Network Rail Launches Safety Scheme to Monitor Freight Train Wheelsets

Network Rail has launched a new safety scheme that will equip more than 15,000 British freight locomotives and wagons with technology to monitor the condition of wheelsets in real-time.

The two-year project is supported by Network Rail’s Freight Safety Improvement Portfolio’s (FSIP) 22 million GBP fund. Throughout the scheme, 30,000 radio frequency identification (RFID) tags will be fitted to more than 15,000 freight locomotives and wagons. When the equipped trains pass one of 22 readers installed on the side of the track, information from each wheelset will be captured and sent to engineers via cloud-based technology to establish whether any maintenance work is required.

This system will help eliminate issues caused by worn or defective wheelsets, which can result in broken rails and damaged wagons if left untreated, leading to safety issues and delays for both passenger and freight trains.

The new scheme will keep tags on British freight trains to improve safety across the railway
Steve Rhymes, head of network management at Network Rail, said:

“This is a prime example of how the rail freight industry works together to continue to innovate and put safety first using technology. Each freight operator is fitting them to each side of their wagons and locomotives, which means we are harvesting data every time a train or vehicle operates – much of which has not been visible before. It’s a collaborative effort which delivers joint benefit. We are introducing improved systems and processes for data sharing with freight operators and freight customers to provide a cohesive approach to wagon maintenance leading to even further safety for our railway and ultimately less disruption and delays to passengers and freight trains.”

The launch follows Network Rail’s recent announcement that FSIP funding will support the Condition of Freight Vehicles on the Network programme, which will tackle freight rail delays and safety risks.

The new safety scheme has been welcomed by freight operating companies and customers, including Freightliner Group, who has already fitted 73 percent of tags to its locomotives and wagons.

Deanne Haseltine, Freightliner Group's head of engineering compliance, said:

“This scheme has already made a positive difference to the whole industry by helping us to accurately pinpoint and identify defects to individual wheelsets at the earliest opportunity. Having the ability to identify faults and plan repairs to wheelsets in advance means we can safely remove a wagon from service if needed and avoid unnecessary disruption on the network and to our customers.”

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