07 Jul Expert Q&A: Rail with Dave Presley
How long have you been involved in the rail industry?
I’ve been working in rail for 12 years and am a longstanding member of the team here at Geomatic Technologies. Looking back it’s been a really interesting ride. For people outside the rail sector it might be seen as quite a mature, even boring, industry – moving stuff from point A to point B – but some of the ideas and developments, particularly in spatial information and automation are really interesting.
What changes you have seen in this time?
Safety has increasingly become a key focus for most operators. Safety of operators and maintenance workers and ensuring passengers and freight make it safely to their destination.
There have also been some really amazing leaps forward in instrumentation and access to information. The ability to capture a highly-accurate 3D model of an entire network using LiDAR technology has revolutionised maintenance, planning and operation of rail networks
What are the biggest asset management and maintenance challenges for rail operators?
Ever increasing network traffic is the big one. There is always pressure to move more stuff or more people faster and cheaper which can test the capacity of some networks. This reduces the opportunity for in-field, in-person asset inspections. Being able to capture network imagery and measurements in detail at line speed, on a locomotive or hi-rail vehicle helps maintain safety and maintenance standards without causing delays on network.
Advanced 3D spatial systems like AIMS3D are changing the future of the industry. How do you think this and other new technologies will impact rail operators?
These technologies help rail operators deliver planning and maintenance programs much faster than before whilst fulfilling auditing and compliance requirements.
The ability to virtually run rolling or even proposed stock through a network to check for clearances and other issues is big news. Factoring in the kinematics – like how a vehicle moves and leans at speed through a tunnel using a digital simulation is so valuable – as machine learning and robotics develops further I’m really interested to see how this will further assist the rail sector.
Geomatic Technologies is a well-established player in the Australia and is now winning clients in North America and Asia. What are the main advantages Geomatic Technologies has which appeal to a global market?
The challenges faced by railroads in North America and Asia are not so different to those here in Australia. The vast distances, unforgiving terrain and highly variable weather here, as well as dense metropolitan populations make Australia a great place to build a reputation for delivering solid results in testing environments.
We have been able to help Australian rail operators and maintainers in network-wide asset surveys, condition audits and track inspection solutions – our engineering brethren overseas have the same concerns and conservative approach to risk and as we do. Our main advantage is that we combine decades of real rail industry experience with expert in-house technical capabilities so we know what challenges operators face and have the capacity to solve complex problems.