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

IRT: leading technology development for mining

While the Australian economy is enjoying a fortunate position due to the thriving mining industry, research and technology have been integral factors which have enabled the mining industry to reach its current position.

As part of one of the main technology service providers for the railway industry, the personnel at the Institute of Railway Technology (IRT) at Monash University have been supporting the mining industry’s railway operations over the last four decades. IRT is continuously developing new technologies to support increasing productivity and safety requirements at the same time as reducing risks and costs, ultimately improving the bottom line of their clients.

The latest technology IRT has developed is the instrumented revenue vehicle which is a fully flexible automated measurement platform to continuously monitor and provide feedback on both rail condition and train operation. This technology is designed to be installed in standard vehicles which are embedded within a normal operation.

The IRT instrumented vehicle technology has several key advantages over previous maintenance inspection methods. With the objective of increasing production rates, mining operations are often under pressure to reduce railway track downtime. The ramifications of reducing track downtime are that it would minimize traditional track measurements and maintenance activities. This could result in a significant increase in operational risks because of a lack of maintenance and an inability to identify deterioration of track condition in a timely manner.

IRT’s instrumented vehicle technology measures the condition of a railway system during normal rail operations without requiring any track downtime. In addition, IRT’s technology measures the dynamic responses of normal vehicles during loaded and empty operating conditions under standard speed profiles. Unlike previous track recording vehicle measurements, IRT technology measurements are a direct indication of the loads being imposed on the rail network in a usual operating environment.

By Ravi Ravitharan*

It is also important to note that the information collected using the IRT’s instrumented vehicletechnology is available for railway operations within a twelve hour period. It is anticipated that in the near future real time reporting of track and train related issues would be also available.

The above technology is widely used in railway systems in mining operations and now available to all railway operations including passenger and freight, to assist with both track and rolling stock management.

The IRT instrumented vehicle technology measurements have shown an excellent correlation with track inspector findings. Now these measurements are being used extensively for track maintenance activities, and to restrict line speed to mitigate damage to and risk from deterioration of the track structure.

Assessment of the effectiveness of maintenance operations, operational planning and maintenance programming are other benefits of the new technology IRT has developed.

IRT’s instrumented vehicle technology has also been used for analysis of train driving strategies and in-train forces, train driver training, derailment investigations, analysis of the dynamic effect on bridges, dumper indexing for minimization of coupler loads and assistance with the design of new rolling stock.

IRT, the premier track and vehicle railway engineering research centre in Australia, focuses on developing new technologies that could be integrated into existing processes to provide rail operators with the ability to effectively manage their resources.

*Ravi Ravitharan is director, Institute of Railway Technology, Monash University

Heavy Haul Rail
28th – 29th August 2012 | City Hall Newcastle
For more information email: kara.clifton@informa.com.au

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.