Rail infrastructure is a highly reliable network and requires continuous vigilance to maintain the high levels of safety and comfort demanded by society. These maintenance plans cover all the aspects and elements of this infrastructure that affect its safety, the increase of its lifespan and its efficiency in service, being the ballast one of the main elements to be inspected. The main deterioration suffered by the ballast is a process called fouling or contamination, reducing its performance and causing track failures of varying severity depending on the degree of fouling it suffers.
Rover, with extensive experience in the railway sector, has developed a dynamic auscultation technology to determine the degree of compactness of the ballast. The scanning system is installed on the track machinery itself and consists of several antennas of different inspection frequency bands that allow the identification of areas susceptible to local intervention and/or with associated geological risk.
Thus, a real improvement of the current framework of predictive maintenance tasks is proposed, being able to prioritise by zones which are the most advisable or emergency actions, schedule a periodicity for repair actions and observe surveillance of other areas less affected by ballast pathologies.
The measurements taken have already been validated by means of a frame incorporated in a Rover maintenance tamping machine and the system is therefore ready for operation. A new line of R&D is currently under study for innovation in this phase, which is the intelligent determination of the condition of the ballast, through the application of A.I. tools.
Layer structure of the ballasted track bed
GPR-Rail, is a consortium project, promoted and led by Rover Rail, which has been supported by IVACE, within the Cooperation Projects programme.