Investing for a safer railway


MAPS stress management technology helps reduce track closures, avoid rail buckles, improves safety on rail networks

A man-portable device to measure the stress in railway tracks, helping to prevent delays and avoid potential accidents, has been adopted by the UK rail network.

Network Rail, the UK's railway infrastructure owner and manager, is working with MAPS Technology Ltd to develop the MAPS-SFT product to support the management of stress-free temperature (= Rail Neutral Temperature, RNT), a critical factor in avoiding track buckles.

Network Rail is planning to use the technology to monitor sections of continuously welded rail (CWR). MAPS-SFT provides the ability to non-destructively determine changes in stress-free temperature in CWR and at key locations such as curves, switches and crossings that previously could not be easily tested.

Network Rail runs, maintains and develops all of the UK's tracks, signalling system, rail bridges, tunnels, crossings, viaducts and key stations. Last year, UK railways carried over a billion passengers.

Accurate knowledge of the stress-free temperature of sections of track allows better assessment of the risk and management of speed restrictions – preventing delays and potentially avoiding incidents caused by buckles or rail breaks. Unlike other systems, the MAPS-SFT technology monitors the rail without hindering train operations with track closures, a vital factor for a rail operator running at capacity.

"The one-man portable MAPS-SFT equipment can be used anytime, anywhere to ensure that rails are correctly stressed, a significant improvement over current techniques," said Alan Hayes, MAPS Technology's Product Manager for MAPS-SFT. "The stress-free temperature is set at the nominal average rail temperature that the rail is expected to experience throughout the year. It ensures that rails are not excessively in compression in very hot weather or are not excessively in tension during cold weather.

"The development of MAPS-SFT from the original MAPS technique is an excellent example of successful technology transfer between inductry sectors, and we look forward to working with Network Rail to make this project a resounding success," Hayes added.

"MAPS-SFT is an important addition to the toolbox of techniques that help with the integrity management of railway infrastructure," said Geoff Eckold, MAPS Technology's Managing Director. "Network Rail has a strong reputation in the industry for its practical application of cutting edge inspection techniques and we know that MAPS-SFT will support its excellent work in this area."

MAPS Technology is a company whose goal is to deliver the benefits of the MAPSTM stress measurement technology to owners and operators of capital plant, original equipment manufacturers, their service providers and material suppliers.

The MAPS Technology team has many years in-depth experience of the design, engineering and evaluation of asset integrity management solutions and is currently enabling companies all over the world in the application of the unique MAPS technology.

MAPS Technology was previously a division of ESR Technology – formerly the engineering, safety and risk division of AEA Technology. AEA was formed from the commercial arm of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. This heritage means that MAPS Technology provides more than 40 years' experience in the application of engineering excellence to demanding projects worldwide. MAPS Technology continues to work closely with ESR Technology in the provision of integrity management solutions.