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Could you save money on maintenance?


  • Smart infrastructure delivers new predictive capabilities
  • 30% reduction in maintenance costs
  • Internet of Things solution for rail assets

Maintenance is one of the biggest challenges facing our customers. Well-maintained infrastructure is one of the cornerstones of passenger satisfaction, but it’s also expensive: in an average year, rail operators across Europe spend more than €17 billion between them looking after their signalling, track and fixed assets. 

That’s more than €80,000 for every kilometre of route. 

One of the big challenges with traditional inspection and maintenance is that it’s not the most effective way of identifying when equipment is about to fail. So no matter how much you spend, things will still go wrong. The result: disrupted train services and expensive unplanned maintenance.

What our customers need is a way to reduce maintenance bills while simultaneously improving the performance of their operations. 

Smart infrastructure could be the answer.

“Smart infrastructure uses Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to monitor rail assets across the network,” explains Alain Le Marchand, Technical Director, Design Authority, Thales. “It transforms every piece of rail equipment into a smart sensor able to share real-time data, thanks to secure and resilient connections. And it uses big data analytics to provide customers with useful insights.” 

Just about any rail equipment can be monitored. The list includes axle counters and interlockings, as well as on-board systems.  

“We’re already adding sensors and IoT capabilities to all our new products,” explains Le Marchand. “We’re also upgrading legacy equipment and even applying IoT capabilities to third-party systems.”

But it doesn’t stop there. Smart infrastructure is also about predictive maintenance, delivered as a service. The solution applies sophisticated prediction algorithms to the smart infrastructure data to spot problems before they happen. Or put another way, it provides a reliable early warning system. 

The technology behind all of this is called TIRIS – Thales’ big data solution for maintenance. It is one of the many new services we’re offering on our Digital Platform.

What makes this breakthrough so important is that it allows customers to move from “find and fix” to “predict and prevent” maintenance strategies. 

“The potential savings are enormous” says Le Marchand. This not only translates into lower expenditure, it also means many common causes of disruption can be reduced or eliminated entirely. That’s good news for passengers and freight operators. And with delay compensation payments running into tens of millions, the potential for infrastructure owners to capture savings through improved reliability cannot be ignored.

The technology behind all of this is already proven in service. In the UK, for example, Thales monitors more than 40,000 point machines for Network Rail. And we are working on a similar deployment in France under SNCF’s Open Lab initiative.

As equipment becomes smarter, the insights will get more valuable. For example, our new fibre optic axle counter – Lite4ce™ – highlights the potential of smart assets. 

“Lite4ce™ not only detects trains, but also weighs each passing wheel,” says Le Marchand. “This makes it possible to gain insights that have never been possible before, including how many people are in a carriage, whether a freight wagon has been loaded correctly and even if a carriage or wagon has damaged wheel.”

As rail equipment becomes digital by default, smart infrastructure will revolutionise operations, creating huge opportunities for cost savings and service improvement.

The future is arriving sooner than anybody thought.