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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

Transforming infrastructure through smarter information

Two CSIC projects have been shortlisted for the Rail Partnership Awards 2019. ‘Structural Health Monitoring Systems’ and ‘Smart Railway Infrastructure’ have both been shortlisted for the Best Use of Technology category which recognises suppliers that have used new technologies to help transform Britain’s railway demonstrating new ways of working, cutting-edge technologies or novel approaches that benefit users.



Structural Health Monitoring Systems’ (a collaboration between CSIC, AECOM, Network Rail and the Alan Turing Institute (ATI)) showcases two bespoke monitoring systems designed for a masonry arch bridge and viaduct, both in Yorkshire. As well as enabling fundamental research into the behaviour of these heritage structures, the detailed monitoring data is also being used to research novel, statistical-based approaches to asset management and structural assessment, through collaboration between CSIC and ATI. Furthermore, at one of these structures, a skewed masonry arch bridge, Network Rail wanted to explore available monitoring technologies to determine systems with the potential to be used on other assets.

Following initial assessments at this bridge, CSIC installed distributed monitoring technologies, including a network of fibre-optic Fibre Bragg Gratings for detailed dynamic measurement of strains across the arch, a laser scan analysis of historic deformations, and videogrammetry to capture dynamic displacements. AECOM installed an autonomous remote monitoring system comprising a range of dynamic, point-sensing technologies. Real-time monitoring with this system allows for accurate tracking of long-term trends in the monitoring data. The teams have co-authored reports to provide guidance on monitoring technologies that can be used as alternatives to traditional methods. Network Rail has commissioned CSIC and AECOM to perform long-term monitoring of the bridge and the teams will present the project results to other asset engineers at Network Rail as an example of best practice.

‘Smart Railway Internet of Infrastructure’ features two fibre optic sensing systems designed for the Hooley Cutting, near south London, which carries the main railway line from London to Brighton through the North Downs. The 30m-deep cutting slopes are susceptible to landslides and need measures to prevent rockfall reaching the tracks, which has caused train derailments and line closures in the past. Network Rail commissioned CSIC to devise a solution to the problem, and South East Region Managing Contractor Bam Nuttall and ground engineering company Bam Ritchies joined the project team; both organisations have extensive experience of trackside installation and management.

The systems used the rate of strain change produced by the rockfall in the debris-collecting mesh to help identify and predict problematic areas before they lead to mesh failure.

CSIC designed and trialled two different fibre optic sensing systems for the cutting. One used discreet Fibre Bragg Grating (FBG) sensors, and the other Distributed Fibre Optic Strain Sensing (DFOS). CSIC’s FBG system included a multi-channel interrogator developed by Beijing Information and Science Technology University (BISTU). The distributed system, manufactured by CSIC collaborator, Febus, is the first commercially available long-range dynamic Brillouin system in the world, capable of 50 measurements per second over 1000 sensing points along a 1 km length.

Specially-designed dual cable clamps were fixed to the cutting face. Sensor cables were pre-tensioned, clamped in and to the rockfall mesh along its length across a 100-metre wide test location. The system was routed to a control room where two optical analysers were located. Once established, the system reported real-time monitoring of changes in strain caused by accumulation of debris and the location of this change.

The sensor systems deliver a number of benefits: engineers are only required to investigate locations the system has alerted them to, saving time and reducing risks; the systems contribute to rail safety as the sensors can be incorporated into a system that will alert train drivers. By using sensing systems and real-time data, better decisions can be made around intervention and action.

Jennifer Schooling OBE, Director of CSIC, said: “We are delighted to be shortlisted for the Rail Partnership Awards. Both of these projects demonstrate the shared benefits of true collaborations with industry partners and the client which is very much an approach championed by CSIC.”

Winners of the Rail Partnership Awards 2019 will be announced at an awards event on Wednesday 5 June 2019 at Birmingham’s NEC.

To read full case studies of Structural Health Monitoring Systems and Smart Railway Infrastructure see the CSIC Annual Review 2019 which is published at the end of June ahead of the International Conference on Smart Infrastructure and Construction held on 8 to 10 July 2019.


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