Until recently ‘with the naked eye’ Until recently, the inspection and measurement of switches was for the most part carried out ‘with the naked eye' and with gauges; a time-consuming activity that required train traffic to be halted. In actual practice that meant that these inspections had to be carried out at night, without daylight and within a limited time span. Furthermore, the evaluation of the measurement data is complex because there are approximately 150 types of switches in the Netherlands, each with its own dimensions.
Sherloc Inspectation's measurement train, Sherloc, anticipates this problem. How? The video inspection system has been using cameras to take pictures of the switches and tracks on a continuous basis since January 2009. They provide insight into every centimetre of the Netherlands' railway infrastructure. Potential problems, such as torn rails, or the formation of burrs can be tracked down by analysts this way.
Breakthrough thanks to new measurement system The breakthrough is that the measurement train is now capable of measuring the switches as well. It does this at speeds of up to 30 km/hour using a laser measurement system that documents the cross section of a switch every 3 cm. Special software then automatically checks the switches for their specific dimensions and stores everything in a database. This provides insight into the quality of the switch at a single glance. Bart Smolders, Manager Infra Operations at ProRail christened the measurement train on 16 June. He had the following to say about the need for reliable data: "I predict that in five to ten years, no one will need to conduct any physical inspections on the tracks any longer, and that all information will be clearly produced by automated systems. That information will then be available to all involved parties, including ProRail, contractors and stakeholders, at any time during the day." This innovation, designed to be able to quickly and accurately measure switches, represents an important step in optimising the availability of train routes.
The new measurement system, Track & Turnout Measurement System, T2MS, can, in addition to switches, also measure tracks. Based on the unique combination of systems in a single train, Sherloc precisely determines the state of the railway network. The proper maintenance is subsequently performed at the right location and at the right time. This improves the utilisation of scarce railway capacity. This of course also benefits the traveller.