Digital innovation at AusRAIL Plus 2017

With a record number of attendees and a keen focus on digital activities in rail, this year’s AusRAIL was again the place to be in November.

With over 960 conference attendees and 360 exhibitors on display, last week’s Brisbane AusRAIL Plus event hosted by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) had a wide variety of presentations to attend, engaging panel discussions to participate in and industry colleagues from across Australia to meet with.

Day one began with a keynote presentation delivered by Futurist Craig Rispin, who asked the audience to consider a world that will undergo dramatic changes in the short and long term future. This was followed by an awe-inspiring look at London’s Crossrail project by Sir Terry Morgan, Chairman of Crossrail, who discussed the extensive construction efforts to build a new 118 kilometre railway line through London, due to commence opening in December 2018.

During day one’s afternoon technical sessions, Rail Manufacturing CRC Chairman Paul Johnson and CEO Stuart Thomson each chaired a series of presentations in the rail suppliers stream, which included topics such as standardising data across rail, best practice components identification, an ‘Internet of Things’ future smart railway and the use of digital technology on key mining projects.

In the Exhibition Hall, there was also promotion of a wide variety of exciting innovations happening in rail, with virtual and augmented reality on display, and even a look at a new Next Generation Bombardier train cabin starting to roll out in Queensland.

Again, a highlight for the conference was the Young Professionals Pitching Competition, where five newcomers to the rail industry were asked to submit an idea that could revolutionise Australian rail. Each finalist gave a five minute concept pitch, with the winner selected by the audience and a panel of judges. The finalists and their topics were:

Ross Anderson, Engineer, Frazer-Nash Consultancy
Undertaking an app-based approach to improving user experience in the rail industry

Victoria Burke, Graduate Engineer, Metro Trains Melbourne
Lighting up our stations through kinetic energy

Oliver Lake, Rolling Stock Engineer – Automatic Train Protection, Program Delivery, Future Network Delivery, Sydney Trains
Augmented reality for optimised train maintenance

Tyler Plowright, Rolling Stock Engineer – Locomotives, Pacific National
Dynamic brake battery

Jamie Ross-Smith, Head of Asset Systems, UGL Limited
Intelligent asset management system

Congratulations to session winner Jamie Ross-Smith, announced at the Gala Ball. Well done also to all entrants, it’s so exciting to see the new breed of rail employees engaged and ready to take charge.

The ARA also helped to support 10 of the Centre’s PhD students to attend the three-day conference and facilitated a number of meetings with industry. This was a terrific opportunity for the students to meet, learn about each other’s projects and to listen to what’s happening in the Australian rail industry. The PhD students also got the opportunity to participate in a special tour of the exhibition space organised by the ARA, which included in-depth discussions with representatives from Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), Alstom, Siemens and BHP.

Thanks to ARA for giving the Centre the opportunity to further integrate our PhD students into the Australian rail industry – we look forward to working directly with the ARA to identify future opportunities for our students to engage and to promote the importance of attracting a new generation to work in rail. We would be pleased to see our PhD students pitching at next year’s Pitching Competition!

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