Pioneering technology for broad gauge track surveys in Portugal
Infraestruturas de Portugal
January 2023 – June 2023
With a rail network of around 3,000 km to maintain, Infraestruturas de Portugal (IP) was keen to identify next generation technology to deliver safe, efficient, and accurate surveys of track geometry on its network. Our innovative RILA® technology met the technical requirements and offered IP the ability to collect additional types of engineering and safety related data in the future.
Planning, feasibility, conceptual design
Operations and maintenance
Show full process
km of track surveyed in Portugal for track geometry measurements
Challenges of rail network demand
IP is responsible for the infrastructure of Portugal’s national rail network, looking after around 3,000 km of rail track of which 98% is broad gauge (1,668 mm). The engineering team uses a dedicated track recording vehicle to provide compliant data on track geometry. Collected periodically, the data is essential for identifying track defects and planning timely interventions to maintain safety standards and train service reliability. Growing demand for rail services increases the need for rigorous track condition monitoring but reduces windows of possession to run survey trains. IP engineers decided to investigate alternative technology that could reliably supplement their current and future track geometry measurement scheme.
IP asked us to conduct a pilot track geometry survey using our industry leading RILA® track measurement system. They would then evaluate results and compliance with track geometry standards, EN 13848, in order to approve RILA® for use on their network.
With speed of mobilisation a priority for the client, we deployed RILA® to Portugal and installed it on IP’s measurement train without requiring any design adaptation or modification. Specialists from our rail consultancy team in The Netherlands were onsite to verify technical settings and ensure data collection went smoothly.
Meeting the benchmark
Designed to be installed directly to in-service trains, RILA® is an integrated system of positional sensors, lidar scanners and video cameras. RILA® was mounted on IP’s measurement train, with both systems simultaneously collecting track data. Our results could then be compared against the benchmark of IP’s data to evaluate the performance of the system and its viability as an alternative.
The pilot covered a total of 200 km of track - almost 7% of the national network – and incorporated high speed as well as regular train lines during the two-day survey.
Global first for broad gauge
As well as being the first use of the RILA® system in Portugal, this was also its first global application on a broad (Iberian) gauge track.
The technology is designed, and bench tested to operate within a wide range of parameters and different regional standards. Along with the flexibility of our data processing and reporting, it can be calibrated for different gauge types. The RILA® lasers from which absolute and relative track geometry is computed, and specifically their field of view (FOV), required no modification or additional lead time.
Blue laser line projected by laser vision system of RILA® over the two rails of the broad-gauge network
Adaptability of geometry parameters
Track geometry datasets typically require the measurement of five essential parameters under EN standards: cant, gauge, twist, longitudinal level, and alignment.
In contrast to survey systems that record track irregularities over a fixed chord length, RILA® based continuous laser scan measurements can be filtered across any desired wavelength domain. This allows us to capture, for example, long wavelength irregularities which are relevant for evaluating ride comfort and safety in high-speed networks. We can measure and report a wide range of different parameters to customise the track geometry data for detailed and specific analytical and engineering tasks.
For IP’s goal of evaluating RILA®, we provided reports of track geometry data, exceedances and plots, or traces, for comparison and assessment.
Data consistency and compliance
European regulations typically require rail operators to carry out three different types of data analysis when evaluating survey systems for track geometry. This includes:
Repeatability: how close are results when comparing data from multiple passes under identical measurement conditions?
Reproducibility: how close are results when measuring conditions have changed, for example, the equipment is mounted to the front of the train for the first pass and at the rear for the second?
Comparison with an approved system: how consistent is data when compared with results from another approved system?
IP and our engineers independently carried out these analyses to compare data across all five parameters, within the 200 km survey length providing a robust foundation for data confidence. RILA® results compared very favourably, also with close correlation to all exceedances flagged in IP’s datasets. We achieved measurement conformity with European standards, providing the client with a proven alternative if their survey train is out of service or needs to be supplemented.
Images showing good agreement of track geometry measurements between IP’s measurement train (MT) and RILA® for cant, gauge deviation, D1 alignment (AL) and D2 longitudinal level (LL)
In addition to high accuracy data, RILA® takes rail survey logistics to new levels of safety, sustainability and productivity.
Typically mounted on time-tabled trains and working at normal line speeds, RILA® can be deployed at short notice and with no disruption to service. By working remotely and piggybacking on scheduled trains, it also reduces carbon footprint and removes ‘boots from the ballast’.
IP’s measurement train is sent out every four months, having to work around scheduled services. RILA® removes these logistical challenges, giving engineers the freedom to collect accurate data with greater frequency for predictive maintenance, and to spot check specific locations, such as after track maintenance or for lifting speed restrictions.
Pinpointing problems - precise geospatial mapping
At the heart of RILA® is its highly accurate geospatial mapping: it is unique for combining both absolute track positioning and relative track geometry in one system and bringing the two worlds closer.
The measurements of track geometry – crucial to rail safety, targeted maintenance, and a smooth ride for passengers - are simultaneously georeferenced as one dataset at the same time. This avoids further time-consuming processing to geo-match datasets and the potential for error.
This addressed two specific problems for the client:
Absolute positioning allows engineers to accurately locate areas of concern flagged in the data. Onsite, crew can use GPS to go directly to the exact location of the track fault – a quicker, error-free process than having to orienteer to linear coordinates between interval posts.
With accurate 3D spatial positioning, IP can overlay and compare successive geometric datasets using coordinate-based synchronisation. This eliminates the need to stretch or shrink multiple datasets, and ensures that the same location is being compared, with no error of positioning. This allows accurate monitoring of track changes over time as the basis for effective predictive maintenance, resource allocation and cost forecasting.
Additionally combining the two worlds of absolute track position and track geometry measurements allows the possibility for design tamping which not only removes the track irregularities over smaller wavelengths but corrects the overall track position to a new or previous design location.
Image from the Fugro RailData® portal showing fusion of different RILA® data streams. The absolute track centre line position (blue spheres), OLE masts (green tag), height and stagger of OLE (purple sphere), and platform gauging data (orange tags)
Visualising the bigger picture
In addition to track geometry, RILA® can collect multiple data streams from its different sensors during a single survey. We provided additional sample datasets from a specific section of the rail line, offering IP a more comprehensive perspective on the data capabilities of RILA®.
The additional data included absolute track position, corridor video, lidar point cloud and derived products from the lidar data including height and stagger of overhead line equipment (OLE) and structure and platform gauging files. These were delivered via our RailData® cloud-hosted, web-based portal for IP’s infrastructure teams to assess. Here they could explore a 3D visualisation of the rail corridor plus fully georeferenced asset data and reporting functions to evaluate RILA®’s wider capabilities in support of asset management, including predictive maintenance.
“Having evaluated the complete results, IP considers the RILA® system a technically valid option to inspect track geometric parameters.”
Rui Manuel Nunes Burrinha
Portuguese Rail & Road Infrastructure Manager (IP)
Digital evolution with Fugro RailData®
As the rail industry moves towards digitised asset management and predictive maintenance, we can tailor the dynamic capabilities of our Fugro RailData® solution to support the pace and scale of the client’s specific digital evolution.
While we have solved IP’s immediate needs for track geometry, in the future they can seamlessly integrate additional data from RILA® – all acquired faster, with reduced track possession, no need for personnel to survey on or near the track and reduced carbon emissions.
Plus, we provide 24/7 service from our global rail consultants and dynamic digital solutions to ensure clients can extract maximum value.