Passenger Rail, Rail Supply, Signalling & Communications

What Australian cities can learn from London’s passenger rail transformation

Rail is one of the most effective and efficient ways of moving large amounts of people at any one time. However, many major cities around the world are struggling to develop their plans quickly enough as their population booms.

Australia is not exempt from this issue. Australia’s population has quadrupled in the past century and if current trends continue our population will top 40 million in 40 years.

Rail will play a major role in getting those people to work and to home. However, existing technology will struggle to cope with the increased numbers. Part of the solution will be to utilise advanced technologies and automation that allows for more train capacity on the same physical infrastructure.

Some cities are well advanced, some further behind. Regardless of our current status, one thing for certain is that we need intelligent rail infrastructure capable of coping with future needs, which will allow for more trains running closer together and more frequently.

Siemens’ Digitalize 2018 conference to be held at the MCG in Melbourne on August 8 will feature Ian Macleod, Fleet Delivery Manager for the Thameslink project talking about the best practice from this significant project.

London’s Thameslink project is a great example of how digital railway technology is helping drive capacity through advanced signalling concepts improving the flow of people through the city and getting more out of the existing rail infrastructure.

The project started in 2014 and has since resulted in the first self-driving train run on a UK mainline railway in March 2018, when a self-driving service ran – with driver supervision – between St Pancras and Blackfriars stations.

Siemens is deploying traffic management and the enabling functions for it to control the infrastructure on the 225-kilometre, 68-station main-line route running north to south through central London.

Beyond traffic management, Siemens is also utilising automated train operation (ATO) over the ETCS Level 2 system, to deliver a significant increase in capacity in a complex urban environment.

By 2019, the ATO over ETCS Level 2 project will see automated trains run every two to three minutes by December 2019, allowing improved access to stations north and south of London, thanks primarily to the computerised movement of trains as close as 100 metres apart.

In a high complexity project such as the Thameslink, the costs of integration and interface risks outweigh the constructability and project execution risks, meaning the system not performing far outweighs the costs associated with getting it built in the most efficient manner.

The infrastructure challenge is not unique to Australia as other major cities across Europe, Asia and the Americas have faced them over the past decades.

The Thameslink project is a perfect example of how a digital railway network can be a key enabler for urban re-development in major cities nationwide, as we look at ways to optimise existing assets and deal with massive urban growth.


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Ian MacLeod, Fleet Delivery Manager – Thameslink at Siemens will be speaking at Siemens’ annual digitalization conference, Digitalize 2018, which will be held in Melbourne on Wednesday 8 August 2018.

For more details and to register, visit