Home' Link : Link Issue2 Contents "The question for government is this," Cole comments.
"How much are you willing to spend in your effort to build a
nation that is carbon responsible and energy responsible?"
One factor that may change the mathematics again is
the price of oil, especially given turmoil as a result of recent
public uprisings in oil strongholds such as Libya. Cole suggests
overland aircraft flights may become an "intolerable luxury" if
oil prices blow out significantly in years to come. The world of
liquid fuel may well change our approach fairly quickly."
Eye on the future
Closer to home, CRE researchers continue to work on their
Intelligent Train Monitor prototype testing in an effort to
make freight operations safer as trains that can stretch
kilometres contend with several bends, hills and different
allowable speed limits at any one time. "As a train driver you
can put your head out the window and you will not be able to
see the end of the train," Cole says.
Using algorithms, track databases and GPS technology,
the system is able to predict train speeds and wagon coupling
forces and lets drivers "see" the future of their journey up to
about 50 seconds. Armed with such infor mation, they can
improve compliance with speed limits and achieve better
results around energy use, component fatigue and brake pad
While he has confidence in the technology, Cole admits
that CRE's competitors are also very active. Most products
in the same space are trying to steal the march through the
development of monitoring systems that focus on energy
management rather than safety. These products differ
from the ITM, which has a foc us on large heavy-haul train
operations with particular benefits in safety. "The product
space has become very competitive."
The Intelligent Train Monitor system is about to undergo
further testing in the Hunter Valley in NSW.
In other areas, level-crossing safety on suburban rail
networks is under the spotlight as authorities wrestle with the
problem of irresponsible drivers and pedestrians who ignore
signalling systems. "Railways have the problem that they
only control half of the issue, the rail network itself," Cole
says. "The other half of the issue is you and I and everybody
else who drives a car."
CRE research is examining means to make cheaper and
safer level-crossing systems, including the use of the latest
video monitoring technology.
Recent floods in Queensland and Victoria have again
raised questions over how to mitigate damage to roads, rail
lines and rail bridges. Cole is cautious about what ultimately
can be done to flood-proof networks. "It's not a lack of
knowledge," he says. "At some point you have to decide how
much you are going to spend."
Cleaner and greener
As demand for rail increases, the emphasis is on taking a
traditional transport solution and making it even better. Part
of the mix is likely to be new engine systems, including hybrid
locomotives that are more environmentally sustainable.
For diesel locomotives, Cole says considerable research is
occurring around the concept of "battery boost" technology.
He notes that engineers from the multinational locomotive
manufacturer GE have hit the headlines for designing a hybrid
diesel-electric locomotive that can capture energy used during
braking and store it in sophisticated batteries. GE claims the
prototype cuts fuel consumption by up to 15% and reduces
emissions by as much as 50% compared to typical freight
locomotives in use today.
Cole says such initiatives add to an exciting period for rail --
and CRE is determined to play its part.
"As a train driver you can
put your head out the
window and you will not
be able to see the end of
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