As a low-carbon mode of transport, the demand for rail transport is high for both commuters and freight transport. Railways should keep up with technological advancements that support the cost-effective operation of the service to ensure that railway performance meets expectations for on-time service, improved safety and quality of the journey, while taking into account cost savings for rail operators. Real-time information sharing is essential to effectively manage incidents and keep passengers moving, but what else do we need to enable prediction and prevention?
Common Operating Picture
In the event of an incident on the railway, the resolution time is essential; the best way to handle any incident is for all stakeholders to work together and coordinate. By sharing information across the national network, linking assets and communicating in real time, a common operational picture is created. Frequentis achieves this with its Software as a Service (SaaS) event management tool to monitor and calculate a wide variety of sensor data capable of handling any type of event and predicting operational consequences. The software is a highly effective decision support tool, sharing real-time information and communicating critical information seamlessly with other systems and network users.
Such a software solution is already providing benefits to CFL Luxembourg and Austrian Federal Railways (OBB), coordinating maintenance teams, defining responsibilities and recording all relevant incident information, including media recordings and images. OBB confirmed that the solution makes the role of the operator less resource-intensive, reducing the impact on journeys and enabling more reliable and on-time rail service. But, in addition to reactive incident management, can real-time asset status information also be integrated into the solution?
Intelligent Asset Monitoring
Railway maintenance and renewal costs are increasing year by year, with track maintenance being one of the largest costs. Regular trouble spots on the track are currently identified and flagged by drivers, followed by manual inspection of the track by engineers, along with the deployment of dedicated measurement vehicles. This is labor intensive and comes with high costs, estimated at around €50,000 per kilometer of track, as well as the obvious risks posed by placing crews on the side of the track on operational railway tracks. under pressure. For this reason, Frequentis has investigated smart, data-driven methods for proactive asset and infrastructure monitoring. One of the projects is the HARMONY project (Human-assisted real-time monitoring of railway vehicle infrastructure and obstacles), with the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), Mission Embedded, Frequentis Control Room Consulting and the Institute of Computing Technology, proposes the use of sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) to detect irregularities on railways, in addition to and in support of precise but infrequent and often expensive measuring vehicles . The aim is to be responsive to any lane issues at an early stage to prevent major damage and avoid potential accidents. Installing sensors on scheduled trains means that monitoring can be carried out while a train is on its scheduled route, reporting track conditions more frequently and giving operators a clearer real-time view of the asset status. The artificial intelligence will automatically detect and report anomalies on tracks, track beds and switches so that potential hazards such as track breaks, track damage or objects are detected at an early stage.
By additionally providing this type of data to the decision support tool, the common operational picture is further enhanced, helping operators to make informed decisions about maintenance activities and their impact on operations. Investment in scheduling immediate maintenance work based on reliable data lowers operational costs compared to post-accident work resulting from an undetected (or unrecognized) track defect. The Frequentis event management system has the ability to work in the prevention phase as well as how to manage incidents in the recovery phase.
Use of sensor data
At Frequentis, we also explored how to leverage this sensor data and integrate it into the decision support tool to provide operators with real-time asset health information. Frequentis is also working on a research project on drone surveillance, integrating aggregate data from UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) and UGV (unmanned ground vehicle) sensors to protect the public against possible chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear. GPS data from drones will allow operators to see the locations of threats and react accordingly, including deploying troops, supporting decision-making processes. A live video feed of UAVs and UGVs will be integrated with the event management solution to provide the on-site event management perspective and optimize strategic planning. What is important in all cases is the quality of the sensor data and its systematic analysis (e.g. pattern recognition), so that it is transformed into actionable data to improve operational or strategic decisions. regarding when to perform asset maintenance or give a low-speed instruction, for example. Example. The easy and intuitive use of the system requires the ability to visualize sensor data, configure thresholds and put the sensors in context, for example the level of vibration which can signal a lane fault relative to an obstacle on the road. way. What we are talking about is a railway Internet of Things (IoT) sensor network, which will effectively share information about track changes during normal operation, which will save railways significant investment costs on the reactive maintenance. The investment in the prevention phase will pay off in the recovery phase.
Frequentis is an international supplier of communication and information systems for control centers with safety-critical tasks, drawing on 75 years of experience in the fields of aviation, defense and transport. The company also holds the leading market share in GSM-R dispatcher terminal sets; more than 8,000 units are currently deployed in customer control centers in more than 25 countries. Rail customers include UK Network Rail, Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, Austria’s ÖBB and Wiener Linien and Australia’s Sydney Trains.
About the Author
Christian Stimakovits is an experienced operations management professional with over 20 years in control room solutions and management. He is responsible for Frequentis’ incident and crisis management portfolio, including IoT and remote condition monitoring.