According to The Australian Financial Review, a major Australian rail group, Aurizon, has turned to drones and other companies to help repair its rail tracks and trains as it uses technology and industry partnerships to reduce costs.
Technology is a core part of the rail group's plan to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in costs and boost productivity, with drones now used to survey its Queensland rail tracks and inspect bridges, overhead electrical wires and telecommunications towers.
Automated machines are already used to inspect trains, and Aurizon has been developing new methods for repairing trains that allows repairs to be done without pulling train carriages apart.
The rail group is installing remote recording equipment on some locomotives to monitor the condition of rail tracks so it can try and predict faults, and has put lasers at some level crossings to detect loads that are too high.
Along with other rail groups such as Pacific National, Yarra Trams and the Australia Rail Track Corporation, Aurizon previously invested millions in one of the government-backed cooperative research centres, the CRC for Rail Innovation.
The CRC, which ended its seven-year research program in June 2014, partnered rail groups with universities to work on research projects, including smart technology and urban rail projects.
Aurizonis developing partnerships with US companies GE and Caterpillar, which owns engineering and repair group Progress Rail Services, and German software group SAP.
The company signed a memorandum of understanding with Progress Rail in March to outsource some of its maintenance work from July, including locomotive overhauls of its narrow gauge fleet.
Aurizon also plans to collaborate with Progress Rail on the development of cheaper parts for its locomotives and trains.
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