‘Doing more with less’ is the fragile recovery of the Spanish economy, this maxim certainly applies to the Basque country’s local operator EuskoTren, whose trains run over a 181 route-km network linking Hendaye with San Sebastian and Bilbao.

Accounting for approximately 30 million passenger-journeys per annum, EuskoTren has invested to ensure its services remain attractive to residents of the Pais Vasco. CAF supplied a fleet of 30 four-car Series 900 EMUs under a €201m contract between 2011 and 2014, and EuskoTren is now keen to enhance its ability to monitor the new trains’ health and optimise maintenance costs. Wheelset life is a prime focus, and EuskoTren wants to determine their condition and remaining operating life to optimise maintenance across different rolling stock depots.

Through dynamic and informed programming, predictive maintenance of principal components such as wheels, gearboxes and traction packages can be scheduled to coincide with predetermined servicing windows. This philosophy lies behind EuskoTren’s partnership with NEM Solutions, an industrial solutions company based in San Sebastián which specialises in asset health condition monitoring technology.

This partnership has led to the implementation of both depot-based and wayside hardware as well as online management software. NEM Solutions has developed a suite of tools to continuously monitor the performance and condition of components in a given fleet and detect early symptoms of subsystem failure. For EuskoTren, NEM has deployed its AURA Wheel platform to automate safety-critical wheel inspections and integrate data and information from wheelset maintenance activities into a single online application.

Predictive maintenance

AURA Wheel is a patented product which permits wheel life to be extended by taking a holistic, data-driven approach to principal maintenance tasks such as wheel inspection, tyre turning and wheel replacement. Maintenance engineers use the system to examine current wheel wear and condition and use specific wear and degradation patterns to plan future wheel reprofiling and eventual replacement. These tasks can be co-ordinated within the software to occur in line with maintenance of other key vehicle components.

AURA Wheel’s online portal provides an accurate, reliable and updated source of fleet information, accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.

EuskoTren currently uses AURA Wheel to digitally connect five wheel profile measurement devices (two wayside detection systems and three handheld) with three wheel lathes. The transfer of inspection and measurement data no longer depends on the environmental conditions, the subjective reading of manual gauges and a paper trail from the workshop to the engineering office, but instead on an automated data transfer between measurement device and management tool. The accuracy of this automated feed allows engineers to take well-informed decisions by extracting automated analysis and reporting of fleet condition and degradation characteristics.

In a drive to optimise wheelset maintenance further, EuskoTren is extending its partnership with NEM to cover the installation and integration of a wheel flat detection and monitoring system known as ‘Wheel & Rail Doctor’. This equipment is being installed at EuskoTren’s Lugaritz depot near San Sebastián, and should complement AURA Wheel by providing real-time information on wheel profiles and wear rates, enabling staff to be alerted to early wheel flat detection and tolerance warnings. This will enable EuskoTren to move away from a planned preventive maintenance approach and adopt a strategy of condition-based and predictive maintenance, thereby reducing costs and improving reliability.

By using NEM’s full suite of related products, including AURA Wheel, Wheel & Rail Doctor, AURA Diagnostic, handheld laser profilers and track-based wheel profilers, EuskoTren generates efficiency savings of around 10% over the lifetime of the wheelsets. ‘The use of tools for the integrated management of asset maintenance gives us the ability to improve finances through extended wheel life cycles and reduced maintenance costs’, says Mikel Beitia, rolling stock manager at EuskoTren. ‘The systems bring together maintenance decisions and management into a single online application for all locations. Early fault warnings and predictive maintenance based on the outputs of AURA provide an improved level of safety.’