train maintenance

Siemens chooses UK for new rail development centre

Train manufacturer Siemens has set up a global 'Rail Innovation Centre of Competence' in the United Kingdom. 

Engineers at the centre will lead the development of concepts and technologies to improve the in-service performance of rail vehicles. 

One such technology, a track-based monitoring system that detects faulty axle bearings, has already been proven in trials.

Britain's railway was one of the first to be privatised, and in this market environment Siemens is responsible for maintaining more than 370 of its Desiro-family trains at nine depots for seven different operators. 

The Innovation Centre will draw on the experience gained from this daily service business.

Siemens wants to develop condition-based, predictive and preventive maintenance solutions, based on continuously monitoring the performance of rail vehicles in service, not just examining them in the depot.

Remote maintenance and predictive service improve the vehicles' safety and reliability. 

At the same time, these maintenance approaches reduce service costs for the operator because service and repair cycles can be determined more precisely. 

If the remote measuring data shows abnormalities, technicians can intervene before a fault occurs.

The centre is headed by Nicholas Kay, who leads a team of engineers in London and at depots around the country, with additional input from colleagues in Germany and elsewhere.

Kay explained why Britain was chosen to host the centre, saying Siemens' installed base of commuter trains in daily operation is "a fantastic base from which we can go forward.

"While the RIC has a global remit, we have the experience of operating in a mature privatised rail industry. Privatisation is going to occur elsewhere in the European territories in the next decade," Kay added. 

"We have the engineering knowledge, and the understanding of responding to customer demands."

Siemens-built high-speed trains will also be coming to Britain from 2014 on Eurostar's cross-Channel services.

One project that RIC is taking on is the use of trackside monitoring equipment in cooperation with Network Rail to detect faulty wheelbearings on passing trains.

Siemens installed a RailBAM bearing acoustic monitoring system near its Southampton depot last year, on a stretch of line used by 300 trains a day, to capture the sound of every individual axle bearing. 

The information is fed back to a secure database in real time and processed to highlight anomalies that merit attention.

Kay, who was responsible for that project, explained: "What we did there and what we continue to do is work with Network Rail and the train operating companies and even other maintainers, be they competitors or not, to improve the national network. RailBAM brought about safety, brought about efficiencies, and built confidence. 

"A second installation is going into London this month, at Mortlake, and we anticipate others in the wider European area."

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