Northern to Equip Trains with Data Collection Kits to Improve Network Maintenance

Northern has announced plans to equip up to 40 of its trains with a data collection kit to help improve predictive maintenance activities on the rail network.

This technology would allow the trains to act as ‘data hoovers’ to provide information about the track and surrounding infrastructure to Network Rail, while also providing public transport services.

A Northern "Intelligent Train"
A Northern ‘Intelligent Train’

The trains would be equipped with horizon-scanning LIDAR cameras, thermal imaging software and HD CCTV footage to record infrastructure defects, environmental factors and maintenance issues.

Each night, they would then perform a ‘digital handshake’ where the collected information would be downloaded and analysed.

A thermal imaging camera onboard a Northern train
A thermal imaging camera onboard a Northern train

This scheme is part of Northern’s Intelligent Trains programme, which was first announced in 2022 in collaboration with Network Rail.

It is hoped that this programme will help make journeys by rail safer, more reliable and more efficient.

Rob Warnes, strategic development director at Northern, said:

“We have always sought ways to do things smarter, safer and more efficient. Each of our trains travel, on average, 100,000km around the North of England every year and that presents an amazing opportunity for data capture.

“We would only need 40 of our fleet of 335 trains to be fitted with this technology to regularly sweep our entire network, which spans 3,000km of track. Those trains could provide engineers with data from the same section of track over many days, weeks and months – enabling maintenance issues to be identified and repairs scheduled whilst they are within operational safety standards.”

Northern is currently communicating with Network Rail to secure funding for the programme.

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