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Cameras strapped to trains help Network Rail fix tracks in record time

Plpr camera

Network Rail has launched a fleet of monitoring trains aimed at doubling the operator’s track maintenance capacity over the next five years.

Five monitoring trains equipped with Plain Line Pattern Recognition (PLPR) have been launched as part of Network Rail’s ”predict and prevent” strategy,

PLPR uses cameras mounted under trains to identify track defects, alerting Network Rail engineers to where repairs are needed.

Over Control Period 6 (2019-2024), PLPR will cover more than 1.5M.km of track, streaming live inspections back to two PLPR facilities.

The system monitors and records track condition information, and can spot problems such as missing fasteners, excess ballast and ineffective rail clamps. Cameras under the trains capture an image every 0.8mm, taking 70,000 images per second.

PLPR-equipped trains have replaced manual inspections on 13,600km of track. As well as benefiting passengers, PLPR provides a safer method of track inspection by reducing unnecessary track visits and helping to get boots off the ballast.

Network Rail head of delivery for asset information services Steve Quinby said: “PLPR technology is helping us meet that challenge, providing improved asset information so we can better understand how quickly our assets degrade, and allowing us to target track maintenance more effectively.

“This means we can identify defects before they become a safety issue or affect performance.

“PLPR is fundamental in helping us to be safer and more efficient. In January, we opened a second PLPR facility in Derby that increases our capacity and resilience to monitor, inspect and fix track faults, to the ultimate benefit of passengers.”

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