Indian Railways are suffering from a historic under-investment in rail-track assets and from a rail-track neglect of far reaching history.
India has the ambitious plan to bring its Railway System on World Class Standards. A World Class Standard Rail-Service needs World Class high Quality Infrastructure, Assets, and Rail-Tracks as well World Class best Practice in Track Maintenance; best under the regime of one infrastructure provider. How to achieve this, IR can learn from advanced Central European Railways.
Advanced Central European Railways have their distinguished rail-track service- and infrastructure-providers/operators/enterprises/companies/agencies.
Latter are governmental subsidiaries/companies responsible and in charge of the entire infrastructure and assets (rail-tracks, signalling, tunnels, bridges, stations). They own the infrastructure and provide state-to-the-art railway technology when building, constructing, maintaining and operating the entire infrastructure under one umbrella. Leading are:
- ÖBB (Austria); ÖBB INFRASTRUKTUR AG – a governmental company, which plans, develops, maintains and operates the entire ÖBB infrastructure and provides state-to-the-art railway technology as a service to the nation.
- SBB-CFF-FFS (Switzerland); SBB-CFF-CFF INFRASTRUKTUR,
- DB (Germany), DB NETZ AG and
- British Rail (UK); NETWORK RAIL Infrastructure Ltd. (UK), who owns and operates the railway infrastructure in England, Wales and Scotland on behalf of the nation.
Those governmental subsidiaries have their own management structure, their own budged and long-term Funding Agreements with their Governments, ensuring infrastructure management planning far ahead, which take into account the actual condition of the network. They generate value through engineering as a service for rail transport in their countries.
Basis for planning are Status-Reports or Audits on the condition/status of the countries’ full network with regard to their assets-behaviour in order to provide correlations with output quantities and the required financial recourses for re-investment in assets and infrastructures, and as well for maintenance-strategies and planning’s.
In Central European Railways, infrastructure management strategies are governed by Life Cycle Cost (LCC) considerations in order to minimize overall costs over the asset-life span. Guidelines for Infrastructure Management and best Practice in Track Maintenance are summarised in the new edited book of Florian Auer, INFRASTRUCTURE MANAGEMENT, 2018 PMC Media House GmbH, ISBN: 978-3-96245.155-4, Bingen, Germany.
In his new book, Dr. Florian Auer points out:
“Needs-based and reliable rail infrastructure requires all processes associated with the sustainable preservation of the condition of the existing network to be considered and structurally planned over a period of several years. Continually updated multi-year plans assist in making efficient use of scarce financial resources.
The permanent way is a natural monopoly, also in the eyes of the European Union. Only if there is the will to provide the necessary financial resources, it will be possible to ensure the required long-term quality. The study by Boston Consulting Group on the Railway Performance Index 2015 demonstrated that countries focusing on the consistent expansion and upkeep of their railway infrastructure achieve a higher added value.
The analysis methods used increasingly in recent years, e.g. LCC (Life Cycle Costs), RAMS (Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety) or the production of life cycle assessments, allow infrastructure managers to take “the right measure at the right time” in a holistic and transparent manner. Progress in digitalisation offers a huge development potential in this area”.
The Technical University at Graz, Austria, is worldwide the forerunner in pushing up track quality under overall LCC considerations.
As the rail infrastructure companies move away from reactive to proactive based maintenance regimes, this will ultimately enable faster identification of track faults, quicker diagnosis and increased safety and performance. And, with a wide range of innovative new technologies for condition monitoring and analysis of track performance data (Data Science) emerging, there are further opportunities for driving down maintenance costs even more, and more effectively managing the impact of track maintenance on the running of train services.
Digitalisation will be the enabler of massive developments to improve efficiency and reliability whilst helping to reduce costs.
However, key strategic, technical and operational challenges need to be overcome in order to integrate these new technologies effectively into existing maintenance regimes and to improve maintenance operations.
Central European Railways, Railways in Russia, Australia and Hong Kong use monitoring instruments mounted on schedules running commercial trains (so-called Instrumented Revenue Vehicles, IRV), for train-based and in-service track-condition monitoring in target planning of maintenance.
Rehabilitations are carried out under planning methodology according Building Information Technology (BIM) by creating a complete digitalised Virtual Track through laser-scanning, geo-radar, 3D mapping, videoing and photo-documentation, provided for use to all parties involved.
In India, infrastructure management and maintenance regime are split up within too many authorities, responsibilities, advisory boards, subsidiaries and providers. Strategic planning and work execution under one umbrella is not given. In this respect, IR seems to be non reformable. Infrastructure management and maintenance regime from one hand, the prerequisite to manage a modern state-of-the-art World Class Railway, is lacking in India. It is questionable, if in the near future India will succeed to make the necessary structural reforms to reach the goal of its “Mission Mode Plan” with the aim to develop its Railway according World Class Standards.
To read more, download: LEARNING ABOUT MODERN INFRASTRUCTURE MANAGEMENT AND BEST PRACTICE IN TRACK MAINTENANCE, PDF