KiwiRail maintains more than 4000kms of rail track. They were seeking novel proposals for High-speed Automated Track Inspection Technologies that could give reliable and accurate measurements of track condition to reduce maintenance costs.
Initial discussions between K-Matrix, KiwiNet and KiwiRail, lead to the identification of 3 Key challenges that would greatly benefit KiwiRail if solved.
Incorrect stress on the iron rails could cause them to buckle or break. This was a highly dangerous situation that may lead to derailment. The classic methods to measure the longitudinal rail stress were:
KiwiRail needed to measure rail stresses non-destructively providing reliable information for maintenance engineers to allow them to de-stress rails before problems occur.
Splits or cracks in a sleeper can mean derailment. While wooden sleepers are being replaced with concrete versions, the cost and effort to identify those that need replacement is expensive. To automate and accurately identify sleepers that need to be replaced would result in major savings.
There was a desperate need to improve the monitoring the condition of the track. Be it the connections of the rail to the sleeper, overgrowth of foliage on the side of the tracks or overhead power coupling, all could be improved using innovative image analysis technology to identify and warn KiwiRail saving both time and accidents.
Knowledge Matrix provides business intelligence services to corporate, financial, public-sector, and professional clients in the UK, Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand. It uses unique data and analytical processes for the provision of quantitative data.
Tim Newman and Cliff Gibson are associates of kMatrix and work collaboratively to assist the development of early innovative organisations.