Dutch infrastructure manager wants sector to profit from its data

ProRail collects a lot of data on rolling stock via its Wayside Train Monitoring Systems (WTMS). The Dutch infrastructure manager is calling on the rail sector to make use of this ‘treasure trove of data’ and to analyse it. ProRail’s Product Manager Rolling Stock Impact Juliette van Driel says “Our message to the rail sector is: we have good data, so profit from it.”

Juliette van Driel has been Product Manager Rolling Stock Impact at ProRail for five years. In this role, she is responsible for the Wayside Train Monitoring Systems (WTMS). “ProRail uses two WTMS systems: Hotbox detection and Wheel Impact Load Detection (WILD),” explains Van Driel. “One measures the temperatures of axes and wheels, and the other the weights of the trains.”

All the measurement data is linked to a train number, so ProRail can determine which rail operator has run a particular train. If an operator has equipped its rolling stock with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags, measurements can be directly coupled to the rolling stock. “Through this combination, it is for example possible to trace back which train is damaged, and even which specific wheel. This means that operators can, where necessary, withdraw the train from service to prevent bigger problems down the line.”

The WILD system for weight measurement consists of sensors in and on the rails, placed at 43 strategic locations on the network. Thanks to this system, 95 per cent of all train movements are measured. This allows ProRail to collect, save and analyse a great amount of data.

Duty of care

ProRail shares this data with relevant rail operators and other stakeholders. That is ProRail’s duty of care. Furthermore, it makes the data available for studies by other parties such as universities, research institutes and engineers. This data is anonymised: no one can see which specific rail operator the information is about. The principle for ProRail is that everyone can receive all the data they need to do research, as long as this research is useful and the researchers agree to share the results with the sector.

There are various types of research you can think of in which this information can be useful, says Van Driel: “For example, you can research how the rail system works, or the extent of damage to the rolling stock or the track, and then you can share this knowledge.” But the rail sector has yet to take advantage, adds Van Driel. “These are complex investigations that require a lot of different types of data. We have been working on it for about three to four years, but like a train, it takes a while to get going.”


Analysing data contributes to one of ProRail’s main goals: preventing accidents and disruption. Ever increasing numbers of trains are using the network, in particular where the Dutch High-Frequency Track Programme (Programma Hoogfrequent Spoor) is in operation. Such as on the A2 corridor between Amsterdam and Eindhoven, on which six trains have been running per hour since December 2017.

If the track can be repaired before defects become serious, less track maintenance is required, and more importantly, maintenance periods are shorter. As a result, possessions do not last as long, and trains can simply keep running for as long as possible. This benefits passengers, freight rail operators and passenger rail operators, not only because the trains run more easily and are more reliable, but also because it can save a lot of money in terms of maintenance.

Intelligent Rail Summit

During the Intelligent Rail Summit 2018 in Malmö, Sweden, Van Driel will talk more about ProRail’s vision around collecting and analysing data from the WTMS. You can view the full programme here.


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