Railway plays a key role in Europe's need for sustainable and safe mode of transport. In order to win back market shares and shift the modes of transportation, the European infrastructure managers need to spend more cost efficiently both on renewal and maintenance. It is clear that railways carry the burden of a very costly infrastructure. Modernisation of services are identified as a key element. This also implies a change for the industry with regards to organisation. The European railways are facing major challenges with regard to maintenance and management of the infrastructure. In the last decades the budgets for maintaining and renewing the infrastructure have been reduced throughout Europe, which implies a thorough prioritisation by the infrastructure managers.
At the same time the UIC benchmark study InfraCost has demonstrated differences between the European railways in their resource allocation and their output.
This project indicates that complete outsourcing not necessarily gives the best results, which is a very important finding. Furthermore, interoperability of the railways is a key factor to succeed in mode shift from road to rail and in revitalising the European railways on an economic basis. The directive on the Trans-European Network has been approved. However, Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI) for this directive are not in force. Also notified bodies with respect to this specification have not yet been approved in all EU countries. Design and manufacturing of interoperable components has started and first lines have been already equipped. Therefore experience which could be gained is rather limited. However, it is to be expected that in the future the number of types of interoperable components supplied by different manufacturers will grow due to increased interest of railways.
The Consortium followed close to market startegies without having the mission of performing own research in this project. Main objectives were:
- the exploitation of available results and technology developments from European and other projects;
- bringing together users and developers in a flexible network for knowledge management (Internet support) and
- investigating the needs for optimisation and recommendation of further activities.
The Thematic Network ProM@in has been designed to enhance the performance of railway infrastructure through application of innovative knowledge, tools and methodologies,
- using available results of research, technology developments and applicable knowledge in EU- and other projects;
- bringing together users and developers in a flexible network for knowledge management;
- applying and testing new CENELEC safety approaches;
- concentrating on the enhancement of new European railway lines; and
- identifying needs for further actions.
The applications were grouped around lines selected from EU priority programmes and projects (54 TEN projects, 3 freight-freeways, and 2 corridors). The problems in these groups of lines were representative for a wide sector of present and future rail transport crossing national borders.
Technical Clusters of the Network:
The main topics addressed in the network were infrastructure maintenance, management, development and new safety approach for railways. A variety of tools, results of research, strategies, methods (knowledge) was offered by researchers, innovative companies etc. The task of the partners was to find an efficient way to extract this knowledge and to make it usable for practical operation.
A structuring and prioritisation of the available knowledge results in the following thematic clustering:
1. Use of New Technologies for Infrastructure Development and Maintenance:
- Introduction of new track systems and components with higher life span and reduced sound emissions at lower life cycle costs.
- New constructions for switches enlarging maintenance intervals and life span.
- Design for maintainability e. g. by subdividing mechanical and electronic components into modules that could be exchanged easily.
The tasks were appropriately defined to contribute towards the Project’s general objectives, and resources were properly matched to the necessary work.
Task 1- Track Systems: The task objective was a valuable one, as many competing proprietary ballastless track systems were available, all of them advocated strongly by those who had ownership of the designs. Practitioners needed some hard data on which to make a selection. This data needed to include experience in maintaining the respective systems. As far as possible numerate data was required, although this might have been be very difficult to acquire. Careful consideration needed to be given to the rollout of this work; at what level were the decision makers? How would they be convinced that the work was authoritative and applicable to their special circumstances?
Task 2- Automatic Switch Diagnosis: The task objective was immensely valuable, and its value when implemented was understated in the report. In particular, in many countries it is rapidly becoming very expensive to allow control system maintenance staff access to trackside equipment, because of the accelerating cost of providing safe work systems, as train speeds increase coupled with increasing perceived cash value of delay while remedial attention is given. The task description refers to a Fourth Framework project called Remain. This project was completed successfully, but hardly any adoption of its proposals took place. It was important to be quite clear about why this was, and to ensure that there would be no repetition.
Task 3- Total Quality Management: The benefits of TQM are widely advocated by supporters of the philosophy, and the benefits are certainly real. The Report quite rightly states that this field is very wide and it is sensible to restrict the scope. The area selected was a valuable one, where TQM had not been well implemented in some cases. The increasing trend towards the use of contract arrangements for much of the track maintenance and renewal makes the area selected particularly appropriate, as the benefits of TQM are especially high if the approach can be successfully implemented across contract interfaces, that is throughout a supply chain. Considerable resource and effort was put into TQM in Great Britain in the period 1988 to 1991, and of course in several other major railways. Care needed to be taken to understand how TQM can be presented as an issue with relevance today. As a general philosophical approach, TQM is in danger of falling into general
The Thematic Network ProM@in has managed to enhance the performance of railway infrastructure through the application of innovative knowledge, tools and methodologies. ProM@in by this service has achieved to:
- establish co-operation between users and parties who can provide solutions;
- make available the results of research and technological developments;
- investigate and apply better construction principles, management and safety approaches;
- identify needs for further actions in Europe such as further research, political measures and necessary funding, in favour of a sustainable mobility provided by railways.
High speed trains, which speed over tracks at about 300km/h require tracks which are very stable, guide the trains as 'smoothly' as possible, and must be maintained as little as possible. PROMAIN collected and disseminated knowledge about highly performant slab tracks and studied these systems' advantages and disadvantages.
Every year during its lifetime, Prom@in organised several workshops, interviews, meetings with experts, conferences and courses. Results and insights point to open issues and do not only refer to infrastructure. Most of them are discussed in Prom@in's own journal 'Innovations for Railway Track' that documents the work in three editions in November 2001, 2002 and 2003. The team came to the following conclusions:
- 'Quality Management not in the centre of IM's interest':
Acoording to a questionnaire sent out by Promain to 16 European Infrastructure Managers (IM) only 7 of them use a standard for Quality Management (QM). This is not to say that the way to increase performance is that all use a standard. Quality and customer satisfaction are important, not the quality system as such. It is also revealing to notice that the Infrastructure Managers allocated ranking figures clearly below average to the importance of QM in fields like business re-engineering, customer satisfaction and continuous improvement. Focus on the customer side is weak. This is contradictory to the position that QM has gained in other industries.
- 'European Rail Freight with bad communication across borders':
Rail freight transport is a much more complicated process than road transport. This is due to numerous interfaces between stakeholders (customers, forwarders, railway undertakings, infrastructure managers, autho
ProMain was designed by the Commission as a Thematic Network to enhance the performance of the railway infrastructure in maintenance and management. It is technically oriented. The possible involvement in EU policies has at least two facets:
- Policy implementation: ProMain defines and solves tasks which have a considerable impact on the realisation of EU policies.
- Policy initiatives: ProMain contributes to the development of policies in statu nascendi and makes proposals for new railway policies on its own. Up to now ProMain has put most weight on facet I, but it is also ready to follow facet II in a wider sense than before.
For the implementation of EU policies the ProMain approach took into consideration right from the beginning the three major basic policy principles of the single market, of sustainable mobility and of the enlargement of the EU.
With regard to the latter, application areas have been sought for all classes of Trans-European railway networks as there are TEN-T (4 lines, high-speed, under consideration in ProMain), TERFFs (3 lines under consideration), Pan-European lines (2 corridors under consideration). Seven tasks have been defined with regard to their impact on the implementation of the three major policy principles and their different logical consequences. All tasks envisage the preparation of a field for future R & D activities which as such is itself a contribution to policy initiation. To get access to valuable knowledge sources and to receive support for the implementation of results, ProMain has established contacts to policy makers up to the level of the European Commission.
Recommendations for future work after Promain shall be secured:
- Realising highly performant tracks - Today, slab track systems may be used for the entire railway network system. To help with the further introduction of this performant construction, the following actions are recommended:
• Disseminate experience on suitability of slab tracks on earthworks, in tunnels and on bridges as well as for many types of reconstruction projects due to its narrow route parameters;
• Compare investment costs with ballast track on an LCC basis taking into account costs of artificial works and of maintenance, which are normally lower for slab track;
• Collect objective data to prove a higher riding comfort and lower wear of vehicles with