The UK is responsible for around 1.7 billion train journeys each year and over 400,000 tons of freight that are transported over the UK network of trains. Delays and disruptions within the rail network can have a significant impact on shipping and activities within the country and many people rely on rail transport as their main means of transportation.

Making sure that a railway can stay structurally sound and running smoothly can be extremely important for any transportation provider. Having a capacity to detect damage within the track in real-time and to repair defects before they become a major problem remains extremely important.

Ze Power is a project in railway monitoring that is drawing zero power from the grid line in order to sustain operations and harvest energy. This new form of energy takes vibrations from the tracks and create an ongoing monitoring system using those vibrations.

An ongoing monitoring system the draws zero power is extremely efficient and could lead to a number of improvements within the transportation industry. Under the current system, workers are sent out to inspect railway tracks and predict disruptions and schedules. Special trains are equipped with monitoring technology but problems are only detected when these trains pass over that section of track. As the UK has a massive array of railway tracks for monitoring, problems are often missed.

If this system was installed as standard on many UK trains, we could see improvements with reporting as well as a reduction in delays. Because the system requires no extra power to run, it is also extremely cost-effective for any railway line to install in their locomotive.

Research efforts into the technology are still continuing and focusing on how the sensor networks cover the track monitoring will lead to improvements. As the wireless network improves and as the system is able to monitor a larger area, we could start to see improvements across railway networks in the UK.

This post was written by Justin Tidd, Director at Swartz Engineering. For nearly a half a century, Swartz Engineering has been at the forefront of industry safety. They are a family-owned company specializing in power distribution for the electrical industry. They are the leading manufacturer of E house substations. Our design ensures maximum flexibility for excellent reliability and a high return on investment.