New Zealand using QR codes for contact tracing on public transport

Auckland and Wellington will use QR codes on public transport to assist with contact tracing.

The implementation of the QR codes in Auckland from September 4 comes as the city moves to alert level two after a week at level three.

Masks have been made mandatory for passengers across trains, buses, and ferries, and physical distancing guidelines have been implemented.

Auckland Transport is asking passengers to use the New Zealand Ministry of Health’s NZ COVID Tracer app to scan the codes.

The transport authority had previously been using data from the city’s transit payment card, AT HOP, to track close contacts, however after positive cases travelled on buses and had outdated information on their AT HOP card the added method of tracing has been brought in.

While transport is running at normal schedules, capacity is limited to about 43 per cent due to social distancing requirements. Passengers can check the Auckland Transport app to see how many passengers are on a train before boarding.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said that the local government and public should embrace the new measures.

“Health authorities now agree that it is safe to move to Alert Level 2, but we still need to ensure that we follow all of the safeguards necessary to constrain the spread of COVID-19. Following these rules will help ensure we beat COVID-19 again, just as we did last time.”

In Wellington, which is under alert level two, masks are also mandatory on public transport. Even before the rule was applied from Monday, August 31, more passengers had been wearing masks or face coverings, said Scott Gallacher, general manager of operator Metlink.

“We’ve seen thousands of people wearing masks on our buses, ferries and trains. Social media is awash with people wearing the most fantastic masks, scarves and bandanas and Wellingtonians have kicked off a national trend using the hashtag #OnBoardWithMasks to show their support,” he said.

Wellington’s trains are running at about 30 per cent of their normal capacity.

“We’ve got all the buses, ferries and trains out that we can but we’re asking for patience and understanding at this time. If people have the ability to work from home or travel outside of peak hours we welcome their help,” said Gallacher.

CCTV

AI trained on CCTV footage to be used to fight harassment and violence on public transport

Artificial intelligence (AI) will be applied to CCTV footage from cameras on the Sydney train network to detect threatening behaviours.

The trial is the result of Transport for NSW’s Safety After Dark Innovation Challenge, which sought initiatives to improve safety for women travelling on public transport.

The AI CCTV solution was proposed by the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility. The software would automatically analyse real-time footage and alert an operator when it detect a suspicious incident or unsafe environment.

Lead researcher John Barthelemy said the software could be applied in a number of ways.

“The AI will be trained to detect incidents such as people fighting, a group of agitated persons, people following someone else, and arguments or other abnormal behaviour,” he said.

“It can also identify an unsafe environment, such as where there is a lack of lighting. The system will then alert a human operator who can quickly react if there is an issue.”

The project is based on PhD student Yan Qian’s research that is using computer vision across multiple cameras to improve understandings of traffic and pedestrian movements.

“We are using open-source code that tries to estimate the poses of a human being and predict if there’s a fight,” she said.

“As far as we know, nothing like this has been attempted globally. We are pushing the limits of the technology.”

Other successful projects came from data sharing platform She’s a Crowd, safety technology vendors Guardian LifeStream and Cardno/UNSW.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that transport operators had an obligation to improve the experience of travelling on their networks.

“We want all our customers to feel safe on the network and it is not good enough that 9 out of 10 Australian women experience harassment on the street and modify their behaviour in response,” Constance said.

“The winners were chosen for their potential to meaningfully address real safety issues, and their ability to use creative and sophisticated new technologies to make a real difference.”

freight

Rail key to meet freight demand

Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the ARA, sets out the association’s advocacy agenda when it comes to rail freight.

The doubling of Australia’s population over the next 30 years will make connecting the supply of goods and services between our far-flung cities more important than ever.

Resilient freight networks will be an essential part of our national connectivity and will be key to supporting the productivity of businesses across the country.

And rail must play a growing role to meet that challenge.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) recently released its rail freight and ports strategic plan to set its advocacy agenda on this crucial issue over the next three years.

Informed by extensive industry consultation, the plan identifies the need for rail to increase its share of our national freight task to ensure the growing demand expected in the next 20 years can be met.

While COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of resilient supply chains, that need has always been there and is only becoming more important.

The country’s freight task is expected to grow by 35 per cent by 2040, and by then our network will traverse more than 1,000 billion tonne kilometres every year.

That new demand can simply not be sustainably supported by more trucks on the roads or planes in the air alone.

A multi-modal freight sector that makes the best use of all modes of transport is a fundamental part of ensuring Australia’s supply chains can deal with the needs of the nation in the future.

Maintaining the status quo will not be enough.

There is enormous potential for rail to play a greater role in meeting our freight task, but regulatory reform is required to make that a reality.

A level playing field for all will be needed for this to be realised to make sure every mode of transport can be used efficiently and effectively to support our economic growth and development.

Common safety, environmental, and economic regulation across the country would streamline operations and put the focus firmly on delivering on the nation’s freight needs.

So too would the achievement of a truly interoperable rail network, and the ARA’s rail freight and ports strategic plan supports the ARTC’s efforts to implement its Advanced Train Management System on the interstate network.

These are big ambitions that require national focus and strong collaboration between government and industry to be realised.

We are pleased to see these conversations progressing through the National Rail Action Plan working groups and other industry forums.

As we continue to advocate for changes to support the growth of the industry, a clear understanding of the current state of play and the obstacles that the industry may face is essential.

That is why the ARA has launched three research programs to be completed over the next 12 months.

Firstly, we will be working to better understand the impediments to rail freight modal shift.

Just one freight train alone can take 110 trucks off the roads a year, busting congestion and improving the safety outcomes of the sector.

Rail freight remains a sustainable and efficient option that has proven its reliability time and again.

In urban centres, rail freight frees up the road network to create more liveable communities for people in our cities.

Given these benefits, rail should be playing a significant role as part of a multi- modal network – and this research will inform how we achieve that outcome.

Secondly, we will be looking at rail freight productivity in Australia.

It will be essential to establish a clear view of the industry’s current performance and the conditions required to make rail freight even more competitive in the future.

The 2017 Value of Rail study found a one per cent improvement in rail freight productivity could generate $8-20 billion in savings to the national economy over 20 years.

Small improvements could make a big difference and our research will seek to identify actionable outcomes to drive greater productivity in the sector.

Finally, we will research rail freight infrastructure investment.

Continued investment in the freight network will be essential to meet growing demand, but projects must be planned effectively and implemented efficiently.

Getting infrastructure investment right for the beginning will ensure the benefits of that investment are realised faster and reach further into our communities.

Combined, these projects will inform our advocacy agenda to make the case for regulatory reform.

Because we will need more than one approach to make a real difference for the benefit of Australian businesses and communities.

Agility

Agility for rail: Delivering on data

SSG Insight is delivering Agility, a modern CMMS with unique functionalities designed for the complexities of transportation.

Computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS), which record an organisation’s maintenance and asset management regimes have a history of over three decades. While the digitalisation of railways and transportation networks may have emerged as a talking point in the last 10 years, the digital management of maintenance procedures and asset history is much longer.

One company that has been on this journey since the early days is SSG Insight, which began 35 years ago offering its CMMS platform, Agility to the transportation and facilities management sectors.

James MacPherson, CEO of Asia Pacific and Canada for SSG Insight, describes how the company’s software has evolved.

“We started out providing a pure CMMS system, but over the years that’s morphed into a smarter integrated workplace management system. We provide maintenance management systems, performance management systems, and enterprise workplace management systems around the globe and specifically to the rail industry.”

As CMMS systems have grown, they have become much more than a log of maintenance requests and a record of actions undertaken. Today, the systems can be used to drive condition-based monitoring schemes, by interpreting asset data. This enables the platform itself to schedule work orders, provide condition assessments over an asset’s lifecycle, and monitor inventory levels and purchasing.

While these functionalities are common to many industries, including manufacturing, distribution, and utilities, for the rail sector, Agility takes the insights from the CMMS software and matches these to contract outcomes for transportation service provides.

“What we offer on top of a standard CMMS is performance management,” said MacPherson. “We can configure the system to self-manage the contracts.”

For transportation networks run by a private company under a contract with a municipal or regional transport authority, maintaining accurate and transparent maintenance logs is a key contract requirement. What Agility enables the providers to do, is automatically calculate maintenance or asset events against key performance indicators such as kilometres served or trips completed.

“In those scenarios the onus is on evidence and transparency, so those calculations around lost kilometres and trips, as an example, enable the contractor who’s running the transport network to be able to evidence why they may have lost kilometres on trips. This is specific for the rail industry, and it’s been developed especially for rail clients,” said MacPherson.

Agility provides real time dashboards that match a client’s needs.

OVERCOMING THE CONSTRAINTS OF LEGACY SYSTEMS
For the rail industry, implementing a smart CMMS system requires access to data being produced by an array of legacy systems. With experience deploying Agility on both brand- new systems opened as recently as 2019, and historical systems that were first horse-drawn and have been operating since the 19th century, SSG Insight knows how to collate data from a diversity of sources.

The different histories of different transport systems mean that data is not always organised in a way that is immediately interpretable and actionable.

“Specifically in the rail industry, we will sit down and discuss the legacy systems that operators have, the constraints that they have in terms of data and where servers are located, all of those types of things, because there’s a real mixed bag of rail systems out there.

One of the key offers to the rail industry is a consultative, outcomes-based approach,” said MacPherson.

With data often siloed into different areas, the effectiveness of a smart asset management solution is dependent upon getting disparate systems to talk to one another. In addition, distinct areas of operations may have their own, existing maintenance management systems, which will not be integrated across a network’s operations to be able to provide transparent information. SSG Insight has overcome this with its product Agility Connect, which can take data from any system, interpret it, and create an action.

“One of our recent examples is looking at creating a data-lake from lots of different systems and then analysing that data-lake and bringing those actionable insights back to the client from multiple systems,” said MacPherson. “That SCADA system there may not talk to anything, or if does talk to something, it’s got to go to a server behind 10 firewalls and it’s got to be housed in a room full of lead. But now, with a true software as a service (SaaS) deployment in secure Microsoft Azure, you have a huge amount of flexibility.”

Just like each area of operations may have its own data and control systems, in a complex transportation network there are multiple subcontractors or parties contributing to a network. By bringing data from these parties together without needing to replace each system, SSG Insight can provide a comprehensive look at a network’s assets and operations.

“We’re working on one project at the moment where there’s five CMMS systems, which clearly is untenable. So, what we do is we’ll assist with the service companies and the subcontractors with the issue of having multiple systems by creating a flexible and fully interpretable system,” said MacPherson. “If the individual CMMSs can’t go anywhere then we’ll just become the master of information and the master of the contract, so we’ll just integrate with them and pass the information back.”

In Nottingham, Agility is used by over 100 users.

IMPLEMENTATION
Knowing that no two transportation systems are the same, SSG Insight has developed Agility to be flexible to the needs and requirements of each mobility network, without the need to create a bespoke product each time.

“We don’t have to go to our development team and say, ‘Can you produce this for us?’ We have it all built into the configuration of the system so you can take the unique contract and build it in without having to change the commercial off the shelf (COTS) product,” said MacPherson.

“The system is designed by the users, for the users. All of the screens within the system ensure that the workflow is efficient and reduces repetitive entry, and then from that triggers the right set of actions for groups of individuals or the board or whoever, to be able to look at trends, analysis, whatever it might be.”

Agility has recently been deployed by Edinburgh Trams, a 14 kilometre, 16-stop network between Edinburgh Airport and the city centre. Here, an incumbent CMMS system had to remain in place, so Agility was overlaid on the system to take work orders and completion details created in the incumbent system and measure and track these actions in Agility against the operator’s contract.

“What will happen is we’ll take the asset register from the existing CMMS and then place the contract against it. Then we will feed that information back to the existing CMMS once the job is completed,” said MacPherson.

Automating the reporting of these tasks has a direct outcome by reducing paperwork and multiple handling, a tangible outcome for the client. By building KPI measurements to system requests, tasks are directly and automatically associated with reporting requirements, often replacing several manual processes.

“The system is built around the client,” said MacPherson. “We will sit with them and ask what is the process at the moment, and we’ll map that out and see that 70 per cent of that you can get rid of, because we can fully automate it. We can put it against the contract, and we can make it transparent, and we can make it auditable and you can see it in real time on the dashboard. Once we go through that process, we find that there’s a tangible sense of ‘Can you get it done tomorrow?’”

In Nottingham, where Agility has been deployed on the tram network for almost
10 years, the system is used by 135 users on 24/7 shifts. The platform collects passenger feedback, is used by service teams on mobile devices, and is the central control room log, making it the reference point for all operational event.

“We’ve gone from being a CMMS, to doing passenger feedback and then adding on to managing service-level agreements (SLA) and seeing which workflows can be improved or changed. The thing about Agility is that once a workflow is in the system it’s not fixed. If you suddenly realise that actually you could improve it then a customer can do it. They can change the question sets, they can change the notifications, they can change the steps that occur and if the contract changes, they can adjust in the performance measurement straight away,” said MacPherson.

Having the backing of a history of developing CMMS systems with the ability to continually innovate, Agility enables transportation to reap the benefits of the ever-expanding collection of data.

Conversations

“A conversation can change a life”

With Rail Safety Week recently celebrated around Australia and New Zealand for the 15th year running, messages of rail safety flooded inboxes, intranets, and social media, demonstrating the rail sector’s wholehearted embrace of such an initiative. Leaders at the highest levels joined the conversations with video messages, including Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack and state transport ministers, while organisations engaged the services of community figures, such as local rapper Lisi, who spread the message on behalf of Queensland Rail.

A similar expression can be seen on Rail R U OK?Day, which reached the highest number of people ever despite COVID-19 in 2020, its sixth year in a row. While messages around physical safety, mental health, and wellbeing are common now, it is important to note how far the industry has come. As Mostapha Kourouche, health advisor at Sydney Trains noted, things looked a bit different only a few years ago.

“Six years ago we got involved with Rail R U OK?Day. It was a great initiative, launched by TrackSAFE with a number of different rail organisations, but I felt that our initial presence just didn’t seem like it was hitting the mark. It was very corporate; it was very executive, and it didn’t really hit our front-line employees like it probably should.”

Sydney Trains, with a staff of over 10,000 people, is an extremely diverse organisation, and combined with NSW Trains stretches from the South Coast, to the Hunter and beyond the Blue Mountains. Having 17 years of experience within such a broad environment, Kourouche reached out to the R U OK? organisation to see how the initiative could be evolved.

“I wanted see what we could do, and ask, ‘This is what I’m thinking, do you think it can work?’ We collaborated with the team at R U OK? and our very first big Rail R U OK?Day came in 2016 when we had an event at Central station and we drew about 1,000 people across the business to that event. We had an all-day barbeque, we had our whole executive leadership team there, we had the R U OK? team turn up as well and have conversations with people and say, ‘G’day’.”

Beyond the day itself, Kourouche has become a Workplace Champion for R U OK? at Sydney Trains. In such a highly distributed organisation, looking to methods beyond a traditional sausage sizzle has enabled all members of the organisation to get involved.

“We have an internal social media that we use, so we encourage people to share their stories and experiences and fill it with colours of yellow. We encourage different sites to host local events as they know what their people are like.”

In addition to these bottom-up initiatives, senior executives at Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW have been able to share their stories with staff, something that Kourouche sees as vital to getting all individuals to start having conversations with each other. Over the years, these programs have grown Rail R U OK?Day within Sydney Trains to encompass the entire organisation.

“Last year we had events up as far as Narrabri and down in the Southern Highlands, the South Coast, and the Blue Mountains,” said Kourouche. “We’re reaching the whole of our network and people are taking on the message and really encouraging people to talk.”

In a recent Rail R U OK?Day tour of the Sydney network, Kourouche had one interaction that drove home how important these conversations can be. Pulling into a station, a staff member there asked what Kourouche was doing. Kourouche described the aim of Rail R U OK?Day which prompted the staff member to ask, “What if I’m not ok?”

Kourouche explained that he was there to have a chat and see how he and the wider Sydney Trains support network could help.

“He said, ‘Well I’m not ok. I’ve got so many things going on in my life, my mum is struggling with mental illness, she hasn’t been receiving the support that she needs. I’m a shift worker, I’m not speaking to my brother and sister, I’ve got to manage my family and try to look after my kids and not talking to my brother and sister doesn’t help me with looking out for my mum.’”

Kourouche put the staff member on to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which can provide counselling and support for Sydney Trains staff, but then Kourouche noticed the man looking at the bright yellow question mark that Kourouche was holding.

“He said, ‘What’s this yellow thing that you’re holding?’ and I said, ‘It’s Quentin the conversations starter.’ and he said, ‘Oh ok, what do you do?’ I said, ‘You give it a shake, like a Magic 8-Ball and it’ll give you a challenge to do and you take on that challenge and you have a week to do it.’”

The staff member’s challenge was to say thank you to someone’s who’s made a difference in your life. The staff member then turned to Kourouche and said, “Thank you”.

“I said ‘That’s really kind, but, mate, this is the first time that I’ve ever spoken to you and we’ve probably have an interaction of five or seven minutes.’ He said, ‘You’ve taken the time and stopped and spoken to me and I just want to say thanks for doing that.’”

A week later Kourouche was travelling past this station and saw the staff member. Getting out of the train, the staff member said, “I owe you a coffee”. Since the last conversation, the staff member had spoken with the EAP, they got a plan in place for his mum, taking stress off him, and allowing the relationship with his siblings to start to be patched up.

“I meant it when I said thanks,” the staff member told Kourouche, “because this is going to make a big difference to me and my family.”

Although just one conversation, the experience reinforced to Kourouche the power that being open and speaking with colleagues can have.

“I just truly believe that the message is one that works and that conversations do change lives.”

According to a Sydney Trains spokesperson, the success of initiatives such as Rail R U OK?Day depends upon the help of ambassadors such as Mostapha and is one of a number of initiatives to support employee health and wellbeing.

“We have a range of initiatives to support the health and wellbeing of our employees. These measures include: a Mental Health Program for frontline leaders to better identify and support employees who may require help, Mental Health Awareness Sessions with psychologists, Resilience Programs, Mental Health First Aid, a Train Crew Peer Support program, network-wide R U OK?Day and Rail R U OK?Day events, and our free and confidential Employee Assistance Program delivered by qualified clinicians.”

Although many industries have issues when it comes to mental health awareness and accident prevention, the scale of change in the rail industry is one that Kourouche is happy to see.

“I certainly can see that there has been a shift and a change. Although we’re still predominantly male, our average age is about 47 or 48 and the service life of our staff is around about 14 years. If you’ve got people who’ve been in and around the organisation for quite some time, it’s very hard to change your way of thinking. But, if we’re able to embed this into the organisation and have people recognise that it’s ok to have conversations and it’s ok to not be ok and ask for help if you need it, that really makes a significant difference.”

New Learning Management System for RISSB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT

Canberra light rail extension takes next step in planning process

The ACT’s government’s plan for the extension of the current light rail line to Woden, in the city’s south, has taken the next step forward, with the ACT government releasing for public comment the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) preliminary documentation.

The documentation covers the stage from the city, where the current line ends, to Commonwealth Park, otherwise known as Stage 2A and supports federal approval of the line.

ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel said this step meant that construction could soon begin.

“With the planning approvals set in motion for the extension of light rail to Commonwealth Park, work will continue to refine the project’s planning and design development with a view to construction starting as early as next year.”

The EPBC documentation covers measures the government will take to mitigate the light rail line’s impact on the critically endangered Golden Sun Moth. To address this, the preliminary documentation notes that there will be no need to install a traction power substation or connection power supply, while intersection and road layouts were refined.

The 1.7-kilometre Stage 2A will run without overhead wires to protect the cultural value of the centre of Canberra and improve visual amenity. Future light rail vehicles will travel on green tracks along Commonwealth Avenue, with landscaping besides and between the rail tracks.

Stage 2A will include three stops, one at Edinburgh Avenue on London Circuit, City South, and Commonwealth Park, where the line will terminate.

Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra Ryan Hemsley said the project would improve outcomes now and into the future.

“By extending Canberra’s light rail network, we can deliver a much-needed shot in the arm for Canberra’s construction industry, with the double benefit of providing improved public transport options in the longer term.”

Stage 2B, which will continue the light rail line to Woden via the Parliamentary Triangle, will require a more rigorous planning assessment process, and is expected to take up to 18 months.

At a press conference announcing the release of the EPBC preliminary documentation, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that environmental approvals should be streamlined, with too many federal agencies involved in the project.

collaborating

Collaboration to drive safer railways

ONRSR, RISSB, and ACRI are collaborating to provide the Australian rail industry with the best track worker safety technologies and systems.

In one of only two prosecutions carried out in the 2018-2019 year, the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) brought two charges against Sydney Trains after a track worker was killed while working on the network in 2016.

The rare use of the most severe enforcement tool, besides a revocation or suspension of accreditation, signalled to the industry just how serious the regulator was taking the issue of track worker safety.

CEO of ONRSR and Australia’s National Rail Safety Regulator Sue McCarrey said that currently, the Australian rail industry is not going in the right direction on track worker safety.

“Track worker safety is a continuing priority for us because some of the data and the information that we have says we’re not quite improving as much as we would like to.”

Focus areas are based on inspections, audits, and the compliance activities of ONRSR, and in the case of track worker safety, both the number of breaches and the rate of incidents per thousand of track kilometres has increased since 2015-2016.

“Our rail systems are getting busier and rail is under pressure to keep moving,” said McCarrey. “If you look at the work that’s happening right across the rail industry, whether in Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane, that puts additional pressure on the system, and with many more worksites happening, that does cause an increase in the statistics.”

While few incidents are fatal, with the 2016 Sydney Trains being one of the tragic few, what is frustrating to the regulator, said Peter Doggett, ONRSR chief operating officer, is that all are preventable.

“We see a large number of very significant near misses and when you go into the factors that contributed to them, every single one I’d argue is preventable with really simple changes and processes. It’s simple stuff that is breaking down and leading to these incidents.”

IMPLEMENTING GLOBAL BEST PRACTICE
The issue of track worker safety and more work going on within the rail corridor is not only an issue in Australia. According to McCarrey, there is a global push to put the best technology in the hands of rail maintenance workers and network managers to prevent track worker safety incidents.

“It’s an area of concern for rail right around the world. There’s a whole lot of work that’s being undertaken by individual rail companies in Australia and overseas looking at what are different systems, approaches, and, in particular, uses of technology that are being used to keep track workers safe.”

Seeing this work in action, ONRSR, are collaborating with the Rail industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB), and have tasked the Australian Centre for Rail innovation (ARCI) to conduct a global survey to provide a baseline reference for Australian operators of global best practice when it comes to track worker safety.

By collaborating and combining insights from government, research bodies, and the rail industry, the project aims to provide useful information that can be applied straight away.

“The idea is that this research will help companies make decisions as to what is the best approach for them,” said McCarrey. “It’s different if you’re a Sydney Trains or a Melbourne Metro, or if you’re in the Pilbara and you’re in a fairly remote part of Australia or you’re the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and your track goes across the Nullarbor. The approach has to be different but everybody’s out there looking at similar systems around the world.”

To be completed before the end of 2020, the research will be a result of collaborating and describe what systems and technology are available, what are the advantages and disadvantages, and where has the system been proven to work in different environments.

Andrew Meier, CEO of ACRI, describes the project as a proactive tool.

“It will be seeking engagement from across industry to find out about those trials that are not widely known and that are underway or have completed and what decisions have been made on those that are safe solutions. Being able to have that information available for industry is vitally important.”

The final report will be made up of a literature review as well as a scan of technologies on the horizon, informed by collaborating with industry through a survey as well as stakeholder workshops.

“ONRSR and RISSB are collaborating and want this to be a seminal tool for industry to use, to say this is what we know, and you can take this from here. It may well be that some of the things that are identified still need a level of development but perhaps someone will want to pick up that trial and take it further. It will give people a baseline of information to immediately know what they can do to keep their track workers safe,” said Meier.

“It’s a tool for now.”

THE REGULATORY APPROACH
With the adoption of new, safety critical technologies, McCarrey outlines that ONRSR and the National Rail Safety law allows rail operators to adopt new technology, for example in the adoption of driverless trains on the Sydney Metro network and on Rio Tinto’s network in the Pilbara.

“The law actually allows rail companies to introduce new technologies but what we do as the regulator is to have a look at their safety assurance of that,” said McCarrey. “We will work with the rail operator all the way through. We will be looking at where did the technology come from, where has it been used before, how have you tested it in your system, so that we can ultimately see that, so far as is reasonably practical, they have put all the assurance and a governance system in place to ensure that they believe that the system is safe.”

With the adoption of technology to improve track worker safety, the reduction in cost of GPS-based location technology, as well as real-time communication systems which can alert the driver and network operator, it is becoming more important than ever that rail operators look at what can be applied to their network or operations.

Meier also notes that ACRI is conducting research into the application of off-the-shelf robotics technology to remove people from potentially dangerous locations. However, McCarrey stresses that this research project and ONRSR more generally will not select any particular product or technology.

“We’ve got to be really careful as a regulator, we must remain independent, because different companies will implement different things,” she said.

“What the project will develop is a suite of possible solutions. It’s not going to pick a winner of some kind of technology but what it will produce is a table of technologies and techniques around track worker safety. This will cover at indicative costs, time frames for implementation and where they might be useful in different environments. It’s not going to say, ‘This is the best.’”

Instead, noted McCarrey, the research project will be a resource for industry.

Currently, the project is conducting desktop research and is seeking industry feedback. Companies seeking to be involved should contact ACRI.

Keeping safety on track

Rail Express sits down with Heather Neil, the new CEO of TrackSAFE, to hear about her focus for the harm-prevention charity.

When Heather Neil joined TrackSAFE as its new CEO, the organisation had just coordinated the largest ever Rail R U OK?Day, despite being in the middle of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Instead of the usual barbeques and meet-ups that had been organised in previous years, rail employees were checking in with each other virtually and organisations sponsored conversation challenges.

Despite social distancing measures, over 75,000 rail-sector individuals participated in the annual mental-health awareness day. Speaking with colleagues and partners after the event, Neil said she was heartened by the positivity of the sector and the widespread engagement.

“Even though this year people did Rail R U OK?Day quite differently, there still seems to be a real interest and enthusiasm for those activities in a workplace; to check in on people and to remind them that one day in a year there’s a real focus on it but hopefully that rolls into other activities that people do as individuals and in workplaces throughout the year,” said Neil.

“Various companies have reported seeing that long term cultural change about caring for your workmates. They’re more than just your work colleagues – you might not see them outside of work, but it doesn’t mean you don’t check in on them and notice if things don’t look like they’re in a great place today.”

Neil joined rail-focused harm-prevention charity TrackSAFE with 12 years under her belt as the CEO of RSPCA Australia. Having taken a year to do consulting work after leavings the RSCPA, Neil took up the position at TrackSAFE to continue in the charity sector, however, in a very different kind of organisation.

“I was in a very privileged position to have been the CEO of RSPCA Australia and it’s an amazing organisation that’s loved by the Australian community and does such a diversity of work as well, but it’s lovely being in a small charity that can be nimble but that’s also so connected to the industry itself.”

Being part of an industry-founded and funded charity represented an opportunity to Neil to be able to proactively make change.

“One of the things that attracted me to TrackSAFE is that it was established by the industry to address issues that the industry had identified so it’s a voluntary activity that the industry is doing for society. The rail industry is still very committed to playing this important role in reducing risks of suicide and accidents on rail, so it’s really exciting to be part of an industry that takes a very positive attitude and doesn’t sit back and wait for somebody else to solve their issues. The industry itself knows that it can play an important role in addressing some of these big societal problems,” said Neil.

As a way of settling into the role, Neil has spoken with the companies and organisations that make up TrackSAFE, including rail owners and operators, manufacturers, and construction companies. Not only has this enabled Neil to get to know the industry, but to get a sense of the values and aspirations of those involved.

“It’s really interesting to hear of so much development and such positivity about the future and the opportunities in the industry,” she said.

TrackSAFE CEO Heather Neil

As a geographer by training, working on strategies to enable people to move around and interact with their environment more safely has brought Neil full circle.

“I worked for Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils and much of my job was advocating for services in Western Sydney, be it an airport, rail links, and other services. Now I’m kind of coming back to how people interact with the environment in which they live and how do you try and make that safe as well as efficient.”

As a harm prevention charity focused on reducing suicide on the rail network as well as accidents within the corridor, Neil sees the adoption of new technology, such as platform screen doors, as one area where new developments in the rail industry can have a positive effect.

“What we know in terms of preventing suicide is that if you can restrict access to the rail network, that is the best way to prevent suicide. TrackSAFE at the moment are pulling together a lot of information on fencing in order to have a conversation with governments to put that into the mix, particularly at the moment when governments are looking for shovel ready projects.”

By taking successes that have been demonstrated overseas or interstate and applying them in new contexts, the rail sector can continually improve safety outcomes, highlighted Neil.

“I really like that attitude of ‘We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.’ If we can build on the experience that others have had, while putting it in a different context, that’s efficient and contributes to good practice all the time,” said Neil.

These attitudes are distilled into TrackSAFE’s four primary areas of focus, which Neil sees the charity as continuing to operate within. The focus areas are: preventing suicide; providing staff and organisations with trauma management tools; reducing and preventing accidents within the rail corridor, particularly at level crossings; and taking an evidence-based approach to decision making.

While larger rail operators would have their own programs in each of these areas, Neil sees TrackSAFE as playing an important role in enabling the adoption of best practices across the industry as a whole by facilitating information exchange.

“For example, we know that operators are involved in various school-based education programs, and we encourage them to share that information between them and identify what’s worked really well, what can people build on, and then to minimise duplication.”

With Rail Safety Week occurring as passengers and commuters begin to return to a somewhat altered network, due to the changes made during the COVID-19 period, the focus of messages during the week will be on getting commuters to break out of their daily routines.

“We want to remind the community that it’s your individual responsibility to be aware of the surroundings because when you’re going to and from work or school every day you go into autopilot. We are trying to give people a reminder to take out your headphones, be aware of your surroundings, hold onto the railing, and stay back from the edge of the platform.”

Although targeted at the COVID-19 era, these messages will be ones that need to be heard no matter the year.

community

Rail safety a community responsibility

The experience around Australia when a new rail line is opened is that the community it serves flock to the service. On the Gold Coast, by the service’s fifth year of operations, over 10 million passenger trips were being taken a year. In the first year of operations of Newcastle’s light rail line, over a million passenger trips were taken. In both cities, the introduction of a light rail service grew overall public transport usage.

These figures were similarly replicated in Canberra, where the new light rail line well-exceeded patronage expectations. Prior to COVID-19, the system handled over 15,000 boardings a day, levels that the system was not expected to reach until 2021.

While these numbers would make transport planners happy and indicate the system’s success in getting people to where they need to go, for operators, the ongoing success of a light rail system is also down to its safety. Tilo Franz, general manager of Canberra Metro Operations, describes how the operator has channelled the community’s excitement with the new light rail line into ensuring safe day to day operations, particularly during Rail Safety Week.

“We try to include all community members, in particular schools, universities, and educational institutions of all kinds into our activities around Rail Safety Week.”

Safety initiatives to come from these collaborations have included wrapping the light rail vehicles with artwork from year 11 and 12 students to promote safety, to informing the community of the safety risks associated with light rail vehicles at depot visits. A strong focus has been on connecting with some of the younger riders in Canberra.

“Kids will certainly be frequent users of light rail in future,” said Franz. “The sooner they understand how to stay safe when using the light rail, that it’s no playground but a useful way to provide urban mobility, the better it is, and they will behave properly soon.”

In all three cities, Canberra, Newcastle and the Gold Coast, the newly instituted light rail systems were the first in their cities, apart from Newcastle’s tram network that was closed in the 1950s. Getting the community used to the system in this case is an extra consideration and requires their involvement.

“It is always difficult to introduce a brand-new railway system into an environment where you don’t have a history nor experience,” said Franz. “The community saw a construction site for almost three years and then suddenly, light rail vehicles (LRVs) are moving up and down the corridor at quite a significant speed. What is most important for all of us is to include the public into the evolution of the project, the message and to make them aware, to look out for fast approaching LRVs, because no technology will prevent them from injuries or worse if they step out in front of it.”

Another focus has been and will always be train driver training. With fewer physical barriers separating the rail corridor than on a heavy rail line, Canberra has conducted extra driver training.

“We have a basic driver training that we put every driver through, however we have enhanced and increased this training effort by having a defensive driver training. A fully packed LRV can be up to 60 tonnes travelling on a steel rail with a steel wheel, so you can imagine the braking distance is rather long. As a train driver, you have to have foresight while driving, you learn to read others using the road and adjacent to it in order to drive safely along the alignment.”

In Canberra in particular, where light rail vehicles travel at speeds of up to 70km/h and go through the intersections at 50km/h , there is a considerable risk if people do not take care in the corridor and ignore traffic lights or travel on the alignment where they shouldn’t be.

To address these risks, Canberra Metro has partnered with the Australian Federal Police and the ACT government to keep motorists, passengers, and pedestrians safe.

“We have identified hotspots, of course, of people running red lights on a frequent basis and we try to address that with the road authorities and to improve signage, or to make it clear that there’s no U-turn here because this is a light rail corridor,” said Franz.

For Rail Safety Week this year, Canberra Metro will be running a simulation exercise to highlight what can happen, and how the operator is prepared. The scenario will involve ACT police, emergency services, and local students will act as injured passengers during the event.

“This year, we will simulate a passenger having had an accident with our light rail vehicle inside as well as outside, being rescued, and afterwards the LRV being towed away simulating a technical breakdown,” said Franz. “This is to demonstrate that we are prepared for the worst. We do everything to prevent those accidents from happening, but we also want to use this opportunity during Rail Safety Week to train our own team and to interact jointly with the emergency services during incidents of which we might not be in control of but to limit the extent of damage or injury.”

Involving the community in safety is helping to ensure that Canberrans can continue to enjoy their safe and efficient light rail service.