Background:

DTI was approached by Rio Tinto, and independently a major international manufacturer of trains, to investigate projects to support Automatic Train Operation (driverless trains) and level crossings monitoring.

The Starting Point – Proving Capability

The dangers of poor driver behaviour at level crossings were well known and established across the country. National funding had been made available for level crossing safety improvement throughout Australia based upon increasing safety, with a national committee chaired in WA.

According to a RISSB National Stocktake, there are more than 23,500 locations where roads intersect railway lines around Australia. These sites are known as railway level crossings.

On average, 100 incidents occur at railway level crossings causing 37 deaths every year. Whilst this number may seem minor when compared to the road toll, railway level crossing incidents have the potential to cause multiple fatalities and multi-million dollars of damages. If motorists, cyclists and pedestrians obey the road rules, railway level crossing collisions are avoidable and thus, railway level crossing safety is the rail industry’s highest safety priority.

Rio Tinto sought to implement best practice monitoring and management of its level crossings. Some owners of vehicles (cars and trucks) would speed to go through level crossings to avoid being held up by the train. This behaviour would put that individual at risk, and also damage the crossing infrastructure. The company desired a capability to record vision of the crossing including applying number plate to provide a strong deterrent to this behaviour, and in the event of an incident be able to provide vision of the incident for necessary investigative purposes.

This level crossing project was outside of DTI’s traditional customer base and presented a new opportunity to secure a unique market niche. Product development was required involving hardware development to cope with the unique high temperature and low bandwidth environments that exist in the remote north. Existing software solutions required additional development to integrate with Rio Tinto’s systems.

As the project developed, through meeting the client’s needs, the opportunities become much more substantial. The two level crossings expanded to 10, then 48 level crossings.

From Level Crossings to Driverless Trains:

Remotely operated and driverless technologies are now pervading the resources sector. Rio Tinto had committed to the Mine of the Future project in 2008, revolutionising every aspect of its operations.

As a result of the success of the level crossing project, after substantial feasibility discussions, Rio Tinto company added a requirement to create an ability to provide “live eyes” on the trains for the train controllers, as well as recording vision for review should an incident occur.

Approach:

  • Concept exploration
  • Market review and sizing
  • Development of a strategic plan for entering the market to identify and address the market opportunities
  • Market engagement and contract management with Rio Tinto
  • Managing teams to develop and implement the hardware and software solutions
  • Engagement expansion from 2 level crossings to 48 level crossings and 180 trains
  • Client and project management with international rail specialist Ansalado STS, project engineers Calibre Projects and Rio Tinto
  • Project transfer to internal team for completion and implementation

Result:

The $1.2 billion Driverless Train Project was completed in January 2019, featuring the DTI vision surveillance system.