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St Pancras International station

5G-enabled system could streamline maintenance at St Pancras

Image credit: University of Sheffield AMRC

A partnership between University of Sheffield engineers, Pauley Group and HS1 Ltd is to develop an AR platform to help monitor the real-time performance of St Pancras International station services.

The project will allow for engineers to swiftly detect and repair faults within lifts, escalators and travelators in one of the UK’s busiest train stations – which is connected to the Channel Tunnel via HS1 – as well as with signalling equipment along the line.

Sensors throughout the station will pick up and relay faults back to maintenance teams via a private 5G network, displaying information via an AR headset. The team can then immediately dispatch a technician to repair the faults.

“The layering of AR, sensor data and a private 5G network to create a complete solution like this is extremely advanced. It will be the first example of a rail infrastructure with this level of technology,” said Professor Rab Scott, head of digital at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

“Simply having access to sensor data on an AR headset, in real time, will allow engineers at St Pancras to do their jobs much better. It will provide maintainers accurate information much faster and more reliably, thus making the process of trackside maintenance much more effective.”

The project is funded by Innovate UK and aims to support the government’s National Digital Twin programme.

Dyan Crowther, CEO of HS1 Ltd, said: “The system will not only create a more reliable rail network, but will allow our expert teams to maintain social distancing guidelines when responding to jobs. Thanks to Innovate UK and our partners we are able to lead the way in revolutionising London’s railway stations post-Covid.”

The project aims to enable the flow of data between on-site and remote maintenance teams, helping HS1 develop its understanding of new maintenance methods.

The new platform will help lessen the impact of disruption to the railway services caused by Covid-19 and – if widely adopted – could improve productivity and cut costs at more than 3,000 railway stations in the UK

Michael Lewis, digital theme lead at the University of Sheffield AMRC, said: “What we have been able to do is apply the learning and expertise from manufacturing in a new environment, but then to take it even further indeed, there are a lot of manufacturing companies who would dream of this kind of capability. It’s exciting to think of other ways the rail sector could follow the lead of HS1 Ltd by embracing Industry 4.0 technologies and adopting best practice from the manufacturing sector.”

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