Technology solutions to change…

The energy of change

Technology solutions to change…

Rail Breakage Detection on Railway Lines


Rail breakage on a high speed line can have serious consequences, including the loss of human life. Therefore, development projects to detect and locate such as those carried out by Abengoa are crucial both for the maintenance of the infrastructures themselves as well as for the safety of people.

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A number of studies reveal that among the most common rail breakage causes, we find: those related to mechanical stress passing trains cause, track interactions on viaducts, actual track manufacturing defects or sharp environmental temperature changes (e.g. in desert areas we can find temperature gradients increasing from -5 ºC to 55 ºC on the very same day).

In fact, as this advertisement shows, which dates back to May 1873, we can find publications that highlight the problem of rail breakage from the end of the 19th century.

Since then, progress has been made by investigative bodies and private companies all over the world in the development of different solutions that are based on maintenance, measuring and strain relief and ultrasounds or auscultations. Having said this, a cost-effective solution has yet to be found that satisfies the technical requirements that different authorities demand.

” Although the probability of railway line breakage occurring is usually low, the consequences are potentially very severe.

According to figures published in the report Szacsvay et al. 2012, although the probability of railway line breakage occurring is usually low, the consequences for a line that is in service are potentially very severe, as these can include: derailment, loss of human life, material damage or cuts in services, like this one that took place in Asturias. All this is accentuated further if it occurs on high speed lines, in which the operational or traffic requirements are usually much higher. This explains why there is ongoing interest in innovation, both in terms of detection systems as well as in diagnosis and prevention.

In this regard, Abengoa has developed a product that is unique in the market and able to detect rail breakage and its location on high speed lines in real time (Patent Number PCT PCT/ES2015/070656).

” The system that Abengoa has developed enables both breakage and its location to be detected on any of the four rails of a high speed twin-track line.

The rail breakage detection system that Abengoa has developed is able to monitor long distances of a railway network with equipment that is spaced anywhere from seven to ten kilometers apart (in the case of twin-track lines). It also offers the following advantages: a simultaneous detection system on any twin-track high speed lines, a non-intrusive and independent solution to the railway line installation, immune systemagainst noise that is generated either itself or that comes from the railway environment. In addition, we find that this system does not interfere with the rest of the systems on the track or signaling ones, it requires low maintenance, can monitor the track’s status in real time, and is able to be installed on any railway line typology.

Thanks to this project, together with others in which Abengoa is currently involved, places the company in a leading position when in the sensoring and railway innovation sector.

We would especially like to thank Raúl Arévalo Gea and the Geintra group at the University of Alcalá de Henares for their help and efforts. Without them or their involvement it would not have been possible to carry out this Project.

Juan Carlos Cortés Rengel. Director of Technical and Innovation Railway Office, Inabensa.

Juan Carlos Cortés Rengel. Director of Technical and Innovation Railway Office, Inabensa.

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