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Reducing Boots on Ballast - Low-Cost Automated Track Monitoring

Wherever there is civils work taking place adjacent to, over or under Network Rail infrastructure, the contractor is mandated to monitor Network Rail’s assets to demonstrate that the infrastructure is not going to be impacted by the construction activity, and the railway line will remain safe.

Using an automated system is the best practice approach to track monitoring, and the most common method for long-term projects taking place over 6-12 months, or longer. However, short-term track monitoring projects, with durations of a few weeks to a few months, have traditionally made use solely of manual monitoring techniques. This is a decision predominantly driven by cost.  A manual approach elevates levels of risk as it requires more ‘boots on ballast’ to acquire the data, and the reporting time is far slower than with automated monitoring.

With this in mind, SOCOTEC Monitoring now offers clients a flexible automated track monitoring system rental service, providing both safety and cost benefits for clients.

Speaking about the new service, Nick Slater - monitoring services director at SOCOTEC Monitoring - comments: “On transient projects, for example when a contractor is pipe jacking under a section of track, works only take place around the railway infrastructure for a couple of weeks. In scenarios such as this, purchasing an automated monitoring system is not cost effective and therefore, despite it being the best practice approach, it is usually ruled out.

“Instead, monitoring activities on these short-term projects typically consist of a surveyor visiting the site to fix prisms and targets to the tracks, then manually surveying at the required frequency to measure any change in track geometry.

“SOCOTEC Monitoring has now procured several hundred automated track tilt sensors to allow clients to rent an automated monitoring system for short-term track monitoring projects at very competitive rates. Using automated tilt sensors alongside prisms means that clients will receive ‘near real time’ alerts should any changes to track geometry be detected and, if significant, a manual verification survey of the prisms can be conducted by a surveyor to validate the tilt sensor data.

For contractors mandated to measure the impact of their construction activities on nearby rail assets, this approach offers safety benefits by reducing the requirement to have engineers on site manually surveying the tracks, without the higher expense. And, our rental clients will still benefit from the same level of service, expert installation, data visualisation via Calyx OMS™ and attention to detail SOCOTEC Monitoring offers to all clients.”

Automated track monitoring rental systems are available to hire on a weekly or monthly basis. Rental is subject to availability, but systems can often be installed at UK locations at short notice. Following each rental, all instrumentation is serviced thoroughly to ensure it is in excellent condition prior to the next deployment.

There are other scenarios where it can also be more cost effective to rent a monitoring system, including to test on a trial basis before buying, to reduce up-front costs or in emergencies. To find out more about SOCOTEC Monitoring’s rental systems, or to secure one for your next short term track monitoring project, please get in touch.

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