Banner image: Newcastle Light Rail courtesy of Transport for NSW
One example is the evolution that is occurring in light rail projects which has supported a surface transport-led community regeneration. The visually appealing, infrastructure solutions include wire-free technologies. These new and improving technologies create additional considerations, including power supply to vehicles, which must be considered and managed from the earliest days of concept and design to ensure optimal operational performance of the network for customers and stakeholders.
Transport modelling plays a key role in aligning innovation in transport systems with the practicalities of improving operational outcomes. In the case of light rail projects, managing the competing modal performance objectives is key to success.
One such example is the 2.7-km Newcastle Light Rail scheme, which connects the Newcastle Transport Interchange with the town centre and features six stops along the corridor at Newcastle Interchange, Honeysuckle, Civic, Crown Street, Market Street and Pacific Park. Once completed, the light rail will have the capacity to transport 1,200 people per hour with services scheduled every 7.5 minutes during peak periods.
To address the challenges in power supply, Newcastle Light Rail adopted a solution that removed traditional overhead wiring along the length of the system and replaced it with an on-board power supply, which provides charging at stations while passengers board and disembark. This result helps to preserve the historical town centre and is efficient for users and operators. Callan Stirzaker, Principal Transport Modeller with WSP says, “Adopting this solution changed the dynamics of the design. It introduced new variables and complexities into the modelling approach.
“Although vehicles will be charged at stations, in general, the longer a tram takes to travel between stops, the longer it will need to charge, which increases the overall journey time. By increasing light rail priority over other modes at traffic signals, journey times and reliability will improve, which in turn will reduce the charging requirements at each stop.”
Innovation in Action
Transport modelling was a critical part of the Newcastle Light Rail solution. The project utilised a combination of Paramics, SIDRA and VISSIM modelling software applications. VISSIM was used to support the alignment design, assess light rail/traffic interface including assessing signal priority, and to coordinate different operational scenarios.
Mr Stirzaker added, “While operating dynamics of the catenary-free solution could be modelled within the software application, an innovative approach to the modelling was required, in order to consider simultaneous vehicle charging Functionality.
“The Newcastle Light Rail project shows that existing modelling software applications need to be closely reviewed for each project to ensure that they effectively simulate scenarios, including taking into considerations technological advancements.”
“With an industry-wide call for increasing functionality and greater level of detail in transport modelling, the future is bright but also complex.”
Callan Stirzaker is WSP’s Queensland Transport modelling practice leader, specialising in infrastructure planning and land use development projects with a focus on transport modelling, engineering and appraisal.
He will join several speakers from WSP at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre for this year’s Australian Institute of Traffic Planning and Management Conference, running 24- 27 July 2018. Join Callan’s session ‘Light Rail evolution: Traffic interface, catenary free and modelling’ on Thursday 26 July from 9am.
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