Monitoring Melbourne’s railways

Case study

City infrastructures are not built overnight. In between planning, design and construction, there are other crucial activities – just like monitoring happening at the same time.

The train network in Melbourne, Australia, is getting a major revamp with several projects in progress to help tackle congestion. To improve travel around Melbourne, the Victorian Government is removing dangerous and congested rail level crossings, which will deliver significant safety improvements for drivers and pedestrians. The major project will enable more frequent services for thousands of commuters travelling to the city every day.

In addition, the Metro Tunnel project will add new underground stations and next-generation high capacity trains for the metropolitan network – freeing up more trains across the Melbourne rail network. This also means that kilometres of next-generation, high-capacity signalling will be installed, allowing the trains to safely run closer together and more often.

To prepare for the busy piece of Melbourne’s railway infrastructure, the client turned to Heading and Associates, a professional surveying and project management firm specialising in survey, construction supervision, property and environmental survey, and design applications, to perform railway track monitoring.


Real-time monitoring with safety in mind



As part of the Level Crossings Removal Project, the team at Heading and Associates was tasked to monitor more than 300 meters of rail across two sites. To deliver this, the team installed an automated monitoring system to monitor rail movement 24/7, including a Leica Nova MS60 and Leica Nova TS60 total station and deployed 178 Leica Geosystems monitoring prisms mounted to the rail to monitor at 30-minute frequency day and night.

In some circumstances applying traditional manual monitoring may not be a practical approach, such as the project that the Heading and Associates team were tackling. The project required many observations during the day and implementing an automated monitoring system made sense as it’s more cost effective for the client.

The Leica GeoMoS monitoring solution was used to monitor movements 24/7, delivering the data required to analyse the railways’ track and quantify changes in geometry and receive real-time alerts.

“Automating monitoring also means it is a safer solution than conducting monitoring during the day and night – it means that personnel do not have to enter the rail corridor”, said Michael Payne, Heading and Associates monitoring and laser scanning specialist. For our client, this makes it a more cost-effective solution over the length of the project as there are no applications for safety permits or additional resources required such as Track Force Protection Coordinators.

When choosing the instruments, the key deciding factors to use the MS60 and theTS60 are the instruments’ accuracy, robustness and long servicing intervals, even when the instruments are relied on to read hundreds of prisms in tight corridors. This makes the MS60 and TS60 the go-to monitoring total stations for the Heading and Associates team.



Power and communication were some of the factors considered when planning for the project. More specifically, the team needed to install solar systems to run the instruments as there was no 240V power supply on the project site. If the team needed any technical support, they knew they could rely on Leica Geosystems Australian distribution partner C.R. Kennedy.

C.R. Kennedy’s experience with solar and data transfer solutions specific to monitoring application was vital. Utilising the 4G network via the Leica ComGate10 simplified an otherwise complicated communications process.


Autonomous data delivery



To deliver accurate and timely data to the client, the team used a combination of GeoMoS Monitor and GeoMoS Now! Using GeoMoS Monitor, the team set thresholds for three limit levels, and in case any of these were exceeded, the team and nominated recipients were able to receive an SMS and e-mail in real time immediately after breaches. GeoMoS Now! was used to analyse and visualise the data with the help of graphs, showing limit levels as a background colour.

The Heading and Associates team embraced automation even when it came to representing data in a graphical format. Using GeoMoS Now! the team created a report template and scheduled it to be generated and sent via email daily.

“What we really like about the solution is that we can automate the report creation. The visual and graphical representation makes it simple for our end-user to interpret and see on the graph the movement of each individual point in relation to where the alert levels are – including automatically-emailed reports every morning as well as a weekly reporting of data” said Payne.

I have worked with automated monitoring across various projects since 2012, and it has come a long way. All the reporting is shared with the clients – it’s our main deliverable. Leica GeoMoS is easy to use; it is user friendly and we can easily input all the parameters we need. The integration from GeoMoS Monitor to GeoMoS Now! makes it easier to gather and present information concisely to our clients,” Payne added.


Words of wisdom



We asked Michael Payne if he had any practical advice to share with fellow industry professionals considering automated monitoring.

Payne shared his top two:

  1. Always consider the placement of instruments. The angles between monitoring points can make a lot of difference to how effective the system is, in this case, being the prism placement. For this project, the team ensured that the instrument was placed above and far from the target site.

  2. Good baselines of data are important. The team suggest having two to three weeks of data prior to their commencement of to assess any trends so that they can be eliminated from being considered as movement. A lot what they do with data is trend analysis and having access to baseline data is always helpful if the project constraints allows it.

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