Maintenance for a new generation: A look inside the Wulkuraka Maintenance Centre

With all of the New Generation Rollingstock now in passenger service, Bombardier is now ensuring the fleet’s service, safety, and reliability from its base in Wulkuraka.

With the purchase of the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR), Queensland made the largest ever single investment in public transport in the state’s history. Not only did this introduce new rollingstock, but brought rail in Queensland back to where it all began, in Ipswich.

The QTECTIC consortium – of which Bombardier Transportation (BT) is a member – is delivering the NGR program and has constructed a purpose-built maintenance facility at Wulkuraka, west of Ipswich.

For decades, Ipswich was the centre of rail construction, maintenance and technology in Queensland. Over 150 years ago, the very first train to run in Queensland steamed through Wulkuraka on its way from North Ipswich to Grandchester, just west of Ipswich.

Fast forward to December 2015 and the Wulkuraka Maintenance Centre was handed over to Bombardier to receive the first NGR train in February 2016 for early testing. The depot completion then occurred in June 2016, a major milestone for the project. The first three trains were accepted in October-November 2017. By December the first three trains were in passenger service. At the end of 2019, the final train in the 75-strong fleet had arrived and was accepted into passenger service. This marked a key turning point for the facility, as it now became solely focused on ensuring the modern trains meet and exceed the ongoing performance to ensure the travelling public enjoy safe, reliable and clean trains all while providing passenger comfort.

To meet this challenge, Bombardier Transportation recently brought on Ben Wagener, an experienced rail manager with a safety-first mindset in alignment with Bombardier’s ethos, as general manager on the QNGR program. Having most recently managed maintenance in NSW for Aurizon, Wagener saw the opportunity for a new challenge.

“Bombardier Transportation is a global leader in rail and rollingstock and I was very keen to be a part of a place where safety of all personnel is a key part of the maintenance philosophy. I also wanted to leverage the latest vehicle technology at the purpose built Wulkuraka facility to assist in delivering infrastructure critical to the people of Queensland,” said Wagener.

“Being part of a public-private partnership (PPP) creates a new dynamic for me and a project like this brings challenges and opportunities. There are multiple stakeholders such as delivery consortium QTECTIC, the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, our union partners at the RTBU and AMWU, and of course our subcontractors. I also have previous relationships within Queensland Rail which I was keen to reignite. So, this is a really interesting place to be as there is a diversity of equally valuable views around the table,” said Wagener.

“The opportunity opens new pathways into executive management and, having studied my MBA, it was simply an offer I could not refuse.”

Getting performance levels to meet goals is a key outcome of any maintenance contract, and with Bombardier contracted to deliver maintenance to 2045, having an innovative rail maintenance centre sets the team up for success.

“Everything is safety focused. All of the kit and facility is new, there are less hazards and legacy infrastructure to deal with, and the movement of vehicles is easy due to the size of the facility. This should also eliminate many depot capacity constraints,” said Wagener.

“Ultimately, if you have the right tools and right equipment in the right location, you will have a quality outcome. We are here for the long haul in Queensland, so our goal is to always keep our people safe and delight our customers and
the commuting public.”

Of course, early teething issues have had to be overcome, but the opportunity to work on advanced pieces of rollingstock that are critical for the state’s growth has motivated Wagener’s team.

“The team is working on world class technology. It’s exciting to be involved in this, using enhanced metrics and computerised processes,” said Wagener. “I’m focused on building this sense of camaraderie among the team around our shared purpose for the people of Queensland. Having a place that people are proud to work at drives efficiency in our processes.”

The purpose-built Wulkuraka facility is focused on maintaining the NGR fleet to the highest standards.

The access to the latest fleet performance data generated by the locally designed trains has informed maintenance practices so far.

“There is an opportunity to align asset management standard 55001, sustainability, and the maintenance required on some of the new technology,” said Wagener.

While the maintenance of the NGR fleet presents new opportunities, it is supported by Bombardier’s knowledge and experience when it comes to the maintenance and servicing of rollingstock.

Wagener’s team in Queensland share relationships with key Bombardier suppliers and systems that are deployed on other Bombardier fleets around Australia and internationally.

“We very much work as a team and we draw insights and processes from other locations that can help us at a new facility like we have at Wulkuraka and outstations,” said Wagener. “Further to this, we have a baseline of standard processes and procedures across the services business and support from multiple projects not only around the nation, but the globe.”

These common systems and processes provide the backbone for Bombardier’s ongoing commitment to Queensland’s transport and mobility.

“We are here for the long haul and the safe performance of these vehicles is a key priority. We are growing industry capacity through our work with the Rail Manufacturing CRC and have apprentices on site and we always want more. Building the next generation of rail workers for Queensland is important for our site and also BT more generally,” said Wagener.

This support of the industry also extends to contracts with local suppliers and subcontractors. The community is also invited to be involved with the project over the next 25 years as it becomes enmeshed in the Wulkuraka environment.

“We want to be sustainable centre of excellence and support this community and our people,” said Wagener.

As the population of Queensland grows and is concentrated in the south east region, the increase in rail network capacity engendered by the NGR will be reliant upon the continuation of a heritage of expertise at the Wulkuraka maintenance site.

IBAC announces corruption investigation into V/Line and Metro

Victoria’s Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) has formally announced that it is conducting an investigation into serious corrupt conduct in Victoria’s public transport sector.

The announcement follows months of rumours which have swirled since V/Line CEO James Pinder was stood down by the Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll in August.

The investigation will focus on procurement and tendering processes within the Victorian public transport sector, with suggestions that cleaning contracts may be a focus.

IBAC commissioner Robert Redlich said the investigation would cover the management of contracts between V/Line, Metro and suppliers.

“The hearings will examine the effectiveness of controls associated with the proper delivery of essential services in the state’s public transport system during a time of critical importance to the health and wellbeing of Victorians,” said Redlich.

Hearings will begin on Monday, October 26 and be streamed online.

“As part of IBAC’s focus on preventing corruption, the public hearings will also consider whether the current systems and controls are sufficient to protect the integrity of the tendering and procurement process, and examine potential systemic issues, including how organisational culture and practices may have contributed,” said Redlich.

Hearings will look into whether contract tender and procurement processes were swayed by monetary incentives or gifts.

Since being stood down, Pinder has been replaced by Gary Liddle, who had previously steered V/Line through a troubled period in 2016 when safety concerns led to regional services not being able to travel through Melbourne. Nick Foa, head of transport services at the Department of Transport briefly stood in before Liddle was appointed.

Metro Trains rollingstock manager Peter Bollas was also stood down in August due to the same investigation.

Aurizon targets net zero operational emissions by 2050

Aurizon will invest $50m in low carbon locomotives such as battery and hydrogen-powered trains to meet a net zero goal by 2050.

The freight hauler and network owner will also look to maximise the benefits of the electrified freight network in Queensland, particularly as more renewable energy is fed into the grid.

Managing director and CEO of Aurizon, Andrew Harding said that the company was confident that technology would meet the company’s goals.

“We are confident that rapidly-advancing technology in the rail sector will unlock major benefits like we are seeing in motor vehicles, energy generation and general industry. Our focus will be low-carbon technology for our locomotive fleet which accounts for more than 90 per cent of Aurizon’s CO2 emissions.”

In addition to actions undertaken internally, Aurizon will also push for government action.

“We directly advocate for policy actions to increase the use of rail freight on key national freight corridors. Our aim is to ensure that rail freight remains competitive and part of the solution as the economy transitions to a low-carbon future,” said Harding.

The company’s commitment follows the latest Sustainability Report from the freight operator. In the report, Aurizon advocates for lowered electricity costs to reduce the risk of substituting electric locomotives for diesel-powered trains. In addition, Aurizon outlines that the company has been advocating for greater infrastructure investment, improvements to regulation and finding efficiencies at interfaces between modes.

To meet the goal of lower emissions, Aurizon said that it would be making significant investments in new rollingstock shortly.

“Aurizon is already working with other railroads and manufacturers on the early development of battery and hydrogen-powered locomotives for deployment in a heavy-haul railway environment. This includes options of upgrades to the existing fleet and new rollingstock. We would expect to see prototypes trialling on our network by 2025, as technology advances and costs come down further,” said Harding.

“Locomotives are long-life assets of 20 – 30 years. We have some significant decisions ahead in renewing our locomotive fleet – potential game-changers for the freight industry – when we invest in the next generations of rollingstock to power our business through to 2050.”

Queensland Labor promises $1bn pipeline of local train manufacturing

The Queensland Labor government has promised that if returned at the upcoming state election it would create a $1 billion rail manufacturing pipeline in Maryborough.

Labor would purchase 20 new trains at a cost of $600 million to be built in Maryborough. This is in addition to the $300m, 10-year pipeline of maintenance work of the existing Queensland Rail fleet and the $85m invested in refurbishing the New Generation Rollingstock to make the trains compliant with the Disability Act.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also announced $1m for a business case for the replacement of regional carriages, which is expected to lead to $150m in works also delivered by Downer.

“This $1 billion train building program heralds a new and ambitious chapter for manufacturing, not just for Maryborough, but for Queensland,” said Palaszczuk.

“This long-term future pipeline of work means there will be rewarding long-term career paths for our young people in trades like boilermaking, fitter machining and as electricians.”

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie said the investment highlighted Australia’s local manufacturing capabilities.

“This commitment would transform the face of Queensland manufacturing and shows once and for all that trains can and should be built here in Australia,” said Wilkie.

“We are pleased this commitment has recognised Australia’s extensive expertise in the field and the need to invest to this scale in the local industry.”

Queensland Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the tender process would require the trains to be built in Maryborough.

“Train manufacturers will be invited to bid in a procurement process to build the next fleet of passenger trains in Maryborough, with an order for 20 new six-car trains needed to support more frequent services once Cross River Rail opens in 2025,” he said.

“The initial order could be followed with an option to build up to 45 additional six-car trains in Maryborough, to meet future demand on the Citytrain network.”

In addition to trains built in Queensland for the Queensland network, Perth’s B-Series trains were manufactured in Maryborough.

Queensland’s latest train fleet, the New Generation Rollingstock, were manufactured overseas, however whilst compliant with the specification under which they were ordered, had to be retrofitted to meet Australian accessibility requirements

“This investment in rail manufacturing would ensure the trains operating on the state’s newest passenger rail line are absolutely fit for purpose and made for Australian conditions by the people that know them best,” said Wilkie.

First train arrives at Kangy Angy Maintenance Facility

The first train of the New Intercity Fleet has travelled to the Kangy Angy Maintenance facility on the NSW Central Coast from Sydney.

The journey is part of the testing phase of the new fleet of 55 10 car trains and is one of the first of many trips to the Central Coast that the fleet will make, said local member Adam Crouch.

“The Central Coast and Newcastle Line will be the first in NSW to benefit from the New Intercity Fleet, which will deliver safer, more accessible and comfortable journeys,” Crouch said.

“The 24-hour-run Kangy Angy Maintenance Facility was purpose-built for the New Intercity Fleet, where the trains will be washed, maintained and serviced. It is close to 500,000 square metres in size, has about six kilometres of electric rail lines, a new rail bridge and offices and amenities for staff.”

The maintenance facility was completed in late August and was constructed by John Holland. UGL Rail will operate the facility as part of the RailConnect consortium which has built and designed and will maintain the fleet.

There are currently the trains from the New Intercity Fleet that are undergoing testing ahead of a larger roll-out later in 2020. The Central Coast and Newcastle Line will be the first line to have the fleet introduced into passenger service.

The New Intercity Fleet replace the V-set trains and come with accessibility and comfort upgrades, said NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance.

“Customers on the New Intercity Fleet will enjoy more spacious two-by-two seating, mobile device charging ports, modern heating and air conditioning, and dedicated spaces for luggage, prams and bicycles,” Constance said.

“Automatic Selective Door Operation, obstruction detection and traction interlocking are just some of the safety features on these new trains.”

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said the trains are hoped to make public transport preferred for regional residents.

“These new trains are fully accessible for our less mobile customers, building upon our vision to help make public transport a first-choice option for people living in the regions,” said Toole.

WA budget includes $1.7bn for rail projects

The Western Australia government will invest $1.7 billion in Metronet projects in this financial year.

The figure comes from the WA state budget, released on October 8, and is in addition to the $1.5bn in federal funding for Metronet.

Projects to be funded this year include the Forrestfield-Airport Link project, which is expected to be completed in late 2021, the first $275.3 million for locally made rollingstock and the assembly and manufacturing facility in Bellevue, and $195m for the Thornlie-Cockburn link.

In addition, level crossings, new stations and carparks, and the extension of existing rail lines are included in the 2020-2021 budget.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the total investment over the forward estimates would support the WA economy out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To keep our local economy strong, the state Budget delivers a record $27 billion in infrastructure investment over the next four years, including construction and manufacturing work for Metronet and major roads across WA,” he said.

“We’ve worked hard to establish a major pipeline of work to support local jobs and help guide Western Australia’s economy out of the COVID-19 pandemic, while ensuring we’re delivering and building major projects for tomorrow.”

The funding in this year’s budget ensures that current projects can continue and procurement can take the next step forward in the 2020-2021 financial year. Contracts are expected to be signed and work to begin shortly on the Byford Rail Extension, New Midland Station, and level crossing removals on the Inner Armadale Line. Final negotiations for the construction contract for the Morley-Ellenbrook line are expected to be completed soon.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said skills and training would be part of the major construction investment.

“These projects won’t just change the way we travel, they will also have a huge role in supporting local jobs and training opportunities, with more than 10,000 jobs expected to be supported as part of these METRONET investments,” she said.

“This year’s investment will allow for continued delivery of the Thornlie-Cockburn Link, Yanchep Rail Extension and Forrestfield-Airport Link, but we’re not stopping there.

“Even more projects are in the pipeline, ensuring we’re delivering and building the infrastructure needed for tomorrow.”

Albanese launches Labor’s Rail Manufacturing Plan

A National Rail Manufacturing Plan would be formed to ensure that federal money spent on rail projects in Australia leads to local manufacturing of rollingstock if Labor was elected federally.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese used his budget reply speech to announce the plan, which could identify and optimise the opportunities to build freight and passenger trains in Australia.

Included in the plan are measures such as the establishment of an Office of National Rail industry Coordination (ONRIC) to audit the adequacy, capacity, and condition of passenger trains and develop priority plans. Labor would also reinstate the Rail Supplier Advocate to help small to medium sized enterprises find national and export opportunities and create a Rail Industry Innovation Council to spur more local research & development.

Labor estimates that the plan would create up to 659 full-time jobs, and boost Australia’s GDP by up to $5 billion.

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie said a coordinated approach to rail manufacturing would help local industry and governments.

“Rail manufacturers currently have to navigate a very fragmented market to address different approaches between state and territories,” Wilkie said.

“This severely limits the industry’s ability to gain the scale it needs to create efficiencies and foster more innovation in the Australian market.

“Policies that support a strong Australian rail manufacturing sector will ultimately lead to better deals for governments and create more jobs in the process.”

Local manufacturers of rollingstock also reacted positively to the Labor plan. Todd Garvey, Head of Sales Australia and New Zealand at Bombardier Transportation said that coordination would ensure that Australia’s rail manufacturing industry continues to thrive.

“Bombardier was encouraged by the focus on our industry in the budget reply speech by the Opposition Leader on October 8. In particular, the establishment of the ONRIC within the Department of Industry and the commitment to ‘manufacturing trains here’ in Australia.”

Garvey noted that Bombardier’s factory in Dandenong builds trains and trams not only for Victoria, but other states including South Australia.

The ARA has been pushing for consistency across state governments in rollingstock and signalling tenders to better leverage existing local capabilities.

Around Australia, the rollingstock manufacturing and repair industry generates $2.4bn and employs over 4,000 people, half outside metropolitan areas. Garvey highlighted that Bombardier’s presence in south east Melbourne supports a wider manufacturing ecosystem.

“In Dandenong we employ over 200 manufacturing workers and support a vibrant rail supply chain in south east Melbourne. This supply chain supports our carriage building, welding and fit out for our trams and trains. This is important, our local content on the VLocity trains is 69 per cent and around 55 per cent for our E-Class trams. Not only this but in Victoria alone we have a significant servicing and maintenance business operating out of West Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat East.”

Wilkie said that a focus on innovation now would set up Australia’s rail manufacturing industry for the future.

“Investment in R&D and innovation leads to a better infrastructure network for Australians and improved efficiencies for industry,” she said.

“Government and industry must work together to advance rail technology and innovation adoption, based on clear policy settings that provide the certainty needed for long term investment.”

Garvey said that in Bombardier’s case, local manufacturing was building a skills base for quality Australian manufacturing.

“Bombardier is committed to building rail cars in Australia. Not only are we committed to this industry but also to the next generation. We have apprentices at Dandenong and a commitment to diversity. Our on-site welding school is testament to this fact and we will not stop making trains and trams to the highest quality Australian standards.”

Hydrogen

Hydrogen train test in the Netherlands meets all requirements

Hydrogen trains have met all four test requirements in a trial conducted in the Dutch province of Groningen.

Local operator Arriva trialled Alstom’s Coradia iLint trains, in partnership with railway infrastructure manager ProRail and energy company Engie over two weeks in March, 2020. The trains were tested on the line between Groningen and Leeuwarden.

The trial had four objectives for the hydrogen-powered trains: authorisation by the Dutch national safety assessor to run on the Dutch railway network; zero emissions in the commercial service of the current timetable; quick and easy refuelling; and familiarising the general public with hydrogen mobility.

On all four objectives, the trains met the requirements.

“The tests have demonstrated how our hydrogen train is mature in terms of availability and reliability, providing the same performance as diesel equipment, and with the benefit of low noise and zero emissions. The Coradia iLint hydrogen train supports the transition towards global sustainable transport systems,” said Bernard Belvaux, managing director, Alstom Benelux.

To meet the commercial service performance requirement, the trains were tested on an all stations service and an express timetable. The trains were tested on fuel consumption, compatibility with infrastructure, acceleration, braking, docking, and maximum speed. All went without a hitch.

During the trials, the trains were found to be significantly quieter than current diesel trains. Drivers were also familiarised with the trains and found them smooth, comfortable, and easy to drive.

Powered by hydrogen produced from renewable energy, refuelling went faster than expected and was conducted safely.

The Netherlands follows Germany in testing Alstom’s hydrogen-powered trainsets.

“After Germany, the Netherlands is the second country in Europe where the Alstom’s hydrogen train has proven itself a unique emissions-free solution for non-electrified lines,” said Belvaux.

Other trails and plans for implementation are being developed in Austria, Italy, and the UK.

Bombardier Movia

Bombardier awarded maintenance, communications contracts in Singapore

Bombardier will provide maintenance services for 636 Bombardier Movia metro cars currently being delivered for Singapore’s North-South and East-West Lines.

The maintenance contract extends Bombardier’s provision of rollingstock and services to the city, with the company providing two orders of metro cars.

The contract is the second services contract of this scope for Bombardier in Singapore, after being awarded a 10-year maintenance and spares support contract for 32 Innovia Automated People Mover (APM) used on the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit line.

The Movie metro trainsets will arrive from 2021 and are being manufactured in China by the Bombardier and Changchun Railway Vehicles joint venture.

Jayaram Naidu, president of Southeast Asia region, for Bombardier Transportation said the company would support the growth of Singapore’s public transport network.

“We are proud to continue playing such a major role, contributing to Singapore’s public transport network and supporting our customer’s ambitious expansion plan to grow its rail network to 360 km by the 2030s.”

Naidu said the company would ensure the trains maximise their availability.

“We will maintain their assets to the highest levels of reliability and availability throughout their lifecycle and ensure that the trains move people safely and on-time to their destinations.”

Earlier in September, Bombardier also won the contract to enhance the communication system on currently in service Movia rollingstock on the Singapore Downtown line. The upgrades cover digitalising the dynamic route map display from LED to LCD, installing train control monitoring system and automatic track inspection system software.

“This new contract to boost the performance and functionality of the MOVIA metro fleet on Singapore’s Downtown line is testament to Bombardier’s pioneering technology advances in train optimisation and upgrades for our customers. Singapore has always been a showcase for Bombardier’s innovative mobility solutions, from driverless technologies to TCMS methodologies,” said Naidu.

The driverless Movia metro trains on the Downtown line operate on one of the longest automated systems.

New Intercity Fleet reach Lithgow after Blue Mountains Line upgrades

Testing of the New Intercity Fleet has seen the electric trains reach Lithgow, the first new electric train to do so since the final V-Set was introduced.

Until recently, newer regional electric trains such as the Oscar train sets and the Tangara fleet have not been able to travel past Springwood due to limitations on the line.

Tight bends and narrow tunnels mean that only Narrow Electric standard rollingstock have been able to travel west of Springwood, meaning V-Sets were the only regional trains to take passengers further.

Engineering works to widen the line and extend platforms mean that the new trains are now able to run to Lithgow, said Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole.

“This is such an exciting development for the thousands of customers who travel between the city and these areas, particularly for Lithgow customers because it has only been made possible due to upgrades on the Blue Mountains Line,” he said.

Running the trains to Lithgow is part of the testing of the New Intercity Fleet before they enter passenger service later this year. The trains will first travel on the Central Coast and Newcastle lines, before the Blue Mountains and South Coast lines.

“Over the next few months we’ll see more of these trains tested on the Blue Mountains Line, mostly at night and on weekends,” said Toole.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said the new trains had a number of upgraded features.

“Customers on the New Intercity Fleet will enjoy more spacious two-by-two seating, mobile device charging ports, modern heating and air conditioning, and dedicated spaces for luggage, prams and bicycles,” Constance said.

“Automatic Selective Door Operation, obstruction detection and traction interlocking are just some of the safety features on these new trains.”

Unions have expressed concerns about the operation of doors on the trains, with guards unable to open their doors before the rest of the train doors.