IRT: leading technology development for mining

While the Australian economy is enjoying a fortunate position due to the thriving mining industry, research and technology have been integral factors which have enabled the mining industry to reach its current position.

As part of one of the main technology service providers for the railway industry, the personnel at the Institute of Railway Technology (IRT) at Monash University have been supporting the mining industry’s railway operations over the last four decades. IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements at the same time as reducing risks and costs, ultimately improving the bottom line of their clients.

The latest technology IRT has developed is the instrumented revenue vehicle which is a fully flexible automated measurement platform to continuously monitor and provide feedback on both rail condition and train operation. This technology is designed to be installed in standard vehicles which are embedded within a normal operation.

The IRT instrumented vehicle technology has several key advantages over previous maintenance inspection methods. With the objective of increasing production rates, mining operations are often under pressure to reduce railway track downtime. The ramifications of reducing track downtime are that it would minimize traditional track measurements and maintenance activities. This could result in a significant increase in operational risks because of a lack of maintenance and an inability to identify deterioration of track condition in a timely manner.

IRT’s instrumented vehicle technology measures the condition of a railway system during normal rail operations without requiring any track downtime. In addition, IRT’s technology measures the dynamic responses of normal vehicles during loaded and empty operating conditions under standard speed profiles. Unlike previous track recording vehicle measurements, IRT technology measurements are a direct indication of the loads being imposed on the rail network in a usual operating environment.

By Ravi Ravitharan*

It is also important to note that the information collected using the IRT’s instrumented vehicletechnology is available for railway operations within a twelve hour period. It is anticipated that in the near future real time reporting of track and train related issues would be also available.

The above technology is widely used in railway systems in mining operations and now available to all railway operations including passenger and freight, to assist with both track and rolling stock management.

The IRT instrumented vehicle technology measurements have shown an excellent correlation with track inspector findings. Now these measurements are being used extensively for track maintenance activities, and to restrict line speed to mitigate damage to and risk from deterioration of the track structure.

Assessment of the effectiveness of maintenance operations, operational planning and maintenance programming are other benefits of the new technology IRT has developed.

IRT’s instrumented vehicle technology has also been used for analysis of train driving strategies and in-train forces, train driver training, derailment investigations, analysis of the dynamic effect on bridges, dumper indexing for minimization of coupler loads and assistance with the design of new rolling stock.

IRT, the premier track and vehicle railway engineering research centre in Australia, focuses on developing new technologies that could be integrated into existing processes to provide rail operators with the ability to effectively manage their resources.

*Ravi Ravitharan is director, Institute of Railway Technology, Monash University

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | City Hall Newcastle
For more information email: kara.clifton@informa.com.au

Level crossing Victoria - Photo: Creative Commons

New technology to dramatically improve level crossing safety

A new $4m technology being developed at Victoria’s La Trobe University could significantly reduce and help to eliminate collisions, injuries and fatalities at Australia’s level crossings.

By Jennifer Perry

The technology could warn vehicles as they’re approaching a level crossing by using “mobile phone style” wireless networks that are integrated with GPS.

“The technology will have cars and trains ‘talking to each other’ and be able to warn of approaching danger from up to one kilometre away,” Victorian roads and ports minister Tim Pallas said upon launching the research project.

“Nowhere else in the world is the trial of this particular technology being proposed to the extent that we are doing in Victoria and focusing on its level crossing safety applications.”

Pallas said the research team at the university’s Centre for Technology Infusion estimated the technology could save around 37 lives at Australian road level crossings every year, as well as about $100m by eliminating rail crossing collisions.

The project is being funded by the Victorian Government, road industry research group AutoCRC and a number of rail industry partners.

The research team hopes to have the technology available within three years.

Rail technology roadmaps: a Canadian perspective

The recent Rail Technology Workshop saw senior rail executives come together to kick-start the development of a technology strategy and roadmap for the Australian rail industry for the next 30-40 years.

By Jennifer Perry

While many rail organisations have developed individual technology roadmaps, the workshop marked the first time that industry came together to work towards a common technological base.

With Canada a few steps ahead of Australia, having already got a technology roadmap in place, delegates benefitted from hearing the Canadian experience that was shared by Mike Roney, chair of Canada’s Railway Research Advisory Board.

Roney said that the Canadian rail industry used the Association of American Railroads’ (AAR) technologyroadmap as a basis for developing a specific Canadian technology strategy, and took more of a freight focus because that’s where “the money is made”.

“The AAR technology roadmap started when our chief executives said that even if the railways don’t gain market share, we still have to be carrying 80 per cent more tonnage on our lines 20 years into the future which requires us to spend a great deal of money on capacity improvements,” Roney said.
“The target we came to was if we can do 50 per cent of that improvement in capacity through technology then there is a great deal of value in that for the railways.”

Canada took many of the AAR’s technology roadmap principles into consideration when developing its own strategy, including the need to develop capacity without spending capital; making assets sweat; fuel efficiency and advanced power systems; reducing in-service failures; automated health monitoring of track and rollingstock; interoperability; positive train control; and information technology that supports improved customer service.

“The next piece of evidence we put together was the visioning of the top operating officers within Canadian National and Canadian Pacific – the two major Canadian freight railways – who were basically asked what they would like their railway to be when they grow up,” Roney said.

The resulting vision highlighted key strategic areas such as the need for new technologies to lower stress states and for the rail network to be fluid, scheduled and precise; the need for safety systems to be more vital, predictive and condition based and for technologies that reduce emissions, amongst others.
Some of the technologies that featured in this vision were wireless train control systems to improve safety and capacity, friction management to control the friction levels along rail lines and reduce fuel consumption, ECP braking and longer trains with distributed power.

Key stakeholders then came together to decide on what research priorities would form Canada’s joint industry government research program for its technology roadmap; Roney said that with a lack of industry funding for research, it was paramount that funding went to areas that “everyone up the line” recognised as the top priorities.

Research projects included human behavior and compliance, energy and the environment, railroading and harsh and changing environments, infrastructure integrity, human factors, operational fluidity and capacity and emerging technologies.

Roney’s views were welcomed by the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board’s (RISSB) general manager Kevin Taylor, who told Rail Express that with Canada “out there leading rail reform”, it had plenty of good case examples for Australia to follow including the development of a technologystrategy.
Taylor said that while the Rail Technology Strategy Workshop marked an important step in the industry’s development of a technology strategy, it was “just the start” of what may be a rather lengthy development and approval process.

“A project plan will be provided for RISSB’s approval in November, and subject to this approval, work will start in earnest,” he said.

Taylor also mentioned that it was important that broad industry buy-in was achieved in the development of the strategy and thus the RISSB process of consultation will be followed.

Environment checks for major infrastructure projects

A special compliance officer will monitor all major infrastructure projects in the Northern Territory, such as the Alice-Darwin railway, to ensure they comply with environmental requirements.

The Alice-Darwin railway has received some criticism since construction began over itsenvironmental record.

Complaints have centred around developer ADrail’s use of water and the impact of clearing on the Gouldian Finches habitat.

New environmental compliance officer Scott Whitney has started to work with ADrail to ensure allenvironmental guidelines are adhered to.

Sydney Train

Driver shortage halts timetable plan

A driver shortage has forced the New South Wales Government to postpone introduction of its new CityRail timetable.

And introduction of Sydney’s long-awaited new-generation Millennium passenger trains has been put back.

Transport minister Carl Scully said slower-than-expected driver recruitment and a jump in driver retirement forecasts were the reasons for putting the new schedule on hold.

The performance of the present timetable provides “breathing space” for CityRail to put in placerecruitment strategies to overcome the shortfall of around 60 drivers.

“We have been running at better than 92% on time for five of the past six months, exceeding 95% for two of those months,” Mr Scully said.

“It is clear to me that the existing timetable is still operating efficiently.

“I am giving CityRail more time to recruit so that the new timetable can have a full complement of staff when it is introduced.

“Only when I am satisfied that a new timetable will work to the satisfaction of our customers, will I agree to its implementation.”

The Millennium trains face a further delay, two weeks before their scheduled appearance, to sort out a safety problem.

The trains are causing electrical interference with the rail network’s signalling system.

Testing of the trains is continuing while Australian manufacturer EDI works on the problem.

Deliveries will begin in four-car units, with 80 carriages to be delivered by mid-2004.

A further 60 have been ordered to replace aging rolling stock.