DB Rail Academy

Putting experience into rail training: DB Rail Academy

DB Rail Academy brings 185 years of rail operations expertise to the training of rail staff.

The rail renaissance is clearly not a phenomenon that is confined to Australia and New Zealand. Globally, investment in rail is growing, with the sector tipped to continue to grow despite COVID-19 as governments look to environmentally friendly mobility infrastructure as a way to stimulate economies.

Major new rail projects are continuing in younger markets as well, with new tracks being laid in countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia where rail has previously not played a large role in moving people and goods.

Across many of these projects, experts from some of the more established and technically advanced railways have been brought in to advise and consult on the construction of new rail lines. Deutsche Bahn has drawn on 185 years of rail heritage in Germany, and with DB Engineering and Consulting GmbH (DB E&C), the expertise is compiled in order to advise rail engineers, rail operators and public entities around the world. However, Doreen Christmann, strategic business development manager for DB Rail Academy, Deutsche Bahn’s full-service training provider for the global rail and transport sector, pointed out that the job is not complete when the final sleeper is laid.

“If you want to implement a new railway line, you need to have qualified staff beforehand,” said Christmann.

Seeing that the need for well-trained and qualified staff was an ongoing exercise, DB E&C established the DB Rail Academy to provide ongoing training and education.

“We established the DB Rail Academy four years ago with a more strategic and comprehensive approach. To stay with the customer and to support and guide them through the whole process after the establishment of the project and once the operation had started,” said Christmann.

DB Rail Academy launched in 2016 with its first customer in Dubai, where the local Roads and Transport Authority is in the process of establishing new automated metro lines, a tram network, as well as buses and ferries.

“We began by supporting them in the establishment of their entire qualification system. One of the results is that they now have a training centre based on our recommendations,” said Christmann.

In addition to newly established transport authorities, the DB Rail Academy has also been embraced by transport operators in Latin America who are investing in renewing and expanding their rail networks. In other countries that have a longer history with rail, such as India and China, the company can provide training in upgrading to the latest systems and processes, highlighted Oliver Stoffel, business development manager at DB Rail Academy.

“We have larger countries, with a longer history of railways, that need assistance in terms of transition from older standards and technology to state-of-the-art technology,” he said. “Then we have countries which are already very professional in the rail industry, Singapore springs to mind, where it’s more about the exchange of experience and being a sparring partner to our customer and client.”

In Australia and New Zealand, DB Rail Academy can support new projects in geographies that have not been served by rail, or enable operators to migrate to new technologies as part of their revitalisation of rail services.

A NEW APPROACH TO TRAINING
While having the right skills to meet the rail investment boom is an issue that is facing Australia and New Zealand, there are issues with low numbers of drivers and staff that are already impacting existing networks.

Transport operators have often been caught short and have had to cancel train connections due to a lack of personnel. With a higher number of drivers, guards, and station staff rail operators can expand the number of services and compete with private freight operators who are also hiring from the same pool. Robert Wagner, regional director Australia for DB E&C noted that knowledge transfer needs to occur.

“The competencies are there and really focused in the experience of the older staff, but there’s no one that’s actually transferring this knowledge to younger people who can take over when these staff retire. This is something here on a broader scale, how do we train staff in general, not only train staff, but also train controllers and train attendees and others?”

When it comes to training the next generation of rail workers, DB has the advantage of knowledge and experience.

“Academic training or training from schools and universities is more theory, and what you miss is the real problem and realising in the day to day course of a business the operational issues that you only face if you’re working in this business,” said Christmann. “This covers not only the best practices but also the lessons learned along the way, what mistakes did we make, what we learnt out of it, and how can we improve?”

Currently, DB Rail Academy is in discussions with established training operators to bring its training methodology to Australia. Developed with the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, units within the DB Rail Academy are collaborative and interactive.

“It’s not the kind of learning where an expert is standing in front of a bunch of people. In our training courses it’s working together on issues, finding solutions together,” said Christmann. “We go into the depot or workshops or to the train control centres, talk to the people and really see how it is working.”

Locally, these methods have been applied in the delivery of new transport infrastructure such as the Canberra Light Rail. DB E&C was engaged for the project, and through DB Rail Academy, provided the training for the trainers of light rail drivers on the new network.

“We developed the curricula and the content so it can be taught, and we were present when the first driver trainers were trained, and then they trained a whole bunch of the drivers in Canberra on the system,” said Wagner.

This example illustrated how a rail project goes beyond the physical infrastructure required to get the system up and running.

“We as the consulting engineer, reviewed the works they had done outside on the line, the overhead catenary, the depot and so on, but also adding our knowledge in terms of well, what do we actually need to have enough train drivers available and suitably trained to the date of commencement of operations,” said Wagner.

Having this hands-on training and support ensured the system was a success from day one.

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Digital innovation with a customer focus

Rather than seeing digitialisation as an end in itself, rail projects are using signalling technology to answer pressing questions.

Driving the digital transformation of industry are four levers – digital data, connectivity, automation, and digital customer access – according to global consultancy Roland Berger.

In the rail industry, these levers are being pulled, however instead of being an end in itself, the move towards digital rail is an enabler of a host of other improvements to services.

These outcomes were on display at the Train Control and Management Systems summit, held in Sydney from February 19 to 21. While each individual project used its own combination of data, connectivity, automation, and digital customer access, the end outcome was driven by the industry need.

One of these projects is the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) Advanced Train Management System (ATMS). Although begun over a decade ago in 2008 with a proof of concept trial, as ARTC operation readiness manager – ATMS, Gary Evans described, the technology has been driven by its outcome and is nearing its first deployment in 2020.

“ATMS will bring improvements in our network rail capacity, operational flexibility, train service availability, transit times, and rail safety, and it will replace trackside signalling by providing precise locations of trains.”

While adopting virtual block authority management similar to other advanced train control systems, ATMS retains the trackside infrastructure.

“Trackside infrastructure is something ARTC does very well and the project monitors the environment, the occupancy of the points, so our system has track circuits over the switches,” said Evans.

Across the ARTC network of 8,500km of track, interlocking between sections of signalling and track will be centralised.

“It’s a high-fidelity track database, it’s rated to Safety Integrity Level (SIL) 3 and it enables virtual block authority management. The blocks within which the trains operate are usually a physical block and they are separated by signals, what we do with this system is that we can break it down into virtual, electronic blocks and currently, for the proof of concept we ran about 200m electronic blocks, the ones that we are using at the moment are 500m in length,” said Evans.

The new virtual block system will allow a granularity of control not previously possible.

“In terms of train operation, a train will go through a physical block today every 20 minutes. A train that will go through this same infrastructure will probably consume in the order of eight of these electronic blocks but as it is moving through it will report back at 15 second intervals,” said Evans.

“ATMS is rated for four minute headways for 1,800m trains travelling at 115 km/h.”

While the technology in itself is a step forward for the control and management of train systems, the implementation of the ATMS and the use of the four levels of digital transformation is ultimately about delivering a service for the customer, in this case, freight operators across Australia. This has led to ATMS’s unique features. Having to serve a number of freight operators at various points throughout the freight network that stretches from Kalgoorlie to Newcastle, has led to interoperability being a key facet of ATMS. Retaining trackside infrastructure allows for unequipped train traffic to use the system, and the trainborne interface was developed in consultation with operators.

“We did a lot of work with the operators on the driver interface unit. The first one that was put in front of them was a European-style one, which was a dial type set up and we almost had a walkout of the operators because it didn’t give them a lot of information and it required them to be fixated with that dashboard whereas they wanted something that didn’t require that. We worked together collaborative to come up with the current system.”

The resulting interface gives drivers a 10km look ahead, and relays information on train speed and speed limits in real time. Using location determination systems onboard the train, the system can alert a driver, operator, and controller if the train is exceeding limits.

Evans summarised the benefits of the ATMS system.

“Improved safety authority and speed level enforcement, improved trackside safety for trackside workers, increased rail capacity, improved service reliability, improving the structure of maintenance costs, more flexibility in the network, and safer management of trains.”

While Australia’s rail industry has been plagued by different technologies and standards in each state, the ARTC regards ATMS as a technology to synchronise rail control and management, for the benefit of the end user.

“ARTC’s customers traverse three states so it’s very important for us to take the lead and ATMS provides us a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually have a harmonised rule set,” said Evans.

Having this in place will allow for further innovations driven by the digitalisation of rail control.

“Future enhancements that we will work through is a path to semi automation or automation of operational systems, and integration with fuel and energy management systems.”

Having data on how a train is travelling will allow operators to more efficiently plan routes while identifying driving behaviours that increase fuel costs.

For example, rather than running at full speed through a section of track before coming to a complete stop at a signal, freight drivers can be told the optimum speed to travel to reach that signal as it turns green. Looking further afield, ATMS could lead to driver-only operation. In these cases, digital rail is not so much about the technology itself, but the enhancements that can come from its implementation.

“ARTC wants to be an enabler for its customers and not a disabler,” said Evans.

DIGITALISATION AS A SOLUTION TO DEMOGRAPHIC, ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES
As Australian rail infrastructure managers and operators adopt their local digital systems, international examples provide guidance on the motivations and outcomes of digitalisation programs. Perhaps none are more comprehensive than the digital rail system being rolled out across all of Germany’s 33,000km of rail. Beginning with the trans-European corridor, the Stuttgart S-Bahn and specified high speed lines, Joern Schlichting, head of the ETCS program at Deutsche Bahn (DB), outlined the significance of the project.

“In terms of automatic train operation (ATO) and ETCS, this is the future. That means fundamentally, a new rail system.”

According to Schlichting, Germany’s existing rail control system was performing sufficiently, and not reaching obsolescence. This made the attractiveness of the business case for adopting ETCS, however penalties within the agreement with other EU member states overcame that.

“The projected penalties would have been at least €1 billion if we didn’t equip these corridors. So, the German government said if we have to spend €1bn on penalties or equipment, let’s spend it on equipment.”

This presented an opportunity for DB and its rail infrastructure arm, DB Netz to rethink how the adoption of ETCS could be a further enabler for other issues the rail network was facing.

“Why not stop to think about how could we make the best out of it?”

This approach enabled DB to utilise the digital rail technology to confront two critical issues facing the sector – a demographic exodus and a modal shift from road to rail to reduce carbon emissions.

“What we found that is as long as we talked about ETCS as a technology issue in terms of replacing one thing by another thing there was no business case. As soon as we started to think about what the real business drivers are – what are our threats – then we found out our demographic issue is one of the worst,” said Schlichting.

In 2011, DB estimated that in the next 10-15 years, 50 per cent of mission-critical staff will retire. Replacing this staff cohort with a younger generation would require a rethink of the type of work train operators would be doing, particularly in regards to legacy systems such as interlockings.

“With these old interlockings, we have one maintenance area where we have 18 generations of interlockings, so you can imagine it’s a nightmare for people working there to be able to maintain them.”

Moving to digital systems would overcome this legacy issue and enable a younger, digital-native generation to easily fit into the systems and ways of working.

“Actually ETCS is more of an enabler. ETCS is a tool in order to bring about a completely new redesign of the rail system,” said Schlichting.

The other element that digitalisation could go towards is the relative carbon footprint of transport in Germany. Although Germany has committed to a 95 per cent carbon reduction by 2050, transport has been a sector that has been stubborn in reducing its emissions, falling by only 0.6 per cent between 1990 and 2018, compared to energy which dropped by 33 per cent. The magnitude of the task is not lost on Schlichting.

“We have to move transport from road to rail, so that means we need to create the capacity, but in the past our network has been shrinking.”

Driven by cost cutting directives, DB has reduced its workforce from 120,000 to 40,000 in the past 15 years and has also torn up tracks and points. However, now the system is required to double passenger traffic by 2030, and cargo traffic by 30 per cent. Digitalisation and the improvement of signalling thus becomes a way to increase the shrinking system’s capacity.

“How can we do this with an existing network that has been shrinking in the past and without having any money at the time for loads of new lines?” asked Schlichting.“Digitising it is the chance to create more traffic.”

At the core of this digitalisation push is the adoption of ETCS technology, common across Europe, which with a focus on outcomes, Schlichting describes as a “language”. Once the system and vehicles are talking to each other in this language, then further technology improvements can be introduced when the users demand it, just like new vocabulary.

An artist’s impression of Sydney Trains’ Rail Operations Centre.

DESIGNING A CUSTOMER FOCUS INTO RAIL OPERATIONS
In some ways, Sydney Trains is experiencing a similar issue to DB, albeit on a smaller scale, as population pressures and urban development cause more Sydneysiders to use the network. As the acting executive director, Digital Systems Business Integration (DSBI) at Sydney Trains, Andrew Constantinou sees these impacts in the operations of the network.

“Increased patronage effectively translates into our ability to create more services and our ability to create reliable services and that’s where the ROC plays into.”

The Rail Operations Centre (ROC) is a new, purpose-built building in Alexandria, Sydney which has brought together the rail management centre, the infrastructure control centre, security monitoring facility and two signal boxes, covering most of the geography of Sydney Rail. A customer and operator demand for precise, accurate information has led to the streamlining of operations into one centre and finding a way to simplify communications.

“Part of the scope is to develop a new concept of operations,” said Constantinou. “We have introduced a new incident management system that took away a lot of those phone calls, and developed a dashboard so that all areas in the ROC can understand what is the mission for that particular incident and who is dealing with what priorities.”

In this case, the digital systems that were built into the ROC had to be designed with the end user in mind, the rail operator, and to minimise disruptions on the network.

“It really starts with bringing all your people together. We started with seven design principles and I focus on the top two – collaboration and communication – because if you can build a high-performing control room floor that fosters good communication and good collaboration, you start ticking the other boxes which are underneath it,” said Constantinou.

While individual controllers’ roles were driven by the train systems they were operating, the human demands of communication were paramount.

“We looked at what communication happened. So what communication happened face to face, on the control room floor, over the telephone, and through various subsystems?

“We did that two-fold. We did that in normal mode and we did that in degraded mode. That gave us an idea around who spoke to whom and when did they speak to whom,” said Constantinou.

Ahead of designing the space, Constantinou’s team conducted a role matrix to see where the patterns in operations were, particularly in degraded mode.

With the Sydney Trains network compressing from 15 lines across the suburban network into six in the CBD, getting those critical staff together would be key for functional communication.

“We were able to say 50 roles in network operations were similar and should be sitting next to each other,” said Constantinou. “We quickly worked out which ones were the more critical to operations, which of those roles needed more supervision, which should be configured in a way that they have more supervision around them, and that led to a functional link analysis to understand if there were any functional commonality in the roles.”

With these findings, operations staff were then given a VR headset so that they could inspect the draft design and see how it fitted with their behaviour.

“We set up outside every control centre with a basic fit out where people would come in and put on the masks. They would walk around the desks and the control room floor and we would take every comment down to see how we could respond to it,” said Constantinou.

Following this was trial runs in defined scenarios, such as a tree falling over a rail corridor and a train colliding with the tree.

“You can see the phone calls that go in from the driver to the area controller and the different colours are typically people who would’ve been located in different control centres,” said Constantinou.

“They would’ve, through situational awareness, overheard the conversation because they’re sitting at the right proximity, or they would’ve been able to swing around and talk to these people.

“If you start doing the maths, it’s all the way from a two minute to a 10-minute saving threading through that scenario, so it’s good to know we can save time,” said Constantinou.

At the newly designed ROC, which opened in mid 2019, data, connectivity, and customer access came together, however with the outcome determined by the end user, not the technology itself.

Deutsche Bahn sees investment pay dividends

Deutsche Bahn (DB) has released its results for 2019, passing a major passenger milestone.

In 2019 the Germany rail operator and infrastructure owner carried 151 million long distance passengers, more than any other year and for the first time surpassing 150m passengers.

The achievement follows a sustained investment in rail in Germany and by DB, as governments, passengers, and industry seek to move more people onto rail due to its environmental and social benefits.

DB CEO Richard Lutz said that investment in the rail network will continue, following the largest investment program in its history in 2019.

“Investment in the future of rail will take priority in the coming years, which will be visible in our bottom line in the medium term.”

DB is a private joint-stock company with the government of Germany being the sole shareholder. Revenue for the company rose in 2019 to €44.4 billion ($80bn).

In 2019, DB invested in rail network, stations, and trains. Capital expenditure rose in 2019, with a focus on infrastructure. DB has been undertaking a major expansion and modernisation of the Germany rail system. The company aims to boost quality and reliability and add new trains and hire additional staff.

“DB’s aim is to substantially increase the performance of rail in Germany,” said Lutz.

Patronage figures also grew at a regional level, increasing by 1.6 per cent to almost 2 billion passengers. DB’s regional subsidiary, DB Regio had its first year on year increase in its order book in 2019.

“We are seeing clear signs of a modal shift towards rail, an environmentally friendly mode of transport,” said Lutz.

Freight volumes suffered, falling 3.7 per cent, however DB Schenker, the freight arm of DB, had a record result of EBIT of €538m ($9.75m).

Next step for consortia shortlisted for Adelaide train network

The South Australian government has released an Invitation to Supply (ITS)  to the three consortia that were shortlisted last year to run a privatised Adelaide train network.

The consortia are Adelaide Next, a consortium of Deutsche Bahn and John Holland with Bombardier as a subcontractor; Keolis Downer, a consortium of Keolis and Downer EDI; and TrainCo, a consortium of Transdev and CAF.

Once the offers from the contractors are received, the SA state government will assess the responses and decide on a final contractor by mid 2020.

The successful proponent will be required to improve services in the Adelaide area, and will be judged based on customer satisfaction, integration of trains with other public transport modes, more frequent and faster services, collaboration with customers and stakeholders, and accessibility improvements.

The contract will cover four lines within the Adelaide Metro network, including Belair, Gawler, Outer Harbor, and Seaford with branch lines Grange, and Tonsley.

While the successful consortium will operate the network, the SA state government will retain ownership over rail assets, set standards for levels of service, set prices, retain revenue, and mandate performance targets for the contractor.

SA Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government, Stephan Knoll, said that the model will deliver better services.

“We will be capitalising on the vast private sector experience to help deliver better train and tram services while maintaining control of the assets, fares and service frequency.”

The shortlisted consortia already operate services in other states in Australia, with Keolis Downer operating the Melbourne tram network, the Gold Coast Light Rail, Newcastle Light Rail, and a number of bus services in SA, Queensland, and Western Australia.

Transdev and CAF together operate the Parramatta Light Rail network as part of the Great River City Light Rail consortium.

Deutsche Bahn and John Holland are partners in the Canberra Metro consortium which operates the Canberra light rail.

“The companies associated with the shortlisted proponents have experience delivering better services in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, as well as in Europe,” said Knoll.

SA hopes to increase patronage on its public transport network, with Adelaide having the lowest rail passenger kilometres per capita, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE).

“We are leaving no stone unturned with our reforms to deliver better and more customer focussed bus, train and tram services,” said Knoll.

Last year, the ABC reported that a Downer employee was caught sending quotes from fake news articles to Knoll about outsourcing Adelaide’s tram network.

Digitalisation key to future of rail

As Transport for NSW (TfNSW) begins work on its new digital systems facility in Chullora, delegates at the Train Control Management Systems conference heard how the installation of digital systems can lead to a rail system fit for the future.

The conference, held on February 20 was opened with a presentation from Joern Schlichting, head of the ETCS programme at Deutsche Bahn, who described how through digitalisation, Germany was building a “fundamentally new rail system”.

In implementing the ETCS programme, Deutsche Bahn will respond to two major challenges the industry is facing, and which are shared by operators in Australia. These are the need to enable the rail network to carry larger volumes of people on existing tracks and overcome the issue of high numbers of staff reaching retirement age. Rather than an end outcome, said Schlichting, “ETCS is a tool in order to think about completely new redesign of the railway system”.

As part of the ETCS migration strategy in Germany, a wholescale digitalisation of the rail network will be undertaken. These include digital interlockings and railway vehicles, and will ultimately provide a platform for the future integration of other technologies, such as automatic operations, and the ability for trains to recognise obstacles and the environment on their own.

“ETCS is not a technology, it is a language,” said Schlichting.

While these technological changes will allow for more frequent and efficient services, the migration to digital platforms is also thought to attract a new generation of rail workers, as many involved in train control reach retirement age.

These are concerns shared by the Australian rail industry, as it adopts ETCS. In NSW, TfNSW is upgrading its infrastructure to ETCS level 2 as part of its Digital Systems project. In Queensland, ETCS will be integrated into the Cross River Rail project.

Billions committed to rail around the world

Global rail investment is set to soar, with two major spending plans announced in January.

In Germany, the federal government and rail operator Deutsche Bahn signed a €86 billion ($138b) to modernise the country’s network.

Spending will be split between the federal government, contributing €62b, and Deutsche Bahn contributing €24b.

The agreement covers the replacement of tracks and 2,000 railway bridges and is a 54 per cent increase in spending when compared to the previous planning period, reported Associated Press.

Germany is seeking to increase the use of rail for inter-city and urban travel, to cut greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

The plan aims to double the number of train drivers and train passengers by 2030.

In addition, Deutsche Bahn hopes to improve the performance of its fleet and services, with one fifth of trains arriving outside the six minute time buffer from the scheduled time, according to Deutsche Welle.

Germany has 33,000 kilometre of railway around the country, much of which has struggled from historical underinvestment. Bloomberg Green noted that Deutsche Bahn hopes to renew 2,000 kilometres of rail a year and 2,000 switches.

In Chile, the government announced a US$5b ($7.24b) investment in rail, hoping to triple the number of passengers and increase rail’s share of freight in the South American nation.

The project is expected to be completed in 2027 and will begin this year. 44 per cent of the spending is earmarked for projects in the capital, Santiago, with the remained split across regional networks, covering 1,000km of rail. Links between cities and also to airports will be critical components of the plans.

According to Dariana Tani, an economist at GlobalData, investment in rail in Chile is hoped to revitalise the wider economy.

“As the economy is weakening and the country is losing ground in terms of competitiveness and overall quality of infrastructure against its major trading peers, it is reasonable to say that the government is trying to reverse this trend by investing more in critical infrastructure such as railways, roads, airports, energy, water and telecommunications.”

Three consortia shortlisted for Adelaide Metro contract

Three consortia have been shortlisted to tender for the operation, maintenance and service delivery of the Adelaide Metro Train Services, the South Australian state government announced on Thursday.

Adelaide Next, Keolis Downer, and TrainCo will be invited to submit a response to the state’s invitation to tender, to be released in the first quarter of 2020.

Adelaide Next comprises Deutsche Bahn, Bombardier Transportation Australia and John Holland, Keolis Downer comprises Keolis and Downer EDI, and TrainCo is a consortium between Transdev and CAF. The state government will select the successful tenderer in the second half of 2020.

“We agree with South Australians and know that our public transport system has room for improvement,” said minister for transport, infrastructure and local government Stephan Knoll.

“What we are seeking to do is bring trains and tram in line with the same model that our buses have operated under for the last 20 years – that accounts for around 70 per cent of our public transport network.

“Encouragingly we’ve seen some green shoots and in the last financial year we saw public transport patronage increase by over one million trips compared to the previous year.

“The short-listed consortia all have experience in the management and service delivery of rail services, some of which in other jurisdictions in Australia.

“These companies have proven records in improving service delivery and customer experience and supporting employees through the transition from a public to a private operation.”