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Find out what happened at ARA’s 2019 Light Rail Conference.

ARA Light Rail Conference 2019: Event Recap

Find out what happened at ARA’s 2019 Light Rail Conference.

This year’s ARA Light Rail Conference took place at the Crown Casino Melbourne on March 4th and 5th. If you weren’t able to go, here’s a quick summary of the event:


Light Rail Success: It’s a Team Effort

A consistent theme throughout the conference was that a successful light rail network, whether it is being deployed in a new city or modernising an existing network, requires the involvement of the public and local retailers.

The majority of light rail networks, when in deployment phase, have a large impact on street traffic for retailers. Due to inaccessibility of the street, pedestrian numbers go down drastically.

Even though these retailers will enjoy the benefits of increased street traffic after work is completed and the network is operational, it is important to communicate to them that this short-term pain will lead to great rewards.

It is a fact that where new light rail networks are scheduled to be deployed, property developers come in and build high-density dwellings nearby. Retailers will eventually win out, but public transport authorities and operators do need to keep them involved throughout the project.


Catenary-Free Solutions Are Transforming Cities

Possibly one of the most recent technological advances in rail technology is the use of super capacity and battery power on light rail vehicles (LRVs).

This has allowed cities like Rio de Janeiro, where space is limited and maintaining scenic beauty is a high priority, to deploy a catenary-free light rail network.

The LRVs now add to the city’s streetscape as a form of moving art.

A key advantage to this technology is the impact it has to its surroundings; kerbside vegetation can grow up and around the LRV’s drive path, adding greenery.


Successfully Engaging Stakeholders With Technology

Some really good examples of how technology can help with stakeholder engagement was the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to help community members see what the future of their city will look like.

Instead of simply showing residents and retailers images of what their local streetscape will look like when a light rail project is complete, transport agencies now have the ability to use AR and VR technology to make their vision ‘come to life’.

Individuals can wear a set of VR goggles and have a project manager walk them though proposed changes to existing environments and explain the positive impacts they will have.

Bombardier also shared their use of AR in rolling stock maintenance. They can simply point their iPad at the component they are looking to perform activities on and use AR to find the issue quickly.


Technical Session on Design, Planning and Asset Management

I was honoured to chair this session, where various speakers took a deep dive into planning, design and implementation of light rail in Australia and other cities in the world.

Matthew Diemer from Monash University talked about targeting more impactful tram modernisation investments through a place-based streetscape framework.

The benefits of this approach was keeping landmarks clean, reducing maintenance costs and faster deployment.

Marcus Sainsbury from Transport Canberra Light Rail then spoke about applying a movement and place framework in light rail planning, using Canberra as a case study.

Canberra is unique in that a light rail service was always factored in, even from its inception. Its design and current streetscape factors in right-of-way. The main focus is to ensure that Canberra’s character and iconic Parliament House are not negatively impacted by the light rail implementation.



The Light Rail Conference was a great place to hear the latest on various Australian light rail network deployments and discuss emerging technologies and strategies for efficient roll-out of networks.

There were some fascinating technology developments opening new possibilities for light rail operators, with VR and AR coming in more prominently this year as a potential solution.

During my speaking slot, I mentioned a few of my articles on Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) – if you are interested in ISO 55000 for rail or new technologies for transport asset management, have a look at my recent whitepaper:

ISO 55000 and Beyond white paper asset management best practice

Thanks to the ARA for giving me the opportunity to speak at this event! If you’d like to get in touch with me, connect with me on LinkedIn.

Trapeze provides a number of solutions for the Light Rail industry. Read some of Trapeze’s global light rail focused case studies here:

Learn how Denver RTD records all aspects of its operations in a single EAM database.

Hear how Zurich Optimises Operating Conditions and Service Quality using AVLC technology.

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Michael Scollo
Industry Solutions Manager – Enterprise Asset Management

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