voestalpine Railpro B.V. is organizing innovative digital asset services for rail operators.
Refining the digital register
RFID offers rail operators such as Dutch company ProRail a precise overview of their inventories of sensitive components in the installed base. Mark de Vries, CCO of voestalpine Railpro, sees this as an opportunity to simplify asset management.
"Digital registers provide rail operators with a complete overview of the maintenance status of components in the rail network, thus reducing lifecycle costs while increasing network availability,"
Dutch rail operator ProRail uses several maintenance companies to maintain its rail network, with ProRail assuming a controlling function. Using RFID would immensely enhance the process of creating and updating the centralized register of components. Installation and maintenance data, as well as other details about each component, are stored in this register. The mobile radio standard GPRS is used to precisely identify the location of the component when entering this data, allowing maintenance status and component exchanges to be quickly recorded and updated in the register. The test trains can localize an RFID to the nearest 5 m, even when passing over the tag at a speed of 80 km/h. Regular trains equipped with scanners could also provide additional localization support. This would further increase the information density, and thus the timeliness and accuracy of the data.
voestalpine Railpro and ProRail have shown how this can be done:
- Railpro equips the rails and other systems with RFID tags.
- The sensors are registered by measuring systems on test trains as they pass over the devices.
- ProRail interprets the data and collaborates with the commissioned engineering company to update the asset entries for procurement and maintenance.
"Tests have clearly demonstrated the reliability and suitability of digital registers incorporating RFID technology for railway components management. Digital monitoring is the instrument of the future for optimizing asset management."
voestalpine Railpro will begin equipping insulated rail joints (IRJ) with the digital tags from January 2018. IRJs separate so-called idle-status indicators (electric circuits) on railway lines. As such they play an important role in ensuring safe intervals between trains.