Rail Performance Monitoring: Paving the way for advanced track solutions
Using metro systems as an example, Johannes Wundersamer, Head of Rail Performance Services at voestalpine Railway Systems, provides an overview of their customised Rail Performance Monitoring service, a tool to investigate the operating characteristics of rails and to assist rail maintenance organisations in changing re-active systems into pro-active ones.
Generally, metro systems are subjected to increasing train frequencies and decreasing engineering hours for maintenance, mainly caused by the growing population in urban city centres. Usually metro services start early in the morning around 06:00 and finish approximately at midnight, but some cities are considering running 24/7 operations. For track inspection and maintenance teams, this means important track work needs to be carried out within very tight timeframes – the so-called ‘engineering hours’.
The main driving forces for metro system rail maintenance are operational damages such as rail wear and plastic deformations, corrugation and rolling contact fatigue defects (head checks) as well as system-caused defects such as squats.
The total service life of rails as well as its maintenance demand throughout the entire product lifecycle is mainly determined by the initial quality and the chosen maintenance strategy. A high initial quality is the basis for a long-lasting service life and can be achieved by considering heat treated premium or super premium rails in critical track segments, such as curves and stations. In addition to the initial quality, operational rail maintenance is at least as important in order to achieve a satisfying rail service life. State-of-the-art maintenance strategies in metro systems are based on a corrective and/or a preventive approach, whereas the general trend of advanced maintenance management is more and more going into the direction of condition-based or even predictive rail maintenance in order to increase efficiency and to significantly reduce the entire lifecycle costs. For achieving this step-change in rail maintenance, detailed knowledge about the operational product performance regarding the deterioration progress is required.
voestalpine Railway Systems has been successful in developing a new kind of customised service, called Rail Performance Monitoring, in order to support advanced maintenance managers by means of investigating the operating characteristics of rails in collaborative projects.