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Mechanized measurement and inspection – a help to cut down maintenance cost

By on January 31, 2017

Failure to integrate new technologies with the traditional working system is the main reason for Indian Railway’s failure to cut costs. Introducing new technologies in any system cannot be done overnight and is always a well-planned engineering process. If not, both systems run parallel, not deriving any benefit to the organization. Measurement and inspection technologies developed during the last decade can benefit IR in cutting down maintenance costs of its infrastructure and bringing the integrity of measurement and inspection data along with conformity of maintenance work to improve reliability and safety in the rail system.

Present System of measurement and inspection in Indian Railways

Manual Measurement

Manual measurement of all track parameters and OHE is performed, and manual record upkeep by the concerned in charge on a regular measure. Such manual measurements are as under;

-track such as a gauge, superelevation, twist, curvature, absolute vertical and lateral profile of left and right rail, unevenness, wear, MMD infringement

-OHE such as stagger, height, contact wire diameter, the gradient of contact wire, measurement of implantation, clearances on overlaps, level of the auto-tensioning device,  etc.

Visual Inspection

While undertaking measurements, visual inspections for missing/loose/rotated/deformed/crack on the infrastructure is also performed by the nominated person. These are generally as under:

-track fastening fittings, alignment/broken sleeper, ballast profile and deficiency, cess profile, the degree of vegetation, etc., with daily, weekly and monthly schedules prescribed for a different management system level.

-OHE for broken/flashed insulators, broken/missing droppers, missing structure, and cross bonds, mirror test for detection of contact loss and quality of the current collection, Auto-tensioning Device, etc., with daily, weekly and monthly schedule prescribed for a different level of the management system.

The inspection and measurement are done by the staff traveling on motor/push trolley for track and foot/tower wagon for OHE

Track maintenance is based on the measurement/inspection. Where the manual maintenance of the track is not possible,  machine maintenance is done.  The scope for manual maintenance is very limited in track due to heavy structure.  In the case of OHE, based on the measurement/inspection, the maintenance is done simultaneously.

Advanced measurement and inspection technologies

Many manufacturers have developed and supplied track and OHE parameters measurement and inspection equipment with software to interpret the data on a user-friendly module. There also exists an EN standard for Track parameters, i.e., EN 13848-1 to 4, but not for the OHE. The principle of measurement is a laser or optical light beam falling on the object and measuring the reflected light for drawing inferences on possible parameters.

  1. Track and OHE Geometry Measurement System: Optical/Laser Inertial non-contact measurement of rail and OHE parameters
  2. Rail Profile check: High precision optical/laser based on the measuring principle of contactless laser triangulation and identifies defects on running edge and rail surface and assesses reprofiling need.
  3. High-speed digital cameras of resolution (2000*1000 pixels) image in real-time (up to 700 frame/sec) processing inspection system providing automatic detection of any type of defect on track/OHE infrastructure.
  4. With laser technology, point clouding, and digital imaging, it will be possible to have three-dimensional imaging of the Railway infrastructure, which will be a great help in future planning, integration of new projects/works, etc.
  5. The possibilities for measurements and inspection are clear from the images below:


(Courtesy: Leaflet of Meramec, DMA, BySys, etc.)

There is very high competition in the International markets, and the price will decrease significantly depending on the quantity. There is every possibility of “Make in India” if the requirement increases. The manufacturers whose documents examined are  Meramec and DMA of Italy, bvSys of Germany, Hitachi of Japan, etc. All these sources are trying their best to supply their system.

Status of advanced technologies over IR


  • Mechanized Track Measurement System is under the Track Machine and Monitoring Directorate of RDSO. It owns a coach equipped with TGMS equipment which runs at an interval (covering a territory of IR once in three to six months depending on the traffic-wise route) and reports non-conformity to concerned zonal railway management for undertaking repairs. It is mainly a supervisory/auditing inspection
  • 2 Nos. of Track Geometry Management System equipment procured from M/s Mermac installed on LHB coach (of which one is defective) is being used for the purpose.
  • The current projects of IR at RDSO as available on its website

Development & procurement of High-Speed Track Recording Car

Replacement of two Track Recording coaches, two staff Cars and two-track recording systems of TRC 2500 & TRC 225

Finalization of Track Monitoring System specification consists of Track Geometry, Visual inspection of Track, MMD etc.


  1. OHE Monitoring Car, called NETRA, under the control of the TI directorate of RDSO, runs at an interval (once in six months) and reports non-conformity to concerned management for undertaking repairs. It is mainly a supervisory/auditing inspection
  2. The current projects of IR

Online Monitoring System for OHE Traction Parameters in association with IIT/KGP

Technical Specification for self-propelled intelligent OHE parameter recording cum Inspection Car (Dhanwantari) Finalization of Monitoring System specification – Finalized Jan 2013

What is best for IR?

The responsibility of measurement and inspection by RDSO is not helping IR reduce maintenance costs and improve measurement and inspection integrity. The following action shall pave the way for reducing maintenance cost

  1. Decentralization of Mechanized Measurement and Inspection system to Zonal Railways.
  2. Creation of Mechanized Measurement and Inspection Organisation at Zonal Railway HQ.
  3. Procurement of advanced Measurement, Inspection, Recording, and Analyzing systems for each Railway. There can be many options for the installation of this equipment, such as
    1. Self-propelled vehicles either separate or combined for track and OHE
    2. LHB coach mounted with track and OHE together or a separate coach for track or OHE measuring and inspection equipment.
  4. Schedule of Inspection once a week. Vehicle attached to a coaching train in the rear, preferably a daytime train, and runs from one division to another or a separate path if self-propelled.
  5. Each Division nominates its specialist staff to take the measurement and communicate the non-conformity for immediate attention to the maintenance organization to comply within 24 hours
  6. Separation of Measurement/Inspection/Defect Identification/Recordkeeping from the present system of combined responsibility of Inspection, Measurement, and Maintenance with one entity.
  7. Frequent check on compliance with maintenance work results in infrastructure integrity
  8. Traffic and OHE blocks for measurement and inspection are not required and are only for maintenance work
  9. Manpower for measurement and inspection is not required resulting in saving in the cost of maintenance. The present average sanctioned manpower per TKM for track and OHE are 1.31 and 0.38 and can conveniently be reduced by about 25% besides utilizing part of the staff for the newly formed organization for mechanised measurement and inspection organization.
  10. Foot patrolling system for Track and OHE to continue
  11. Overall Maintenance strategy shall be revisited, suitably dovetailing preventive, condition, and predictive maintenance to reduce breakdown and improve the asset’s reliability, safety, and life.

Capital and Running Cost

The cost of TGMS procured by RDSO was about INR 5 Crs. The cost of LHB cost was separate. With this as a reference cost, the self-propelled combined recording car should cost around 50 Crs. But with procurement for each Railway, the cost will come down by 30-40% and reasonable AMC, a large number of units in service.  The running cost will involve a few operators, fuel, and AMC, which may not be more than 5 Crs/ recording car.


25% saving in manpower is an arbitrary figure. A work study by a third party on the deployment of staff for the maintenance infrastructure will be an eye-opener.

This is the sure shot approach towards modernization of Indian Railways with sureshot gains in reducing maintenance cost, improving safety and reliability.


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  1. power 4you says:

    Nice article thanks sharing this information, keep sharing