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South West Trains and Siemens, working in close collaboration with Network Rail, have joined forces to pilot an innovative new system that can diagnose potential problems with trains by listening to them as they pass.

The system, called RailBAM®, monitors 300 train a day on the busy Wessex Route which carries South West Trains services between London and Weymouth. The system – the first permanent application of this technology in Europe – employs an array of hi-tech microphones mounted at the side of the track that listen to every individual axle bearing on each train as it passes by.

Information on how the bearings sound is then fed back securely to a database in real time, where it is compared to the sound of a perfect bearing. Sound analysis allows tiny bearing defects to be identified months before they become critical.

Steve Scrimshaw, Managing Director of Rolling Stock at Siemens Mobility, said: “The long term investment in innovative RailBAM® technology will minimise maintenance costs and passenger disruption whilst improving safety.

“The ability to monitor the trains while they are in service means that not only can potential problems be identified in advance, but they can be corrected as part of routine maintenance. This reduces unplanned maintenance, maximising availability and performance for the customer.”

Christian Roth, Engineering Director for South West Trains, said: “We are extremely pleased to be the first train operator in the UK to trial this innovative new system, which is a clear demonstration of our commitment to running a safe and reliable railway.

“As one of the busiest and most complex train operators in the country, we are always looking for ways to improve even further and we believe the new RailBAM® technology will help us to deliver significant improvements in the delivery of our service.”