Automation to drive improvement of railways

Like many others, the transport and logistics industry can derive great benefit from improved efficiencies created by advancements in technology.

31 December 2019 | Infrastructure

Fitting to its new business strategy, TransNamib is assessing its current systems and processes.

TransNamib’s Executive for Technology and Innovation, Logan Fransman, said that the rail operator is currently researching prospective signalling technologies that could be considered to improve operational efficiencies at TransNamib.

Fransman heads the technology and innovation team and is tasked with ensuring that the national rail operator uses new technologies to obtain their goal of improved efficiencies.

One of the signalling systems the company is looking into, involves on-board computing systems and beacons that link up with base stations to transmit freight information. This would enable the rail operator to provide customers with real time information on cargo movement.

Incorporated into this system is limited movement authority, a safety tool that assists in preventing train-on-train collisions by notifying the train to slow down if another train is detected ahead.

With regard to maintenance systems, Fransman said that geo-fencing software, a location-based service to detect the geographical location of trains in conjunction with a break status monitoring system, can be used to quickly detect break downs.

“This is a crucial tool for TransNamib, if you consider its aged fleet of locos,” he said.

The use of vision technology is another maintenance option up for consideration. It scans the railway tracks to detect discrepancies and maintenance-related matters, which would inform the rail operator which sections of the track to proceed on carefully.

With the constant introduction of improved and new technologies, there are innovative systems that can be deployed for every area of operation.

As a show of TransNamib’s commitment to embracing innovation, the company is currently testing an autonomous vehicle which clears sand off tracks. The vehicle is being tested on the railway line in the south of Namibia, where sand regularly blows over the tracks causing significant delays.

“When employed correctly, automation can substantially improve organisational efficiency and performance”.

He urged both students and members of the industry to look at innovations and invited them to approach the national rail operator with ideas to improve its services.

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