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Perth's new high-tech train control centre leads the nation


The new nerve centre for Perth's expanding passenger rail system was officially launched this morning by Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan.

Ms MacTiernan said the new Train Control Centre and Customer Information System for Transperth's urban rail network was among the most advanced in Australia.

"This state-of-the-art train control system will enable significantly better management of the network, ensuring we know the exact location of our trains at all times," she said.

The train control system was designed and installed by Union Switch and Signal Pty Ltd, which was awarded the $9.6million contract about two years ago. The Public Transport Authority has spent a further $1.5million constructing the centre.

About 90 per cent of the work was carried out at Union Switch and Signal's Canning Vale workshop, which employs about 80 people.

The Minister said the move to a new system was timely, given the continuing expansion of Perth's passenger rail network.

"The old train control system was designed and built in-house in 1989, not long before the Northern Suburbs Railway began operations," she said.

"It used an LED-based (light-emitting diode) display panel which was difficult to alter to accommodate upgrading and expansion of the rail network.

"Nevertheless, it has given excellent service and contributed significantly to the consistently high on-time running of our urban trains.

"However, the level of patronage on our urban rail network has trebled since its installation, and we are now on the verge of taking the next big step with the New MetroRail Project.

"NMR has already delivered an expanded and upgraded Northern Suburbs line, the Thornlie spur is about to come on-stream, and the Southern Suburbs Railway will be running in less than two years.

"This will double the number of railcars, increase the scale of the network by about 75 per cent and add 15 new stations."

Average daily urban boardings are expected to top 200,000 by 2011, double the figure of 10 years earlier.

"The new Train Control Centre has been designed specifically with this in mind," Ms MacTiernan said.

"Our expanding public transport system is part of the Gallop Government's commitment to improving services for the community.

"Against a backdrop of rising oil prices, we see this investment in public transport infrastructure as vital."

At the heart of the system is an 11m bank of eight video screens, each 1.36m x 1m in size, on which the rail system is depicted in diagrammatic form. The 'mimic' display shows the position and status of all trains, signals, points, pedestrian crossings and boom gates.

The control centre can also take a feed from video cameras at every station, which will help the controllers determine whether extra trains are needed to clear special event crowds.

Up to four train controllers monitor the display and control the network from multi-screen workstations, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Armadale line was the first to go over to the new system in January this year, followed by the Midland line in March. At this stage, these two lines were being run on desktop screens in the old room.

Operations shifted to the new centre late in May, and the Fremantle line changed over on June 25.

The Northern Suburbs Line and the City-Claisebrook area will complete the process later this year. Until then, these areas will be displayed on the new screens but in the old format.

Included in the contract is a new Customer Information System which tracks the location of all trains and continuously updates departure information at stations, including audio loops for hearing-impaired customers. This will be progressively installed from late this year.

Ms MacTiernan said Union Switch and Signal was also providing training for Transperth's operational, maintenance, technical and management staff.

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