Signalling is key to meeting billion-dollar growth in Rail sector
Train networks need precise scheduling and impeccable signalling communications systems in order to operate efficiently and safely. These systems determine the numbers of trains, type of rolling stock and the kind of technology that controls the movements and frequency of trains on the track.
In recent years, Australia’s urban and freight networks have strained as surges in patronage have placed greater pressure on timetables operating using basic, outdated communication capabilities, says O’Donnell Griffin Rail Engineering Director Mr Francis Dwornik.
The majority of European city networks are already operating on highly sophisticated systems using the European Train Control System (ETCS) or European Railways Transport Management System (ERTMS) levels.
ETCS Level 1 and 2 are already in operation while Level 3, which approaches driverless trains where train movements are controlled assiduously, is still being developed and piloted.
Under Level 1 and 2, signalling technology allows more trains to run, and safely, as their movement, including distances, speeds and braking, are highly monitored and directed by the communication frameworks operating with drivers and network supervisors.
These Level 1 and 2 systems can be introduced by either removing traditional signalling systems or overlaying them, and modifications are required to existing tracks.
Without any system in Australia even approaching Level 1 sophistication at this point in time, says Mr Dwornik, by the time Level 2 is operational in Australia, Level 3 will be up and running elsewhere. Already, it will take 15-20 years for ETCS/ERTMS Level 2 to be implemented here, he says.
However, Mr Dwornik, recognized as a leader and expert in the rail infrastructure industry in Australia, says there are positive developments underway which are foundational to this signalling transformation – which also heavily impacts the kind of rolling stocks to be ordered for Australian networks.
Particular rolling stock needs to be used in order for a shift to ETCS Level 1 and 2 as earlier generation stock does not have the features to operate this technology. But such an upgrade could take place progressively while keeping the system in operation, and similar train control system trials are currently being carried out in NSW, he says.
He also said such a modern “smart” signalling system linked to the latest train rolling stock could more than double the numbers of trains on the track in urban networks such as Sydney and Melbourne.
O’Donnell Griffin Rail is presently involved in a number of large infrastructure projects which are impacting the transition of passenger and freight networks to more efficient, sophisticated operations, which are also aimed at significantly boosting network capacity.
Project value: $270 million
Status: O’Donnell Griffin and Laing O’Rourke Electrification Joint Venture announced as the successful contractors to electrify the rail line from Sydenham/Watergardens to Sunbury, Victoria. The contract will be an Alliance. Construction commenced, completion 2011. When completed, an extra 3,000 passengers will be carried into Melbourne each day, equivalent to more than one freeway lane of traffic.
Project value: $1 billion
Status: Upgrade of Sydney metropolitan network, including upgrades of electrification network, to meet increasing demand for patronage and new rolling stock. Works being undertaken by the Novo Rail alliance of RailCorp, O’Donnell Griffin, Laing O’Rourke and Connell Wagner (now Aurecon).
Adelaide Rail Electrification:
Project value: $400 million
Status: Calls for Expressions of Interest, November 2009. Now in procurement stage. The works are for the electrification of Adelaide’s metropolitan rail system. Benefits will include efficiency, noise and pollution reduction. Major site works to begin 2011.
Auckland Rail Electrification:
Contract value: $70 million, part of $496 million decade-long investment. As a result, rail patronage is expected to more than double by 2016.
Status: Awarded to Laing O’Rourke JV with local company Hawkins Infrastructure. Will provide fully electrified Auckland rail system. Works to start 2011, completion 2013.
Wellington Electrification Upgrade Program:
Contract value: $20 million plus
Status: O’Donnell Griffin now completing upgrade of overhead lines to assist with upgrade of network. Completion March-April 2011.
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