A researcher at the University of Huddersfield has proposed using a network of wireless sensors powered by track vibrations to improve safety at level crossings.
Through funding from the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT), the university’s Institute of Railway Research’s (IRR) Dr Farouk Balouchi has come up with a method of using cheaper, self-powered, wireless sensors to control the opening and closing of level crossing gates.
The sensors would be powered by vibrations in the track caused by oncoming trains – a technique called energy harvesting.
As well as being cheaper to install and run than current detection systems, the sensors would be able to monitor the condition of the track.
The IRR says wireless sensors would also be less disruptive to services to install and would be less vulnerable to theft or damage.
“These detectors are expensive because they are made to be failsafe,” said the IRR’s professor in railway safety, Dr Coen Van Gulijk, describing the typical systems in use today. “But we have shown that we can use many cheap sensors and still guarantee fail safety.”
He added: “If one sensor fails, the others talk to one another and create another network, creating another route for the information to travel.”
The IRR said will now hold discussions with manufacturers to attempt to develop a product for the industry.