The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has announced the winners of outstanding achievements at the Australasian Rail Industry Awards virtual ceremony.

ARA Chairman and awards committee member, Danny Broad, said the event highlighted the essential work of rail industry organisations in a year like no other.

“The rail industry has been just as challenged by the events of 2020 as any other, but our people have kept essential services going and continued to deliver new projects and initiatives through it all,” Mr Broad said.

“The awards have highlighted the commitment and tenacity of the people of the rail industry at a time when we’ve never needed them more.” 

Winners included Sydney Trains, which took out the customer service award for maintaining essential services and keeping the public informed in the wake of bushfires that ravaged part of the Blue Mountains rail line in December.

ARTC was recognised for freight excellence after continuing to build and expand its freight network while ensuring essential supply chains were maintained across the country in the midst of COVID-19.

Unique and innovative projects also earned recognition, including a program developed by Acting Consulting Training that uses theatre-based workshops to bring important workplace safety messages to life.

Mr Broad said these submissions and many others highlighted the essential role of rail in the community. 

“The judges were impressed by the many examples of people finding new ways of working to deliver an exceptional customer service for the passengers and businesses that use the rail network,” Mr Broad said.

The outstanding achievements of individuals were also highlighted, with EIC Activities Technical Principal – Rail, Peter Milton, earning the prestigious career achievement award.

Mr Milton has worked in the rail industry for 47 years, playing an integral role in landmark projects including the Adelaide to Melbourne Rail Standardisation and the Simandou Rail Project in Africa.

“Peter is known to invest significant time and energy not just in the projects he works on but the people he works alongside,” Mr Broad said. 

“There are many working in rail that can attribute the development of their skills and careers in part to Peter’s influence. He is a true champion for Australasian rail.”

Network Rail Consulting Managing Consultant, Emma Whitehead, won the Railway Technical Social of Australasia’s (RTSA) Young Rail Professional Award.

RTSA Executive Chair, Maneesh Gupta, said Ms Whitehead’s leadership on safety and diversity issues was to be commended.

“Emma’s expertise and reputation for delivery are second to none while her commitment to always strive to make the industry better is unmatched,” Mr Gupta said. 

“She is a fantastic representative for our industry and a young leader with a big career ahead.” 

Delkor Rail Technical Manager, Liam Turbet, was awarded Permanent Way Institution’s (PWI) Young Rail Achiever Award. 

PWI Young Achiever Award Committee Chair, Julian Sharp, said Mr Turbet’s work on London’s Northern City Line demonstrated great capability and leadership.

“Liam has taken on the challenge of a contentious and complex project on one of the world’s busiest rail networks and met the moment head on,” Mr Sharp said.

“His work shows outstanding technical ability and insight and it is clear there is much to look forward to as he develops his career.”

The Rail Track Association Australia (RTAA) confirmed Monash Institute of Railway Technology Research Engineer, Jerome Pun, as the winner of its Emerging Rail Specialist Award. 

RTAA President, Thomas Kerr, said Mr Pun’s work would be crucial to the future of Australian rail.

“Jerome’s work will deliver new innovations that are made for Australian conditions to make our rail network more efficient,” Mr Kerr said.

“We are delighted that Jerome is among the emerging leaders taking the industry’s research agenda forward.” 

The Australasian Rail Industry Awards are supported by the Australasian Railway Association, Institution of Railway Signal Engineers, Railway Technical Society of Australia, Rail Track Association Australia, the TrackSAFE Foundation and the Permanent Way Institution.   

2020 winners

Category awards

Customer service – Sydney Trains. Blue Mountains Line bushfire response and recovery

The Gospers Mountain megafire swept across the Blue Mountains line in December, hitting a 25km stretch of the rail corridor between Mt Victoria and Lithgow. The fire took out most of the electrical, signalling and communication infrastructure in the process. Sydney Trains worked non stop for four months to keep services operating or provide alternative transport for the local community where they could. 

Plans which would normally take weeks to prepare were implemented in just hours, with staff coming in from leave and working through their days off to help with the effort. The exceptional work of Sydney Trains’ engineering, maintenance and operations teams kept customers moving so they could be where they needed to be for Christmas and New Year in these most difficult circumstances.

Employee engagement – Downer EDI Works, The RISE Program

When Downer EDI Works surveyed their Pilbara crew, they found their corporate values had not translated to the FIFO environment, where there was little shared identity within the team. And so began the RISE program. 

Drawing on an approach used by elite sporting teams such as the All Blacks and Richmond Tigers, the initiative saw the team work together to create their own shared identity to drive a high performance culture. RISE has delivered tangible cultural change, leading to improvements in safety, innovation and flexibility. 

Freight rail excellence – ARTC, Ensuring a strong supply chain to keep Australia’s economy moving

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is an unashamed champion of rail freight, and is making big moves to expand its network to support sustainable supply chains across the country. Inland Rail is now well underway, with the project to deliver rail freight transit times of less than 24 hours between Melbourne and Brisbane. ARTC also completed its $252 million Adelaide to Tarcoola network upgrade, allowing customers to run heavier trains on a 600km section of the interstate network. 

In Victoria, the North East Rail Line works continue, while ARTC is also progressing plans for the Botany Rail Line Duplication and Cabramatta Loop in New South Wales. This significant program of works is complemented by initiatives to future proof the network, such as the Advanced Train Management System (ATMS) and the ARTC Network Control Optimisation. 

Innovation and technology – Arup, e-DT Electronic Danger Tag

A new, remote controlled tag is set to make it faster and easier to make overhead power on the rail network safe when planned works are underway or an incident occurs. The game-changing technology by Arup has the potential to be used by the global rail industry to improve safety, reduce costs, and reduce disruption for passengers on the network. 

The Electronic Danger Tag (e-DT) would replace a slow and labour-intensive system traditionally used by the industry, allowing a DANGER – Do Not Operate tag to be installed remotely when overhead lines need to be isolated in order for work to occur. 

Rail sustainability – ACT Government, Canberra Light Rail

The Canberra Light Rail project was delivered under budget and on time, with measures built into its construction to improve the sustainability performance once services were operational. Light rail services have now been operating since April 2019 with net-zero emissions, demonstrating how low carbon public transport can directly contribute to the sustainability of the city it serves. The Canberra Light Rail project has been recognised by the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia, with a Leading rating confirmed upon the project’s completion.

Safety – Acting Consulting Training Australia and New Zealand, THE FAMILY Trackworker Safety Project

It is not often you hear of rail track workers treading the boards in the name of safety, but an innovative new program has brought the industry to the theatre – with impressive results. After an increase in reported safe working breaches, Acting Consulting and Training (ACT) was engaged to take a new approach to improving rail safety culture and help decrease serious incidents and risk. 

The result was a series of theatre-based workshops called THE FAMILY, using professional actors. The program draws on real life case studies to provide an impactful and emotional learning and development experience for rail track workers. The workshops have engaged hundreds of track workers across the country, with participants inspired to take their learnings forward to their own organisations.

Workforce diversity – Coleman Rail, Workforce Diversity Program

Coleman Rail has delivered an extensive workforce diversity program to drive a stronger workplace culture and improved performance. The wide range of targeted sub programs delivered under the program seek to promote participation by women, youth, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, veterans and people from the corrections system. Coleman Rail is actively attracting and retaining new talent outside traditional industry demographics to help address past barriers to employment.

TrackSAFE Foundation – Queensland Rail, High Voltage Can Jump Campaign

Queensland Rail’s High Voltage Can Jump campaign was a bold move to use non-traditional advertising methods to warn of the dangers of trespassing onto the network and getting too close to overhead line equipment (OHLE). The campaign sought to capture the attention of males aged between 15-24 years, with slow motion footage of sneakers exploding designed to tap into the imagination and demonstrate the damage 25,000 volts could do. 

The campaign captured a collective audience of 7.3 million people through the use of highly visual content that was designed to be shared. The campaign is changing the thought processes of young men who are vulnerable to taking part in risky or dangerous behaviour to help save lives on the rail network.

Individual Awards 

Career achievement – Peter Milton

Peter has worked in the rail industry for 47 years since starting as a graduate engineer for South Australian Railways. He is a Chartered Engineer, member of Institution of Engineers Australia and Railway Technical Society of Australasia. He is also a management committee member of the Rail Track Association of Australia.

Peter has worked on many significant projects during his career. Most notably, he was the project manager for the Adelaide to Melbourne rail standardisation, using gauge convertible concrete sleepers in what was a world first. He was also the area and engineering manager for the Simandou Rail Project in Africa, which saw an US$8 billion railway integrated into a mine and port development.

Peter is known for leading collaborative teams that are not afraid to challenge the status quo to get results. An inspiring force in the industry, he continues to contribute by mentoring and training others, from entry-level graduates to senior engineers.

Young Rail Professional Award (Railway Technical Society of Australasia) – Emma Whitehead

Emma is a managing consultant with Network Rail Consulting, where she has led the deployment of the company’s safety strategy, diversity and inclusion initiatives and delivered presentations on working in rail to over 150 young people in London. These key achievements have all been delivered in addition to her day-to-day work in maintenance and operations, where she has established a reputation for ringing curiosity, integrity and a drive to support social improvement to everything she does. Emma has fully embraced the breadth of opportunity that working in rail has to offer, and is a most worthy recipient of this award.

Young Rail Achiever Award (Permanent Way Institution) – Liam Turbet

Liam was the engineer in charge of a unique project on London’s Northern City Line to reduce the impact of noise and vibrations after a series of community complaints. He led the team that developed a bespoke fastening system to reduce ground vibration issues to address local concerns. His innovative approach helped address a key community issue and demonstrates Liam’s leadership in tackling unique challenges on a busy and dynamic city rail network. 

Emerging Rail Specialist (Rail Track Association Australia) – Jerome Pun

Jerome is an emerging specialist in a complex technical area where there are only a few experts in the world. At Monash University, Jerome is currently investigating the use of harder steels to combat high levels of wear experienced from heavy axle loads. His work is delivering tangible benefits to the rail industry and is supporting the Monash Institute of Railway Technology’s leading research program.

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