digital twins

Going from data to insights: The value of a digital twin in rail

Using a digital twin to drive operational decisions when it comes to maintenance is about turning what could be a cost into an asset.

By 2025, the world will be creating 175 zettabytes annually, according to market research firm IDC’s Data Age 2025 report. To put that in context, one zettabyte is equivalent to one trillion gigabytes. How rapidly this data is growing can be demonstrated by the fact that in 2012, only one zettabyte of data existed.

But, with all this data being produced, how much of it is actually useful? While a rail organisation is only a small proportion of the global data total, according to Andrew Smith, solutions executive responsible for Bentley’s Rail and Transit solution, they are still producing a significant amount of data.

“Rail organisations typically are very data rich,” said Smith. “They’ve got a large number of asset disciplines because it’s a huge complex system and each of those asset disciplines has a number of inspection and measurement mechanisms that can produce data.”

This data on its own, however, is not yet a useful resource.

“Data is a discrete fact about something,” said Smith. “For example, the distance between the left and right rail at this location is X, but data is no use to you when you’re actually trying to either work out short term what you’re going to do or longer term what may happen in the future. What you need to do is start a transformation process, so the first step of that is to go from data to information, which is data in context with meaning attached.”

Giving data its context turns what can be seen as a cost, the accumulation and storage of data, into a resource, information that can be used to make a decision.

“In order to be able to do that, you need to have a framework in place that allows you to pull all the different classes of data together, such that you can see all of that data in context,” said Smith. “And to me, that’s at the heart of the digital twin.”

Digital twins are a replica or model of a system or asset that can be used to take the information that a rail organisation has, in the form of data, to create insights, that are conclusions drawn from data and information.

“When you bring all this information together, the digital twin can tell you how as well and why things are happening, and it can give you contextual history,” said Smith. “The digital twin can give you design intent information that you wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise, as well as the as-constructed record. Critically, a railway is a system, it’s not just a set of isolated components, and what a digital twin allows us to do is understand specifically the relationships between those components and how they can be affecting each other.”

While digital twins are widely used in many fields, including construction and manufacturing, they have a distinct role to play when it comes to the maintenance and management of rail assets. As the complexity of operating a railway requires various departments covering different skills and mandates, applying a digital twin can overcome the data and organisational silos. Smith, who has been working in the rail industry for over 20 years, highlights one way in which this can be applied.

“For anywhere that’s got overhead electrification for example, if you’re on ballasted track you can move the track from side to side through maintenance, but you need to maintain the relationship with the overhead wires, but these are often managed by two different teams. The digital twin will manage by design the relationship between the two. The maintenance records, where you’re going to go, and the type of maintenance you’re doing means that there is a chance that you will actually introduce a change to the overhead wire relationship. Therefore, you need to tag that work order as needing somebody to go out and actually measure the overhead wire relationship as well, whereas historically that relationship wouldn’t be as tightly coupled.”

Digital twins can give meaning to the vast amounts of data produced by railways.

DESIGNING A RAIL-BASED DIGITAL TWIN
Getting to this level of maturity with a digital twin takes a deep understanding of how a rail network operates and how best to design a digital twin that fits the reality of a rail organisation. Bentley, as part of its portfolio of solutions in the rail and transit space, has experience working with rail operators around the globe to design and deploy digital twins. From this experience, Smith highlights, the usual understanding of what a digital twin is can be re-evaluated.

“Normally if you think about a digital twin you actually start with a four-dimensional model, however railways often don’t think in terms of XYZ axes. They tend to think in terms of linear distances with lateral and vertical offsets and that drives the way that measurements are made, the way that inspections are made, but also the way that maintenance is actually managed. If you’re sending someone to go out and do some tamping along a piece of track, you don’t send them to an XYZ coordinate or a latitude- longitude coordinate, you’ll send them this many metres past kilometre post seven on such and such a track.”

With this in mind, Smith suggests that digital twins in the rail space can be more useful if they are designed to fit the way that railways are understood. Then, the data that makes up the digital twin can be overlaid on the representation of the network. When needed, for example at a station or in yards, this data can be visualised as a three-dimensional model, but linear visualisations may be more appropriate for a section of track.

To get to the point of having a representation of a rail network, a large amount of data will have to be collected and interpreted. As managers of an array of legacy assets, rail organisations can turn to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to sort and organise the vast streams of data, said Smith.

“One of the challenges that we see with a digital twin for a lot of brownfield sites in particular is that there are a large number of assets in place that are not being represented digitally. Being able to use image recognition or identifying features from reality meshes and then being able to put an attribution against them is a great use of AI to be able to identify where the assets are.”

With this data in place, the twin must be maintained and kept up to date. With networks spanning across hundreds of kilometres, rail organisations can use automated surveys of a network to provide the constant data upkeep needed.

With the digital twin now operating as a living representation of a rail network, defect detection can be done in a way that gets to a root cause, rather than just addressing individual issues. One example, that Smith describes is if measurement scans identify vertical deterioration. A digital twin would then allow for a cross referencing against other assets that are in place, to see if there is a culvert on that section of track.

“Then I’m not going to send a tamper out,” said Smith. “The first thing that I’m going to do is send a crew out to inspect a culvert to see if it’s collapsing over time. The next thing I might want to do there is ask, if I’ve got twin track, am I seeing the same deterioration on both tracks? Normally they’d be considered in isolation, separate from each other. Then I would ask, has any maintenance taken place at this region? That’s not just maintenance of this asset, but all maintenance records, so I could say, ‘Hang on, someone actually went in there and did some maintenance work on the drainage in-between, but it happens to be in an area that’s close enough that it could’ve had an unexpected knock on onto the condition of the track.’”

These kinds of insights can only be gained through the kinds of insights a digital twin is able to offer, by bringing together disparate data and putting that data into context.

DRIVING THE SOLUTION
While a digital twin may seem like a laudable goal on its own, according to Smith, the implementation of such a tool only makes sense when a rail organisation has identified what are the issues that it needs to solve.

“The driver here is not a technology change. The driver is to change the way of working, so an organisation has to first understand its current working practices, where the efficiencies and inefficiencies are, where the limitations and constraints may be, and then we can understand the aspirational state, where they actually want to be at some stage in the future.”

Implementing a digital twin begins with understanding the process of going from a current state to an aspirational state in the future. Rather than jumping in straight to a predictive maintenance solution, the first step may be to identify where the current most significant issue is, with a plan or vision to have a predictive system at a point in the future. Understanding where the technology is going to be implemented comes down to working with the people who are going to be using the software.

“It is absolutely critical that those people are engaged right from the outset, not just the management but the end users,” said Smith.

To get people on board, Bentley has used model offices where representative users are invited to be involved in the design process and give their insights into the particular challenges they face.

“Then there’s buy in,” said Smith. “There’s engagement at that side, which means that the final product is a tool that the engineers have designed and set up to help them do their job better that means they’re positive about the tool and they’re positive about the process change that’s in place to be able to do it.”

Rather than success looking like a piece of software that is installed to contract specifications, Smith outlines how in developing a success plan for the implementation of the software, the outcome is about delivering value.

“Owner operators of railways aren’t installing these systems because they like technology. Technology is an overhead to them – it’s a cost, an expense, and it’s a risk, so the only time that it’s worth doing is when they can show that the value is greater than the cost associated with it, so what we’re moving to is making sure that the focus is now on the value to the users instead,” said Smith.

“You can look into the future and run ‘what if’ scenarios. So, I’m going to increase the tonnage over a particular length of rail and I’m going to run a simulation of what that’s going to do to my rail replacement strategy that I have in place. We can use AI on top of this to look both tactically how do I optimise right now, where do I best spend money, but also starting to look further out by running simulations and trying to predict what the impact the change is going to have.”

This value can be defined in any number of ways, but as Smith highlights, it is the process of creating insights out of data.

Making the call: tm stagetec’s centralised audio control system for Sydney Trains

In a world first, tm stagetec systems have implemented a centralised, real time audio control system that spans the entire NSW rail network.

At dawn on April 25, 2020, the Last Post played out at every train station in NSW. While regular Anzac Day services were called off due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions on public gatherings, essential staff working for Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW paused to remember those who had died

in war as the Last Post played across the stations’ public address systems.

This was the first time that the bugle call was played at the same time across the Transport for NSW network and was made possible thanks to a centralised audio system that tm stagetec systems has recently installed for Sydney Trains.

In addition to the Last Post, 100,000 announcements are played every day across the system, which is orchestrated from the Rail Operations Centre (ROC) in Alexandria, which was opened in 2019. As Mark Lownds, general manager of tm stagetec systems explained, the centralised operations centre also brought together audio announcements that are played out around the network.

“As part of the project, Sydney Trains wanted to centralise a lot of the operation of the system and a big part of that was to put all of the controls of the audio systems into the operations centre.”

From the ROC in Alexandria, operational staff can make announcements to individual platforms anywhere in the system, as well as state-wide announcements. This is in addition to scheduling regular announcements.

Previously, just as rail operations were controlled from a number of separate centres, so were audio messages. tm stagetec systems had been involved in these legacy systems, so they were able to adapt to the new version.

“We’ve had part of this infrastructure in place for five years,” said Lownds. “Before the ROC, Sydney Trains had all these separate facilities, so we had little bits of systems here and there with different teams, but the difference here was to centralise it all and by doing that we use a lot less infrastructure but also get a higher availability. From a technical perspective that was quite good because it means a lot less physical equipment to get a better outcome.”

Planning for the ROC began in 2016, when the $296 million facility was first announced.

The complexity of the system was such that design choices were made down to the individual desks that rail operators would work at. Rail management, infrastructure control, security, and signalling were all brought together, meaning that effective communication between the centre and the entire Sydney network was key. To enable this to happen, tm stagetec systems were brought in early to effectively design the audio infrastructure highlighted Clive Dong, solutions architect.

“Even when they were doing the architectural and building design, we had the opportunity to talk about how we would integrate the systems and how we could ensure that it was going to work and meet all the requirements that Sydney Trains had,” said Dong.

Sydney Trains and tm stagetec systems held discussions over where to run fibre cables, making sure that there are redundant connections back into the rest of the system from the ROC, power back-ups, even down to locations for physical racks and equipment space. These early discussions meant that by the time the facility opened, Sydney Trains was able to streamline audio announcements to improve passenger communication.

“The ROC has separate power, separate fibre connections directly back to their core system at Central. Everything is fully redundant, and then they run dedicated fibre to each of their operational desks,” said Dong.

In addition to being able to schedule safety and generic announcements, such as no smoking announcements, Sydney Trains has recently used the system to communicate to customers the COVID-19 physical distancing guidelines as the transport operator has rolled out its “no dot, no spot” campaign.

“On top of that is the real time announcements for the train services, and then they can do special announcements for things like track work and when necessary they can do live announcements,” said Lownds. “If there’s something happening, and they want to make a live announcement to the station, they can do that centrally from the ROC as well.”

As part of the overall audio package, tm stagetec systems installed a small recording booth within the ROC so that the quality of announcements is maintained.

The ROC also has some role in directing train movements outside of Sydney Trains.

In this case, audio announcements needed to be heard beyond the Sydney metropolitan network. This presented a challenge as there were no dedicated fibre connections between the ROC and regional stations. tm stagetec systems enabled operators at the ROC to make announcements over the telephone line as well to service remote locations.

“We can play an announcement to the entire state at any station and any time, live,” said Dong.

Audio for the entire NSW network is controlled in real time from the ROC.

To control the system, tm stagetec systems used a web-based, graphical user interface (GUI) to make the system easy to use and flexible. Audio is distributed between the ROC and speakers on the Dante Domain Manager platform, an audio-over-IP platform developed by Australian digital audio networking technology leader, Audinate. According to Lownds, the system tm stagetec has installed is the largest Dante network in the world, larger than public address systems to hospitals, campuses, and stadiums. The system avoids the need for lengthy reams of analogue cables and is designed to be secure.

“We had to ensure that this was a very robust network because audio announcements to an entire network is something you don’t want somebody to get a hold of that shouldn’t,” said Lownds. “So, just in the ROC, we have two separate, discrete fibre runs to make sure that if there’s a problem with roadworks and a fibre gets cut then we can still get the system running. All the backend equipment is duplicated and fully redundant, so if there is a failure, the system will actually keep working, without interruption.”

In addition, the system is able to be monitored down to the speaker, in real time, to know if there are any faults.

The sophistication of the system also enables Sydney Trains to do more with their audio-based information. Working with tm stagetec systems, Sydney Trains is rolling out integration of the audio-over-IP network with audio frequency induction loops (AFILS). This means that the audio played out over the loudspeakers at a station is transformed into an electromagnetic field, which can be picked up by a hearing aid or listening device. Other areas that are being explored include mobile-based functionality so that staff on the ground have access to the audio network.

Across the entire network, the technology would only be useful if the sound that is being transmitted can be understood, and a key requirement of the project is meeting strict sound intelligibility standards measured as a speech transmission index (STI) from 0 to 1, with 1 being excellent intelligibility. Sydney Trains mandated a reading of 0.75, or excellent, without a train on the platform and 0.6 with a train. Now, the team has achieved that, with a delay of only five milliseconds between the announcement being made at the ROC and the audio being heard across the entire Transport for NSW network.

While Anzac Day commemorations may be held differently in 2021, the clarity of sound across the Sydney Trains network will be exactly the same.

Duplication

Victorian train stations to get a make-over

The Victorian government will spend $24 million upgrading 16 train stations around the state.

The program of works is funded through the $2.7 billion Building Works package, of which $328.4m is being spent on transport projects.

The upgrades to train stations will include new passenger information screens, public address equipment, and disability shelters. Money will also go towards extra car parks, toilets, and bicycle parking.

Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said that the projects would support jobs in a number of communities.

“We’re hitting the ground running with these projects – creating hundreds of new jobs in the coming months to support local communities across Victoria that need it most.”

The station upgrades follow regional track improvements which were announced in July, as well as maintenance works.

Stations to be upgraded include Heathmont, Frankston, Melton, and Moonee Ponds in the Melbourne metropolitan network, and Broadford, North Shore, and Lara on the regional network.

It is hoped that the distributed nature of the numerous small-scale projects can provide a boost to local economies that have struggled during coronavirus (COVID-19) related shutdowns.

In total, the works are expected to create and support over 600 jobs, according to Carroll.

“Every dollar spent as part of this extra investment will support jobs and families, and improve our public transport network for everyone who relies on it.”

Works are expected to start in October with tenders to be released in the coming months.

A full list of upgrades are below:

Aircraft Station Accessibility upgrades: Installation of handrails, upgrade existing DDA carparks, installation of two Raised Boarding Pads (RBPs) including rubber fingers at train door 1. Upgrades to the pedestrian crossing via new rubber track inserts. Platform canopy and seating upgrades.
Anstey Station Accessibility upgrades: Installation of handrails, upgrade existing DDA carparks, installation of two RBPs including rubber fingers at train door 1. Installation of new DDA shelters. Upgrades to the pedestrian crossing via new rubber track inserts. Platform canopy and seating upgrades.
Heathmont Station Accessibility upgrades: upgrade existing DDA car parks. Platform, canopy and seating, fencing, Tactile Ground Surface Indicators (TGSI) installation, lighting.
Huntingdale Station Passenger information displays (PIDs).
Moonee Ponds Station Accessibility upgrades: installation of handrails, upgrading DDA car parks, installation of two RPBs including rubber fingers at train door 1. Upgrades to the pedestrian crossing via new rubber track-inserts. Toilet refurbishment.
Royal Park Station Platform, canopy and seating upgrades, bicycle parking.
Jordanville Station Accessibility upgrades: Upgrade fourexisting DDA car parks. Platform, canopy and seating upgrades, installation of TGSI.  Bicycle parking.
Footscray Station Platform PA system.
South Kensington Station Platform, canopy and seating upgrades, TGSI installation.
Frankston Station Public toilet and landscaping at station entrance.
North Geelong Station Platform PA system, toilet refurbishment, platform canopy and seating, accessibility upgrades.
North Shore Safety upgrades (e.g. lighting, CCTV).
Kilmore East Station Platform PA system, toilet refurbishment, platform canopy, and seating upgrades.
Broadford Station Toilet refurbishment, platform canopy, and seating upgrades.
Lara Station Platform PA, platform canopy, and seating.
Melton Station General station upgrades, accessibility upgrades, DDA upgrades, fencing, install PIDs.

Alstom to trial fully autonomous shunting in the Netherlands

French rail manufacturer Alstom has signed an agreement with Dutch infrastructure operator ProRail to test automatic shunting locomotives in 2021.

The tests aspire to a level 4 grade of automation (GoA4) where the trains will be fully automated, a first for shunting trains in the Netherlands.

Alstom will fit the automatic train operation (ATO) technology to diesel-hydraulic shunting locomotives owned by Lineas, the largest private rail freight operator in Europe. This technology will include automatic control technology, intelligence obstacle detection, and environment detection.

During the tests, train staff will remain aboard to ensure safety, however regular tasts such as starting and stopping, pushing wagons, controlling traction and brakes, and handling emergencies will be fully automated.

Bernard Belvaux, Alstom managing director for Benelux said that the trial would improve the operation of railways.

“This project is paving the way for fully digitalised railway. These tests will help the European rail system benefit from an increase in capacity, reduced energy consumption and cost while offering higher operational flexibility and improved punctuality. This test is fully in line with Alstom’s strategy to bring added value to our customers for smart and green mobility.”

Alstom has previously delivered ATO for metros around the world, including on the Sydney Metro, where the system also runs at a GoA4 level. This experience has enabled Alstom to demonstrate the benefits of an automated railway. By reducing headways and operating uniformly, automated trains can increase capacity, cut costs, and save energy.

ProRail has previously carried out tests with freight locomotives at GoA level 2, where a driver remains in control of doors and in the event of a disruption, with Alstom on a freight locomotive on the Betuweroute, a freight railway running from Rotterdam to Germany.

In May, Alstom announced that it would be trialling ATO on regional passenger trains in Germany in 2021.

smart signal

Delivering a next generation smart signal

Required to develop a unique solution for a challenging requirement, Aldridge have implemented a smart signal built for the future.

Across the vast majority of most train networks, most signals have the sophistication of a light bulb – the signal is either on, or off. The increasing sophistication of new lines, and their requirements to deliver more in a smaller package, has required a new kind of smart signal.

Sydney-based rail signalling experts, Aldridge have developed a new smart signal which can provide a much greater amount of information in a tight environment. Already in use in some of the most advanced systems in the Asia-Pacific region, David Aldridge, managing director of Aldridge, explains what makes these signals smart.

“In a conventional signal, you might have an A or B on it, and then if you need to put a C on there you can’t do it; you need to build a whole new signal. This one you can reprogram to show an A, B, C, D, or whatever, that’s the difference – their ability to be able to generate all characters.”

The new signal can decode up to 10 110VAC selection inputs and generate a comprehensive range of alphanumeric characters and symbols on displays up to three digits wide. This solution was developed in house, as company engineer Craig Sharwood highlights.

“I can change a lot of the behaviour of the display that previously would be locked in hardware and any change would require a major change to circuit boards and documentation. Here I can just change the code that controls the signal and change an A to a B or a 1 to a 5.”

The flexibility of the signal does not end at the display, however, as it can be configured with any number of interlocking systems and has already been installed in divergent projects.

“The structure of the signal is such that I can adapt it to be compatible with whatever interface I have to connect the signal to,” said Sharwood. “it gives us some flexibility to make it talk and in whatever format that the customer would like.”

A PROVEN SOLUTION
The smart signals were first developed to be used on two projects in Southeast Asia, the MRT Purple Line in Bangkok and the KVMRT system in Kuala Lumpur. For both systems, Aldridge had to comply with the customer’s demand for a new kind of signal.

“The customer’s challenge required our signal to display numerous character combinations using encoded 110VAC signalling over a limited umber of control lines.

Our solution enabled this customer to achieve the desired signal display functionality at lower cost, by reducing cable harness conductor count and interface overheads,” said Sharwood.

With the technology proven on these projects, when the call came for a similar signal for the Sydney Metro Northwest project, Aldridge was able to supply their solution.

“We’d already designed the product for the two other projects in Asia,” said Aldridge.

“We had the technology running and then we reproduced it here using the same technology.”

Although the core technology was the same, the signal had been improved as a result of previous versions, giving the product an edge over other solutions, said Sharwood.

“We have refined it over several iterations with other clients, so it’s given it maturity as a product. It’s not just a drawing board situation, it’s something that’s in service.”

While the product had been updated, the size of the kinetic envelope on the Sydney Metro lines presented a new obstacle for Aldridge to overcome.

“One of the challenges was the actual size that they gave us which we had to bring the product down to, to miniaturise it,” said Aldridge.

“A normal signal here in Australia, or basically anywhere in the world, is 300mm in width and these had to brought down to 270mm.”

In bringing down the size of the signal, Aldridge also developed the system to be modular, so that it could continue to fit into the diverse requirements of each future rail project. For Sydney Metro, the signals combine a points position indicator, which indicates left, straight ahead or right, with a red horizontal bar for stop, and a separate main route indicator number. The two displays are electrically isolated, and the arrangement can be modified for the variation required.

“Every company has their own interlocking system – they’re all a little different – and then they also have different group requirements for reporting back to the controller from the signal, what happens in fail mode, and all those little parameters,” said Aldridge.

Being able to approach each project on its own terms with an applied solution that can be modified to fit has allowed Aldridge to step in on projects when other have pulled out at the last minute.

Four typical examples of how the smart signals could be configured, showing the route number and points direction.

DESIGNED TO BE SAFE FOR FUTURE APPLICATIONS
Currently, the signal is used as a non-vital signal on the Sydney Metro network. Aldridge has delivered 153 signals, including 55 smart running, 26 smart shunting, and 72 buffer stop signals, across the Sydney Metro project so far. Although automated, the system requires signals for manual operations, including shunting, that must be fully operational when the Metro is running.

As part of the safety measures in the signals, the two separate indicators can be monitored independently, while also performing their own self testing in a loop configuration.

“The most recent model is a higher safety integrity level (SIL) level than the original, so it monitors its own power supply and it monitors its outputs. It has a status output to say basically ‘I’m ok or not ok,’ so it’s not a signal that can be used for controlling, generating a stop, but it has sufficient reliability and controls built in to make it more than adequate for this non vital application,” said Sharwood.

While the current signal is not being used to convey a movement authority, the fundamentals of the system are such that further deployments could use the signal in what Sharwood terms a hybrid manner.

“The Aldridge smart signal has the potential to displace a lot of normal signals. Rather than just displaying characters in the array, on the same array it could be displaying signalling information.

“At the moment we’ve kept it separate, the smart signal is displaying digits and characters and we still have more conventional bar signals, but it’s possible with the right approach that we could have characters and arrows, bars, all sorts of different types of signalling, embedded in the display.”

THE ALDRIDGE DIFFERENCE
The development of the innovative smart signal required a different set of skills than what is normally required of a signal engineer, however just as mandatory was the existing expertise Aldridge had in hardwired signals.

“We have leveraged some components that we know are good and the rail industry feels comfortable using and re-using. We’ve used a small number of components that we know are basically the stalwarts of the industry and our product range and added the technology and added the smarts to succeed and satisfy customer requirements,” said Sharwood.

While the 5mm LED lights and other componentry may have resembled existing signals, there was a considerable amount of new thinking involved in the design.

“These signals bear almost no resemblance to any predecessor signals so in a lot of ways we had to start from scratch and basically design something completely new,” said Sharwood.

Pulling this exercise off however required belief from the top down.

“A lot of industries like rail get stuck with the things they know and the things that work over and over and suddenly that isn’t enough” said Sharwood.

“At some stage we have to go, ‘Ok, I have to make a big leap into modern technology.’ That’s what Aldridge did in this case.”

This approach is where Aldridge has been able to distinguish itself in its ability to find the right solution, with 70 years of experience and 30 within the rail industry.

“In general, we lead the customer a little bit in terms of what could possibly happen,” said Sharwood.

“They look to us to say, ‘How do we actually use this signal?’ Even down to the point of what size fuses should be used, what earthing should we have.

“Sometimes we assist the customer on their side of the fence to help them integrate into their network, and into their systems,” said Sharwood.

ETCS

Upgrading the heart of the Brisbane’s rail system

The implementation of ETCS on the South East Queensland network highlights the many benefits of modern signalling systems.

In major capital cities, transport operators are looking to get more and more out of their assets as populations grow and the demand for sustainable mobility increases. In many cases, the rail systems that have formed the backbone for public transport have been upgraded with new, modern signalling systems to bring trains closer together and increase the frequency and volume of services.

Brisbane has been no exception and is currently beginning the implementation of European Train Control System (ETCS) as part of the Cross River Rail (CRR) project. However, as Simon Cook, project director ETCS at CRR highlights, there is more than one reason why modern signalling is being rolled out.

“The interesting thing with ETCS and this project is that it is delivering a range of benefits for different people and organisations,” said Cook.

Cook lists three main goals for the system, safety, capacity and reliability, which reflect the priorities of the different agencies involved in the project.

“For Queensland Rail safety and reliability would be the top two things, for the Department of Transport and Main Roads – who is the project sponsor and has responsibility for the overall network and how to manage the patronage increases – capacity and reliability are front of mind.”

When addressing the goal of safety, the deployment of ETCS on the Brisbane network, both in the newly constructed tunnel and on the inner-city network between Northgate and Milton stations, allows for a major upgrade in safety systems.

“The current signalling has been in place for a long time, so bringing in a modern signalling system with automatic train protection is really important as the number of trains and customers on the network increases,” said Cook.

Cook highlights that reducing the occurrence of signals passed at danger (SPADs) is one example where the network will directly benefit.

“A SPAD is very disruptive as well as having potential safety implications and it’s one of the key safety metrics of railways. “If you’ve got automatic train protection so the train will brake to prevent overspeed or avoid exceeding movement authority, then that’s an absolute gamechanger and with a good train management system and an in-cab signalling system for drivers then it’s a smoother, more reliable journey for customers as well.”

To address the second goal of capacity, the deployment of ETCS is about futureproofing the Brisbane and South-East Queensland network.

“The Queensland Rail network hasn’t seen the same level of growth over the past five years as other states, but it has lifted over the last year. ETCS and the CRR project has been put in because of the really big growth that’s forecast in patronage on the Gold Coast line and the Sunshine Coast line.”

Based on 2019 census figures, the City of Brisbane and the Gold Coast added the largest number of people for any local government area in Australia.

The final goal is reliability, an area where Cook highlights Brisbane’s rail network can become more efficient and meet international benchmarks.

“There are ageing assets on the network and you could just keep replacing like for like but the deployment of ETCS was a really good opportunity to bring assets up to a new standard to really drive up some increases in performance and reliability.”

Ultimately, ETCS will allow for automatic train operation through the new tunnel, simplifying one of the most complex parts of the South East Queensland rail network. Ensuring reliability here will lead to benefits on other lines.

“What we don’t want to do in Queensland is end up with a situation where we’ve got a range of bespoke signalling systems, so we are really keen to stick to a standardised approach spreading across our network and operators, and that’s the reason for selecting ETCS,” said Cook.

FIRST DEPLOYMENT
The ETCS project officially roared to life at the tail end of 2019 when Hitachi was announced as the successful tenderer for the ETCS systems. The $634 million project was initially a standalone upgrade to the network under the auspices of Queensland Rail, however in 2018 the project was moved to the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority, and is now one of three works packages, along with the Tunnels, Stations, and Development project and the Rail, Integration and Systems project.

According to Cook, ETCS sits alongside the two other packages, and while construction has begun on CRR, ETCS has begun its staged approach to implementation.

“Signalling is the absolute heart of the railway system and any change to that system is going to be potentially disruptive for customers, for maintenance crews who have to learn completely new equipment, and for rail traffic crew and signallers who have to learn a completely new system. You don’t take that on lightly, and the change task is probably bigger than the technology task so the way that we’re going about it is a staged approach.”

The first program of testing will be carried out on the Shorncliffe line. The line was chosen to be a test track due to its lower patronage and separation from the rest of the network. Preparations are underway to fit out Queensland Rail’s 160 and 260 series trains.

“We are finalising the preliminary design for the Shorncliffe line and starting off detailed design next month for the first fleet of trains,” said Cook.

“The idea with using the Shorncliffe line as a pilot area is that we can test our trains there along with the other technologies that we’re going to see in the tunnel at opening. Platform screen doors are another bit of equipment that will be new to the Queensland Rail network so we can either simulate or even install small sections of platform screen doors on the Shorncliffe line and check the integration with the trains and the signalling all work.”

DELIVERING FOR THE END USER
Cook says that for him and his team within the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority (CRRDA), their aim is to ensure the systems that Hitachi provides fit with the Queensland network.

“For me as project director and my team, we’re fairly agnostic over the actual technology, but we’re here to deliver the right system at the right time for Queensland Rail and for the DTMR.”

This has been done so far through the colocation of the CRRDA and Queensland Rail teams and operational readiness work beginning at the outset.

“Operational readiness lessons are something that we picked up from looking at other projects,” said Cook. “You can’t start too early on that. You need to really understand the whole change that’s going to come to the railway through this, so a lot of effort is on focusing on training package, design, consultation with the train crew and signallers on what the changes will mean for them, and of course looking forward to the design for the rest of the network.”

Although there are no other operational examples of automatic train operation over ETCS on passenger rail in Australia, Cook has looked to overseas project for lessons about ensuring that the CRRDA is not only looking from an engineer’s perspective but an end-user’s view of how the system will work.

“I’ve spent a bit of time learning about Thameslink in the UK, which did take a bit of settling down, but there are certainly a few really good takeaways there from an operational perspective; understanding how they worked with their train crew, the teething troubles they had and understanding how train drivers and other operational staff will really interact with the system.”

Queensland Rail have contributed to the design of human factors along the project, and will continue to take on board the views of front line staff.

“At the end of the day they’re the people that will be driving these trains and they’re the people that will be controlling the signalling, so it has to be right for them,” said Cook.

COVID

The digital pandemic: How COVID-19 has accelerated digital rail

COVID-19 has upended many aspects of rail transport, however there are aspects of the disruption that provide an opportunity for digital transformation.

By March 23, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had hit New Zealand.

Already, the country had closed its borders to anyone who was not a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident and those who could return had to isolate for two weeks. But in late March, the way that New Zealanders would get around their cities decidedly changed.

On March 25, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the country had moved to alert level four. This meant that New Zealanders could not leave their homes unless for essential services and in Auckland, the public transport network reduced to weekend level services.

Callum McLeod, who is in charge of Auckland Transport’s web presence, mobile app and journey planner, could see that there were still passengers making use of the network.

“There were still Aucklanders that needed to travel for essential purposes, be that workers in health care, people travelling to the doctor or the pharmacy, or even just getting their groceries in areas that had limited other options for transportation. We knew that these customers were wondering, ‘How do I travel and get to where I need to go while still being safe?’”

Physical distancing measures applied by that point required people to keep a distance of at least two metres between themselves and others, and this applied to public transport as well. McLeod understood that passengers wanted to know whether there was enough room on the buses, trains, and ferries that were still operating before they got on. Luckily, McLeod and his team had a solution.

“We had bus occupancy information available internally, as an operational tool, for about the last year or so, and we’d been using that to manage patronage and understand where certain routes might be getting a little busy.”

Up until then, however, that information was not available to passengers. Seeing how critical this information was, the team of software developers at Auckland Transport got to work.

“We’d been doing some design exploration, but we hadn’t intended to launch it as quickly as we did. Given the situation we pulled the team together and over the course of about a week implemented the capability to display occupancy data that from our real time streams and then present that in a way to the customer that made sense,” said McLeod.

While the Auckland Transport app had previously categorised capacity in terms of many seats, few seats, and standing room only, this needed to change for the COVID-19 reality, said McLeod.

“In the context of COVID-19, this function became even more important and it became less about needing a seat and more, ‘Can I travel while keeping enough distance between myself and others?’”

The system, initially rolled out for buses, was based upon passengers tagging on and off with their Hop travel cards. Every nine seconds, that information is transmitted back to Auckland Transport, along with the bus’s location, determined by GPS. With the system up and running for buses, the time came for it to be deployed for trains as well, however a different method of collecting data had to be used.

“With our trains the tag on, tag off point is at the station level, it’s not on the train itself, so we weren’t able to use that information. But what we do have on our trains is automatic passenger counters in each of the doors and we’ve been using that historically for boarding and unboarding patronage,” said McLeod.

Similar to the deployment of the bus information in the AT App, a development cycle that was expected to take many months was compressed down to a week.

“We worked with CAF, who build and maintain our trains, to build and install that software update across all of the train units over the course of a week. Then we used the same model on the backend to turn that boarding and off counts into the appropriate category – empty, few seats available – and that fed in automatically to AT Mobile.”

With the programming now in place, Auckland Transport have updated display boards at stations and stops and expect the solution to be one of a number of permanent upgrades to service delivery.

Thales is working on a suite of measures that are designed to help operators overcome the disruptions of COVID-19.

A DIGITAL SANDBOX
While transport authorities the world over have had to make rapid responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and associated lockdown and distancing measures, it has also been an opportunity for experiments. In particular, as Elias Barakat, general manager, ground transportation systems at Thales outlines, operators are looking for ways to get passengers safely back on public transportation systems.

“As the restrictions are eased off slowly, operators need to be putting measures in place to actually try and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmissions.”

Barakat highlights that data will be a key resource for operators.

“The data that they need to manage patronage and provide a safe transport environment are things like crowding on trains, crowding on platforms, adherence to distancing rules and hygiene requirements.”

Just as important as the data itself, however, is how it can be used to manage the perceptions that commuters will have of how safe the service is.

Being able to source data from multiple different points is also important. Sources of this data include ticketing gates and CCTV systems.

“When passengers arrive at a station and they find overcrowding, they’re not going to feel safe and they’re going to avoid using public transport,” said Barakat. “Passenger crowding and passenger flow analytics are becoming more important in terms of the data that public transport authorities need to gather and use to try and control crowding on platforms and trains.”

“We have had positive reviews and social posts. One of them was ‘The latest feature on how full the bus is helps me with physical distancing. Thank you, AT.’ Another was, ‘Finally Auckland Transport added capacity checking for their buses. No more waiting at the stop only to have a full bus pass you by.’”

Already public transport operators in Australasia are having to deal with patronage levels that are at the upper end of what is permissible under physical distancing regimes. Using data to enable customers to make choices about when to travel is one area that McLeod is looking to explore.

“We’ve been looking at how we can use the occupancy information in broad ways. We are trying to work out how we do it at an agency level or route level, and show the occupancy levels across the day, particularly in our peak service periods. If we can break that down into 15 minute buckets and show that before 6.30am there’s plenty of room, it starts to ramp up and then ramp back down after the peak, that can help people make decisions about when they can travel, and allow them to shift their behaviours to maintain their safe distance.”

In other contexts where the wearing of masks is mandatory on public transport, Thales has deployed its facial recognition technology using CCTV feeds.

“We have systems that perfom data analytics to do facial recognition and detect whether some people are not wearing mask and highlight that to the operator in the operations control centre. Thales has solutions where we can do video analytics to measure the separation between crowds on the platforms and similarly on the trains themselves, to make sure that people are not sitting in seats next to each other and not standing next to each other in breach of social distancing rules” said Barakat.

These data feeds can then be configured to trigger an automated response.

“As soon as a facial recognition algorithm does the facial analysis and they discover someone is not wearing a mask, that would come up as an alarm in the control centre and you can automatically contact that person through an automated warning communicated via the PA system,” said Barakat.

Barakat highlights that as much as these technologies enforce physical distancing at an individual level, the deployment of such technologies can assure other passengers that the service is safe.

DATA DEPLOYMENT IN OPERATIONS AND MANUFACTURING
Just as important as keeping passengers safe is ensuring that the public transport workforce is safe as well. Reducing the number of hours on site via predictive intelligent asset management and maintenance can reduce the risk of staff infections and subsequent disruptions to the workforce. One tool that is enabling operators as well as equipment manufacturers to be able to flexibly respond to these requirements are virtual twins. Prashanth Mysore global strategic business development and industry marketing director at Dassault Systèmes, highlights how virtual twins are being adopted.

“We’re seeing a surge in an adoption of technologies such as virtual twin experience to automate factories and operations, so they can be more flexible and agile.”

With much of the workforce encouraged to continue working from home, cloud-based platforms are providing businesses continuity.

“Virtual twin experience provides a way to interact, collaborate, and control the real-world operation while remotely working,” said Mysore.

In product design, digital twins can be used to recalibrate designs to accommodate physical distancing measures, while also virtually testing the spread of diseases within confined environments such as a rail carriage.

“There is an increasing adoption of simulations of design for safety, for example railcoach designs and cabin designs are using this widest propagation simulation technology to better design for safety,” said Mysore.

Working with a model-based design on a virtual platform can allow for the rapid altering of existing products.

“Model-based design will really give a lot of flexibility in implementing concepts such as scientific simulation models that really helps with adopting those safety principles,” said Mysore.

Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA technology shows how particles are distributed during a simulation of a sneeze in order to design and create better personal protection equipment.

UPDATING DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
While it is too early to definitively state what aspects of our lives have been permanently changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Barakat sees a shift in how willing passengers may be to have their movements captured as data, and how disposed operators will be to apply the collected data.

“What we are finding now with COVID-19 is that, because it’s about the personal safety of each passenger, including their own, commuters seem to be more accepting of CCTV data being captured and analysed to detect safety breaches,” he said.

One area where passenger data could be used more, highlighted Mysore, is in workforce planning and schedule optimisation.

“For the transportation sector more frequent workforce planning is needed in order to have your business continue amid the developing norms of social distancing and minimal workforce availability. Platforms have the capability to focus on scheduling agility. To accommodate disruptions, you need to have workforce planning agility and the scheduling agility, both on the production side and the operations side.”

In order to reduce crowding at the station and on carriages, Barakat foresees an appetite for more integrated transport management.

“What could be improved is interconnectivity between multimodal transport and ensuring that the timetables are coherent so that when a ferry or a bus arrives at a hub there’s a train ready within a few minutes so that you reduce the dwell time of the passengers.

With reduced patronage during this period of COVID, operators need to maintain a reasonable level of train and public transport operations, so by having an intelligence train management system you can have time table management in real time to deal with passenger flow unpredictability as commuters stagger their working hours and balance work from home and work from the office.”

Rail Systems Alliance delivering high capacity signalling for Melbourne’s rail future

Dealing with rapid population growth has led to Melbourne upgrading the signalling system on two of its most congested lines. Rail Systems Alliance is ensuring the benefits are felt for years to come.

Over the past 10 years, the story of Australia’s cities has been rewritten. While Sydney had been dominant for the previous century, no account of the urbanisation of Australia in the second decade of the 21st century could ignore the rapid growth of Melbourne.

The relative growth of Melbourne is most clearly illustrated by the fact that Melbourne adds a Darwin-worth of population each year, overtaking Sydney in population size by 2026. Much of this growth has been concentrated in two areas, the west and the south-east of Melbourne and the rail lines that serve these expanding areas are reaching capacity. This has necessitated Victoria’s Big Build, the largest infrastructure building programme in the state’s history, of which rail plays a major part, highlights David Ness, package director, Rail Systems, Rail Projects Victoria.

“There’s a number of initiatives underway to help alleviate that population growth, one is the introduction of larger trains that can carry more passengers, and then the second part is the provision of High Capacity Signalling (HCS) on the corridor that lets us run more trains, more often.

“What ties all of that together is the Metro Tunnel project that connects those two corridors, Dandenong in the south-east and Sunshine/Sunbury in the west, and allows us to untangle the existing rail network. It’s a combination of things but HCS is the centre point, allowing you to operate more efficiently on the corridor.”

The HCS project, now in its testing phase, is being delivered by Rail Systems Alliance, a partnership between Bombardier Transportation, CPB Contractors, and Metro Trains Melbourne. The project will introduce Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) technology, the BOMBARDIER CITYFLO 650 rail control solution, on both the Sunbury and Cranbourne/Pakenham lines as well as in the newly built Metro Tunnel, creating a new end- to-end rail line from Sunbury to Cranbourne and Pakenham. The two existing lines are some of the most complex in the Melbourne network, not only serving commuter trains, but regional passenger lines and freight services, requiring a mixed-mode solution, said Tim Hunter, alliance manager, Rail Systems Alliance, Metro Tunnel Project.

“What is unique about Melbourne is the fact that we’re upgrading existing lines, on brownfield sites, as well as the greenfield site in the tunnel. That means that we can continue running the existing trains on the existing lines at the same time as we do the upgrades. As the vehicles become fitted with the CBTC technology then they can run either in the conventional signalling or CBTC mode. The beauty of it is that it’s a mixed mode solution for the existing lines.”

The introduction of moving block rather than fixed block signalling will enable a step change in capacity, even under mixed conditions.

“We’re expecting to open with around 18 trains per hour when we will still have a mixture of CBTC trains and regional and freight trains,” said Ness. “But, as time progresses, the system itself has a capacity of 24 trains per hour. That means it actually has a higher capacity to recover from disruptions that may occur, and the Metro Tunnel will be capable of 24 trains per hour.”

ENSURING EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION
Getting to this targeted level of capacity on the first introduction of CBTC technology on an existing rail line in Australia has required a collaborative approach, facilitated by the nature of the Rail Systems Alliance.

“We went through a pretty extensive, year-long competitive alliance tender process,” said Ness. During the process, Rail Projects Victoria looked at the system’s capabilities, the ability to minimise disruption during integration, and did site visits to other HCS projects internationally.

“On a balanced score card of value for money, being able to address our technical requirements, being able to address mixed mode, being able to work within an alliance framework – which is intrinsic to the way we’re approaching the job – Bombardier Transportation, CPB Contractors and Metro Trains Melbourne were
the successful tenderers,” said Ness.

Taking an alliance approach to project delivery allowed for the project to effectively interact with the many other stakeholders involved. While the technology promises to increase capacity and relieve the strain on Melbourne’s rail network, its success depends upon all elements of the wider project working together.

“We have the technology challenge, in that what we’re introducing into the system is new, but that change is not just operational, it affects the entire way in which the network is run,” said Ness.

The introduction of HCS in Melbourne requires the project to interact with a variety of stakeholders, including the rest of the Melbourne rail network, the other consortiums on the Metro Tunnel Project, and the procurement of larger trains, which is being delivered in parallel.

“The alliancing model provides the most flexibility to adapt and move while maintaining your focus on that end game,” said Ness.“It’s very difficult to do a project like this with just a fixed scope, fixed dates, fixed price, fixed everything. Having a target price that you can adapt and working together with the client has been proven to be the best model.”

In practice, this has enabled a regime of extensive testing for the technology on the rail line. On the Mernda Line wayside equipment has been installed and two existing X’Trapolis trains have been fitted with the Bombardier CBTC equipment. Dynamic testing is now underway. The project has also involved the operator, Metro Trains Melbourne, to prepare the end user – the drivers and operators of Melbourne’s trains, as Hunter outlines.

“We’re setting up additional labs so we can test the train management system for the new trains alongside HCS. We are also taking the equipment and systems that have been implemented inside the tunnel and then testing that with our systems in the lab, so that when we go to implement on site we will have done as much testing as we can offsite. This will make implementation testing and fault finding a lot smoother.”

The hands-on approach to testing enables the end users (for example, train drivers) to become “super users” as the design develops and the new technology is introduced as part of the project.

“We have user working groups within Metro Trains Melbourne to facilitate operational and maintenance input,” said Hunter. “We’ve done a lot of on-site training, we’ve taken them to Bombardier’s CBTC facilities in Bangkok, Madrid and Pittsburgh and shown them what has been done on other projects, and how the technology works. This collaboration is critical to successfully implement HCS on this project.”

Hunter explains that each piece of equipment that drivers or operators use goes through an extensive human-centred design process, with safety front of mind.

“It’s a tremendous amount of work but I’ve learnt from other projects that it’s essential because in the end we want the people who will be using the technology to really feel as though they own it.”

One example where this has occurred is in the design and purchasing of the desks that will be used at operations centres in Sunshine and Dandenong.

“We’ve got the actual desk that we’re proposing to use in the control centres in our office in Bourke Street and we invite people from Metro Trains Melbourne to come and look at, sit at, use, and test it.”

PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE OF HCS
While signalling upgrades on two of Melbourne’s busiest lines will have an immediate benefit for commuters, Rail Systems Alliance has also been aware of the need to ensure that investment in the project benefits the wider rail industry. While experiencing unprecedented investment, the rail industry is looking at a looming skills crisis. As one of the first rollouts of CBTC technology, the HCS project aims to train the next generation of signalling engineers.

“We’ve got roughly 35 cadets coming through the project,” said Hunter. “We’re working closely with the Victorian government and the Local Jobs First – Major Project Skills Guarantee but it’s important that we’re building a base for future projects.”

While signalling projects such as HCS have needed to hire talent internationally, Hunter hopes that this won’t continue to be the case.

“We’ve had to bring a lot of people in from overseas – including myself – who have done these kinds of projects around the world but that’s not a sustainable model. What you actually want is a strong, capable, local team, so that’s what we’re setting out to do. We’ve got cadets working on signalling design, onboard equipment, the control systems, the communications systems, the radio systems, systems engineering, and systems safety assurance.”

Having such a major project occurring in Melbourne has a drawcard for attracting the next generation of engineers to rail.

“As soon as they join, I sit down with them and talk about the project and how exciting engineering is on these kinds of projects.”

“University is a good starting place for technical knowledge, but to have the opportunity to work on a project of this size and this complexity on their doorstep is too good to miss,” said Hunter.

While there’s no concrete plan to roll out HCS beyond the existing project scope at this stage, efficiencies of already implementing the technology mean that any future upgrades would be even smoother.

With a competent and experienced local workforce, and upgrades in place on two of Melbourne’s most complex lines, Melbourne would be well-placed to extend HCS over the rest of the existing rail network said Ness.

“Our focus right now is to successfully deliver HCS on the Sunbury and Cranbourne/ Pakenham corridor. However, if you look at Melbourne’s growth, and some of the pressures on the rail network, HCS may be one future option to get the most out of the existing infrastructure,” said Ness.

Delivering technological innovation in Australia

Omada Rail Systems is bringing exciting and innovative technology to the Australian rail industry.

Through a strong focus on youth development and carefully selected company partnerships, Omada Rail Systems is capable of delivering globally recognised technology across Australia. Omada is partnered with two UK based companies, Gioconda Rail and KeTech, both of which are renowned for taking the first step and pushing technological boundaries. Through their usual services of signalling design, systems integration, testing and commissioning, and telecommunications engineering, Omada is capable of introducing these technologies into Australia.

The directors at Omada are committed to working with their team to identify and implement process innovations. With the promise of providing clients with the best value for money, the Omada leadership understands that a focus on quality and efficiency is key. The company has a growing reputation for delivering high quality work and going the extra mile to ensure the client’s satisfaction. This is largely due to a strong work ethic and philosophy of teamwork, allowing for a fast and safe turnaround of projects. Omada has outlined a plan to further increase capacity for delivering larger projects by implementing efficient processes and resources; backed by bringing in additional quality engineers to the team.

Omada interlocking simulator
Omada is building an inhouse relay interlocking system and test panel, to demonstrate signalling design and testing fundamentals. This project is designed to be predominantly worked on by Omada’s graduate engineers, allowing them to further develop their knowledge of signalling design principles. Once complete, this will serve as a platform for high quality inhouse training for all of the current Omada engineering team and for future graduate intakes. With this project targeting completion early in 2021, Omada believes this unique project will set them well above the pack.

Gioconda
Omada and Gioconda joined forces more than 12 months ago, with the mutual goal of enhancing asset management, signal sighting, and driver briefing activities in Australia. Gioconda services stem from their base specialties of railway filming and 3D modelling.

Gioconda’s services include:

  • Railway filming
  • Video asset mapping
  • BIM and 3D visualisation and modelling
  • Signal sighting
  • Driver briefing and training packages

A powerful tool and process for inspecting the railway as part of design, Gioconda’s asset mapping tool has sparked a great deal of interest from Australian companies looking for more effective methods of asset management. Gioconda have previously delivered multiple projects for Metro Trains Melbourne such as a virtual signal sighting and driver briefing package for the Mernda project and a driver briefing package for the Burke Road Grade Separation project. Omada and Gioconda have brought this technology to many major operators through presentations, with high levels of interest. According to Omada director Luke Craven, “The Gioconda software is a remarkably efficient and powerful tool. By bringing the railway into the office, it has massive benefits with regards to safety and cost.”

KeTech
KeTech has been at the forefront of real time information systems for 20 years and, like Omada, has recently experienced substantial growth. Providing real-time passenger and driver information systems, KeTech’s team offer their clients a reliable, fully integrated information system.

KeTech’s products and services include:

  • Passenger information systems
  • Customer information systems
  • Connected Driver Advisory Systems (C-DAS)
  • Driver-only operated CCTV system

With a strong focus on being one step ahead, a passion to challenge the impossible and meticulous attention to detail, KeTech is set well above its competition. KeTech is able to combine its passenger, customer and driver information systems to work in unison, as a universal information system (UIS), capable of providing passengers and operators with live updates and information such as arrival and departure times, seat allocations, platform alterations, toilet availability, and much more. Designed to vastly improve customer experience, operational efficiency and support a safer journey, KeTech’s UIS is truly ground-breaking. Omada and KeTech’s leaders are closely aligned in their desire to bring this technology into Australia. With operators constantly looking to improve customer satisfaction figures and operational efficiency, KeTech’s products are a proven solution.

The three companies previously shared an exhibition stand at AusRAIL PLUS 2019 and have since seen a great deal of interest from Australian based companies. If you would like to find out more about Omada Rail Systems, KeTech, or Gioconda visit: https://www.omadarail.com/services/

Alstom

Alstom using AI solution to manage social distancing in Panama

Alstom is using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to manage passenger flow and maintain social distancing.

The system is currently in use on the Panama Metro, where Alstom has deployed its Mastria multimodal supervision and mobility orchestration solution.

Initially used to manage passenger crowding in peak periods, the system has been adapted to maintain social distancing requirements due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The ability of this tool to analyse millions of pieces data in real time makes it an indispensable ally for operators at all times, but especially in the current context. Simply put, it matches transport offer to demand, no matter the conditions,” said Stephane Feray-Beaumont, vice president innovation & smart mobility of Alstom Digital Mobility.

The system gathers data from a various of data sources, including train weight sensors, ticketing machines, traffic signalling, management systems, surveillance cameras, and mobile network.

This data is then fed into an algorithm, which determines when the network is reaching its capacity limit. The operator can then carry out actions in response to the data, whether that be increasing train frequency, adjusting entry to the system, managing people on the platform, or suggesting changes to transport systems that feed into the rail network.

Since being installed on the Panama Metro late in 2019, Mastria has been mining the system’s data to be able to intelligently predict when the system will be reaching capacity through machine learning techniques. After three months, the system could predict saturation up to 30 minutes before it was visibly observed, enabling remedial action to be taken, and reducing wait times in stations by 12 per cent.

During COVID-19, the system has been used to limit train loads to 40 per cent of maximum capacity. To achieve this, new features such as real time monitoring of passenger density and flows, simulating limiting access to stations, and analysing the distribution of passengers along trains have been developed.

When the COVID-19 threat recedes, Panamanian operators will be able to use the new features to manage the return to public transport, said Feray-Beaumont.

“All experts agree that public transportation, and particularly rail, will continue to be the backbone of urban mobility. Artificial intelligence will be our best travel partner in this new era of mobility.”