track inspection

A comprehensive solution to track monitoring and maintenance

Loram is building upon its history of providing the right services to the rail industry with sophisticated expertise in track and infrastructure monitoring technology.

For over 50 years, Loram has been providing rail grinding and track maintenance services to the Australian market. It has become only natural, then for the company to use its expertise in precision rail management to innovate and provide a comprehensive solution when it comes to the interaction of different rail infrastructure assets.

According to Thomas Smith, director business development, cost and consistency are two major issues that are facing rail networks. Having a rich and understandable picture of the track asset can allow for better decisions to be made when it comes to maintenance.

“Having an advanced diagnostic profile of the current health of your track and identifying trends over time allows our customers to migrate to a preventative maintenance program which can save significant money by extending the life of their assets,” said Smith.

Having provided rail grinding, ballast cleaning, and track maintenance equipment and services for decades around the globe, Loram has seen where the gaps are when infrastructure managers are seeking to optimise the upkeep of their network.

“For decades, Loram has had the equipment for repairing and/or maintaining the rail and drainage, including ballast and ditches. Having the ability to know exactly where and how to apply that equipment has been a development process leading Loram to create or acquire the technology it offers today,” said Smith.

This technology has taken Loram’s knowledge of the dynamics affecting track condition and brought a level of precision engineering. For the past 30 years, Loram has been refining its rail grinding through the use of high-speed measuring and analysis, which uses laser camera technology. To analyse track for substructure maintenance, Loram has deployed cutting- edge technology for the last 15 years.

These developments in inspection services have been crystallised into three major areas. The first is rail inspection services, which use rail inspection vehicles (RIV) to collect rail profile, wear, gauge, and cant data. This data is then used to refine a rail grinding program, said Smith.

“Collected data is mapped to exact track locations to positively match the grind plan and applied to the grinder.”

The second area is Loram’s Aurora Track Inspection services. These use imaging technology to scan and reveal the exact condition of below rail infrastructure. Manual detection methods can only detect so much and are limited in terms of the speed at which they can be conducted.

“Aurora can perform inspections at over 65km/h and plays a critical role in prioritising and streamlining our customers’ capital maintenance programs,” said Smith.

Loram’s third area of inspection services are in the field of geotechnical inspection services. These services use tools such as ground penetrating radar and LiDAR scanning technology to measure and analyse geotechnics and substructure. The equipment that performs these scans can be mounted on the vehicle platform most suited to the task, including geometry cars, rail grinders, hi-rail trucks, or other track vehicles.

Taking the results of these services together, Loram can build a solution for a rail infrastructure owner or manager that includes track maintenance as well as formation analysis and remediation. With experience working in many different environments, Loram’s services are able to be delivered in any circumstance.

“Loram hasn’t found a location yet where we couldn’t deploy and manage our services. We recently conducted a geotechnical survey in South America where there wasn’t even rail infrastructure present, only formation. Our technology is set up to be deployed in many situations and can be customised to help meet our customers’ demands,” said Smith.

With the data collected through a combination of these technologies, the next step is to ensure that it is presented in a way that enables actions to be taken and decision to be made. To simplify this, Loram is working on combining data from its various services into a comprehensive track maintenance platform, said Smith.

“The data we collect is technical, time consuming to analyse, and can be overwhelming. That is why the final output that Loram provides our customers simplifies the information into easy-to-understand reports that are customised to our customer’s specific needs.”

With these insights in hand, maintenance can be conducted in a way that uses resources in the most efficient way possible.

Loram’s scanning technology can be fitted to the vehicle required.

“Having the ability to accurately measure the condition of your track assets allows our customers to intelligently and precisely plan maintenance activities with regards to subgrade, ballast, sleepers, components, and rail,” said Smith. “When our customers understand the conditions of these assets and how they degrade over time, then they can take actionable measures to prevent degradation and truly maximise the life of their investments.”

What makes Loram unique, however, is that not only can it identify and monitor issues related to track and infrastructure management, but it has the ability to fix and remedy the issues.

“With all of these inspection and maintenance solutions provided by one company, we have the experience, expertise and historical data to understand how all of the different rail infrastructure assets and dynamics affect each other,” said Smith.

Loram’s own rail grinding and friction management equipment can be deployed to areas of track where defects have been found by rail inspection vehicles. When ballast maintenance is identified as an issue, Loram has an entire fleet of ballast maintenance equipment and geotechnical services that are designed to manage track drainage and quality, or material handling solutions that can pinpoint where extra ballast is needed.

Sleeper maintenance is another area where inspection technology can be used to determine the quality of individual sleepers and components, with the data management to deliver customised reports to the required specification.

“We have this broad range of track data and knowledge from seeing just about any track issue that allows us to help our customers precisely plan, prioritise, and execute track inspection and maintenance on their networks,” said Smith.

Celebrating 20 years

Founded in March 2000 by Derel and Sue Wust, 4Tel is a family owned business that has grown exponentially in the past 20 years.

Originally starting out as a telecommunication consultancy, 4Tel has evolved to be a multifunctional software and hardware business, with multiple engagements in Australia and internationally. With over 20 years in the military, Derel has grown his vision into a business that employees over 50 staff.

Throughout the years, Derel, alongside the management team of Tony Crosby, Mark Wood, Graham Hjort, and with the recent addition of Joanne Wust as CEO, has expanded 4Tel into sectors such as heavy rail (above and below rail operators), light rail, ports, ferries, mines, coaches/buses, and government transport agencies. With the expansion into different sectors, 4Tel’s suite of software has expanded immensely.

With the commissioning of 4Trak in 2008, 4Tel’s began a goal of creating software that would reinvent the way companies track and receive live transport information. This software has enhanced productivity for major organisations across Australia and created a market need for a software that the industry now relies on. The network-wide situational awareness provided by 4Trak gives teams the ability to optimise operational decisions faster, with greater accuracy and simplified communication paths to remotely located assets and personnel. Knowing the real-time location of trains, vehicles, and staff in the rail corridor allows operations staff to monitor delays and issues for better management and customer service delivery. Using data collected from 4Trak, the business has continued to create and expand their software suite.

4Tel’s overall goal is to protect people and assets, and this has led to a suite of innovative software solutions. This includes, 4PTW (ETW and eTap), a trackwork safety application that improves the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of track maintenance activities. 4Port, a software application that enables operators to monitor and record large sets of data regarding truck movements and container lifts for stevedoring operations. 4PIDS, which is 4Tel’s implementation of passenger information displays. 4Site, an application that monitors the status of remote field equipment. 4ASW, a positive train control system that uses GPS location-based precision, suited to areas with vital field infrastructure. 4WPS a worksite protection solution using real-time location data of trains, Protection Officers, and track machines to create a virtual geo-worksite boundary to alert workers of approaching trains. 4Trip, a comprehensive train planning software solution for managing the development and release of service timetables, including the planning of work on track activities. 4ABS which utilises a MySQL or SQL database and webpages to display access and billing history data for better management of rail network access over an intranet or the internet. 4ASSETS which is used to manage the static information about devices and their maintenance history for better asset control. 4LRMS is a system that is equipped to manage and streamline key components of a modern metropolitan light rail network.

With John Holland Rail successfully obtaining the CRN tender in 2012, 4Tel have played a substantial role in implementing several control systems to further help maintain the 5,800km of track. Significantly, 4Tel has implemented Electronic Authorities into the CRN, which is the digitisation of the paper- based train order authorities. This simplified the system immensely and automated work so the train driver and controller could focus more on keeping people safe. Moving to safety, 4Tel’s proximity reminder system, that utilises the onboard ICE radio, warns a driver of a train or hi-rails of the approaching authority limit to prevent an out of authority event. This safety has been further tightened with the addition of the application ETW.

While these systems have been implemented, 4Tel have designed, constructed and commissioned the operations centre and technologies, all while providing 24/7 onsite technical support.

The next step for 4Tel will be delving into artificial intelligence. 4Tel’s Horus system is an Advanced Driver Advisory System (ADAS) using real-time sensors and software to assist a driver in the safe operation of a locomotive. Horus proves the functionality to apply software processes to conduct the computationally intensive algorithms for object detection, localisation, awareness, dynamics, and route monitoring. 4Tel’s Horus can be used by above rail operators to assist in safely moving their people and assets across the multiple open networks of Australia.

The system can uniquely incorporate all the train running information (run ID, braking profile, authority limits, speed, location, signal info, etc.), with the day of operational information from the network (speed limits, Conditions Affecting Network, work-on-track activities, etc.). In addition, the Horus machine vision and sensor technology detects abnormal items within the corridor, to alert the driver to an un-safe situation in real-time.