Multinational technology provider Thales is intensifying its focus on the rail market in Australia and New Zealand, with plans to rapidly grow its local transportation capabilities in New South Wales, then extending to other states.
Thales Group’s Australian GM for Transport Elias Barakat tells Rail Express the company is leveraging recent success and the presence of more opportunities, to develop a Transport Competence Centre at its site in Rydalmere, in Sydney’s west.
Such a Centre would include a rail innovation lab and test facility in Sydney, including all the equipment and people necessary to engineer, test, commission and demonstrate Thales’ signalling and communications solutions for the metro, light rail, and mainline rail sectors.
“We’ve already been able to establish our local capability in metro rail off the back of our work on the Sydney Metro Northwest project,” Barakat says, referring to Thales’ work providing a Central Control System and Communication System for the newly-opened metro line. “At our Rydalmere lab we’ve set up an integration and test facility for a metro central control system and comms solutions – passenger information, public address and so on. We’ve recruited local talent, and brought in team members from overseas who have become local through that.”
Next, to build on the Centre’s light rail capabilities, Thales will leverage its delivery of the signalling and communications systems for the Parramatta Light Rail project.
“In terms of setting up our capabilities for light rail, Parramatta Light Rail is acting as the first cab off the rank. We are currently working with Thales Italy, the solution lead for light rail systems within Thales, but our intention is to do more of this light rail work in Australia, and rely less on Italy.”
And finally, for mainline, Thales has worked in the past on Sydney Trains’ Common Telemetry Infrastructure Platform and provided mainline signalling products such as axle counters to a number of customers across Australia. Now, Thales is targeting Transport for NSW’s $880 million Digital Systems program, which will bring ETCS Level 2, Automatic Train Operation, and a modern Traffic Management System to the Sydney Trains network. Barakat says Thales is also incorporating demonstrations to showcase these signalling solutions into their Sydney facility.
“We have good capabilities and products in both areas of signalling and Traffic Management Systems globally, but our focus at the moment is setting up a team here [in Sydney] made up of people with knowledge of the local network, and more experts from our Thales organisation in Germany and Spain who have been brought here.”
Barakat says the presence of a local Transport Competence Centre will majorly benefit its customers.
“The most important element of this is to give clients people who can support them in the same time zone, speaking the same language, all the while supported by a robust global network,” he explains. “This enables better and quicker service for their questions and queries. And it facilitates a closer working relationship with our clients and partners at earlier stages of the delivery process.”
Moreover, Barakat says, rising demand for solutions that can help operators boost the capacity of their networks is further justifying Thales’ decision to grow its transport footprint in Australia.
“The transport market in Australia is on a steep growth curve, and that’s generating a lot of interest from global players,” he says. “I think the development especially towards ETCS Level 2 and modern Traffic Management Systems give Thales the opportunity to become a major player in the Australian market, and we definitely are on a trajectory to do that.”