Rail Operators Are in the Teeth of a Perfect Storm

rail maintenance, perfect storm
A ‘perfect storm’ is the term used to describe an especially bad situation caused by a combination of unfavourable circumstances. That is exactly what rail operators are facing when it comes to the maintenance and management of their linear assets.

A million kilometres of rail track traverse the world and much of it was created more than 100 years ago.

Over time, that track and surrounding infrastructure fall into disrepair but adverse financial conditions have eaten away at budgets and the huge expense of maintenance is one of the foremost worries that operators face.

It’s closely followed by the sheer enormity of the job. For example, German railways must maintain up to 30,000 kilometres of track at an annual cost of some €2.75 billion ($3.56 billion).

Train companies are trapped. Linear work disrupts services and angers passengers, while putting up fares to help defray costs angers them even more. However, the alternatives are serious.

The longer repairs are postponed, the worse the situation gets and there are safety considerations. Train derailments caused by track defects cause injury and death, as indicated by recent rail disasters in India.

To sidestep the difficulties, it’s vital to ensure that available cash is spent in the most economical and effective way and that effort is directed to where it’s really needed to keep the business running. Easy to say, but not so easy to do.

Due to the size of rail networks, the major problem is actually knowing where your assets are. In years gone by, sections of track were located by milestones but now GPS provides absolute positioning and its often difficult to reconcile the two.

Another difficulty is the fragmentation of work between many teams and probably the most painful headache is the huge number of components that make up the infrastructure.

Some operators, like Swiss Rail, manage their maintenance very well but many others base these important decisions on a mix of gut feeling and experience. The real key to making better planning and management decisions is predictive asset and maintenance management.

That level of precision is delivered by Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Integrated Infrastructure Management (IIM) solution.

HPE has partnered with specialists and used its 40 years of travel and transportation experience to integrate its solutions into this application, which is designed specifically for the rail industry.

Complex solutions have been tied together into one holistic system that generates very accurate predictability and helps operators to dramatically cut costs. Rather than concentrating on every nut and bolt, IIM cuts the whole network into segments of any specified length.

These segments have a dynamic life and HPE has created a mathematical model that helps operators to calculate the quality of each section. Every time operators collect information, HPE’s IIM solution assigns the new data to that segment to compare the quality today with what it was last year, five years or ten years-ago.

In this way, the system creates a full-blown model of the infrastructure, enabling operators to simulate the future and get an accurate view of the quality of every piece of track. Data can be related to budgets and costs and simulate what would happen if maintenance was reduced – what it would mean to the average speed of trains or tonnage carried.

Efficient linear management means making better informed decisions and HPE IIM is a unique way for rail operators to streamline business efficiency and reduce risks.

Werner Dorfmeister

Author: Werner Dorfmeister

Werner Dorfmeister is Chief Technologist, Central & Eastern Europe (CEE) Region, for HP Enterprise Services. Werner joined HP from VMware Global Inc. where he managed the VMware business in Central and Eastern Europe after working more than 7 years in Microsoft as Business Development Manager, IT Evangelist, and Solution Architect where he held and end-to-end responsibility for new products and services. Being responsible for emerging services and innovative solutions in HP in the CEE region he drove the strategic enterprise services business in ES within the last 4years developing topics like Railway Industry Solutions, Cloud, Next Generation Workplace Solutions, SAP as a Service and Network as a Service. Focusing on the development of new solutions for the railway industry he is driving the communication to key executives as CTO in the CEE region.