Trains could become ‘data hoovers’ to help Northern deliver a more sustainable and reliable railway
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The special trains, which would still operate public services, would travel the network and feed information about the track and surrounding infrastructure to Network Rail.
Horizon-scanning LIDAR cameras, thermal imaging software and HD CCTV footage would all be used to record infrastructure defects, environmental factors and maintenance issues.
Every night, the train would perform a ‘digital handshake’ so the information captured can be downloaded and analysed.
Rob Warnes, strategic development director at Northern, which operates trains between Sheffield and Lincoln, via Shireoaks, Worksop and Retford, said: “We have always sought ways to do things smarter, safer and more efficient.
“Each of our trains travel, on average, 100,000 kilometres around the North of England every year and that presents an amazing opportunity for data capture.
“We would only need 40 of our fleet of 335 trains to be fitted with this technology to regularly sweep our entire network, which spans 3,000 Km of track.
“Those trains could provide engineers with data from the same section of track over many days, weeks and months – enabling maintenance issues to be identified and repairs scheduled whilst they are within operational safety standards.”
The scheme is part of Northern’s Intelligent Trains programme, which was first announced in 2022 and is a collaboration with Network Rail designed to help make journeys by rail safer, more reliable and efficient.