Creating Smart, Resilient, Affordable & Reliable Infrastructures in Rail


Reliable rail networks are vital for the movement of people and goods across the UK accounting for 71 billion passenger miles and 18bn tonnes of freight. The rail infrastructure uses millions of threaded fasteners. Although a nut and bolt is simple component, it is often safety and performance critical i.e. should it fail, it would lead to catastrophic accidents or significant degradation of the infrastructure. As a consequence, the inspection and maintenance of such safety and performance critical fasteners represents a sizable cost to infrastructure owners as well as reducing capacity whilst maintenance is taking place. Failure can occur through incorrect installation, damage, wear or fatigue. Within the rail network there are around 26,000 switch machines (points) which enables trains to be guided from one track to another such as at a railway junction or a spur. Components of the switch machine include switch rails, stretcher bars & a switch drive motor. When there are two tracks crossing each other, there is a single cast X-shape rail known as the crossing. Collectively abbreviated to S&C’s, they are complicated assets subject to extreme loading both vertical and horizontal. Furthermore, they are exposed to a wide range of weather conditions. All of which results in S&C’s being the most costly and safety critical asset category in the rail infrastructure. In conjunction with Network Rail and London Underground, Smart Component Technologies (SCT) has developed the "Smart Washer" to measure the clamp force of fasteners during installation & maintenance. This reduces time, cost and error. In addition, the smart washer provides a 24/7 remote monitoring mode with a flexible system of alerts allowing for preventative maintenance and increasing the reliability of the network. The smart washer does a lot more as it also contains other sensors, in particular a 3-axis accelerometer. This allows for the operation and mechanical condition of the entire S&C to be remotely monitored as well as any deterioration of the track bed. SCT completes the end-to-end solution with the provision of wireless comms, data management & analytics, user interfaces and software services. Such a solution is the aim of smart component technology and at the heart of intelligent asset & infrastructure management. Although all this world-leading technology is ready for lift-off, it has not yet been deployed in a real-life environment that proves a compelling value proposition and validates a scalable and repeat business model. The purpose of the project is do exactly that. Working with Network Rail, London Underground and a number of Tier 1 partners, SCT aims to deploy and test every aspect of the smart washer technology over a 12 month period. With the technology validated and a strategic partnership in place, SCT will be able to roll-out, at speed, across the UK and develop the global market for its technology. Smart component technology is a broad platform technology and directly applicable in all major infrastructures, for example energy systems, nuclear, offshore wind. The full range of smart component categories and infrastructure sectors will also be very actively developed over the next 3 years.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Smart Component Technologies Limited, Huddersfield, United Kingdom £47,262 £ 47,262


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