High-Capacity Signaling Takes Metro Tunnel to New Heights

High-Capacity Signaling Takes Metro Tunnel to New Heights

As the Melbourne Metro Tunnel takes shape across the city, novel technology will be required to allow the system to run more trains, more frequently, and in a safe and efficient manner. The implementation of next-generation, high-capacity signalling (HCS) along the Cranbourne, Pakenham, and Sunbury Lines is assisting the new infrastructure to accommodate the increased services, delivering a more dependable public transportation system.

The Metro Tunnel Project is now being built in Melbourne, and it will free up space in the city’s congested City Loop by routing the city’s biggest train lines through a new tunnel, allowing more trains to and from the suburbs.\

The Rail Systems Alliance, a consortium made up of CPB Contractors, Alstom, and Metro Trains Melbourne, is the project’s “brains” and is in charge of implementing the HCS throughout the network. The HCS’s installation on Melbourne’s rail network marks the first time the HCS and accompanying communications technologies have been installed on an existing rail network in Australia.

The new HCS will take the place of Melbourne’s present “fixed block” system, which uses colored signals to alert trains whether it’s safe to go. The new HCS system works by continuously monitoring and managing train speed and location, moving with the trains and allowing them to safely travel closer together and more often.

The signaling system will help the 65 new high-capacity metro trains (HCMT) now under construction in Victoria run more efficiently. Trains will be able to run every two to three minutes because to the HCS’ superior technology, according to the Rail Systems Alliance, which is the first step in creating a ‘turn-up-and-go’ train network for Melbourne, similar to those in London, Hong Kong, and Singapore. 

The larger modern trains are expected to provide an additional 121,000 passenger capacity on the Cranbourne, Pakenham, and Sunbury Lines during peak periods, according to Rail Projects Victoria, which is delivering the project on behalf of the Victorian Government.

Existing signals on the Cranbourne, Pakenham, and Sunbury Lines will be modified as well, allowing trains that use the HCS as well as trains that use traditional signaling, like as freight and regional services, to run on the same network.

New control centres and project milestones

To support the new HCS technology, dedicated control centres are being created in Dandenong and Sunshine, with the centers to be staffed around the clock to oversee real-time operations. These high-tech signals control centres will be home to network operators who will monitor trains’ movement and ensure that safe stopping distances are maintained.

The network’s trains will wirelessly communicate real-time speed and location data to these control centers, allowing workers to track trains across the network. The HCS was tested using a small number of X’Trapolis trains on the Mernda Line between Epping and South Morang stations before being deployed out across the whole network.

The HCS was also successfully tested on HCMT trains at a 1.5-kilometer test track within the Pakenham East railway depot, with the first round of testing scheduled for March 23, 2021.

Using the full breadth of the HCS, the train was able to successfully communicate with trackside equipment throughout this testing.

Rail Systems Alliance Integration Manager Simon MacMull expressed his delight at reaching this milestone and seeing all of his hard work pay off. Mr MacMull stated, “In preparation for this milestone, we have guaranteed that all of the essentials on the train and wayside work.”

“This testing campaign is off to a great start, and it’s encouraging to see how early on our integration efforts are paying off on-site, in addition to all the hard work the team has put in to get these trains moving.”

In addition, the Rail Systems Alliance recently welcomed a new simulator that replicates the driver’s cabin of an HCS-equipped X’Trapolis train. Another important step in testing the new signaling system before it is deployed is to use simulator technology.

When finished, this signaling modification on Melbourne’s metropolitan network will be the largest signaling change in more than a century, marking a key step in the city’s transportation network transformation.

77 engineer roles bringing the project to life

Around 77 different types of engineers are helping to bring the new HCS technology to the Metro Tunnel Project, and they will use their enthusiasm for math, science, and problem-solving to help produce positive outcomes for passengers across the network.

Da Lu, an automation engineer, said he was passionate about delivering positive outcomes for Melburnians and couldn’t pass up the chance to work on the historic project.

“Melbourne is a city that we all adore. We want to be a part of the history here, not just observe it,” Mr Lu said. “In the future, people will not have to wait for trains or check the schedule; they would simply show up and board the train.”

Liza Kierans, a signal engineer on the project, said she enjoys the variety and intricacy of her work in trying to bring the Metro Tunnel to life.

“I get to be a problem solver every day in my job,” Ms Kierans added. “Because of the problems we’re trying to address, every day is distinct and novel, and our relationships with individuals are different as well.

“Getting high-capacity signaling into Melbourne for the first time ever is success for me. This effort, I believe, will demonstrate to people that signaling is something on which they can cut a ribbon.”

  • Source-Sydney Transport Expo
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