Rail | Technology

Telecommunications – The backbone of Sydney Trains’ underground infrastructure

8 Jul 2014, by Informa Australia

Matt Lynton CPPD, Project Delivery Manager at Transport Sydney Trains
Matt Lynton CPPD, Project Delivery Manager at Sydney Trains

Telecommunications is fast becoming the chosen communication method for the rail industry. From increasing the efficiency, safety and reliability of operations to enhancing passenger experience, telecommunications and train control are essential to improving the growing and diversified demands of rail organisations.

In the lead up to the ARA’s inaugural Telecommunications & Train Control Conference, we caught up with Matt Lynton, Project Delivery Manager at Sydney Trains, where he shared with us his expertise in the field of telecommunications, and how these communication systems are supporting Sydney Trains.

Matt, you have worked extensively in the field of telecommunications including voice/data, transmission systems, radio frequency and internet protocol networking. Which of these disciplines have performed the best in the projects you worked on?

Matt: I have found that when projects consist of multiple telecommunications disciplines to deliver the required solution the project can become quite complex. There are added levels of complexity as the solution needs to bring together and interface multiple technologies and the requirement for adequate planning, testing and control is paramount.

In today’s environment there is a drive to deliver projects at a reduced cost and one of the biggest risks when working in the technology space is that the technology advances at such a quick rate and that the integration of various technologies to provide an end to end solution is vital.

Every time the is an advancement in technology the level of testing increases which in effect can add to the duration of a project.

I have found that network backbone and transmission implementation project to be generally the highest performer due to the fact a high proportion of these projects deliver turn-key solutions. Significant pre-testing is undertaken in our test and development centre to ensure the design solution is reliable and does not introduce vulnerabilities into our Operational Critical network.

Could you give us an overview of Sydney Trains’ underground telecommunications systems?

Matt: Sydney Trains operates and maintains 815km of rail track of which approximately 100km is underground or in a tunnel environment. To allow train operations to continue to deliver safe reliable transport, the tunnels are required to provide the same or greater operational systems as above ground. Further to the train operations requirements there is a need to provide customer experience to the travelling passenger in this confined environment.

Throughout out tunnel network we provide a number of technologies designed for train operations, incident management, passenger egress, network integrity and security, passenger information systems and customer experience systems.

These include:

  • Trunked analogue radio system soon to be replaced by a digital radio communications network – This is primarily for Train Driver to Train Controller communications
  • Track Worker Communications
  • Direct Mode Communications (WB Radio)
  • Fire Phones
  • Signal Phones
  • Carrier Communications

Are there any key challenges in implementing such system?

Matt: The Sydney Trains rail network varies in age across the span of its operations. The first rail operations were conducted in 1855, the first underground tunnels were opened in 1926 which has posed many challenges with the recent project to deliver mobile coverage in the Sydney CBD tunnels. These tunnels were built using legacy construction techniques for that era and were designed to carry rolling stock of that era. The current rolling stock are much larger and heavier which limits the amount of transient space between the rolling stock and the tunnel walls. To install the required infrastructure for the mobile coverage project surveying trains equipped with laser measuring devices were needed to provide evidence of the available space to install the infrastructure and in many cases the optimal design needed to be modified to cater for these limitations. Further to this challenge were the access and safe working restrictions due to the operational environment, which are required to keep passengers moving every day. This allowed a maximum of 3 hours every night to complete the rollout of over 50km of infrastructure.

How do you envision rail communications in the next 10 years?

Matt: As with everything in the technology space the technologies will continue to converge with IP. Australia is still some years behind the technology being used in the rail industry in Europe.

I envisage that as the Australian population will depend more on the rail industry, due to the increase in population density over the coming years, particularly in the capital cities, there will be an ever increasing patronage on the rail infrastructure, therefore less access to the rail corridor for maintenance personnel, therefore an increase in the requirement for reliability in communications asset, therefore an increase in the requirement for robust design and quality implementation. Continual investments into rail infrastructure will continue to evolve the technology at a faster rate than today.

In 10 years I would hope to see driverless trains expanded and operated with increased levels of safety then is available today. To achieve this rail communications from rolling stock to the ground will need to advance and become recognised as the way forward following the mitigation of all current and future risks.

You will be speaking at the upcoming Telecommunications & Train Control Conference. What would be your key message to the conference audience? Is there anything else you’re looking forward to at the event? 

Matt: My presentation will be discussing the project recently completed to provide the mobile coverage in the Sydney CBD rail tunnels. Throughout this presentation I will be referring to the challenges of introducing modern day proven technology into a complex confined rail environment built over 80 years ago whilst not disrupting the train operations to keep Sydney moving during the roll-out.

I also look forward to the other presentations being delivered and absorbing key information that can be relevant to my current and future roles.

Matt will be speaking on the topic “Underground telecommunications systems and infrastructure standards and specifications” at the Telecommunications & Train Control Conference, taking place on the 11th and 12th August, at the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel. For more information about the conference agenda and to register, please visit the Telecommunications & Train Control Conference website.P14M08_Telecomms_600x158


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