Just one month to go until executives from across the light rail industry meet on the Gold Coast for the Australasian Railway Association’s Light Rail 2017 Conference and Exhibition.
The Light Rail industry in Australia is continuing its renaissance. From the successful launch and now stage two development of Queensland’s Glink, to the ongoing CBD and South East Light Rail project in Sydney, the planning of Newcastle’s 2.7km lines and roll out of Transport Canberra’s 12km light rail corridor, we are seeing LRT emerge as the preferred transport solution across the states and territories.
Thales Australia are leading the charge in electronic systems needed to bring modern LRT systems to life. Their Tramway and LRT Product Line Manager, Feliciano Sciardiglia, will give a presentation at the conference examining their ‘Innovative approach for LRT and Tramway Management’. In the lead up to the conference we asked Mr Sciardiglia to give us his thoughts on light rail in Australia, the challenges the wider industry is facing and why he is looking forward to the event.
LRT – an attractive transport solution
“At a time when so many demands and cost pressures are placed on our public transport authorities, Light Rail provides a cost effective transport infrastructure solution for dynamic and growing cities. By its nature, LRT is easy to access and helps to increase commercial activity along and adjacent to the routes its services. New technology solutions are enhancing both the commuter customer experience and operational efficiency and security. Low floor vehicles, anti-vibration and sound absorbing interiors, enhanced operational command and control technology all contribute.”
Challenges in planning, designing and delivering world class transport systems
Mr Sciardiglia maintains that “in fact these challenges are not limited to Australia but are valid for any public transport project built at street level.”
He acknowledges each challenge individually examining each in more details and the difficulties they may present.
- “Planning a transport system which meets the needs of a large and varied group of stakeholders with a broad range of needs, travel habits and ability to pay. From commuters, school children, customers with special needs, the elderly and infirm, shoppers and casual users.
- Route decisions which enhance the amenity and value of the surrounding area, meet commercial and traveler needs and enhance the overall transport network of the City/Region.
- Planning and designing a System which can deliver immediate value for the City/Region but also caters for future growth and the evolution of adjacent transport modes.
- As an essential input into System planning, determining the optimal funding model for both capital and ongoing recurrent costs of the System. As public Authorities struggle with competing expenditure demands, innovative project funding approaches have emerged:
- Property Value Capture
- Public Private Partnership
- Build, Operate, Transfer
- Other hybrid approaches”
“Australia in recent years has seen PPP funding approaches become common. In other parts of the world, Design and Construction is often separate from Operations and Maintenance. There may be some benefits in considering a simpler approach. Which one is right for the project in the short, medium and long term? Could a mix of funding approaches be considered, tailored to different phases of the project?”
- “Technological innovation across the transport system landscape continues at what seems an accelerating rate. This brings both opportunities and pressures:
- Is the new technology reliable and cost effective throughout all phases of the project lifecycle?
- Is the technology able to enhance the environmental credentials of the System or project?
- Can the design of the System cater for and embrace current and future disruptive technologies? (Mobility as a Service and the trend towards introduction of autonomous vehicles are examples).
- What are the aesthetic priorities for the System? (In the LRT context, will the System be catenary free in full or in part?)”
- “Given the level of Transport project activity both globally and regionally and the specialised nature of the technologies and interfaces needed, how can the industry manage the multiple demands on a finite pool of expertise?
- Committing to and achieving an efficient delivery schedule which also has the flexibility to deal with the day-to-day disruptions to the city and streetscape during construction;
- The discovery of project unknowns:
- Utility Services;
- Complexity of interfaces with existing adjacent transport systems whilst minimising operational disruption and customer inconvenience.”
When it comes to modern LRT systems these “can be planned, designed, and delivered in a different way to traditional transport projects. The support and involvement of project partners who bring experience and expertise from around the world is essential.”
Delivering world class transport systems
Speaking directly about his upcoming presentation at Light Rail 2017 Mr Sciardiglia says that “Delivering world class transport systems goes beyond simply procuring tracks and vehicles. To get the most out of investments in LRT, Operators need a solution which optimises daily operations, maintenance activities and ensures quality and reliability of service by most effectively managing the complexities of traffic light priority. His presentation will examine these aspects as well as looking at “The benefits of having a superior and innovative operational Control and Command solution as a fundamental tool to support the Driver, the operator at control centre and maintenance staff.”
There are a number of innovative aspects to this approach which will also be examined such as:
- “Providing a superior Train Regulation solution to support and enhance driver operational performance;
- Reducing the number of active components in the solution to decrease project capital, technology risk, installation and ongoing operational & maintenance costs;
- Replacing the traditional approach of discrete train to ground communication with a continuous train-to-ground communication in the critical area around train-to-car intersections; and
- How continuous Train-to-ground communication will improve the day-to-day operational performance of the solution.”
“Key learnings and experience has been gained from a number of LRT projects around the world. These are reflected in the innovative technology approach and roadmap Thales brings to the LRT market. Information about the differentiators and customer benefits these deliver will be provided during my conference presentation.”
3 Wishes for the LRT industry:
“In terms of planning: In the broader public transport landscape, LRT is positioned between a simple tramway/Street Car and Mass Rapid Transit. In some cities, responsibility for planning LRT networks rests with organisations with a strong underground rail background, leading to approaches where the planning and specification for the project does not adequately reflect and leverage the unique elements of Light Rail in the procurement approach and alignment of technical and non-technical requirements.
The design of an efficient, safe and cost effective LRT system is broader than just the civil works and rolling stock. The importance of the operational systems (electro-mechanical and Command & Control Systems) aso needs to be carefully considered and evaluated, recognising that these systems are required to support the Operator throughout the operations and maintenance phase of the project.
In terms of delivery, providing the industry with a clear vision and approach for managing issues associated with utility management (for traction power, station sub-systems and relocation of existing Services) and land acquisition for future network development are key elements which can contribute to a cost effective and efficient deployment of street level public transport infrastructure.”
Light Rail 2017 Conference and EXHIBITION
Looking forward to the event, Mr Sciardiglia explains that “LRT is an important market for Thales. We have been investing in developing innovative and superior solutions which support the operator or transport Authority to most effectively manage the LRT public transport network.
Being a Platinum Sponsor for Light Rail 2017 is Thales confirmation and commitment to be an important/active player in this business and in particular in the Australian and New Zealand LRT eco system. These events provide outstanding opportunities to interact with customers, builders, operators and other technology suppliers. Having all of the industry stakeholders in the one place at the one time is rare and we very much look forward to meeting with and gaining a better understanding of their needs and aspirations for the Systems and local customers.”
Don’t miss the chance to join us on the Gold Coast on February 21 and 22! To learn more or book your place visit the website.
A special thanks to Thales Australia and Tramway and LRT Product Line Manager, Feliciano Sciardiglia, for taking the time to develop this article.