Intelligent Rail Summit 2016 – Day One

A resounding success – that’s the view of delegates after an engrossing first day of the Intelligent Rail Summit 2016. The Bay of Naples provided a stunning backdrop as more than 150 delegates from across the world descended on Pietrarsa Railway Museum.

Thought-provoking presentations, enlightening Q&A sessions and some good old-fashioned networking were the perfect combination as rail professionals heard and exchanged ideas for improving technology across the rail sector.

After a welcome address by Joan Blaas of conference facilitators ProMedia Europoint, Dr Andreas Schobel from the Vienna University of Technology kicked off proceedings before introducing Antonio D’Agostino of the European Railways Agency. He gave an overview of how Wayside Train Monitoring Systems can contribute to a new era of Common Occurrence Reporting.

Following him was Manfred Arndt of Voestalpine, whose presentation, Applications of Diagnostic Monitoring Solutions for Advanced Management of Rail Assets, was well received. Posing the question as to whether the railway industry was ‘a prisoner of its history’, he said there were still challenges in the exchange of data. “To overcome obstacles, we need to to be open, to be transparent,” he added. His vision for the best optimisation of asset management was of a structure based on the ‘honeycomb’ principle, starting with a basic investment but which can be built on naturally, by adding new functions and applications.

Derailment prevention

After the morning break, delegates heard from Paul Bladon of Wayside Inspection Devices Inc, who spoke about Improving the Utilisation of Bogie Performance Detectors. He said there was ‘no magic bullet’ but that ‘the more we can correlate systems the stronger they will be.” Responding to a question about safety, he described Europe as a ‘very different environment to North America in terms of derailment prevention’ and that ultimately, BPD data analysis should enable professionals to make ‘educated decisions’.

Next to take the floor was David Krasensky, of STARMON s.r.o, who presented on WTMS. Posing the question of the true value of WTMS and what it is designed to prevent, he highlighted damage on the infrastructure, such as tracks and switches; damage to overhead lines and buildings, and lost revenues. Krasensky then said that a WTMS device should never be seen as a single-spot checkpoint, but rather as a part of the whole inspection network.

He highlighted a case study of the SZDC Czech National Railway, which comprised 65 checkpoints, and covered the main corridors and freight lines. It was, he said, ‘an important technology to monitor the health of vehicles and infrastructure’ and achieved higher safety and network reliability for 3500 trains daily and displayed clear benefits for the future.

Maintenance and safety

The final speaker of the morning session was Nadia Mazzino of Ansaldo STS, whose presentation was on the Train Conformity Check System (TCCS), which she defined as a ‘measuring and monitoring solution for trains’ maintenance and safety’. At its heart, she said, were two goals: to increase the safety of the overall system, and to accurately measure the rolling stock components, to improve maintenance.

“We know that safety for the railway system is a must and we cannot do without it,” she said. “But we have another aim, which is cost reduction. We all know the railways are under high pressure to reduce costs and maintenance is a sure way of achieving this. TCCS is a highly technical system aimed at detecting rolling stock faults and/or dangerous situations.”

Rolling stock classification, she added, could be performed by using axle-based recognition, radio frequency identification (RFID), information from traffic management systems and plate recognition through image-based analysis.


Following the lunch break, opening speaker for the session was Michael Osterkamp of Progress Rail Inspection and Information Systems GmbH, and he presented Train Monitoring with Combined Intelligent Checkpoints.

He described how ‘more and more railways were addressing constraints’ such as differing interest group and budgets, and made the salient point that ‘WTMS is not always top of the agenda’. “Checkpoint is changing reporting…(it) allows change from reactive to proactive maintenance and…allows better planning’. Posed the question about what he saw as the main barriers, he echoed a consistent theme of the first day by suggesting the ‘biggest challenge is the data on a trans-European level’.

Speaking on behalf of her absent colleague Karl Akerlund, Anna Nicodemi of Trafikverket presented his ideas RFID in Rail Paves the Way for Condition-Based Management. The central theme was how the traditional use of high-level alarms in WTMS to avoid accidents and damage was resulting in unplanned stops, thus stopping traffic and increasing costs. Lower level alarms can predict higher alarm events but, without correct vehicle identification, it is almost impossible to deliver quality across the board.

WTMS measurements

Trafikverket, the Swedish Transport Administration, has worked towards a new standard, RFID in Rail. Through the installation of RFID readers and WTMS sensors across the country it’s now possible to follow WTMS measurements over a time for a specific component on rail vehicles.

RFID, said Nicodemi, meant there were no difficulties in picking out particular vehicles, and she also pointed to pilot studies which showed actions at low level alarms led to high level alarms being cut by 73 per cent.

The final break of the day was followed by Stefano Ricci, Associate Professor of Sapienza University of Rome, taking up the chair for session three, Selection of New Prototypes.

First to present was Andrea Cussano of the University of Sanno, who presented A Novel Fiber Optic Sensing System for Weighing in Motion and Flat Wheel Detection. Weighing in Motion, he said, provided an early warning of overloads and imbalances, leading to a reduction in track damage and on-board failures, and improves security. The optical fibers
his work was utilising, added Cussano, which comprise five sensors per track, provided ‘all-round platforms for intelligent sensing’.

Wheel faults

The day’s penultimate speaker, Eduard Verhelst of Infrabel, looked at Weight in Motion with Noise/Vibration Emission Monitoring’. Infrabel’s initial aim for WIM was weighting freight wagons, loading partions on them and detecting and classifying wheel faults. It was soon seen however that integrating noise emission measurement by adding one microphone at 7.5m from the track centre and acoustical wheel quality by adding one accelerometer on the rail had more than one advantage.

Viewed against the global cost of an installation – track works, power, ICT – the extra cost of the hardware was minor. Data captured by weighing sensors could be directly used as an input for the acoustical wheel roughness calculation modules. Ultimately, this leads to automated real-time processing and estimation of individual wheel roughness data.

Further tweaks and validation by high speed cameras – ‘used for visual validation of a running train’ – plus clear definition of track and site requirements, enables the number of composite or cast iron breaking blocks running on the Belgian network to be counted.

Pantograph monitoring

Events were brought to a conclusion by Arjan Rodenburg of Ricardo Rail, who presented some fascinating insights into his study of In Field Implementation of Contactless Wayside Pantograph Monitoring. This included a video clip of a serious overhead line incident on a UK train which, he said, ‘shows just why pantograph monitoring is so vital’.

Checking the condition of the pantograph, said Rodenburg, was challenging, not least because it was often done by a maintenance crew from the ballast bed. “Imagine trying to decide whether a wear limit of 6mm has been reached or not under these circumstances,” he said. Early replacement of a perfectly good pantograph means scrapping perfectly good hardware, while not doing so could result in severe damage – just like what was shown to delegates.

Ricardo Rail’s ‘PanMon’ pantograph system tackles this by providing contactless, real-time monitoring at speeds up to 250 km/h, taking head-on photographs of pantographs passing at full speed. A second camera records overhead contact wire movement as the train passes, and together they help calculate the pantograph uplift.

But in a response to the last question of the day, he acknowledged that there is always the potential for the weather to have its say, conceding that “ice could be a problem very close to the camera.”

And was that acknowledgement which perhaps best encapsulated the collective thinking among presenters and delegates alike on Day One, and that is the realisation that no innovations are foolproof and the work is never finished.

What they said about Day One:
It’s always a real challenge to bring together representatives from different countries, with different views and ideas, but today we heard a lot of good ideas and I look forward to the rest of the week.” – Pietro Pace, MERMEC Group

It is good to hear the exchange of different ideas, and see how work highlighted before has now become a reality.” – Petr Yakolev, Zdmira

It’s been a great opportunity to come here and just listen and learn about what the industry is doing”  – Matthew Brough, AECOM

Author: Simon Weedy

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