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Transport & Logistics

Assessing the best maintenance strategies for railway infrastructure

22 Oct 2013, by Informa Insights

An unattended 74-car freight train caused devastation in Lac-Mégantic.
An unattended 74-car freight train caused devastation in Lac-Mégantic.

Rail safety has been heatedly discussed lately after two separate derailments occurred on Sydney’s light rail and in the Canadian town of Lac-Mégantic. Experts have discussed the need for better asset management in order to prevent failure and asset degradation.

We asked a range of industry leaders what railway operators and owners should expect from their asset management system and safety was a key issue.

According to Senior Project Engineer Jan Hendriks, safety and reliability needs to be measured against the life cycle costs of the rail infrastructure.

“In my belief, it is not what the railway infrastructure managers and rolling stock owners / operators should expect but what the general public might expect as a user.

I feel that the aim and focus should be safety and (reliable) availability against a reasonable life cycle cost.”

However, Business Analyst Robert Molyneux discusses that railway infrastructure needs to be broken down into different classes, and asset management systems need to be structured around the different needs of the classes.

“There are several major classes of assets in railways, including track, wayside structures and buildings, signal systems, rolling stock (freight and passenger), locomotives, electricity supply network, track inspection systems, scheduling systems and tunnels. They are interrelated – for example rails and rolling stock wheel sets may be profiled to match each other.

Track inspection systems need to be scheduled to fit in with normal traffic. Passenger train sets may be self-powered or drawn by locomotives. Each of these classes have different requirements for maintenance management techniques. For example, locomotives involve mechanical and electrical components requiring a reliability centred maintenance approach. Tunnels and bridges are typical concrete and steel static structures. Thus the asset registers need to reflect their hierarchies, and Condition Assessment techniques range from constant monitoring through to manual inspections.”

In early October two Sydney trams derailed within 20 minutes from each other.
In early October two Sydney trams derailed within 20 minutes from each other.

Mohd Rafiq Ramli, Asset Management Consultant for KFM Holdings in London, agrees with this stating that ageing railways are posing a problem to maintenance managers.

“It is a big challenge to operate ageing rail assets in difficult economic times whilst at the same time responding to the carbon agenda and ensuring optimum level of service for cities that operate like clockwork. The asset management plan is an indispensable management tool to ensure the right decisions are being made (i.e. refurbish, replace, retrofit, etc). In the first place, asset management systems should be built around a dynamic, holistic, realistic and forward-looking asset management plan, only then it is fair to demand good results from it. There is an apparent lack of foresight in condition assessment reporting which in my opinion could be partly blamed by a static and dated asset management plan in place.”

Informa will be hosting an inaugural Asset Maintenance and Management conference in December, and ageing infrastructure and maintenance strategies for railway rolling stock will be some of the main areas of discussion. One of the speakers at this event, William Wachsmann of Interfleet Technology will be delivering a presentation on ways to address the ageing of railway infrastructure. He believes that applying principle standards to maintenance strategy will optimise the whole of life costs and will demonstrate good governance.

“Railway Infrastructure Managers (RIMs) and Rolling Stock Owners / Operators (RSOs) expect their asset management system to deliver the following benefits: optimisation of whole of life costs and asset performance, improved long-term cash flow forecasting, demonstration of good governance and evidence of legal and regulatory compliance.

header2A key factor in delivering these benefits is employing effective asset management processes. Applying PAS 55 and ISO 55001 principles is a disciplined approach which enables RIMs and RSOs to deliver their organisational strategic objectives through managing assets over their entire life cycle. This approach includes determining the appropriate assets to acquire as determined by the context of the business, how to best operate and maintain the assets, and the best options for renewal, refurbishment, life extension and/or decommissioning and disposal.”

For more information on the Asset Management and Maintenance conference and to view the agenda please visit our website. We’d also like to know your thoughts on how to improve the safety and optimise the life-cycle of our railways. Leave a comment below or join our Rail Network Australasia LinkedIn group to participate in the discussion.


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