Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand), Below Rail Infrastructure, Track Construction, Industry Infrastructure, Products & Technology, Industry Safety, Light Rail, Operations and Maintenance

Kallipr captures innovation in action

kallipr

 

IoT technology company Kallipr is working with some of Australia’s largest logistics and rail organisations to help them meet safety requirements and regulations, achieve cost savings via reductions in delays, and deliver more efficient processes. 

Using its Captis solution, data can now be tracked from places previously difficult to monitor – like inside a rail pit, or along rail tracks in the most remote areas. The data being captured from the remote assets can be monitored and tracked, with the ability to trigger alarms based on scenarios or certain criteria. The sensors capture and compile data on devices and in the cloud that feeds into central data hubs and allows companies to make intelligent decisions on their business operations. 

One network making the most of the Captis product is Melbourne’s Yarra Trams, operated by Keolis Downer. 

Yarra Trams’ Track Manager Chris Butcher talks to Rail Express about how the equipment is currently being used to monitor remote rail and logistic networks – including measuring rail pits and track temperature – to enable it to meet safety compliance and regulatory responsibilities, whilst ensuring trams get from point A to B most efficiently with a reduced chance of operational disruption. 

RAIL PIT MONITORING 

Across rail networks, rail pits can fill with silt, sand and debris, causing them to hold water when it rains, or even flood across the tracks. This causes major disruptions to the rail network but also causes pits to degrade in the long term.  

The Captis Rail Pit Monitoring Kit can be installed directly into the pit and alert maintenance workers when it’s starting to fill with water, and when it’s at risk of overflow. This allows Keolis Downer to proactively manage the maintenance of the pit and reduce overflow and flooding events.  

Yarra Trams operates more than 250 km of double track, making it the largest tram network in the world. There are over 600 sets of switch points in the network that allow trams to change tracks and direction.  

The network faces a significant challenge in the ongoing maintenance of these switch point pits with the accumulation of sand and debris, which can result in prolonged inundation of water. 

Butcher said that as much as 250 tonnes of sand was used across the network each month to assist with tram braking, ensuring trams can safely stop in all conditions.  

And despite a fleet of dedicated sweeper trucks, some of that sand ends up finding its way into the drainage pits through weather or more general traffic movement. Despite our best efforts, a significant amount of sand can still end up in the switch point pits, sometimes resulting in partially or fully obstructed drains,” he said.  

“When there is significant rainfall, clogging within the pits can cause flooding on the tracks and mechanical breakdowns because points boxes don’t work as effectively when they’re underwater. 

“This not only disrupts service delivery, but also poses potential safety risks, such as trams being directed the wrong way or being sent through deep standing water.” 

Yarra Trams sought a solution that would allow it to better monitor when switch point pits were not draining adequately, allowing proactive and targeted management and maintenance of the network. 

“If we know the points flooding or when the drains aren’t working effectively, we can proactively go and empty those drains out, and clear out all the gunk that’s blocking things up,” Butcher said. 

In May this year, the operator started deploying the Captis Pulse Lite and the Captis Rail Pit Monitoring Accessory Kit in both manual and automated switch point pits across four high silting locations across Melbourne, with the aim to establish a notification system that alerts when a switch point pit is a threat of overflowing or has failed to drain and is overflowing.  

This tiered alert system allows Yarra Trams to effectively implement workflows based on ‘watch and wait’ or ‘act now’ alarms driven by the Captis device.  

“By receiving real-time notifications, our track maintenance team can react promptly to address an overflow through maintenance callouts, reducing the number of overflows and interruptions to the fleet, while also improving operational efficiencies,” Butcher said. 

The Captis devices enable Yarra Trams to plan for post-rainfall recovery activities more effectively, by identifying pits that have potential of silt, sand or debris build-up, and helping it to proactively allocate resources to better maintain identified problem areas.  

“The data also allows Keolis Downer to gain insights into the drainage system itself through monitoring the time required for drains to empty,” Butcher said.  

“This data can help identify potential issues, such as clogging and design deficiencies, which may contribute to frequent blockages and overflows. By understanding these problems, Yarra Trams can make more informed decisions to improve the drainage system, resulting in a more efficient and reliable network.  

“In this first stage of deployment, we were looking at the best way to mount the devices within the different types of point mechanisms and which pits to test. 

“The first round of the trial has been really positive, and we’ve seen some good quality information after those heavy downpours. 

“Overall, the deployment of IoT devices and the establishment of a notification system for drain overflow events will have a significant impact on Yarra Trams operations. It will reduce overall delay incidents, minimise safety risks, and optimise the allocation of resources by enabling a shift towards proactive and corrective activities.” 

Butcher said that there was a loose roll-out strategy for the sensors throughout the network.  

“It’s all pending funding, but we would aim to put forward a business case to move to all of our automatic point locations, about 160 of those on our network, and then expand further because the maintenance benefits from being proactive rather than reactive are massive,” he said. 

 

A temperature monitoring kit on the Yarra Trams network.

 

RAIL TEMPERATURE MONITORING 

Another maintenance issue for Yarra Trams, and indeed for many rail operators in Australia, is coping with the extreme heat that occurs in the country. 

“The problem we have on hot days is that rail can expand and grow, and for us as maintainers, it’s hard for us to know the locations we need to go to first,” Butcher said. 

“The way we’ve done it for decades, is to go around to the ballasted areas that we historically know have had issues with heat expansion and then monitor them manually, drenching the ballast with water to cool it down if needed.” 

But this is a hit-and-miss approach and it’s not always the usual suspects that buckle in the heat. 

“The biggest issues we had was back around 2014, when a section of track over the bridge to the Australian Open buckled in the middle of the event, affecting public transport,” Butcher said. 

“What we want is a system to give us some sort of intuitive thinking as to where we go first to fix problems. 

“We are trialling Captis sensors placed on the wayside to measure both the ambient heat and the actual track temperature, and give us information on how hot things are in each location and inform us where the maintenance priorities are.” 

The Captis Rail Temperature Monitoring Kit provides a multiple sensor interface capable of connecting to ambient temperature and rail track temperature sensors at the same time. The IoT cellular technology also enables data to be transmitted from remote locations easily and reliably, while the IP68 rated enclosure can withstand extreme temperatures and weather conditions. 

The Captis’ edge processing, alarm handling, rechargeable battery and solar panel allows for  more frequent data transfers during extreme weather events or high forecasts.  

Several Captis devices are deployed along Yarra Trams’ trial zones and can be configured to log data over selected periods and notify on a daily basis under normal temperature conditions.  

When predefined temperature thresholds are exceeded, the Captis on-board alarm capabilities enable more frequent measurement and provides real-time data to assist in decision-making for applying network speed limits. 

Butcher said Captis sensors were also helping the operator test a new heat-resistant paint on the tracks to assess its effectiveness.  

“Magnetic sensors placed on the actual rail will tell us how much the paint works in reducing heat,” he said. 

Butcher said there were possibly other potential innovations in the water cooling space that could be looked at. 

“For example, perhaps the temperature monitor can trigger a quasi-irrigation system to do the water cooling remotely, instead of manually sending crews with water tankers to the sites to drench the track,” he said. 

“So our next iteration of the technology could aid with this maintenance and we don’t have to send anybody out there. 

“At Keolis Downer we’re always taking the approach of not just maintaining Melbourne’s historic tram network, but also trying to innovate and enhance the way that we do our work on the network to deliver a better and more reliable experience to our millions of passengers.”  

By incorporating IoT technology, Keolis Downer is revolutionising the way it manages the Yarra Trams network.  

As the deployment expands, the implementation of IoT devices promises to revolutionise rail maintenance, minimise delays, and optimise resource allocation, ultimately ushering in a new proactive era in the industry.