Rethinking rail machinery: KH1 providing solutions with the Zagro Unimog

The complexity of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project requires a new approach when it comes to the delivery of materials and equipment. KH1 solved that with the Zagro Unimog.

In mid-July 2018, then-Victorian Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan announced the successful consortium that would build the critical link between the underground sections of Melbourne’s new Metro Tunnel and the existing rail network.

This announcement kicked off a package of works that would include both tunnel entrances at South Yarra and Kensington, as well as improvements to the adjoining Sunbury lines. Working within and beside the operating rail corridor in the inner suburbs of Melbourne meant that the project had an extra layer of complexity, meaning that every effort had to be made to ensure the project ran smoothly and efficiently.

The successful consortium, Rail Infrastructure Alliance (RIA), which comprised John Holland, CPB Contractors, and AECOM, looked to local rail suppliers who were innovating in the delivery of similarly complex projects. They found one in the case of Campbellfield- based KH1.

Daniel Mociak, managing director of KH1, could see that the project required smart thinking when it came to getting materials in and out of the worksites.

“RIA had a lot of restraints around getting materials, plant, people, and equipment in and out of their locations. This is really inner-city Melbourne and once they get into the shutdown, they have a lot of workgroups that can’t get out until the shutdown is over. They can’t constantly move equipment in and out so they have to get a lot of equipment in one lot and then be very flexible about how they can move around.”

Mociak and KH1 were brought in by RIA to look at how the project team could move a variety of pieces of machinery into the worksite. The solution that they came up with was the Zagro Unimog.

“The main benefit is the shunting capacity,” said Mociak.“That machine itself can pull up to 600 tonnes and other Unimogs that we could deliver are able to pull up to 1,000 tonnes with an increased wagon brake system.”

The Zagro Unimog road-rail vehicle can provide shunting and project logistics tasks. The relatively compact vehicle has the capacity to tow rail trailers weighing up to 125 tonnes at speeds of up to 30km/h. The removeable wagon brake system enables the Unimog to shunt up to 600 tonnes. Since being delivered in 2020, the system has already been put to good use.

“RIA needed to bring in plant, equipment, and excavators,” said Mociak. “They have a series of trailers that they were going to attach to the back of the Unimog to bring in all sorts of construction equipment and materials.”

The Unimog could then return to the access points, taking with it unneeded materials, spoil and other rubbish. RIA rail systems delivery manager Rimmy Chahal, pointed out the benefits of using the Unimog as it has reduced the number of single plant movements.

“The Unimog has largely been used to transport plant, equipment and materials in access-constrained rail corridors. This is in contrast to conventional transport methods of rubber tyred plant on railway tracks or a series of rail-bound plant to undertake this task. With the Unimog, we are able to transport large volumes in a single move from the access point to the work location along the corridor in a safe and controlled manner.”

The Unimog is used along with a five trailer consist to transport concrete, steel gantry structures, pits, conduits, quarry material, spoil disposal bins, cable, rail, sleepers and turnout components, among other materials. Being able to tow a lengthy consist also has benefits when it comes to safety.

“The 5-trailer combination also provides an additional benefit of safely and securely transporting long and bulky items such as turnout switch blade assemblies, which would normally overhang on conventional transport trolleys. Other uses have also included the deployment of site amenities and lighting towers to constrained areas improving safety and work environment conditions for our workforce,” said Chahal.

Another challenging requirement was the need to transport concrete along the rail corridor where access was restricted. Traditional methods of carrying in concrete on rail-bound excavators would require numerous movements to complete a single gantry foundation and had a greater risk of quality and safety issues. With RIA needing to deliver over 550 foundations for overhead and signal structures, a different solution was required.

“RIA and KH1 worked together to configure a skid-based concrete transport solution that can be mounted on rail bound plant. For example – on a trailer towed by Unimog to transport large volumes of concrete from access point to work location. This solution enables the complete pouring of a gantry foundation in one movement rather than numerous movements as required using conventional means,” said Chahal.

This solution involved the BlendMX8, a mobile concrete agitator first designed for the Monte Ceneri base tunnel in Switzerland.

“The BlendMX8 connects on to rail trailers and rail wagons via container lock and is then able to transport concrete in and out of the rail corridor without having to drive concrete trucks on top of wagons,” said Mociak. “It gives RIA flexibility in having the concrete on demand whenever they want it and then able to deliver the concrete via a conveyor belt and chute which can place the concrete up to five metres away from the rail.”

With the equipment expected to be used soon, Chahal is looking forward to seeing it in action.

“This unit is currently undergoing commissioning and RIA is very excited to put it into use over the coming months.”

kh1
The Unimog enables new ways of working in a confined rail environment.

A NEW APPROACH
The approach required for a project as complex as the Melbourne Metro Tunnel has driven innovation in the delivery of plant and equipment. Mociak noted that previous approaches of using wagons and locomotives would not only be prohibitive from a cost basis but limit any flexibility. The ability of machines such as the Unimog to move between road and rail while providing the required shunting capacity is one example of this new thinking.

“In the last couple of years, KH1 has put a lot of emphasis in developing technology and innovation for project logistics,” said Mociak.

The constrained environment of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project meant that new ideas had to be sought out, said Chahal.

“With urbanisation of the areas around railway lines, the ease of access to rail corridors to conduct maintenance, upgrades, renewals and project works is becoming increasingly restricted and challenging. We can no longer rely on driving along the rail corridor to get to the work location. Accordingly, we now undertake careful and detailed planning to manage the site logistics and work sequence to overcome access constraints and challenges,” he said.

With complex tunnelling projects underway around Australia and New Zealand, the planning and logistics behind the project needs to be increasingly sophisticated.

“The major metropolitan based projects that have come to the front in the last couple of years is a big change in the rail industry, so to support these megaprojects, we’re looking at how we can add value of benefit to the project through innovative movement of materials, plant, equipment, and people,” said Mociak.

In these cases, the solution is not so much about the individual pieces of equipment that are involved, but the careful planning and logistics that supports their operation. With targets being set ever higher, new methods are being implemented, said Chahal.

“Construction contractors are being set ambitious KPIs to minimise the impact of construction on community, stakeholders and rail services. These performance targets drive a strong industry focus on continuous improvement and innovation in how we deliver our works whilst minimising associated disruption. RIA’s use of the Unimog is a perfect example of innovation in action.”

Knowing how the machinery, whether it be the Unimog or concrete agitator, can be best utilised can make a world of difference.

“Because they’re highly complex projects with large numbers of work groups, the logistics of getting materials in and out is one of the hardest parts of the project and they’re also the thing that can really hurt the project if you get it wrong. Getting it right can have some significant benefits,” said Mociak.

For groups working in rain on underground tunnelling projects, all materials have to be brought in at the beginning of a shift, if anything is forgotten it stays at the surface. With each work group depending on the one in front of it, any issues can be passed down, limiting productivity and efficiencies

Back in Melbourne, it has been the partnership approach between KH1, its partner suppliers and John Holland that is making the project successful.

“The equipment was delivered over a 10-month period and representatives from John Holland travelled to Germany to be there for the factory acceptance testing,” said Mociak. “We had a lot of input from all parties during the design period and a lot of collaboration from KH1, John Holland and Zagro.”

To prepare the Unimog for use by the RIA consortium, KH1 ensured that it was provided to specification and the requirements of the project. Documentation ran to hundreds of pages in length to enable the machine to be used in the most productive manner.

“We bring knowledge of the local Australian requirements, standards, compliance, certification, and commissioning process to the table while understanding the product that we have available to us and then being able to adapt it to those requirements,” said Mociak.

Putting in 15 years of experience in the Australian rail industry into the delivery of the machinery for RIA has enabled the Unimog to be used for a wide range of purposes, perhaps more than what was even envisaged before the machine arrived on site.

KH1 is also bringing this approach to the maintenance of railway networks. The company is working with German rail equipment manufacturer Robel to deliver new ways of working to the Australian rail maintenance market. Machines such as the Mobile Maintenance Train can provide a significant step change in the way we work in the rail corridor with full coverage for workers on the rail track in addition to all equipment needed for the job. Ultimately, said Mociak, this is about delivering three core outcomes.

“It’s about innovation, safety, and efficiency.”

Packing it in: Melvelle Equipment’s battery-powered solutions

As a local specialist manufacturer of rail tools, Melvelle Equipment leverages in-house ingenuity to meet emerging demands.

Two years ago, Andrew Melvelle travelled to New York to demonstrate his Newcastle- based company’s latest equipment for rail maintenance and renewal. There, speaking with representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Melvelle understood that there had to be another way to run small tools besides diesel- and petrol- powered engines.

“What they would like to have was battery powered equipment doing the traditional jobs that were done by diesel- or petrol-powered small tools and that led us into coming up with the design to replace our diesel and petrol powerpacks with battery-style unit.”

In New York the reason behind the switch was clear. Confined environments made the fumes from diesel-powered equipment a hazard and being close to residents on elevated sections of track also posed an issue.

“In the underground networks in particular you’ve got an asphyxiation hazard but also when you’re on the elevated track, they do a lot of their maintenance at night, so if you can take away the engine noise you’re pretty much halving the noise output from the work heads. Therefore the environmental impact just in noise is a massive improvement to operator comfort as well as the residents that are near these elevated tracks,” said Melvelle.

Bringing these ideas back home, Melvelle and his team at Melvelle Equipment designed an early version of what would become the company’s battery-powered Track Packs. Demonstrating the tool to a local operator, the safety benefits of the new technology became even more apparent.

“I did a demonstration with one of our work heads in a viaduct and it was amazing the impact of not having the engine noise has on the environment. You can hear the safety officer above all else because he’s the loudest person there, as he’s not competing with an engine. Hearing protection, depending on the operation, is not necessary anymore.”

With traditional diesel engines producing roughly 100 decibels of noise, roughly equivalent to the volume of a noisy motorcycle engine, cutting this out of maintenance tasks can make a dramatic improvement in safety, particularly in a live rail environment.

“You can hear the whistles and you can hear the workers around you calling out, so it’s very much an improvement to the environmental working conditions for the operator,” said Melvelle.

In addition to these operational benefits, moving from diesel or petrol to electric power can contribute to the broader shift towards sustainability in rail.

“It’s the future of technology to try and help the environment and become a little bit more sustainable.”

Melvelle have designed equipment such as portable trolleys in house.

A COMMITMENT TO INNOVATION IN RAIL
Having seen the benefits that electrically powered track equipment can have, Melvelle Equipment took the design prototypes and turned them into a manufacturable unit. During this process, conducted by Melvelle Equipment’s in-house industrial design and engineering team, further efficiencies were found.

“We have made it modular which brings most modules down into a one-man lift. This is a massive advantage compared to what we have to do with a petrol-powered or a diesel-powered power pack, because once you’ve got it bolted together that’s it, and it’s a significant lift.”

Melvelle designed the Power Pack to be adaptable to the equipment that Melvelle has supplied for decades to the Australian and international rail industry. The system can drive a number of different hydraulic workheads and is built to power each in the most efficient manner.

“There are very few battery powered hydraulic units in the marketplace so what we’ve developed is very bespoke to the operation of small tools. The system will identify which work-head is being used and therefore change the program internally to suit the application,” said Melvelle.

“It was a matter really of looking at what we’ve got and the output or the final performance needed to be and then sizing everything or matching everything to those parameters.”

Having multiple decades of experience in designing and manufacturing hydraulic workheads for the rail industry, Melvelle could calibrate the electric power to be more efficient than a diesel option.

“We know the flows and pressures that are needed and when the flow of pressure is required to be at its peak performance to do the job. Then we matched the performance curves of the electric motors to match the peak performance of the hydraulics we needed. That’s done through staging of pumps and flows and different pressures to make sure that we don’t overcook the batteries or the motor.”

With the design work that went into the Power Packs, the hydraulic heads could also be improved.

“In doing that design it’s allowed us to redesign the boom connections, all of the different workheads, as well as making the hydraulics smarter so that we draw less power from the batteries,” said Melvelle.

As a designer and fabricator of rail maintenance equipment and machinery based in Newcastle with just over two dozen staff, Melvelle Equipment can use its size to its advantage.

In addition to its work designing electrically powered hydraulic tools, Melvelle has also manufactured battery powered inspection and emergency response trolleys, as a direct response to the requirements of rail operators and construction authorities.

“Quite often, innovation is driven by customer need,” said Melvelle. “The electric inspection trolley and the emergency response trolley was driven through inquiries from two customers. Both agencies had a similar need or requirement but with different twists. Sydney Trains was looking for a track inspection trolley so that track workers don’t have to walk along the track, they simply put the trolley on track, and they drive.”

In addition to the base requirement, the trolley had to have a 20-kilometre range, be set up by a minimum of two people in three minutes or less and be able to get on and off track in three minutes.

For the other customer, Melbourne Metro, the trolley was needed to be a safety vehicle that would allow workers to easily access elevated sections of track. Overseas buyers have also expressed interest in the technology, and once Melvelle can get on a plane again the technology will be showcased to rail operators around the globe.

Being a small company has enabled Melvelle Equipment to be nimble in response to these and other customer inquiries.

“Most of our competitors are very large companies that are very reluctant to change from a core product, whereas there’s only 26 of us with a dedicated design team and a depth of knowledge of the rail industry,” said Melvelle.

“If a customer is looking for something special, we’re quite open to developing that for them within the realms of our ability. We’re able to modify something specifically for a customer at the drop of a hat because we do the designs and then manufacture in- house, we’re not reliant on other people.”

M323f

CAT purpose-built M323F RR now in Australia

Caterpillar’s purpose-built M323F road-rail (RR) excavators are now at work in Australia, providing access to the first true AS7502 Type 1: Self-powered rail wheeled excavator designed specifically for on-rail work in Australasia while delivering a new level of safety and performance for the industry.

Four dedicated two-speed drive motors provide drive directly to the rail wheels, eliminating wear and tear on the machine’s road powertrain, axles, and tyres while providing unmatched on rail performance including operator adjustable hydrostatic deceleration. Dynamic braking performance is easily adjusted by the operator based on total load, speed, grade, or traction conditions and is complimented by large external dry disc caliper brakes on each rail wheel and inboard wet disc parking/emergency brakes. By braking the actual rail wheel any rocking motion induced by friction drive systems is eliminated providing a more stable, comfortable working platform for the operator. While the self- powered rail wheel system is more expensive, its performance is second to none, both in terms of drive torque and braking performance. Such performance cannot be replicated with friction systems traditionally used in Australia

Independently controlled, each dedicated rail axle is housed in a custom high strength cast cradle, incorporating oscillation suspension to absorb energy during travel and ensuring maximum rail contact even when experiencing rail cant. Each axle features a full width derail bar and guide and has been approved for both broad and standard track gauges in Australia, with a simple spacer kit to switch between gauges in the field.

Performance also comes from the custom- built upper structure. This is not simply a modified wheel excavator frame, although it does benefit from component commonality with the Cat M316F Wheel Excavator. At first glance, the full height compact radius counterweight confirms that this machine is designed for purpose, maximising lifting performance while maintaining a tight swing radius to avoid the many hazards that exist within the rail corridor.

A purpose-built factory secondary cab provides certified protection for a spotter or signal person and opens up to also allow full access to the centre and upper service access points of the machine. With open access to the main cabin, this is a perfect environment for a trainer to work with new operators live and on rail.

Safety is a priority and features throughout the M323F RR with double redundancy Rated Capacity Indicator (RCI) and Rated Capacity Limiter (RCL) systems using a proprietary, integrated Cat SMART control system. No more aftermarket, third party systems or suppliers, the M323F RR is truly purpose built from the ground up. A 360° LED beacon system ensures visibility at four metres from any angle and incorporates a unique blue LED lamp to indicate to bystanders and site supervisors when the operator has the RCI/RCL active.

Factory side and rear cameras integrated into the single 12-inch SMART screen along with an extensive LED lighting kit ensure visibility from the spacious full-size operators cabin during the day or night. Intuitive systems ensure the same pedals and controls used when roading the machine are used when on rail and no compromises are made in terms of operator comfort to accommodate the additional functionality of the rail excavator.

Recently independently certified to AS7502 for use on V/Line assets, the M323F features regionalised customisation by Cat dealer William Adams.

“It is very rewarding to see the culmination of several year’s work behind the scenes to take such an impressive purpose-built Caterpillar product now certified for use on rail here in Victoria. It will certainly complement the Elphinstone Railmax track excavator products and the traditional range of Caterpillar construction equipment we offer today, along with our industry leading product support footprint and capabilities,” concluded Glen Slocombe – product manager, William Adams.

Exceeding the standard in hi-rail vehicles

Aries Rail have made a name for themselves by providing the Australian market with unique solutions, backed up by engineering expertise.

The professionalisation of railway engineering has come a long way in the past two decades. What was once a disparate and unregulated area with apocryphal stories of bush- mechanics has become a national field with clear standards and precise guidelines. Ewan McAllister, managing director of Aries Rail, has seen the sector move forward in leaps and bounds.

“When we first started out in this industry, there was basically no rules or regulations for hi-rail vehicles. You could just come up with a concept in your head and go and make it and put it on track,” he said.

This first began to change when contractors and customers began requiring sign off from certified engineering.

“There began to be requests for engineering,” said Ewan. “That would just involve a consulting engineer giving you a one-page report saying that he looked at something and liked it and that it was ok to go to work.”

Seeing where the industry was headed, and looking to lead when it came to higher standards for hi-rail vehicles, Aries Rail were one of the first companies to employ a mechanical engineer.

“Not long after that, we employed our second mechanical engineer and we haven’t looked back since, in terms of what we do. Once we started engineering things properly, it significantly improved the quality of work.”

The formalisation of these trends occurred in 2016, with the release of AS 7502, the Australian Standard for Road Rail Vehicles. Ewan was part of the team that developed the standard over three years, which has since been adopted by rail infrastructure managers (RIMs) around the country.

Today, on top of the requirements of AS 7502, RIMs are adding their own, stringent requirements, something that Aries Rail are only too happy to meet, due to their in-house engineering expertise, said Nathan Bender, director at Aries Rail.

“Every project we work on goes through a controlled engineering design process before releasing into manufacture and then again through various ITP, certification, compliance, and accreditation processes.”

One area that Aries Rail have specialised is in the conversion of heavy trucks for working on rail.

“Large trucks have been a specialty of ours,” said Nathan. “8x4s are large trucks with heavy payloads. As with everything in the design of railways, everything has become bigger and heavier, so the trucks have moved to reflect that.”

To ensure that these larger vehicles were fit for purpose when working in a rail environment, Aries Rail have designed and manufactured their own coil springs to match the spring rate of the parent vehicle, which enable the vehicles to reach a higher load share percentage without overloading.

Another specialty has been the development of air-bagged hi-rail suspensions which is the only safe way to convert an air-bagged truck, something not widely understood in the industry.

Ewan explained that the benefit of designing and manufacturing these kinds of specialist equipment in house means that Aries Rail vehicles can provide a superior and more efficient service.

“Without doing that,” added Nathan, “large trucks on rail payload was severely restricted.”

Meeting this requirement has enabled Aries Rail to supply vehicles that can carry greater loads, maximising their productivity and making large trucks a viable plant and equipment tool.

In addition to the larger vehicles, Aries Rail is also a supplier of light hi-rail vehicles, such as its system for Toyota LandCruisers, has been independently certified for use with driver and passenger airbags.

In-house engineering expertise is utilised on every Aries Rail system.

CERTIFICATION AND SERVICING EXPERTS
In addition to their base in Perth, Aries Rail recently expanded its footprint to Melbourne, to be able to provide 24-hour response to the east coast market.

“We made a strategic decision to base ourselves in Melbourne and move up from there,” said Nathan.

“It gives us that direct after sales support and the comfort that brings for customers making the choice to choose Aries as their fleet provider. Even if it’s Sydney, we can be there with the service truck and a set of tools within 24 hours if need be.”

Having first-hand knowledge of their own equipment allows Aries Rail to know exactly the issues facing any piece of kit.

“Particularly for our own equipment, we’re the designer, the engineer, and the certifier, so we do understand it better than somebody else who may not know the intricacies,” said Nathan.

In addition, with their experience in the design and certification process, Aries Rail can provide ongoing certification services for equipment to be used on every network.

“With our strong engineering background, we’re able to offer that certification process for every network. Then with our eastern states presence and a mobile service truck and a workshop we’re able to offer a recertification and a structured planned service program,” said Nathan.

In addition to engineering, Aries have invested in technical and trade knowledge. “We have our own team of mechanical engineers, we recently employed our own compliance engineer, we have a full time PLC programmer, and we have a full-time welding supervisor so that we comply with AS1554 Structural steel welding, which is required under AS7502,” said Ewan.

“All of our weld designs are tested and our staff are coded against them, to certify we fully conform to industry standards.”

Looking to where the industry is moving in the future, Aries Rail have partnered with Holland Co, the largest mobile flash-butt welding service provider in the world to bring the same dedicated, specialist flash-butt welding service model to Australia. Providing these unique solutions is how Aries will continue to service the Australasian rail industry, said Ewan.

“We’ll continue to evolve and deliver the solutions that the market looks for. It’s hard to see what 15 years ahead will be, but we’ve looked to add complimentary products from around the world to what we can offer the Australian market.”

The company has specialised in the conversion of large vehicles.
KLP Hybrid Polymer Sleepers

Reduced maintenance with KLP Hybrid Polymer Sleepers

In the same way that the inflexible old oak trees get uprooted in a strong storm in Aesop’s fable, a track support with too high track stiffness will cause premature failure and result in higher maintenance costs than anticipated. Track support that is too stiff does not spread the load sufficiently, resulting in extremely high localised impact loads and stresses (in track, sleepers, and fasteners). This may result in microcracks in rigid sleepers, failure of screws or clips, ballast attrition or ground vibrations. Causes for too high track stiffness include rigid subgrade (including concrete bases such as bridges, viaducts, tunnels) and overly stiff sleepers, such as concrete sleepers. Read more

Manco Rail: A partner in rail maintenance and construction

Manco Rail are investing in their customers’ performance with a new training facility.

In the industrial heartland of Western Sydney, the team from Manco Rail have been spending the last few months transforming a former storage yard into a new concept for the hi-rail supplier.

The team have created a purpose-built hi-rail training and inspection facility to allow rail contractors and operators to quickly and flexibly get their staff up to scratch on the operation of hi-rail vehicles while providing inspection and maintenance services.

The roughly 4,000 sqm site includes 100 metres of track for the demonstration of hi-rail vehicles and the simulation of their operation. An on-tracking or level crossing area is also simulated to enable vehicles to get on and off the rails.

Alongside the rail, Manco has constructed a contained viewing and workshop area, as well as storage, parking areas, and sheltered workspaces. Washdowns and servicing can also be done on site.

All in all, the site is a “one-stop shop”, according to office manager Jaclyn Vanderent.

“We can do all the servicing and washing of the vehicles. Customers’ fleets can come in for servicing every three or six months carried out by our on-site technicians.”

At the site itself, Manco’s team of engineers and maintenance staff can review any Manco vehicle for local testing and servicing. This ensures that vehicles are maintained to the highest specification in a convenient and accessible manner.

“Because they’re our products, we know them inside and out, right from our manufacturing through to the processes for training. We know exactly what’s going on,” said Vanderent.

In addition to servicing capabilities, what makes the site particularly distinct is the ability for training in a contained setting. The track has been specifically designed to simulate a rail environment, so that operators and technicians can get hands on with the machinery before beginning work on a project or maintenance task.

A purpose-built, 100-metre long section of track simulates a rail environment.

“The benefits of having the track here is that we can do track testing so that the customer can maximise their time in possession of the rail corridor,” said Vanderent.

At one end of the track is a purpose-built and self-contained viewing area. From here, trainees can watch the operation of a hi-rail vehicle from a safe distance and in a controlled environment.

“Customers can have the whole track for the learning experience,” said Vanderent. “They can do it here without any interruptions and of course they’ve got our technicians by their side so any questions that they have can be answered directly.”

Manco staff are on hand to assist with the training and operation of the vehicles. Training can be delivered on a wide range of road-rail vehicles and track machinery.

The training facility is an extension of Manco’s customer-driven philosophy when it comes to the manufacture and supply of hi-rail vehicles and specialist equipment for rail construction and maintenance.

With space at a premium in the urban rail environment, hi-rail vehicles can be brought to the Manco facility for standard or hot steam cleaning washes, subsequent servicing, re-certification, and storage, to be ready to go on the next project.

The Western Sydney site also expands Manco’s local footprint in Australia. The company has recently invested in a transporter to enable it to quickly deliver hi-rail vehicles to site, or to collect and return vehicles.

As Vanderent describes, the company has delivered a “whole business solution”.

“Rather than going there for this, and there for that, the customer can just get Manco to sort it out, whether that be servicing, training, or even utilising our cleaning vehicle”

More than just a supplier of equipment and machinery, Manco is a partner for rail construction and maintenance.

Manco has invested in a transporter to get equipment to where it needs to be, fast.

Budget should target new projects and upgrades: ARA

New projects and upgrades to existing technology should be considered for funding as part of the federal budget, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Caroline Wilkie has said.

With the budget to be handed down on October 6 and early announcements already coming out, Wilkie said that rail was ready to contribute to Australia’s economic recovery.

“There is a significant pipeline of rail investment that could be fast tracked to generate more jobs and opportunity to support our economic recovery,” said Wilkie.

“This is work that will make a difference right now while leaving a lasting legacy for the cities and towns that benefit from new rail projects.”

A number of rail projects are awaiting federal funding to take the next step. The Melbourne Airport Rail Link will proceed once final funding from the federal government confirmed, as can the resumption of the Murray Basin Rail Project, with a business case sitting with Canberra.

In addition to new construction, funding for technology upgrades such as the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s Advanced Train Management System, would provide long term benefits. Infrastructure upgrades such as level crossing removals are another way the federal government’s funding to rail would conitrbute to wider economic outcomes.

“At a time where we desperately need more people in jobs and more certainty for those rebounding from the economic hardships of the pandemic, we need to see more projects started sooner to build the country back up again,” said Wilkie.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack has indicated that major infrastructure projects will be part of the 2020 budget, however no particular projects have been tipped yet. The federal government has indicated that money allocated to the states for infrastructure will be needed to be spent quickly and may be a condition of further funding.

Next generation height and slew limiters ensure safety in the rail corridor

The new Sentinel Safety product range from PRM Engineering Services includes the latest generation Height and Slew Limiters to allow safe operation around powerlines and within confined spaces. Already in use by rail operators around Australia, the Sentinel Height & Slew range of products can be configured for height only, slew only or height and slew operation to suit your machine or site requirements.

The Sentinel Height and Slew limiters are perfect for the safe operation of excavators, loaders, skid steers and backhoes when working under overhead powerlines, in and around bridges and inside tunnels and can be installed on new and old machines alike. The Sentinel Height and Slew limiters have also been designed with rail operators in mind, with rail specific systems that meet the machine safety requirements of multiple rail authorities.

The Sentinel Height and Slew limiters have been used by rail authorities Australia wide for a several years and can be retrofitted to any machine with articulated booms.  Based on these years of experience PRM Engineering Services has developed several features such as predictive height stopping to prevent overshoot, fail to safe motion stop valving, blade and offset boom stops to ensure the operator cannot inadvertently go over height or slew limits and optional password protected menus for supervisor restricted control of limiter related settings.

PRM has also recently released two new optional features; HV Powerline Detection and Automatic Attachment Recognition. By combining the functionality of our widely used Sentinel Height and Slew limiters with a patented Sentinel HV Aerial Module, the system can ensure safe operation around powerlines from the moment the machine is turned on. The system prevents the machine moving within the exclusion zone around powerlines and motion-cut valving prevents the machine from moving closer while allowing the operator to direct the machine away from the electricity source.

Automatic attachment recognition allows the system to recognise up to seven attachments and automatically adjust height settings for the system without operator input. Automatic attachment recognition reduces the risk of incorrect attachment selection and can be used with or without supervisor approval as required.

Brisbane-based PRM Engineering Services are passionate about safety and have a long-standing heritage of safety system design and installation since 2002. With experience in the rail and earthmoving industries, PRM Engineering Services have become integrators and developers of a number of unique safety and control systems that meet customer requirements. These projects have ranged in scope from customisations of height or slew systems through to full redesign of control systems for on-track rail vehicles. Ongoing local support has been provided by the PRM Engineering team during the testing, installation, and operational phases of the technology.

Along with our team of talented engineers, the PRM Group of companies can also assist with the installation or modification of electrical, hydraulic, and control systems for heavy machinery, enabling PRM Engineering Services to offer end-to end innovative and customised solutions to our wide range of customers.

To find out more follow this link: https://prmengineering.com.au/.

Cloud

Data-driven maintenance: taking rail profiling to the cloud

Lifting data from the digital grave and into the cloud has opened up possibilities for rail maintenance. Autech explains how.

Twenty years ago, Swiss rail maintenance machine manufacturer Autech began providing its customers with an innovative way to measure their tracks. Using electronic measurement data collected by maintenance and measurement machines, rail infrastructure owners and operators could see the cross-sections of their rails, enabling an understanding of the wear and tear of this critical infrastructure.

Despite having this data on hand, CTO of Autech, Peter Merz found that it was not being put to use.

“What we saw is then they piled up the data, they printed it out and put it in the archive, and basically this data was lost.”

While some aggregated data was put into enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, the fine-grain measurements that could provide a maintenance engineer with insights were unavailable.

“The individual measurements were deleted or put in a storage system and were buried in the digital grave,” said Merz.

Having had this experience, Merz and the team at Autech began working on creating a cloud-based solution that would enable rail engineers to easily make use of the data they were collecting. The software system they developed has been named RailCloud.

“RailCloud really plots the view of the maintenance field engineers, so they can see their track, the overall condition of the track, but also the data on the individual section, even a single cross-section measurement,” said Merz.

RailCloud takes measurements collected in the field and combines them in a single, analysable database that is presented based on the geography of the rail track. The software’s base layer is a map of the system, and asset data stored in the cloud is overlaid on that map.

“It starts with the topography, the mapping, so the field engineer can go to this crossing, this intersection and so on. This is connected to the measurement systems, so the measurement systems automatically upload data, located by GPS,” said Merz.

“You can connect your measurement equipment to your network environment, so the data is automatically sorted, assigned, and allocated.”

The cloud-based software can then assign work orders and maintenance tasks based on thresholds set by the operator. In addition, having the data collected together, operators can now begin to predict rates of wear and trends, enabling predictive maintenance regimes.

“Of course, it’s a continuous thing – every year you make the measurements, every year you plan your maintenance. But with RailCloud we kept it quite light weight to make it simple and smart. You really can work on a daily basis with it, collecting measurement data, network, topology, workflows. Then you get data driven maintenance.”

DATA FROM THE SOURCE
To collect data on track condition and wear rates, Autech have recently developed RailXS, bringing together 30 years of rail measurement knowledge.

“The big advantage is it is very lightweight, it’s about 60-70kg and it can be mounted on any suitable rollingstock equipment,” said Merz. “This can be a dedicated equipment, it can be a small trolley, it can be an existing maintenance rollingstock, but it also can be a regular rollingstock.”

By mounting on regular rollingstock, measurement does not have to wait for track maintenance periods or shutdowns and can be done many times in one day.

The data is collected through laser optical sensors, which can record track parameters and the rail profile. Data is then automatically uploaded to the cloud platform RailCloud either via WiFi or a mobile internet connection. If this is not available, the data is stored and then uploaded once the vehicle returns to the depot or an area of internet connectivity. Before uploading, the measurement data is tagged with a location, either through GPS locating or RFID readers. Having these automatic systems means the data is ready to be utilised by the rail maintenance engineer, rather than having to be sorted or allocated.

“By transferring the data into the RailCloud it’s automatically allocated, you don’t have to work again. You can introduce filters to smoothen, aggregate, or transfer the data, or to do additional calculations, but the real key is to automatically map the data to your network and then there is no manual interaction needed again,” said Merz.

THE KEY TO PREDICTIVE MAINTENANCE
During the development process, the focus for RailCloud was to keep the software as lightweight as the measurement systems that supported it. This has enabled the software to be adopted by smaller operators, without the need for expensive experts and consultants to set up the system. Already, the system is in use on the tram networks of Zürich and Amsterdam where it has driven smarter maintenance practices.

“In Zürich, one of the departments wanted to do a replacement and the maintenance department said no we don’t need this replacement yet,” said Merz. “Using the RailCloud data they could prove that instead of a replacement being due every 5 years, it’s only in 12 years. RailCloud is driving fact- based decisions.”

Due to its flexibility, and the lack of a need for scheduled measurements by specialised vehicles, RailCloud can help operators take the next step to predictive maintenance.

“The big advantage is that you don’t measure every five years or every three years, you can regularly measure four times a year or even once a month,” said Merz. “You can set your intervals according to your needs, but in fact if you measure five times a year or 12 times a year, you have much better prognosis points of your wear rates.”

As wear rates are not linear, having more data points can enable a clearer picture of the wear curve to appear than what would be possible if measurements are only conducted every few years, said Merz.

“If you measure once a month you really see the trend or the curve, of your wear rate, and you see also deviation or if it changes in behaviour. That’s a big advantage, not just to know the state the track is in but what will happen.

“It’s the key to go into predictive maintenance.”

cyber attacks

Protecting critical infrastructure from cyber attacks

As Australia’s rail sector has not been immune from the risk of cyber attacks, industry bodies are joining with government agencies to mitigate the ongoing threat.

In November 2016, The San Francisco Municipal Transport Agency was hit by a cyber-attack. The HDDCryptor malware spread across over 2,000 computers, meaning that the Agency’s network was opened up free for the public.

While the agency’s ability to provide transport across its fleet of light rail vehicles, streetcars, trolley and hybrid buses was not compromised, ticket machines, payment services, and emails were affected.

The hackers demanded a ransom of 100 bitcoin, equivalent to $102,644 at the time. This type of attack, shutting down a network’s computer systems and demanding a payout, is known as ransomware, and can be caused by a person simply clicking on an infected link in an email or downloading an infected file. The networked nature of large transport authorities means that this can quickly spread throughout an organisation.

While San Francisco did not pay off the hacker and was able to restore its systems by the next Monday, the hack was one of the most visible instances of how cyber threats are coming to the rail transportation sector.

Earlier that year, cyber criminals struck the rail network in NSW, targeting regional train services provider NSW TrainLink. Hackers were able to infiltrate the booking service and capture customer credit and personal data.

Unlike the San Francisco hack, this breach targeted a rail organisation’s repository of customer details, including things like bank details and personal information. The opportunistic attack exposed how people using the same passwords for multiple accounts can make a system vulnerable, and in this case, with rail operators having data on large numbers of people, others could be seen as a honeypot for potential attackers.

Western Australia’s Public Transport Authority was also targeted in an attempted attack in 2016, leading the rail agency to shut down its own website and websites for specific services such as Transperth to prevent further intrusions.

More recently, the number of cyber- attacks has been increasing. In May 2020, Swiss rail manufacturer Stadler reported that hackers had targeted the company hoping to extort a large amount of money and threatening the publication of data to hurt Stadler and its employees. Although not impacting production lines, the hack came a week after Australian logistics operator Toll also suffered a ransomware attack, the second that company had suffered in 2020.

A spokesperson for the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) reiterated comments made by Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds that malicious cyber activity against Australia is increasing in frequency, scale, and sophistication.

“Rail, and the transport sector more broadly, is part of Australian critical infrastructure and provides essential services to Australians,” the spokesperson said.

Ransomware attacks are becoming more common for organisations across the rail sector. As these few examples demonstrate, the reliance of all parts of the rail industry on digital systems means that cyber-attacks are not targeting any one sector of the industry. Furthermore, as large, often widely distributed organisations that deal with personal and safety critical information, the rail sector has many facets of the organisation that are involved with cyber security, not only in operational roles.

“A cyber incident involving critical infrastructure can seriously impact the safety, social or economic wellbeing of Australians, due to the significant disruption it can cause if the systems are damaged or unavailable for extended periods of time,” said the ACSC spokesperson.

This is not to suggest that the rail sector has been blind to the risk posed by cyber- attacks. In the UK, in 2016, the Department for Transport published the Rail Cyber Security: reducing the risk of cyber attack guidelines. In the document, the increasing threat of cyber-attacks in the rail industry is clearly stated.

“Railway systems are becoming vulnerable to cyber-attack due to the move away from bespoke stand-alone systems to open-platform, standardised equipment built using Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) components and increasing use of networked control and automation systems that can be accessed remotely via public and private networks.”

These vulnerabilities leave the rail sector open to impacts of cyber-attacks, from threats to safety, disruptions of the network, economic loss, and reputational damage. The guidelines outline how rail organisations should respond, from the level of governance, through to design, the integration of legacy and third-party systems, and staff training.

As the spokesperson for the ACSC outlined, as rail reaps the benefits of digitalisation, there are also challenges.

“The rail sector is continually modernising through the adoption of new operational technologies. However, with this, comes potential cyber security vulnerabilities,” said the spokesperson.

“The increased adoption of inter-connected technologies has the potential to increase the cyber threat ‘attack surface’.”

In the case of passenger networks, bespoke systems such as electronic signage, ticketing systems, electronic passenger gates, building management and public address systems are areas of concern. In the freight sector, the interconnectedness of the industry and its automation contributes to the vulnerabilities the sector faces.

The exposure of the rail sector was highlighted in a 2016 Victorian Auditor- General report into the security of critical infrastructure control systems for trains. After a 2010 report identified weaknesses, the 2016 report found little improvement since then.

The reasons for the lack of progress were poor governance arrangement, limited security frameworks for control systems, limited security controls for identifying, preventing, detecting, and responding to cyber security events, and a poor transfer of accountability and risk during machinery-of- government changes.

In the Auditor-General report, 10 recommendations were made, all of which were accepted by Public Transport Victoria and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, which has since been broken up into the Department of Transport and the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.

Since the Victorian Auditor General’s report, moves have been made to standardise and improve the Australian rail industry’s cyber security response. In 2018 the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB) published its Australian Rail Network Cyber Security Strategy. Identifying similar threats, the document outlined the vision for the industry of the elimination of cyber risk, resulting in zero cyber-attacks on the Australian rail network. To do this, the strategy follows the principles of understand, protect, detect, and respond.

In addition, also in 2018, RISSB published AS 7770 – Rail Cyber Security, the Australian standard for managing cyber security risk on the Australian railway network.

To improve the response of the rail sector to the cyber security threat, ACSC provides sector-specific resources and materials.

“The ACSC is working with all critical infrastructure sectors to help them increase their cyber defences as well as transport sector entities through the ACSC Partnership Program.”

The ongoing adoption of industry standards as well as the implementation of sector-wide strategies will ensure that the rail industry continues to be prepared to deal with cyber attacks as the threats morph and change.