Digital technologies equal new working practices
Digital tools may not replace network operatives but they are changing the way they work. Devices such as embarked sensors, surveillance cameras, drones, 3D mock-ups and tablets basically provide information, data in other words, and this data has to be interpreted.
The challenge for the railway profession therefore consists of:
- improving network performance through data collection and analysis
- ensuring traffic regularity and safety using new and innovative maintenance tools.
Digital applications for maintainers
For its maintenance personnel, SNCF Réseau is increasingly adopting some of the latest and most innovative solutions.
With tablets, operatives in the field can access and collect the information they need: photos, measurements, data, etc. Tablets make their lives and working conditions easier and give them the ability to intervene more rapidly.
Surveille and IRIS 320: high-speed track recording cars
There are three Surveille vehicles in operation on the national network. As their name suggests, they serve to conduct in-depth inspections of the track, its geometry, the quality of the rail and its equipment, etc. Every 8 weeks, these three trains with their dozens of sensors connected to a computer workstation cover 20,000 km of track. They are each manned by 3-strong teams, whose role is to spot any abnormalities and pinpoint their exact location.
SNCF Réseau has a fleet of in-house drones and data scientists to interpret the data they transmit. Drones can be used in many different ways. They can overfly sites to detect the presence of trespassers and discourage wilful damage. They are also useful in areas that are inaccessible or dangerous (viaducts, caves, cliffs, etc) to check for damage and ensure that repairs have been duly made.
"Connected" rail sections, a new rail temperature reporting tool
Short “connected” lengths of rail inserted in the track, a technique developed in association with the start-up Itesens, automatically transmit temperature data to operatives, who can then monitor the track in real time. In extreme weather conditions, this is a boon in preventing incidents, since movements in the rail are generally caused by major temperature swings.
"Connected" rail sections are not just a practical tool but also provide traceable data, which is useful input for maintenance decisions and research.
Points to remember:
- Maintenance is now increasingly predictive thanks to innovative, digital connected tools.
- Maintenance operations can be scheduled in advance to lessen their impact on train movements and uphold service quality.
- Dozens of different tools are currently being tested at SNCF Réseau for tomorrow’s stellar performance network.