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This Rail Express story outlines how rail technology can adapt to future disruptions.

The technology rail operators need now to future-proof their networks

This Rail Express story outlines how rail technology can adapt to future disruptions.

This article first appeared in Rail Express on November 25, 2020.

The past year has made it only too clear that rail operators and authorities need to adapt quickly and flexibly to respond to service disruptions.

Of course, COVID-19 has had the greatest impact on rail organisations this year, but it was not the only event – with bushfires causing service outages in some regions, along with the continuation of other more familiar disruptions, whether caused by humans or nature.

To have the ability to respond effectively to these unplanned events, rail organisations require technology that can handle the dynamic nature of rail operations.

Trapeze Group provides several solutions tailor-made rail that enable organisations to live with the “new normal” and will be showcasing these at AusRAIL Live & On Demand.

Trapeze’s general manager for Rail in Australia and New Zealand, Ben Dvoracek, said “Trapeze provides the rail transport expertise and technology solutions required to navigate the hurdles of today and the future. For example, the capability to run multiple planning and rostering scenarios quickly, based on historical data to understand service impacts and plan for future disruptions. This can be integrated with our workforce system, which creates duties based on configured enterprise bargaining agreements and fatigue scores, and then communicates this information to rail staff remotely, using mobile devices. We’ve also supported our customers in moving to the cloud to allow them to work remotely. We have heard many times, that without these systems in place, making decisions would have been, or have been, far more difficult. From a sustainability perspective, operators can calculate carbon emissions and optimise their operations to meet their targets. New cleaning plans were integrated into schedules, rosters, and maintenance regimes via operations and Enterprise Asset Management systems. And finally, through Intelligent Transport Systems, we can support light rail operators and passengers by providing access to accurate, reliable, live information on multiple devices – reducing crowding at stops, onboard and increasing the confidence and comfort of passengers.”

To prepare for the vital day of operations, all rail operators know that planning is key. Trapeze’s Planning and Scheduling platform has been deployed by Norwegian operator Vy for this very goal. “The software platform handles 2,400 drivers and staff, operating 250 train sets across 22 routes, serving 73 million passengers a year, and combines multiple, complex datasets into a unified plan”, said Peter Hausken, Special Advisor at Vy.

“In the office, we see exactly the same data as everyone else. The data underpins graphical maps, passenger information, services; all elements joined together via a common interface. This visibility enables us to harness the power in the data.”

Vy has used Trapeze to build the plan to support the rollout of 130 new trains in 10 years and has seen a 30 per cent ridership increase. The planning and scheduling tools have also supported a successful network expansion into neighbouring Sweden.

With ways of working changing and new demands emerging, workforce management tools need to be flexible. Trapeze’s Workforce Management tool is designed for rail operators to not only plan and forecast personnel demands, but also adapt quickly on the day of operations. With rail operators now looking to recalibrate timetables as commuting patterns change, the responsive nature of Trapeze’s solution enables operators to adapt timetables, without creating workforce gaps.

Dvoracek said, “The Trapeze Workforce Management solution enables the employee to use modern technology to enhance their work-life balance, by increasing communication capabilities and access to information, without having to call or access the office in person, outside of regular working hours. The solution allows workforce managers to focus on strategies and other tasks such as managing the day of operations, instead of dealing with cumbersome paper forms and other manual processes. Staff can use the system to advise overtime, request their shift preferences and training, and swap shifts with their colleagues. Staff can even share their shift times with their family. This creates better staff coverage which in turn leads to a happier team, and passengers have access to reliable services.”

From the perspective of maintenance, leading global rail organisations such as Keolis Boston have turned to Trapeze’s Enterprise Asset Management tool, which provides a “single source of truth” for all rail maintenance activities and upkeep. Not only does this ensure the asset lifecycle is maximised while enhancing safety, but it also means that trains remain on track and can recover from disruptions faster. This tool can also be integrated with new asset requirements, such as increased cleaning regimes to support uninterrupted services.

Dvoracek continued, “Asset and maintenance management for rail is entering the next evolutionary phase. Operators and maintenance crew are being asked to deliver more services whilst maintaining tighter budgets, and asset owners are demanding more insights on the performance of critical rail infrastructure assets. Organisations are looking towards more advanced technology solutions to add efficiencies. To ensure service continuity in today’s environment, rail operators need to understand condition-based and predictive maintenance. A single system that performs these capabilities allows an organisation to stay ahead of its maintenance regime and asset management lifecycle, though data-driven science.”

The final piece of the rail technology puzzle is communication with passengers, for light rail and tram operators. Trapeze provides an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) for light rail, that connects drivers, services and passengers – in real-time.

Dvoracek commented, “The Trapeze ITS is currently used in light rail and multi-modal environments globally, using real-time information. This allows for full bidirectional support and reliable passenger information displays. Passengers know the next stop, which door to use, or even nearby tourist attractions throughout their journey. Tram passenger numbers for individual trams can be provided to all users, notifying them of how busy a particular service is. Passengers know their arrival times, and real-time CCTV feeds improve passenger safety. Having deployed many light rail ITS systems – for example, in London and Zurich – Trapeze understands that such systems for trams are very different when compared to buses. Specialised features like wheel flange lubrication intervals and overspeed alerts improve safety and efficiencies.”

As rail organisations now look to future-proof their networks for 2021 and beyond, Trapeze will be showcasing its suite of solutions at AusRAIL Live & On Demand – with Australasian rail operators having already adopted the Trapeze technology. The implementation of rail technology has also become a focus of the Australasian Railway Association. In a recent report, Finding the fast track for innovation in the Australasian rail industry, Chief Executive Officer Caroline Wilkie said, “The Australian rail industry can realise exponential benefits from rail innovation and technology and adoption due to the sheer size of our network.”

In the lead-up to AusRAIL, Dvoracek will be moderating a webinar on November 30, featuring public transport leaders Neil Scales, Howard Collins, Magda Robertson and Paul Comfort, to discuss their thoughts on how technology can future-proof their organisations.

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