A train and a track in Ireland at the end of their lives.
(Credit: Associate Professor Vikram Pakrashi, University College Dublin).
Developing and implementing a robust decision-making platform to anticipate, manage and mitigate natural risks in road and rail infrastructure networks of the Atlantic Area is a key objective of SIRMA, a €2 million pan-European research project.
SIRMA (Strengthening Infrastructure Risk Management in the Atlantic Area), which is scheduled to be completed in 2022, aims to significantly improve the resilience of such infrastructures, in particular in face of climate change impacts.
Rail and road transport infrastructures play an essential role for socio-economic development across Europe. However, the performance of these infrastructures is directly affected by extreme natural events and by the strong corrosion processes that result from proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, subjecting these infrastructures to multiple risks.
For example, the rail infrastructure in Ireland, is susceptible to flooding and scour, which can threaten its safety and serviceability and southern European railroad tracks can be affected by temperature, leading to difficulties in maintenance and availability of service, increasing direct and indirect costs. Also the construction of certain new rail routes, close to the sea, can be affected due to the progressive rise in sea levels.
SIRMA, which involves researchers and industry partners from Ireland, including University College Dublin and Irish Rail, France, Spain, Portugal and the UK, is using a systematic risk-based prevention and management methodology, to develop a real-time process to monitor the condition of transport infrastructure. SIRMA is also focused on strengthening the interoperability of information systems in the Atlantic Area, taking into account the standardisation of data and the specifics of each country.
Associate Professor Vikram Pakrashi, Dynamical Systems and Risk Laboratory, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and a member of the SIRMA project team said,
“Since natural hazards do not recognise borders and given the great heterogeneity of the infrastructures in each country, there was a need to establish transnational cooperation through this project. SIRMA is particularly unique from the point of view that it takes a holistic view of the natural hazards of the combined transport assets and implements them to in-operation infrastructure systems through bespoke monitoring techniques.”
“We have already created a real-time detection method for rail and road infrastructure systems which allows us to estimate the presence, location and extent of various types of damage and classify them in real-time. It establishes the idea of Structural Health Monitoring at the heart of decision-making process for built infrastructure assets.”
“The long-term results of the SIRMA project will be to reduce the risk of extreme natural hazards in transport infrastructures, especially floods and fires. In this regard, the project embraces the digital future of transport infrastructure management.”
SIRMA, funded by the INTERREG Atlantic Area Programme, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), involves researchers from the University of Minho (Portugal), University of Vigo (Spain), University of Nantes (France), The University of Birmingham, University of Surrey, Queen’s University Belfast, in addition to UCD and industry partners, AZVI, S.A., Infraestruturas de Portugal, S.A. alongside Irish Rail.