VR FleetCare develops a new track monitoring solution

track monitoring solution The Finnish rolling stock maintenance company VR FleetCare developed a new track monitoring solution based on digital technology which allows carrying out maintenance services before malfunctions cause traffic disruptions.

The results of the latest pilot project carried out with the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency has already provided a lot of useful data on the operation of track equipment. The condition monitoring has continued after the pilot.

VR FleetCare and Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency implemented a pilot project focusing on a track circuit system, which is used to monitor whether the track is in use or not and, in addition, to obtain information on which railway section the train is currently running on.

Malfunctions in track equipment cause traffic restrictions and interruptions, and consequently, delays for trains. Traffic delays in part start causing increasing costs and reputational damage for stakeholders and smart condition monitoring can minimise the losses. With the help of condition monitoring, the owner of the railway network benefits from increased operational reliability of track circuits and thus from optimal use of track capacity. In addition, traffic safety will improve, and passengers are satisfied with the high level of punctuality.

“Traditionally, it has been possible to detect defects in track equipment only after they start causing traffic disruptions. Digital condition monitoring provides time to react and minimize the disturbance to the traffic,” Sami Saloheimo, Senior Specialist for Condition Monitoring at VR FleetCare said.

VR FleetCare has been carrying out several digital track equipment condition monitoring development projects with the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA) since 2019. FTIA is responsible for the maintenance and development of the Finnish railway network.

The pilot for the new track monitoring solution started in 2021 and currently recorded more than 1 million measurement events from around 200 track circuits. Measured track circuits are part of high traffic areas that were selected for their susceptibility for high-cost disruptions. So far, the pilot has been very successful and it has provided great results indicating that the potential for smart condition monitoring of track circuits is high. For example, an indication of a rail break could be detected as early as 24 hours before the first traffic disruption.

“The development work was focused on long-term processes rather than on technology. Digital condition monitoring and the real-time monitoring enabled by it has potential. These pilots in co-operation with VR Fleetcare, have shown us that quite simple systems provide useful information. Digital condition monitoring of rail infrastructure and track equipment is not difficult, if you have skilled partners and sufficient courage,” Marko Lehtosaari, Specialist in Railway Maintenance at FTIA said.

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