Recently Oshini Wijenayake, Yvette Nguyen and I attended the Railway Technical Society of Australasia’s (RTSA) CORE2023 Conference on Railway Excellence, as recipients of the RTSA Emerging Professionals scholarships. The theme of the conference this year was “Celebrating 25 Years in Motion”, which looked at the achievements of the past 25 years in the rail industry and also delved into the next 25 years and what hurdles there still are to overcome.

The conference consisted of over 90 presentations from experts in the industry, exhibits from sponsoring organisations, keynote addresses and concluded with a gala dinner at the Palladium Ballroom in Crown. On top of tickets to every day of the conference, recipients of the Emerging Rail Professional scholarship were given a 90-minute introductory workshop on an insight into the management of rail, mentorship and exclusive networking opportunities.


We had the opportunity to learn about signalling systems, composite sleeper constructions, new welding equipment, geotextiles and plenty more – all of which we wouldn’t have been exposed to in such detail in our day-to-day work.


While the conference covered a huge range of topics, one of the recurring themes that was explored during the conference was how the rail industry would be able to reduce its carbon footprint. CORE2023 highlighted that the future of rail is moving towards net zero emissions rail systems, with several lectures hosted regarding potential solutions such as hydrogen cell based locomotives and the use of renewable energy sources to power our electrified networks.


Another key learning for us from the conference was signalling upgrades utilised. As the Metro Tunnel in Melbourne is approaching completion (expected 2025!), Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) was a hot topic at the conference. CBTC is a form of communication/signalling between trains that allows trains to run more frequently as opposed to ‘block’ based signalling systems (picture the green/yellow/red lights you see on the side of your train line). One of our favourite presentations from the conference discussed the use of CBTC networks in New York and the lessons learned from that experience. Takeaways from this presentation will be useful in understanding the complexities of future modern rail projects.


Several speakers discussed the importance of improving accessibility and safety in our public transport rail systems, especially with regards to individual experience on the network. There was significant discussion on modernising the DSAPT (Disability Standards Accessible Public Transport) requirements for stations, with an emphasis on refining the standards based on user experience. Additionally, the winning presentation from among the top Emerging Rail Professional applications was on Making Our Railway Network Safer for Female Passengers, which really resonated with us. The presentation discussed the importance of improving safety in stations, identifying issues such as contrasting lighting and the fact that ‘compliant’ lighting in stations does not reflect a comfortable user experience for all users.


The conference gave us insight into the direction the industry is heading and how to structure our thinking when it comes to our designs and innovating with the tools available to us. Furthermore, through the conference we were able to gain more rounded knowledge of the industry and have our eyes opened to the technologies, problems and solutions that are relevant to the rail industry today.

We were fortunate to have this opportunity and want to thank the SMEC Victoria Rail Team for supporting our attendance at the conference and to the Railway Technical Society of Australasia (RTSA) for supporting emerging professionals in the industry.


Words by James Leigh |