So why is railway surveying so important?Read Now
Australia’s national freight volume is increasing and the outdated rail network just can't cope.
For the trains to become longer and bigger to deal with this increased volume, existing track alignment needs to be rebuilt or new tracks need to be opened. In addition to this, the fourth industrial revolution that is upon us, which is that of big data, automation, and new materials, are bringing new trains into use that will stretch our existing rail network.
The impact of this outdated rail network is stagnant productivity. The National Freight and Supply Chains strategy has shown that freight costs have not reduced since the reforms of the 1990s. The strategy identified that Australia needs improved efficiency and international competitiveness; safe, secure and sustainable operations; a fit for purpose regulatory environment; innovative solutions to meet freight demand; a skilled and adaptable workforce; and an informed understanding and acceptance of freight operations. Once the Inland Rail is completed, the percentage of freight by rail will more than double from 26% to 62% by 2049-2050. Which is lucky, as there is not enough road capacity to move the expected freight growth, making rail the only solution.
Nationally, there is a new standard called AS 7364 Railway Infrastructure - Survey. It is an attempt to standardise the approach to developing the survey infrastructure and approach to providing rail surveying support during construction and operation. The aim is to provide an element of assurance that a railway network can operate in a safe manner. It provides mandatory and recommended guidance so the developed rail survey system is aligned with the safe operation of the railway network, in accordance with the requirements of Rail Safety National Law.
One of the key recommendations is the use of a geospatial reference grid system. With the available technology, there is no reason why a rail project should not be on a national or state grid system. Whilst engineers do not like scale factors, assets with coordinates can be better managed in a spatial management system under the life cycle plan. Moreover, train automation is coming (if not here) and the alignment and signal system must sit within a digital database and management system if the automated train is to properly function.
Survey is part of the asset life cycle of a railway. Surveyors collect the raw data, ensure the spatial model of the design is correct, provides oversight in the construction phase, checks build compliance and provides a final spatial model. Ongoing track monitoring may also be required. Due to the intimate nature of the process, many surveyors go onto become track designers. Here at Hanlons, we train our surveying graduates to be track designers and work in conjunction with the other allied engineering disciplines to provide a final design product, one we've often had to provide surveying oversight during construction.
However, railway surveying is a small part of the surveying profession. Many of the government trained surveyors are close to retirement and no training program exists like the government cadet systems. The surveying profession has to develop its own training and mentoring program otherwise there will be projects that are delayed or poorly delivered.
Fortunately, Consulting Surveyors National and Hanlons have come together and developed a training program that covers all aspects of track design: terminology, track geometry, speed calculations, structure gauge, transit space and kinematic envelopes, level crossing assessment, turnouts and catch-points, control surveys, boundaries, transom bridge design, safety in design, and environmental assessment. It is early days yet but it is hoped that this body of knowledge can be passed onto the next generation so Australia has the opportunity to reach its full potential.
Your Project, Our PassionRead Now
A one-stop shop for your next infrastructure project may seem like you are getting a jack-of-all-trades, master of none type business. But Hanlons is different - our staff are experts in their fields, and working together under one office means we can ensure our clients get high quality results with no stone left unturned.
One of the things our clients love about us is that we work hard, and get dirty. Let’s take a look at why our approach has given us such a strong reputation in the industry, and why Hanlons should be your next project manager.
1. On Budget, and On Time
We know the importance of having a project delivered on budget and on-time. At the end of the day, we have our own projects too and know the frustrations that come with project delays and the financial ramifications. From building a house or implementing a new software system, to complex, multi-million dollar infrastructure projects - the same core principles should apply. Get it done, and get it done right the first time.
2. Get the right people
If we don’t know, find someone who does. If something does fall outside our area of expertise, we won’t just “fake it ‘til we make it”. We have a list of preferred subcontractors which are constantly being audited and assessed to ensure we get the right information to avoid delays in your project.
3. We know this land
We are country folks with big city qualifications, and we embed ourselves in the areas where we work. Our offices may be in Tamworth, NSW but our vehicles and staff are recognisable across rail networks and properties all over NSW and southern QLD. By working with locals we can find out the best solution for your infrastructure or development project, and build on these relationships for the future of your project.
Want to know more? Contact our office to learn more about why Hanlons continues to be the preferred choice for rail and infrastructure projects across the state.
The Importance of Training & Continual DevelopmentRead Now
Our cadet programs see employees complete their degree from distance education while gaining on the job experience, Graduate Surveyors need to complete post-graduate competency exams, and our fully qualified staff are regularly undertaking specialised study in a field of their interest.
This thirst for knowledge and continual improvement lay the cornerstone of our professional training program which we incorporated into our HR system. But we felt it was important that people weren’t just learning because they had to, but because they were engaged and interested in the topics.
We have seen a number of benefits from our training program, and in particular a knowledge transfer between generations within our staff. Our older employees are able to impart their experience and lessons learned to younger staff, while tech-savvy younger staff are able to help keep the team up-to-date with technology and compliance. As more and more systems move online we have found it extremely valuable to have already opened up these channels of communication.
Another foundation of our continual development at “lessons learned” sessions, where the team openly discusses the successes and failings of recent projects, and what we can learn from them for the future. This honest and constructive feedback and exchange of ideas is facilitated either in-house or by an external provider, and is proving to be beneficial to our commitment to excellence as a business .
It's all about the "one percenters", those who are conscious that it’s the little things we do everyday which lead to big actions. If we at Hanlons can turn that one percent into five or even more, we are helping create a workforce that benefits clients. Even more importantly - we are empowering our staff with the knowledge they are gaining new skills and helping deliver high quality outcomes to their community, and that’s something worth investing time in.
Why Surveying and Construction are Essential ServicesRead Now
The Covid-19 crisis has seen countries around the world implement tough lockdown measures, with only essential services running for many communities. As the restrictions in Australia strengthen, there have been many questions about what is essential, and why are some industries able to continue operating as usual, albeit at 1.5m apart. So why should surveyors and engineers be able to visit job sites still? And why is the construction industry considered essential at this time?
Site visits allow works to progress at all stages of a project, from the initial planning to the final handovers. Whether it’s a major infrastructure project or a property subdivision, having a pipeline of projects ready to go is essential to improving morale and providing important economic uplift.
Surveyors and engineers are crucial in ensuring transport infrastructure is maintained (how else are we going to keep getting toilet paper delivered to our supermarkets if our roads fail?). Rail lines and roads need to be looked after to ensure country-to-city grain and coal deliveries can occur and food supply lines remain open. Working on site with maintenance operational crews ensures the right maintenance option is being selected, to avoid further damage down the track as the result of a quick fix which doesn’t last.
While it doesn’t feel like it now - this isn’t going to last forever, and the economy is going to need a restart once we get through the pandemic. The construction sector and infrastructure projects are a great way to distribute wealth through communities, particularly in regional Australia. In remote areas, workers stay in hotels, buy supplies and food locally and often contractors take on local employees. In larger centres, firms are generally available to do the project work, but a good firm knows that nothing beats a local business doing local projects. Larger, national firms normally employ a local surveyor who would know the site and have an emotional commitment to seeing the works done well.
It’s inevitable that Federal and State Governments will roll out a number of infrastructure projects to help the recovery efforts, but it’s essential that private projects also tick along during this time. While the country looks at lockdown, there are many private projects with funding already allocated to planning and design, and surveyors and engineers can get these projects to the next stage of an approvals process while things are quiet so construction can commence at the earliest opportunity. Sometimes the change from the ordinary can lead to new ideas or concepts, and the idea for a project or new development may strike when looking at a tree in the garden. Talk to a surveyor to bounce ideas to see if the project has legs, you’d be surprised at their depth of knowledge regarding the whole process!
In conclusion, allowing access to sites (while adhering to social distancing measures and government guidelines) ensures economic activity can restart quickly when the pandemic passes, while also keeping vital transport infrastructure networks operational. Our team may not be in the office but we are still working, talk to the team today if you have any questions regarding your project and our new arrangements.
Planning ahead - Where to start again after Natural DisasterRead Now
Australia wasn’t even two months into 2020 when many regions had experienced not just bushfires, but flood and storm damage too and now we have moved onto self distancing and isolation because if COVID 19.
When people consider natural disasters, they often consider the physical damage and clean-up relief efforts, or the emotional toll the loss of a home can have on people. But many don’t consider that once the clean-up is finished the land can often be permanently altered, for example a new gully or a change in physical property boundaries with a landslide. This is where surveyors and environmental engineers provide assistance in rebuilding communities.
Land surveyors can assess, confirm, or if needed remap property boundaries to ensure fair distribution of land in conjunction with existing land records. Because of the change in landscape this requires careful and sophisticated measuring techniques, including angle measurement, position determination, reference networks and datums. The introduction of drone technology into this process, especially for coastal surveying after storms, has delivered a huge advancement in this area.
Environmental engineers can prepare and undertake a wide variety of assessments including contaminated site, bushfire, hydrology and planning studies to help regulatory bodies, builders and/or landowners determine the most appropriate steps that need to be taken to ensure the new development meets planning and environmental regulations.
Natural disasters are unavoidable, but careful planning and seeking the right advice in the design stages of your project (from large infrastructure to residential developments) can hopefully minimise the damage caused to your assets. It’s in this planning that the value of a multi-disciplined consultancy such as Hanlons is best demonstrated, with one-team able to handle all facets of a project to ensure all bases are covered.
Surveying the TeamRead Now
At Hanlons we talk at length about the range professional services we provide and the talented team we have delivering them. From surveyors, engineers and rail designers to environmental engineers and drafting officers – our staff have extensive regional experience to ensure our customers get the most from us.
Now that you know what they do, make learn more about our team here.
Thoughts on zoningRead Now
If our homes are our castles, we should be able to do pretty much anything we want there, right? Well, not exactly. There are these things zoning codes and regulations that can influence our rights by restricting them.
Mitchel Hanlon announced as speaker at ARA Light Rail 2020Read Now
We are thrilled to announce our Managing Director Mitchel Hanlon has been invited to speak at the Informa Australia and ARA Light Rail 2020 Conference, to be held in March.
Mitchel will be presenting with Michelle Blicavs, CEO of Consulting Surveyors National about Asset Life Cycle Management, with a focus on the Newcastle Light Rail.
Mitchel and Michelle will be the first surveyors to speak at the conference, which brings together operators, manufacturers, contractors and industry and government stakeholders across the Light Rail sector in Australasia.
Light rail investment is currently at record levels, with networks recently opening in Newcastle, Sydney and Canberra. We look forward to being part of the future shaping of these networks as Light Rail continues to grow in popularity.
Hanlons Surveyor wins Augustus Alt PrizeRead Now
Congratulations to Hanlons Graduate Surveyor Lachlan Smith who last Friday was awarded the Augustus Alt Prize by the NSW Board of Surveying and Spatial Information.
The prize was presented by NSW Surveyor General Narelle Underwood in a ceremony at Parliament House Sydney, alongside the Association of Consulting Surveyors NSW President Michael Lamont.
"Lachlan is a Dungowan local who has shown the value of fostering regional talent. Coming through Hanlons’ cadet program and obtaining his degree by distance education, he has shown that with hard work and the right attitude you can achieve anything," said Managing Director Mitchel Hanlon.
he Augustus Alt Prize is awarded for the best result in an Engineering project for the Board of Surveying and Spatial Information's assessments. The project involved the engineering design of a housing estate, including roads, sewerage, drainage, water mains, and construction management.
"People often think of surveying as just relating to property boundaries, but really surveyors are integral to the town planning and civil engineering functions of a community. Working in a regional area Lachlan has had exposure to a variety of projects which has been extremely beneficial to his professional development, as proven by this prize," said Mr Hanlon.
The Hanlons cadetship programmes are now open! If you are interested in a career in surveying or are currently studying a Surveying/Engineering degree you can learn more on our Careers page.
Demand for Surveyors Continues to GrowRead Now
Whenever we’re at a BBQ or social gathering, one of the first questions we’re asked is “How is work going?”, and the answer for us always seems to be “Flat out!”.
What is and how to be a trainee surveyor!Read Now
There are a number of routes you can take to become a trainee Surveyor in this day and age. But essentially you can start your career path right out of school! Ideally you will have an interest in Maths, English, and Geography, but within a traineeship it is all on the job learning.
Level CrossingsRead Now
Regional NSW Level Crossing Upgrades
We were recently engaged by both John Holland CRN and ARTC to undertake survey and engineering design for the upgrade of 12 level crossings across regional NSW.
For 6 weeks, our surveyors criss-crossed the countryside performing detail and property boundary surveys at each level crossing site. This information was important. The surveys allow our rail designers (who are also surveyors) to know what railway and road infrastructure is on the ground.
Most of the crossings were in a poor state. The level crossing building program is important for public safety, operational efficiency and return on investment.
Our surveyors also provided construction support. After all, the road and the rail levels have to match and with the heavier truck loads and greater vehicle traffic, its important level crossings are done right.
Concrete re-sleepering on the Main WestRead Now
Survey and Design
John Holland Rail CRN have an ongoing program of concrete re-sleepering of steel sleepers on their tight radius curves. The new sleepers will keep provide longer track stability and ride.
This means the track alignment needs to be determined or designed and analysis undertaken to make sure the available transit is sufficient for trains to pass through. Bridges such as the one on the left were assessed to determine if passing trains have sufficient space to pass safely.
This requires high-order control and track pick-up surveys followed by detailed track design.
Upon design approval, re-sleepering construction can commence, often in conjunction with the removal and replacement of fouled ballast. Survey constuction support ensures the design is achieved thereby maximising the asset life.
This project was over 1800 metres long at Newbridge near Bathurst. This is one of four similar projects on the Main West line.
Regional roads - how important? Very!Read Now
We were recently engaged by Liverpool Plains Shire Council to undertake engineering design for the upgrade of the Merriwa to Willow Tree Road. Now this road traversed the Liverpool Range and meeting Austroads' design standards was difficult. A Safety in Design report was as important as the the construction drawings. After all, whilst reducing travel times is important, getting to one's destination safely is the overarching goal. The site is mountaineous and often single-laned. The new design had to allow for rural 2-way traffic. This meant rigid trucks as well as light passenger traffic.
The before and after photos says it all. A great final result for an important road link.
Being a regional graduate surveyor - accepting the challengeRead Now
We've recently taken on a graduate surveyor to help out with our rail services team.
Jacky had previously worked on medium density and hospital projects in Sydney so he wasn't too sure what it was like working in a regional environment. I'm very close to his boss and had rang seeking recommendations on recruitment specialists. We traditionally recruit from the the regions we work in. Kids from the country already know of the challenges they and their families face. Coping with these challenges is in their DNA. Yet the work still poured in so we had to try a new strategy....hiring city surveyors!!
A city born surveyor was new to us. Moreover, what we do is new to Jacky. He is still wrapping his head around the wide range of skill sets we have. I know he's a bit trepidations about our expectations of all our staff. We've found over the years that some step-up and accept the challenge and others don't or can't. Either way is OK as we don't want people to hate coming to work. At the end of the day, you've got to love what we do and there is nothing worse than seeing someone hate their job.
In this line of work, you've got to love the job challenges and the work environment.
When you're on a job site doing the setting out of a railway you designed last week and you're suddenly asked about the region's socio-economic status as a result of improved freight movements, you need to think fast and not be a narrow technician. The fact that the surveyor has established the first survey control network, detailed the site, re-established the corridor boundaries, assessed the roads at the rail crossings, considered the environment and designed the track alignment and drainage is a considerable skill set. Many years of post-graduate on the job training is required followed by competency assessments by the client to gain engineering authority and the Board of Surveying and Spatial Information. All this can only be achieved through personalised mentoring and a structured training program.
I keep telling our people that we're problem solvers and that we use our surveying education, training and experience to solve problems. The client doesn't care about your qualifications, all he cares about is you being able to solve his problem and without causing any headaches. Make the client's his problem disappear and you'll continue to get work. Anticipate future problems and he'll give you more. That's how a good surveyor becomes invaluable to a client.
That's what we do and a lot of people struggle with that responsibility. Hence the need for mentoring and a structured training program. But this isn't enough without innate curiosity to learn new skills, to be challenged and to discover purpose.
We've taught Jacky how to drive a 4WD, he's met his first wombat and snake, and been taught the language of regional Australia. What's he's found is that country people are accepting and willing to give anyone a go.
made the mistake of trying to drive one of the survey vehicles in front of 20 railway workers. At the time, he wasn't familiar with the manual gears of the ute. The resulting kangaroo hops automatically endeared him to the team. In a world where no one is called by their actual name, Jacky's is now "Skip". If Jacky isn't on a job site, we're asked "Where's Skip"? You gotta love Aussie humour.
Track reconstruction at Gemalla - how a railway gets builtRead Now
Ever wanted to know what Hanlons are up to when we are out of the office and "on site''?
If any of our measurements are off, the trains can't reach the design speed, timetables aren't met and the life of the hardware (i.e. rail and sleepers) is reduced. The exactness of the measurements and calculations comes into play from beginning to end, ensuring the maximum return on public investment in infrastructure is achieved.
We are lucky that we can travel this great land and see what it has to offer, while doing the job we love.
Temora Grain Terminal - Why efficient grain handling is importantRead Now
Grain Corp's rail loadout facility at Temora Sub Terminal require full pavement depth reconstruction, skim reconstruction for ballast renewal and realignment. The Hanlons team provided work plans, design report and survey support during construction works. It's important these facilities are maintained particularly during the current drought, any grain produced this season needs to be transported in the most efficient manner possible.
Australian grain farmers annually grow 45 million tonnes of wheat, barley, oats, sorghum, canola and pulses such as chickpeas and faba bean, which at the farm gate alone is worth $13.5 billion. This production generates more than 170,000 jobs in rural and regional areas across Australia. Over 70% of Australia’s grain production is exported, earning some $11.4bn in export earnings annually, and accounting for more than a quarter of all agricultural export earnings.
With these figures in mind, the Temora Sub Terminal required higher axle loadings on our regional rail network and efficient "first mile" and "last mile" loading and receival facilities in other locations.
Without them, farmers and the local economy could not be sustained.
WR Connect - the MIA's newest freight intermodalRead Now
WR Connect is the freight terminal at between Leeton and Griffith at Wumbulgal The masterplan, launched on 30th June 2018, showcased the master plan and road linkages study for the WRConnect.
WR Connect is an operational freight terminal built on a budget to aggregate grains, cotton and hay for export via rail. The masterplan project is a joint venture of five Councils (Leeton, Griffith, Carrathol, Narrandera and Murrumbidgee), NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet and Transport for NSW.
The site sits in Leeton Shire on the boundary with Griffith City Council. It's located within NSW’s most productive agricultural region, the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. The establishment of an expanded, efficient, state-of-the-art and common access intermodal freight terminal at WRConnect will support the modal shift of containerised agricultural and manufacturing freight in the Region onto rail and allow the economic benefits to be realised.
The project aligns with the NSW government’s 20 Year Economic Vision for Regional NSW and the Western Riverina Regional Economic Development Strategy. It also reflects Leeton Shire Council’s Community Strategic Plan which recognises the importance of good road and rail connectivity and, as the demand for freight doubles by 2031, highlights that the facility at WRConnect will need to be expanded to accommodate this. Government funding will enable the vision is achieved.
We were tasked with the privilege of project managing the technical matters with the masterplan and with authoring the road linkages study. We worked closely with all parties to ensure that the project will be a success. This is another opportunity for our firm to bolster the economy of a great part of regional NSW.
Why good regional policy matters and why we careRead Now
For over 30 years, the people at Hanlons Consulting have been involved with a number of projects that are transformative to their local economy. With projects ranging from poultry farms, bridges, housing estates, main roads, railways, bio-digesters, air training academies and freight terminals the Hanlons team are proud of their input. The ever changing landscape nationally has allowed us to drill into the socio-economic data and regional economic development strategies for many projects and communities.
As a firm of country people with a regional focus, the numbers and prose in the many policy and strategy documents resonate in both a good and bad way. They always have good intent but their implementation leaves much to be desired. Good policy can have immediate impact in creating stable jobs and building sustainable communities. As for bad policies, well let’s just say the organisations who develop bad policies get to hear quickly from us that their “grand plan” isn’t as good as first thought.
Our team has been far and wide and when we really start thinking about it, there are few inland country towns where we don’t know someone. Many of their stories are the same but each has their own country twist, from the black soil in the west to the sand in the east.
Hanlons work is complete when we see our projects contribute a positive effect across our own communities. We have a vested interest in seeing Hanlons projects succeed, as we are part of the end result. Our projects successes affects us personally just as they affect our friends and our families.
Hanlon re-brandRead Now
The Hanlon re-brand is featured on page 27 of this month’s edition of The Surveyor. Thanks to the team at KEO for helping us on the journey.
Bringing like minds together with the Railway Surveying Working GroupRead Now
Our very own Mitch Hanlon, Managing Director of Hanlons, has written a very thought provoking article in The Surveyor on page 20 of the December Edition.
Mitch brings to light the importance of building networks based on knowledge, guidance and government for the future of Railway Surveying and Track Design. Hanlons have joined forces with like-minded surveyors across Australia to form the Railway Surveying Working Group to focus on what lies ahead for the rail industry.
Have a read, have a think, make a comment. We want to know your thoughts.