The Benefits of Rail Temperature Monitoring for Melbourne’s Train Network

Melbourne’s rail network can be affected by extreme heat in summer. Discover how new technology has improved its performance in summer.

Across the summer months, Melbourne’s rail network can be affected by extreme hot weather events. In the past, network-wide speed restrictions
had been applied based on the ambient weather forecast, which was issued 24 to 48 hours ahead of the event.

This meant that trains could only travel at 80 km/h on parts of the network, where they usually travel at speeds of up to 115km/h – leading to slower
trains and more congestion on the lines.

Metro Trains Melbourne rose to the challenge of improving the passenger experience across the hotter months by deploying rail temperature monitoring technology. Keep reading to learn how this has helped to improve the rail experience in Melbourne.

New technology to monitor critical rail temperature

After researching and testing viable solutions, Metro Trains Melbourne settled on a particular type of heat sensor. The heat sensor is a platinum resistance type thermometer which mounts to the underside of flat-bottomed rail. The sensor can accurately measure the temperature of the rail between -20 and +60 degrees Celsius.

oused in a metal clip that can be hammered into place, the sensor presses against the underside of the rail to measure track temperatures in real time. It has a 10m cable tail that is threaded through a knurled locking ring and connected to a data logger, communicating with a web interface to produce highly accurate heat maps of the rail network.

What is critical rail temperature?

WOLO 1 speed restrictions are applied when the actual track temperature climbs to 55°C, with trains confined to a maximum track speed of 80 km/h. Rail Temperature Monitoring sensors enable this speed restriction to be applied section by section. WOLO 2 speed restrictions are triggered when the ambient temperature forecast reaches 42°C and above, in which case trains are restricted to 70 km/h. On hot days these restrictions are applied to ensure the efficient and safe running of trains services.     

Further improvements to Melbourne’s rail experience

This rail temperature technology immediately gave rise to a second innovation, which is the use of wayside flip-boards to designate WOLO track speeds in specific sections of the network. The flip-boards are located at platforms around the network, essentially serving the same role as speed signs on a highway. 

The introduction of WOLO flip-boards – coupled with the ability to measure local track temperatures in real time – has enabled the city’s train control centre to adjust speeds in specific sections of track based on data sent from the local array of heat sensors.

By using real time track temperature data, rather than the ambient weather forecast, the company can manage travel times more effectively rather slowing down the whole network through universal speed restrictions. Passengers can get where they need to go safely and on time, which is good news on a very hot day. 

What’s next for Melbourne’s rail network?

Not only has Metro Trains Melbourne improved the accuracy of track temperature readings and track speed limits, they’re also involved in a project that’s designed to improve the frequency of trains. Known as the Metro Tunnel Project, this venture will implement high capacity signalling to various lines. This signalling will further reduce line congestion and ultimately enhance the travel experience for Melbourne’s busy commuters.

To keep learning about the improvements of Melbourne’s train network, be sure to subscribe to RIW’s blog for more updates.

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