Straight railways throw a curveball in heavy haul rail

Heavy haul rail presents many singular challenges, particularly in established markets where interoperability is a requirement that can cripple the implementation of new technologies.

Tom Hewitt is Project Manager of Rolling Stock, CANARAIL Consultants (Canada). He will be one of the international keynotes at the Heavy Haul Rail 2015 Conference in Perth, 22-23 June 2015.

Having worked on rail systems from North America to Saudi Arabia, Tom will bring a global perspective to the issue of heavy haul rail, particularly the unique challenges of long-haul desert tracks.

Tom, can you tell us a little about your professional background and the  path to your current role?
After graduating from university in Mechanical Engineering, I got a job at a small Montreal-based railway supply company where we designed and manufactured air brake and truck (bogie) equipment. Due to the small size of the company I was able to not only design components but to travel across Canada, the United States and Mexico instructing railways and car builders in their installation, eventually participating in the Brake Systems Committee meetings of the Association of American Railways (AAR). This firsthand interaction with railways and committees reignited a childhood passion for trains that I forgot I had.

Since coming to CANARAIL in 2008 I have performed engineering studies, developed technical specifications for the acquisition of rolling stock, shop equipment, and maintenance of way equipment for new railways, and I have acted as an on-site inspector in Asia, North and South America, and Europe. Additionally, working on projects in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Canadian Arctic, has given me a unique experience in understanding railroading in extreme environments. I now act as project manager for procurement-related projects and a rolling stock technical specialist for feasibility studies.

You will be speaking at Heavy Haul Rail 2015 on “designing a heavy haul desert railway: lessons learned”. In the lead up to the event, can you share any one lesson in particular?
One lesson I can share with my experience in Saudi Arabia is that a relatively straight railway with few curves can initiate greater wheel wear than a curvy railway. This conclusion may seem counterintuitive; however, the drawback of a straight railway is that the lack of curves means that the wheelsets have limited opportunity to displace laterally on the rail head, thus producing a single wheel contact band resulting in hollow wheel treads. Once hollowing of the wheel treads sets in, the wheelsets will have high conicity that can result in unstable bogies and flanging. This phenomenon is further exaggerated by the extremely high coefficient of friction between the wheel and rail in a desert environment.

Multiple rail profiles should therefore be considered for predominantly straight railways that produce different contact bands on the wheels. A minimum of two rail profiles should be engineered for the tangent portions of the railway and additional rail profiles may be required for the low and high rails in curves. These rail profiles distribute the wear across the wheel tread.

Where do you see the biggest challenges in the various international heavy haul markets you have worked in?
Countries and regions with mature heavy haul railway operations have difficulties in implementing new technologies due to interoperability requirements – electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking, positive train control (PTC)/European train control system (ETCS), and increasing axle loads immediately come to mind. For example, a freight car sitting in a yard anywhere in North America must be interoperable with the other 1.5 million freight cars in North America, and must be “repairable” in any workshop on any railway across Canada, the United States and Mexico. It is therefore considerably easier to implement new technologies on mining railways that do not need to connect with other railways (such as Northern Quebec), or in regions where entire railways are being built from scratch (Such as Saudi Arabia).

The requirement for almost universal interoperability places particular challenges on system designers, railway management and policy makers and demand solutions that are not always evident.

Don’t miss Tom’s presentation – book now for the Heavy Haul Rail Conference 2015 conference. Other featured speakers include:

  • Mark Manion, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Norfolk Southern Corporation, USA
  • Alexander Kosarev, Deputy Director General, JSCo Railway Research Institute (JSC VNIIZHT), Russia
  • Zara Fisher, General Manager Railway Operations, Rio Tint
  • Matt Dowd, General Manager Railroad Operations, BHP Billiton
  • Mike Franczak, Executive Vice President, Operations, Aurizon
  • Roger Johnston, CEO, Pilbara Ports Authority
  • Michael Roche, Chief Executive, Queensland Resources Council
  • Alan Langford, Chief Economist, Bankwest
SA train derailmend April 2014. Photo: ATSB

SA derailment: ATSB says ARTC risk control ‘ineffective’

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has found that the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s risk control processes were ineffective in the lead-up to a derailment in South Australia midway through last year.

Early in the morning of April 10, 2014, SCT Logistics train 3MP9 derailed after travelling over track that had been undercut by floodwaters near a culvert between Tarcoola and Malbooma, SA.

Around 300 metres behind the lead loco, 18 wagons derailed, with eight rolling onto their sides.

SA derailment. Photo - ATSB
Photo: ATSB

 

There were no injuries to the crew or bystanders, but there was significant damage to the track, rolling stock and freight goods, according to the bureau.

What the ATSB found during its investigation launched shortly after the incident, was that floodwaters caused scouring of the track formation, compromising its capacity to support the train.

The ATSB determined that runoff from the heavy rain that had fallen in the catchment area adjacent to Malbooma on April 9, 2014, caused a flash flood event.

“The volume of floodwater exceeded the capacity of a double drainage culvert designed for a 1:50 year average flood recurrence interval,” the ATSB said in its report, released yesterday.

“This resulted in water overtopping the track formation with ballast and sub-grade scouring on the south side of the track.”

As a result of the scouring, the track couldn’t support the train in certain areas. The resulting deformation caused the derailment, according to the bureau.

 

Role of the ARTC

According to the report, Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) risk control processes were ineffective in developing and implementing changes to operational procedures from the findings of previous incident investigations.

“The ARTC did not have a comprehensive system in place to identify and actively manage the risks to their network from severe weather events, and had not established a register for recording ‘special locations’ for the management of track infrastructure prone to flooding,” the bureau found.

There were no anomalies found with the operation of the train or the condition of rolling stock before the derailment.

SA derailment. Photo: ATSB
Photo: ATSB

 

As a result of the investigation, the ARTC has implemented Operational Procedure OPP-01-05 ‘Monitoring and Responding to Extreme Weather Events in the East-West Corridor’ and has purchased and installed remote weather monitoring and recording stations at Barton, Cook, Rawlinna and Zanthus, according to the ATSB.

Automated alerts will be provided by the weather stations, which will be linked to the Early Warning Network.

The ARTC has also installed four water flow monitors at culverts identified through a hydrology study of the Trans Australia Railway. Field evaluation of this equipment is currently being undertaken.

The ARTC is also optimising its inspection and maintenance activities with upgrades to its electronic asset management system underway. This process will include the recording of ‘special locations’ affected by severe weather events.

“To ensure that the safety of rail operations is not compromised during severe weather events, it is essential that rail transport operators have robust and responsive systems in place to actively monitor and manage the foreseeable risks,” the safety bureau concluded.

Click to view the full ATSB report.

Stadium Station map. Graphic: WA government

Contractor announced for Perth’s Stadium Station project

A pair of Australian rail and engineering businesses will deliver the $100 million station and railway project for Perth’s new sports stadium.

Construction of the station at the new Perth Stadium will begin within months, after transport minister Dean Nalder late last week named Laing O’Rourke and AECOM as the companies selected to build the infrastructure.

The $100 million project will see the construction of a station and associated rail infrastructure. It is part of a $358 million package for public transport infrastructure at the site.

“The station is a vital part of the new Perth Stadium project and will enable up to 28,000 passengers to depart the new stadium within an hour of an event,” Nalder said.

Nalder said Laing O’Rourke and AECOM will mobilise on-site quickly to ensure the works are completed on schedule in late 2017, which will allow time for the infrastructure to be tested in the lead-up to the 2018 AFL season.

“When complete, Stadium Station will be the second largest station on Transperth’s network – with six platforms connected by two pedestrian concourses, each with multiple passenger lifts for access by people with mobility issues.

“This contract will involve not only building the Stadium Station, but also significant rail works, including infrastructure that will enable Transperth to store up to 117 railcars on the Burswood Peninsula, ready for use at the end of a game.”

The transport projects for the new Perth Stadium also include a pedestrian footbridge linking the stadium site to East Perth and a dedicated bus facility on the peninsula to load up to 20 buses at a time.

Nalder said the total construction workforce on the various contracts for the new Perth Stadium transport components would range from between 1800 to 2000.

Fairfield Airport line - WA PTA

Nalder announces EOI candidates for Forrestfield-Airport link

WA minister for transport Dean Nalder has announced the five consortia which have expressed interest in delivering the $2 billion Forrestfield-Airport rail link.

The state government said the five “strong” EOIs for the project represent “another important milestone” in its delivery.

Nalder announced EOIs from:

– Connecting Forrestfield (Lend Lease and Ghella)

– CRCC-BGC-VDM JV (China Railway Construction Corporation, BGC and VDM)

– Forrestfield Connect (Acciona, BAM and Ferrovial Agroman)

– JHL JV (Leighton Contractors and John Holland)

– SI-NRW JV (Salini Impregilo and NRW)

The state will now shortlist companies to progress to the Request for Proposal stage. Geotechnical studies for the project are already nearing completion.

Nalder said the EOIs showed a high level of market interest, with the project attracting major international contractors to Perth.

“The strong mix of national and international respondents is a positive development for the project and shows the market has been well engaged, informed and is prepared to bid for this innovative project,” Nalder said.

Shortlisted respondents will be announced in late April, with the contract to be awarded by mid-2016. It will be a single design and construct package including tunnel and civil infrastructure, track, stations and rail systems with signalling, communications and power, the department said.

The geotechnical work, already underway and nearing completion, includes water and soil quality sampling along the route. More than 100 bore holes have been drilled as part of the geotechnical investigations and samples have been taken from 70 monitoring wells.

The minister said the sampling would help the project team make informed decisions about the best way to proceed with tunnelling for the new rail line.

“This innovative project will see two rail tunnels bored underground from Bayswater, beneath the Swan River and Perth Airport, out to Forrestfield,” he said.

“It is vital that we are aware of any potential soil or water conditions prior to tunnelling, to ensure construction impacts during the delivery phase are minimised.”

Mineral Resources bulk ore transport system BOTS

MinRes boss comments on ‘iron ore monorail’

Chris Ellison, managing director of Mineral Resources, has spoken publicly about the company’s ambitious plan to construct a first-of-its-kind, driverless monorail for iron ore transport in the Pilbara.

The bulk ore transport system (BOTS) was described by Mineral Resources in its half yearly presentation late in February as “occupying a niche between heavy rail and conveyor”.

“BOTS is an autonomous system utilising electrically powered, purpose designed wagons to transport bulk ore materials.”

The first instance of BOTS, which is set to be built for BC Iron’s Iron Valley mine – but will have around 30mtpa of excess capacity for third parties – will consist of 13 bottom-dumper wagons and one ‘power car’ per set, with each wagon bearing a 15 tonne payload.

Each 2km driverless train will consist of 20 to 24 sets, which translates to between 260 and 312 wagons, and up to 4600 tonnes in total payload.

BOTS will be able to travel at 80km/h fully loaded, will have fully redundant communications, and will be controlled via a remote operations control centre, Mineral Resources said in February.

Despite being a line of wagons on rails, Mineral Resources insists BOTS is not simply a ‘railway’, with the distinction coming down to how the wagons are moved.

“Unlike a railway system, BOTS does not rely upon a locomotive to pull the wagons,” the company explained, “but instead utilises a diesel/LNG powered electricity generation system that distributes electricity to the individual wagons for self-propulsion.

“BOTS vehicles will move on a purpose built, elevated structure that will pass over existing road and rail infrastructure and will not impact existing surface water flows.”

Road and rail crossings, as well as creek crossings, will be navigated by 45m span trusses up to 10m high. Creek crossings will be reinforced for high flow and debris protection.

Mineral Resources thinks the BOTS can “revolutionise” transport of bulk ore, by offering a cost effective solution in the face of the iron ore price slump, while also being environmentally responsible, and focusing on a reduced development footprint, and an easy removal down the line.

Ellison, in an interview with Fairfax this week, said the project was designed to be a solution for miners when – as he believes – the iron ore price drops below US$50 a tonne.

“We want to make money when iron ore is sub-US$50 a tonne and we want our clients to as well,” Ellison was quoted as saying by the AFR.

“What we really think we can do is help Australian mining get down to the lower quartile [in terms of costs]. What it needs to be is Australia competing with other countries, not each other, if we want to make Australia wealthy.

“If iron ore is going to China and Japan, it’s better if it’s Australian iron ore.”

The first BOTS project will provide 12mtpa of capacity for BC Iron’s mine, Iron Valley – a 331km journey from the export facilities at Port Hedland.

“Other mines along the route could add an extra 30mtpa of iron ore,” Mineral Resources said in February, with “discussions in progress” relating to that capacity.

The company hopes to start work on the project by the end of this year. It hopes to handle the first Iron Valley ore on BOTS by mid-2017. It says the WA government has been positive in its response to BOTS.

If the ambitious Pilbara project goes ahead, and is successful, Mineral Resources says it has “wide-spread potential applications” across the entire bulk commodities industry.

Aurizon Train

Aurizon runs mega-train to WICET

Bedding coal has been delivered to the new Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET) via the longest train rail operator Aurizon has ever put through its Central Queensland Coal Network.

The 2.3km train last week carried 11,000 tonnes of coal in 136 wagons through the Blackwater rail system to the new port, which was constructed by a joint venture of a number of coal mining companies.

The bedding coal is being used to establish the stockpiles at WICET as it gears up for its first shipments of export coal.

Aurizon’s executive vice president of operations Mike Franczak said the operation was a sign of things to come.

“We’re moving more tonnes, on larger trains, from mine to port as we drive improved efficiency across the coal supply chain,” Franczak said.

“This is an excellent outcome for customers, our supply chain partners and the Queensland coal industry generally.”

Franczak said the Brisbane-based rail company has achieved several innovative operational improvements in recent years, including lifting payloads, improving locomotive reliability, and bettering online performance.

“Quite simply, we are getting smarter about the way we use our existing assets,” Franczak continued. “The drive to improve train payloads at Aurizon draws on the very best available technology and innovation in the areas of train marshalling, train handling and track/train dynamics.”

The effect of this, he explained, is that as the company improves its capacity and productivity, it is also reducing the amount of workers on the trains, “making for a safer, more energy-efficient mode of transportation”.

Coal trains for export will commence in earnest next month. The average Aurizon train on the Central Queensland Coal Network has around 100 wagons and a pay load of about 8,500 tonnes of coal.

The Track Insider: Unexpected consequences

Sometimes the best intentioned actions by one railway discipline can have unexpected consequences for another. Bob Hammer recalls just one example from his career.

Back in the 1970s, as a young civil engineer, I was appointed as the first District Engineer for Parkeston, part of the Permanent Way branch of Commonwealth Railways / Australian National Railways. My job was to manage the maintenance of, and any new construction for, the Trans Australian Railway infrastructure from the middle of the Nullabor Plain through to Kalgoorlie.

We had a selection of earthmoving machinery and construction plant that we used for maintaining embankments, clearing access tracks, clearing waterways and any new construction works. We moved the equipment around from siding to siding via flat-top rail wagons that were picked up by the weekly “Tea and Sugar” and moved on to the next destination.

At each of the crossing loops, such as Forrest, Haig or Naretha, we had an unloading ramp / buffer stop constructed at the end of the siding road. These were generally constructed of a sleeper ‘pig-sty’ filled with compacted earth and tapered down as a ramp to allow us to load and unload the equipment.

Unfortunately, the shunting of long freight trains, in those days, was less than an exact science, and we would occasionally arrive at the siding to find that the flat-top wagon with machinery on top had been shunted through the unloading ramp, damaging it or even totally destroying it.

When I suggested to my staff that we should find a way to address the issue I was told an interesting story.

Apparently one of the Permanent Way foremen (called Roadmasters at the time) had become tired of restoring destroyed loading ramps and had decided to construct the ultimate in buffer stops. According to the story, he found a forgotten flat top wagon, took the coupling off one end and the bogie off the other end. The lower end was buried some 1.5 metres into the ground and the whole structure encased in compacted earth to form an “indestructible” unloading ramp.

All went well for about six months and the buffer stop survived several shunting incidents. Then the foreman in question received a rather terse and pointed letter from the Chief Mechanical Engineer in Port Augusta.

“Your unloading ramp is causing significant damage to my wagons when involved in shunting movements – please remove it immediately.”

So the “indestructible” buffer stop was removed and peace returned to the Trans Australian Railway.

It appears that neither of the engineering disciplines was game enough to suggest that the operations branch should take more care with their shunting operations.

To hear more about how various rail disciplines can work together to achieve common goals visit www.informa.com.au/railworkshop for information on the 2nd Annual Inter-Disciplinary Rail Engineering Workshop.

 

Road projects - Ingram Publishing

Albanese grills Government on road choices

Shadow minister for transport and infrastructure Anthony Albanese has again called out the Government for its propensity to fund major road projects, suggesting that Infrastructure Australia is being ignored in Federal decision making.

Speaking at an Australian Logistics Council forum in Melbourne on March 12, the former deputy prime minister said the Labor Government, when it was in power, used Infrastructure Australia to its advantage to make wise planning decisions.

“When Labor Government took power, Australia was 20th in the OECD for infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP,” Albanese recalled. “When we left, Australia was 1st.”

While the budget for roads was doubled under Rudd/Gillard/Rudd, that government also rebuilt more than a third of the national freight rail network, Albanese said, with $3.4 billion spent on 4000km of track.

“One outcome of our investments is that by 2016, the average trip from Brisbane to Melbourne will have been shortened by seven hours,” he said. “The journey from the nation’s east to west coasts will have been reduced by nine hours.”

Albanese praised recent decisions by Woolworths and Australia Post to move some of their freight to rail.

“That’s highly significant,” he said. “There will always be a role for moving freight by road. But when we move freight on to efficient, properly maintained rail systems, we make the roads safer and we reduce carbon emissions.”

Albanese said the former Labor Government’s propensity towards rail projects was triggered by analysis from Infrastructure Australia; analysis which – Albanese believes – the Abbott Government doesn’t follow closely enough.

“I am deeply concerned that the current government is drifting away from the Infrastructure Australia model,” Albanese said.

“Despite pre-election promises that it would adhere to, and indeed strengthen, the model, the current government appears to have succumbed to political temptation and is drifting away from transparency and evidence-based policy making.”

He said the worst example of this is the Government’s $3 billon commitment to the (now shelved) East-West Link in Melbourne, to which it committed $1.5 billion in advanced funding in its 2014 Budget.

“It did this without Infrastructure Australia having seen a cost-benefit analysis, let alone having approved the project,” Albanese said.

“As those of you who live in Melbourne know, the project was at the very centre of November’s state election campaign.

“After the election, documents released by the incoming Andrews Government showed that the project had a benefit-cost ratio of only 0.45. That’s a paltry return of only 45 cents in the dollar.”

Albanese said the government’s decision to fund East-West Link over other projects – including the Melbourne Metro Rail Project – was therefore not a good one.

“In this case, proper process went out the window along with common sense and respect for taxpayers,” he said.

“The last thing this nation needs is political parties fighting election campaigns on the basis of the delivery of major infrastructure projects that have not undergone independent scrutiny.

“Only the facts can empower voters to make informed judgements about what politicians say in the heat of electoral battle.”

Albanese also questioned the Government’s decision to fund Sydney’s WestConnex road project, which he said had also been questioned in recent months.

Warren Truss

Albo asks, Truss answers: New IA chief named

Infrastructure and regional development minister Warren Truss has named the new chief executive of Infrastructure Australia, a fortnight on from his opposition minister, Anthony Albanese, questioning why the government body had been without a formal leader for over 12 months.

Truss named Philip Davies as the new chief executive officer of IA on March 5.

Davies, currently the leader of AECOM’s infrastructure advisory practice for Asia Pacific, will take over as chief executive in April from acting chief Stephen Alchin, who himself replaced John Fitzgerald in the acting role.

Fitzgerald was hired as acting CEO following the departure of former head Michael Deegan, who left IA in February 2014 to join South Australia’s Planning, Transport and Infrastructure Department.

A year on from Deegan’s departure, former (and now shadow) minister for transport and infrastructure Anthony Albanese asked why no formal replacement for Deegan had been announced.

“It is extraordinary that more than 12 months later there is still no head of Infrastructure Australia,” Albanese said on February 17.

“While Mr Truss has dithered over appointing a new head of Infrastructure Australia, Tony Abbott has recklessly ignored accountability by funding a range of new road projects without cost-benefit analysis – a direct breach of his explicit election promises.”

Just over two weeks on from Albanese’s comments, on March 5, Truss announced Davies as chief executive of IA, relieving Alchin from the acting role.

“Mr Davies is an expert in infrastructure and transport planning,” Truss said.

“The government has reformed the governance of Infrastructure Australia to free it of the ministerial meddling which abounded under the previous Labor Government to make it a truly independent board.”

Truss is calling Davies the ‘inaugural’ chief executive of IA. Deegan was known as the ‘IA coordinator’ during his tender. In mid-2014 the Infrastructure Australia Act was amended to create an independent board which could appoint its own CEO.

“Under the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments Infrastructure Australia was not allowed to appoint its own CEO,” Truss said.

“Worse still, the then infrastructure coordinator reported solely to the [infrastructure] minister… never to an independent board.”

Prior to his current role at AECOM, Davies was an executive at Transport for London. He has previously advised the federal government on high speed rail, and has also advised state governments on various transport projects.

As well as leaving AECOM, Davies will conclude his roles as board member of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and for the Committee for Sydney.

“Mr Davies is a highly qualified engineer and infrastructure expert and has valuable experience in both the public and private sectors,” IA chairman Mark Birrell said.

Davies said he was excited to work in a role which would help “shape the long term plan for Australia’s infrastructure”.

“We can develop the evidence base to support the investment priorities for nationally significant infrastructure,” he added.

‘Pave over the tracks’, think tank says

A British think tank has suggested commuters could pay 40% less for their journeys if the UK government ripped up some railways and replaced them with dedicated bus roads.

The Institute of Economic Affairs this week released a report, ‘Paving over the tracks: a better use of Britain’s railways?’

“The reluctance of policy makers to consider more efficient forms of public transport has led to expensive fares and sardine-like conditions for commuters across the country,” the IEA said on Tuesday.

According to the IEA’s report, above-ground commuter railways transport a quarter of a million passengers into London during the morning peak hour.

That works out to about 10,000 commuters per track, “many of whom have to stand during their journey”, the IEA said.

“150 express coaches, each seating 75 individuals would be able to carry the same number of commuters while occupying one seventh of the capacity of a one-lane busway, of a similar width to that required by a train,” the IEA said.

The British think tank said the busways could offer comparable, if not shorter travel times, and could do so at a cheaper cost than existing railways.

The IEA said rail had received a “disproportional” amount of funding compared to alternate modes of transport, and that this needed to be fixed.

“Individuals in the UK are far more likely to travel by car than train, with 90% of passengers and 70% of freight traffic carried by roads,” the group said. “Despite this disparity, state funding of railways is just 30% lower than that spent on roads.”

Report co-author and IEA transport head Dr Richard Wellings said politicians were to blame.

“Ongoing interference by politicians in the rail industry has led to everyone getting a raw deal,” Wellings said.

“Passengers face increasingly expensive fares only to fight their way onto trains during peak times and taxpayers continue to prop up an industry whose importance to the country is disproportionally small relative to the level of resources it receives.

“Adopting more efficient methods of transport could offer considerable benefits to passengers and the taxpayer alike. But only when the sector is liberalised from rigid state control, will we see such alternatives being seriously considered.”

The report can be viewed here.