The purchase of Bombardier Transportation by Alstom has taken the next step forward, with a definitive Sale and Purchase Agreement signed by the two parties.
The sale involves a €300 million ($486m) write-down of the value of Bombardier Transportation from the figure quoted in the Memorandum of Understanding which announced the sale process.
When the MoU was announced in February, Bombardier Transportation was valued at between €5.8 and €6.2 billion ($9.4 to $10bn). The revised price values Bombardier’s transport business at €5.5 to €5.9bn ($8.9 to 9.5bn). Alstom expects the proceeds will likely amount to up to €5.3bn based on post-closing adjustment and obligations.
Henri Poupart-Lafarge chairman and CEO of Alstom said the sale would strengthen Alstom’s presence in the market.
“Bombardier Transportation will bring to Alstom complementary geographical presence to broaden Alstom’s commercial reach in key growing markets, strong product complementarities in rolling stock, strategic scale in services and signalling, industrial capacity in key countries, a leading portfolio offering and additional R&D capabilities to invest in green and smart innovation,” he said.
Éric Martel, president and CEO of Bombardier Inc said the sale would adjust the profile of the business.
Today’s announcement marks a significant milestone towards achieving our near-term priorities and repositioning Bombardier as a pure-play business jet company,” he said. “The proceeds from this transaction will allow us to begin reshaping our capital structure and start addressing our balance sheet through debt paydown, so that we can achieve the full potential of our incredibly talented employees and our industry leading business jet portfolio.”
According to a statement from Alstom, the company expects to find synergies of €400m ($648m) in four to five years after the sale.
The sale is expected to be closed in the first quarter of 2021 with the sale having cleared antitrust processes in the EU as well as Australia.
The next European operator to begin trails of hydrogen trains will be Austrian rail company ÖBB.
In partnership with Alstom, ÖBB will run the hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint in passenger service until the end of November in a trial.
The Coradia iLint has been trialled successfully in Northern Germany and trials in the Netherlands have been conducted in 2020. Agreements with rail companies in Italy and the UK have also been signed in 2020 to progress the delivery of hydrogen-powered rollingstock in those countries.
In the Austrian trial, the trains will be run on unelectrified lines in the south of the country which are geographically challenging.
Jörg Nikutta, Alstom’s CEO in Germany and Austria said the trains would fill a gap in the decarbonisation of rail.
“The train’s emission-free drive technology offers a climate-friendly alternative to conventional diesel trains, especially on non-electrified lines.”
Andreas Matthä, CEO of ÖBB-Holding AG said the company was looking at new technology that could make rail more environmentally friendly.
“As the largest climate protection company in Austria, we are actively shaping the mobility of the future with technological alternatives.”
The Austrian trial comes as the UK rail sector looks to fully decarbonise, with hydrogen-powered trains to play a key role. The Interim Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy, put together by Network Rail in partnership with the rail industry, sets out which lines will be electrified and where alternative traction technologies will be used to meet the net zero carbon emissions target.
The strategy identified 11,700 kilometres of track where electrification would take place, battery operation on 400km and hydrogen on 900km. To do this, between 150 and 200 battery and hydrogen trains would be required.
Bombardier’s VLocity trains have won two design awards at the Australian Good Design Awards.
The locally-designed and built regional trains, which had a redesign in April 2020 as part of the order for new trains to run on Victoria’s standard gauge network, won the Gold Good Design Award and the Best Interior Design Award.
The Best Interior Design Award recognised improvements to safety and accessibility on the trains. A new front to the train improved crashworthiness and new accessibility and comfort measures inside the train cabin were designed for the needs of older travellers and those with disabilities.
Wendy McMillan, president Australia and New Zealand at Bombardier Transportation said that the awards are a result of collaboration.
“These two awards recognise the efforts and strong collaboration between Bombardier Transportation, Department of Transport, V/Line and the participating stakeholders, which led to the development of this user-friendly train design.”
The Interior Design Award also recognised innovations in the manufacture of the trains, which is being done locally, in Dandenong. Recycled materials are in use in the train and the use of advanced manufacturing and material technologies increase safety and efficiency while reducing cost and weight.
The Bombardier design team reflected that rollingstock design is a unique task.
“This award acknowledges the unique challenges our Industrial Design team face, balancing the vast demographic of user needs against the many constraints of rollingstock functionality in the public transport sector. Our interior design needs to meet legislative requirements, endure high frequency of use, satisfy public safety, and embrace inclusivity.”
The Good Design Awards are Australia’s peak design awards and have been running since 1958 making them one of the oldest and most prestigious international design awards in the world. This is not the first time that the VLocity trains have been recognised. In 2005, the trains’ original design won the Australian Design Award, the first train in the history of the competition to do so.
McMillan said the company and its passengers are proud of the recognition.
“We are very proud of the new VLocity train and the people of regional Victoria can now share in this pride too. I would also like to thank the Victorian Government for their ongoing support for Bombardier and our VLocity trains.”
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 Berejikliansaying 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.
Mining company Macarthur Minerals is looking to local manufacturing of Helix Dumper wagon technology to get its iron ore to market.
Macarthur Minerals is working with RCR Mining Technologies to implement the Helix Dumper system at the Port of Esperance. Kiruna Wagon has the ability to manufacture the dumper and wagons in Western Australia.
The wagon and dumper technology is the latest in Macarthur Minerals’ process of connecting its iron ore mine in the Lake Giles region of WA with the Port of Esperance for export.
Macarthur Minerals has negotiated an access agreement with Arc Infrastructure to enable the transportation of the magnetite from its mine in the Yilgarn region of WA to the Port of Esperance via rail.
The company has lodged an application for a haul road and rail siding connecting the mine to the Perth to Kalgoorlie rail line. The siding would allow for export to the Port of Esperance or Kwinana Bulk Terminal.
Macarthur Minerals is also progressing discussions for an above rail haulage agreement.
Cameron McCall, president and executive chairman of Macarthur Minerals said the company was making good progress.
“Macarthur is continuing to forge ahead with a systematic approach to delivering every component of the infrastructure pathway that is necessary to bring Macarthur’s Lake Giles Iron Project into production and to see the first ore go over the ship’s rail.”
If implemented, the dumper technology would increase the performance of the Berth 3 ship-loader at the Port of Esperance from 2,200tph to 4,500 tph. The Helix Dumper system is already in use in Scandinavian magnetite operations.
“There is a very real concerted energy building around the lake Giles Iron Project and the company is exceptionally excited to be working collaboratively with the great teams at Southern Ports Authority, RCR MT, Arc Infrastructure and above rail service providers to introduce cutting edge Helix Dumper technology to the Port of Esperance,” said McCall.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been criticised for comments that local manufacturers of rollingstock are not up to scratch.
On Wednesday, August 26, Berejiklian said at a media conference, “Australia and New South Wales are not good at building trains, that’s why we have to purchase them.”
The comments drew immediate push back from the NSW Labor party, with deputy leader Yasmin Catley saying that NSW should be investing more in locally manufactured public transport vehicles.
“Instead of running down our local industries at press conferences, Gladys Berejiklian should be giving them the opportunity to build our new ferries and trains,” Catley said.
Minister for Transport Andrew Constance backed his leader’s comments, reportedly estimating the cost difference at 25 per cent more for locally manufactured trains, due to higher energy, labour, and raw material costs.
“I think most people know the car industry, the train industry, in terms of manufacturing here in Australia; we don’t have it, and there’s a reason for it,” said Constance.
Following these remarks, the NSW Labor leader, Jodi McKay announced that Labor would introduce a NSW Jobs First Bill, which would require tenderers on government contracts to support NSW jobs and industries.
The dispute has come as NSW puts the first of its second order of Chinese-manufactured Waratah Series 2 trains into service. The Korean-made New Intercity Fleet, which are replacing the Western Sydney-made V-Set and allowing the Newcastle-made H-Set to enter suburban service, are also in the early testing stage.
CEO of the Australasian Railway Association Caroline Wilkie said a national procurement process would enable locally-built trains to become more competitive with their overseas counterparts.
“The NSW Government’s procurement choices have eroded the manufacturing sector and make it harder for local operators to compete,” said Wilkie.
“Better coordination with their counterparts in other states and territories would see more trains manufactured locally and improve efficiencies and cost profiles across the life of the asset.”
Wilkie noted that only looking at the upfront cost of purchasing rollingstock ignored the cost of lifecycle support, and a whole of life cost approach should be taken.
In 2019, the Western Australia government signed an agreement with Alstom to manufacture 246 railcars in Bellevue, in eastern Perth. The contract will see at least 50 per cent of the railcars built locally and 30 years of maintenance. Announced in December 2019, the contract was $347 million under the $1.6 billion budget.
Wilkie said that with overseas trade and travel limited due to COVID-19, the value of local manufacturing was greater than ever.
“A nationally consistent procurement process would benefit both state government purchasers and the rail manufacturing industry itself,” she said.
“The NSW government says it is open to working with other state governments and industry to strengthen and standardise procurement processes – it’s now time for them to act.”
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.”
FINDING THE NEXT GENERATION OF RAIL WORKERS
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.”
SCALING UP THE AUSTRALIAN RAIL INDUSTRY
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.
A NEW NATIONAL NETWORK 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.”
MAKING A LONG-TERM IMPACT 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.”
The first of a second order of Waratah Series 2 trains has entered service this week, three months ahead of schedule.
The train is one of 17 Waratah Series 2 trains that will begin operating on the Sydney network as part of the second delivery. The rest are expected to commence service later in 2020 and early 2021, said Minister for Transport Andrew Constance.
“It is exciting to see this train on the tracks three months ahead of schedule, after it was one of 17 fast tracked for delivery at the start of 2019,” said Constance.
“The remainder of the trains will be delivered by the end of this year and will be rolled out progressively after testing.”
The investment in new rollingstock is part of the NSW government’s More Trains More Services program. The program also covers upgrades to signalling, the installation of new train control systems, traffic managements systems, and infrastructure improvements.
The $4.3 billion investment will increase the capacity of the current Sydney network to allow for further growth in passenger demand as seen over the past years, said Constance.
“We have seen rapid growth in the number of train journeys over the past few years, which is why it is so important that we invest in new trains and new infrastructure right across our rail network.”
Sydney Trains acting chief executive Suzanne Holden said the new trains would feature similar passenger-focused upgrades as those in the first delivery.
“They’ll feature air conditioning with advanced temperature control, high definition customer information screens, internal and external CCTV, as well as priority seating, wheelchair spaces and hearing aid loops,” she said.
The new trains will operate on the T2 Inner West & Leppington, T3 Bankstown, and T8 Airport & South lines.
The rest of the fleet will be delivered before the end of 2020. Once in Australia the trains will undergo testing and commissioning.
Metro Trains Melbourne’s Comeng, Siemens and X’Trapolis fleets have undergone major maintenance to ensure the trains are kept to the highest standard and improve the experience for passengers.
Melbourne trains are being retrofitted with wireless data recorders to monitor key train systems, improve safety and reliability, and maintenance, enabling the trains are available to run on the network more often.
The On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system will give Metro engineers access to near real time data so they can monitor train performance, identify faults sooner, and maintain trains more efficiently.
Metro has recently installed the state-of-the-art technology on 174 three-carriage X’Trapolis train units.
The OBD project is being completed at the Newport rail workshops and has now moved on to the Siemens fleet.
The system is used to monitor everything including vibration in critical train bogie components, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, as well as passenger body-side doors, traction, auxiliary power supply, and passenger information systems.
This helps Metro diagnose and respond to potential issues sooner, reducing the risk of passengers being delayed by train faults.
Metro’s general manager of rolling stock, Dave Carlton said that Metro was completing a world first with this technology.
“We’re proud to be leading the largest-ever retrofit of remote condition monitoring equipment on an existing train fleet, globally,” he said.
“The data we collect from this technology is being shared across Metro, which benefits our operations, infrastructure and network development teams.”
Technical upgrades have also been carried out on the oldest vehicles in the Metro fleet. 75 per cent of the Comeng fleet, which in total numbers 179 trains are being overhauled, with passenger-facing and engineering improvements.
In 2017, a three-stage, $75 million upgrade project began, funded by the Victorian government.
Metro’s CEO Raymond O’Flaherty said the project will extend the life of the fleet.
“The Comeng fleet has served the people of Melbourne for almost 40 years, they are brilliant trains and they’ve certainly got more life left in them,” he said.
“We have very stringent maintenance programs for all our trains, that’s one of the reasons they are still so reliable. It’s also essential that we utilise all the technical advances that are available, and this life extension program makes sure that our passengers have the best possible experience on board.”
The life extension project has three stages, of which the first two are complete.
Stage one included critical-safety improvements to Comeng train doors – a feature now standard on all Metro trains.
Stage two was focused on the passenger experience, including rearranging and reupholstering seating, installing LED lights, new grab poles and straps, safer gang-way bellows, and new digital signage on the front of trains to give passengers destination information.
Upgrades have also been made to the driver’s instrument panel.
Stage three is the project’s final stage and is now almost complete. It involves upgrades to the passenger information system, with digital displays inside the carriages tracking the train’s journey in real-time.
Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said that upgrades would also increase safety for passengers, with new high definition CCTV cameras been fitted with a wider field of view that can be accessed remotely, which will support Metro and Victoria Police investigations.
“We can access camera footage remotely as soon as issues are reported – helping Metro and Victoria Police respond to incidents as quickly as possible and giving Victorians peace of mind that their journeys are safe.”
There are also improvements to hearing-aid links for people with additional needs and upgraded speakers for clearer on-board announcements.
On the engineering side, the trains’ air brakes are being overhauled, while the electrical relay panel and traction systems are being upgraded to support a safer journey.
For the Siemens fleet, Metro’s middle child, Metro partnered with accessibility group Vision Australia to support new safety upgrades for the Siemens fleet
New bellows were needed between carriages, which has instituted an “outer wall” that fills in the gap between the train and the platform.
By providing an exterior that is flat along the full length of the train, Metro has reduced the risk of falls for vision-impaired passengers who may mistake the gap for a door.
Since an upgrade program commenced in February this year, more than 20 per cent of Siemens trains have been upgraded with the new bellows.
As well as being safer for passengers, the upgrades also provide sound-proofing, making the carriages quieter for a more comfortable journey.
Together with Vision Australia, Metro used a mock-up train carriage to test the design to ensure it provided all the necessary safety features.
The mock-up train is used by Vision Australia to help familiarise vision-impaired passengers and enable them to move confidently around trains, while also teaching guide dogs how to navigate the network.
Carlton said this work was important for the community.
“The work we do to make sure our trains and stations are fully accessible for all our passengers is absolutely essential. Providing a public transport service means making sure that every person can use our network without limitation,” he said.
“These new gangways give us extra confidence that not only are we continuously improving safety, but we are improving the passenger experience. It’s not just about getting to your destination, it’s about getting to your destination as easily and comfortably as possible.”