With a clear vision and values proposition, growth is not just achievable, it is inevitable.
Now in its 14th year of operation, Rail Control Systems Australia (RCSA) has become a major player in Australian rail signalling. RCSA has experienced significant growth in its time – and the growing pains that come with it. The insight of that experience is valuable to a business that continues to adapt and grow to meet industry demand yet RCSA is also committed to drive the business forward in a way that capitalises on their potential, not just their experience. Having released their three-year vision to 2024, RCSA has a future focus that commits to technology and delivery innovation for Australian rail projects, sustainable market growth in Australia and overseas, investment into its people and a drive for safer and more efficient rail systems.
In 2007 a small signalling consulting business began operations. They didn’t have an office and had even less of an idea about where the business was going. What they did have was a core team of exceptional signalling engineers and a commitment to disrupt the signalling market in Australia. This translated to using their technical expertise and their collective knowledge of the industry to drive innovative signalling solutions and to truly integrate signalling (and its delivery) into the requirements of rail projects or specific customer needs.
“We were remote working before it became a thing, we had to, we didn’t have an office. Zoom didn’t exist yet, so we’d have daily collaboration meetings at a coffee shop,” said Paul Hann, director and co-founder.
“They had free wi-fi so we spent longer and longer there, it almost became our office. We drank a lot of coffee back then.”
Today, RCSA has 90 or more employees, including the original team members, and they now have an office, in fact they have a few, out of which they are delivering signalling design for some of Australia’s landmark rail projects, including Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel, Inland Rail and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail. The original core values of the business remain and RCSA continues to work with its customers to address their requirements for safe and efficient signalling, provided on commercially favourable terms.
Growing capability based on customer needs
The customer centric approach fed the growth of the business. Where technology was not meeting the needs of the customer, RCSA explored alternative technology solutions that were specifically tailored to customer requirements. Where RCSA saw gaps in the service provided to customers, they addressed this by expanding their capability
“In 2012 we delivered the first HIMA Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) signalling system in Australia. It was also the first Australian implementation of Frauscher FadC axle counters,” said Richard Ogilvie, director and co-founder.
“Clearly, we were making great strides in the technology space and were working really well with our customer. We did, however, experience some inefficiency in the fabrication and site install of the system and the field equipment.
“So, we committed to address that problem. We ended up doing so in a very holistic manner.”
In 2015 RCSA added signalling construction to their capability, establishing a dedicated civil and electrical team drawn from industry experienced personnel. The team are based out of a purpose-built facility in Brisbane where equipment locations and huts are fabricated, fitted out and tested prior to shipping for installation by RCSA’s site teams. The civil team complement the electrical capability with equipment foundations, cable routes and field equipment installation.
RCSA’s construction discipline not only provides an end-to-end capability, but they have also proven their ability to operate as a stand-alone discipline, having delivered the signalling construction for the first Inland Rail project at Parkes to Narromine in 2019/2020.
With engineering teams based in Brisbane and Melbourne and the construction team also in Brisbane, RCSA’s geographic coverage allows them to deliver projects across Australia and abroad. The business sees further market diversity through their consulting and professional services engagements, and RCSA’s emerging technology group also has domestic and international focus, with technology deployments in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and Taiwan. However, RCSA’s market is not just geographically driven, the vertical depth of the services provided is equally important. Having grown to the position of providing signalling to the largest rail infrastructure projects in Australia, RCSA is keen to maintain its connection with rail operators and smaller delivery projects.
“We have different value propositions for different markets. For large projects we must work as part of a multi-disciplinary team and ensure we safely deliver signalling with minimal commercial risk and optimal delivery efficiency,” said Jacquelle Coldhill, commercial and projects director.
“On the other hand, when we are working with rail operators to address the needs of their growing or ageing infrastructure, we are able to innovate in a different way, looking at technology solutions that will provide whole of life benefits to the customer, technically and commercially.”
Customers and Partners
RCSA seeks to establish long term relationships with its customers and is focused on extended strategic partnerships in place of short-term customer engagements.
“We get a lot of repeat business from our customers which is the best external feedback you can get,” Paul Hann said
“Importantly though, it means that we can develop a partnering relationship with our customers.
“It’s amazing the results you can get when you have a good level of trust with your customer. We have, in the past, had customers that are, let’s say, ‘less aligned with our values’. It’s so counterproductive – the difference is astounding. We definitely see the value in investing in our customers and our relationships.”
It’s no secret that RCSA takes exceptional pride in its people. Not just technically competent people, but culturally aligned people. RCSA came into this world as industry disruptors and continues to challenge the accepted norm with innovation for better safety and efficiency. RCSA’s culture encourages this approach from its people.
“I won’t say we seek out rebellious types exactly, but we certainly look for people willing to challenge us and the broader industry,” said HR manager Chris Hooper.
“We have a culture where everyone has ownership of business outcomes, so we promote an environment where everyone has a voice. We place trust in our people to perform their roles and they deliver in spades.”
Organisational evolution and future focus
Like most businesses faced with fast-paced growth, RCSA’s trajectory has not always been smooth. Beyond the organic growth of the early days, RCSA hit a major milestone moment when they were 10 years in, one that required some pivotal changes to the business in-order-to survive.
“We went through some pain in 2017 because we couldn’t keep up with demand,” Hann said.
“We could have opened up to a bigger organisation that could better manage our scale of operations, but we thought that might compromise our values, so we faced the problem head on and reinvented the organisation from the ground up. Perhaps ‘reinvigorated’ would be a better term because we based everything on those core values. It helps that our founding team are still with the organisation because it means our values are truly ingrained in our history, our teams and our leadership.”
RCSA has remained an independently owned business and has evolved into one of the biggest and most capable signalling specific delivery organisations in Australia. The business has always been guided by the core values of technical excellence, trust, and community spirit.
“We’re pretty open with everyone in the organisation about how the business is performing and where it’s going,” said CFO Carmen Harrison.
“We want the business to be the collective success of everyone involved. That’s what our three-year vision is about, it’s not just bringing people on a journey, it’s showing them the destination first.”
RCSA is committed to building the rail networks of the future. RCSA’s three-year vision can be seen here.