Award-winning invention takes the danger out of rail

Jennifer Shand Jennifer Shand Australasia Press Office,Sydney
21 October 2020

An Arup invention – the electronic danger tag (e-DT) – has won a national industry award, recognising its potential to improve safety, cut costs and reduce service disruptions on electrified rail networks.

Described as ‘game-changing with global application’, the remote-controlled device received the 2020 Australasia Rail Industry Award for Innovation and Technology.

The Arup team developed the e-DT to revolutionise the costly and slow process for safely managing high voltage power supplies during track maintenance or an incident response.

Sydney Trains has been rigorously testing the e-DT in off-system trials with very positive results, and will soon commence using it at Central Station ahead of a potential wider roll-out across the network.

This new technology changes the decades-old practice of having people spend hours out on the tracks. ” David Stuart-Smith David Stuart-Smith Arup Global Rail Skills Network Leader

“Instead of physically attaching and later removing a ‘DANGER – Do Not Operate’ tag at each isolation point for overhead power lines, control room operators can activate the e-DT,” said David.

“When deployed as part of a remote isolation and rail connecting system, it saves a lot of the available time during a service shut-down, meaning more work can be done. It also means the response time is much quicker if there is a major incident - hours become minutes.”

David gave the example of an extensive isolation on the Sydney rail network (involving 39 switching locations and 176 switches) which could take up to five hours using traditional methods, being managed in 15 to 30 minutes with a remote isolation and rail connecting system enabled by the e-DT. Not only faster in cutting and restoring traction supply, the e-DT reduces the possibility of human error by providing the control room operator with direct visibility and control of the danger tag rather than relying on verbal communication with a field operator.

The tag is a stand-alone unit, about the size of a tissue box, which is weatherproof and resistant to mechanical shocks or electromagnetic disturbances.  It has a window display with either a ‘DANGER – Do Not Operate’ label or a black line when it is in a disengaged (clear) state.

“More than just a visual warning, it locks the switch, preventing accidental operation of the switch. The e-DT sets new benchmarks for compliance and safety,” David said.

With ‘DANGER – Do Not Operate’ tags used in almost every rail network in the world, the e-DT is potentially a game-changer for the industry both in Australia and internationally. ”

Accepting the Australasian Rail Association award, David paid tribute to colleagues Janine Joannou, Hatem Makkar, Tiernan Rankin and Project Director Gabriel McGowan.

He also thanked Infraco for building the prototype and Sydney Trains for the opportunity to work on the Remote Isolation and Rail Connection project.