Adif works with Geographic Institute to detect earthquakes

Spanish railway manager Adif and the National Geographic Institute (IGN) have started a collaboration to use the fibre optic network along the rails to detect possible earthquakes. They will also develop scientific and technological activities related to seismic risks to infrastructure.

The president of Adif, María Luisa Domínguez, and the director general of the National Geographic Institute (IGN), Lorenzo García Asensio, have signed a protocol to collaborate in the detection of earthquakes and the study of the surface structure of the ground.

The goal is to take advantage of the 16,000-kilometre fibre optic network that runs along Adif’s railway network, with which it provides support for railway operation services and also offers services to the different telecommunications operators. By adding sensors to fibre optic networks, they can ‘hear’ any localised noise to the fiber cables, and detect abnormalities. Adif is already developing various projects for the railway in which fibre optic sensing is an important part.

Detecting broken rail and rockfall warnings

In this field, the use of Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) stands out, which Adif has been working on since 2007 following the development of the MIFFO project (Monitoring of Infrastructure by means of Optical Fibre). The DAS technology is based on the use of one or several optical fibres that are laid along the railway line and which function as sensing elements. The added value of the system is that only a small intervention is required at the ends of the fibre, which is usually already installed in the communication duct of the railway line. The system allows real-time monitoring of a large length of the infrastructure, at intervals of about 10 metres.

Two projects are currently underway with this technology. The ‘Broken Rail 1’ project aims to demonstrate the feasibility of detecting a broken rail on a track. Another, the ‘Smanslope project’, aims to provide an operational warning system for rockfall on railway infrastructure.

At the event RailTech Europe, the second conference day on June 22 will cover climate change adaptation as part of the topic Resilient Rail & Sustainability. For the programme and more information, visit the website

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Author: Esther Geerts


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