Operational safety is an important issue in railway operation. On the other hand the track usage fees play an important role for the attractiveness of railway transport. The visual inspection is a cost driver in the current situation. The introduction of the new ÖBB management operation system should result in an increase in safety and quality and/or a reduction of operating costs. These goals can only be achieved by concentrating the responsible staff to a few locations.
The main objective is to replace the traditional train supervision system which employs staff to perform visual inspections. Thus the number of checkpoints shall be increasable having less personnel costs at the same time. The basic objective is to replace the human detection by an automated system. This requires an integration of sensors into the train control systems. The automatically acquired data should flow into the control systems to prevent accidents and damages.
The traditional train supervision has to be replaced by a technical solution, the so-called checkpoints. Checkpoints can be defined as trackside locations where trains are examined to detect any deviation from nominal conditions. In February 2003, the project 'The integration of Checkpoint Systems into Solid State Interlockings for automatics train supervision' was officially launched. In Autumn 2004, the checkpoint-prototype went into operation on the railway line between Vienna and the Austrian-Hungarian border.
The project is currently in its final phase, no results are disclosed. From other projects we learned that filters against solar irradiation are necessary for IR-sensors. But sensors equipped with filters managed to survive a five years test. Also an auto-calibration of the sensors is necessary to allow a longer unattended operation of the sensors in the field.
The system is helpful to cope with low quality rolling stock which will be operated in Europe due to the liberalisation of rail freight. The plenitude of vehicles and also new technologies (changing gauges) require increased monitoring. To avoid costly visual inspections this project helps to secure the open access to the rail networks by providing the basics for filtering out problematic vehicles that might cause damages or derail. Because of the detection in an early stage costs for preventing accidents are low.