One of the main reasons for innovation in the railway industry is to improve safety.
As an industry, we are constantly looking for ways to reduce accidents to a minimum, even to zero.
Yet derailments – one of the most catastrophic rail accidents possible – happen all too often. And they happen all over the world.
Hugely expensive, a logistical nightmare, and sometimes fatal, we all want derailments to be a thing of the past.
The question is, what actually causes derailments and how do we stop it?
There are actually several common causes of derailment. Objects on the track, operational errors, and problems with the track are some of the most common issues.
But sometimes the problem lies with the wheels of the train itself – specifically, with bogie components being worn, or incorrectly configured after an overhaul.
One example is the derailment of a Siemens Class 360/2 at London Paddington in 2014. One of the major errors was a lack of understanding amongst technicians, which led to a bogie component (anti-roll bar) being set in a way that created a wheel load imbalance.
Another example occurred at Washwood Heath West in Birmingham in 2015. A bogie component (liner) that was worn beyond its maintenance limit restricted the freedom of the bogie to rotate, and increased wheel unloading on track twists. These factors reduced the wagon’s ability to resist derailment.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in these incidents.
The wheels of a train have to deal with a lot of weight and a lot of wear. For that reason, bogies need overhauling around every 800,000km.
Overhauling the wheels of a train is a delicate, technical process, and it has to be done just right. Things can easily go wrong, and it is vital that procedures are in place to ensure that the wheels are set up correctly before the train is allowed back in service.
One of the most effective ways to ensure that everything is set up correctly is to weigh the vehicle. An accurate measure of how much weight is being loaded onto each wheel gives a clear indication of whether anything is wrong.
To accurately measure how much weight is loaded onto each wheel, you need some pretty serious equipment. That’s why, in the past, it has only been possible to weigh trains in the depot with static scales.
There’s just one issue with the static scales. What if you need to check the safety of the wheelset before you reach the depot? You don’t want to send a train hurtling across the country with incorrectly loaded bogies.
That’s why IVM (Innovative Vibration Monitoring) developed Powerve, the portable weigher for railway vehicles.
Pioneers in rail safety technology, IVM create innovative solutions that make it easy to implement testing and analysis that prevents serious accidents.
Sending out a train without checking how much weight is loaded onto each wheelset is a massive risk, and many derailments could have been prevented simply by weighing trains to flag up issues with the bogies.
Fortunately, with the right equipment, it’s quicker and easier than ever to weigh railway vehicles and prevent these accidents.
Through innovation and technology, the railways are becoming safer all the time. We look forward to the time when technology makes preventable accidents a thing of the past.
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