HS1 to monitor rail assets with augmented reality

HS1 Ltd, the owner and operator of the UK’s only high-speed railway, is part of a project that develops augmented reality technology that will virtually replicate rail assets on the High Speed One line by 2021. The technology will monitor signalling equipment along the tracks as well as escalators and other technical services at the stations. The goal is to enable the flow of data and information between on-site and remote maintenance teams.

With the technology, HS1 Ltd will be able to monitor and maintain their assets in a more efficient and sustainable way, leading to an improved customer experience, says Dyan Crowther, CEO of HS1 Ltd. “The system will help to create a more reliable rail network, but will also allow expert teams to maintain social distancing guidelines when responding to jobs.”

Quick dispatch

The High Speed 1 rail line between St Pancras International in London and the Channel Tunnel connects to the international high-speed routes between London and Paris, London and Brussels and London and Amsterdam. HS1 Ltd owns and operates the UK’s first section of high-speed rail, as well as the stations along the route: St Pancras International, Stratford International, Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International.

The technology will monitor the real-time performance of rail assets and allow swift detection and repair of faults with St Pancras station’s lifts, escalators and travelators, as well as signalling equipment along the high-speed line. Sensors will pick up and relay faults back to maintenance teams via a private 5G network. Maintenance engineers can then be swiftly dispatched to repair the faults thus saving time and money, and efficiently managing the railway and station.

Remote maintenance

According to HS1, the project will help engineers make more informed decisions in terms of repairs, and ultimately improve safety along the line, as it will reduce the need for on-site intervention. Also, because the maintenance activities will take less time to compete, they expect to reduce CO2 emissions, contributing to HS1 Ltd’s environmental targets as outlined in its recently launched Sustainability Strategy.

The aim of the project is to enable the flow of data and information between on-site and remote maintenance teams. This will help HS1 Ltd develop its knowledge and understanding of new maintenance methods. This should also improve training and competency and result in efficiency and performance benefits for the network, which will ultimately lead to an enhanced experience for passengers and customers.

Digital twin programme

The new technology will lessen the impact of disruption to the railway caused by Covid-19 and if widely adopted could improve productivity and cut costs at more than 3000 UK railway stations and the wider network. The project also aims to support the UK Government’s National Digital Twin programme (NDTp), led by the Centre for Digital Built Britain.

The project is funded by Innovate UK, in partnership with PAULEY Group, Network Rail (High Speed), Athonet UK and the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). Dr Ian Campbell, Innovate UK Executive Chair, said: “The 5G Augmented Reality Digital Twin Project is an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development.”

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Author: Esther Geerts

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