Latest Rail News

16.08.16

Industry in talks to roll out self-powered wireless sensors at level crossings

Researchers at the University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research (IRR) will hold talks with industry partners to help bring its DfT-backed rail crossings project into fruition after demonstrating the feasibility of using wireless sensors.

The IRR had won funding from the DfT to investigate innovative methods of crossing control. It pitched a ‘network’ of tiny wireless sensors that could both improve safety at crossings and cost significantly less to install and maintain, since they would draw their electrical power from track vibration.

The bid was drawn up by the IRR’s research fellow Dr Farouk Balouchi, who specialises in “energy harvesting”, or drawing electrical power from external sources like track vibrations. This would provide a “free” power source for relatively inexpensive sensors that could be attached to tracks in the vicinity of a crossing, which would then form a wireless network to send a message to lower or raise the gates.

The institute’s research successfully demonstrated through extensive testing and modelling that the project could make “massive” savings. In some locations, for example, a conventional detection system could cost up to £500,000 with high running costs. Using a wireless sensor network in the same scenario could be installed for the less than £20,000 and would be self-powered by vibration thereafter. The network would also be “self-healing”.

Dr Balouchi explained: “If one sensor fails, the others talk to one another and create another network, creating another route for the information to travel.”

Wireless sensors can also be fitted quickly, he added, with no requirements for conduits or wiring vulnerable to theft or rodent issues, therefore keeping service disruption to a minimum.

And, since the sensors respond to vibrations, they would not only detect incoming trains but also be used to monitor the condition of the track and the track bed.

While the technology would be completely novel in the rail industry, it has already been tried and tested in the oil and gas industry and some safety-critical applications such as medical devices, the IRR added. Across rail, the institute argued the technology would have “global potential”, with the UK alone having almost 6,600 gazetted level crossings.

 

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here.

Comments

Pdeaves   16/08/2016 at 13:01

What's a "gazetted level crossing"? (end of article)

Jerry Alderson   16/08/2016 at 17:22

This is exactly the kind of cost-saving innovation that the railway desperately needs. The government and rail industry cannot keep punishing the passenger with above-inflation fare increases (CPI-measured inflation plus 1.3% on 2 Jan 2017) because of the railway's laziness or inability to control costs.

Add your comment

 

related

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

New head of safety and environment for Hull Trains announced

21/02/2019New head of safety and environment for Hull Trains announced

A new head of safety and environment has been announced by Hull Trains, with Mark Shepherd due to replace Phil Green in the role. Bringing m... more >
RAIB launches investigation after passenger fatally struck at Tibberton footpath crossing

21/02/2019RAIB launches investigation after passenger fatally struck at Tibberton footpath crossing

The Rail Accidents Investigation Branch (RAIB) has launched an investigation into the death of a pedestrian who was fatally struck by a train whi... more >
CAF commences design and engineering on DMUs for Wales and Borders franchise

21/02/2019CAF commences design and engineering on DMUs for Wales and Borders franchise

Spanish rail manufacturer CAF has announced it is beginning the design and engineering work for the highly-anticipated Diesel Multiple Units (DMU... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

rail industry focus

View all News

interviews

TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

22/01/2019TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

Peter Molyneux, Transport for the North’s (TfN’s) strategic roads director, has been leading on the development of the seven economic... more >
Exclusive: Midlands Connect and WMRE talk collaboration and investment in the Midlands' railway

22/01/2019Exclusive: Midlands Connect and WMRE talk collaboration and investment in the Midlands' railway

In the jigsaw puzzle of regional transport decision-making, there must be collaboration and compromise. Midlands Connect media lead James Bovill ... more >
Rail Ombudsman interview: RTM sits down with CEO Kevin Grix

20/12/2018Rail Ombudsman interview: RTM sits down with CEO Kevin Grix

In November, the first ever Rail Ombudsman was established in a bid to give passengers a free independent service to allow passengers to claim co... more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. ... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Williams Rail Review: The end of saying sorry?

05/02/2019Williams Rail Review: The end of saying sorry?

Keith Williams’ ongoing Rail Review presents a golden opportunity to rebuild the industry’s weakened relationship with its users and ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

comment

TrackWater: Embracing data in flood prevention

05/02/2019TrackWater: Embracing data in flood prevention

Mike Harding, from Lancaster University’s Data Science Institute, introduces us to TrackWater: an innovative project between Lancaster Univ... more >
High-speed rail cannot stand in isolation

05/02/2019High-speed rail cannot stand in isolation

Last year, the Scottish Government announced two feasibility studies to better understand the economic and environmental implications of options ... more >
Flying Banana reaps the fruit of its labour

05/02/2019Flying Banana reaps the fruit of its labour

Steve Quinby, Network Rail’s head of data collection, gives us the rundown on the state-of-the-art ‘Flying Banana’ train. ... more >
Introducing the new Passenger Assist app

05/02/2019Introducing the new Passenger Assist app

Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group, explains how a new app developed for the rail industry wil... more >