The International Heavy Haul Association has conducted its first strategy session towards development of a common vision of heavy haul railways for the year 2030. The impetus for this cooperative effort has been anticipation that the 4th industrial revolution, characterized by cloud computing, big data analytics, the Internet of Things and 3D printing, will offer an opportunity to transform heavy haul railways.
The preliminary strategy workshop took place in Lulea, Sweden September 15 and 16, and was attended by representatives from Australia, Europe, India, Russia, South Africa and North America, with submissions as well from China Railways and VALE Brazil. The Workshop reviewed presentations on a suite of themes presented by theme champions from each of the member countries.to arrive at a common vision of Heavy Haul 4.0.
The representatives envisaged heavy haul railways dealing with higher tonnages in the future, unlocking capacity through the use of true virtual moving blocks, aided by communications-based train control. They saw trains running autonomously with tighter headways, dispatched and guided by computers analysing vast amounts of data in real time. Track and rolling stock inspections would be performed by onboard and wayside sensors feeding artificial intelligence algorithms capable of trending conditions and proactively assigning maintenance work orders. Technology was determined to be a key lever in achieving safer, more productive and more reliable railways and the lowest possible risk environment for employees. In the future, railway assets would be closely managed with the help of extensive data analytics capable of assessing remaining asset life, but prompting actions that would economically extend asset life.
The heavy haul strategy group acknowledged the enablers of the Heavy Haul 4.0