UK rail infrastructure manager Network Rail (NR) has approved Ricardo Rail’s PanMon pantograph monitoring system for use throughout the national rail network.

The approval follows the completion of a two-year trial on the West Coast Main Line (WCML), where PanMon proved it was capable of providing continuous and accurate measurements of pantograph uplift forces and defects from trains passing at speeds of up to 125mph.

The pantograph monitoring system also met NR’s pre-determined technical and performance criteria for the trial.

PanMon is intended to replace NR’s existing Panchex system, which is nearing the end of its useful life.

The system allows infrastructure owners to identify those vehicles in operation that are at greater risk of inflicting damage to the network’s wires due to general wear and tear.

"Ricardo Rail have worked closely with us during the trial to overcome the difficulties."

Network Rail PanMon trial at Cheddington project manager Mike Dobbs said: "Getting new technology to work accurately and reliably in the rail environment can be challenging, but Ricardo Rail have worked closely with us during the trial to overcome the difficulties."

According to Ricardo, automatic remote monitoring of pantographs can prevent catastrophic damage to the infrastructure, as well as help improve rolling stock maintenance teams improve their asset management practices.

PanMon can also help infrastructure owners’ work with operators to take early preventative action, ultimately extending the life of both the wires and the pantograph equipment carried by the trains.

The system uses automatic pantograph monitoring system (APMS) developed by Sweden’s Sensys to provide high-definition images of each passing pantograph through a combination of radar, laser, video and photo technology.

PanMon is also supported by a new contactless, optical, uplift monitoring system developed by Ricardo Rail in association with Italian-based optical monitoring specialists DMA.

It uses pattern recognition analysis software to automatically interpret data and provide ongoing condition reports for each passing pantograph.

The technology monitors a range of parameters, including carbon strip thickness and the condition of the pantograph head, aerofoils, or end horns, which can affect a vehicle’s ability to maintain good contact with overhead wires.

Originally installed during the 1980s, NR’s existing Panchex system only monitors the uplift forces from passing pantographs, while it is now expensive to maintain.

Image: Ricardo’s PanMon will be rolled out across the UK’s rail network. Photo: courtesy of Ricardo.