A major challenge for the European railway maintenance operators is to reduce track costs; presently their largest cost component. Over the past 30 years railway track maintenance costs have remained relatively static. In contrast, competing modes o
f transport have seen huge Life Cycle Cost (LCC) reductions. Such an issue can only be addressed via research and standardisation through EU parliament. This has been outlined by the EC White Paper on Transport (Issued in September 2002) which sets out targets for railway operators including:
- Reducing LCC by 30%
- Reducing accidents leading to fatalities by 75%
In the rail industry, rail frogs are subject to repetitive explosive impact collisions
from rolling stock. Such repetitive action acts as a catalyst for fatigue cracking which compromise the structural integrity of these safety critical components. For this reason, rail frogs are manufactured from high manganese steel, which is highly resistant to fatigue cracking due to its work hardening properties.
In-service inspection techniques are limited to visual inspection, which occurs on a weekly basis. If required, dye-penetrant inspection may also be performed to confirm the presence of a defect. However these surface limited techniques are time consuming and costly, and in some cases can require sections of component to be removed from their anchor points and manually turned over prior to inspection. However, there are no in-service techniques used for sub-surface inspection of rail frogs. During pre-service examination, radiography is occasionally applied and allows for full volume inspection of rail frogs. However the technique requires highly trained personnel, specialist equipment and facilities, has strict health and safety regulations due to radiation exposure and is expensive to setup and maintain. For these reasons most rail track operators cannot afford such technology. In some EU states this means pre-installation quality analysis of the components is limited to surface inspection which allows for frogs containing sub-surface defects to be placed into service.
The SAFTInspect system solves this problem by a compact crossover capable of scanning and detecting the defects by ultrasonic technique.