THE Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA) has signed an agreement with VR FleetCare to introduce extensive remote condition monitoring of points on the national network.

The VR FleetCare system has been developed in conjunction with Finnish hardware and software developer Vire Labs, and uses measurement technology to optimise maintenance and so prevent disruption. Adopting the technology will enable FTIA to transition from scheduled and reactive to a predictive maintenance strategy.

The system is designed for networks where large numbers of points are centrally controlled from one location and the agreement between FTIA and VR FleetCare covers the monitoring of up to 300 switches at several busy locations.

Point motor failures cause thousands of incidents resulting in disruption to rail services in Finland every year, with point maintenance accounting for a considerable share of network maintenance costs.

Winter in Nordic countries such as Finland brings heavy amounts of snow and ice, which can accumulate around point blades to prevent them operating properly. Freezing temperatures can also damage point components or make it more difficult to locate a fault.

Point condition monitoring and prevention of failures reduces costs and the workload for the infrastructure manager, and allows quicker recovery from disruption.

“We believe that rail transport can be punctual, regardless of the conditions,” says head of digital services at VR FleetCare, Mr Sami Kalevirta. “With regard to the condition monitoring of points, we have made gradual progress, developing a cost-effective solution that is also easy to install without interrupting railway traffic.”

VR FleetCare is now investigating the possibility of developing a similar solution to identify faults in track circuits.