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Technology | Transport & Logistics

How RISSB is improving the safety and effectiveness of rail turnouts

22 Jan 2024, by Amy Sarcevic

Turnouts are an integral piece of equipment when it comes to rail safety and efficiency, which is why they have always been a key focus for the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB).

This year is no exception, as the organisation continues its work with industry to ensure turnout technologies are working optimally.

RISSB’s Carly Wilson – who is chairing the upcoming Rail Turnouts Conference – says future-proofing, technology readiness, and a fresh look at asset management are among the industry priorities being pushed this year.

Technology readiness

As observed in countries like Spain and the UK, new turnout technologies are giving rise to significant safety and performance improvements in railway operations. In an Australian context, however, there remains a collective hesitation when it comes to turnout innovation.

Ms Wilson believes this is largely a confidence issue, given concerns around interoperability and harmonisation. While some concerns are valid, she says embracing new technology is necessary.

“It’s really important we are ready to adopt some of this future asset management and data technology – and I absolutely believe we are ready. We have the expertise and international contacts to make it work.

“Of course, in a fragmented industry, we need some caution, as new tools will need to interface with our existing systems. But there are plenty out there that do, and which will meet the productivity ideals we are all striving for,” she said.

Asset management

At the heart of RISSB’s support for industry’s technology adoption is a growing need for quality asset management, Ms Wilson explained.

“Asset management is such an important piece in future proofing turnouts. You really need to understand your asset and make sure you have the correct data for it – the right information around materials, installation and maintenance needs, for example,” she said.

Understanding how technology can improve asset management is one part of this equation. Fuelling appetite for the technology to support efficient asset management decisions amongst senior leaders is another, Ms Wilson added.

“We really need to sell the benefits of asset management as a whole and remember that CEOs and CFOs aren’t necessarily abreast with it. These leaders are often in charge of a broad umbrella of functions – from customer service, to safety, to rolling stock. So, it’s a story we need to continually tell to ensure the benefits of the technology supported maintenance systems are fully realised.”

RISSB’s work

To support these industry goals, RISSB is working with subject matter experts to develop new guidelines, codes of practice, standards and training products.

“We work with industry members, the National Transport Committee, and regulators to make sure the products we are developing will help industry. We are also working with our UK, European and US counterparts to ensure best practice.”

RISSB’s European contacts are especially important, given their advances in technology implementation.

“Europe is always one of those leaders, especially in rail. A lot of materials and turnout technologies will typically seek to model the European approach, and the UK tends to bounce off what Europe is doing.”

Based on these interactions, RISSB has recently released AS 7739.2 Digital Engineering: Data Models part 2 of its digital engineering suite of standards, having published part 1 last year.

The Standard will support the rail industry to adopt emerging digital information technology in the assets management space.

“This is an exciting tool, including the recent update to AS 7702 Rail Equipment Type Approval, these products seek to reduce red tape around new technology and materials adoption, making the whole process more efficient.

“If an approval process has already been completed in Victoria for example, you can use that and adopt it far more quickly in other states,” Ms Wilson said.

Cyber security is another core focus for RISSB, with some upcoming work on signalling and telecommunications.

“These are two of the most profound safety systems in rail, so that cyber security piece will be interesting to follow.”

Further insight

Sharing more about what the rail industry can do to enhance turnout efficiency and safety this year and beyond, Carly Wilson will chair the upcoming Rail Turnouts Conference, hosted by Informa Connect.

Joining her on the stage are Dr Elias Kassa, Principal Engineer and Team Leader, Monash Institute of Railway Technology; John Smith, Managing Director-CEO, voestalpine Signaling UK Ltd; and Pierre-Henri Bougeant, Head of Digitalisation, Vossloh.

This year’s event will be co-located with the Heavy Haul Rail Conference, held 12 March at the Crown Perth.

Learn more and register your tickets here.

About Carly Wilson

Carly Wilson joined the RISSB team as Standards Development Manager in March 2023, bringing more than twelve years’ experience from Queensland Rail in project, contract, maintenance and asset management roles.

She has dedicated capability in developing technical specifications for the rail environment, as well as asset management strategic planning capability for infrastructure and building assets.


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