Staff Writer

New opportunities at expanded AusRAIL Live & on Demand

AusRAIL’s move online provides new, unique opportunities to hear from some of the top rail industry executives from across the globe, streamed direct to any home or office.

The organising committee have established an impressive line-up of international presenters for the event, including Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild, who is currently overseeing Europe’s largest infrastructure project.

With trial running on the project’s Elizabeth line expected to start next year, this is a good time to hear about the complexity of this major rail project, and the plans to bring the line into passenger service by 2022.

LA Metro chief innovation officer Joshua Schank will join us to talk about innovation and experimental program and policy, providing a new perspective on ways to move the industry forward.

Schank’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation is leading a range of projects that aim to provide faster, better options for passengers as part of a more responsive service that supports the creation of vibrant communities.

The presentation is expected to provide new insights into how the rail industry can continue to play an essential role in supporting our economies and communities for years to come.

Conference attendees will also hear from Grand Paris Express project director Nicholas Massart, who will tell us how that project is transforming Paris into a more sustainable city.

This front row seat to presentations on the projects that are shaping the future of the industry globally is an unmatched professional development opportunity.

There are also plenty of ideas, insights and lessons from 2020 that that are creating new opportunities for the industry right here in Australia and New Zealand.

Project updates on Inland Rail, Cross River Rail and more will be featured across the expanded three-day program.

We have also established a range of interactive panels featuring executives working in Australian and New Zealand rail organisations, so delegates can hear about the issues, concerns and opportunities that are preoccupying the minds of the industry’s leaders.

AusRAIL Live & On Demand will also provide more opportunities to hear from the operators, contractors, manufacturers and suppliers that are shaping the rail industry.

In total, 14 new streams have been added to allow delegates to tailor their conference experience and access more content than ever before.

New streams for contractors, suppliers, freight, and port operators and more will be complemented by dedicated streams on the critically important issues of technology, sustainability, and accessibility.

Perhaps most importantly, the live and on demand format of this year’s event means delegates will have up to six months to catch up on content and make the most of the many and varied streams on offer.

This will be a huge advantage for delegates, who can go back and reference presentations or specialist streams as they start new projects and initiatives in the new year, providing a rare professional development opportunity.

With delegates given early access to the platform, you can start your industry networking a full month before AusRAIL actually gets underway.

The ARA looks forward to seeing the rail industry come together again at AusRAIL Live & On Demand. To register, go to


Protocol offers way to protect industry and communities

ALC CEO Kirk Coningham highlights how a united freight industry has achieved a common-sense protocol for border safety.

The COVID-19 pandemic has required all of us to deal with scenarios and situations that were hard or even impossible to anticipate.

Of course, the freight and logistics industry has long-held concerns about some of the complexities that arise from having to comply with multiple regulatory regimes as freight crosses the border from one state or territory into another. Yet the closure of those same borders at the onset of the pandemic has forced the industry to confront and adapt to a whole new set of requirements.

The fast-moving nature of the COVID-19 challenge has also required governments and regulatory authorities to move speedily – and in some instances, this has led to the imposition of rules that are simply incompatible with the realities of freight transport.

Over the past several months, ALC has worked with its members, regulatory authorities and allied industry groups to build support among governments for a nationally consistent approach that will protect the health of the freight transport sector’s workforce and the wider community, while still ensuring that our industry can get the job done.

Those efforts bore fruit in late July when the National Cabinet gave its endorsement to a Domestic Border Control Freight Movement Protocol.

The protocol has been endorsed by chief health officers from all state and territories and clearly outlines measures that all states and territories agree will allow freight to move safely and efficiently across borders.

This includes a number of common- sense measures which ALC has pursued throughout the pandemic. These include the ‘waive through’ of freight vehicles at borders, standardising the duration of border crossing permits, mutual recognition of COVIDsafe work plans developed in other jurisdictions, and not requiring rail crews to quarantine or self- isolate when crossing borders if they have not developed COVID-19 symptoms.

Obtaining agreement to this protocol has only been possible because our industry has been able to clearly and convincingly demonstrate its commitment to COVIDsafe practices to governments nation-wide.

In particular, the members of our Safety Committee provided crucial support by offering compelling examples of the extensive efforts being undertaken by freight and logistics companies to make their operations COVIDsafe. This gave policymakers added confidence that our industry takes its obligations seriously

and understands the importance of COVIDsafe behaviour in protecting the wider community. The importance of having COVID testing available for freight workers frequently crossing borders is also recognised, and the protocol calls for states and territories to offer ‘pop-up’ testing facilities in appropriate locations.

Importantly, the protocol also requires authorities to consult with industry to understand the effect and impacts of potential changes ahead of any new directions being been put place.

It will be vital for governments to follow this requirement if we are to avoid some of the confusion that has been witnessed throughout the pandemic, especially in instances where border requirements were changed with inadequate notice to industry.

RISSB releases its 2020/2021 work plan

RISSB’s projects in the next year expand the organisation’s role.

The Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB) has released its 2020/2021 industry-driven work plan, which includes close to 30 publications and 16 major projects that will be delivered over a two-year horizon.

This work plan is a result of RISSB’s overhauled project planning process and heralds a new era for RISSB. In addition to delivering standards, guidelines, codes of practice and rules, RISSB now has a new major projects portfolio set up to address industry- wide issues focusing on business imperatives. This holistic approach demonstrates that RISSB is future-focused and is equipped to address industry’s current and future challenges, now.

Input from stakeholders directly informs the development of our priorities and the vital publications that we make available to industry. The work plan was developed after significant consultation with CEOs, other senior industry executives, and RISSB’s standing committees helped us determine the priorities that will create a safer and more productive industry.

Throughout the year, RISSB will be managing the development of a total of 29 publications comprising reviews, resubmissions from the previous year’s priority planning process (PPP), AS 1085 series of documents still transitioning from Standards Australia, and projects put forward and endorsed by Standing Committees.

A list of our Australian Code of Practice (ACOP) projects is available in the table below.

Type Title
Guideline Achieving compliance at railway station platforms with DSAPT
Under consideration Firmware, software and configuration management for operational rail assets
Standard LED Locomotive Headlights, LED Ditchlights
Standard Safety Critical Comms
Standard Light Rail Interfaces with Roads (Signals and Signage)
Guideline Australian Rail Industry Management System Framework
Guideline Fatigue Risk Management
Form SPAD Investigations Proforma
AS 7460 Operation of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (Drones) on the Railway Network
AS 7519 Bogie Structures
AS 7520 Body Structural Requirements
AS 7522 Access & Egress
AS 7533 Driving Cabs
AS 7640 Rail Management
AS 7651 Axle Counters
AS  7658 Level Crossing
AS 7664 Railway Signalling Cable Routes, Cable Pits & Foundations
AS 7703 Signalling Power Supplies
Code of Practice Wheel Defect Manual
AS 7474 System Safety Assurance for the Rail Industry
Guideline Reliability, Availability and Maintainability (RAM) Guideline for the Australian Rail Industry
AS 7450 Interoperability
AS 7636 Structures
AS 7638 Earthworks
AS 7639 Track Structure & Support Systems
AS 7642 Turnouts and Special Trackworks
AS 7666 TPC Interoperability
Guideline Wheel Rail Profile Development
AS 1085.17 Railway track materials – steel sleepers


Taking into consideration the impact of COVID-19 on the rail industry, improved workflows, revised Development Group membership requirements, and streamlined internal processes will ensure ongoing Development Group commitments are optimised during what continues to be a challenging time for all.

Our new Major Projects portfolio will enable RISSB to address key challenges facing the industry, focus on activities that directly address the needs of its stakeholders, and deliver step change improvements for the benefit of the Australian rail industry through a number of workstreams: Track Worker Safety, National Rules, National Vehicle Register, Train Control Interoperability, Noise, Technology Benefit Realisation and the National Rail Action Plan.

The table below shows all 16 major projects.

Type Title
Report Exploration of Technological Solutions (RISSB / ONRSR joint project)
Action Plan Action Plan from Technology Study
Guideline Good Practice for Planning Works in the Rail Corridor
Standard Digital Engineering
Guideline Achieving a Positive Safety Culture in the Rail Corridor
 Training Explore the Viability of Nationally Recognised Protection Officer Training
Rule National Communications Rule
Plan Produce a Pipeline of Harmonized and Rationalized National Rules
Glossary Glossary of Terms
Standard Railway Rulebooks
Register National Vehicle Register
Report Interoperability Technology Solutions and Funding Models
Report The Case (SFAIRP) for (taking away/reducing etc) Horns in Built Up Areas
Code of Practice Industry Code of Practice on Horns
Report Current Good Practice in Wheel Squeal
Website Wed-based Technology Sharing Platform
Various National Rail Action Plan


  • Energy Storage
  • Heating, Ventilation and Airconditioning (HVAC)
  • Noise (especially in tunnels although its scope is likely to be expanded)

Capping off what has already been a successful year for RISSB, in 2019/2020 RISSB delivered an impressive 21 standards, codes of practice, and guidelines bringing the total number of publications RISSB has in its catalogue to more than 220. In addition to these projects, RISSB also published The National Rules Framework, and the seminal study into Rail’s Current Innovations and Trends and the Assessment of Interoperability Issues from the Proposed Introduction of New Train Control Systems; these are noteworthy achievements in themselves.

If you would like to see a list of publications delivered by RISSB in 2019/2020 and our 2020 /2021 work plan, visit


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.
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Inland Rail

Wrong time for delays on Inland Rail

All parties should respect the outcome of the latest reviews into Inland Rail, and get on with the transformational project, writes ALC CEO Kirk Coningham.

In mid-June, Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered a major economic address in which he announced that to hasten the pace of Australia’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery, the federal government would move to cut approval times for projects under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

At the end of 2019, approval processes associated with this act were taking an average of 90 days – the Prime Minister has committed to reducing this to 30 days by the end of 2020.

At the same time, the Prime Minister also unveiled a list of 15 major infrastructure projects nationally that are on what he termed the “fast track” for expedited approval under a bilateral model agreed between federal, state, and territory governments.

At the top of this list was the Inland Rail project, which regular readers of Rail Express will know is one of the most iconic freight infrastructure projects ever undertaken and will play a significant role in modernising our supply chains. Inland Rail will allow a transit time of 24 hours or less for freight trains between Melbourne and Brisbane via regional Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland.

Yet, with construction on the project already underway, some groups are now attempting to have changes on the Border to Gowrie section of the route in Queensland.

Despite the fact that extensive and independent analysis of corridor options has previously confirmed the route chosen in 2017 is the best option, there is now a further review taking place at the request of the federal government.

The whole point of constructing Inland Rail is to provide a safe and efficient freight rail link for Australia’s east coast that permits a transit time of 24 hours or less for freight between Melbourne and Brisbane. Altering the route to the more complex one being advocated by some will make travel times longer and will make construction a more complicated and costly exercise.

This latest review process seems to run counter to efforts to expedite the construction of Inland Rail, and unlock the economic, employment and regional development opportunities that the project offers to areas that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The enormously successful Inland Rail Conference presented by ALC and the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) in Toowoomba last year clearly demonstrated a high level of support for the project from the communities along its proposed alignment. Many local businesses have already been making investment decisions based on the route chosen in 2017.

Eleventh-hour attempts to alter the approved route of the Inland Rail project are causing uncertainty for investors and local communities, placing a brake on employment growth and regional development opportunities at a time the economy can least afford it.

Inland Rail has been talked about for decades. The last thing local communities or the economy need now is for those benefits to be placed at risk by endless reviews of modelling that has already been thoroughly examined and re-examined.

Once this latest review of the is concluded, it is incumbent on all parties to respect its outcomes and turn their attentions to expediting construction. That way, this once-in-a-generation freight rail project can start delivering benefits for local workers, businesses, exporters and consumers that are now needed more than ever.

New Learning Management System for RISSB

RISSB is stepping up its focus on training and will deliver courses online and face-to-face.

RISSB is launching a new learning management system (LMS) in the second half of 2020. The decision to invest in an LMS is part of a broader plan to automate RISSB processes and deliver more of its services virtually.

The online courses that will become available in late 2020 and early 2021 on the new LMS will be easy to enrol for, access, and complete. Among other things, the new system will enable course participants to learn at their own pace either in the workplace or from the comfort of their own home 24 hours a day, 7 days per week and access the LMS on multiple electronic devices. Being user friendly, the LMS will also make it easier for people to register to attend a RISSB course and pay for their course online by credit card in one single transaction.

In addition to offering online courses, the LMS will eventually contain a host of online resources that will assist with take-up of RISSB publications.

RISSB intends to apply for accreditation as a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) within the next year. As an RTO, RISSB will be able to offer accredited courses, reinforcing the value of RISSB’s training program to the broader rail industry.

RISSB has recently purchased a student management system in preparation for becoming an RTO. The benefits of the Student Management System are:

  • Streamlined enrolment process
  • Automated processing of enrolments
  • Instant invoicing and receipting
  • Linked with the LMS.

Since the implementation of government restrictions and social distancing, RISSB has opted to conduct face-to-face training only in those situations where the requirements of both the Commonwealth and the host state can be met. But once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, RISSB’s flagship Rail Safety Investigation, Derailment Investigation and Analysis, and Safety Critical Communications courses will continue to be delivered face-to-face in learning facilities located across Australia.

To register your interest to attend a course, or to enquire about training delivery for 10 or more people in your workplace, please send an email to


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