Field tests of new railway assembly robot cause unexpected bell rings in Dronryp, The Netherlands

Posted: 25 June 2024 | | No comments yet

Between 17-21 June 2024, Dronryp in The Netherlands heard intermittent railway crossing bell ringing due to field tests of the ERTMS Trackbot, an advanced rail assembly robot by Strukton Rail.

Field tests of new railway assembly robot cause unexpected bell rings in Dronryp, The Netherlands

Credit: Strukton Rail

Between 17 and 21 June 2024, the village of Dronryp in The Netherlands experienced intermittent ringing of railway crossing bells, despite the nearby Leeuwarden railway yard being out of service for planned engineering works. The bells, usually a signal of an approaching passenger train, had been triggered by field tests of a rail bound assembly robot, the ERTMS Trackbot, developed by Strukton Rail.

The ERTMS Trackbot, designed to independently install axle counters and balises on railway tracks, is a smart assembly robot aimed at enhancing safety and sustainability in railway operations. It performs tasks such as locating precise geographical positions, drilling holes and mounting equipment while digitising the information. This innovation is part of the ASAP project (Dutch tender for the fast implementation of ERTMS), with Strukton Rail collaborating with AMT, No Man Trackwork, ProRail and supported by the innovation programme Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking.

The tests in Dronryp marked the Trackbot’s first field deployment on a real track section. Objectives included assessing battery life, testing installation cycles and evaluating performance during night operations. The successful tests provided valuable insights and a blueprint for future deployments of the Trackbot. Key learnings included practical aspects of using the robot and logistical challenges such as battery charging.

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In preparation for these tests, Strukton employed the Strukton Reality Model to verify the practical feasibility of installing axle counters and balises as per design specifications. After the tests, all installed equipment had been removed.

These tests represent a significant milestone in the development of the ERTMS Trackbot. By the end of 2024, Strukton aims to have a fully operational assembly robot, pending sector-wide adjustments to installation regulations. The Trackbot is expected to take over the repetitive and physically demanding task of installing the approximately 50,000 balises and 20,000 axle counters required for ERTMS implementation across The Netherlands.

“I wish to thank the ERTMS Trackbot team and other colleagues who came to lend a helping hand,” said Corné van de Kraats, Development Engineer at Strukton Rail. “Thanks to them, we have been able to make a lot of test metres.”

As the railway sector adapts to these technological advancements, the ERTMS Trackbot promises to enhance efficiency and safety, marking a significant step forward in railway infrastructure management.

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