High-tech innovation helps boost safety across rail network

Safety improvements around trains and trams are usually very prominent, like better tram stops and fewer level crossings.

But there’s plenty going on behind the scenes too, including many safety innovations that employ the latest digital technology.

The Department of Transport’s Chief Rail Engineer, Rob Scarbro, says high-tech solutions are increasingly important across the network to help ‘iron out’ traditional safety issues associated with human error.
“Safety is one of the primary reasons we install new technology across our entire network, whether that is road, rail or active transport like cycling and walking,” Rob says. 

“Examples include using real-time data to inform passengers about loading and capacity on trains, such as the new RideShare app developed by our digital innovators and technology research partners. 

“This solution and other real-time data solutions being developed by our team are essential in a COVIDSafe environment because they enable people to make safe, informed decisions about their journey.”

Rob explains that one of the most transformative changes to rail safety in Australia is about to come online. 

When the new Metro Tunnel opens it will feature an entirely new type of high-capacity signalling system that, over time, will be rolled out across the rest of the rail network.

The new signalling system works in a similar way to adaptive cruise control in cars. Called ‘moving block’ signalling, it controls the speed and motion of trains in real time, moving with them so they can safely run closer together.

As trains wirelessly relay to signalling control centres at Sunshine and Dandenong, their progress is monitored in real time, guided by live data to dynamically adjust speed and braking. 

“This new signalling will mean we can safely run more trains more often,” Rob says. “It also helps network operators reduce the impact of sudden delays and incidents, enabling us to provide a true turn-up-and-go service.

“The signalling will be the brain and the heart of the network, controlling all movement on the system and allowing us to put trains into service. This will become increasingly important as Melbourne’s population grows and more people use our rail network.”

- Andrew Block