TrackWater 2.0

Lead Participant: In Touch Limited


Our key technical challenges have been identified through extensive engagement with rail infrastructure owners. During the TrackWater project we conducted workshops and interviews with Network Rail staff at a wide range of levels including the Head of Asset Protection and Optimisation, Drainage Engineers, Senior Asset Engineers, Route Asset Managers (RAMS) and Delivery Units. These workshops, in combination with our own experiences of creating the TrackWater proof of concept system identified a series of technical challenges that must be addressed as part of any credible demonstration. These are: (i) Creating a self-reliant power system for TrackWater. During the development of the TrackWater system the difficulty of obtaining power trackside has become clear. In many parts of the network where we wish to deploy our data concentrators there is no readily available power supply and the system must operate “off-grid”. Moreover, connecting to trackside power makes product acceptance more challenging. We therefore wish to test and demonstrate a set of stand-alone solar powered sensors and gateways that can be deployed without the need to connect to the power infrastructure. While we have shown in lab-studies that these is feasible, this will be the first demonstration of our self-reliant sensor infrastructure and represents the first of our technical deliverables. (ii) Demonstrating full support for LoRa communications. Demonstrating support for a range of IoT communications technologies is critical to reassure customers that the TrackWater system will not become obsolete due to changes in radio technologies or standards. The current TrackWater proof of concept relies on UHF communications. However, there is increasing interest within the rail sector and beyond in the use of LoRa for IoT communications. While we have conducted early research into the use of LoRa we have not explored this in field deployments. Our second technical deliverable will be a set of LoRa based prototypes that can be demonstrated in the rail environment - helping to reassure potential customers that TrackWater can adapt to changes in the technology landscape. (iii) Determining appropriate integration points with existing decision support systems. The TrackWater system provides data designed to assist a diverse eco-system of potential data consumers involved in deciding when maintenance should be performed and evidencing drainage renewal schemes. This eco-system includes Route Asset Managers who determine when drainage assets need maintaining by the Delivery Units. An important challenge is how these data feeds should be integrated into existing systems. Our innovation is to supply TrackWater as a self-contained system that can serve as a decision support tool rather than a prescriptive tool – in other words TrackWater will be designed to enhance existing systems rather than replace them. Our discussions with Network Rail suggest that this is likely to lead to much more rapid adoption as it will circumvent the need to engage in lengthy IT projects aimed at data feed integration (pursuing this route would delay the adoption of our project by some years). Our third deliverable is thus a demonstration of the use of system as part of the decision making process. (iv) Evaluating TrackWater to provide proofs for potential customers. An important technical challenge is how to evaluate the accuracy of the sensors and the utility of the decision support system when deployed in the field. Lab-based measurements are simple to conduct but are not compelling for potential customers. We will adopt a “mixed methods” approach to evaluation – using a combination of inspections and multiple redundant sensors to obtain ground truth readings and ethnographic techniques for understanding user attitudes and cultural practices for decision support. We will not be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the system outputs in terms of delivering more effective cleansing regimes within a 9 month timescale – this will require long-term use - but we will be able to show the accuracy and utility of the data produced by the system. Our deliverable will be a report on our findings. (v) Obtaining Product Acceptance. A key challenge for any technical innovation in the rail industry lies in gaining the necessary approvals and product acceptance. In working with Network Rail we have gained experience of these challenges first-hand. During the proposed project we will collaborate closely with Network Rail to prepare a full submission to the product acceptance review board and this submission represents our final technical deliverable. Our demonstrator will show the end-to-end TrackWater solution in operation. We will target Wales Route, focussing on 2 flooding hotspots, Porthkerry Tunnel and Ewenny (Vale of Glamorgan). Porthkerry Tunnel has known siltation issues and is currently difficult to monitor due to its location. Ewenny is an area susceptible to sinkholes which causes failures in the earthworks leading to track faults and flooding. We will deploy 50 silt and flood probes across the 2 sites and use this data to model the drainage asset condition in order to manage the flood risk proactively and provide integrated decision support.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

In Touch Limited, Morecombe £348,885 £ 348,885


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