A general target for all railway companies and operators in Europe is to reduce costs in all fields. Maintenance is among the largest items of expenditure in railway operations, and faces pressure to streamline and optimise procedures without negatively affecting safety levels. Cost reduction schemes for maintenance have to take into account life-cycle costs of the whole system, and should allow for the assessment of efficiency benefits, feasibility and safety implications.
REMAIN aimed to develop practical methods and tools for the evaluation of a Reliability, Availability and Maintainability System (RAMS) for railway operations. The main objectives of REMAIN have been to:
- define requirements for railway components crucial for the safety and efficiency of rail transport on a European basis, focusing on infrastructure aspects of maintenance costs;
- develop a framework for the collection and the retrieval of status-indicative information on these components in a comprehensive modular database;
specify and develop modules for railway-specific communication and diagnostic methods, with the aim of gathering top-level status information on crucial components;
- use up-to-date information in combination with historical data for the strategic planning of maintenance operations;
- design a modular and open system architecture for user-friendly adjustment of the maintenance system for particular European railway systems;
- provide a demonstrator incorporating diagnostic features for infrastructure and to use it as a test bed for validation of the applicability of the specified methods;
- establish application groups, drawn from international organisations and industry, with the aim of exploiting the study's results.
REMAIN has produced:
- the framework for a systematic analysis of maintenance needs and organisational requirements using Reliability Centred Maintenance and the introduction of condition monitoring methods;
- a database structure for retrieving railway-specific status, reliability and maintenance data, with the aim to later extend national/local databases with a common global database, that gives railway companies access to anonymous information from other operators;
- an assessment of the suitability of available computer networks and communication channels for data gathering and transmission; recommendations included the use of GSM radio communication technology for RAMS data transmission;
- a life cycle cost (LCC) model for railway applications including the four categories investment, maintenance & operation, delay and hazard;
an architecture called the REMAIN method for Strategic Maintenance Planning (RESMAP), which additionally has been verified by German Rail on a demonstrator railway line between Dortmund and Hamm;
- a tool for safety assessment called the REMAIN Change Analysis method (RCAM), which analyses changes in maintenance strategies with respect to safety issues.
The study concentrated on infrastructure aspects and outlined specific requirements for databases and RAMS tools. In this, it relied on work already undertaken by several railway companies. Subsequent R&D on maintenance in the rail sector is recommended to incorporate all other relevant areas like failure mechanisms, environmental and operational aspects and might include provision of specific application guidelines for railway operators.
Solutions developed within REMAIN will help to establish a performance regime in line with the new European Union Railway Infrastructure Package COM (1998) 480. Under this regime, RAMS and LCC data could be used for performance related payments between railway infrastructure managers and operators, e.g. to provide compensation for delays resulting from poor reliability and availability of railroad infrastructure.