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What is rail asset management?

Asset management is a term that has rapidly gained influence in the rail industry. The basic defining principle, of an often complex system, is a group of co-ordinated activities that optimise asset performance to help deliver a business’ objectives.

It comprises all systems, procedures and tools to maximise asset availability for a minimum whole-life cost and risk.

This often involves using intelligent software to collect and analyse data about usage so that predictive and preventative maintenance can take place rather than reactive repairs.

But it isn’t restricted to just maintenance. Asset management covers an asset’s entire lifecycle, from design, construction and operation through to renewal and disposal and the consequences of each activity.

With more than 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges and tunnels, 2,500 stations and a vast range of equipment installed around each, Network Rail is one of the largest asset management organisations in the UK.

In its asset management policy document, Network Rail says that the system is key to delivering “outstanding” value for taxpayers’ and customers’ money and driving sustainable development. Aligned with its corporate objectives, asset management also helps to improve safety, support economic growth and social opportunities and minimise its environmental impact.

The framework of Network Rail’s asset management activities for its railway assets – not including office and I.T. equipment – is covered in the diagram below.

Supported by reliable information, effective planning, processes and competent personnel, Network Rail says its strategic planning, project delivery and maintenance are established as best practice amongst European railways and UK utilities.

The scope of Network Rail's asset management activities. Credit: Network Rail.
The scope of Network Rail’s asset management activities. Credit: Network Rail.

On the rolling stock front, Bombardier is one of a number of companies which has developed an asset information and management service to facilitate the move from period to condition-based maintenance regimes.

Building on advances in onboard systems and communications technology, Bombardier released ORBITA in 2006, providing real-time information on vehicle performance to the maintainer. This covers such systems as heating, ventilation and air conditioning, propulsion and electrical equipment.

System experts located in control centres interrogate the data, liaise with depots and cross-reference information from Bombardier’s database to establish patterns of equipment performance. This enables them to diagnose and identify potential issues before they occur and make quick and well-informed decisions.

As well as performance-based monitoring, ORBITA can be used in conjunction with metering systems to analyse energy consumption and analyse where potential savings could be made, all to help optimise the performance of assets.

Want to learn more? The inaugural Rail Asset Management Summit is being held in London on February 28, 2018.

Hear from the industry’s leading figures on topics such as:

  • How to transfer data from a BIM model to a client model;
  • The available technology for clients to use;
  • The Internet of Things;
  • Performance data and analysis;
  • And impact of the digitalisation of the railway on assets.



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