Rail infrastructure in most Australian ports is aging and largely based on outdated technologies and practices. This is becoming more apparent as governments push for reductions in road freight traffic to ease congestion and reduce greenhouse emissions. The result is a rapidly increased volume of bulk and containerised rail traffic entering ports that have been traditionally dependent on road hauled freight.
Reliability and efficiency must be part of new design and maintenance practices to achieve the required throughput and to provide capacity for growth. This extends to challenging existing rail standards and conventional methodologies applied at ports.
How Innova Helped
Innova nominated resources have over 40 years’ experience in rail track standards, design, construction and maintenance, both locally and elsewhere within Australia. In a previous role, Innova resource was responsible for all track standards in NSW and as a founding director of the Australian Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board, for their transition into the current set of national standards and codes of practice.
A current on-going activity involves the review and assessment of rail track infrastructure condition and maintenance practices for a major Australian intermodal port. That review is assessing the application of best practice rail construction and maintenance and the introduction of emerging rail technologies. Track within the port incorporates extensive dual gauge infrastructure, bringing with it unique design and maintenance challenges, especially related to dual gauge points and crossings that require high levels of inspection and maintenance attention to retain acceptable levels of safety. Dual gauge track also creates special difficulties in controlling severe wear related to the common rail and the need to compromise rail head profiles to achieve effective rail vehicle curve steering with different axle lengths and radius differentials.
The marine environment of ports creates specific problems related track component life expectancy, especially for rail and other steel components and causes the early deterioration of timber sleepers. Advice is being provided regarding the specification and selection of materials that will maximise asset life and reliable performance. With track levels so close to sea level and affected by tidal movements, drainage becomes a critical track performance issue. Maintaining free draining track sub-grade is critical to the life expectancy and structural load carrying capacity of track components. Innova resources have undertaken a preliminary review of the historic track drainage systems to enable the design of upgrades and restoration works to be specified. The failure to maintain effective track ballast condition through deterioration of drainage has resulted in increased mechanised maintenance frequencies and costs. It has also caused frequent operational delays due to track circuit related signal failures.
As an extension of the initial assessment task, a body of work has been awarded to develop a long-term future strategy of the port’s rail infrastructure based on future expansion and operational needs, incorporating the best available technologies to future-proof the rail asset and to develop a set of tailored standards and specifications for outsourcing of rail infrastructure maintenance. Increasingly, technology solutions are being applied to a variety of track condition monitoring applications, resulting in more effective condition-based maintenance with resultant cost savings and asset life extension. Some of these systems are extended to monitor the condition of rollingstock components that can have a significant impact on track condition and rail safety if not corrected. While these technologies are relatively common on main trunk rail lines, their increasing availability and reducing cost make them viable for large intermodal terminal application. Particularly where there are a multitude of different train operators and defect attribution is difficult. Innova’s extensive experience in systems implementation will be applied to find technology solutions for this and other track related issues at the port.
Innova is currently working with port in developing a strategy to support ongoing independent track infrastructure condition review and maintenance contractor auditing. This is critical in ensuring that rail asset condition, performance and values are maintained over the longer term, ensuring that maintenance shortcomings are not permitting degradation and to allow the port to develop longer term track asset management and renewal planning.
Currently leading engagement between Port Authority and ARTC as RIM and train control / OCS manager, to revise yard specific maintenance procedures and technical maintenance plans, leading into contract renewal. Focus is on improving reliability and managing technology obsolescence while maintaining cost efficiency through implementation of improved condition monitoring and condition based maintenance practices.