How ProRail uses wayside monitoring systems

In the upcoming period until 2030, Dutch railway manager ProRail expects a large increase in passenger and freight transport. Wayside monitoring systems can help to improve and make better use of the capacity. What insights do they gain from this data?

To facilitate the expected growth in traffic, ProRail aims to intensify the use of its current railway network and decrease the amount of disruptions. One of the solutions that will make this possible is using wayside monitoring in combination with algorithms that will give a detailed overview on how tracks and switches are used by trains. With this data impact can be predicted which can be used by capacity management, and by maintenance contractors.

ProRail has developed WENS (switch and track usage) for the centrally controlled switches and track of the Dutch railway network. Bas van Wijhe, Information specialist at ProRail: “Simply said, WENS is an algorithm that creates an overview on how tracks and switches have been used and impacted by rolling stock. The algorithm includes: train operation, switch operation, WILD (Wheel Impact Load Detection) data, Infrastructure data of tracks/ switches and more.”

Overloaded axles or wheel issues

WENS produces reports that give detailed insights (monthly and annually) on the use and operation of switches and tracks. Like the amount of trains, axles and tonnage that went through a specific switch or track in a certain direction. Also the amount of overloaded axles and wheels with different levels of imperfection are reported for each track.

“These insights are currently distributed to and used by for instance maintenance contractors and will be used for new tenders”, says van Wijhe, ”For example: WENS can predict impact on redirects in case of a relatively long period of closed track for maintenance, give insight in total tonnage for contract areas, and plot wheel defect numbers and overloaded axles on track or switch issues and degeneration”.

Measure track occupation

For the not centrally controlled railway areas ProRail has a problem: they do not have direct insight in train and switch operation. Paul Kootwijk, Programme manager Innovation & New Technology at ProRail: “We solve this with Wayside Monitoring Systems and smart sensing. These systems help us to measure track occupation and identify certain wagon and train types.”

For these railway yards they follow a data driven approach and bring all available data in the logistics chain together, supplemented with data from smart camera’s and IoT axle counters. “This gave us better insight into the actual usage of the infrastructure, the composition of the trains that make use of these assets, and possible logistics optimisations.”

Pilot results

Paul Kootwijk and Bas van Wijhe will give a presentation at the Intelligent Rail Summit on the 22nd of September about how way side monitoring in combination with algorithms for track usage works for centrally controlled and for not centrally controlled tracks. They will elaborate on how to get a detailed insight on switch- and track usage, and how this information is used for more effective and efficient maintenance.

In the presentation, the ProRail specialists will also show the results of a several pilots, in which they gained insight in the actual usage of railway yards, switches and tracks with smart camera’s and IoT axle counters, as well as how the data will be used for optimisation of the logistic chain.

Want to know more about how ProRail uses these tools and how the data can benefit operators and rolling stock owners? In a webinar on August 6 (13:00 CET), Juliette van Driel, system manager WTMS and Real-time monitoring is one of our expert guests. You can sign up for free here.

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Author: Marieke van Gompel

Marieke van Gompel is editor-in-chief of, and, online magazines for railway professionals.

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