The future of rail starts in Australia

By developing the latest in rail technology locally, Siemens is enabling Australian cities to plan for the world of tomorrow.

Our transport infrastructure has reached a turning point. Every day in many metropolitan areas, railway and road commuters are approaching the limits of what is tolerable. By 2050, another 2.5 billion people will be living in large cities and urban regions worldwide while climate change is becoming a major challenge.

In Australia, Melbourne and Sydney are widely predicted to each have eight million people by 2050, with the nation as a whole being home to close to around 38million. Australia is one of the most urbanised nations with 85 per cent of the population living within 50km of the coast. The future of Australian mobility is therefore top of the agenda in terms of achieving sustainable growth in upcoming decades. 

Rail will be crucial in ensuring these metropolises of the future are functional for both living and working.

Modernising the Sydney network

Clearly, large-scale investments will be required in areas of rail such as technology, signalling, predictive maintenance and data protection. In this context, recent developments regarding Siemens are worthy of note. Siemens Mobility recently won multiple contracts to upgrade and modernise Sydney rail network.

Siemens Mobility has been awarded two contracts worth around $190m by the New South Wales government in Australia to significantly upgrade the rail network in metropolitan Sydney, one of the busiest networks in the southern hemisphere. This work is aimed at improving the overall efficiency and capacity of the rail network.

The total contract consists of two key packages, including the introduction of a new traffic management system along with the upgrading of the Sydney Trains’ network conventional signalling to a digital ETCS-L2 train control system. This work is part of the NSW government’s broader Digital Systems Program, described as a “once in a generation change” to replace legacy signalling and train control technologies with modern, internationally proven, intelligent systems. The systems are due to be available for operation in 2023.

“Siemens Mobility is delighted to have been selected to deliver the services that will modernise and optimise the Sydney rail network,” Siemens Mobility chief executive Michael Peter said.

“Our state-of-the-art traffic management and signalling technology will augment operations throughout the network by increasing service reliability and availability, which will enhance the passenger experience.

“This important project further underscores our leading position in the field for delivering automated signalling systems and expands our growing footprint in Australia.”

Train control systems

The TMS is to be integrated with the new European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 2 technology, which is said to be today’s leading technology running on some of the best and most efficient rail networks worldwide.

The Digital Systems Program upgrades are set to enable more frequent and reliable services and increase capacity to allow 24 trains to operate during peak hours and up to 30 trains per hour for recovery from disruptions. 

The other key project element will include implementation of automatic train operation that helps drivers by providing more frequent, reliable, and consistent train journeys. Train drivers will remain in control but will be assisted in improving operations and reducing journey times, which subsequently benefits passengers. 

A crucial role of the state-of-the-art TMS solution, will be to continually monitor the position of all trains; helping keep train services running as planned and assist with responses to incidents.

The TMS is to be operated from the Rail Operations Centre and will work alongside other systems used by Sydney Trains to control train operations.

“A significant win”

“This is a significant win for Siemens Mobility in Australia. Beyond the contracts, we’re excited to play a major role in helping shape and future-proof the rail infrastructure of one of the world’s most iconic cities,” said Raphaelle Guerineau, CEO, Siemens Mobility Australia and New Zealand.

“This project will help set the network up for future growth. Siemens is uniquely positioned to do this because of its track record of successfully delivering similar state-of-the-art TMS solutions and digital ETCS-L2 train control system to clients worldwide.”

 Upgrades for legacy systems

Meanwhile, Siemens is also taking on another great challenge – that of introducing technology change to legacy systems. The company is currently re-engineering the Siemens S2 control system that is used by railways around the globe as a vital part of the operational infrastructure. While S2 has been on the market for more than 30 years, the reconfiguration is being developed at the Siemens production facility in Port Melbourne with a focus on Australian clients.

The company has decided to re-engineer the S2 product onto a new industry standard platform to “give the product a new lease of life” while “implementing protocols and physical interfaces allowing for interoperability with legacy systems”.

According to Siemens, railways by their nature have a significant number of high-tech assets that are spread across the spectrum in terms of technology and age. This is the case in Australia and is somewhat reflective of the powerful economic development in the last century with dramatic population growth and constantly increasing export industry heavily dependent on rail. Australia’s rail infrastructure improvements have always been a gradual evolution rather than radical revolution, with compromise required between the old and the new.

The new S2 upgrade was the outcome of many conversations with our customers who came to us requesting a pragmatic solution  “Due to our Australian production sites in Port Melbourne and Perth, plus our service centre in Mackay, we are set up to deliver   bespoke Siemens solutions all over Australia,” a Siemens Mobility Spokesperson said.  

And while Australia is tackling its legacy system challenges, other nations and markets experience similar issues.

Rail infrastructure assets by nature have a long lifespan and we see similar issues in many parts of Europe at the moment. There, the harmonisation of efforts between the national systems puts pressure on operators to upgrade when public funds are scarce. “Also in the future Siemens will be supporting legacy electronic equipment both from a component availability, and the supporting infrastructure, such as communication systems, for example copper phone lines to digital fibre,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said repairing and upgrading legacy components was equally important in Australia to optimise efficiency as installing a new fully digitalised signalling system.

“Investing in new rollingstock has the full effect for customers when also all other vital systems are up to date,” said the spokesperson. “Siemens is uniquely able to deliver both in Australia while at the same time maintaining what operators want to keep.” 

Shaping the Future

Siemens Mobility CEO for Australia and New Zealand Raphaelle Guerineau discusses the trend towards industry digitisation, including benefits, challenges and opportunities. Read more