A holistic approach to remote condition monitoring for the accurate evaluation of railway infrastructure and rolling stock

Vallely, Patrick (2020). A holistic approach to remote condition monitoring for the accurate evaluation of railway infrastructure and rolling stock. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The rail industry needs to address a number of important operational challenges in the foreseeable future. First of all, the safety of rail transport needs to be maintained at an absolute maximum matching the achievements of the European airline industry of zero fatalities. Secondly, promote sustainable growth to support increasing demand for both passenger and freight rail transport. Thirdly, support the implementation of measurable innovations and improvements that help increase capacity of current infrastructure through enhanced availability. Finally, maximise the environmentally benign character of railway transport through exploitation of novel technologies such as hydrogen trains and advanced electrification employing renewable energy sources.

This project, primarily focused on the UK Rail infrastructure, investigated the benefits arising from a holistic approach in the application of Remote Condition Monitoring (RCM) as a critical means for the accurate, efficient, reliable and cost-effective evaluation of key railway infrastructure assets and rolling stock. This work involved the use of several techniques and innovative methodologies based primarily on Acoustic Emission (AE) and vibration analysis in order to address the evaluation requirements for different components of interest. The results obtained have been very promising and present rail infrastructure managers and rolling stock operators with new opportunities for improved and more reliable operations.

This work has led to the instrumentation of multiple sites across the UK rail network enabling measurements to be carried out on various assets under actual operational conditions. At Cropredy an integrated high-frequency vibro-acoustic RCM system has successfully been installed on the Chiltern railway line on the way from London to Birmingham. This customised system has been fully operational since 2015 measuring more than 200 passenger and freight trains every day moving at speeds up to 100 miles per hour (MPH). Prior to the installation of the system at Cropredy a Certificate (PA05/06524) of Acceptance was issued by Network Rail which after being renewed recently is now valid until September 2021. The system is due for an upgrade in the following stage of development, employing wireless sensors and advanced energy harvesting devices which are being developed under a collaborative Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) project between Exeter and Birmingham Universities, Network Rail, Swiss Approval UK and Quatrro.

The widespread implementation of the techniques and methodologies researched will give rise to significant potential impact with respect to the effectiveness of maintenance strategies, particularly in terms of cost efficiency, improved availability of railway assets and better planning of available resources. As modern rail transport moves towards 24-hour railway, the inspection, maintenance and track renewal and upgrade regime will need to be re-thought at a fundamental level. Effective RCM will be a key factor in realistically enabling true round the clock operations.

The results presented in this thesis have been part of a six-year research effort with a clear focus on addressing the true industrial need. The findings of this work have led to a re-think within Network Rail regarding the new possibilities arising from the effective use of RCM in designing and implementing more efficient and cost-effective railway operations whilst helping reduce the cost. The use of autonomous sensing systems in the future will change the inspection and maintenance strategies currently used shifting towards a truly prognostic operational strategy.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Engineering & Physical Sciences
School or Department: School of Metallurgy and Materials
Funders: Other
Other Funders: Network Rail
Subjects: T Technology > TF Railroad engineering and operation
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/10028


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