Network Rail announced last week that it had launched its fourth ultrasonic rail testing train into service, complete with ground penetrating radar, ultrasonics and rail profile laser scanner.
The rail operator and owner’s test trains use ultrasonic equipment – the same technology used in medical situations – to detect minute flaws in the track.
The original three units are being used at their full capacity and the addition of a fourth at a cost of £700,000 means one can be taken out of use for servicing.
The new train, or UTU 1 as it is known, has more accurate positioning systems and an improved ability to test the track. It can also be used at a higher speed.
Most testing currently takes place at night at speeds of up to 30 mph. With further development and UTU-1, it is hoped to be able to test the track at 45mph.
Features of the UTU1
Its two separate ground penetrating radar units can detect irregularities in the ballast and formation up to 2m deep, including voids
The ultrasonic test equipment on board can give early warning of any problems that could later occur with the track
Its rail profile scanner uses laser technology to compare the state of the railhead with a pre-programmed template to judge if the track is becoming worn out of shape, and in need of grinding.