The Australian rail transport network is the 6th largest in the world with 38,500km of track carrying more than 1 billion tonnes of freight and in excess of 850 million passengers a year. Coping with these demands poses a significant engineering and advanced manufacturing challenge in design, construction and maintaining the infrastructure to achieve a high level of operating efficiency and safety. In the near future higher axle loads and increased speeds are predicted.
Building efficient infrastructure in Australia poses an even greater challenge because of the soft and weak formation soils along vast, undeveloped, transport corridors. According to a 2010 published report none of the States meet a ‘C’ grade or higher for the expected standards of the Rail Sector in the developed world.
Ongoing improvement in corridor throughput, maintenance and operating costs are essential if the forecast 6% PA increase in bulk freight – which is essential to export industries and includes mining and agriculture – is to be cost effectively achieved. It is thought that an increase of 1% efficiency of bulk freight operations would generate an estimated $1.5billion yearly cost reductions.
These facts considered the KEY AIMS of the ARC Training Centre for Advanced Technologies in rail Track Infrastructure (ITTC- Rail) are:
- Create a technical hub for integrating and applying supply/value chain knowledge and resources to address the major railway challenges and develop innovative solutions and products to enhance railway performance and extend infrastructure longevity.
- Train and develop a team of competent and motivated professionals through research and development and training programs, in partnership with all sectors of the railway industry, to help address the future technological requirements of the industry.
- Formulate and implement strategies for translating research outcomes into:
- product and process development
- market entry through established industry suppliers and advanced manufacturing startup companies.
- Build on the established track record of innovation, sound industry interaction and world class facilities to meet the needs of both the future workforce and technology development of the rail sector.
Leading research groups in the UK, USA, Japan, India, France and China are working with the ITTC-Rail team and it is hoped ITTC – Rail will enable the reforms required to realise opportunities for improvements in export potential for Australian suppliers.
ITTC-Rail also aims to provide opportunities for PhD students and young professionals to extend and enhance existing Australian practices with more advanced and economical technologies. They will enjoy world class laboratory facilities, computer resources and access to field monitoring to help combat the the geological and geomorphological variations and the uncertainties of ground and climate characteristics that provide the greatest challenges to cost effective rail infrastructure to ensure long-term performance.