Sydney Train

Build trains locally and create thousands of jobs: Weld Australia

There is the potential for thousands of jobs to be created in Australia and to support the country’s economic recovery from COVID-19 if more trains were built locally, according to CEO of Weld Australia, Geoff Crittenden.

Reforming procurement practices in Australia would have deep benefits for local and national comments, said Crittenden who leads Weld Australia, the peak body for welders in Australia.

“State government rail procurement practices that support local welders and fabricators would create thousands of jobs, supporting local families and local economies in a post COVID-19 world. It would facilitate technology transfer and drive some of the world’s most innovative research and development,” said Crittenden.

The call for local manufacturing follows the NSW government’s dismissal of the talents of local rail manufacturers, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying that Australians were “not good at building trains” and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance train manufacturing does not exist in Australia.

While Crittenden highlighted that Australia and NSW has a heritage of building technically advanced train fleets, he also pointed to the potential for future improvements.

“With a long-term procurement commitment from the state governments, rail industry manufacturers would have the confidence to reinvest in their own capabilities, strengthening the industry from within. This type of business innovation strengthens businesses and creates new and better jobs, which together support a move to higher living standards. Innovation investment by business is crucial to our ongoing prosperity. It would make Australia home to a world-leading rail industry, with the capability to build and export superior quality trains.”

Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Senator for Western Australia Louise Pratt said that Commonwealth funding should be directed towards local manufacturing, including rail.

“As COVID-19 has highlighted how sensitive we are to global supply chains and as unemployment is rising, particularly in regional areas, now more than ever we need a plan for manufacturing which includes rail.”

With an extensive local maintenance and repair industry, the cost of whole of life support means that it makes sense to build more trains locally, according to Crittenden.

“If our state governments adopted a nationally consistent procurement process that considered whole of life costs and prioritised local content, not only would it create thousands of jobs, it would deliver better quality public transport. Locally fabricated trains would adhere to all relevant Australian and international Standards, reducing expensive rework and repair. Cheap imports from overseas often cost more in the long run,” he said.

Having more consistent procurement standards between different states would improve the competitiveness of Australia-based manufacturers, highlighted Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie.

“We have long been calling for a national procurement process for rail manufacturing to give the industry greater scale, promote efficiency and create more local jobs which are supported by advanced manufacturing techniques from industry.”

In a tendering framework released in May, the ARA said that greater harmonisation of specifications was one area that would reduce the cost of tendering in Australia.


The NRAP: Putting reform into action

Bringing together representatives from all facets of the rail industry, the National Rail Action Plan (NRAP) is setting a template for rail’s future.

On a chilly Adelaide day in August 2019, federal and state transport and infrastructure ministers assembled in Adelaide for the 11th meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Council.

At the meeting, Danny Broad, then CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) gave a heated speech outlining that without coordinated state and federal action, rail’s massive investment boom would be squandered, citing the dual challenges of a workforce shortage and the lack of common standards.

In comments made after the meeting closed, Broad castigated the laissez-faire approach to training.

“Governments can’t leave it to a nebulous training ‘market’ to resolve, because it’s just not working,” he said.

“These are national issues requiring a national approach, which reinforces the need for jurisdictions to work together to ensure consistency and alignment between jurisdictions.”

Also listening to Broad’s speech was the then-CEO of the Australian Airports Association Caroline Wilkie. Recalling the presentation, Wilkie was struck by the unanimity of the response.

“Over the last few years, ministers have been very keen to understand whether there’s any barriers, or indeed any opportunities, that we should be looking for on the back of this enormous infrastructure spend, particularly in transport. From that discussion, there emerged three key areas of focus.”

The three priority areas that would come out of the August meeting were skills and labour, common standards, and interoperability. The Transport and Infrastructure Council tasked the National Transport Commission to develop a National Rail Action Plan (NRAP), which, chair of the NTC Carolyn Walsh highlighted, built upon the current investment in the rail industry.

“The Rail Action Plan isn’t starting from scratch and saying nothing has happened before; it is drawing together the threads of a lot of things that have been happening over recent years like the development of Inland Rail, the ARTC’s investment in ATMS, Sydney Trains investment in Digital Systems, the Cross River Rail in Queensland.”

These investments were driven by the recognition at a political level that rail had to play a greater role in moving people and goods if Australia was going to improve productivity and reduce emissions.

“There’s been acknowledgement across governments for a number of years now about the freight task. There’s a strong sense that we’ve got a freight task that cannot be dealt with without investment in both roads and rail, but particularly rail for long-haul freight,” said Walsh.

“The growth of our metropolitan cities has been huge so we’ve seen much greater investment in public transport over the last 10-15 years which is terrific. Coupled with that is the recognition of the impact of climate change, and the importance of getting better environmental outcomes through our transport networks, both in terms of freight and passenger.”

What Broad and others had realised, and impressed upon ministers, was that the rail industry in Australia had an enormous opportunity, with all major capitals investing in significant modernisations of their rail network and interstate projects such as Inland Rail. However, this also represented the chance of a pitfall, and one that the Australian rail industry has been learning from for the past century and a half.

“The industry had collectively with government recognised the extent of that we’ve got to get all of those things right to make sure that we don’t create the break of gauge in the future,” said Walsh. “For those investments that are going to take the next 10 years to put in place and enable in-cab signalling for instance, how do we ensure we don’t get the future break of gauge, as those investments come together.”

Walsh noted that with a national pipeline of investment, individual rail infrastructure managers in each state were thinking about how to think about each network as a part of a national set of railways.

To make this happen, working groups for each focus area under the NRAP were formed, with Wilkie co-chairing the skills and labour group, Walsh co-chairing the interoperability group, and Deborah Spring, CEO of the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB), co-chairing the harmonisation group. Each group will also have a representative from industry as the other co-chair, including the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), the Victorian Department of Transport and the South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. In addition, members of each working group will comprise representatives from each state as well as industry representatives from RISSB and the ARA.

With buy-in from the Commonwealth, states, and industry, Walsh noted that the tone of the conversations was energising.

“People are very keen to take advantage of the fact that we do have significant investment,” she said. “Often, we’re all talking about how to cut back, how to find efficiencies, and we are looking to find efficiencies, but this is an opportunity on the back of money and investment going into rail. I think we’ve hit a time where those three planks of industry, the standards setters, and the policy makers are all seeing this as an opportunity.”

Photography by

The issue that Broad had honed in on in his presentation in 2019 was that without a fundamental change to the way that rail skills and qualifications were taught, the rail industry would have a skills crisis. This assertion was supported by a report commissioned by the ARA and published in 2018, which assessed the skills pipeline for the rail sector. As Wilkie noted, the findings were clear.

“We don’t have the incoming workforce to meet the requirements of rail projects. ARA members right now don’t have enough people coming through in terms of apprentices, younger people, people with experience, or people moving into the sector.”

In addition to the lack of people, the 2018 ARA report found that qualifications in one state were not always recognised in another.

“The report identified a number of areas of improvement and action that were required and a lot of that was activity that really required a national approach,” said Wilkie. Walsh also noted that rail is not the only infrastructure sector experiencing a boom.

“There’s two elements of it, the first is whether we have the skills base in Australia generally to be able to deliver on this broad range of infrastructure projects – roads, rail, hospitals, and schools are all competing with each other for the best engineers, leading the cost of infrastructure to go up unless we manage the supply of skills. There’s also how to make rail attractive as an industry in a modern world? It can have a reputation as quite a 19th century technology, when actually with all these investments we’re moving to a 21st century technology, which is very attractive to people developing engineering, IT, and other skills.”

Currently, the lack of skilled workers coming into the rail sector has led to reports of companies poaching staff, or having to hire overseas, increasing costs.

“What we really need to be looking at is how do we get more people into the mix, how do we develop more people and bring more people in, because it is getting difficult to take people from one project to the other,” said Wilkie.

Already, as the working group has had early meetings, Wilkie can see a need for the clear definition of pathways for school students and graduates who want to work in the rail industry. In addition, the working group will be looking at how to enable ongoing training, whether delivered by TAFEs or private registered training organisations.

“Talking to members across the country, every state has shortages in a variety of areas,” said Wilkie. “I was speaking to someone the other day about driver shortages in Western Australia, I’ve spoken to other people about signallers. We’re talking about issues of how you train people on the job, how do you get school children interested in the career. It’s really starting from the beginning to end, and what COVID also throws into the mix is how do you get people that might have been in other sectors with transferrable skills into the rail sector as well.”

Wilkie also highlighted that as rail is identified as a sustainable mobility technology, encouraging investment, this can also be a way for the sector to promote rail to younger workers.

“The ARA and the industry need to do more to talk about the environmental credentials of rail. For the younger generation, a sector like ours that is so good in the sustainability arena and makes such a big difference in terms of environmental footprint is something that we need to promote.

“It’s also promoting diversity. It’s about talking to women about why rail would work for them in their life. The perception of the railway sector if you talk to most younger people it would be of an older sector, which just from going to AusRAIL we know that’s not true. It’s a dynamic industry with lots of diversity from younger and older people who have a lot to add and a lot to bring and I think it’s an exciting sector to be part of.”

Australia’s rail industry has long been hampered by the legacies of federation, with each state having their own standards and regulations for railways, and this has led to the proliferation of standards for the component parts of railways and infrastructure.

Currently, it is estimated that there are more than 10 different standards for the thickness of glass required for a passenger train carriage. Not only does this limit the ability of rail suppliers from competing in different states and increases the cost of procurement, it prevents the Australian rail supply industry from competing for international contracts.

“Harmonisation is about how do we actually get common standards of the component parts of railways, so that we’re actually building scale in the capacity of the Australian industry to be able to tender for those projects,” said Walsh.

In addition, distinct standards mean staff are largely tied to one state or rail network, said Wilkie.

“We’re talking about the ability of different operators to be able to move from state to state, and that links back with the ability of staff to move between state.”

What the working group aims to do, is also reduce the cost of operating when freight trains, for example, have to traverse across state borders.

“Another example that I’m given is you’ll have an operator who is working in the freight area and they have a number of different folders in their cab that’s relevant to the rules and regulations on the network in Victoria and they go across to NSW and there’s a different set of rules,” said Wilkie. “It’s about making that consistent, so it makes for a better safety outcome but also a more efficient outcome as well.”

Deborah Spring, RISSB’s executive chair and CEO, is co-chairing the harmonisation working group with Ben Phyland, head of rollingstock development, network integration at the Victorian Department of Transport. Already, a number of standards have been harmonised across states through RISSB’s Priority Planning Process (PPP).

“Six standards in the harmonisation section were raised through the PPP forum so we were able to put them on our plan and in fact four of them started to progress while the NRAP was being finalised, which I think shows the importance of the plan and also how RISSB is a conduit for industry,” said Spring.

Three standards identified in the NRAP, common standards for glazing, bogies, and interior crashworthiness have already been completed, with standards for egress, energy storage, HVAC and emissions now being worked on. As Spring describes, the harmonisation process under the NRAP is an extension of RISSB’s current work program.

“When we’re looking at a standard, we look across the industry’s existing standards, both domestically and internationally, and use that as a starting point for the development of our standards,” said Spring. “We also call for development groups and then we have our five existing standing committees right now, who then have a governance layer on top of that. So, these standards are developed in collaboration with industry, drawing upon industry’s expertise, and looking internationally as well.”

Beyond individual standards for components, the NRAP also calls for common rules for safe work. These will be developed out of the National Rules Project that RISSB is finalising.

“The next step of that project is that we have taken the Australian Network Rules and Procedures (ANRP) and gone out to industry with a survey asking, ‘With the 62 rules here, which ones would add the most value to be nationally harmonised and which ones would be easy to harmonise?’ We came up with a matrix to try and identify those rules which will be high value and initially easy to implement. We then set up a national industry reference group of all the senior safety leaders and executives throughout the rail industry to oversee the progression of work,” said Spring.

What this process has developed is a template for the standardisation and harmonisation of rules across the Australian rail industry. While certain rules are identified in the NRAP, their harmonisation will be the first of a pipeline of rules, where RISSB will focus on harmonising those rules that bring value to the rail industry.

“A lot of people talk about harmonising and standardising, but our approach is it should be done when it’s adding value and not just for the sake of it,” said Spring.

Being able to move people and goods via rail from one side of Australia to the other has been a relatively recent phenomenon. While the Indian Pacific first ran from Sydney to Perth in 1970, making the journey smooth for freight has also been a major challenge, Spring points out.

“I started in National Rail when we took over the assets from the five states and at that point, to get a container from Brisbane to Perth, nothing talked to each other. Not only did we not have one gauge, we didn’t have standard procedures, we couldn’t track anything, we couldn’t book anything, even the tariff system, nothing worked,” said Spring. “We made that seamless and we’ve got to be able to make it seamless now where you can go across the country and it doesn’t make a difference which system you’re using – the critical information getting to the driver is right, timely, and accurate.”

Having this history in mind, current projects are aware of the need to ensure interoperability, said Walsh.

“We’re looking at new type of railways that have got interconnecting points. The ARTC railway joins with the Sydney Trains railway and they’re both investing in technologies for in-cab signalling, but they are different systems. That’s ok, because you’ve got a different rationale for those systems in different operating environments, but they’ve got to be able to talk to each other so that you’ve got a seamless operation and you’re getting the maximum efficiency and safety out of the system.”

To enable the various systems that rail infrastructure managers and operators are investing in to work with each other, the NRAP working group on interoperability will be identifying how to develop standard operating rules that enable control and communication systems to interact. Walsh, who is co-chairing the group with Simon Ormsby, group executive strategy at the ARTC, highlights that the solution will not be one size fits all.

“The goal does not need to be for all of the networks to have the same technology because there is a rationale for why you would have a different signalling system for long-haul freight across deserts compared to what you need in the city where you want to get every inch out of the headway.”

For example, with digital train control systems being rolled out simultaneously on the nation freight network and on the Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Brisbane networks, Walsh noted that there needs to be a national conversation about how these systems will work together.

“I don’t think that we’re looking at for ARTC to convince Sydney Trains that they should both use the ATMS system or Sydney Trains has to convince ARTC to use ETCS, but I do think we need to have those early conversations about how they talk to each other and what is the investment we need to make sure that all rollingstock has the capacity to operate over both of those systems.”

This convergence of technological and financial change, while one of a successive number of national waves of reform, is in part unique due to the collaboration of government and industry in Australia’s contemporary rail industry.

‘Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s it was all about investing in a standard gauge so that people didn’t have to get out of the train and change the train at Albury to continue on down to Melbourne,” said Walsh. “Then in the 90s it was all about competition policy and there was a lot of attention in government about separating above and below rail and getting competition into the freight industry. Then in the ‘00s it was all about getting a single national regulator and this next wave, as we get this investment, is about how do we make sure, in partnership with RISSB as the standards setter and the railways that adopt those standards and adapt them, that we’re now not going to get the future break of gauge.”

Harmonising standards in rollingstock
and signalling will enable Australia’s rail manufacturing sector to be more competitive. Photography by

None of the NRAP co-chairs that spoke with Rail Express suggested that once the items listed on the plan were complete would the job of growing the workforce, harmonising standards or improving interoperability be finished. In fact, the NRAP hopes to set the groundwork for ongoing collaborative reform in the rail sector.

“The action plan is focusing on these three issues to begin with, but I think it’s legacy over time will be a way of thinking about the national rail system as a system that we need to make sure works collectively together,” said Walsh.

“In the past it’s happened bilaterally, you’ll get ARTC talking to Sydney Trains about the interface of trains into Sydney, but actually at the other end of the country you’ve got Arc as the infrastructure manager from Kalgoorlie to Perth so now we’re actually saying this has to be a national conversation and a multi-lateral conversation around some of these issues.”

For Wilkie, the reform’s significance is having the decision-makers working together.

“In each of those three working groups there’s a representative from each state government, so it means everyone is in the room, everyone is part of the conversation. That’s why I’m so positive about this whole process. It’s shown that the ministers take it seriously, we have all of the right people in the room and now it’s up to us to use this opportunity to really make effective change.”

As Spring highlights, the reform process is a model of what the co-regulatory environment of the rail industry can achieve and avoids the need for top-down mandating of standards or rules.

“My approach is if a standard is good and it adds value and it’s had wide consultation, then in a way industry should be wanting to adopt it. These self-mandated standards then really support the coregulatory environment.”

All-in-all, the work on the NRAP signals that rail’s time has come, said Walsh.

“I grew up in Yass in the 70s watching the Hume Highway be duplicated, and at the same time we weren’t seeing a railway having that same level of investment.

“Partly that was because there didn’t appear to be the drivers – economically, environmentally – to have that investment. I think that’s really shifted in the last 20 years. There is pressure on the infrastructure in terms of the demand, as well as responding to the environmental and safety concerns of the community.”

Preparing for the growth ahead

CEO of the ARA Caroline Wilkie writes that a cohort of young people looking for opportunities have the talents to fill rail’s skills gap.

In a year that has been more about preserving jobs than creating them, the concept of skills shortages can be a difficult one to reconcile.

However, the impact of this year’s events has not changed the fact that a very real and significant skills gap looms in the rail industry.

The Australasian Railway Association’s (ARA) 2018 skills capability study found the rail industry was staring down the barrel of a 24 per cent skills gap on current employment levels by 2024.

The gap existed across the spectrum, from technicians, trades and operators to managers and rail professionals.

Clearly, this is an area where action is needed if we are to make the most of the significant investment pipeline of the coming decades.

The National Rail Action Plan skills and labour working group, which I co-chair, is currently looking at how the industry can address this issue.

The group is bringing together key people from across the industry to inform this
work and I look forward to reporting on our progress as time goes on.

In the meantime, the ARA is continuing to advance its skills agenda.

As more rail projects come online, there will obviously be a need for the development of skill sets that are specific to the rail industry.

We will need a stronger focus on skills and education to achieve this.

The ARA is advocating for the development of a dedicated skills academy that offers targeted solutions to meet the industry’s future needs.

This will not only ensure the focus is firmly on the technical requirements of the industry but will also ensure a strong culture of safety and excellence can be embedded in training programs before people even enter the rail workforce.

And the time to create this capability is now. Because young people in particular are looking for new and rewarding career opportunities more than ever.

Even before the impact of COVID-19, conditions were not good for those just starting their careers.

In July, the Productivity Commission released a working paper that found the weak labour market that had emerged after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis had been bad news for young people.

In the decade that followed, there were full time jobs became harder to come by as part time employment began to rise.

Young people started on lower wages and found it harder to find their chosen roles, despite having a good education behind them.

For those who took a job that was less than what they hoped for just to get their start, their career trajectory did not always recover, and better jobs did not always come along.

Those challenges have only been compounded this year, with young people hit harder than most by job losses and employment insecurity in the wake
of the pandemic.

In this toughest of climates, there will be exceptional young people looking for career options that will last a lifetime, take them all over the world if they choose, and allow them to work in diverse roles on exciting projects.

What better time than now for the rail industry to step forward?

As an industry, a key part of attracting the best young people to work in
rail over the coming years will be highlighting the benefits we have to offer – both to individuals and the broader community.

The ARA’s Young Leaders Advisory Board has identified sustainability as one of its focus areas to do just that.

Speaking to the industry’s young leaders, we have heard time and again how the sustainability credentials of the industry, and the essential community service it provides, has been a driving force in determining their future in rail.

They tell us that seeing the industry’s role in helping people and businesses in their daily life is part of what makes them enjoy working in rail so much.

They also see the value of sustainable, long term infrastructure development in rail that can take more congestion off our roads and better connect our cities and towns than ever before.

The fact that the projects they work on are exciting, dynamic, innovative and ever- changing is icing on the cake.

It is these benefits that has led to many of our young leaders staking their claim for a long-term career in rail.

And it is these benefits, together with the opportunity to gain the skills needed to succeed in the industry, that will help us attract the next cohort of rail workers.

So, while we deal with the challenges 2020 has given us, we must also prepare for the growth that will follow in the years ahead.

Having the right people with the right skills in place will be key to our success.


A deep understanding: Trapeze’s EAM solution for rail

Designed with the rail worker in mind, Trapeze has an EAM solution built for the transportation industry.

On the walls of the asset management facilities for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) commuter rail services a sign in 2-inch high font reads, “If it’s not in Trapeze it never happened”.

Across the 13 commuter rail lines that operate under the MBTA, asset management is conducted through Trapeze’s enterprise asset management (EAM) platform. Used by six of the top ten largest rail networks in the US, the program provides a single source of truth for all assets within a rail organisation. Making this system successful, however, depends on it being adopted by all stakeholders throughout a rail network operator, making the second line in the MBTA banner even more important: “FEED TRAPEZE”.

Having maintenance workers, technicians, and engineers use a system such as Trapeze by nature, is one of the top three issues for the successful deployment of an enterprise asset management solution, noted Brett Koenig, industry solutions manager (enterprise asset management) at Trapeze.

“It’s a tool that at a large rail property will directly be used by, in many cases, hundreds of staff, if not thousands of staff,” said Koenig. “If we take one example in North America, Chicago Transit have 2,000 technicians that use our system every day to fix rollingstock assets, so that topic of what we call ‘change management’ or ‘cultural change’ is a really important one.”

To make the use of EAM second-nature, Trapeze has been designed with the rail worker in mind.

“The first thing, from a product perspective, is having a system built for the industry that is just drop dead simple for end users. If we talk about a technician fixing a railcar, most people in maintenance would agree they don’t want those guys messing around in computer systems any longer than necessary. What they want is for the system to help them do their job, by telling them about repeat problems, by quickly showing them the work history, by looking up parts, but then to be able to swiftly get back to fixing the asset itself.”

Trapeze provides EAM specifically to the rail and transportation industry and is designed to ensure that all rail network assets are operating in a state of good repair through intelligent asset management. The solution allows asset managers, owners, and capital planners to evaluate their equipment from a whole-of- lifecycle perspective and make evidence-based decisions about when to repair an asset, when to upgrade and when to decommission.

“The capital planning tools allow asset owners to be able to see where this physical infrastructure is in terms of its remaining useful life and then make good business decisions around whether it is cost effective for us to rehabilitate this particular series of railcar to extend their useful life, or should we replace them all together, based upon how they’ve been performing,” said Koenig.

In a shorter timeframe, Trapeze can also monitor and schedule daily maintenance through work and materials management to keep safety critical assets in safe working order.

While these and other similar functions are common to many asset management tools, Koenig highlights that Trapeze is built by and for the rail industry.

“What sets us apart is understanding the workflows and the roles within a rail enterprise at a deep level. If you take our work management capabilities, we built from the ground up screens designed specifically for rail supervisors, technicians, materials management, and parts clerks based upon how they interact.”

Beyond the workshop, Trapeze also has mobile capability for track workers and facilities maintenance. This enables Trapeze to encompass the complexities of a railway organisation, with both discrete and linear assets which can be at various stages of digital maturity.

“It’s not only just the vehicle side, as critical as the vehicles are, but it’s also the track and wayside infrastructure and the facilities and building maintenance. Across all of those areas you’ve got smart infrastructure and what we do at Trapeze is define the assets properly from the get-go, not only defining their master asset records, but the full engineering-approved configuration of those assets,” said Koenig. That gets into things like the parent/child relationships, the serialisation, and the other types of attributes that are critical for the assets to operate safely.”

Across such a broad array of different assets, made by any number of OEMs, Trapeze has a flexible tool that can receive data and interface with the digital components to provide real- time information on an asset’s health.

Recently, Trapeze was deployed on the Denver commuter rail network, and, being a greenfield deployment, was able to notify operations management in real time of any emerging faults in the system.

“We built a full integration with all of their SCADA systems as well as their onboard fault codes,” said Koenig. “The beautiful part about that is they’re being notified in real time about these problems before the component failure happens. As the fault occurs, it’s triggered into the EAM, the appropriate maintenance personnel are notified, and they can immediately get on it.”

Keolis Boston has made Trapeze second nature to rail maintenance staff.

Until recently, preventative and corrective maintenance was often carried out in silos. This limited the ability of railway operators to see trends within their maintenance data that could be used to schedule risk-based maintenance programs in rollingstock and track assets. Having a system such as Trapeze in place combines asset divisions, whether it be rollingstock, track, signalling, or facilities management to be able to extend the life and value of an asset.

“All of that data can be used to make better decisions around risk based maintenance, which assets are performing better than other series or other manufacturers’ assets, which ones should we be decommissioning sooner, versus which ones should we be extending the life of because it’s a high-quality piece of infrastructure that we want to keep going,” said Koenig. “All of that comes down again to the single source of truth and underscores why you really want to start with a solution that has the ability to track everything.”

To improve financial outcomes, maintenance workflows can be linked to purchasing decisions through integration with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

To improve operational outcomes, ensuring that maintenance is being conducted in a synchronised fashion stops bottlenecks from occurring when a system reaches a critical safety threshold.

For Australian commuters, this was illustrated in 2019 when an escalator linking platforms 9 and 10 at Southern Cross Station, in Melbourne, broke down, causing overcrowding as the escalator took over a week to fix. According to Michael Scollo, industry solutions manager (enterprise asset management) at Trapeze, this can happen when a system doesn’t have a holistic view and interface with all of the asset classes that need to be managed and maintained in a rail network.

“You can have great business processes for maintenance of way and rollingstock but overlooking a mechanical asset such as a lift can cause downtime for two weeks in a specific train station.”

Understanding that these systems are inextricably linked in a system such as a rail network is what distinguishes Trapeze, said Koenig.

“In rail, the assets and workflows are so complex that the model that we see working most effectively is a best-of-breed model where the folks in asset management and maintenance get a tool that is tailor made for what they do and then that tool set is integrated with the ERP system.”

In contrast, said Ben Dvoracek, general manager of rail, Australia and New Zealand for Trapeze, attempting to apply a non-rail specific ERP system to manage maintenance won’t cover the complexity of rail maintenance. In addition, while the system may be up to date when deployed, a non-rail specific solution cannot account for the changes within the rail industry.

“One of the things that we have seen is when an ERP system is deployed for finance or HR a decision can often be made to customise the ERP solution to support rail maintenance and asset management activities. Although the system can be adapted to do good things, when you’re not investing consistently into rail maintenance functionality and because it isn’t built for rail maintenance staff, the system usage and operational efficiency drops.”

To keep users up-to-date with the latest Trapeze has to offer, the company provides regular updates that draw on the best practices of global rail organisations. User organisations are able to vote on the most needed upgrades, which are released in new versions of the software. In addition, to keep users making the most of the improvements in functionality, Trapeze delivers training and refresher courses for new staff as generations turn over within a rail organisation.

Currently, said Koenig, Trapeze is looking into releasing a network restrictions capability before the end of 2020.

“Essentially it’s a capability for maintenance and operations to both track any areas along the alignment that need to be operating at a slower speed than it was normally designed for. We’re going to provide the ability to track those slow zones on the screen of the track manager who can see the assets in the linear reference system including all of the work laid out on an embedded map.”

Other future rail-specific improvements include track possession modules, linear visualisations based on geometry measurement, all highlighting how the tool is an EAM designed for rail.

Click here to learn more about the Trapeze Enterprise Asset Management Solution.

Read more


Women in Industry winners announced

On Monday, August 24, the winners of the Women in Industry awards for 2020 were announced.

Judge Melissa Donald, board member of the National Association of Women in Operations said that the quality of nominations made judging difficult.

“The calibre of nominees was so impressive, with a range of experience and backgrounds, which made judging challenging. Congratulations to the winners, whose achievements can inspire more women and men to pursue careers in operations and continue to drive better gender balance across all industries.”

The winners of each category are:

Social Leader of the Year – Jackie Lewis-Gray – BAE Systems Australia

Rising Star of the Year, sponsored by Atlas Copco – Alicia Heskett – Shell Australia (QGC)

Business Development Success of the Year – Rachael Ashfield – ifm efector

Industry Advocacy Award – Rose Read – National Waste & Recycling Industry Council

Safety Advocacy Award, sponsored by BOC ltd – Nadine Youssef – Sydney Trains

Mentor of the Year – Dayle Stevens – AGL Energy

Excellence in Manufacturing – Rochelle Avinu – Leica Biosystems

Excellence in Mining – Sarah Withell – Whitehaven Coal Limited

Excellence in Engineering, sponsored by BAE Systems Australia – Elizabeth Taylor – RedR International

Excellence in Transport – Melissa Strong – Lindsay Australia Limited

Hayley Rohrlach, 2020 chair of the National Committee for Women in Engineering said that the awards should serve as encouragement for all to continue to grow the industries they work in.

“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.”

New Learning Management System for RISSB

RISSB is stepping up its focus on training and will deliver courses online and face-to-face.

RISSB is launching a new learning management system (LMS) in the second half of 2020. The decision to invest in an LMS is part of a broader plan to automate RISSB processes and deliver more of its services virtually.

The online courses that will become available in late 2020 and early 2021 on the new LMS will be easy to enrol for, access, and complete. Among other things, the new system will enable course participants to learn at their own pace either in the workplace or from the comfort of their own home 24 hours a day, 7 days per week and access the LMS on multiple electronic devices. Being user friendly, the LMS will also make it easier for people to register to attend a RISSB course and pay for their course online by credit card in one single transaction.

In addition to offering online courses, the LMS will eventually contain a host of online resources that will assist with take-up of RISSB publications.

RISSB intends to apply for accreditation as a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) within the next year. As an RTO, RISSB will be able to offer accredited courses, reinforcing the value of RISSB’s training program to the broader rail industry.

RISSB has recently purchased a student management system in preparation for becoming an RTO. The benefits of the Student Management System are:

  • Streamlined enrolment process
  • Automated processing of enrolments
  • Instant invoicing and receipting
  • Linked with the LMS.

Since the implementation of government restrictions and social distancing, RISSB has opted to conduct face-to-face training only in those situations where the requirements of both the Commonwealth and the host state can be met. But once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, RISSB’s flagship Rail Safety Investigation, Derailment Investigation and Analysis, and Safety Critical Communications courses will continue to be delivered face-to-face in learning facilities located across Australia.

To register your interest to attend a course, or to enquire about training delivery for 10 or more people in your workplace, please send an email to


Repairs return WA grain line to service

The Piawaning to Miling section of the Toodyay West to Miling line has reopened to freight traffic, after repairs were completed to return the line to working condition.

The section of line, north-east of Perth, is used by growers to transport grain to ports such as Fremantle and Kwinana. Arc Infrastructure manages the network and carried out the work to repair the line.

This particular section of track was damaged in September 2019 when a CBH grain train derailed. Six wagons on the Watco-operated train derailed and no injuries occurred. The derailment was the second in the same area that year.

After the derailment, the line was closed to traffic but suffered significant damage in subsequent storms during the summer.

To get the line back into service work teams have re-railed almost 7.5km of track and replaced 2,500 sleepers.

Arc Infrastructure general manager commercial and development Nathan Speed said the credit should go to the teams involved.

“This is a great result for the teams who worked to complete this key maintenance task safely, enabling us to re-open this section of the line on schedule for the benefit of CBH and local grain farmers.”

Arc’s Mobile Maintenance Team and Central Team 3 completed the repairs, while ensuring that environmentally sensitive areas were not disturbed, said head of maintenance delivery Dan Ellis.

“These works were completed incident free by the Mobile Maintenance Team and Central Team 3 in 35 days which is a fantastic effort, especially considering they had to deal with washaways and changes arising from COVID-19.”

Ellis said the work required experience from many areas.

“This is a great example of major works completed with input from across the business, including but not limited to; Engineering, Network Strategy, Plant Department, Flashbutt Team, Planning Team, NIS, Central Teams, Commercial, Operations and Stakeholder Engagement.”

The line was reopened to traffic in May.

Canberra COVID

“People need to travel”

In one of the most disruptive events to occur since World War Two, transport leaders around Australia highlight the role that rail has played in getting Australia through COVID-19.

On Friday, March 13, thousands of spectators were queueing outside the gates to the Formula One Grand Prix in Albert Park, Melbourne. The late summer sun was beat down on the spectators as they waited for two hours to find out whether they would be let in. Finally, organisers confirmed that the event could not go ahead because of the fear of an outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). Extra trams were rapidly mobilised, and the crowds were herded onto public transport to take them back home, via the Melbourne CBD.

At the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) offices on Exhibition Street, director-general Corey Hannett was assessing the options for the state’s $70 billion of under- construction transport infrastructure spread across 119 major road and rail projects.

“I must admit, when the pandemic turned up in March, I think there were doubts that industry could work,” Hannett told Rail Express.

“At that time, we were looking right around the world at what was going on, and it was very clear that lots of countries were actually closing down.”

Indeed, other countries had entirely ceased all construction activity, except for projects specifically related to the COVID-19 response. In Ireland, almost €20bn ($32.57bn) worth of construction activity creased by March 28.

Unlike countries in Europe and Asia, at the time, the impact in Australia was relatively limited, with only 156 cases when Albert Park closed its gates. In Italy, deaths were already in the thousands.

“At the time, we really hadn’t had that massive impact from the COVID-19 infections that the rest of the world was experiencing, but it was fair to say we were very concerned that we had to make sure that we did things in a way that protected the workforce and the community,” said Hannett.

Across all of its sites, the MTIA and its delivery contractors put in place procedures to reduce the change of an outbreak at a construction site. Workers had to be spaced more the 1.5m apart, personal protective equipment was required, and extra hygiene measures were put in place. MTIA’s own staff moved to working from home and staggered shifts were enforced on work sites.

“Staggering when people start and finish toolbox meetings in the crib shed, getting extra crib sheds, getting extra cleaning in those crib sheds, getting an extra cleaning program of work across the whole sites,” lists Hannett.

All in all, roughly 18,000 people are employed to build road and rail projects under the MTIA umbrella across Melbourne and in regional Victoria. As of the end of June, there have been no significant disruptions to any of the construction programmes.

“I’m quite pleased to say so far so good, but we can only be as good as we are today and we need to keep that vigilance up and keep a heightened focus on making sure that we comply with the relevant rules to keep the community the workforce and ourselves safe.”

Hannett notes that while there has been a small loss in efficiency, the building program is continuing apace.

“In general, the program is in pretty good shape considering the pandemic which was forced upon us in March this year,” he said.

“I can’t imagine what the situation would be today if we had not had our 18,000 plus people not working.”

Canberrans had barely gotten the smell of bushfires out of their hair, clothing, and homes by the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit. After a torrid summer, Canberrans were using the newly commissioned light rail more than ever, which, according to ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel, led to an unexpected windfall.

“Thankfully in February this year, just prior to the pandemic starting, we actually increased the frequency of light rail to help manage the crowding that we had seen because we had so many people wanting to use light rail in Canberra.”

Frequency in the peaks was increased, and the peak period was stretched to 9.30am in the morning and 6.30pm in the evening. This extra capacity meant that the light rail could keep running and ensure that those workers who did need to travel were able to get to their jobs and people were able to access essential services during the lockdown.

To ensure the service was safe, a rapid program of adaptation was rolled out.

“We stepped up hygiene measures across public transport, including light rail, and one of the measures on light rail was to have automatic opening of the doors which wasn’t always the case on light rail,” said Steel.

Across the network, an extra 1,300 hours of cleaning was being conducted per week, and regular cleaners were assisted by over 30 workers hired by Transport Canberra who were stood down from their roles in the wider transport industry.

In Canberra and across Australia, most transport authorities are still encouraging passengers to travel outside of peak periods to avoid crowding. At the same time, Steel and others are concerned that road congestion is rising faster than public transport levels with the ACT at 85 per cent of pre-COVID traffic levels but public transport at less than half.

“We don’t want to see congestion reach even higher levels than it was before the pandemic because people are not using public transport, so we do need to encourage people back at an appropriate time,” said Steel.

“We’ve had for now several months the national cabinet and state premiers and chief ministers very clearly indicate to the community that they should avoid public transport during peak times and that is still the message.

“We also need to have an equally strong message at the appropriate time to welcome people back onto public transport – come and use it, it’s good for our community, it’s good for your health, it reduces congestion and all of the benefits that it provides.”

In Sydney, Howard Collins, chief operations officer for Transport for NSW and former chief executive of Sydney Trains cannot see a future where a return to public transport does not occur in some form.

“I just look at the maths and say we’re currently carrying 600,000 journeys across the transport network, about 350,000 people every day at the moment, compared with 1.3 million on rail before COVID. Where are those people – even if half of them come back – where are they going to go? I can’t imagine them all cycling down George Street. I can’t imagine we’ll get the cars moving more than about 5km/h if they all jumped in their cars. So, rail will have to take on that capacity, but it may be in a different context in terms of how we operate our train service.”

Prior to COVID-19, capacity on Sydney Trains was almost reaching breaking point, particularly in the peaks. With a 73 per cent drop in patronage, Collins is looking at the recovery from COVID-19 as a potential for change in the way the network operates.

“I think patronage will change, permanently. COVID-19, at the end of the day is an issue that has come along that has been really tragic and has been challenging, but it may well be a warning for things happening in the future. So, things have to change but I do believe that public transport and particularly rail is going to still have a major role.”

Collins is sceptical that there will be a wholescale shift to alternative working arrangements, such as working from home.

“Many people have said ‘Oh I’ll never going to be going to office anymore. I’m going to be working from home and I’ll be doing it in a café or bar or whatever it is.’ I do think there’s this human nature of getting together and while we all say we’re coping with Teams and remote working there will be a resurgence of people wanting to cluster and get together, whether that’s socially or for work reasons no matter how good our Zoom or Teams structure is. People will be back, but it will be different.”

During the lockdown, Sydney Trains has increased services during the peak to cope with demand, as well as run extra light rail services. With an unclear future still ahead, to many, what this has demonstrated is the need for flexibility in time-tabling and capacity.

“We certainly need greater flexibility and if you look at Sydney Metro, boy they can switch on and off a flattening peak or an increased fleet just by the press of a button, and the trains pop out of their depot without any care or concern,” said Collins.

“But we know that people still need to travel within certain times. If tradies still sign on as they do every day in Sydney at 7 o’clock then we’re still going to get that massive tradie peak. If schools still operate in the time scale that tends to suit both their parents and teachers, you’re not going to see the flattening of the peak. We will certainly see others spreading the load – particularly office workers – but I think it’s going to be more resistant to change than perhaps some of the theorists believe when it comes to peak services.”

Many have noted that COVID-19 is two crises. First, the health pandemic, and second, the economic crisis caused by the shutdown of businesses and the restrictions on movement and gathering. While testing, contact tracing, and medical care can limit the first crisis, there is more debate over how to grapple with the second.

Infrastructure spending has emerged as one way that governments are dealing with the economic crisis. Rail is one area of infrastructure that has been targeted with spending. Already, in Sydney, Metro Greater West, now known as Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport has had funding committed by both state and federal governments, to begin construction before the end of 2020. Approvals for Inland Rail have been fast- tracked. In Victoria, the Level Crossings Removal Project is ramping up and extra money is being spent on regional track and repairs to stations.

While some have argued that smaller infrastructure projects provide more benefits, according to Hannett, all projects should be seen as helping the wider economy.

“A project creates jobs, it boosts the economy, and it also has a significant economic benefit. The fact is. big or small. they do create jobs they do create economic benefit.”

Shadow Infrastructure Minister Catherine King highlighted that now is the time to invest in nation-building infrastructure.

“I think that one of the things that coronavirus crisis has shown us is that while we’ve had infrastructure projects and rail projects, we’ve sort of lacked any large scale, iconic infrastructure transport project,” she told Rail Express.

In May, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese reaffirmed the Labor Party’s commitment to high speed rail from Melbourne to Brisbane, via Sydney and Canberra. According to King, such a project goes well beyond reducing congestion on the air route between Melbourne and Sydney.

“One is the investment potential that it has, but also the nation building potential that it has, in terms of developing a much stronger sense of regional and decentralised regional towns from Melbourne from Sydney, all the way up to Brisbane, and the capacity and possibility of that as we grow as a nation.”

While COVID-19 has been a tragic event, the rail industry is beginning to emerge with a renewed focus on flexibility in operations and the nation-shaping role that rail infrastructure can have.


Beat the clock: Maximising rail crew hours of service

Long hours for rail crew and continuous operations are the norm in the rail industry and especially so in today’s challenging times of unpredictability. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) estimates fatigue is a contributing factor in 25 per cent of serious train accidents caused by human factors. In addition, contact tracing have become the new normal.

Are you able to ensure the safety of crew members who may have co-located together in a cabin? If a crew member falls sick, will you be able to implement contact tracing quickly?

Download this whitepaper to learn how you can truly get ahead of the competition with an intelligent, integrated planning and optimisation solution that provides complete visibility into the hours-of-service limits and real-time decision support. By adopting an intelligent approach to workforce management can transform your business and give you a competitive edge.