Projekt badania szyn – 7 Program Ramowy 2007-2013

International Conference – Transport in 7 th FP,

June 6-7 / 2006 in Warsaw, Poland Organizer: The National Contact Point for Research Programmes of the EU

UltraZiP Poland 6-7. JUNE 2006 Warsaw
Extensive automatic ultrasonic inspection of railway tracks using diagnostic
miniibus laboratory

„Ultrazip” has developed various types of ultrasonic probes ofr tracks diagnostics. Diagnostic, equipment consists of sets of probes for L-wave, T-wave and R-wave measurements. Such simultaneous combination of waves, together with special spatial orientation of transmitters and receivers, allows one to detect various types of imperfections in tracks. This includes cracks in a rail head and in its vertical cross-section.
There exist two configurations of diagnostic equipment. They both operate using water coupling between rail surface and the probes. And they both can detect Head-Checking and SQUAT cracks. A configuration for manual inspection is shown in details in Fig. 1 and in its operating position in Fig. 2.


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Fig. 1. Details of T-wave and R-wave ultrasonic equipment used for manual detection of Head-Checking and SQUAT cracks


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Fig. 2. Manual equipment in its operating position on a rail


The equipment has been successfully tested in laboratory at first. Furthermore a special diagnostic train consisting of electric locomotive and three carriages (site diagnostic lab, technological base and staff welfare) has been developed to perform measurements on-site under normal traveling conditions. The results were really successful and diagnostic train can operate on Polish tracks.



Fig. 3. Set of dedicated ultrasonic probes for railway track assessment.


Fig. 4. Set of ultrasonic probes in runners and the runner on a railway track



Fig. 5. Crosshatching shows reliable small cracks measurement zone: left-today, right-in future

However small cracks of depth less than 3 mm cannot be detected with great reliability by nowadays automatic equipment. The area within track head, which is „unreliable zone” is schematically shown in Fig. 5.

Suggested research collaboration.

This state of the art in the railway tracks diagnostics and assessment can be further improved within the framework of 7FP Transport Technological Platform.

  1. The key idea is to extend the area of automatic diagnostics of rails to detect even smaller Head-Checking and SQUAT cracks long before they develop to the depth exceeding 3 mm upper rail zone (see Fig. 1).
  2. The other important improvement, which can be foreseen, is significant reduction of diagnostics cost with a great increase in equipment operability. Instead of using electric locomotive plus three carriages in a train a single autonomous vehicle with two person staff could be used (a driver and one researcher/engineer). This self-powered vehicle could be based on existing Volvo minibus able to operate on roads and tracks.
  3. Project shall include
    • development of special ultrasonic probes,
    • software for measurement and assessment of small Head-Checking and SQUAT imperfections, on-site transportable laboratory and
    • database of railway tracks conditions, inspection campaigns and comparative studies.
  4. Offered project partners are IFTR PAS research team, private SME „Ultrazip” and possibly PKP PLK SA.

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