Autonomous vehicles for tunnel maintenance—Sydney Trains

Sydney Trains’ objective

Sydney Trains’ Intelligent Maintenance Program (IMP) is a plan to move away from traditional manual maintenance techniques. It aims to move towards a more modern, integrated, and predictive approach. The goal is to improve the performance of their rail assets and optimise maintenance practices using autonomous vehicles for tunnel maintenance.

Proof of concept

As part of the IMP, Sydney Trains is planning to conduct a Proof of Concept (PoC) using off-the-shelf autonomous vehicles for tunnel maintenance. The purpose of this test is to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of using this technology for tunnel maintenance, including inspections, visualizations, data collection, analytics, and reporting on rail tunnel structural integrity.

The role of the autonomous vehicles for tunnel maintenance

The self-driving vehicle will be equipped with sensors and cameras that can identify wet spots, water leakage, seepage, pooling, and poor drainage in the tunnels. It will also look for mud on the foot of rails, inspect tunnel walls for cracks, deformations or sagging, and check on the condition of cables and wires.

The autonomous vehicles for tunnel maintenance will collect and store data on the condition of the tunnel and its assets. The data will be analysed and used to inform predictive maintenance strategies. This data will enable Sydney Trains to develop targeted, risk-based tunnel maintenance programs that prioritize areas in need of attention.

Advantages of autonomous vehicles for tunnel maintenance

The use of autonomous vehicles for tunnel maintenance has the potential to significantly improve safety and efficiency, reduce downtime and maintenance costs, and enhance the overall performance of rail assets. By collecting and analysing data in real-time, Sydney Trains can proactively identify and address issues before they become critical, ensuring that their rail network remains reliable and efficient.

The use of the self-driving vehicle in tunnel maintenance has several benefits, including:

  • improved safety by reducing the time workers need to spend in danger zones
  • improved track availability, as the self-driving vehicle can perform inspections without requiring possession of the tracks

Using a common technology base

Using a common technology base enables better visibility of the tunnel’s structural integrity. This means that issues can be identified and addressed more quickly, reducing the risk of significant problems developing.

The data collected by the self-driving autonomous vehicles for tunnel maintenance can be used to inform asset lifecycle optimisation (ALO) and risk-based tunnel maintenance practices. Maintenance can be targeted to areas most in need of attention, reducing the risk of failures and ensuring the optimal performance of the tunnel over its lifespan.

Tender details

The EOI Provision Of Rail Tunnel Inspection Using Autonomous Vehicle—WS3755302804 is due 2.30pm (AEDT) on 01 May 2023. A briefing will be provided on Tuesday 28 March 2023 at 2.00pm AEDT. Madrigal has experience in rail projects and in  technical writing assignments in the sector. If you need help contact us for a chat.