How Big Data Keeps Yarra Trams Running on Time, Rain or Shine

By Neil Roberts.
Neil Roberts, Director, ICT, Yarra Trams
Neil Roberts, Director, ICT, Yarra Trams

At Yarra Trams we are responsible for managing Melbourne’s iconic, 100 year-old tram network. It’s the largest operating tram network in the world with more than 250 kilometers of double tracks.

Yarra Trams is the operating name of KDR Victoria, a partnership between French-based public transport operator Keolis and Australia’s oldest rail company, Downer. On behalf of Public Transport Victoria and the Victorian Government, we manage more than 91,000 pieces of equipment and 487 trams traveling on 29 different routes.

We are committed to delivering a world class service to all our passengers, but keeping our trams running is no simple task. Our greatest asset in tackling this challenge is data and smarter infrastructure software.

In late 2013, we will begin operating the first of 50 new E-Class trams. They will join a fleet of eight different classes of trams of varying ages dating back to 1939. As you can imagine, our older trams have very different maintenance needs than our new trams.


In addition to managing repairs across new and aging infrastructure, our Operations Center and maintenance teams are tasked with keeping trams running and re-routing passengers even when this happens:


Additionally, when major events like the Australian Open are held in Melbourne, we increase tram service in specific areas to accommodate heavy passenger traffic.


To ensure trams are available when and where our passengers need them, we have turned 91,000 pieces of tram equipment into 91,000 data points. Sensors and reports from our employees and passengers provide information in real-time about tram equipment, services and maintenance issues.

For example, an automated wheel-measuring machine housed at a tram depot detects the condition of a tram’s wheel. When idle, the sensor remains covered from the elements:


As a tram approaches, it automatically opens:


And scans the wheel as the tram passes:


The data allows maintenance teams to be alerted to any potential issue and ensure necessary repairs are made before service is disrupted.

With this kind of data, as well as mobile technology, we can prevent service disruptions, schedule predictive maintenance, quickly re-route trams and better communicate information about tram services to passengers. When an incident occurs, we use IBM Smarter Infrastructure Software to log details about the incident, create a work order and ensure all is well on the tracks:


Work orders are sent to rolling stock engineers via their mobile device, which also contains all the asset information already stored in Maximo:


Finally, to understand the full scope of what we are doing, click on the interactive infographic below. This illustration breaks down exactly how big data, IBM Smarter Infrastructure Software and mobile technology are making Yarra Trams’ infrastructure smarter and more reliable come rain or shine.

Click on the image for an interactive look at the Yarra solution.
Click on the image for an interactive look at the Yarra solution.


This post originally appeared on the Smarter Planet Blog, and was republished for IBM Jobs Blog.

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