Abstracts are available for each of the papers in this category. The papers were given at IRSE Australasia Technical Meetings and in the IRSE stream of AusRAIL.
You are welcome to download these papers for personal use. Redistribution of the papers is not permitted. Copyright in each paper is held by the author.
At 4:58 pm on Monday, June 22nd, 2009, in the middle of the afternoon rush hour, approaching Fort Totten
station, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail train 112 ran into the rear of
train 214 at close to line speed.
The impact caused the rear car of train 214 to telescope into the lead car of train 112, resulting in the death
of nine people on board train112, including the train operator (driver). 52 people were transported to local
hospitals, and a further 28 people with minor injuries were treated at the site and allowed to home.
Initial investigations by the National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) focussed on human error and the
possibility that the operator of train 112 may have been using her mobile phone at the time of the crash. As
the investigation progressed it became clear that the crash was wholly attributable to the unsafe failure of a
track circuit to detect train 214, and that this failure mode was far from being a one-off incident. The
accident was largely attributable to failures of the signalling equipment and by the signalling discipline.
This paper describes the history of an unsafe failure mode dating back over 20 years, and the equally long
chain of events and actions which not only failed to prevent the accident, but also made it almost inevitable
that something like this would eventually happen.
Each individual incident, response and subsequent action or failure to act has parallels in the author’s
experience, and undoubtedly the reader will be able to relate the issues to their own experience. Far from
being impossible in our own rail environment, it is evident that similar events could well have combined in
our own working environment to produce equally dire outcomes. It may be only a matter of good fortune
that we are now in a position to draw lessons from others’ misfortunes, rather than our own.
Decisions on rail safety are traditionally based on established practice and experienced judgment, supported by tests and trials as judged necessary. However, the past is not always a useful guide when conditions are changing and practice needs to keep pace with technology
The Yellow Book was developed in the UK to provide a pragmatic set of guidance to applying engineering safety management in line with the internationally adopted CENELEC Standards (50126/8/9). The Yellow Book is no longer supported and a new international Engineering Safety Management publication has been developed to fill this gap.
The primary purpose of the new international Engineering Safety Management (iESM) is to help people who lead and undertake railway engineering make sure that their work contributes efficiently to improved safety and helps new railways and changes to be accepted more efficiently.
The new iESM Handbook should help:
• Tackle the pressures from increased complexity of railway systems;
• Address decreased public and passenger tolerance for avoidable accidents;
• Focus spending on preventing incidents and smooth the way for acceptance of new technology or novel applications.
ARTC’s Hunter Valley Rail Network in NSW is currently transporting 150MTPA of coal to the Newcastle
Ports, with projected increases between 200 - 270MTPA over the next 5 years. The Network sees 1560m
long coal trains travelling between 60 and 80kph at 8minute headways. How will ARTC undertake
maintenance activities and avoid the loss of train paths and consequential train cancellation at around $1MIL
loss to the coal industry per event Points and crossovers in particular are the Achilles heel in terms of
reliability and difficulty in obtaining maintenance windows due to combined detection for each point end.
Incorrect manual operation of powered points due to failure or to allow the movement of track maintenance
machinery is a significant risk for ARTC. There has been a major derailment at Whittingham in March 2010
and many instances of damage to point switch blades due to a train or track maintenance vehicle trailing
through the points following manual operation. This paper details the reasons why ARTC needed to
investigate, develop and deploy Split Point Detection and Emergency Power Operation for crossovers to
improve maintainability and reduce the impact of point failures. It covers the development, risks identified
and mitigation measures, the design and the operating procedures for this innovative solution to a difficult
The signalling systems of the metropolitan rail networks in the major Australian cities face their most
prominent technology upgrade for decades, the introduction of modern Automatic Train Control (ATC). Key
drivers for this introduction are:
? Increase signalling safety by introducing train protection or replacing existing train protection
solutions that have become obsolete and insufficiently reliable;
? Increase the capacity of railway lines without major infrastructure investment, e.g. for building
additional tracks or lengthening station platforms to run longer trains;
? Reduce cost for operation and maintenance of signalling field equipment by replacing it with in-cab
signalling technology; and
? Enhance efficiency of train operations by substituting the “human error element” with increased
levels of automation.
For selecting the most suitable technology, railway operators have a fundamental choice between an
overlaid ATC system over the existing signalling infrastructure with fixed block signalling, such as the
European Train Control System (ETCS), or an independent solution introducing virtual or moving block
signalling, such as Communications Based Train Control (CBTC).
This paper outlines some considerations for selection between those two types of ATC systems. Two topics
specifically addressed are the implementation risk of those technologies and the much discussed subject of
interoperability from a practical application viewpoint. The analysis uses case studies from current ATC
introductions in Australia and aims to draw commonalities for providing some strategic guidance to the
arguably most influential signalling technology decision for at least 20 years.
The Signal and Telecommunications Program was developed as a project through the Cooperative
Research Centre for Railway Engineering and Technologies (Rail CRC) as a response to the industry need
for structured education in railway signal and telecommunications engineering. The program was developed
by the Rail CRC with the content provided by IRSE Australasian Section members. The program took an
innovative approach to engineering education with a combination of learning techniques including distance
education, workplace activities, problem based learning, team based projects and workplace mentors. The
initial offering in 2004 through Central Queensland University (CQUni) was for a Graduate Diploma and
Graduate Certificate in Railway Signalling. Since then the program has been expanded to include a course
on Railway Telecommunications, a Masters Degree and recently a course in Professional Competency.
This paper provides a brief background on the Program and what has been achieved to date explaining how
innovation was definitely worth the risk. It then provides an update on the recently completed second five
year review. It explains the need for an increased partnership approach with industry if the objectives of the
program are to be achieved. It also explains the needs for the proposed changes that have come out of the
five year review process including the proposed change from a three term student year to a two semester
student year. It also explains how technology will be used to further enhance the students’ learning
A general trend in modern Train Control Systems is the use of increasingly similar hardware platforms to implement different applications. More and more, the on-board equipment needed to deploy a mass transit CBTC system is, if not effectively the same, at least equivalent to the equipment used for ETCS Level 2 rollouts.
A similar process is taking place trackside, with Eurobalises being adopted for CBTC and Zone
Controllers or Interlockings being revamped into RBCs. It is mostly at the application level where these systems really begin to differ, as if CBTC systems were about to become a series of customised ATO applications on top of what basically is a generic ETCS-like ATP system.
This integration tendency begs a question: what will happen with the radio layer? Today, nearly all ETCS Level 2 systems use GSM-R as their radio carrier technology, with a few anecdotal instances of TETRA usage. At the same time, nearly all CBTC systems use radio networks based on IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi). The main reason for this difference is historical – with GSM-R being developed by European authorities as part of the ERTMS specification, and Wi-Fi being chosen as a “cheap and dirty” unlicensed band solution for railways that are mostly underground.
This paper explores the forces that underpin the trend to move away from those radio layers. It also identifies LTE as a technology that seems to be, according to current market trends and to technical reasons, the obvious successor to GSM-R and the best alternative to replace Wi-Fi in safety critical applications. The paper finally presents some of the integration challenges that train control system engineers will face in the coming years in trying to make the transition from their current radio interfaces to the latest radio carrier technology around, and how enhanced capabilities of the radio layer may open the box for oncoming innovations in Train Control Systems.
Changes in regulations by the Australian Government in the use of RF spectrum will impact upon the Driver Video Assist System (DAVS) that is used on Perth’s metropolitan train network. DAVS provides drivers live video footage of the platform that allows them to decide whether it is safe to close the train doors and depart from the platform.
Current DAVS uses analog television technology as its transmission method. A project has been initiated to investigate and implement an alternate transmission technology. A number of technologies have been identified including infrared (IR) and Wi-Fi are discussed here along with the trials that have been conducted thus far.
Rail signalling staff competency is critical to ensure that not only are staff able to perform the role they are employed but also in accordance with legislation, industry standard, licensing and regulation. Both national regulators and AROs today require competency based schemes be implemented to identify current competence to perform rail signalling related work. The national competency framework provides a well-developed system for identifying and managing competency recognising industry skills against AQF levels. These systems are complex to implement and costly to maintain. This paper introduces the current requirements for identifying competency for maintainers; it discusses the engineering levels and the barriers moving forward.
As rail signalling workers progress through their careers employers and regulators will need to collaborate and manage competencies following changes in signalling technologies, legislative and enterprise work practices. Changes in competency requirements will result in complex competency record keeping, administrative labour and the ongoing costs.
Some time ago the Australasian Committee decided that at least one paper a year would be presented to the
Technical Meetings which covered basic principles. They were to be presentations that took a basic
signalling/telecommunication subject and went through the principles of use and operation. They were to be
aimed at younger members and those who had recently joined the profession. However it is to be hoped that
maybe they also passed on some new information to older members as well. This paper is part of that series
and looks at point operation (also known as switches, layouts and turnouts) and discusses some of the
methods of moving points both mechanically and electrically. It also describes the various means of detecting
that the points have moved to the required position and that they have been prevented from moving as a train
passes over them. By necessity, some Civil Engineer's terms will have to be used in this paper!
We often read press statements slating a range of engineering projects for wasting taxpayer money. These are normally
the results of failed or problematic projects which are cancelled, or projects which are having major issues and are
suffering from features such as schedule overruns, project budget overruns or late variations to the scope.
These problems are often caused by:
• Ambiguity in the initial scope and requirements; and/or
• Requirements analysis not being performed at the project initiation phase; and/or
• The system requirements not having been agreed and signed off before the work begins; and/or
• Risk analysis having not been fully addressed; and/or
• Verification and validation of the system not being complete.
Systems engineering provides processes that are used to address these project problems.
A systems engineering approach is not often fully embraced in many rail projects. This is in stark contrast to most other
engineering domains, which have now been through the discussion of the benefits of systems engineering and have
embraced it, enjoying the benefits that it brings to their projects.
This paper introduces the topic of systems engineering, addresses its benefits and shows that a systems engineering
approach to projects can be used to reduce system development costs.
Generations of signalling engineers have been subjected to accusations that signalling is too expensive.
This paper examines some of the techniques applied in New Zealand to provide cost effective signalling and
train control systems. Case studies for the use of common SCADA platforms for train control and the use
traffic light based level crossing systems in yard areas are provided. The paper concludes with a brief look
at some trends in the signalling arena that may impact on the cost of train control systems in the future.
Utilisation of axle counters over the last two decades has been expanding to encompass many
signalling and non-signalling applications. Their uses range from simple triggering devices for
wayside equipment such as hot box detectors and weighing systems, to more complex train detection
systems for train signalling.
The use of high quality fail safe (SIL4) axle counters for occupancy detection have been widely
applied in Australia for short track sections where communications are reliable and visual cues
provide an extra level of safety confidence. Life cycle costs can be substantially lower with axle
counters when compared to other technologies and with advancements in technology; capital costs
can also be reduced.
Longer block sections introduce an extra degree of design and procedural complexity. In the past, it
has been difficult to appreciate the benefits of axle counters in these longer sections. The experience
of the Australian Rail Track Corporation with small scale applications has allowed development of
good operating procedures and the confidence to expand their use to block sections on the Spencer
Junction to Tarcoola Line in South Australia.
One of the most dangerous areas in the Australasian Network are level crossings. Maintenance activities in this area add to this risk and these activities to a large extent have been ignored. All Railway Authorities have processes in place to protect Motorists during level crossing maintenance activities by not closing the road to Motorists unnecessarily or for extended periods. As the Vital Disabling Release (VDR) is tested during the initial commissioning, it can subsequently be applied to the crossing in a safe and timely manner by non-Signalling Staff after the appropriate training e.g. Track Protection Officer (TPO) who is in charge of the worksite. These processes also protect maintenance machinery operating in the vicinity of the level crossing. This paper sets out Aurizon’s direction for introducing a VDR which we believe provides a structure to managing these risks from both a cost and more importantly a safety perspective. Maintenance Engineering Staff have recently requested that the installation of VDR’s become standard practice in all level crossing design. A cost/benefit has been investigated between the existing operation and the VDR. There is a reduction in labour expenses and improved safety after a VDR is installed.
Operation and maintenance of the Country Regional Network (CRN) was transferred to John Holland on 15
January 2012, with train control functions shifting to a newly created CRN control centre at Mayfield.
The centre was fitted out specifically for train operations with all supporting train control technology. 4Tel
was contracted to deliver all train control technology, including: train control systems (train order and Rail
Vehicle Detection), telemetry systems, voice and train communication systems, supporting systems for
operations and maintenance, and data networks for all system and operational connectivity. All design,
procurement, installation, configuration, testing and commissioning was done within a 12 month mobilisation
period to enable operations to commence on 15 January 2012.
4Tel provides ongoing support for the CRN control centre systems including the provision of a 24/7 technical
support desk working directly with the network control staff. All systems have been configured with system
health monitoring and logging, in addition to alarm management provided via 4Site.
After 18 months of operation, the benefit of 24/7 onsite maintenance and supporting structure is now being
realised. System availability exceeds all targets and industry benchmarks. With callout reductions and
improved health monitoring, the costs for support of train control and signalling infrastructure is now being
This paper describes a current project to upgrade the TasRail Train Control system. Commencing in
October 2012, the project is part of a larger infrastructure renewal program for the TasRail network.
The current TasRail Train Control operations are based on Track Warrant Control using verbal radio
communications to grant authorities to trains and track vehicles. The upgraded Train Control System is
based on North American Positive Train Control (PTC), and combines a graphical Train Control Centre with
electronic communication to onboard computers equipped with display and GPS location. The solution
allows for communication and monitoring of electronic track warrants and provides an example of applying
current technology to support improved safety and capacity for a Train Control system in a cost-effective