2018 Train Control Management Systems Conference report
Ian Christensen attended the 2018 Train Control Management Systems (TCMS) Conference in Sydney on 19 & 20 February. He attended in order to better understand the rail industry context that lies behind recent industry developments, such as Sydney’s new Metro driverless train.
Conference topic and project relevance
There have been efforts underway for some years in the rail industry to develop an ‘electronic’ (communications-based) railway signalling system that could (safely) replace existing hardwired physical systems. This technology now exists and the conference was primarily focused on the experiences of many organisations in their deployment of this technology in both greenfield and brownfield environments.
iMOVE is conscious that the rail industry is somewhat underrepresented amongst its participants despite the importance of the rail sector for the movement of both people and freight, and we would like to improve our engagement with the rail sector.
A few other observations could also be made:
Whereas a different rail conference that I attended approximately 9 months ago gave me the impression that nothing much was happing in the rail sector, this TCMS conference revealed a part of the rail industry where a lot is happening. TCMS technology challenges many of the long established mindsets in the rail industry and much of the conference was addressed to the management of change in this long established sector.
The speakers and the audience at this conference were mostly focussed on passenger rail and there was very little discussion of freight. However from informal discussions it appears that each track manager (ARTC, VicTrack, John Holland etc) has a different set of operating rules and comms system. This makes life complicated for train operators which have to change rule books as they cross jurisdiction boundaries and the have to fit the drivers cab with the comms equipment needed for each of the track managers whose rails they will be using.
This looks to be quite inefficient and somewhat burdensome to the train operators and will likely impede the evolution of universal visibility over freight position and arrival information to consignors consignees. It presents a significant opportunity for further improvement of our national rail system.
The conference was well run and attended by about 80 people. They were an enthusiastic and engaged audience with questions after nearly every presentation and very little drop-off in attendance even at the last session (4pm) on the second day. This is indeed a dynamic section of the Australian rail industry.