Safe reliable track must be a given for all railways, whether it is for a high-speed line or for a less-used rural line. Inspection, maintenance and renewal of track is therefore a necessary, but also a significant, cost to railways. The search continues for ever more cost-effective ways to ensure suitable track condition at lowest through-life cost. One aspect of this is to develop approaches which require less track possession time. This is becoming ever more important as railways work to increase capacity on existing lines.
The three key areas where TWI contributes to Members' in-house activities are:
- Non-destructive testing (NDT) and condition monitoring to detect defects in track
- Track joining and repair technologies
- Root cause failure analyses.
Depending on Members' needs, assistance may be given with the application of industry best practice, or with the development of innovative approaches.
For example, TWI has carried out work aimed at identifying the strengths and weaknesses of NDT techniques used for track. A key requirement, so far not met, is for readily applied inspection or monitoring techniques which are capable of identifying defects in the foot of rail track. For this reason, TWI is working with a range of companies and other organisations across Europe within the MonitoRail project to develop suitable technology, making use of TWI's in-depth experience of NDT gained in other industry sectors.
The special nature of aluminothermic welds in track also demands the development of innovative NDT approaches. TWI and partners within the RAILECT project have developed a prototype device for speedy inspection of such welds. On the basis of this, a number of rail organisations are in discussion about their needs so that the equipment can best be developed to meet the needs of the global market.
Good training and qualification of personnel is always important; never more so than in the use of aluminothermic welding or arc welding for joining, repairing and refurbishing rail track. TWI has joined rail and welding organisations across Europe, working together within the RAILSAFE 2 project to move towards a harmonised approach to training and qualification.
This brings the advantages of mobility and employability of welders throughout Europe, a recognisable competence benchmark through certification, and structured lifelong learning. It acts as a support mechanism for achieving railway safety and the interoperability between national railway systems.
In addition, TWI manages the Institute of Rail Welding which covers all aspects of joining and repairing rail track.
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