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The Concept

Recently, the rail industry has shown a strong demand for the development of on-line techniques for reliably monitoring the condition of wheel sets of moving rolling stock. It has also sought for improvements and advancements in the existing inspection methodologies of wheel sets during their production and maintenance. The European Commission has also set new safety targets and stricter procedures for the rail industry as part of the plan for reform and integration of national member-state rail networks in a Pan-European single network. Safety aspects of rail transport have been particularly highlighted by the EU rail directives in an effort to increase public confidence in train travel. Successful implementation of the reform plan for the rail industry will allow significant economic and environmental benefits to be achieved by the society.

The SAFERAIL project will support the effort of the rail industry in achieving better safety standards by developing novel methodologies and techniques for the inspection of wheel sets. The present project will minimise wheel set failures and damage caused by faulty wheel sets to the rail tracks and rolling stock by:

a) Developing an on-line inspection system, that will be placed at pre-chosen strategic points on the rail network tracks, for inspection of faults in wheels and axles of passing trains. The system will be able to inspect passing trains for flats in the wheels, defective wheel set bearings, significant cracks and wheel profile abnormalities. The system will use an identification system for each passing train, and each wheel set will be given an identification code. If a fault is identified on a wheel set in one of the passing trains by the SAFERAIL system, then the system will automatically alert the signalling engineers who will then decide what action to take for that particular train, i.e. advise maintenance, reduce speed or stop it completely. In the case of a severe defect being discovered, the system will permit the signalling engineers to stop a particular train immediately in order to carry out emergency maintenance.

b) Developing a novel inspection system of new and wheel sets in service based on ultrasonic phased arrays and ACFM probes. The consortium of this project will develop a novel ultrasonic phased array system, with higher resolution and speed of inspection operation, coupled with novel ACFM probes for the identification of surface breaking faults. Currently, ultrasonic phased arrays and other techniques in use to inspect wheel sets in service have problems in finding small surface defects. The incorporation of ACFM probes will allow the accurate and fast inspection of wheel sets for any surface breaking faults.

Vlaamse Vervoermaatschappij De Lijn (Belgium) University of Birmingham (UK) Instituto de Soldadura e Qualidade (Portugal) TWI Ltd (UK) SNCF (France) Feldman Enterprises LTD (Cyprus) TSC (UK) Envirocoustics S. A. (Greece) EMEF (Portugal) Alfa Products & Technologies (Belgium)Alfa Products & Technologies (Belgium) VTG Rail UK Ltd (UK)