Under a cloud with the recent spate of accidents — there were three derailments, though casualty-free even on Thursday — Indian Railways is set to install wayside equipment that will keep an eye on all wheels of coaches running on its network, monitor their health and send out timely repair alerts before wheel defects lead to accidents.
The transporter has awarded a supply-and-maintenance contract to Australia-based Track IQ, which manufacturers and supplies railway equipment and services to measure operating conditions, to install 25 such monitoring equipment at 20 sites across the country. “Of the 25 systems, 15 will be on single tracks and the rest on double tracks. It will take one a half years to install all these systems. Our intention is to put in place two systems a month. By the end of 2019 all systems will be in place,” said Track IQ’s business head John Dowie, who was part of a delegation that recently visited India during the Australia Business Week India 2017.
The first equipment will be installed at Panipat and soon will be rolled at other sites including in Maharashtra and Jharkhand. The spots have been identified keeping in mind major intersection points in order to cover the maximum rolling stock running on the Indian Railways network.
On Thursday, the Shaktipunj Express derailed near Obra in Uttar Pradesh and the Ranchi Rajdhani Express’ locomotive and power van went off track near New Delhi railway station. Later in the day, a few coaches of a goods train derailed near Khandala, Maharashtra. Last month, the Utkal Express derailment claimed at least 20 lives and the Kaifiyat Express hit a dumper before going off the tracks.
Under the new monitoring system, the wayside equipment — sitting besides tracks — will measure the status of wheel surface for any flatness, corrosion or defect, apart from faults in wheel bearings.
Every time a wheel goes past, the system will be able to identity it, characterise the fault and measure the deterioration over time when the same wheel passes the system over and over.
Usually, the system uses RFID tags to identify a particular wagon and when wagons go past the equipment it is identified through radio frequency. However, in India since RFID is not available on wagons, optical character recognition system will be used to identify wagons which are all distinct. “The system will be able to identify which way a wagon is facing and accordingly identify which wheel has defect,” added Dowie.
The identified defect and its magnitude will be recorded as data points and through a software called FleetONE these will be analysed at data centres. Track IQ has a five-year contract to operate the data centre.
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The system will also be able to know if a wheel has been repaired or replaced. “So say a wheel passes a site and we identify a fault deteriorating over time and then it suddenly improves. We will know it has been changed. And the likely reason it has been changed is because we identified the fault,” said Dowie, adding that maintenance will no longer be based on reactive basis, rather it will be on a predictive basis.
Though the system does not identify defects on tracks — the main reasons for most of accidents — it helps in minimising track defects as proper wheels will not exert additional pressure on tracks, which leads to track defects. It also prevents defects in other parts of the rolling stock such as the suspension system that may be affected due to a wheel flat.