This monsoon, the South Central Railway (SCR) has introduced new technologies like drones, remotely operated submersible vehicles and 3-D scan of some river beds for improving the inspection and maintenance of bridges to enhance safety aspects of trains during the season.
Senior officials explained, in a recent interaction, that while all bridges are regularly inspected to assess their condition and to identify repairs, there will be certain inaccessible components posing a challenge to the engineers.
“Usually, ladders and ropes are used by the trained staff for accessing these components of the bridge for inspection. We are now using remote controlled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones equipped with high definition photo and video cameras for detailed examination with the help of photos and videos to supplement the manual inspection,” they said.
High resolution digital cameras deployed on the UAVs are capable of collecting high resolution images and videos helpful to assess any deterioration of the inspected bridge components over a period of time, it was pointed out.
Similarly, remote operated robotic vehicles equipped with high resolution cameras are being used for taking photos and videos of the submerged with the help of intense light beams for illumination. “The vehicles are manually operated on land to direct the vehicle to reach remote parts of the bridge substructure submerged under water. Earlier, we were dependent on expert divers to assess the bridge condition under water to identify any defects,” said senior officials.
A pilot project of 3-D scanning of river beds which helps in knowing the profile of the river bed, understanding variations in the river bed at the same location over the years and the effect on the bridges constructed across the water body has been initiated. For this a multi beam echo sounder installed in a boat is used to send out a wide array of beams across the river, they said.
Water levels at identified bridges are monitored manually to assess the flood discharge passing through these bridges with railway staff physically noting water levels and conveying information to various senior officials.
Portable Train Detection Devices are deployed at work sites to give advance warning to the workers. Whenever a train approaches, the sensor device relays the information to the warning hooter fixed at the worksite to give continuous alarm till the train passes the worksite. "This gives the railway staff working at the bridge sites adequate time to move away from the bridge," they said.
The SCR has also installed solar charged continuous water level monitoring devices at 22 identified bridges to measure water levels accurately up to a range of 30 metres and are suited to work in “dusty, rainy and high pressure conditions,” explained senior officials.
Information of water levels is transmitted real time to a central server integrated with official web servers of the railways. Alerts through SMS messages are generated and sent to field railway officials periodically and when the levels reach certain threshold levels. “These devices have adequate battery backup to work round the clock and the status of working/breakdowns of the device can be remotely monitored,” said Chief PRO Ch. Rakesh.