UNSW Canberra students are collaborating with Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) to engineer asset management and information solutions for Canberra’s light rail network.

PhD students Kameliya Kaneva and Zahra Saberi have analysed ways to improve complex data management and flows within TCCS during a six-month internship program.

Zahra said working with TCCS has helped prepare her for her career, giving her the opportunity to apply knowledge gained through a PhD in Economics and Management from UNSW Canberra.

“This internship was my first job experience in Australia and I really enjoyed the cross disciplinary collaboration with the TCCS,” Zahra said.

Zahra said she developed data-driven decision-making models to manage the supply chain, with her data science skill and critical thinking gained during her PhD allowing her to analyze and assess the quality of light rail asset data.

“I also developed a data model to facilitate the transition of light rail asset data to the TCCS asset management system, by relying on my information systems research background.

“This was an amazing opportunity, and is something every PhD graduate should consider,” Zahra said.

Meanwhile, Kameliya said one of her objectives during the internship was to study the relevant sections of TCCS’s contract with light rail operator, Canberra Metro Operations (CMET). 

Kameliya’s PhD in wireless communications allowed her to assess whether CMET documentation, asset and data management practices aligned with TCCS expectations.

“I estimated the data quality using a variety of techniques and was able to identify areas where more data gathering could improve current frameworks,” Kameliya said.

“After a detailed assessment of assets, management processes and procedures, I provided a document to TCCS and CMET that outlined my findings and suggested next steps to address current issues.”

TCCS Light Rail Operations Executive Branch Manager Jo Dawson said the project aims to integrate TCCS and CMET’s asset management system, so that the ACT can build a clearer picture of its assets, their value and how they are being maintained.

“Providing reliable and accessible public transport is Transport Canberra’s goal and by understanding our assets and the maintenance practices employed to look after them, we are then able to ensure the light rail provides reliable services connecting all Canberrans,” Ms Dawson said.

UNSW Canberra Lecturers Milad Ghasri and Elizabeth Chang led the student program and said the internship was a great example of how academic studies and work experience can impact government and industry.

“This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for current UNSW Canberra students as it gives our future transport leaders real-world experience, enabling them to put forward innovative approaches to solve transport challenges ,” Dr Ghasri said.

“Programs like these are a great example of how education can help bridge the gap between academia and industry or government.”

Dr Ghasri said the lessons learnt from the internship will continually assist with identifying and understanding existing challenges, while highlighting innovative solutions from current UNSW Canberra students.

“The internship has been a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of TCCS asset management system and how we can utilise data to make informed decisions,” Dr Ghasri said.

“We are grateful for the support from the federal and ACT government, who provided a grant funding towards these placements.”

The UNSW Canberra and TCCS collaboration is part of an ACT government commitment to supporting the training and development of postgraduates as they transition from research into real-world data problems.

The program is supported by the Australian Postgraduate Research Intern scheme.