On 21 and 22 February, I had the pleasure of attending the Australasian Railway Association’s light rail-centric event in Queensland, Australia. The Light Rail 2017 Conference featured great presentations and a sizeable crowd of industry experts and professionals – if you missed out this time, here’s a quick recap of the themes explored at the event.
Australia is making heavy investment in light rail
There is a surprisingly large amount of light rail projects on the go and upcoming in Australia. Besides the new Gold Coast-based G:link and Melbourne’s well-established Yarra Trams, there are also projects underway in Sydney, Parramatta, Newcastle and Canberra.
The light rail renaissance is expected to be a catalyst for urban renewal and regeneration. In the Gold Coast, where light rail has been running since 2014, the G:link carries the equivalent of the city’s population every month and has helped to increase local public transport usage by 32% (2013/14 compared to 2015/16)¹.
However, it’s not all smooth sailing with these new projects: light rail can have an initial negative reaction from the public and the media. The political challenges can range from feasibility studies going over budget to an unhappy retail industry and public during construction.
It is important to highlight the value and economic benefits that light rail brings to the community in order to seed positive reactions and build momentum for public support as you implement the project.
Light rail can and does have a big impact on the economy; while people may experience inconvenience during construction, the long-term benefits are proven.
- Collaboration – Building and maintaining relationships are extremely important because so many stakeholders are impacted by the implementation of light rail. Community consultation, keeping the public informed of changes, public safety education and close partnership between the government and vendors came across as important points. It really is a collective effort of the entire community plus providers, vendors and so on.
- Sustainability – This is a growing trend, especially in larger developments, in the construction and consulting sides of rail internationally. It’s not just about sustainable energy but also sustainable materials and maximising the use of infrastructure around a rail line.
- Attention to detail – So much goes into light rail projects. There are tons of assets which may later be handed off to other parties and everything is important to someone, so every little aspect of the system must be considered and recorded. There will be surprises along the way, and we need to be able to manage these with precision so asset management is key.
There are so many moving parts involved in light rail – not just during conceptualisation, construction and initial implementation, but also for daily operations and maintenance once services begin.
Ideally, you should deploy an asset management system from the start so you can reap the benefits of full lifecycle management during construction all the way through to live operations. This makes your light rail operation more sustainable as maintenance tracking of assets from the outset will ensure your assets last longer.
Interestingly, the industry in Australia does not currently have something tailored to rail that works for maintenance staff. The Trapeze Enterprise Asset Management system was developed in North America and built for maintenance; with over two decades of R&D and refinement, it has extensive capabilities that allow you to track every asset from rolling stock to linear assets to railways stations. If this sounds like something your organisation could use, read more about it here.
¹ GoldlinQ and Keolis Downer event presentation by Jason Ward and Loretta Lynch