An integrated system for on line inspection of railway tracks
The TRACKS project developed an innovative laser measuring system, which could effectively respond in a reliable way to railways demand for tracks quality control. The system measures in real time the whole rail profile, detecting wear, defects or anomalies along the line. The requirement to control tracks quality on-line and in real time is becoming more and more urgent for all the railway transport companies and considering the role of rail transport in Europe a big matter for European transport systems. This need is due to the following factors: -Railway traffic increase due to policies that encourage railway transport. -Speed increase in railway transport due to promotion of high speed projects. -Security and comfort standard increase. All this requires more and more frequent maintenance interventions at higher and higher costs. TRACKS system is the innovative solution. No more special trains are necessary, since the new system could be installed on every kind of train. In this way railway network could be monitored by everyday railway vehicles at every hours of the day without creating any traffic congestion. All these aspects ensure at the same time a continuous and precise rail inspection and a thick costs saving for railway companies. A prototype, implemented during the project, was tested in different rail contexts: railways, tramways and subways. The results of the field tests have demonstrated the achievement of the objectives laid down in the proposal: -High precision measurement. -On the whole surface rail conditions do not influence the measurement. -On the whole external light conditions do not influence the measurement. -On the whole vibration does not influence the measurement. Railway companies are considered by the involved SMEs to have the biggest potentiality of growth applying the new measuring system the TRACKS project developed. However, it is important to highlight that the results the research has carried out, could be further implemented for other applications. Using the know-how acquired during TRACKS project and the technology of optical triangulation, characterised by high speed and precision without contact, it will be possible to study and develop other railway systems able to answer to other measurement requirements.