Global survey specialist, Fugro, explains how its unique RILA system drives efficiencies in track maintenance activities by undertaking surveys in a safer, faster and significantly more cost-effective manner…
Passenger demand for train services in Asia has grown rapidly since 2005 and looks set to continue to do so over the coming years. More frequent services mean tracks need to be renewed more often. With these and many more network management processes hungry for information, there is pressure for quicker and more flexible acquisition of survey data that is also safe, accurate, and minimises disruption to rail services.
Fugro is responding to this global need with its unique RILA solution that delivers geo-intelligence data on the track and surrounding environment and drives efficiencies in both rail engineering and track maintenance activities.
Fugro’s innovative RILA system
With RILA, Fugro has created a way to undertake track surveys in a safer, faster and significantly more cost-effective manner. Traditionally track measurements are undertaken by surveyors who work on and near the track and whilst doing so are exposed to the dangers of live railways.
Fugro’s innovative train borne RILA system can measure the track and rail corridor in a fast and efficient manner, and is designed to keep trains moving safely, without interruption to services, whilst keeping survey personnel away from the track.
RILA is unique in that it can be coupled to regular service trains to collect data without the need for surveyors to be on or near the track or used on dedicated measurement trains. The acquired data can be used for many applications including absolute track position (XYZ coordinates) for pre-renewal design work and post-renewal as-built information, input for alignment, correction data for tampers and verification of six-foot track distances. The data can also be used to determine railhead wear, track gauge, twist and cant. And because the system operates at line speed without the need for a special vehicle, data can be gathered at significantly lower costs than conventional methods.
How does it work?
The self-contained RILA unit houses the highly accurate geospatial referencing equipment, power source, rotating laser, IMU, video cameras and track scanner, all of which are referenced to each other for a holistic asset management view of the infrastructure. The unit can be mounted to an automated coupler of a passenger train or to a set of buffers within just two minutes. Data acquisition is at line speed and, when installed on a regular passenger train, there is no need for train paths, limiting the disruption to train services.
Track profiles are collected using an integrated laser and imaging system that computes position and orientation from onboard GPS and inertial measurement systems. The track heads can be georeferenced to absolute position in any desired coordinate system. The system is currently cleared to operate at 100mph (160kph) and at this speed will yield profiles at 10cm intervals with an unprecedented absolute accuracy of +/-10mm (plan) and +/-15mm (height) without the need for ground control.
As the RILA system passes over the track, its laser vision system projects a laser beam over each rail with the integrated camera capturing high resolution images of the rail profile and the coordinates of 1,400 laser points per railhead are calculated. The laser image of the railhead and rail foot provides high accuracy profiles and measurements (relative accuracy <0.3mm) that can be used to determine railhead and running edge wear as well as wear of S&C components.
The RILA system also incorporates a 360° laser scanner and a panoramic imaging system to supply ultra-high-density LiDAR point cloud data of the route; scanning the complete rail corridor, including track assets, structures, earthworks and vegetation. This point cloud data can be controlled using the RILA track position data to provide a level of accuracy and precision not normally possible using conventional mobile mapping platforms.
Clear business benefits
‘It has ten years of development and we are still developing it further’ says Jeroen Huiskamp, Global Director Rail. ‘The technology allows multiple data streams to be harnessed at the same time and at lower cost than current alternatives reliant on separate surveys. Survey personnel are removed from the track environment in the collection of survey data, improving safety and making data collection significantly quicker. Moreover, by ‘piggybacking’ on scheduled trains, carbon footprint and pressure on network capacity are reduced.’
Fugro’s innovative train mounted measuring systems yield hundreds of kilometres of survey data per day, a rate that could not be contemplated using traditional terrestrial techniques. It is estimated that full RILA data capture for one hundred kilometres of track corridor saves in the region of 1,200 hours conventional surveying time (assuming surveyors and safety personnel), while avoiding 200 hours of typical track possession.
Once captured, the data can be used for multiple asset management and infrastructure applications. In Australia, one client has used RILA to survey the existing track and S&C in Perth, monitoring the impact, if any, of nearby construction work and tunnel boring underneath the existing metro tunnel. Another, Sydney Trains, is in the process of digitising their railway and are keen to use RILA to minimise people in the track and enhance maintenance and cost reduction on inspections; Fugro is also working with them to get RILA approved for platform gauging.
In Europe, RILA surveys have provided highly accurate 3D information to determine the position and geometry of 2,000 kilometres of track (plain line and S&C) and 2,500 kilometres of stations, loops, sidings and shunt-yards for national railway agency, ProRail. Across the Channel in the United Kingdom, over 10,000 route-miles of the UK network have been surveyed using RILA for numerous projects including high-output track renewals, route modernisation and passing clearances for the introduction of Class 800 trains. The company has also carried out measurements for rail operators in Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Amtrak in the United States.
Increasingly, RILA datasets are supporting other asset management areas such as structure gauging, boundary security, line side equipment management, maintenance tamping design files and – currently under development – ballast shoulder integrity. The data have also been successfully integrated to building information modelling (BIM) projects providing detailed planning and design models that de-risk delivery.
This utilisation demonstrates the Fugro ethos of ‘capture once and use many times’ in that whilst the data may be captured initially for large sections of the network, once processed, they can be used for many applications, large and small. All objects are location referenced, which greatly improves the outcome of machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence routines, which means that Fugro’s Geo data can provide the geodetical backbone of the railway network.
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