Mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity improved on Central Coast line

Governments at the state and federal level and the private sector are funding improvements to mobile connectivity along the Central Coast line.

In addition, passengers and residents can now access Wi-Fi at 19 train stations between Hornsby and Wyong. The improvements hope to reduce black spots and resolve connectivity issues across the 68-kilometre section.

Federal Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said that these improvements would increase productivity and improve passenger amenity.

“The Morrison Government is committed to improving connectivity and reducing black spots along the Central Coast rail corridor, allowing passengers to use their travel time to work remotely or connect with friends and family,” he said.

Federal member for Berowra Julian Leeser said that the improvements would be welcomed by the local community.

“The rail corridor is a vital link for many. Significant black spots along the train line have been causing calls to drop out and have made it impossible to work on the train. This project will provide new connectivity and continuous mobile coverage along the rail corridor, helping to boost productivity.”

The federal government contributed $12 million to the project, with the NSW state government contributing $4m and Telstra $13m.

The Wi-Fi service is now available at all stations between Hornsby and Wyong.

The tunnels, hills, and valleys of the line create black spots for mobile coverage, which will be rectified following the project.

Thales

Thales signalling solutions deployed in four locations

Thales will roll out its SelTrac Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) system in three new cities, with one system recently entering service.

In Hangzhou, China, in its joint venture with Shanghai Electric Company, Thales SEC Transport (TST) recently celebrated Hangzhou Metro Line 16 entering revenue service. The 35.12km line can operate at speeds up to 120km/h and has utilised the SelTrac CBTC technology.

Functions of the signalling system deployed in Hangzhou include automatic train supervision (ATS), triple redundancy, automatic train protection (ATP) for engineering vehicles, and switch protection in intermittent automatic train protect (IATP) mode.

The newline will connect the Hangzhou city centre with the growing Lin’an District, enabling sustainable population growth said Jérôme Bendell, vice president of Thales North Asia and CEO of Thales in China.

“An efficient metro is essential for the commercial success and growth of any great city. Thales is proud to bring a proven expertise and decades of transit infrastructure experience to Hangzhou Line 16 that will contribute to the transportation foundation for Hangzhou’s growth and evolution.”

Three other metropolises have selected Thales CBTC signalling systems for new lines and capacity increases. In Seoul, as part of the modernisation of Incheon Subway Line 2, Thales is working with local Korean signalling company DaeaTi to increase the depot capacity, allowing for the driverless trains to be parked safely.

Thales is also delivering its vehicle on board controller (VOBC) with train contractor Woojin Ind.

In Istanbul, the SelTrac CBTC system will be installed on the new M10 line. This will be the second line in Istanbul with the technology, and will now link Turkey’s second busiest airport with Istanbul and its growing suburbs.

Again delivering as TST, the SelTrac CBTC system will provide the signalling for the new metro line 4 in Nangchang, in eastern China. The new line will be the longest in Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi Province, as well as having the largest number of stations.

Dominique Gaiardo, vice president and managing director for Thales’ urban rail signalling business, said that Thales tailors its solution to the needs of each customer and the requirements of passengers in each city.

“During the Covid-19 period, we are continuing to work together with our global partners in major cities such as Incheon, Istanbul, and Nanchang. Thales is committed to providing state-of-the-art SelTrac CBTC signalling technology.”

Manco

An elevated solution

Working collaboratively with a customer, Manco have been able to design and deliver a bespoke solution customised for the rail projects of today.

In Australia and New Zealand, perhaps the most distinctive feature of the major rail infrastructure projects is that on the whole, they are hidden from view. Whether it be the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane, the new Sydney Metro lines, the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, or in Auckland, the City Rail Link, the major elements of the new rail lines are deep underground.

Installing track, wiring, and associated systems many metres below ground level requires new thinking when it comes to the equipment and plant needed to build the new rail lines.

Steven Waugh, power systems manager – transport and technology at UGL Limited is more aware than most of the intricacies involved in some of these projects. UGL is working on both the Line-wide works for the Sydney Metro as part of the Systems Connect joint venture and the rail integration and systems contract as part of the UNITY Alliance joint venture on Cross River Rail. In these projects innovative equipment is required to respond to current needs.

At the time of writing, Waugh is just a week away from receiving delivery of a new combined scissor lift platform and wire manipulator from Manco Rail. The bespoke piece of equipment was designed in partnership between UGL and Manco specifically for the requirements of modern rail projects, the first being the need to limit exhaust fumes when working in confined tunnels.

“Instead of retrofitting old plant, we went with a new truck that has the best emissions controls available,” said Waugh.

More significantly, however, Waugh is just about to complete the process of working with Manco to develop a unique platform that will be put to use on projects such as Sydney Metro and Cross River Rail.

“The combined scissor platform and wire manipulator is going to be ideal for wire runs or traction wiring runs. We will be able to do wire retrievals and install new catenary and contact wire.”

Bringing together what would normally be two separate pieces of equipment will enable Waugh to tackle the complexities of current projects.

“The wire manipulator is for when you’re running wires so you can get your staggers right as you run the wire out, but then a scissor platform can do things like install sections, insulator switches, and doing bigger jobs all at once with a number of people on a platform.”

The platform mounted onto the back of a hi-rail truck is extendable, to allow for more people to work on the platform at one time.

“The platform is designed to be quite large so that we have a number of people on it at once and safely do all the things we need to do,” said Waugh.

To meet UGL’s specifications, Manco designed a platform which, when raised can expand horizontally.

“This enables us to work safely in tunnels and to install equipment on the side of the tunnels. This is quite a bespoke unit that Manco did for us, to our specifications, so that we can have it as a multipurpose unit.”

Unlike standard catenary wires, electric trains running through tunnels draw their power from beams mounted into the ceiling of the tunnel and it’s here that the large platform comes in handy.

“In the tunnel it’s a rigid bar conductor so the length of that platform allows us to have two people on each end of the bar, installing it into the roof. That would be very impractical with a normal elevated work platform (EWP),” said Waugh.

Being a “multipurpose unit” has other efficiencies, particularly when getting equipment in and out of tunnels is easier said than done.

“It takes time to bring machines in and out, because these things on rail only move at 15km/h. Doing one thing with one machine then bringing another machine in takes a significant amount of time.”

For example, even in surface-level wire installation, Waugh has seen rail authorities which have one machine with a pantograph for mounting the overhead wire, and a second EWP for measurement.

“They’ve got two machines doing the same job that we can do with one machine, so that’s where I think we can start to get efficiencies because of the multiple things we can do at once.”

Another advantage of the unit that Manco have designed is its flexibility. The equipment can be reconfigured by an operator for the job at hand.

“It’s modular too,” said Waugh. “I could get a forklift, take that whole scissor platform off and, because it sits on container-type pins, put a flat tray on it and use it as a hi-rail truck, then I can transport materials. That’s the beauty of it, I could drop on another module on it, even a concrete agitator, or another module that is a smaller, Manco EWP.”

THE OUTCOME OF COLLABORATION
The flexibility, multipurpose nature, and instant applicability of the platform is a result, in part, of the close and collaborative relationship that UGL and Manco had throughout the design and build process.

“The process and collaboration were great, they listened to what we wanted and then worked through that,” said Waugh.

An OEM based in New Zealand with branches in Australia, Manco was able to quickly respond to the needs of UGL and come up with a solution that met their requirements.

“They’ve been doing this for a long time, and they were able to listen, which was the key piece.”

In addition, Manco knew the environment that UGL was operating in, and was able to suit the design of the platform to fit the safety requirements of various rail access regimes in Australia.

“There are some challenges that come with a thing like this, where you’ve got moving platforms and multiple uses,” said Waugh. “One particular one area was ensuring the safety railing will met the legislation and all the requirements in terms of safety and testing that. With Manco, that was just something that we worked through, it didn’t take very long and they came up with the designs.”

When the project neared completion, Waugh and a colleague visited the Manco workshop in New Zealand in person to finalise all details so that the equipment would be ready for delivery. The ease of being able to connect further simplified the process.

“Obviously it’s better to be geographically closer but there’s a couple of other advantages; there’s the collaboration on the engineering, and then being able to get out of us what we want and turn that into what it is,” said Waugh. “Then there’s also the testing and engineering part and the certification part and that’s been a bigger part than even I expected. Having local people that can do that testing, that are familiar with all the different rail networks, and assist with getting that certification done has been helpful.”

Manco was able to work with independent certifiers to ensure that the unique solution met all of UGL’s requirements to work on rail networks around Australia.

“These engineers know what the requirements are, and they ensure that the machines are tested correctly and can provide the test results to meet those requirements.”

Ultimately, Waugh said that the new platform will be an asset to UGL’s fleet. “It was designed for the work UGL is involved in and so we can see how it will benefit those major projects because of its multifaceted capabilities. We see it as something that will be an asset to the project and give us some great productivities,” he said.

investigations

Incidents highlight need for effective track and infrastructure monitoring

Recent investigations by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) have highlighted the importance of ensuring effective track monitoring and infrastructure maintenance.

The ATSB recently concluded two separate investigations, one into a derailment of a grain train in north-western NSW that occurred in 2017.

The train, travelling from Nevertire to Manildra derailed causing substantial damage to wagons and track infrastructure, however there were no injuries. The investigation, conducted on behalf of the ATSB by the NSW Office of Transport Safety Investigation (OTSI), found that maintenance of identified defects did not prevent these defects from re-occurring.

The train was also travelling 20km/h above the 60km/h speed limit for that section of track.

OTSI CEO and chief investigator Mick Quinn said that defects around a rail joint as well as speed contributed to the derailment.

“The incident highlights the importance of ensuring that track is free of defects that effect safety and that trains travel at or below the speed specified in rail network standards.”

Following the derailment, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), which manages that section of track, has made changes to its track maintenance systems and processes, and is replacing sleepers and removing rail joints.

In a separate incident, at Eagle Junction in Brisbane, a newly replaced points machine resulted in an incorrect authority displayed by a signal.

The driver and signal electrician at the time, in 2018, noticed the irregularity, and reported it, however a short time later another train approach and crossed over the conflicting route.

An ATSB investigation found that the master circuit diagram had not been updated to reflect modifications. ATSB director transport safety Stuart Godley said that to avoid this, safety critical infrastructure must be supported by precise documentation.

“Accurate and up-to-date engineering documents correlating with in‑field equipment are fundamental to the effectiveness of an engineered interlocked signalling system to maintain train separation.”

Rapid adoption of ATMS key to freight rail competitiveness

Rail freight cannot afford to be left “in the age of steam” chair of the Freight on Rail Group (FORG) Dean Dalla Valle has said in the inaugural industry-led Advanced Train Management System (ATMS) oversight group.

Dalla Valle, who chaired the first meeting, was referring to the adoption of semi-autonomous trucks in the road freight sector, and the need for rail to adopt similar digital technologies such as ATMS.

The group, formed in May, held its first meeting on June 2 and will oversee the rapid rollout of the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) ATMS system.

ATMS will allow for more trains to run on Australia’s freight network by reducing headways and improve safety by allowed for remote control and automatic braking.

Using GPS navigation and mobile internet, ATMS removes the need for trackside infrastructure and operators will communicate with drivers via in-cab equipment. Dalla Valle said that this would shift the public perception of rail freight.

“Innovative in-cab technologies not only help enhance safety and productivity, they also allow us to better monitor the performance of networks. Smart technology to better utilise existing physical assets is often overshadowed by ‘glamorous’ big-money infrastructure projects, albeit the two need to go together.”

Dalla Valle also highlighted that the adoption of ATMS would remove the tendency towards distinct train control systems, a trend that could limit the effectiveness of the rail freight sector as the different state-based gauge networks did in the 20th century.

“Lack of harmonisation of train control systems across the country – the last count is at least 11 different systems are currently in use – is starting to act as a handbrake on safety and efficiency improvements in our sector.”

Now formed, the oversight group will deliver a business case to fast-track the implementation of ATMS. The business case will involve detailing the deployment of ATMS and its integration with existing train control systems including European Train Control System – Level 2 on metropolitan networks. A business case is hoped to be delivered to the Australian government before the end of July.

The system is currently in trials on the Port Augusta – Whyalla rail line and will soon be the primary safe working system on this section of track. The next section will be between Tarcoola and Kalgoorlie, beginning in 2021.

Dalla Valle highlighted how recent events have reinforced the value of a safe, efficient rail freight network, in particular the demands on the freight network during the COVID-19 pandemic. As an Australia-developed system, ATMS will ensure that the efficiencies and advantages of rail freight are continued.

“To help recover from the deep economic shocks of the coronavirus pandemic, Australia must get better at both leveraging and synchronising new and improved technologies in our transport supply chains,” said Dalla Valle.

Members of the ATMS implementation oversight group include:

  • Dean Dalla Valle – in his capacity as FORG Chair
  • Mark Campbell – ARTC CEO
  • Simon Ormsby – group executive strategy and corporate development, ARTC
  • Shane Curtin – head of project Management, Aurizon
  • Louise Collins – chief of operational planning, Pacific National
  • Ian Hall – chief operating officer, OneRail Australia
  • Chris Jones – executive general manager, Southern Shorthaul Railroad (SSR)
  • Dani Gentle – national safety manager, Qube
  • Andrew Williams – chief operating officer rail, SCT Logistics
  • Murray Cook – Arc Infrastructure CEO
  • Paul Lowney – general manager, network strategy and customer operations, Arc Infrastructure
  • Paul Hamersley – corporate affairs and marketing, WatCo Australia
  • Kerryn Vine-Camp – first assistant secretary, Major Transport and Infrastructure Division – Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development & Communications
  • Dale Merrick – chief operating officer, NSW TrainLink
  • Alex Panayi – executive general manager asset management, V/Line

Addressing the rail industry’s engineering deficit

The Australian rail industry has experienced a shortage in key engineering skills for many years now, in part due to the ageing workforce. One solution to this issue is to increase the quality and quantity of training being provided. Whether it be given to junior engineers or retraining experienced engineers, a well-trained and experienced workforce is a fundamental requirement of any successful project. Formed in 2016, Omada Rail Systems is growing rapidly and has established itself as a leading provider of rail systems management and engineering services throughout Australia. As a company focused on growth and innovation, Omada is undertaking a number of initiatives to tackle this issue head on.

Upgrading training facilities
Australia’s current rail project boom has led to a deficit of highly experienced and skilled engineers, particularly in signalling. With an abundance of major projects being delivered concurrently, such as Inland Rail, Cross River Rail, and the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, the industry’s engineering resources are stretched thin. While being involved in many of these major projects, Omada Rail Systems has been chosen to complete a project aimed at tackling Australia’s engineering shortfall. This project is to upgrade the signalling facilities at the Rail Academy in Newport, Victoria’s only specialist rail training facility. Omada’s goal in this project is to transform the Rail Academy into one of the best equipped facilities in the world.

Omada’s junior engineers will be involved in all aspects of the Rail Academy project while under the mentorship and strict guidance of senior staff. This ensures they gain valuable hands on experience and develop a well-rounded set of skills, while completing work to Omada’s high standards. This work allows Omada to demonstrate its signal engineering capabilities, ranging from project inception through to the testing and commissioning phase. Omada will be creating numerous designs detailing different signalling and infrastructure scenarios. Alongside these designs, there will be duplicates made with intentional faults, to provide training in fault finding. When asked about his views on the project, Omada Rail Systems director Christopher Miller said, “This project is an exciting opportunity for Omada Rail Systems to enhance the development of our own engineers, and once completed, all engineers who train there.”

Bringing on engineers
Providing junior engineers with valuable experience in projects enhances their training and builds a new generation of engineers with the necessary knowledge and skill base to deliver Australia’s pipeline of rail projects. Over the course of Omada’s three-year graduate program, cadets are exposed to every aspect of rail signalling, from planning and design all the way through to testing and commissioning.

Offering a complete range of engineering and management services across all aspects of the project life cycle, including planning & scoping, feasibility studies, and preliminary & detailed design, Omada is constantly looking to develop all areas of their team. As a growing company with ongoing projects across Australia, there are a great deal of opportunities available to build on their current team. Putting a strong emphasis on Omada’s capability to train new and current staff, Miller said, “It doesn’t concern me if people are not superstars on paper, our engineers can guide and teach them along the way. As long as they have a positive attitude, a strong work ethic and are a team player, we can give them all the training required.”

Boosting the industry’s talent pool
Alongside their engineering capabilities, Omada has subject matter experts providing signalling competency assessments, qualified to assess Metro Trains Melbourne, V/Line, and ARTC competencies. This service provides industry engineers with a value for money option when updating or attaining their competency, supplying the industry with a greater number of qualified engineers. According to Omada’s website analytics, 37.25 per cent of people looking for competency assessments are under 35, showing that there is a large talent pool of young engineers looking to develop their competencies and help drive Australian rail forward.

Following the delivery of a number of successful commissionings in Queensland, NSW, and Victoria, and the impending increased demand of testing and commissioning resources, Omada has proactively grown their testing team. Now capable of taking on much larger projects, Omada’s growth has created opportunities for inexperienced but hard working engineers to gain the valuable experience and training they require.

To find out more about Omada Rail Systems and the work they are doing, head to their website to watch their capabilities video or read their latest update. www.omadarail.com

Working groups to address skills, standards to improve safety, productivity

Three working groups have been formed to improve the productivity and safety of the rail industry, and address key issue facing the sector.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack announced the working groups, which were agreed upon by Commonwealth, state, and territory government as part of the National Rail Action Plan.

“We are improving Australia’s rail system by continuing to align and harmonise operating rules, infrastructure and operational standards and systems across the national network.,” said McCormack.

The three groups cover skills and labour, interoperability, and harmonising national standards.

“The Australian government is committed to delivering critical rail infrastructure and improving the safety and productivity of rail operations and we are overseeing a major wave of investment in rail,” said McCormack.

The National Rail Action Plan was agreed upon by state and federal transport ministers as part of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Transport and Infrastructure Council, and is implemented by the National Transport Commission.

The leadership of each of the working groups includes government and industry representatives. CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Caroline Wilkie will co-chair the skills and labour working group with Tony Braxton-Smith, CEO of the South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. Simon Ormsby, group executive strategy at the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), will co-chair a group on interoperability with the NTC Chair, Carolyn Walsh. Deb Spring, CEO of the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB), will co-chair a working group on harmonising national standards with Ben Phyland from the Victorian Department of Transport.

“The National Rail Action Plan will complement the 10-year $10 billion National Rail Program, which is designed to help make our cities more liveable and efficient as they grow. The plan also aims to reduce the burden on our roads, provide more reliable transport networks and support our efforts to decentralise our economy and grow regional Australia,” said McCormack.

Wilkie said that the formation of these groups will tackle ongoing challenges in the rail sector, and encourage broader economic growth.

“We have long known that a national focus is crucial to ensuring the rail industry can continue to deliver the efficiency and productivity needed to drive Australia’s economic growth. These working groups will promote collaboration and support a truly national vision for rail.”

The National Rail Action Plan notes that the large pipeline of rail investment has created challenges in terms of critical skills in construction, operations, and manufacturing.

“There is no question we will need more skilled people in rail in the coming years. The working group will be looking at how we can collectively promote the industry as a great place to work. There is a real diversity of careers available in the industry and we need to make sure there are clear pathways to encourage the best and brightest to join us,” said Wilkie.

The Plan also sets out that the multiplicity of standards for infrastructure, rollingstock and components, safe work, and communications and control systems have presented a regulatory barrier to the rail industry. Addressing this will be one of the tasks of the working groups.

“The ARA also looks forward to engaging with the working groups on interoperability and harmonising national standards. Greater national consistency would allow us to get more value out of investment in rail and further streamline passenger and freight operations,” said Wilkie. “The calibre of industry representatives taking part in these groups really highlights how important the focus on these issues is.”

Procurement reform a vital step for economic recovery

ARA CEO Caroline Wilkie makes the case for procurement reform in rollingstock and signalling to assist infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy.

Governments in Australia have indicated that they will continue to fund committed infrastructure projects and have begun to bring projects forward to further stimulate the economy to support job growth and investment due to the impacts of COVID-19.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) commends this sensible approach. Infrastructure spending is in the long-term national interest, stimulating multiple parts of the economy, not just construction. Stimulating rail manufacturers and suppliers would be of immense benefit, particularly in regional Australia, where many are located.

However, there are other areas where governments could go further to identify and act on measures that could be introduced to support further cost savings and improve the delivery of new rail projects.

Reforms in the area of tendering and procurement would deliver better, faster, and cheaper projects in the rail sector. While this debate is not new within the infrastructure portfolio, the economic impact of COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of pursuing efficiencies to ensure the rail infrastructure construction sector and rollingstock supply chain remain in a position to support the government’s infrastructure agenda and further stimulate the economy during
these difficult economic times.

Australia’s tendering practices are significantly costlier and more time consuming compared to international benchmarks. The tendering costs in Australia are estimated to be around 1-2 per cent of a project’s total cost, which are double the world benchmark of 0.5 per cent. Increased tender costs are immediately reflected in the project pricing, so reducing the costs of tendering should be important to all parties. High tender costs also increase the risk profile for tenderers and thereby tend to discourage participation.

The ARA proposes that significant benefits could be realised if improvements were made to current Australian industry procurement practices. Substantial improvements can be achieved through more streamlined and consistent tender processes that improve efficiencies for both suppliers and purchasers, from pre- qualification right through to contract award.

These changes would minimise the consumption of resources on redundant and non-productive outcomes, reduce procurement cycle times, further reducing costs and releasing industry capacity for delivery. Further, tendering on the basis of appropriate and more standardised contracting models and risk allocation frameworks for delivery will also reduce tender development and negotiation costs. Creating a consistent and well understood delivery environment will also lead to more successful project delivery outcomes.

The ARA commends the recent procurement-related initiative in NSW, embodied in the NSW government’s Action Plan: A 10-point commitment to the construction sector. The plan reduces the red tape for firms with a proven track record and supports streamlined prequalification schemes for contractors, tiered according to their size and capacity. It reviews existing pre-qualification schemes to ensure they focus on capacity and capability and do not impose unnecessary costs and administrative burdens on suppliers; and minimise the number of project-specific bidders that are required to generate and submit prior to the selection of a preferred tenderer.

The ARA believes that all states should adopt similar principles.

The benefits arising from any process optimisation and standardisation are multiplied when adopted across Australia’s procurement agencies. The ARA supports the convergence and the maximum practical standardisation of procurement practices on a national basis as an urgent and worthwhile objective.

Under the auspices of its Rail Industry Group, the ARA has convened an expert committee of suppliers, consultants, and other interested parties to make specific recommendations for improvement.

The Best Practice Guide to Rolling Stock and Signalling Tendering in the Australian Rail Industry analyses present deficiencies in current tendering frameworks that add unnecessary cost and complexity to already complex tender processes. It makes recommendations for improved practice by procuring agencies in eleven thematic areas.

The ARA has written to Transport and Infrastructure Council ministers with the Guide and is meeting officials to advocate for its implementation.

Procurement – similar to standards, specifications, and training – particularly in regard to rail systems, are areas where Australia has suffered due to its colonial legacy, with differing policy and arrangements in place throughout the six states acting as a deadweight against a national industry.

States, territories, and the federal government have demonstrated their ability to work collaboratively on issues of national significance where there is clear benefit to doing so during this pandemic. This cooperative model should be utilised for other key matters where federation has imposed challenges for industries, where significant savings can be achieved through harmonisation such as rail industry procurement.

ATO on regional passenger trains trial to go ahead in 2021

A world-first test of automatic train operation (ATO) on a regional train line has received a prestigious award from the German government.

The German Federal Ministry of Economics awarded Alstom with the Innovation Prize for Regulatory Sandboxes for its planned trial of ATO in daily operation of regional passenger trains in Braunschweig.

The test is planned for 2021 and will be conducted by Alstom in partnership with the Regional Association of the greater area of Braunschweig, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Technical University of Berlin (TU Berlin).

Jörg Nikutta, managing director of Alstom in Germany and Austria, said the prize recognised Alstom’s focus on innovation.

“In the future, automated trains will optimize regional rail operations, reduce energy consumption, and increase ride comfort. In this way, highly automated driving will make a decisive contribution to climate protection and contribute to the development of a modern, attractive railway system. Following the development and successful testing of the world’s first hydrogen train Coradia iLint, Alstom is once again the innovative driver in rail transport with the pilot for regional trains in automated operation,” he said.

The trial will be conducted with two Coradia Continental regional trains, owned by the regional rail operator for greater Braunschweig. The trains will be equipped with an European Train Control System (ETCS) and ATO equipment to enable the trains to travel automatically.

The trial will involve two different grades of automation (GoA). In regular passenger operation the trains will operate at GoA3, meaning the trains will be fully autonomous but with an attendant who can step in if there is an emergency. In shunting the trains will be operated fully remotely, at GoA4.

Birgit Milius, head of the Department of Railway Operations and Infrastructure at TU Berlin said that the trail would be an indication of how rail will operate in the future.

“ATO, or Automatic Train Operation, is one of the most exciting challenges in the railway industry. It gives us the opportunity to shape and significantly change the operational management of the future. But a lot of research is still needed before this is the case, and I am very pleased to be working with Alstom on this project,” she said.

Findings from the tests will inform the legal and regulatory framework for ATO. Alstom will use its expertise in ATO for metro trains and research into autonomous freight trains to guide the project.

 

Report highlights challenges and opportunities for rail’s response to COVID-19

Global technology provider Thales has released a new report highlighting the challenges of and solutions to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in the rail transport sector.

Acknowledging that in many cases transport networks have been on the front line of responding to COVID-19, the report’s authors write that transport operators will need to develop new ways of operating.

“There is no historical precedent for this, no model to work from. The challenge is huge,” the report highlights.

Since the arrival of COVID-19 onto the global stage, a range of challenges have emerged for transport operators. The report categorises these into four sectors: revenue, health, mobility, and climate challenges.

For operators which rely on fare revenue for operations, rapid drops in ridership numbers have had a severe financial impact. In addition, extra cleaning and the introduction of social distancing measures has increased costs, while restrictions on capacity have limited revenue.

Transport has also been identified as an area of concern when it comes to the transmission and spread of COVID-19, placing extra responsibilities on transport operators to ensure the health of their passengers and staff.

Maintaining mobility while staff work from home and cybersecurity threats increase is also a challenge for operators.

Finally, climate challenges have not been altered by COVID-19, and the rail sector continues to play a part in helping communities achieve their emissions goals.

To meet these challenges, Thales has catalogued a range of digital tools which can assist transport operators. These range from using cameras to detect body temperature and compliance with mask wearing, and integrating traffic management systems to reduce crowding by smoothing connections between modes and services, to technologies for remote operations and infrastructure maintenance.

While some of these solutions are in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis, in other cases, the pandemic has served to highlight areas where existing issues need to be overcome. For example, the adoption of flexible train services to adapt to changes in demand and the provision of dynamic passenger information systems.

Amid these uncertainties, Thales highlights that rail operators should start asking more fundamental questions about their services to ensure that once the immediate crisis is over, they continue to provide adaptive and appropriate mobility solutions.

“For now, the priority is restoring services and rebuilding trust,” write the report’s authors. “Looking to the future, the trends point to a need for next-generation transportation systems. Access to secure, diverse and reliable sources of mobility will be vital not only to ensure long-term economic recovery, but also to address wider societal goals.”

Read the report here: https://thalesgroup-myfeed.com/ThalesTransport_Covid19_Whitepaper?elqCampaignId=458.