Network Rail and Dutch rail infrastructure manager, ProRail have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to continue their partnership on railway technology and innovation.
The MoU, which was signed at The Hague on Friday, August 18, builds on a previous agreement signed five years ago. It covers a range of areas, including automated inspection, acoustic monitoring using fibre optic cables, and other technological improvements.
Robert Ampomah, Network Rail's chief rail technology officer, said: "Network Rail and ProRail are both dedicated to running more reliable railways for passengers and freight customers, and we share many of the same challenges and opportunities. As well as new tech, we already share information on trespassing, managing our assets, and even the impact of how Artificial Intelligence can help improve the way we work.
"Our focus is always to make journeys easier for customers and by sharing information we can check our findings against another operator, get a better spread of data and test our ideas on different infrastructure too."
The developments created between the two companies in the past five years, such as FOAS (Fibre Optic Acoustic Sensing), will continue. FOAS enhances the listening capabilities of optical fibres, of which 20,000 kilometres run through the British rail network, effectively creating virtual microphones underneath the tracks. The technology is seen as a significant step forward in remote condition monitoring of assets.
Karel van Gils, ProRail Director of Innovation and Technical Renewal, said: "ProRail and Network Rail have similar challenges in modernizing and transforming our railway. Capacity needs to grow, whereas the railway systems and assets are aging, and workforces are scarce. Both Network Rail and ProRail are committed to digitizing the railway systems as it will be key for a future-proof, interoperable and reliable, high-capacity railway. We will enhance each other's efforts in the necessary research and development."
The MoU also includes a commitment to work together on the development of a pan-European railway system which aims to allow seamless passage across borders and improve connectivity across the continent.
Going forward, the pair aim to progress in the digital railway, asset management, measurement trains and embankment stability.
Photo Credit: Network Rail