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Improving Train Service Reliability

 

 

Tired of worrying whether the train you’re on will break down and leave you stranded in between stations?
The Smart Urban Rail Corp Lab could spell an end to those concerns and give you a smoother ride.

NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) and SMRT will develop a comprehensive real-time monitoring system that can help rail network operators to better keep track of their trains and tracks’ wear and tear, and alert them to the need for repairs and maintenance well before there are any problems.

Currently, an inspection vehicle fitted with ultrasonic and electric current sensors is used to examine railway tracks in Singapore for defects. The vehicle, however, can be deployed only during the network’s off-service hours from midnight to 4am. The monitoring is not real-time, which means that faults can occur, worsen and cause breakdowns between inspections.

The proposed EEE and SMRT system, developed as part of the two partners’ collaboration to boost local rail technologies, uses a variety of sensors to provide a real-time, comprehensive overview of the network’s health. The sensors are mounted either on the track to monitor trains, or vice versa.

One of the sensors, for example, is based on a patented radio frequency inductive coupling technique and can be easily fitted onto a passenger train without direct electrical contact to the track. With the sensor, every passenger train can serve as an inspection vehicle and provide real-time data on the track’s condition.

Another sensor which detects vibrations can be placed on the track to monitor its loads throughout the day. The sensor can alert rail operators to excessive levels of track vibration, so that changes can be made before the track is damaged and causes service breakdowns.

 Another sensor which detects vibrations can be placed on the track to monitor its loads throughout the day. The sensor can alert rail operators to excessive levels of track vibration, so that changes can be made before the track is damaged and causes service breakdowns.

Once the system is fully developed, rail operators can keep tabs on their networks in real-time, and under realistic operating conditions, without disrupting regular train services.

The Corp Lab Director, Professor See Kye Yak from EEE said that the sensors, when integrated and connected to other existing sensors and computer algorithms, can generate a comprehensive set of electrical and mechanical parameters to enable early warning of impending faults.

“Operators can then take more timely action to curb further damage, and move from corrective maintenance to just-in-time maintenance. This prevents a single but critical fault from cascading into a major service disruption,” he added.

The sensor system, as well as EEE and SMRT’s other work, could also reap dividends for Singapore’s economy. The market for new rail systems and upgrades to existing ones in Asia alone is estimated at nearly US$300 billion (S$424 billion) over the next 15 years.

The two institutions will use their engineering expertise to develop world leading technologies, especially in the niche field of rail system resiliency where global demand has not been met. The inventions will be commercialised and marketed globally through SMRT’s international partnerships. In doing so, we will also nurture Singapore’s reputation as a mobility technology innovation hub.

  

By Professor See Kye Yak, School of EEE


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Published on: 12-Dec-2016