Automated Track Inspection Program (ATIP)
The Automated Track Inspection Program (ATIP), track geometry car serves an important role in the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) overall compliance programs. The Office of Safety objective is to conduct safe, accurate, and efficient surveys with the foci to develop a comprehensive automated inspection supplement that may eventually go beyond manual inspection imprecision by improving the method and practice of measuring substandard track conditions.
ATIP's function is to minimize the risk of a passenger or catastrophic hazardous material accident/incident by continuously improving the geometry car's operational efficiency, insuring measured and recorded values accurately represent track conditions, and timely distributing track geometry information to FRA headquarters, regional management, and respective railroad personnel (Figure 1).
The primary safety-related use of ATIP is the assistance provided to FRA inspectors in identifying the most important track locations and conditions for them to evaluate. Key to ATIP's safety success is the advance detection of potential accident-causing hazards and the appropriate basis for inspectors to impose and safeguard rail transportation with compulsory operational and maintenance remediation.
FRA's track geometry survey car (DOTX 216) helps America's railroads increase safety and keep pace with advancing technology. The data, produced by the car through the precise measurement of existing track systems, are used to monitor compliance with federal safety standards and aid in the efficient, effective track system maintenance planning to support the engineering of today's energy efficient, high speed railroads.
FRA relies on ATIP data as a primary tool for headquarter and regional managers to; (1) monitor and assess railroad compliance with the Federal Track Safety Standards (FTSS), (2) evaluate, as an early indicator of the safety trends within the industry, and (3) create a centralized Track Data Management System (TDMS) archive to support special safety studies, including accident/incident investigations, congressional, and public requests. Additionally, the TDMS database maybe used to set priorities for enforcement activities, compliance agreements, perform quality assurance checks for the geometry car and to evaluate the effect of proposed changes in the FTSS.
The onboard measurement and geographic reference systems also make ATIP a valuable tool for the inventory of track structures (e.g., turnouts, at grade railroad crossings and highway-rail crossing's locations), exception analyses, and convenient access to historical data for particular-surveyed railroad.
The new DOTX 216 ATIP vehicle (replacing the 18 year old T-10 model) will be equipped with onboard, state-of-the-art data acquisition systems and a differential global positioning receiver. In addition, it will offer improved ergonomics, observation window space, and data displays. Acceleration and ride quality measurement capabilities will be improved as well.
The ATIP has been an important tool for federal and state track safety inspectors to identify track locations requiring further on-the-ground investigation. Utilizing advanced electronic sensing technology, the track geometry car records eight critical track measurements every foot to objectively identify problems in track gage, surface and alinement. Such equipment can accurately locate problematic conditions that are difficult to detect using conventional methods such as visual inspection. The data produced by the vehicle's precise measurement of existing track systems are used to monitor compliance with Federal Track Safety Standards.
Approximately 25,000 miles of track are inspected annually under the FRA's Automated Track Inspection Program including Amtrak routes, parts of the military strategic network and routes over which hazardous materials and spent nuclear fuel are frequently transported. The FRA performs automated track inspections in coordination with railroads. In doing so, the ATIP provides railroads with useful data for maintenance planning and facilitates compliance with federal safety regulations.
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