SOCOTEC Monitoring on the Railway

Tue 25/02/2020 - 17:14

When undertaking building and civil engineering works on or near to the railway, monitoring the movement of the ground, adjacent structures and assets is essential to ensure the safety of workers, passengers and the environment. 

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From cuttings and embankments to tunnels, stations and viaducts, SOCOTEC Monitoring UK Ltd has designed, installed and managed monitoring systems for a range of rail projects across the UK, helping to deliver schemes in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Combining critical real-time information with over 30 years’ civil engineering experience, SOCOTEC Monitoring has overseen small and large-scale railway projects across their entire lifecycle, from the initial feasibility phase all the way through to ongoing asset management post-construction. Their team of experts have monitored structural and geotechnical conditions across a range of elements on the railway, as illustrated in the following current examples.

Critical monitoring prior to and during a construction project

Ahead of the development of a new luxury skyscraper in London, SOCOTEC Monitoring worked on a consultative basis to design an instrumentation system that ensured critical assets were monitored effectively. Located in close proximity to a busy 170-year-old viaduct into a South London Overground station, the development required the monitoring to be undertaken during the demolition and construction phases of the development and in real time.

The chosen monitoring system included Automated Total Stations (ATS), electrolevel beams and inclinometers and measured the effects of demolition and construction on the surrounding structures and rail tracks, including the viaduct facades. The system was assisted by temperature sensors and vibration monitors to ensure a fully comprehensive automated monitoring system across the site, as well as precise manual monitoring surveys.

Remote condition monitoring of earthworks and drainage assets

Since 2013, SOCOTEC Monitoring has supplied and managed the remote conditioning monitoring of earthworks and drainage assets across a major railway network route in Wessex. Spanning 10 separate sites, each of which is made up of different structural components, it was vital that the monitoring systems met the bespoke requirements of the client’s engineers.

SOCOTEC Monitoring’s system design team consulted with the asset engineer responsible for each site on the route to ascertain specific data requirements and to develop a bespoke Monitoring Design Plan (MDP) that addressed the site’s individual structural and geotechnical elements. These were used to define equipment, installation processes and the inspection and test plans for each monitoring system, which comprised data loggers, draw-wire sensors, water level sensors and the use of Calyx™ (and formerly ARGUS) monitoring software. As with many railway sites, there was no permanent power supply, and therefore the chosen monitoring systems were also designed to be extremely power efficient and to make use of various battery solutions.

At one stage of the project, the client identified a specific cutting that required monitoring and defined their requirement. Based upon that information, SOCOTEC Monitoring recommended an automated system of surface mounted tilt sensors to alert their engineers of any signs of slope movement. In addition, a number of remote cameras with infrared lights were installed to validate the sensor readings without the need for an engineer to attend site. This proved particularly effective for characterising any slope movements, as well as determining whether river levels had reached a critical point following periods of heavy rain.

Creating cost-effective solutions for tunnel monitoring

As part of the extension of a new riverside housing development in East London, a dedicated rail station is being constructed and an additional 1.5km of track is being installed. The new track requires the construction of an elevated viaduct to cross the twin bore tunnels of high speed lines, and SOCOTEC Monitoring was contracted by a local government body to monitor the effects of that construction.

The monitoring specifically determines the extent of tunnel ovalisation and accurately confirms the cant and twist of the tracks during the main construction works. During an early engagement process with the local government body, SOCOTEC Monitoring’s experts advised that wireless tilt sensors be deployed as an effective alternative to the specified Robotic Total Stations (RTS) and prisms. 

This alternative solution removed the requirement for maintenance, significantly reduced the number of costly isolated possessions and removed the possibility of inconsistent instrument readings. Furthermore, the wireless solution removed the need to electrically bond the equipment and for any enclosures to be built within the tunnels. Not only was this more cost-effective in reducing the need for expensive design and consultation work, it also removed the need for attendance of a subcontractor on the site.

Data visualisation

In all three of the above examples, SOCOTEC Monitoring used its exclusive web-based monitoring software, Calyx™, which serves as a user-friendly data visualisation and management information platform. With the ability to be accessed anywhere, at any time and on any device, the software is tailored to meet the specific requirements of the client, with any previously obtained data cross referenced to detect discrepancies and changes in conditions. In addition, when required, the software automatically issues text or email alerts to communicate exceedance of agreed trigger values.

The information that SOCOTEC Monitoring provides allows its clients to make timely and important decisions that ensure the protection of the environment and the safety of workers and the travelling public at all times. Furthermore, the use of automated technology is proving to be highly effective in reducing ‘boots on ballast’ and permitting preventative measures to be taken during periods of extreme weather.  For more information about how SOCOTEC Monitoring can support your railway project, click here or get in touch.

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