Home > Content > Overview


Thursday 29 August 2013, by Aymeric Boniou

AUTOMAIN project overview

The high level aim of the AUTOMAIN project is to make the movement of freight by rail more dependable (reliable, available, maintainable and safe) through the generation of additional capacity on the existing network. Through the widespread introduction of automation that is designed to improve the Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety (RAMS) of railway infrastructure equipment and systems, it is anticipated that required possession time (downtime) of the railway could be reduced by as much as 40%.

Therefore, the philosophy of the project team is to maintain infrastructure only when intervention is needed, instead of the now common schedule driven maintenance strategies. To achieve a step change, improvements must be made to railway infrastructure maintenance approaches through:

Increased reliability - This can be accomplished by means of more effective maintenance, which is achievable by improving inspection and monitoring capabilities.

Increased availability - This can be accomplished by reducing possession times, which is achievable by automating and optimising maintenance planning and scheduling, and also by speeding-up maintenance activities.

Increased maintainability - This can be accomplished by reducing the time taken to install and maintain infrastructure, which is achievable by identifying tasks that lend themselves to automation and then developing and introducing appropriate technology.

Improved worker safety - This can be accomplished by reducing the need for track workers to carry out tasks on or near the line, which is achievable through automated inspection techniques and the development of modular infrastructure.

In order to achieve these goals, the project will meet a series of specific objectives and deliver five key innovations. The work will take place within the framework provided by the project management strategy.


Objective 1: To adopt best practice from other industries in inspection and maintenance optimisation (e.g., highways, aerospace...). The project will demonstrate how the benchmark possession time for key maintenance tasks can be reduced by up to 50%;

Objective 2: To develop novel track inspection approaches for freight and mixed traffic routes. The project will demonstrate how the benchmark for possession time for track inspection can be reduced by up to 75%;

Objective 3: To research and assess innovations that have the potential to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of large scale maintenance processes (e.g., grinding and tamping). The project will undertake simulations to show how these technologies can reduce the benchmark possession time by up to 25%;

Objective 4: To develop further key technologies that will drive the development of modular infrastructure design. It will be demonstrated during the project that these technologies can reduce the benchmark possession time for installation, maintenance and inspection during the life of the asset by at least 50%;

Objective 5: To develop a new maintenance planning and scheduling tool that is able to optimise the programme of required maintenance activities, taking account of the benefits brought about by other improvements in the AUTOMAIN project. The tool, together with the other individual subsystem level improvements will reduce the overall benchmark possession time by 40%.

Project Innovations

AUTOMAIN will advance the state-of-the-art in railway maintenance in five key areas:

  • Innovation 1: A new methodology for analysing and optimising maintenance processes by applying best practice from other industries;
  • Innovation 2: Higher speed infrastructure inspection methods;
  • Innovation 3: Higher speed track maintenance methods;
  • Innovation 4: Modular infrastructure inspection methods;
  • Innovation 5: The improvement of automatic maintenance scheduling and planning systems, which focus on scheduling maintenance around the timetable, so as to reduce disruption to scheduled traffic and to increase useful capacity.

Project management strategy

As the project is focussed on specific deliverables, the project is organised in work packages (WP). Each WP provides deliverables within a specific field of research (aimed innovations) or project goal. The objectives of these WPs’ and the relationships between them are shown in the figure below:

WP teams will work independently from each other, where deliverables contribute to other WP’s coordination is essential. A system engineering approach has been applied to make a progress analysis from requirements to evaluation possible.

The management structure of AUTOMAIN comprises three levels of decision-making: strategic, executive and technical (the day-to-day level of individual work packages). External feedback from outside experts and the EC Project Officer will be managed through the Strategic and Executive levels.

Contact information

In the three innovation tabs "inspection", "maintenance"and "planning" you will find the email addresses of involved AUTOMAIN specialists.

In case you need further information you can contact the AUTOMAIN project manager
Henri Olink (henri.olink@prorail.nl).

Opportunity for involvement

The AUTOMAIN project very much would like to put project results into practice or bring them one step further into development. Below you can find invitations to participate in the development of specific innovations.