A new solution for monitoring the condition of track circuits

The digital condition monitoring of runway equipment makes it possible to carry out maintenance before disruptions lead to traffic disruption.

The Finnish rolling stock maintenance company VR FleetCare has developed a new solution for monitoring the condition of trackside equipment, such as track circuits. The results of the most recent pilot project, carried out with the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, have already provided a lot of useful data on the functioning of rail equipment. Condition monitoring was continued after the pilot.

VR FleetCare |  Follow circuit condition monitoring

The pilot has produced great results, pointing to the potential for smart condition monitoring

© VR FleetCare

Rail equipment refers to the railway equipment and systems that allow trains to travel safely from one location to another. Within the VR FleetCare and the pilot project of the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, the focus was on a track circuit system, which is used to check whether the track is in use or not and also to obtain information about which section of track the train is currently running.

Rail equipment failures cause traffic restrictions and interruptions and thus delays for trains. Traffic delays are partly starting to lead to rising costs and reputational damage for stakeholders. Smart condition monitoring can minimize these losses. With the aid of condition monitoring, the owner of the rail network benefits from increased operational reliability of rail circuits and thus from optimal utilization of the rail capacity. In addition, road safety improves and travelers are satisfied with the high punctuality.

Sami Saloheimo, Senior Specialist Condition Monitoring at VR FleetCare, says:

“Traditionally, defects in trackside equipment could only be detected after they caused traffic disruption. Digital condition monitoring gives time to react and to minimize disruption to traffic.

“When an anomaly is detected within a track circuit, an additional inspection can be performed and a necessary maintenance team dispatched to the site during lower traffic hours. The better the knowledge of deviations and early signs of defects, the better they can be targeted and repaired.”

The results of a large pilot project demonstrate the effectiveness of the solution

VR FleetCare has been carrying out several development projects for condition monitoring of digital rail equipment since 2019 with the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA). FTIA is responsible for the maintenance and development of the Finnish railway network.

The track circuit pilot project started last year and has already recorded more than a million measurement events from some 200 track circuits. Measured track circuits are part of high traffic areas selected for their susceptibility to high cost distortions. So far, the pilot has been very successful and has delivered great results, indicating that the potential for smart condition monitoring of track circuits is great. For example, an indication of a track interruption could be detected 24 hours before the first traffic nuisance.

Marko Lehtosaari, specialist in railway maintenance at the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, says:

“From the rail infrastructure owner’s point of view, development work has focused on long-term processes rather than technology. Digital condition monitoring and the real-time monitoring that this makes possible has potential. These pilots in collaboration with VR Fleetcare have shown us that fairly simple systems provide useful information. Digital condition monitoring of rail infrastructure and rolling stock is not difficult, if you have skilled partners and enough courage.”

In the rail sector, maintenance was previously based on best practices and statistical methods. Digital condition monitoring completes the methodology with accurate and detailed information about the current condition of trackside equipment. Smart metering systems can monitor equipment operation more accurately than personnel or current traffic control systems, providing signals for fault detection and maintenance before they become malfunctions and traffic disruptions.

This article was originally published by VR FleetCare

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