Metro

Rollingstock innovations keep Metro trains on track

Metro Trains Melbourne’s Comeng, Siemens and X’Trapolis fleets have undergone major maintenance to ensure the trains are kept to the highest standard and improve the experience for passengers.

Melbourne trains are being retrofitted with wireless data recorders to monitor key train systems, improve safety and reliability, and maintenance, enabling the trains are available to run on the network more often.

The On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system will give Metro engineers access to near real time data so they can monitor train performance, identify faults sooner, and maintain trains more efficiently.

Metro has recently installed the state-of-the-art technology on 174 three-carriage X’Trapolis train units.

The OBD project is being completed at the Newport rail workshops and has now moved on to the Siemens fleet.

The system is used to monitor everything including vibration in critical train bogie components, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, as well as passenger body-side doors, traction, auxiliary power supply, and passenger information systems.

This helps Metro diagnose and respond to potential issues sooner, reducing the risk of passengers being delayed by train faults.

Metro’s general manager of rolling stock, Dave Carlton said that Metro was completing a world first with this technology.

“We’re proud to be leading the largest-ever retrofit of remote condition monitoring equipment on an existing train fleet, globally,” he said.

“The data we collect from this technology is being shared across Metro, which benefits our operations, infrastructure and network development teams.”

Technical upgrades have also been carried out on the oldest vehicles in the Metro fleet. 75 per cent of the Comeng fleet, which in total numbers 179 trains are being overhauled, with passenger-facing and engineering improvements.

In 2017, a three-stage, $75 million upgrade project began, funded by the Victorian government.

Metro’s CEO Raymond O’Flaherty said the project will extend the life of the fleet.

“The Comeng fleet has served the people of Melbourne for almost 40 years, they are brilliant trains and they’ve certainly got more life left in them,” he said.

“We have very stringent maintenance programs for all our trains, that’s one of the reasons they are still so reliable. It’s also essential that we utilise all the technical advances that are available, and this life extension program makes sure that our passengers have the best possible experience on board.”

The life extension project has three stages, of which the first two are complete.

Stage one included critical-safety improvements to Comeng train doors – a feature now standard on all Metro trains.

Stage two was focused on the passenger experience, including rearranging and reupholstering seating, installing LED lights, new grab poles and straps, safer gang-way bellows, and new digital signage on the front of trains to give passengers destination information.

Upgrades have also been made to the driver’s instrument panel.

Stage three is the project’s final stage and is now almost complete. It involves upgrades to the passenger information system, with digital displays inside the carriages tracking the train’s journey in real-time.

Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said that upgrades would also increase safety for passengers, with new high definition CCTV cameras been fitted with a wider field of view that can be accessed remotely, which will support Metro and Victoria Police investigations.

“We can access camera footage remotely as soon as issues are reported – helping Metro and Victoria Police respond to incidents as quickly as possible and giving Victorians peace of mind that their journeys are safe.”

There are also improvements to hearing-aid links for people with additional needs and upgraded speakers for clearer on-board announcements.

On the engineering side, the trains’ air brakes are being overhauled, while the electrical relay panel and traction systems are being upgraded to support a safer journey.

For the Siemens fleet, Metro’s middle child, Metro partnered with accessibility group Vision Australia to support new safety upgrades for the Siemens fleet

New bellows were needed between carriages, which has instituted an “outer wall” that fills in the gap between the train and the platform.

By providing an exterior that is flat along the full length of the train, Metro has reduced the risk of falls for vision-impaired passengers who may mistake the gap for a door.

Since an upgrade program commenced in February this year, more than 20 per cent of Siemens trains have been upgraded with the new bellows.

As well as being safer for passengers, the upgrades also provide sound-proofing, making the carriages quieter for a more comfortable journey.

Together with Vision Australia, Metro used a mock-up train carriage to test the design to ensure it provided all the necessary safety features.

The mock-up train is used by Vision Australia to help familiarise vision-impaired passengers and enable them to move confidently around trains, while also teaching guide dogs how to navigate the network.

Carlton said this work was important for the community.

“The work we do to make sure our trains and stations are fully accessible for all our passengers is absolutely essential. Providing a public transport service means making sure that every person can use our network without limitation,” he said.

“These new gangways give us extra confidence that not only are we continuously improving safety, but we are improving the passenger experience. It’s not just about getting to your destination, it’s about getting to your destination as easily and comfortably as possible.”

A mock-up of a Siemens-class train for vision-impaired passengers.

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.”

Worker transfer deal maintains train manufacturing jobs in Ballarat

The Victorian government has brokered a deal to transfer manufacturing staff from Alstom’s manufacturing site in Ballarat to Bombardier’s maintenance depot in the same regional town.

The deal was agreed to by the Victorian government, the two major manufacturers, and unions, and will see 27 of Alstom’s permanent manufacturing staff redeployed to work on the VLocity train maintenance program, which will be carried out at Bombardier’s Ballarat workshop.

Alstom workers who have not been redeployed will continue working on other rollingstock projects, said Minister for Public Transport, Melissa Horne.

“We’re helping keep these highly skilled manufacturing jobs in Ballarat – giving certainty to workers and their families.”

The deal comes after speculation over the future of Alstom’s Ballarat workforce once the final X’Trapolis trains in the current order are completed. While the Victorian government has committed to an order of X’Trapolis 2.0 trains, designs are still being completed, leaving the workforce in limbo. Victorian secretary of the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) Luba Grigorovitch said that the jobs could have disappeared altogether.

“There was the potential for these regional jobs to be lost, and I’m really pleased that the state government applied the pressure that was necessary to ensure that the redeployment of the employees has been facilitated.”

The Victorian government has committed $12 million to Alstom to continue designing the X’Trapolis 2.0 trainsets.

Grigorovitch welcomed the investment but said that a confirmed order was needed.

“The investment in the design phase is only the first step and the workers and their families will only truly be secure once they see an order of much needed X’Trapolis 2.0s.”

By redeploying the workers onto the VLocity fleet, maintenance schedules will be sped up, said Horne.

“Alstom workers will gain new experience and skills carrying out vital maintenance on our VLocity fleet – helping to keep services moving across regional Victoria.”