The Engineer – Wireless sensors to keep the high-speed rail fleet on track

The availability of Great Western Railway’s high-speed train fleet will be enhanced with the installation of Hitachi Rail’s ‘Perpetuum Onboard’ wireless technology to monitor wheels and bogies.

For the first time, wireless sensors are connected to live monitor all axles and bogies in GWR’s high-speed fleet, enabling real-time data on gearboxes, traction motors, bearings and wheels.

Currently, bogie overhaul accounts for around a third of maintenance costs, with trains requiring an average of seven days to complete a manual inspection or component replacement at a depot.

According to Hitachi Rail, digital monitoring of bogies and axles can replace periodic inspections, reducing downtime for bogie overhauls by up to 50%. Across GWR’s fleet of 93 trains, this will provide over 100 additional days of train availability each year. Over the lifetime of the fleet, this should provide over 3,100 days of train availability. The sensors also have the additional capability of monitor the condition of the track and train axles.


Improved data and knowledge of critical components optimizes maintenance to ensure train availability remains high as the fleet evolves.

Real-time monitoring enables immediate and accurate identification of parts that require inspection or maintenance before they affect passenger service. The ability to identify faults further reduces the time required for maintenance personnel to complete their work.

Angus Thom, Group Service and Maintenance Operations Manager at Hitachi Rail, said: “As the rail industry adapts to new challenges, I firmly believe that digital maintenance is a win-win solution.

“With Hitachi’s collaboration and digital solutions, we can deliver real value for money, improve security and create new digital skills in our depots.

“What we are doing with GWR, Agility Trains West and Eversholt is an important step towards the UK becoming a pioneer in digital railways.”

Jose P. Rogers