Intelligent Rail Summit 2016 – Day Two

Innovations in how railway data is collected, stored and used were the focus of Day Two of the Intelligent Rail Summit, attended by over 150 rail tech experts from across the world.

Infrastructure Measuring and Monitoring was the day’s theme, as Matthias Landgraf of co-organisers Technical University of Graz opened proceedings on Infrastructure Measuring and Monitoring, the day’s official theme, before introducing the first speaker, Dr Marc Antoni of the International Union of Railways (UIC). Dr Antoni focused on several key issues including asset management and the safety of signalling.

Describing how ‘formal, functional specifications are necessary for safety’, he then discussed in detail the issue of cyber security on the railways, saying that because of the threats posed, ‘all of the network has to be considered as an ‘open network’.

Coherent security vision

The systems which operators must develop, he added, should be ‘complicated, but not complex’. “Security is safety & safety is security – the two have to be considered together,” he said. There were four pillars for ‘a coherent security vision – functional level; IP level mititgation; organisation and architecture; and IT level’.

The UIC, he added, was ‘working to define a guideline for railways, asking the right questions’.

Next on the podium was Max Tarabrin of the Russian firm TVEMA, whose presentation Moving Towards Higher Efficiency of Multifunctional Measurement put a strong focus on the experiences of Russian Railways (RZD) which, with its enormous fleet, is constantly applying new technologies and approaches. RZD now performs all types of inspection at most commercial speeds without any extra slots for the measurement vehicles.

The lessons they have learned is that no methods are universal and cannot be applied to every scenario. His conclusion though was simple: “Combine the efforts of the railway managers with the efforts of the suppliers, and you can bring success….a proper way of organising the diagnostic activities of the railway operator can only be found through debates and discussions of experienced managers and highly-qualified suppliers.”

Guiseppe Aurisicchio then delivered an overview of his company MERMEC’s ‘SICS’ (Synchronisation/Integration of measured data, Correlation for measures and defects, Statistics on big data) approach to delivering safety on the railways, a ‘holistic and integrated’ way to monitor and measure the infrastructure.

Reducing maintenance costs

Thanks to the integration of measuring systems, he told delegates, it ‘was possible to obtain perfect synchronisation for railway infrastructure measured data’. The key goal was guaranteeing the ‘highest level of safety’, but also improving speed and capacity and reducing maintenance costs.

SICS is slowly replacing traditional systems, overcoming many of the traditional limitations and thus increasing safety levels. MERMEC has experienced ‘significant, positive experience’ through this approach.

Christian Obexer, of Plasser and Theurer, shared some of the findings of his company’s Monitoring of Track Quality by Track Maintenance Machine. One example was the use of a tamping machine as a measuring car, having an ‘integrated database’ for elements such as track speed, class of the section and GPS. There was also, he asserted, a ‘trend’ towards measuring technology on maintenance machines.

Obexer concluded that although the system was still under development, ‘inertial track measuring systems installed on tamping machines improves the speed and quality of the work’, and that it was a ‘prerequisite for exact track geometry measuring’.

Track recording cars

The morning’s penultimate presentation came from Thomas Moshammer of Siemens, who shared their experiences of the Vehicle-Track-Interaction-System. Track recording cars, he said, can measure a range of signals used to ensure safety is guaranteed, such as assessing whether a value exceeds an intervention limit.

A diagnostics system devised by Siemens to analyse a car bogie over its lifetime to optimise maintenance procedures is also used to analyse vehicle track interaction. The key difference between this system and track recording cars is that vehicle reactions induced by the track are measured and rated. Its main goal is not to replace track recording cars but provide extra details information about track sections where unfavourable vehicle reactions occur and might help to optimize track maintenance efforts.

But he also acknowledged the restrictions that exist, such as the potential for different vehicles showing different reactions on certain track defects.

Takashi Kashima of the East Japan Railway Company spoke about a Decision-making Support System Using On-board Measuring Devices, a support system for track engineers focusing on sudden changes of track irregularities.

On-board measuring

He outlined how in trials they have obtained data from around 40 on-board duel-system measuring devices over a two-year period, measuring track irregularities and detecting failure of materials.

“Track engineers carry out data analysis but it is not easy, because their background is civil engineering,” he said. These systems, he added, have been instigated using the Bayesian Approach, a specialised mathematical interpretation of the concept of probability,

If such irregularities go unchecked then it could, he acknowledged, ultimately cause trains to derail, while barriers to the system’s implementation means costs are ‘too high’.

Measurement data

Peter Juel Jensen of Banedanmark, which is carrying out work on track measuring, outlined three main hallmarks of an effective linear asset management system: asset data (bridges, crossings); infrastructure mode (tracks, line definitions; and measurement data (track, rails, ballast). They have been using the IRISSYS model to great effect.

He also championed the use of ground penetrating radar over traditional track ballast drilling, to aid renewal planning. It allows engineers to better extrapolate key information and formulate maintenance plans.

The use of linear assets is, added Jensen, useful in presenting a huge amount of information in a single view, and combining data from different sources. “This combined use of data makes it possible to make smarter renewal planning – and get ‘more railway for the money’.

Asset management

Gian-Piero Pavirani, of Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI) picked up on a familiar theme with his presentation on asset management, Extracting Information From Data for Railway Infrastructure Maintenance Decision Support.

The increase of the railway infrastructure availability, the improvement of safety features and the reduction of the maintenance budgets impose on any railway infrastructure manager a better control and planning of maintenance and renewal works. This is deliverable through a Decision Support System (DSS).

Pavirani outlined the work of RFI’s own DSS, InfraManager, which integrates several data and business rules to ensure users have access to the right information for maintenance decisions. InfraManager’s aim, he said, was ‘to enable more efficient and effective maintenance of railway infrastructure’.

Maintenance works

Key outputs include a linear graphical visualization of data; condition trending based on a set of deterioration models; configuration of business rules for ballast, rail, overhead line and switches; list of proposed maintenance works; and a list of renewal priority/scores to be used to assess what renewals must be considered.

Krzysztof Wilczek of Swiss rail operator SBB spoke about how SwissTAMP – Track Analysis and Maintenance Planning – operates as planning platform for the systematic maintenance of the rail network and its components.

By linking data from different systems of the SBB IT landscape, such as measurement data, visual status recordings and traffic data, information about the behaviour of the network can be displayed transparently and necessary maintenance measures can be developed.

Conversely, the biggest challenge they faced, he said, was the investment already in place. “There can be downsides to digitalization, in that the people who built the old databases are perhaps not around any more,” he said. “So our biggest challenges are over data quality – how do you assess historical data?

Existing data sets

“Within our IT landscape we have data in probably more than 20 subsystems, so I would say that 95 per cent of our work is just looking at existing data sets and asking; is it valuable? Only the remaining five per cent is what you might call the ‘fancy stuff’, developing new algorithms
and so on.

“You don’t want to generate a system which is hyper-complex, as that creates its own problems,” he added.

Delegates were shown a video describing how, through swissTAMP, SBB is ‘tackling some of the challenges of track bed maintenance’. “We are breaking away from the reactive approach to maintenance, and moving towards a proactive installation management. Our ambitious aim is to remove the opportunity for damage, which means removing (it) before it has even occurred,” it added.

Proactive management

The final speaker of the day was Jan Spannar of Infrastructure Manager with Trafikverket, who presented on Asset Management and Maintenance Planing – OPTRAM.

It is 12 years since Trafikverket – then Banverket – introduced an asset data-collection application, mainly track-based but also overhead lines. The aim was to visualise and analyse data and predict future conditions. This, in conjunction with Bentley Systems, became OPTRAMS and went into production in 2009, though not before various functionality issues had been worked out.

“We had this goal, this vision, that we could make a good linear model of a train running through our data,” said Spanner.

He outlined how OPTRAM was designed to support track engineers by collecting, visualising & analysing data, and predicting future conditions. Building on its use in the USA since the 1990s, it had been extensively developed for Trafikverket in 2007 by adding advanced signal processing commands and new script language. Since 2012 it has been used by CARS (China) and since 2014 by Network Rail (United Kingdom).

Spannar has been track specialist with Trafikverket since 2002, initially working on developing and improving measurement technology, but since 2012 has also been studying how to use data to more pro-active in track maintenance.

Author: Simon Weedy

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