The train derailment of the XPT passenger train at Wallan on 21 February has put the spotlight on the importance of rail infrastructure conditions and their performance across Australia, and potential solutions to prevent similar disasters on both public and private railway lines.
The derailment, 47 kilometres north of Melbourne, tragically claimed two lives – the driver and a railway worker – injured 12 and affected hundreds as shaken passengers scrambled to safety, avoiding the twisted wreckage of the carriages strewn across the line.
It shouldn’t take a catastrophe such as this for authorities to adopt ground-breaking technology that can improve safety through proactive maintenance and real-time condition monitoring.
Researchers and industry experts at the Monash Institute of Railway Technology (IRT) have developed instrumented revenue vehicle (IRV) technology that is already helping the railway industries in Australia and globally to ensure safer operations, reducing maintenance costs and extending asset life.
This award-winning technology has been widely used by various leading railway entities, including the Hong Kong MRT, ARTC in Hunter Valley, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), and Roy Hill.
IRV technology is an automated measurement platform embedded on standard revenue vehicles. These vehicles are permanently equipped with advanced measuring systems, including different types of sensors and logging units to provide continuous feedback on track condition, vehicle dynamics and train operation.
Key features of the IRV technology include:
- Can measure harsh railway conditions as part of a standard operating network.
- Provide accurate sub-metre (within 1m accuracy) track location identification of any track response.
- Measure, collate and provide information, in real-time using 3G and 4G mobile and satellite networks, of each loaded and empty train run, which can identify track defects and maintenance effectiveness.
- Measure the vehicle dynamic modes roll, pitch, body bounce, body rock and hunting under cyclic or combinational sub-critical defects affecting vehicle performance.
IRV provides railway organisations with a mechanism to assist in the identification of weld, rail surface and track-related defects in a timely manner to improve its inspection methodology and maintenance approach.
Since the dynamic vehicle performance is monitored regularly by the IRV under loaded conditions, this would significantly improve the probability of detecting track deterioration before it is too late, thus avoiding potentially catastrophic consequences.
This technology can also enable scheduled maintenance activities to be prioritised to locations exhibiting rapid deterioration rates. Temporary speed restrictions can be applied until the essential maintenance activities are completed.
We must be proactive in our approaches to prevent another rail tragedy like that at Wallan. Australia has this technology at its disposal. We can’t be complacent when it comes to the safety of workers and passengers.
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