Posted by Vince Costantino on Nov 17, 2019
Zack Tabor was introduced to the meeting by Rotarian Tom Quirk.
Zack gained a degree in Aerospace Engineering at Swansea University (United Kingdom) in 2017, and eventually came to Western Australia, joining his parents here.
After discovering that work in the Aerospace Industry in Western Australia was non-existant, his initial employment was with the Charles Hull earthmoving company based at Waroona. He eventually gained employment with the West Australian Public Works Department, particularly the Public Transport Authority. The major works program that he is involved with is the State and Metropolitan Railway System.

West Australian Government Railways (WAGR) began operations in this State in 1890 to connect regional areas. The first such line connected a lead mine near Northampton with the port of Geraldton. In 2000 the freight operations section of WAGR was privatised.

Zack outlined the hierarchy of the Transport Department which covers all bus and (passenger) rail services in the State. The Department in which he is working is responsible for planning for expansion of the network services, with the goal to get the best value for the public money spent.The work not only plans the development of major projects, but also is responsible for planning the maintenance program for the infrastructure.The analysis of project feasibility is significant, particularly considering possible environmental impacts, and the costs incurred when mitigating impediments (such as land acquisition).

The State Government's Metronet Project ( ) is the main focus of Zack's work at the moment. By the year 2051, it is estimated the population of the Perth Metropolitan area will be 3.5 million persons, which is 40% greater than the current level. To cater for the subsequent huge anticipated increase in the numbers of the travelling public, extensions of rail lines to Yanchep and Karnup are planned. In addition a rail connection from Perth to Thornlie, another connection to Ellenbrook, and the so-called Perth Airport Link,  connecting  Forrestfield and the Perth International Airport to the City through a major rail juction at Bassendean are well advanced in their construction phases. The estimated completion date for the Airport link, Thornlie, Ellenbrook, and Yanchep extensions is by the year 2021.
The new infrastructure will be supported by more efficient trains with a type B railcar already in use, and a type C expected to be introduced into service in 2022. The type C
will be 150m long which is twice the length of the current trains at 75m. The original type- A series of railcars will be completely replaced by 2026, and the C series will be built in Western Australia.
Interestingly, the original Midland Railway Workshops complex which had been operating for about a century were closed in 1994. Large and multifaceted, the Workshops were vital to the development and maintenance of the West Australian rail system, and a crucial training ground for skilled tradespeople. Their closure in 1994 brought to an end not only a specific industrial complex but also a complex social community. The return of this infrastructure to the Midland area is much anticipated.

The State Government has announced Bellevue as the preferred site for the Metronet railcar manufacturing facility, which is set to be built next year. The proposed site, which will be located near the historic Midland railway workshops, will be used to assemble many of the 246 railcars required to service Metronet projects – as well as replacing ageing trains in the Transperth network, over the next 10 years.

A major implication in the new C type train is its length of 150 metres. Currently, most railway station platforms are built to cater for current railcar at 75m length. In many instances, the work to increase the length of existing platforms to accomodate the new vehicles will be complex and expensive.
Even with all these planned improvements, it will be necessary to significantly increase the frequency of train passenger services to efficiently move the expected volume of passengers. (One frequency target is to have one train service operating from a station every 6 minutes).

To achieve the frequencies needed, improved signalling technology is required and "digital block control" is used. This refers to a system where the the track is considered to consist of a series of sections, such that when one train is occupying a section of track (the block section), no other train is allowed to enter that section. Modern digital technology is designed to ensure the safe, efficient operation, scheduling, and movement of train services. World-wide experience, particulartly in Europe, has shown the signalling control system needs close attention to detail, as even small errors can create collisions.

Even simple environmental things can cause issues. Zack related a story where insects swarming on rails causing slippage of trains as the brakes were applied. The train would "overshoot" the platform where it was intending to stop. It was only after a local resident pointed out to engineers that "there are a lot of portugese millepedes swarming over the rails at that place" that the issue was resolved. Indeed, the crushing of Portuguese millipedes on rail lines is suspected to have caused a crash between two trains at Clarkson, in September 2013. In addition, in order to ready the rail network for the type-C railcars, level crossings will also require modification, or removal to cater for the new design.
Zack's work involves encouraging co-operation between design engineers to ensure the overall project direction follows correct protocols. In all projects the engineers of various sections, need to understand the end result requirements, so all sections of the design allign and compliment each other.

An example of a project failure due to department disconnect occured with an original Mars space probe that crashed into the planet when it arrived after its 6 month journey from Earth. The probe was manufactured by two different companies; Lockheed and NASA itself. The Lockheed designers calibrated their computer system to work based on pound/sec parameters, whereas NASA used N/sec (newton second which is equivalent to the momentum unit kilogram metre per second).  Consequently, the end result was an abject failure of the mission, even though it had successfully arrived at Mars.
So overall supervision of projects to ensure each section compliments the other is essential. Zack outlined several other examples of conflict in design or communication. Regrettably, these errors have resulted in many deaths which could have been avoided.

Following a question from the meeting floor concerning the fate of the Australind rail service which links Perth and Bunbury, Zack replied there is a long term plan to replace it.

Gordon McLarty thanked Zack for his interesting and illuminating talk on the future of rail, and presented him with the Club's customary gift of a wine glass.