The Future of Remote Condition Monitoring for the Rail Industry: Innovate UK


Transmission Dynamics have partnered with various key rail stakeholders as part of Innovate UK’s First of a Kind initiative to revolutionise the monitoring, measurement, and maintenance of rail assets and infrastructure.

Faults and inefficiencies can occur across many aspects of the rail network, from issues and obstructions with the Overhead Line (OHL), to track performance problems and defects within the train assets themselves. With dewirements costing the industry an estimated £1-1.5 million each time, and other faults providing similar costs and time delays, solving these problems is a priority for the sector.

Currently, technology exists to monitor and display faults in isolation, but they often lack the ability to come together to effectively determine the root cause of a problem and inform maintenance planning.

Trains with Brains®

To address these challenges, Transmission Dynamics has developed the ‘Trains with Brains’® solution, which brings cutting-edge sensor technology into a combined intelligence platform for rail operators. The system helps maximise the intelligence gained from the sensor technology. It provides more comprehensive insights into faults, and, for the first time, enables considerations into the interactions between track, train, and overhead line to inform the most effective resolution. Using video technology, the system can more accurately pinpoint imagery and location of the issue, giving valuable insight to maintenance crews and helping with any necessary route adjustments or delays.

Information on faults, potential issues and anomalies is displayed in real-time across the Network Rail dashboard. Users can then interact with the Trains with Brains® platform for more information and data to assess its impact.

The solution is not without environmental benefits too. By reducing the time, travel and engineering processes of maintenance crews looking for and assessing the causes of faults, as well as minimising delays and travel disruption for passengers. Improving the performance and life span of trains, track, and wiring assets by reducing areas of impact, inefficient runtimes and design flaws, are also all key to reducing the environmental impact of rail maintenance and operation.

The project

Developed by Transmission Dynamics in collaboration with Network Rail, Angel Trains, and West Midlands Trains, the project aimed to undertake a real-world test of the capabilities of the over-arching system across a set region in Central and North West England. The project looked at how the three monitoring technologies interact on journeys and how data is received, processed, and displayed to provide the most effective information and solution for users.

Tests took place that focused on areas such as track sway, which impacted the train asset itself as well as the connection between the train and the overhead line. Other test areas included the video monitoring of obstructions and defects within the overhead line that would impact the safe passage of trains, or even cause damage to equipment. With no errors found across any of the data resulting from the tests, the project was able to prove its effectiveness across a live scenario.

Following the completion of the project phase, Jenny Hudson, Business Development Director at Transmission Dynamics, said:

“We believe this is true artificial intelligence in action. The importance of keeping the UK’s rail network running is paramount, and the results the system achieved demonstrate the difference that a combined and holistic view brings.

Having the backing of Innovate UK and the DfT through the project has not only given us some valuable expertise and guidance for the scope of our testing, but also a real credibility in the market to take the solution forward to a wider audience.”

About Innovate UK, and the FOAK 2022 Initiative

This project forms part of the FOAK demonstrator initiative, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. The initiative aims to accelerate innovation in the UK rail sector by supporting solutions at high technology readiness levels to their route to market and deliver scalable rail solutions that lead to deployment and real-world demonstrations. As part of the FOAK 2022 initiative, over £6 million was allocated to 24 projects across the UK. It is helping to deliver demonstrations and feasibility studies to tackle key challenges within the sector.

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