Smarter Railroad Tracks Are Boosting Train Safety And Efficiency

Think “advanced rail technology” and bullet trains or magnetic-levitation systems might come to mind. But what about the steel rails freight and passenger trains run on? Advances in machine learning, big data collection and voice-recognition tools that have transformed manufacturing, cars, retail and social media are also being leveraged to make vital rail operations safer and much more efficient.

Alstom, which makes passenger trains including Amtrak’s next-generation Acela units and rail signaling equipment, says it’s rolling out more advanced digital circuits and sensors in North America and other global markets that tap into the electrical current flowing through tracks to collect and share detailed information like a train’s location, detect warped wheels and monitor track conditions. The goal is to lower the risk of derailments, system failures and, ideally, operate freight lines more efficiently by allowing trains to run closer together.