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Social Innovation

Queensland Rail Tilt Train – safe and speedy with Hitachi technology

In 2009 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the state’s foundation the Queensland Government unveiled a list of 150 Queensland icons, voted on by Queenslanders.

In the category of “Inventions or innovative concepts that Queenslanders have pioneered,” was Queensland Rail’s Tilt Train. Using technology designed, manufactured and delivered by Hitachi, each carriage tilts to enable the trains to go faster round the curves , providing greater comfort for the passengers.

This technology has made Queensland Rail’s electric Tilt Trains some of the fastest in Australia. Since 1998 they have been whisking passengers between Brisbane, Bundaberg and Rockhampton at speeds of up to 160km/hr on the Rockhampton Tilt Train. Beyond Rockhampton — where the line is not electrified — diesel powered Tilt Trains using Hitachi tilt train technology carry passengers as far as Cairns on the Cairns Tilt Train.

Queensland's Tilt Train
Queensland Rail Tilt Train

For the Rockhampton Tilt Train Hitachi provides the Tilting System as well as Traction, Auxiliary Power and Fault Management subsystems. On the Cairns Tilt Train Hitachi provides the Tilting System.

When the electric tilt trains were introduced they cut two hours off the Brisbane - Rockhampton travel time. They cover the 351kms between Brisbane and Bundaberg in 4hrs 30mins and the 639kms between Brisbane and Rockhampton in 7hrs 30mins.

Hitachi’s tilt train technology is key to their performance. When the train heads into a curve at high speed the entire body of each carriage tilts towards the centre of the curve to compensate for the centrifugal force that would otherwise push passengers towards the outside of the curve.

Sounds simple in principle, but it’s very technically challenging to achieve in practice. For example sensors on the track are needed to tell the train its position, and based on the train’s track database it determines that a curve is coming up. The train then uses information about each curve stored in its on-board computer to adjust the timing and amount of tilt precisely so as to ensure maximum passenger comfort.

The rate at which the tilt is applied is also key to passenger comfort at high speed. Hitachi has undertaken extensive research in Japan — where tilt train technology is widely deployed — to determine optimal tilt rates.

Hitachi has overcome all these challenges to deliver safe and reliable tilt trains to Queensland Rail, in Japan and elsewhere.

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