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IT AND DIGITAL INNOVATION


Robin Gisby, Network Rail’s managing director of network operations, said: “Plain line pattern recognition is part of a wider strategy to use technology to improve the network and reduce our costs.


“By gaining greater knowledge about our infrastructure we will be able to free resources up to work on crucial parts of the network, such as the station throat at St Pancras, rather than rural branch lines that may not need it.


“It also means that when we do have to work on the branch line, we know what we are going to fi nd.


“We can see problems emerging and go in and fi x them before they become a problem.”


Speaking on Network Rail’s New Measurement Train as it called at St Pancras, the company’s director of infrastructure maintenance, Mac Andrade, said: “St Pancras was opened in 1869 and we haven’t changed the way we do track inspection since then.


“What we want to do is bring our railway into the 21st century and reduce the exposure of our people to the danger of working on the live railway. The train does not only record the information but it fi lters it, prioritises it and stops us from being overwhelmed by data.”


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PLPR team: Richard White, head of asset information, Gary Walsh, head of infrastructure maintenance improvement, Mac Andrade, director of infrastructure maintenance, Robin Gisby, managing director of network operations and Tim Flower, PLPR project manager.


PLPR in action


The system uses seven linescan cameras (two on the railhead, one on the four-foot, and one on the outside and one on the inside of each rail), four 3D cameras and two thermal imaging cameras to scan the track as it passes beneath the train.


The cameras record raw images at up to 70kHz allowing it to capture images every 0.8mm at up to 125mph. That equates to 70,000 pictures a second at top speed.


Each camera stores the information on its own terabyte hard drive, which are then downloaded to an on-board computer. The images are then processed using machine vision software developed by Omnicom Engineering, synchronised with real time positioning system and geometry data, and then analysed by an on-train inspector. Reports are then dispatched to the teams on the ground helping them accurately locate any faults found.


Source: Network Rail rail technology magazine Dec/Jan 13 | 43


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