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Disrupting the rail maintenance sector thanks to the most cost-efficient solution to auscultate railways overhead lines reducing costs up to 80%

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - tCat (Disrupting the rail maintenance sector thanks to the most cost-efficient solution to auscultate railways overhead lines reducing costs up to 80%)

Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2019-12-31

Railway infrastructure maintenance includes an exhaustive visual inspection of the catenary or overhead line equipment (OLE) by an operator. These visual inspections are very costly, relatively inaccurate and often block the lines undergoing inspection for considerable periods, thereby reducing the network’s productivity and competitiveness.
On average, the rail sector spends EUR 39600 per kilometre of track on rail infrastructure maintenance, which accounts for 38 % of total operating expenses. Since the EU has around 111000 kilometres of railway infrastructure, total annual maintenance costs are over EUR 4356 million. To become more competitive, Europe’s rail sector must find ways to reduce these costs.

The project tCat developed by TELICE addresses this challenge by developing an innovative system that dramatically reduces maintenance costs related to overhead line equipment at a 5:1 rate. It consists of a workstation, adapted to the most common rail gauges in the EU, with the following features:

(1) On-board automatic data acquisition and data processing: main sensor based in LIDAR technology enables faster processing speeds than other solutions in the market. Data is processed in real time, offering results during on-site inspection.
(2) Simple use: specific algorithms developed by TELICE under the project enable automatic detection of the main geometrical parameters of the overhead line equipment, avoiding on-field typical positioning mistakes and thus resulting in a better user experience.
(3) Analytics performed over generated data brings the rail sector the benefits for a more reliable identification and prediction of potential issues concerning the overhead line equipment. The historic logs of the main geometrical parameters will allow the railway operators to apply predictive maintenance techniques to their infrastructures. All this data can be easily on-line accessed by a remote user as the tCat implements the feature of connecting to a cloud platform.
(4) Light-weight (about 30 kg) and highly manageable device, based in the integration of all sensors in an all-weather and foldable measuring trolley, easy to transport in any vehicle and easy to assemble in the field.

The overall objectives of the project were:

O1: Upgrade and adapt TELICE’s former prototype. To develop a tCat product based on a tested baseline prototype to which several improvements were to be incorporated in order to upgrade the equipment and to respond to market requirements.
O2: Test and demonstrate the adapted models. To test the tCat device in a real railway environment by means of four pilots throughout the most representative market scenarios of importance to TELICE and major economic and strategic potential: UK, Germany, Spain and USA.
O3: Build a network of stakeholders. To build a network of stakeholders in the target markets for commercialisation (UK, Germany, Spain and USA) in order to support TELICE in the commercial and exploitation phase. Also, to update the country-specific go-to-market strategies considering peculiarities, market structure and concrete agreements reached with local stakeholders.
O4: Communication and promotion plan. To design and implement a market-oriented communication and promotion plan for the product to effectively reach the following four target audiences: infrastructure operators, large engineering firms, maintenance service providers and public bodies responsible for infrastructure security monitoring.

Regarding the objectives above, the conclusions of the action are the following:

O1: A valid industrial design, developed based on the former prototype, was satisfactorily tested on the field pilots and is ready for the industrialisation phase starting right after project completion.
O2: Four pilot tests were successfully performed with a promising feedback of the contacted companies for the four countries. Besides, 12 additional pre-commercial demos and tests were also performed in those market
The work performed can be summarised per each objective as follows:

O1: Main upgrades have been: (1) new structural and functional design which is maintained in the three devised models (tCat-1000, tCat-1435 and tCat-1668) and involves a significant weight reduction and an improvement in its easiness of use and transport thanks to the folding feature; (2) new sensors integrated in order to increase the speed of registration and the accuracy of measurements (such as a LIDAR laser, a global navigation system or cameras to reference the main features of the railway environment); (3) new control algorithms for statistical data processing and the automation of the extraction of the main OLE geometrical parameters and (4) quality design and components complying with applicable standards within the EU and USA.

O2: Four pilots were planned and executed according to the testing protocols stablished by four reference railway companies in UK, USA, Spain and Germany. Tests were performed under reporting periods 2 and 3, feedback and experience gained after them let the project team to implement some upgrades in the device, in the control algorithms and in the software usability to finally reach the industrial ready device.

O3: Strong efforts were dedicated to stablishing a network of stakeholders in the four considered countries. The strategy was mainly focused in building relationships with the contacts gained in the attended sectorial events. These conversations have developed in some pre-commercial agreements and the signature of several memorandums of understanding. Those companies are interested not only in the acquisition of the tCat for a daily use in the railway networks they work in, but also, in some cases, in the provision of services with the device by TELICE personnel.

O4: 250+ contacts were documented through the implementation of a CRM tool. Four target audiences were also reached with a strategy based in the dissemination of the project activities and results via online. To that extent, several publications in recognised sectorial magazines were launched, a new three-language website was generated with a blog section periodically updated and new social media profiles were created, focusing the spread of contents via LinkedIn as it has been confirmed as the most reliable tool for the dissemination and exploitation of the project results.
Thanks to this project TELICE expects to obtain as the main outcome three market-ready models of the tCat (tCat-1000, tCat-1435, tCat-1668) that have been demonstrated in real operational conditions in target
markets involving early adopters in UK, Germany, Spain and USA.
Front view of the tCat
Back view of the tCat
tCat on-field operation
tCat folded for transportation
tCat folded in its transportation case