Rail is a topic that is widely debated within the transport and logistics industry, and there is much research underway that is focused on advancing the development of Australia’s rail networks. Future Freight Networks spoke with John Anderson, Chair of the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation (ACRI), about the Centre’s work to aid in this critical aspect of Australia’s transport and logistics industry.
“The role of ACRI is to provide professional, independent applied research, strategic and economic analysis, advice and innovative solutions for the Australasian rail industry and transport sector more broadly, and to act as a hub through which collaboration and the exchange of ideas can be facilitated,” says Anderson.
ACRI has already delivered a number of projects, including programs to benefit heavy haul, track operators, freight rail and passenger rail, and to meet the policy objectives of jurisdictional government transport departments. Current priorities being progressed include work to develop a method of broken rail detection that does not rely upon insulated rail joints, research into the wear and degradation of track structures due to the ever-increasing traction available to locomotives, and a project using architecture framework modelling to test the impacts of new technologies on organisations.
“ACRI operates by a series of agreements with partners from across the domestic sector, called Participants,” says Anderson. ‘By operating a model by which industry engages with research institutions to direct research priorities, ACRI ensures that its research, strategic and economic analysis is of direct relevance to each Participant. Research outcomes or solutions are shared among Participants, so that outcomes from one work program can also benefit Participants in other work programs.” Participants can join ACRI as part agreed work programs, individually for commissioned work, or both.
As well as working with Australia’s leading universities to deliver its research and analysis, ACRI is also actively working to develop numerous partnerships internationally.
“This is being undertaken with the aim of not only delivering joint projects, but also to ensure that developments overseas can be adapted to the Australian transport sector, and implemented without needing to reinvent the wheel,” says Anderson.
“This arrangement has already been highly successful. A Memorandum of Understanding has been established with the UK Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) that has led to the free exchange on IP-protected research outcomes and innovation.”
When asked about the challenges facing Australia’s rail network currently, Anderson says, “The challenges facing rail are many; however, a number of these are positive challenges [including] how to handle the increasing demand for rail, how to secure investment in the infrastructure to modernise rail, and how new and emerging technology will change the way we travel and interact with our transport.”
“If, through excellence in research, we can progress the rail sector as a while, improving services and developing infrastructure to support this, then rail can and will become an increasingly cost-effective solution to the wider transport problem.”
Anderson is positive about the future of rail in Australia, provided that some important considerations are kept as priorities in the industry.
“The future depends on the recognition of the importance of rail, and continued investment in major rail infrastructure, rolling stock and research to ensure that Australia is positioned to take advantage of the strength that rail can bring to such a diverse and physically expansive nation.”
ACRI is keen to be there as the Australasian rail network continues to row and improve. “The future for ACRI is bright,” says Anderson. “At only 22 months old, ACRI has already delivered some 16 research projects, in addition to a number of other initiatives. With partnerships spanning the globe … and with a rapidly developing research capability, ACRI is looking to build upon our initial successes and continue to deliver for our Participants.”