Recognising 40 years of railway innovation

Australia’s premier applied research centre in railway technology last week celebrated four decades of innovative solutions in mining and commuter rail systems.

A Celebration of 40 Years of Railway Research andTechnology was held last Thursday at the Park Hyatt, Melbourne, to celebrate the 40 years of railway research and technology by Monash University’s Institute of Railway Technology (IRT).

Originally part of research activities undertaken for the companies now known as BHP Billiton Iron Ore and Rio Tinto Iron Ore, IRT is now an applied research centre at Monash University. It provides technical assistance to the world’s three biggest iron ore producers, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Vale (Brazil), and more than 90 other railway entities, including leading commuter rail authorities.

IRT, which has clients in several countries, specialises in providing comprehensive solutions to technical issues in existing rail systems, whether they transport iron ore, freight or commuters. IRT is also a leader in remotely monitoring tracks and rolling stock using cutting-edge technology to detect faults before catastrophic failures occur.

Monash University’s senior deputy vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor (research) Professor Edwina Cornish, congratulated IRT on leading the Australian railway technology field for four decades.

“The Institute of Railway Technology is a great example of how universities and industry can collaborate to develop solutions that drive technology forward,” Prof Cornish said.

“IRT was born out of industry need and now real-world problems continue to drive its agenda.”

Director of IRT, Ravi Ravitharan, said the institute was set to build on its success.

“IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements of the rail industry,” Ravitharan said.

“Being part of Australia’s largest university, IRT is well-placed to continue to lead the railway research and technology needs of the rejuvenated railway industry.”

The Victorian minister for public transport Terry Mulder, delivered the keynote address at the gala dinner and general manager of infrastructure at the Hong Kong rail authority MTR, Richard Keefe, and rail engineering manager at Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Leland LeBreton, both long term clients of IRT, also spoke at the event.

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | Newcastle City Hall
www.informa.com.au/heavyhaulrail

International case study: US heavy haul research

Transportation Technology Center Inc. a subsidiary of the Association of AmericanRailroads, is a global leader in heavy haul R&D. TTCI president Roy A Allen provides readers an insight into research that has added significant value to US heavy haul railway operations.

In the 1970s, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) implemented two large cooperative research programs. One, which continues today, was focused on ways to improve the damage resistance of tank cars involved in accidents and, in particular, on how to prevent the most serious causes of failure.

The other was the Track-Train Dynamics Program, with goals to reduce excessive “train action,” improve operating practices, and improve dynamic stability in general. This research effort continued for more than 15 years and played a huge role in improving the safety and efficiency of train operations in the US.

Today, TTCI continues a very vibrant research program, with a major goal of understanding the technical, safety, and economic issues related to track performance for high tonnage freight traffic and heavy axle loads (HAL).

Achieving lower unit costs for each ton carried by the North American railway industry was facilitated by carefully reviewing and studying the effects of 33 (36-ton) and 35-tonne (39-ton) axle loads before the final decision was made to go with 33-tonne (36-ton) axle loads. The net benefits of the 33-tonne (36-ton) axle load operations are estimated at billions of dollars.

The focus of track and structures research has been to mitigate the effects of dynamic loading and lower the stress state of the railway.  This was accomplished by the development of fatigue and wearresistant rail steels, elimination of discontinuities in the track, such as flangeway gaps at frogs, optimisation of contact stresses by wheel and rail running surface profile, and smoothing track transitions, such as at bridge approaches.

Currently there are 11 super premium and eight intermediate hardness rail steels going through wearand fatigue performance at the Facility for Accelerated Service Testing (FAST), Pueblo, Colorado.

A recent rail-life post-audit of TTCI’s rail research indicated that rail life increased approximately 12% on tangent track, and from 12% to 69 percent on curved track, depending on degree of track curvature between 1994 and 2008.

The performance of special trackwork through the development of improved design and materials has improved dramatically since HAL research began in 1988.  Elimination of unsupported wheels across flangeway gaps has resulted in reduced frog maintenance, fewer speed restrictions, and increased component service lives.

Other research and development, often in conjunction with suppliers, has resulted in:

  • New designs of joint bars, joint configurations, and foundations that have more than doubled the life of rail joints in heavy haul service;
  • Recent innovations in concrete tie design, which include use of more complex shapes that increase the vertical and lateral “footprints” of the tie to increase track alignment and surface durability.
  • Best practice guidelines that continue to reduce the maintenance and repair costs of vintagerailway bridges, including.  Science-based inspection methods and advanced fatigue models and analysis tools and high-strength, lightweight materials, such as composites to improve the effectiveness and economics of either strengthening or replacement.
  • Improved track inspection procedures, including performance-based track geometry inspection using neural-network based expert systems, rail neutral temperature measurement systems, and improved rail flaw inspection systems.
  •  Science-based rail grinding methods and friction control systems to extend the life of rail with overa thousand systems deployed in curved-track territory in North America.

Last, but certainly not least, North American railroads and freight car owners are currently using a new process of condition-based freight car maintenance strategies designed to ensure that adverse vehicle conditions are identified and rectified. TTCI has led and continues to lead the development of wayside detector systems currently in use in North America.

Most recently, TTCI has been working on machine-vision based automated vehicle inspection systems.

Data collected from the detectors is stored in the InteRRIS® database, TTCI’s Integrated RailwayRemote Information Service. This database provides users with the capability to make predictive, condition-based maintenance decisions without having to rely solely on visual inspection.  InteRRIS® gathers detector data over the Internet and feeds actionable readings to Railinc’s (a subsidiary company of the AAR) Equipment Health Management System (EHMS) for dissemination to railroads and other car owners.

The EHMS uses automated equipment identification data acquired from detector sites to inform the wagon owner to perform the required maintenance and repair of their equipment.

Heavy haul railways around the world provide the safest, most efficient, and environmentally friendly mode of transporting freight. TTCI will continue its role in railway research and innovation by improving asset utilization and productivity; improving safety of rail transportation in rolling stock, track, and train operations; improving power systems to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions; and improving methods and tools for better customer service and service reliability.

For more on R&D, including an analaysis of Australian cutting-edge heavy haul research being conducted by Monash University’s Institute of Railway Technology (IRT) and Central Queensland University’s Centre for Railway Engineering (CRE), see the August harcopy edition of Rail Express.

Wireless technology boosts Tasmanian level crossing safety

An intelligent wireless advance warning and safety system, SafeZone, that is beyond Australian safety standards has been installed at 13 level crossings across Tasmania.

The Federally funded $4m project, delivered by the Tasmanian Government in conjunction with TasRail, provides wireless roadside active advance warning signs with twin flashing lights around 200-300 metres in advance of the level crossings, and in-road centreline alert beacons between the advance warning sign and the crossing.

Australian company, Inventis Technology, which developed SafeZone over the past two years, said the key to the technology was that it addressed basic human behaviour, rather than being a variant on existing static roadside or over-road signs.

Inventis Technology national sales manager Peter Macarthur said the key to SafeZone was that it addressed basic human behaviour, rather than being a variant on existing static roadside or over-road signs.

“SafeZone places the key element of a warning system in a driver’s and their passengers’ field of vision where it is more likely to be acknowledged. It more instinctively ‘switches on’ a person’s ‘alert state’,” Macarthur said.

“By doing this repeatedly and in plenty of time to elicit a response, SafeZone is hoped to become an important part of the rail safety improvement in all states.”

Macarthur said that discussions are underway with a number of transport authorities to deploy thetechnology for use at dangerous level crossings and the overhwleming response has been that thetechnology fits well with current holistic, integrated approaches to safety improvement.

“Now is the time for Australian Transport Council members and representatives to truly assess for themselves the safety and behavioural impact SafeZone is having on road and rail users in Tasmania,” Macarthur said.

SafeZone been installed at level crossings across Tasmania including Tea Tree, Evandale, Perth, Conara, Colebrook, Avoca, Ormley, Burnie, Highclere and Hampshire.

Rail turnout - RISSB

Future locos to focus on fuel and emissions

Technology roadmaps for locomotives of the future focus on two key areas according to GE Transportation’s Pete Lawson: fuel and emissions.

“The reason for that is, there is an increasing emissions regulatory environment where we sell locomotives and…where there isn’t a regulatory environment, anytime we can lower fuel is a good thing for better operations,” Lawson told Rail Express yesterday at AusRAIL PLUS.

About 75 per cent of the diesel electric market worldwide is operating under some kind of local emission regulation. America leads the way in terms of the toughest and most restrictive regulatoryenvironment for locomotives.

“The EPA doesn’t just look at meeting the levels for emissions when you ship your product new, it also requires the unit to be compliant for its useful life and…the EPA has the ability to grab a unit at any point in time…and test it to validate emissions are being maintained,” Lawson said.

Australia has no emission regulations for locomotives and nothing planned for the future. However, Lawson believes this is necessary as a responsible “citizen of the world”, especially since there is existing technology which allows locomotives to operate at significantly lower emissions levels.

The Railway Technical Society of Australasia’s executive chairman Martin Baggott told Rail Expresseven though locomotive emissions are not legislated in Australia eventually, “one way or the other this will come about”, either through direct regulation or implied through an ETS or a carbon charge.

But the Federal Government’s current ETS does not include transportation –something the industry has taken issue with – with implications for companies having to set their own emissions benchmarks.

Lawson’s final words to AusRAIL PLUS delegates were timely for industry players in Australia.

Effective emissions regulations in America has resulted in significant improvements for theenvironment, safety, operations and cost, he said.
“As a rail industry it’s critically important that we be an extremely active participant in the development of any emissions safety or regulation. At the end of the day the OEMs and operators are going to have to live with those regulations and implement them and having input and a voice in the development of those is critical,” he said.

“We must continue to invest and look forward in technology; it’s difficult to do in a downward cycle, but if you stop and take your eye off the future, the catch-up is nearly impossible.

“Cleaner and greener can be a very cost effective solution for operators and do not have to be mutually exclusive.”

Rail technology roadmaps: a Canadian perspective

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

By Jennifer Perry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARTC gets $62.3m AusLink funds for better train communications

The Australian Rail Track Corporation will build a fully interoperable and compatible communications system for trains using its interstate and Hunter Valley networks.

The Federal Government-owned corporation will also develop the blueprint for an advanced train management system (ATMS) that will include satellite-based train location technology and in-cab signalling – developments that will enable greater coal train capacity in the Hunter Valley.

Federal transport minister John Anderson said $62.3m of AusLink funds would be spent on rail communications technology on ARTC networks.

This breaks down as $42m for the development of the train communications system and $20.3m for the ATMS blueprint.

“The communications system will be based on Telstra’s code division multiple access (CDMA)technology,” Mr Anderson said.

The technology will provide a single communications medium to replace nine separate communications systems, he said.

Mr Anderson said the ATMS technology would enable more trains to operate on Hunter Valley tracks with a higher level of safety than at present.