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Transport & Logistics

Enhancing safeworking decision making and business performance in rail

25 May 2018, by Amy Sarcevic

Effective safeworking controls are vital for reducing the risk of collision after a signal is passed at danger (SPAD). But what happens when the Locomotive Engineer makes an unintended approach speed error or simply forgets where to stop?

While many Locomotive Engineers are highly skilled at rapid, high pressure decision-making, human error is an ever-present risk with any form of operational task; particularly in ‘high workload’ situations.

This driver-reliant and inherently reactive approach to safety is therefore limited in its ability to mitigate SPAD risk.

In light of this, KiwiRail has developed an integrated model of systems design and engineering controls to improve situational awareness, in-cab decision making and significantly reduce risk.

A combination of procedural and engineering interventions – which both redesign existing technology and implement new technology and safe working processes – mimic the safety principles that have long been used and shown great success within the aviation sector.

Phil O’Connell is behind the project and says, “The safety systems used within aviation are underpinned by robust, psychological research. Given the similarities between the two industries [rail and aviation], we felt it was logical to extend those same principles to our own engineering interventions and procedural systems”.

KiwiRail’s first SPAD strategy was developed in 2013 and this delivered a safety overlay system for infrastructure worksites. ‘Eprotect’ works by monitoring train approach speed and automatically applying brakes in the event that a train is travelling too fast to stop before passing a worksite protection limit board.

While the technology was described as ‘a big leap forward’ for the New Zealand rail industry, KiwiRail have since gone on to develop ‘INTERCEPTOR 1 and INTERCEPTOR 2’ – exciting new technologies which provide automatic warnings and further supervisory control both before and after a SPAD.

Interceptor 2 is premised on the new in-cab procedure of ‘Stabilised Approach’ and aligns with the principles of modern signalling systems control. It monitors train speed in a number of situations, delivers in-cab approach alarms to improve driver situational awareness and automatically applies the train brakes when Locomotive Engineer recovery from error is either delayed, insufficient or absent.

Phil who describes the project as ‘the legacy of Waipahi’ says, “Given the potential for catastrophic accidents, harm to our people and significant financial and reputational damage following a SPAD, there is a clear need for more rigorous and proactive safety measures”.

“Even SPADs in which no damage or injury occurs carry an average cost of $70,000. While the project was initially designed to enhance safety, the positive effect on the balance sheet should not be understated”.

Presenting at the ARA’s New Zealand Rail Conference – 14-15 June in Auckand – Phil O’Connell and Jarod Colville will discuss the development of Stabilised Approach and Interceptor 2, including how system constrains were identified and successfully resolved.

As well as this, they will share insights into the firm’s ongoing research and the future technology solutions that they are in the process of conceptualizing.

Learn more and register.

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