June 26, 2014

French track safety improvement project makes progress

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FRENCH National Railways (SNCF) and French Rail Network (RFF) are making considerable progress under the €410m four-year Vigirail project to improve the safety of points and modernise track maintenance according to a report presented to the SNCF board.

Vigirail was launched in October 2013 and includes the three recommendations to improve track safety following the preliminary report by the Office of Land Transport Accident Inquiries (BEA-TT) into the derailment of a Paris - Limoges Intercity train. This was caused by a dislodged fishplate in a set of points at Brétigny-sur-Orge south of Paris on July 12 2013 which resulted in the death of seven people with 32 injured.

One of the main objectives of Vigirail is to increase the number of turnouts being replaced annually from 326 in 2013 to 500 by 2017, with a doubling of turnout replacement in the Ile de France area. This will necessitate an industrialisation of the renewal process, and tests using flat wagons and Kirow cranes are planned between October and June 2015. It is hoped to replace 365 turnouts next year, while all the turnouts to be replaced in 2015 and 2016 have been identified.

This year SNCF plans to test three machines which can detect plain line anomalies by video and two machines to survey track devices by video. These machines will enter service next year following certification.

Early this year, 300 staff tested three prototype electronic systems for track maintenance inspection and monitoring the annual maintenance plan, while seven more systems are being developed. It is planned to deploy these systems on smartphones or tablets for use by 13,000 staff starting in March 2015.

A system to communicate anomalies on the network in real time called Alert Express will start to be rolled out across the network on July 1. In September, SNCF and RFF will begin to equip training centres with a 3D system to train track inspection and maintenance staff. Both systems should be fully operational nationally by the start of 2015.

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