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Railway traffic disruptions

Project to crop rail switch failures launched

Published : 30 Jan 2020, 05:14

Updated : 30 Jan 2020, 11:47

  DF Report

Photo VR by Ville Rinne.

VR FleetCare and the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA) have launched a joint pilot project for collecting and analysing real-time data about the condition of switches.

Last year, switch failures alone caused more than 5,000 disruptions to railway traffic in Finland, said a press release issued by the national railway operator VR.

VR FleetCare is a company that provides railway fleet management, and FTIA is in charge of Finnish railways and their development.

For the testing stage of the project, VR FleetCare has set up seven measurement points at interlockings at major traffic points around the railway network. They will be used to test the operation of some 80 switches. Based on the measurement data, incipient switch failures can be detected from deviating turntable performance. Ideally, this will help prevent traffic disruptions due to such failures.

Switch maintenance accounts for a considerable share of railway network maintenance costs.

Switches have a complex structure and involve many components that affect their functioning. The measurement data can be used to steer maintenance based on the condition of switches, reducing maintenance costs and increasing the life-cycle of switches. For example, the number of operations of individual switches may vary greatly, yet the same maintenance system is used for all of them, said VR.

“More detailed data helps us improve the availability of tracks and reduce switch-related disruptions to rail traffic. We aim to receive the first signals of maintenance needs before any deviations are detected in switch operations,” said Marko Lehtosaari, who is responsible for railway maintenance.