ETW Protection App for John Holland Rail

Delivered September 2017

Project Information


John Holland Rail


Country Regional Network, NSW


September 2017

Project Overview

The Country Regional Network (CRN) encompasses 2,386km of operational freight and passenger rail lines across 27,000 hectares of land and infrastructure. John Holland Rail needed a modern, dynamic solution to help manage their worksite teams gaining access to track and performing maintenance across the network, especially at peak network times.

The following areas were identified as improvement opportunities:

  • Verbal communications – heavily prone to human error
  • Location assurance – misunderstanding of worksite limits leads to potentially unsafe situations
  • Agreed arrangements – transparency of information is needed to ensure clarity of understanding
  • Competency requirements – ensuring Protection Officers are qualified for tasks they are undertaking

Smartphones were identified as the primary tool used by Protection Officers across the CRN. If a worksite lacks sufficient mobile coverage a Protection Officer will travel to another location that has reception to communicate with train control. The prevalence of smartphones provided a unique opportunity to develop an interactive user interface within an application, whilst also taking advantage of built-in telecommunication and GPS features.

Scope of Work

The solution needed to address the following criteria:

  • Avoid the introduction of new devices or infrastructure
  • Must not have a significant impact on device battery performance
  • Must work on both Apple IOS and Android devices
  • Must improve the location assurance of Protection Officers and track work teams
  • User interface needs to provide an intuitive, dynamic, and simple to use display
  • Needs to interface with existing train control systems while maintaining security of the control network
  • The application should not change the network rules and procedures
  • Provide an alternative to voice-based communications
SIL Classification

It was determined that no SIL classification was required as many factors in device behaviour are beyond the control limits of a mobile application. To adopt a bespoke device capable of achieving a SIL classification would have hindered widespread distribution and upheld the current reliance on voice communication.

User-Focused Design Process

User-group Workshops were facilitated to define the specifications and requirements for the application. Concepts for the user interface were refined through a progressive developmental process. It was decided in these user sessions that the application interface would not display a replica layout of the original form, instead the app utilises colour and layout hierarchy to highlight the most important information. A map view was identified early in the refinement process as a pivotal tool in location assurance.

Outcomes & Achievements

The ETW solution addresses the 2014-2015 Rail Safety Report by the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) regarding worksite protection, including the vulnerability of procedure heavy administrative controls that can lead to human error.

On the first day of its operation, 49% of Track Occupancy Authorities were issued using ETW, quickly increasing to 75% in the four weeks that followed.

Within the first 6 months of adopting the ETW application, John Holland rail saw considerable efficiency increases across the Country Regional Network, including:

  • 98% of all Work on Track Authorities now issued via ETW application
  • 62,000 less phone calls, reducing the workload on network controllers
  • 2,066 less hours for Track Workers waiting to access network