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Railways on track for condition monitoring

A “milestone” deal has shown a shift in attitude towards asset maintenance in the rail sector, the engineering firm behind the technology has said.

Chris Woodhams, Managing Director at Argenta, commented that "this is an interesting step forwarded for train maintenance and if the benefits are realised there could be significant savings in cost and time. Predictive maintenance has been around for some time, but with the introduction of smarter sensors, it’s application is becoming more diverse.

train wheelset sensor installation

The deal between Perpetuum and Eversholt Rail is to monitor the condition of eight London Southeastern C465 trains while they are in service, to extend wheelset overhauls and improve reliability.

Perpetuum’s remote wheelset and track monitoring system is self-powering and records vibration and temperature data. The data is transmitted wirelessly back to a desktop or mobile device to enable realtime monitoring of the trains.

train wheelset sensor installation

Traditionally, operators service trains on a mileage basis which can lead to components being needlessly replaced. Data supplied using condition monitoring can be used to enable cost savings through predictive maintenance regimes that identify components before they fail. The system is also able to create live track monitoring information out of the wheel bearing vibration data from wheel sensors.

The Perpetuum sensors convert vibrations into electrical energy using a magnet that moves across a fixed coil to produce magnetic flux and induce a voltage. The harvester is mechanically “tuned” to a resonant frequency within its operating environment.

Mark Johnson, engineering director of Southeastern, said: “We are committed to maximising fleet performance. Using live information on the bogie’s true condition to inform our maintenance regime has been instrumental to this, along with building a systems approach to asset management by integrating track condition into the wheelset management decision making.”

Perpetuum called the deal a milestone in moving the rail sector towards condition-based monitoring and maintenance. Commercial director Justin Southcombe said: “We are confident of the growth of Perpetuum in the rail sector and we have made great progress in moving operators towards condition-based maintenance.”

Accreditation: Ben Sampson, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, June 2016. The original article can be located here.

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