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Passenger train-borne AI infrastructure monitoring rolls into service

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Looking after Britain’s railway infrastructure is set to be transformed as Cordel’s new AI monitoring technology is deployed on passenger services for the first time.

The first passenger train equipped with Cordel’s LiDAR and image capture technology rolled out of Reading depot onto the Reading to Basingstoke Line at 05:28 on Friday, 28 October 2022, allowing real-time track monitoring and more efficient management of Britain’s mainline railways.

The technology has been installed on one of Great Western Railway’s Class 165 fleet, leased by Angel Trains. It will provide Network Rail with AI-powered inspection automation on a high-frequency basis, delivering a ‘Digital Twin’ of survey-grade LiDAR with co-located high-resolution video, aligned to the network’s linear reference system.

Once the data is captured, it will be transformed into insight for Network Rail using Cordel’s machine-learning solutions. Cordel will provide up-to-date analysis of track clearance (especially at bridges, tunnels and platforms), vegetation management, ballast profiling, overhead line equipment height & stagger assessments, and many more applications.

Nick Smith, CEO, Cordel, said: “This is a major initiative for Cordel, Angel Trains, and the UK rail network. By capturing data in real-time from in-service passenger trains, we can provide Network Rail with a far more detailed picture of the state of rail infrastructure, moving from time-based maintenance to condition-based maintenance. As well as being more efficient in terms of resources, we can help Network Rail provide a more resilient railway by focusing maintenance on key issues more promptly.”

The deployment of Cordel’s technology follows the announcement of a five-year contract with Angel Trains in August 2022. The agreement is for Cordel to install fully automated hardware onto in-service passenger trains, delivering AI-powered insights for Intelligent Infrastructure.

John Murphy, GWR Head of Fleet Production, said: “We’re pleased to be able to support the introduction of this new real-time track monitoring technology on board one of our Class 165 fleet.
“At GWR, we are committed to reviewing emerging technologies and we look forward to working with our partners to assist in the rollout of this software, which is designed to improve track maintenance and in turn help us to deliver an even more robust timetable for the benefit of our customers.”

Cordel’s automated processing will deliver prompt monitoring of Network Rail infrastructure.
It will minimise the need to run special measurement trains and mean frontline staff can be
deployed directly to the area where an issue has been identified, without having to physically
walk the track.

Martin Frobisher, Network Rail Director of Engineering and Safety, said: “Running a
safe and reliable railway at an affordable cost is at the core of what we do, and this exciting
innovation will help do precisely that.”

Angel Trains is a leading UK rolling stock leasing company which owns more than 4000
vehicles, equating to one-third of the UK’s passenger train market. This includes the Class
165 fleet, where trains will begin operating with Cordel LiDAR and imagery.

Malcolm Brown, CEO of Angel Trains, said: “At Angel Trains, we invest in new technologies that will enhance the UK’s railway systems. We are excited to work with Cordel,
alongside Network Rail and Great Western Railways, to enable more efficient management
of our railways, and improve passenger experience across the country.”

The Class 165 12-month pilot deployment is the first project under a Cordel-Angel Trains
framework agreement and is supported by Network Rail as part of the Mobile Infrastructure
Monitoring Strategy. In what is believed to be a UK-first, Cordel will deploy the latest
generation of Cordel Wave sensors in permanent installations on passenger trains. By
installing sensors on existing rolling stock paired with Cordel’s advanced AI-powered
software, the pilot’s success will enable the future roll-out of the automated inspection of all
Network Rail infrastructure.

This passenger train installation further expands Cordel’s relationship with Network Rail in
the UK. In Summer 2021, Cordel’s processing technology was approved by Network Rail for
use in gauging clearance across the UK rail network; in Autumn 2021, Cordel was awarded
a 6.5-year contract to redesign and deliver the UK’s National Gauging Database (creating
the ‘Railway Gauging Data Solution’); and in Spring 2022, Cordel’s contract with Network
Rail High Speed (first awarded in August 2021) was extended in duration and scope.

Image credit: Cordel

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