RTBU Express
RTBU Express
Visit Bus Express Visit the Bus Express
Visit RTBU Express Visit the RTBU Express
Visit RTBU National Visit the RTBU National

Freight drivers frozen out of digital radio process

Nov 15, 2011Update

Freight drivers are being left in the dark as the freight companies refuse to share information or consult with drivers about the transition to digital radio. 

The existing analogue radio system, CountryNet, is due to be decommissioned by the ARTC some time after 2012 and across the network RailCorp and the freight companies are working to convert from an analogue to a digital system.

RailCorp has been cooperative with the RTBU inviting delegates to briefing meetings. However, those in freight have struggled to get information about the changes, with several requests for information and inclusion in the working party ignored by PN.

Delegates including, Steve Wright, finally had the chance to investigate the functionality of the new digital In-cab Communication Equipment (ICE) when an Intermodal manager in Melbourne gave them a briefing in late October.

The verdict from Steve is that if ICE works as it is supposed to it will be an improvement on the existing system. ICE radio is supposed to provide 100% coverage, putting an end to the current dangerous radio black spots. This will not only enhance safety, it will increase productivity for drivers and companies.

There was however one matter of dispute for freight locomotives. The screen has been reduced from 10 x 7 inches to 5 x 7 inches, making it much harder for the driver to read it. No consultation was offered to delegates regarding the ergonomic implications of the size and placement of the screen, and unfortunately, as new locomotives are already being produced with this small screen, it’s an issue that is unlikely to be resolved.

RailCorp will replace all radio systems with the National Train Communication System (NTCS), which will use the Telstra NextG network. All trains will be upgraded in June 2013 with ICE in order to access the NTCS and the Voice Communication System at the Rail Management Centre will also need to be updated.

All RailCorp diesel rolling stock will be fitted with ICE Radio before the CountryNet decommissioning date and the new system will tested before the analogue system is turned off. This will allow RailCorp’s rolling stock, which includes XPT, Endeavour, Xplorer, Hunter Rail Cars, Heritage fleet, 48 Class Locomotives, to operate throughout ARTC controlled areas within the new system.

A report into the implementation process from RailCorp is due in the next month or so. RTBU freight delegates will keep information and feedback about ICE Radio flowing to those members within the Freight Operators who have been excluded from the consultation process.