Home Company News COWI to improve Network Rail tunnel examinations

COWI to improve Network Rail tunnel examinations

Leading international consulting group COWI has won a contract worth approximately £500,000 to improve the accuracy, efficiency and safety of tunnel examinations, resulting in safer and more reliable railway operation.

The project is funded by Network Rail through the SBRI: innovation in automated tunnel examination competition, delivered by InnovateUK.

Working with subcontractors Railview and Viapontica over the next 18 months, COWI will combine machine learning and novel subsurface defect detection with existing virtual inspection tools used for bridges to reduce the time spent by personnel on the ground examining tunnel structures. The project team will build on mobile mapping solutions using a combination of technologies to collect data that will be processed to build an accurate three-dimensional model, which can be viewed and manipulated by engineers.

The new techniques will reduce exposure to health and safety risks and reduce costs while enhancing the asset knowledge of rail staff. The improvements will also lead to less disruption of rail passengers by reducing disruptive possessions required for examinations and allowing timely maintenance interventions.

Andy Sloan, managing director / senior vice president of COWI in the UK, said: “While railway workforce injuries are declining, there is still room for improvement. The impact that digital technologies can have on health and safety cannot be understated and this project is a fantastic opportunity for us to bring best practice from across sectors and geographies to further digitalise and improve tunnel inspection.”

The final stage of the project next year will be to undertake an Operational Environment Demonstration and evaluate the results in conjunction with Network Rail’s asset managers. Following that COWI will submit a report on it at the end of 2021 and develop plans for further development and exploitation.

Nigel Wordsworth BSc(Hons) MCIJhttp://therailengineer.com

SPECIALIST AREAS Rolling stock, mechanical equipment, project reports, executive interviews


Nigel Wordsworth graduated with an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from Nottingham University, after which he joined the American aerospace and industrial fastener group SPS Technologies. After a short time at the research laboratories in Pennsylvania, USA, Nigel became responsible for applications engineering to industry in the UK and Western Europe. At this time he advised on various engineering projects, from Formula 1 to machine tools, including a particularly problematic area of bogie design for the HST.

A move to the power generation and offshore oil supply sector followed as Nigel became director of Entwistle-Sandiacre, a subsidiary of the Australian-owned group Aurora plc. At the same time, Nigel spent ten years as a Technical Commissioner with the RAC Motor Sports Association, responsible for drafting and enforcing technical regulations for national and international motor racing series.

Joining Rail Engineer in 2008, Nigel’s first assignment was a report on new three-dimensional mobile mapping and surveying equipment, swiftly followed by a look at vegetation control machinery. He continues to write on a variety of topics for most issues.

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