Condition Monitoring and Sensing 

BCRRE’s far-reaching work in this area develops bespoke instrumentation and processing systems to measure and predict the health of various railway subsystems. With projects ranging from fundamental research to industry-ready, we are aiming to improve operational reliability of railway systems and support business cases for maintenance operations.

Selection of images representing condition Monitoring research activities

We work with major organisations, including Train Operating Companies (e.g. Merseyrail and Southern), Infrastructure Managers (e.g. Network Rail and London Underground) and supply-chain companies on projects ranging from multi-partner programmes through to ad-hoc short pieces of work. We are proud of our researchers who have won prizes and built a reputation for excellence. Algorithms developed at Birmingham are also used within Network Rail’s Intelligent Infrastructure programme, which continually monitors the health of over 9,600 sets of points.

Current and recent projects, funded by Industry, Research Councils and EU, have covered topics including:

  • Developing wayside acoustic monitoring systems to detect and characterise faulty axle bearings
  • Development of automatic, laser-based inspection system for use in switches and crossings
  • Development of a laboratory-based (and depot-based) test facility for evaluating and characterising pantograph dynamic loading performance
  • Development of a robotic inspection cell for use with railway vehicle wheelsets
  • Investigating sub-surface (but surface-breaking) cracks using data recorded from surface wave electromagnetic measurements
  • A vehicle-borne, in-service void detection system, based on inertial sensor measurement technology. This is supported by low-cost trackside void characterisation systems and powered from energy harvesting sources
  • Evaluation of points machine performance under varying environmental conditions in order to include seasonal variation tolerances
  • Points condition monitoring architectures to develop and evaluate points condition monitoring and processing for use in metro and mainline environments
  • Technology transfer demonstrator projects e.g. freight shuffling, where a moving floor reconfigures the locations of freight during transit to minimise unloading dwell times; and FMECA analysis of pneumatic points machines
  • Knowledge Transfer Partnerships: developing a low-cost energy-harvesting data logger for use in trackside monitoring;
  • Track circuit condition monitoring projects

REPOINT Research Project 
The REPOINT project has delivered a next generationrailway track switch technology, which uses redundant,fault-tolerant operation to dramatically improve reliability.

Find out more about the repoint research project