopening the lines, particularly the 179km Blayney to Demondrille line, can be economically viable.

“The Cowra Lines has the potential to be economically viable when freight capacity on the Main West is constrained in the future,” said Toole.

“That’s why I have asked for this study to be taken to the next stage – to complete a high level design and some investigation works to determine a closer project delivery cost.”

In a feasibility study published by Transport for NSW, the most competitive option for reopening the Cowra lines was to re-instate the Blayney to Demondrille line at 25 tonne axle load (TAL) with a speed of 80km/h. This option assumed a scenario of the Main West and Illawarra Lines becoming significantly constrained in future and not able to adequately support central west freight rail services.

The benefit-cost ratio calculated for this scenario was 0.9.

With the Cowra lines closed between 2007 and 2009, most freight from the region is carried by road with some bulk freight picked up by services travelling along the Main West or Main South lines. The feasibility study notes that the region’s diverse resources and agricultural industries support a freight task.

The feasibility study found that the rail infrastructure itself is mostly intact, however sleepers and ballast would need to be replaced and two new crossing loops would be required. A number of timber bridges would also need to be replaced.

Toole said that now was a good time to investigate improvements to the freight network.

“With freight increasing across the State and the need to build a resilient network to cope with natural disasters and pandemics, this year has shown it’s an opportune time to further investigate our rail freight capabilities,” he said.

“This is about futureproofing the movement of rail freight through the Central West.”

Footage of motorists flouting level crossing warnings released

Transport for NSW has released footage of motorists crossing rail lines as trains are moving at Port Kembla.

The vision comes from the Old Port Road level crossing, which is regularly used by freight trains carrying goods from the Port Kembla steelworks and industrial areas.

In the CCTV clips, cars can be seen crossing the tracks while trains are moving towards the crossing, ignoring the flashing red lights. In one incident, a waiting vehicle overtakes the vehicle in front of it across double lines as a train is beginning to enter the crossing.

Police will be targeting the crossing to ensure no incidents occur.

The weight and speed of trains means that motorists will come off worse, and Transport for NSW deputy secretary for safety, environment and regulation Tara McCarthy said that motorists needed to pay attention.

“Trains can travel at speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour and can take up to one-and-a-half kilometres to come to a complete stop,” she said.

“That means that by the time they see you, it’s often too late. Signs, flashing lights, boom gates and road markings are at level crossings for a good reason, and drivers, riders and pedestrians need to pay attention.”

Motorists also need to consider the impact of a collision or close call on those manning the trains.

“We all have a duty of care when driving, not only for ourselves, passengers and other road users, but also for train passengers and crew,” said McCarthy.

The penalty from crossing a level crossing at the wrong time can include three demerit points and a $464 fine. Acting superintendent Ben Macfarlane from traffic and highway patrol said NSW police would be enforcing these penalties.

“We will be looking out for speeding and distracted drivers near these level crossings and those who disregard flashing lights and stop signs. The consequences of a car or truck hitting a train are severe so don’t rush to the other side,” he said.

Watch footage of the incidents below:

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.