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Network Rail brings in cameras to tackle power failures

26 Aug 11 Network Rail has rolled out new camera technology that enables maintenance crews to spot defects in rail wires up to 7.6m overhead.

Successful completion of trials has led Network Rail to supply 30 cameras to maintenance units on electrified routes across the country. The cameras save time as they can be operated without turning off the power and closing the line.

The aim is that the cameras will enable more efficient and more accurate maintenance, fewer delays to passenger and freight services and save millions of pounds in delay payments.

Crews carrying out routine track patrols can attach the camera to the overhead wire where it is then held steady by two small stabilising arms on insulated poles. The camera can tilt so that images and video of the top and side of the wire can also be seen. High resolution images are captured and streamed to a portable laptop. Engineers can view this for instant review of the condition of the wire and equipment components or can analyse the footage later. A schedule for repair of any defects can then be put in place.

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“When the overhead wires come down, it can cause massive delays to passengers and freight services and can cost Network Rail millions of pounds each year in compensation,” said director of maintenance for Network Rail Steve Featherstone. “We’ve been looking at smarter ways to reduce such incidents by using technology to help us find faults and fix them before they become a problem. The cameras give us a greater field of vision than the naked eye and this allows our teams to be less reactive and build this maintenance into our schedules, which will mean fewer closures of lines, fewer delays and a better value railway for everyone.”

During testing, the camera was able to stream images to a laptop more than 100m away, enabling a greater area to be covered at one time. Another benefit of the camera is that it can measure the thickness of the contact wire so engineers can gauge wear rates, find thin spots and then plan repairs or replacements.

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