TCMS Conference prompts robust discussion on new rail technologies.

The Train Control Management Systems (TCMS) Conference was held in Sydney earlier this month and gathered together rail professionals across Australasia for a robust discussion on the emerging rail technologies impacting the industry.

The general tone of the presentation was one of strenuous activity. The number of railway projects currently in the pipeline across Australia is astounding and possibly higher than at any time since the 19th century, and Train Control Management Systems are a key component of this changing landscape.

Two of Australia’s main passenger railway organisations – Sydney Trains and Queensland Rail – are currently in different stages to a transition to a centralised Railway Operating Centre – to use a term that is familiar to both Sydneysiders and readers abroad. This forms part of a global trend towards centralisation in traffic management that will generate a great deal of activity in coming years, potentially including in my own hometown of Perth, where the governing authority for transport is also considering a significant project.

A lot of the discussion centred around Automatic Train Control deployments in the Australasian region – Kiwi Rail’s ETCS L1 deployment in Auckland, ATCS deployment in Sydney – along with overseas projects. Keynote speakers from London Underground and the Singaporean Land Transport Authority expanded on their own experiences in deploying Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) systems across their mass transit networks.

I too was a keynote speaker and my presentation centred on an update on the Public Transport Authority of Western Australia plans to deploy a new LTE operational mobile radio network across the Perth metropolitan railway network. The presentation generated hearty discussion on how faster technology cycles bring technical obsolescence closer to the expected lifetime of railway systems, and how that obsolescence must be considered from the earlier steps of technology change programmes, as opposed to the traditional “known and proven technology choice” approach.

On the whole, TCMS 2016 proved to be an interesting opportunity to gauge the winds of change that are sweeping through the Communications, Control and Signalling disciplines in Australasian railways. I left the conference feeling what an exciting time this is to be involved in the railway industry – and on speaking to a number of the attendees, the sentiment is shared.