Edward de Jong, Senior Consultant – Ricardo Rail (formerly Lloyd’s Register Rail)
Monitoring the infrastructure condition using in-service trains
Many infrastructure managers are setting increasing requirements on track capacity, availability and reliability of their infrastructure on one hand and lower life cycles costs on the other hand. In order to reach those targets there is a strong need to improve the efficiency of the track maintenance process.
One possibility is to move from a more corrective approach to a preventive approach. However in practice this is mostly restricted due to the lack of up-to-date condition information. A solution would be to make use of in service trains as a way to gather track condition information against very low costs. Lloyd’s Register Rail has in cooperation with ProRail and NS started up a proof of concept project for this monitoring concept using compact and extendible permanent measurement systems onboard passenger trains.
The system monitors on a daily basis aspects such as the track geometric quality, short wave length rail defects, riding comfort, the quality of electric separation welds and the switch heating system. The raw data is reduced onboard and results are sent to the shore and collected in a central database system. After the automatic data analyses has taken place, the results are presented to the end users by means of web based dashboards.
Stakeholders working on various levels (strategic, tactical, operational) have access to the information that is needed for their specific needs. Users can view trend data, look for new incidents or investigate abnormal time degradation patterns and locations that are of special interest. Due to the short intervals between measurements, trends are clearly visible and maintenance activities can be planned in advance before leading to any safety incidents disruption of train service.
This leads to a more reliable infrastructure and thus more reliable rail services. The system has been verified by means of comparison with alternative measuring techniques and by visual inspections on locations of interest.
Special focus has been given on the identification and degradation on track geometry defects, passenger comfort and the geometric quality of electric separation welds for which there was no monitoring information available. The proof of concept project has been a success and has exposed a huge potential for infrastructure managers to monitor their assets more continuously and improve their maintenance activities.