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2023 - July - McGrath & Tivan - The V/Line Core Data Network Upgrade and the Digital Railway Transforma 2023 - July - McGrath & Tivan - The V/Line Core Data Network Upgrade and the Digital Railway Transformation

Alex McGrath

B.Eng, B.Comm, MIRSE CPEng V/Line

Karl Tivan

B.Eng, G.Cert BA V/Line

Like many long-lived railways, V/Line works with a collection of inherited, evolved and entangled legacy communications equipment. Starting in 2009, the Regional Rail Link (RRL) project cleaned up a substantial section of the TCP/IP network, providing a core and distribution data network architecture for the central area and two corridors – appropriate for the era. Over time, other projects added more end equipment and emerging technologies demanded more bandwidth. Each addition was within that project’s scope, but none assessed the impact on the core.

A trigger for change was the addition of just one more stabling yard in 2021. The data network symptoms were quite significant: first intermittent, then cascading faults demonstrated that the ‘faulty component’ model of maintenance had run its course, and no particular component was “offending”; instead it was the underlying network architecture that was no longer up to the task of managing the higher traffic flow of the increasingly digital railway.

The Core Upgrade project was triggered: to upgrade the core routers to accommodate the increased flow. The tale is worth telling, as it is one of the rare IT and OT project success stories in rail: it was delivered on time, on budget, realised full benefits and aligns with the future strategic direction of rail operations. This paper provides the opportunity to share the positive lessons learned: this is what a project looks like when it works!
The real contribution of this paper is the twist in the tail. This apparently small project triggered deeper organisational changes foundational to the digital systems transition including:

  • Wider business awareness of, and curiosity about, the operationally critical nature of digital systems;
  • A rethink of how to understand and manage the risk of brownfields signalling changes on data networks;
  • A quantum step in how we modify, maintain and monitor the core data network and interfacing systems.
Alex McGrath
Alex McGrath


Karl Tivan
Karl Tivan



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Created byJohn Aitken
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