Implementation of Electronic Authorities across the Country Regional Network

Delivered June 2015

Project Information


John Holland Rail


Country Regional Network, NSW


June 2015

Project Overview

The New South Wales (NSW) Country Regional Network (CRN) is owned by the government of NSW, and was previously managed by its contracted rail infrastructure manager, John Holland Rail (JHR) under a 10 year performance-based contract between January 2012 – January 2022.

On take-up of the network by JHR, the train control systems on the NSW CRN were a mix of computer-based Train Order Working (TOW) and token systems such as Electric Staff, and Staff and Ticket. Although these systems were proven over time to be very safe, in a modern railway environment they also proved very inefficient, as trains were required to stop frequently for safeworking purposes.

At the time, the NSW CRN had substantial assets, including 2,386km of active operational passenger and freight rail lines, 3,128km of non-operational lines , 27,000 hectres of land and infrastructure, 1312 level crossings (of which 300 were active),  and over 1200 property assets over a total area of 809,444km².

Scope of Work

The existing train communications system used between train drivers and train controllers was an ageing private railway UHF communications network with high maintenance support costs and limited data capability. The radio base stations and train-fitted equipment had reached end-of-life and replacement parts were becoming difficult to source.

The challenge was to modernise the control of the CRN whilst considering the commercial constraints of low traffic volumes that created barriers for cost recovery and sustainability, with limited opportunities to increase revenue to off-set expensive rail infrastructure installations. More immediate opportunities to improve bottom-line financial performance were available by reducing the railway’s capital and operational costs.

Through a back and forth consultation process with JHR to best understand the operator’s requirements, an evaluation of modern train control systems identified a number of options available to replace token working to improve train operations efficiency and reduce operating costs with consideration to the following:

  • The safety level required of the train control system
  • The efficiency of the train control function
  • The initial implementation cost and recurring operational costs to maintain the systems
  • The vulnerability of the system to theft and vandalism, and the security costs associated with safeguarding such equipment.
  • The technical skills required by the railway authority to maintain the systems

Computer-based Train Order Working at SIL-2 was selected as the most appropriate train control system, which could support both voice and electronic authority functions.

Outcomes & Achievements

On 25 June 2015, 4Tel successfully delivered Electronic Authorities (EA) into train control operation. The technology provides the delivery of automated movement authorities across 2,200km of track for John Holland Rail which managed the NSW Country Regional Network during this time.

Additionally, the TMACS Electronic Authority software was upgraded across hundreds of locomotives without any direct cost to above-rail operators. The use of Electronic Authorities also meant software upgrades were downloaded remotely and automatically by an ICE radio.

Within one year, over 21,000 Electronic Authorities had been issued with 99% of all train movement authorities for 2016 being Electronic. Electronic Authorities had also dramatically reduced Network Controller workload with time efficiency savings of roughly 95% of an equivalent voice train order system.