‘European rail sector can learn a lot from Scandinavian rail companies’

The European rail sector can learn a lot by looking at Scandinavian rail companies, says Peter Boom from Voestalpine Signaling. “In Scandinavia, they like to use new technologies and are often ahead of other countries.”

The Intelligent Rail Summit will take place from 27 until 29 November 2018 in the Swedish city of Malmö. During this summit, multiple experts from the rail sector will talk about subjects such as Wayside Train Monitoring Systems (WTMS), asset management and infrastructure monitoring. Peter Boom from Voestalpine, together with Hans Loskog from the Swedish rail infrastructure manager Trafikverket, will give a presentation about Trafikverket’s WTMS.

“Our presentation is about the different types of WTMS, what Trafikverket uses and why, and which basic principles they apply. It’s a kind of overview from the 1970s till the present day. I think that the rest of the rail sector can learn a lot from why they converted to new technologies in Sweden,” says Boom.

For example, Sweden has introduced a new method to limit false alarms from WTMS as much as possible. “Sometimes, high measurement values are triggered in a system because a train accelerates or brakes too quickly at a measuring point. This can cause undesired interpretations and therefore false alarms, ultimately leading to lower availability. To avoid these effects as much as possible, they have developed a new sort of warning sign, to caution train drivers that they are approaching a measuring point. As a result, the problems are reduced.”


Various types of WTMS system have been installed In Sweden, including hotbox, hot wheel and wheel impact load detection systems, and pantograph monitoring systems. These latter systems check, among other things, the quality of the carbon strips of the pantographs from a locomotive or multiple unit train.

“It is important to know the thickness of these carbon strips, and what type of damage they have incurred, if any. Irregularities can seriously damage the overhead lines, or break them completely. Moreover, information from the wear and tear of the carbon strips is used to plan pantograph maintenance.”

You can measure problems by sensors attached to the rolling stock, but in Sweden, they use radar, laser and camera techniques, where very-high-resolution photos are made from with pantographs. “Using image analysis, you can see precisely what’s wrong.”

This system is not unique to Sweden. There are a number of countries, both inside and outside Scandinavia, that use variations on them. But Sweden was one of the first. “In Sweden, they have a somewhat ‘different vision’ of the value of these sorts of systems,” believes Boom. And that is exactly why it is interesting for the international rail sector to have a look behind the scenes there.

Trafikverket training institute

Apart from during the conference itself, this glance behind the scenes will also take place during the technical visit on the first day of the Intelligent Rail Summit 2018. Boom will be taking attendees to Trafikverket’s training institute, “where they train people in infrastructure maintenance. This covers everything you can think of, including overhead lines, rails and switches … it all happens there.”

“It was tough to decide what to show attendees, but in the end, we have gone for three different elements. Visitors will be able to see how the signalling and safety system works in Sweden, for example.” That will be explained using a model railway and real safety systems.

Furthermore, visitors will be able to look at different versions of monitoring systems and WTMS. Within these are products supplied by Voestalpine, among others. Finally, visitors will be taken on a short tour around the railway museum that is housed in the same location.

Rail infrastructure

“I think that people who go on the technical visit will get a complete overview of what rail infrastructure entails, also from a historical perspective. How does signalling work, and what about safety? You hear a lot about it, but the visitors have perhaps never seen it. Furthermore, there are specific Swedish systems and maintenance approaches to look at, which are very different than in the rest of Europe.

It is really nice to look outside of traditional countries such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In Scandinavia they invest a lot in rail infrastructure, and generally speaking people there are really committed to using new technologies. For instance, Denmark and Norway are best in class in Europe when it comes to the complete rollout of ERTMS.”

Peter Boom, Manager Business Development from Voestalpine Signaling, will give a presentation during the Intelligent Rail Summit 2018, together with Hans Loskog, System Manager WTMS from Trafikverket. Furthermore, Boom has organised a technical visit to Trafikverket’s Academy. Discover the full programme for the Intelligent Rail Summit 2018 here.


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