HS1 and AMRC building AR system for detecting and repairing rail faults

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Using AR, sensor data and 5G, maintenance engineers working out of St Pancras International train station in London could soon have the means to swiftly detect and repair faults thanks to a partnership between the University of Sheffield AMRC and HS1 Ltd

Quick read

➨ The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre is working with HS1 Ltd to create the system to monitor real-time performance of station services
➨ Sensors will pick up and relay faults back to maintenance teams via a private 5G network. Maintenance engineers will then be swiftly dispatched to repair the faults
➨ The project partners believe the system could eventually be rolled out across the UK rail network

The story

Delays to train services in and out of St Pancras International station in London could be significantly reduced in the future when a system from HS1 Ltd and its partners that uses augmented reality, sensor data and a private 5G network goes live.

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) is working with HS1 Ltd, the company that operates the UK’s only high-speed railway as well as stations along the route, including St Pancras International, to create the system to monitor real-time performance of station services.

They envision the system allowing for the swift detection and repair of faults within the station’s lifts, escalators and travelators, as well as signalling equipment along the high-speed line.

Sensors will pick up and relay faults back to maintenance teams via a private 5G network. Maintenance engineers will then be swiftly dispatched to repair the faults.

Professor Rab Scott, head of digital at the University of Sheffield AMRC, explains how the system and technologies in play, including augmented reality, will benefit maintenance engineers: “Simply, having access to sensor data on an AR headset, in real time, will allow engineers at St Pancras to do their jobs much better.”

“It will provide maintainers accurate information much faster and more reliably, thus making the process of trackside maintenance much more effective.”

It is hoped that the system will help HS1 Ltd to develop its knowledge and understanding of new maintenance methods, which, in turn, will improve training and competency, resulting in efficiency and performance benefits for the network.

‘An important step forward in driving sustainable economic development’

Government-backed body Innovate UK is funding the project, in partnership with PAULEY Group, Network Rail, Athonet UK and the AMRC.

Dr Ian Campbell, executive chair of Innovate UK, describes the project as “an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development”.

The project partners believe the system could eventually be rolled out across the UK rail network, potentially improving productivity and cutting costs at more than 3,000 stations and beyond.

Michael Lewis, digital theme lead at the University of Sheffield AMRC, believes the system also has applications elsewhere in the rail sector. He says: “What we have been able to do is apply the learning and expertise from manufacturing in a new environment, but then take it even further. Indeed, there are a lot of manufacturing companies who would dream of this kind of capability.”

“It’s exciting to think of other ways the rail sector could follow the lead of HS1 Ltd by embracing Industry 4.0 technologies and adopting best practice from the manufacturing sector.”

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Image credit: Canva

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