Indian Railways installs unique system for automatic inspection of wheels; big step towards passenger safety

Indian Railways installs unique system for automatic inspection of wheels; big step towards passenger safety

Indian Railways goes innovative for safety! In an endeavour to provide safe passenger services, Indian Railways is likely to complete the first phase of detecting defects in wheels and bearings of coaches, locomotives and wagons by this year. This means that the defects or faults in bearings and wheels of the coaches will be detected sooner, leading to safe passenger services. This move of shifting from the manual inspection to machine-assisted automatic identification of the defects will help in meeting the challenges in providing efficient, safe and economical services, according to the Railway Ministry.

For the automating inspection, the national transporter is adopting the online monitoring of rolling stock (OMRS) system. Under this, the rail bearing acoustic monitors, acoustic bearing detectors, wheel condition monitors as well as wheel impact load detectors will be utilized in order to detect the faults in bearings and wheels of the rolling assets, according to a PTI report. Rolling stock in Indian Railways refers to the locomotives, railroad cars, coaches and the wagons.

The first phase of installing 25 OMRS systems at 20 locations is currently in progress. These 20 locations where the OMRS will be installed were identified by a high-level multi-disciplinary committee of the Railway Board. According to a statement by the Railway Board, till now, six OMRS systems have been installed and 10 more systems will be installed in the current fiscal year. This process is likely to be completed in the present calendar year of 2020.

The objective is to achieve a machine-assisted automatic identification of defects in rolling stock before any catastrophic failure happens in operations. The automating inspection will lead to “time-based maintenance” and “condition-based predictive maintenance”, increasing reliability and also the availability of the rolling assets. The inspection of the rolling stock has largely been manual and the personnel carrying it out rely on their judgement. Also, the inspections were being conducted when locomotives and trains were stationary or moving slowly. Up to the month of June 2019, the bearing faults were detected in 33 wagons, six coaches and one locomotive. In seven of the coaches, the faults were in their wheels.

Indian Railways stated that the results from deployment of the OMRS system were encouraging, as some of the critical faults which were detected, could have led to accidents. Indian Railways network will go ahead with a greater adoption of track-side-based maintenance systems with the aim of the predictive maintenance. Towards predictive maintenance practices in yards, the Railway Board is looking to convert its freight examination yards into technology driven smart yards for the automatic detection of faults and defects in the wagons.

The very first OMRS system was installed at Panipat in the month of November 2017 and a Central Control Room called the National Command Centre for monitoring the OMRS sites was set up at Delhi in Kishanganj, in the month of March 2018. In order to cope with the present challenges of efficient, safe and economical services, Indian Railways is moving towards adopting the processes of automation and instrumentation in its maintenance practices for detecting the defects and deficiencies in the rolling assets.