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Transport & Logistics

Where are they now? Tracking the progress of 2018 Pitching Competition Finalists

16 Aug 2019, by Informa Insights

Have an idea to revolutionalise rail?
Take centre stage to tackle the important issues at AusRAIL PLUS 2019 Pitching Competition 

We had a record number of entries for the 2018 Pitching Competition in Canberra for the opportunity to take centre stage and directly engage with an audience of decision makers and people with the resources to drive innovative ideas and developing careers.

The ideas pitched to industry in 2018 ranged from a hands-free ticketing system and the gamification of rail safety, to initiatives for hydrogen fueled long-distance trains, an Intelligent Seating Recommendation System (iSRS) and regional freight deliveries.

We recently caught up with the 2018 Winner, Owen Plagens, Downer and 2018 finalists Jessica Ghaleb, Jacobs and Pacific National’s Tyler Plowright to track the progress in their rail journeys.

Looking for inspiration?

Our 2018 finalists were inspired by a mix of the personal – their own travel experiences – and the professional – encouragement from managers and their colleagues.

Anyone who’s fumbled through their bag, jacket or pockets looking for their rail ticket can appreciate the genesis of Jessica’s idea a hands-free ticketing system.

Similarly, having seen the impact first hand that temporarily shutting a rail line can have on truck traffic to maintain supply, and the risks this then presents to road users, Tyler’s idea was generated from hypothetical discussions on how rail can compete with road in regional areas.

For Owen, “the nudge” from leadership to submit came before the idea of DwellTrack, an Intelligent Seating Recommendation System (iSRS).

“Seeing the interest and enthusiasm of leadership in the cascade of emails was a clear signal to get involved and aim to win. The subsequent development of an idea to submit was founded on identifying a major problem and tackling it from a different perspective. The problem was dwell time resulting in congestion in rail networks, and the perspective was enabling the passengers to somewhat self-organise with minimal intrusion”.

Thinking about entering the AusRAIL PLUS 2019 Pitching Competition?

“Just go for it!”

Jessica recently reflected that the, “entire AusRail experience – from developing the idea, to the presentation itself, to the time spent networking at the conference – encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and to actively participate in conversations that matter around topics that will ultimately help us to transform the rail industry for a better future.”

I had the opportunity to meet, listen and collaborate with a diverse group of passionate people and I’m grateful for the support along the way from my company, Jacobs, AusRail and my peers at the conference.”

Watching Owen deliver his pitch on stage, you’d be forgiven for thinking that his articulate creativity would go unnoticed, but as he enthuses, “Creativity is a highly valued trait but may be hard to show off in a junior position in a rail organisation when you’re in the weeds of systems engineering or running a well-defined small project.”

“This competition is a creative opportunity that is highly respected by leadership across the industry. It’s also a great way to meet people in the industry – they’ll seek you out and already be interested in what you think!”

As Tyler remarks, “the competitive nature of the pitching competition is always a good challenge and a great opportunity to meet other young people in the rail industry”

It is also the opportunity to “start open discussions on how we can become more competitive and flexible to improve the image and competitiveness of rail” and connect with peers.

For Jessica, “What was particularly special about this experience were the relationships and lasting friendships that were formed among the other pitching finalists, and other young professionals. There was a real sense of comradery and everyone was genially supportive and encouraging of each other.”

What are Tyler, Jessica and Owen up to now?

It’s not surprising that since AusRAIL 2018, all three have advanced their careers.

Still working towards improving train efficiency, performance and reliability, Tyler has recently changed roles and is currently tasked with improving and maintaining ECP and WDP reliability for the Pacific National fleet including failure analysis, diagnostics/troubleshooting support, repairs and improvement projects.

Jessica, who is currently working on Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Project with Jacobs, was appointed to the Australasian Railway Association’s (ARA) initial Young Leaders Advisory Board (Y-LAB). With the focus of harnessing the ideas of young talent in the industry, the Y-LAB reports to the ARA Board, providing a younger perspective on Board priorities as well as discussing new ideas and opportunities for the rail industry.

And Owen, he recently managed Downer’s ISO 55001 Surveillance Audit and presented the innovative digitised Strategic Asset Management Plan that he and his team developed.

“I’m also working on a Plan to prioritise and assist decision making around asset condition monitoring data. This plan clarifies the rolling-up of specific subsystem/component condition data to business-level benefits, what condition data is high priority and what options are available to get this data.”

How are their ideas tracking?

The DwellTrack system, a collaboration between Downer, RMCRC and University of Technology Sydney, trial started at Sydney’s Wynyard Station in August 2019.

The question I was asked by the judges during my pitch was around the quantified benefits of such a system. My answer was that I can’t really give a reasonable estimate because although there were some trials in this space, there weren’t any results on which to extrapolate”.

The trial is “is a critical first step in capturing the right data needed for a system like iSRS, which itself is a necessary part of a much larger solution to efficient customer flow around all aspects of a rail network – including optimising the use and design of trains, platform areas, concourse areas and customer information systems.”

While the concept of Regional Freight Deliveries was “purely hypothetical and intended to be thought provoking”, Tyler reports that the FORG (Freight on Rail Group) has been increasingly lobbying for government investment and reform in the rail industry to do exactly this (compete with road) and this progress is certainly being watched with interest.

You would have noticed that there has been some progress in improving the customer experience with some jurisdictions providing options to use bankcards and others smartphone applications in replacement of tickets. However, further developments are still required for Jessica’s ‘hands-free’ ticketing solution.

Don’t miss this opportunity – There’s still time to enter

Judging by these three, AusRAIL’s Pitching Competition is a great investment in some very big rail futures and important ideas that need to be championed.

Owen will be back at AusRAIL PLUS 2019 to facilitate this year’s Pitching Competition. Finalists will receive unparalleled networking opportunities and the winner will receive a trip to Innotrans 2021.

If you are 30 years and under, with an innovative idea on how to revolutionalise rail enter the AusRAIL PLUS 2019 Pitching Competition. For more details visit

Deadlines for entries: Sunday 18 August

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