Signalling & Communications, Workforce

Learning rail’s complexity: Omada’s graduate signalling engineers

Omada graduate program

With no prior knowledge of the rail industry, Omada’s graduate engineers have been introduced to the complex and rewarding world of rail signalling.

In early March, Omada launched their graduate program with the goal of increasing one of the rail workforce’s most lacking resources, that of rail signalling engineers. Nicholas Soilleux and Nathan Murphy were the first two engineers to join the Omada Rail Systems graduate program.

Soilleux joined Omada with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering, from the University of Queensland. For Murphy, joining Omada was an insight into an industry he had previously known little about. Having recently graduated from Queensland University of Technology with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical and Aerospace Engineering (Honours), he had also completed an engineering internship at Aviation Australia.

“It was only once I joined the rail industry that I realised how important and integral the signalling field is to the safe and effective operation of railway networks,” said Murphy.

Having gotten a glimpse of the industry as it stands, Murphy acknowledged the great potential that the rail industry holds for young engineers.

“This is a great opportunity to work in a very stable field, with many future career paths. A great benefit is being able to work under the mentorship of skilled and experienced engineers who have all been amazingly helpful.”

With their appetite whetted for what was to come in a career in the rail industry, Murphy and Soilleux were quickly inaugurated into the world of rail signalling under the guidance of Omada’s directors Luke Craven, Mark Hadfield, and Christopher Miller, along with Signalling Design Engineer and Tester, Neil Shineton.

Over the course of the three-year program, graduates will complete their Post-graduate Diploma in Railway Signalling, while being involved in practical work including design, testing, and construction work.

During the first months of the program, a new challenge arose. To comply with restrictions caused by COVID-19, Omada shifted to working from home in late March. Training has continued through this shift utilising video calls to conduct online training and tutorials. These are complemented with exercises, such as filling out example control tables for interlockings. But despite having to working from home, the progress of the training program has not been restricted. As Murphy pointed out, major achievements have been made.

“I have achieved Metro Trains Melbourne (MTM) assistant signal design competency and have been able to design circuits for a project that I’ll hopefully see implemented,” he said. “Gaining competency to go on site and being able to get into the real nitty gritty of the signalling systems and the real- life application of the signalling designs has been a real milestone.”

Having been introduced to the contemporary world of rail signalling, Murphy also highlighted that the technology he is working with now is a far cry from what previous generations of signalling engineers would have grappled with.

“Signalling systems are extremely complex and integral to the safe and effective operation of the networks. I’ve been able to see how the systems design for the railway has developed since its first inception in the early 1800s in England.”

These insights have emerged through Omada’s inhouse Basic Signalling Training (BST) course, delivered in the first year and providing the basis for further training
over the three-year program. The BST course is designed to expose those with no background in rail to the complexities of the industry and enable them to build on a base knowledge of signalling principles, work on site safely and competently, and effectively use design tools and software such as MicroStation.

Just two months into the program, Murphy and Soilleux were able to get first-hand experience on Omada’s project at the Rail Academy in Newport, Victoria. While under mentorship and strict guidance, the graduates collected the information needed to upgrade the signalling equipment at theAcademy. The aim of this project to upgrade the signalling infrastructure, is to result in the Rail Academy being one of the best equipped specialist rail training facilities in the world.

Nathan Murphy pictured working on site during his first year in the Omada graduate program.

With Murphy and Soilleux now halfway through their first year of training, in September another new face joined the program. Gavin McDowell, who had a previous career in electrical engineering, took the opportunity to involve himself in the graduate program as a way to begin a career change into rail.

Similar to Murphy and Soilleux, McDowell saw the opportunity to be part of an expanding organisation.

“I was motivated to join Omada as it is a rapidly growing company with lots of experience working within the railway industry. I was also motivated by their goal of becoming the leading provider of railway signalling engineering services in Australia,” he said.

Gavin McDowell has previous experience as an electrical engineer, before joining Omada.

Already, McDowell has been exposed to the different railway standards and networks while gaining an insight into design procedures, interlocking systems, and track circuits, providing a foundation for his future career.

Omada will soon be looking for candidates to bring into their graduate program’s second intake. If you or someone you know are interested in joining the
rail industry, Omada’s graduate program is a strong platform for personal and professional development.

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