Algorithm-based method reduces track life-cycle costs up to 20 per cent

Researchers of the Austrian Graz University have developed an algorithm-based method that provides decisions on the correct amount of tamping measures on tracks. The method reduces the track life-cycle costs by up to 20 percent, and is developed by researchers Johannes Neuhold and Stefan Marschnig. Tamping of the ballast in the trackbed is regarded as one of the most important maintenance tasks in the railway industry.

Tamping machines work by lifting the tracks, aligning them with precision and tamp the ballast below the sleepers so that the tracks are back in the correct position. The ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railways) has a good quality for track maintenance, so tamping work rarely happens. “Even though data-based decisions are increasingly replacing gut instinct, in Austria, tamping planning is still frequently based on the availability of tamping machines,” explains Neuhold. He is a researcher at the Graz University of Technology in the Institute of Railway Engineering and Transport Economy department.

Timing and Reliability

Researchers Johannes Neuhold and Stefan Marschnig are currently focusing on when the ideal time for tamping operations should be carried out while making economical sense. According to Neuhold, the main principle was a long service life with as few maintenance measures.

The algorithm is set to calculate when and how often tamping is required on various paraments such as the age and condition of the track, the components used and the cumulative load. “On lines where the tracks are used heavily by heavy freight traffic, wear occurs more quickly than on lines where mainly suburban trains are in operation,” explains Marschnig.

Life cycle costs reduced

The researchers calculated the life-cycle costs by generating comparative values. Their reached assumption is that a track can be tamped with ten times during its life cycle. The results showed that by extending the tamping cycles and carrying them out in a targeted manner, tracks will get a longer service life.

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Author: Sarah Chebaro

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