Monitoring system to warn of earth movement on Scotland’s railway

A monitoring system which provides early warning of earth movement is to be trialled across Scotland’s railway.

Network Rail has installed surfaced mounted tilt meters at 26 sites across the network, with a further seven to be fitted in the coming months.

It is hoped that the technology will reduce the risk from landslips and improve the overall safety of the railway by alerting any movement in slopes above or below the line.

The rail management firm said that the system can be used to quickly flag potential issues to engineers, enabling trains to be slowed down and stopped before they reach the problem area.

Alan Ross, director of engineering and asset management at Network Rail, said, “In Scotland, we are increasing our use of new monitoring and surveillance technologies to mitigate risks. This includes making more use of drone and helicopter surveys and we are also trialling new weather forecasting methods for the railway.

“Our weather is increasingly changeable and technology has provided us with tools to proactively monitor and model when and where extreme weather will occur and how it will impact on our infrastructure.  The roll-out of tilt meters is another tool which enables us to better monitor the railway and improve safety across our network.

“We are at the forefront of deploying remote monitoring equipment, and we continue to support research and development into a wider range of equipment and technologies which will help protect our infrastructure in the future.”

Providing notifications in typically less than two minutes, the system has two banks of wireless tilt sensors, typically spaced 2.5m apart with a centrally mounted pole, logger and cameras to monitor data from the sensors.

Tilt sensors will detect movement in slopes when there is more than a five-degree tilt and send the alert via the mobile network to alert train controllers to the potential danger. The system is powered by solar panels with battery back-up available for resilience.

Network Rail said successful implementation of this system will help keep the railway operating safely during poor weather. It is expected that by April 2024, tilt monitoring will have been installed at 100 locations across Scotland’s Railway.