rail track

Moving ahead with a career in rail track: From interest to specialist

A new qualification is plugging a skills gap in rail track engineering and for recent graduate, Jessica Fallico, turning an interest into a career specialisation.

The Diploma of Engineering Infrastructure (Rail) is transforming the rail industry by providing an accessible, holistic qualification for engineers and technicians.

Over several years, leaders in the NSW rail industry identified a skills gap in foundational rail track engineering. Although longer-term employees had skills built over time, there was no formal industry-specific qualification. Engineers couldn’t deepen their expertise or validate their existing skills.

The Diploma was created with the single intent to fill this gap. Graduates understand the ‘big picture’ of rail track infrastructure, from a strong foundation of skills.

For recent graduate, Jessica Fallico, this meant turning a career interest into a specialisation and a promotion. Here’s what Fallico found to be most beneficial for her career.

Understanding how theory translates to track
As a civil engineer working for Sydney Trains, Fallico recognised that she needed to know more about rail track engineering. Over the course of the Diploma, this all changed as Fallico learned the foundations of track structure interactions.

“The Diploma gave me a great overview of track components, train and track interactions, design and construction, defects, maintenance and operations.”

Fallico reflected, “It felt good when something I’d studied would happen on track in the ‘real world’. I could understand and resolve it competently, applying my deeper knowledge.”

Building confidence for career advancement
Sometimes, a little extra knowledge is what you need to gain an edge and move ahead to senior roles.

“Even though I was a qualified civil engineer, I wanted to understand how track structure interacts in the rail environment. I strongly believe that the knowledge and skills I’ve learnt have made me more capable and confident to perform my role.”

After completing the Diploma, Fallico was promoted to a Senior Track Engineer role with Sydney Trains. The move was smoother because of her wider understanding of all aspects of track assets and infrastructure. Today, Fallico applies her Diploma learnings daily in maintenance and defect management.

Learning straight from industry experts
Fallico says the teaching featured industry veterans who brought knowledge to life.

“I was amazed with the wealth of experience and extensive knowledge provided through the Diploma. Teachers shared their experiences and reviewed tough incidents that they had dealt with over the length of their careers.

“Because of this experience, assignments involved practical exercises like creating train timetables, planning construction projects, prioritising defects or managing and identifying repairs.”

Flexible study
The Diploma’s structure allows for study to fit around full-time roles, with flexible content and assignments. There’s time for conversation and clarification during the workshops, and live webinars happen in lunch hours. Fallico didn’t miss content, even when she couldn’t be there in person.

“All course contents and assignments were easily accessible online, allowing people to work at their own pace. We were also able to contact the course lecturers online if we had any issues or questions.”

Fallico encourages any track engineering team members to study the Diploma.

“Anyone who is enthusiastic about extending their career in rail track should study the Diploma. It develops an unparalleled understanding of how the whole track structure interacts with all its moving parts.

“You can study this qualification without a major impact on your work commitments. Learning while working helps you apply new knowledge and put it to work immediately.”

The Diploma of Engineering Infrastructure (Rail) is now open for enrolments in 2021. Backed by Engineering Education Australia and Transport for NSW, the nationally-accredited qualification is delivered by the University of Tasmania. Learn more >

thermal

Thermal cameras used to detect COVID-19 among rail staff in UK

Rail networks and operators are turning to new technology such as thermal cameras to help manage the threat of COVID-19 to staff and the network.

In the UK, Network Rail has turned to technology provider Thales to install thermal cameras at critical staffing locations to detect symptoms of COVID-19.

The technology has been deployed to over 100 sites across Britain as a safety measure and to ensure business continuity.

A key symptom of COVID-19 is body temperature, so detecting elevated temperatures enables Network Rail to prevent the spread of the virus within the workforce.

David Taylor, Network Rail account manager at Thales said that the technology had to be rolled out quickly due to the significance of the situation.

“Following an initial tender request from Network Rail’s Research & Development Portfolio, the Thales team quickly rolled into action. From the issue of the request for the proposal and submission of a response, to Network Rail’s evaluation of the various offers and completion of a trial, the whole process was complete within less than two weeks,” Taylor said.

“In a normal environment this would have taken months.”

The readings from the thermal imaging camera are shown to the individual to encourage appropriate action. Up to 30 people can be measured simultaneously to a reading within +/- 0.3 °C.

An initial single trial location was quickly expanded to two to build user confidence and both trials were set up within three days of the project going ahead. Buy-in was also demonstrated with the expanded project scope, which grew from 80 cameras to 118 systems in 10 weeks.

Dubai has also rolled out the use of thermal cameras to reduce the threat of COVID-19 on the city’s metro system. The Dubai Transport Security Department will also introduce facial recognition software to bolster security, ahead of the city hosting Expo 2020, delayed to October 2021.

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Driving positive change: Rail recognised in Women in Industry Awards

The Women in Industry Awards celebrated the achievements from a number of industries, and Nadine Youssef’s work keeping Sydney Trains safe won particular recognition.

On August 24, the winners of the 2020 Women in Industry Awards were announced. The annual awards, co-presented by Rail Express, recognise excellence across heavy industry in Australia, including manufacturing, resources, waste and resource recovery, and transportation. This year saw a record number of nominees, and judges who were drawn from across the Australian industrial landscape commented on the calibre of nominations received.

Christine Gibbs-Stewart, CEO of Austmine and member of the judging panel, noted that nominees came from all stages of their careers.

“As I judge it was great to read each applicant’s inspirational story. From young women driving change to those more experienced who are running large businesses, the nominees this year should all be congratulated for their outstanding achievements,” she said.

One of the most nominated categories was the rising star of the year award. As such a competitive field, the number of nominations demonstrated the depth of talent that is coming into industry, said judge Hayley Rohrlach, AECOM senior civil engineer and national chair of the Women in Engineering Committee for Engineers Australia.

“The Rising Star of the Year award nominees were very impressive, and the industry as a whole has a lot to be excited for if that’s the level of young engineers, miners and scientists that are coming through the ranks.”

Winning this award was Alicia Heskett, of Shell Australia (QGC). The other finalists were Helen Vu – BOC, Kate Robertson – Geological Survey of SA, Kate Stanbury – Stantec Australia, Keren Reynolds – BAE Systems Australia, Louise Azzopardi – WesTrac, Nima Sherpa – BHP, Rose Lindner – MMG, and Vera Milutinovic – Inenco. “I hope they can continue their advocacy and sharing their enjoyment for engineering and STEM as a whole into the community to continue to bring (or retain) female engineers into the profession,” said Rohrlach.

As rail continues to grow the participation and representation of women in the industry, judges commented that awards such as these serve as a way to encourage more women into traditionally male dominated industries, while also celebrating the successes of those who have made this their career. Melissa Donald, National Association of Women in Operations (NAWO) board member, noted the importance of the awards.

“By highlighting the achievements of the finalists and winners I hope we can inspire more women and men to pursue careers in operations and continue to drive better gender balance across all industries.”

Institute of Quarrying Australia chief executive Kylie Fahey shared these sentiments.

“The awards promote the contribution of women and support the broader agenda of diversity and inclusion. By highlighting and celebrating the contribution of women to the industry, we can encourage more women into careers, help increase representation in leadership roles and support change,” she said.

“Awards are an important way for industries to acknowledge and celebrate innovation, ideas and change that are fostered through the involvement of individuals at all levels and through the diversity in teams. The applications demonstrate this and hopefully encourage other women to put their ideas forward and continue to strive for positive change.”

Nadine Youssef’s work within Sydney Trains was highlighted when she won the Safety Advocacy Award.

“THE WORK WE DO MATTERS”
Every day, Nadine Youssef plays a vital part in ensuring that over 1.3 million people who use the Sydney Trains network daily get to their destination safely. Her work in this field was this year recognised with receiving the Safety Advocacy Award.

Youssef highlighted that working for a large and varied organisation such as Sydney Trains has allowed her to grow her career.

“It promotes a culture of quality customer service while expecting the highest standards of ethical behaviour from all its employees. It strives for a culture of integrity and professionalism and innovative thinking. With customer service and safety always at the heart of what we do, there is an enormous variety
of interesting, challenging and rewarding opportunities across a range of professions,” Youssef said.

Since 2018, as the associate director of the Electrical Distribution Unit, Youssef has been the custodian of the Electrical Network Management Plan and the Electrical Network Safety Rules (ENSR). Youssef began and led the redesign of the ENSR to meet industry best practice standards and promote organisational continuous improvement.

Significant infrastructure upgrades such as the introduction of Sydney Metro increased the demand for electrical work and resources, in addition, Sydney Trains’ management of substation access permits limited efficiency. Parallel with redesigning the ENSR, Youssef was an integral member in implementing a pop-up electrical learning centre to overcome the shortage of accredited electrical personnel and provide a safe location to train staff away from the hazards of the live environment.

Receiving the award, Youssef noted that the recognition extends to a support network of colleagues, family and friends.

“This recognition is motivating and humbling and a reminder that the work we
do everyday matters. However, I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for my incredible mentors, colleagues, family and friends, so this nomination is equally extended to them.”

The importance of a supportive work environment is one that Youssef noted.

“In my office and in my field, I am surrounded daily by intelligent, strong and talented people and following this experience I will continue to lean in and lift up those around me and am inspired to find ways to pay back and recognise the work of others.”

While the finalists and winners of the Women in Industry awards were not able to meet at the usual awards ceremony, a virtual network has sprung up, and has encouraged Youssef to share her experience with others.

“I am glad to have a new network of women who I can collaborate with as I continue on my professional journey. Being named a finalist and winner of such an award is a professional and personal achievement that carries with it great responsibility. This experience compels me to continue to share my story and knowledge with even more women looking to grow in my industry.”

As Youssef looks to promote a cohesive approach to public planning and integrated services, she is encouraging others within industry to think about where they want their career to take them.

“It is important to establish a strong, productive working relationship with your colleagues and peers and to take responsibility for your own career path. Don’t be afraid to try your hand at different things in your organisation and then only you will be able to decide your future career path. Lastly, never stop learning and developing yourself regardless of your age. In this ever-changing world it is becoming more and more important to be able to change and adapt with it.”

For Youssef herself, who has progressed to an executive role within Sydney Trains, she is only just getting started.

“I truly feel that my biggest achievement is yet to come. I am proud of my career to date and the impact that I have been fortunate to make, but I am always looking to achieve more tomorrow than I did today and am constantly striving to improve myself and the organisation I work for.”

Martin Place Station caverns completed ahead of schedule

The station caverns for the future Martin Place Metro Station have been completed, six months ahead of schedule.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance visited the site of the future station, 28 metres below ground and said that the completion of the caverns was a milestone in the delivery of the new Metro line.

“In a few short years, Sydney’s new driverless trains will be running through the heart of the city every few minutes – a fast, new, reliable and safe railway extending from the Metro North West Line,” said Berejiklian.

Constance said that with the shape of the future station coming together, critical infrastructure will be delivered soon.

“This is an extraordinary milestone: excavation, tunnelling and caverns completed – next stop is laying tracks and building the new station which will service the heart of the Sydney CBD,” said Constance.

Nine tunnels to allow commuters to access the station have been built as part of the station’s design. These connect from the station entrances as well as to the existing Martin Place station where passengers can connect to Sydney Trains services.

Under construction for the last two years, the station is located underneath Castlereagh and Elizabeth streets and are 220 metres long and 14 metres wide. Tunnel boring machines Nancy and Shirl arrived at the stations in October 2019 before continuing on the future line.

A total of 126,000 tonnes of rock were excavated to create the two caverns and 5,500 tonnes of steel and 21,5000 tonnes of concrete have been used to create the stations.

Tracklaying is expected to commence in early 2021.

Sydney Metro part of mental health awareness campaign

Sydney Metro workers have been part of the launch of a new initiative to reduce suicide in the construction sector.

MATES Stronger Together aims to drive cultural change in the construction industry, highlighting the shared responsibility that colleagues have for each other’s mental health.

“We know that construction workers are at significantly greater risk of suicide than workers in other industries, sadly a worker takes their life every two days,” said Constance.

“2020 has been one hell of a year, so it’s particularly important at the moment to do everything we can to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of our workers.”

The launch of MATES Stronger Together. Image credit: Sydney Metro

Six times the number of construction workers killed in workplace accidents take their own life, with 190 workers dying from suicide each year. Young workers are particularly at risk, with young workers in construction twice as likely to die from suicide as other young men.

MATES Stronger Together is run by MATES in Construction, a partnership between building companies, unions, employer grounds and mental health organisations.

Sydney Metro chief executive Jon Lamonte said that this year was a reminder of the importance of connection.

“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s just how much we can take ‘connectedness’ for granted and how important our social connections really are,” Mr Lamonte said.

“Our ‘mates’ really do play an important role in preventing suicide in this industry.”

The program will provide practical tools for workers in the construction industry to identify warning signs and act, said MATES in Construction CEO Brad Parker.

“The goal is to create strong networks of support on construction projects across the country, with workers looking out for those suffering from suicidal thoughts and having the confidence to talk to them and connect them with the help they need.”

If you, or someone you know, is thinking about suicide or experiencing a personal crisis or distress, please seek help immediately in a life-threatening situation by calling 000 or seek support though one of these services:

Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511

Goldfields Railway infrastructure project creating regional rail skills pathway

A joint program is developing practical skills in rail for indigenous and vulnerable people in partnership with the Victorian Goldfields Railway.

The project brings together the heritage Victorian Goldfields Railway, with the Mount Alexander Shire Council, Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative and the Centre for Excellence in Rail Training(CERT).

Participants will assist with upgrading rail infrastructure between Castlemaine and Maldon, managed by the Victorian Goldfields Railway, while progressing to a Certificate II in Rail Infrastructure.

The partnership is supported by $90,000 from the Victorian government’s Flexible Local Transport Solutions Program. The program provides funding for local transport initiatives, services and infrastructure in regional Victoria.

Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said the unique collaboration would deliver long-term benefits.

“We know how important that first step on the ladder to meaningful employment is – this training program will deliver strong job prospects to local jobseekers and boost Victoria’s strong field of transport infrastructure talent.”

Anthony Fritsche, executive general manager – Workforce Solutions at Engenco, the parent company of CERT, said that the training deliver will be tailored to the needs of the project while providing an ongoing pathway.

“CERT’s Certificate II in Rail Infrastructure will be contextualised to the needs of the Victorian Goldfields Infrastructure Project to ensure candidates are all job ready and motivated to further develop their careers on such an exciting regional Victorian project,” he said.

“CERT has extensive experience in delivering career development programs in regional rail infrastructure projects and continues to work with industry and all levels of government to facilitate employment pathways for new entrant and indigenous job seekers.”

In-kind support worth over $50,000 is being contributed by the Victorian Goldfields Railway, and president Steve Strangward said the project would speed up completion of the project.

“The program will accelerate completing a $2 million major infrastructure and track upgrade currently underway.”

WA launches rail-focused infrastructure training program

The Western Australian government has launched a four-week intensive training course that will give students hands-on experience on major rail projects in the state.

Students will get a first-hand insight into Metronet projects including the Bellevue Railcar facility, the Yanchep Rail Extension, the Thornlie-Cockburn link, and the Denny Avenue Level Crossing Removal. Road projects are also part of the course.

The program will be delivered at TAFE campuses across Perth and is designed to increase the pool of workers in the infrastructure sector. Young people and women are being encouraged to apply.

Designed to create a pathway for those who may have lost their jobs during COVID-19, the course is free for those on JobSeeker/JobKeeper payments, those who are concession-eligible or under 25.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the Infrastructure Ready program is designed to address approaching skills shortages in the infrastructure sector.

“We are delivering more than $6.5 billion worth of road and rail projects across all corners of the State – ensuring we have the workforce to deliver this pipeline of work is a key priority,” she said.

“This new training will deliver job-ready workers to meet the immediate needs of Western Australia’s multi-billion-dollar civil construction industry.”

During the program, students will be taught measurement and calculation skills for the construction sector and safe work practices. Instruction on how to operate small plant and equipment also forms part of the course.

Through partnerships with industry, those who complete the program will be offered the opportunity to gain entry-level prospects. Civil construction industry contractors will be given incentives to employ and retain program participants.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said that the program will set up participants for success.

“Participants will gain firsthand experience on this unique course that will put them in good stead for work on our major infrastructure projects and for future employment opportunities.”