The Victorian Government is establishing a joint venture with US company Xerox to develop a technology to monitor bridges, aiding the flow of traffic and trains.
The technology will be implemented on projects like the new level crossing removal project in Preston, Melbourne, where four level crossings will be removed, 2km of elevated rail will be built as well as new stations at Bell and Preston.
In Preston, the rail line will be raised over four roads on the Mernda line, delivering new open space underneath the 2km rail bridge, providing smoother and safer journeys for the 82,000 vehicles that pass through these level crossings each day.
The technology is the result of trials carried out through a partnership between VicTrack and Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which developed sensors that can be used to monitor structural health in bridges.
Following the successful trials, the Victorian Government will invest $50 million to roll out the new technology on priority bridges across the state, through a new commercial company called Eloque.
Eloque will rapidly expand to help customers around the world, using its tiny fibre optic connected sensors attached to the bridge to accurately measure and estimate structural strain, thermal response, bending, loads, vibration, and corrosion, which are all measures of structural health.
The technology analyses data collected from the sensors using advanced analytics to deliver information directly to the bridge owners and operators remotely via an interactive dashboard. Data can be seen in real time so the bridge manager can monitor whether a bridge has structural problems, has been damaged or needs repair.
It enables any problems to be detected that are not visible to the naked eye or may not show up in manual inspections. This means issues can be found early before they potentially go on to cause delays for motorists or passengers or be quite costly.
It also allows maintenance budgets to be better prioritised and targeted to the bridges that need it the most, making maintenance more efficient and less time consuming.
Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan, said, “This technology being rolled out on priority bridges enables remote real-time monitoring – meaning a small problem could be identified before it becomes a big costly problem that causes unnecessary delays to Victorians.”
“This will help to detect problems earlier, reduce delays caused by road closures for manual inspections and repairs, and help to find problems more quickly and accurately in the case of bridge strikes or other unexpected events.”
While the technology is currently being used on bridges, it has the potential to be used on any structure that needs maintenance – including roads, multi-storey car parks, tunnels and ports.
Victorian Treasurer, Tim Pallas, said, “We’ll continue to look for ways to keep Victorians moving, that create local jobs and support our economic recovery.”
The technology will be progressively rolled out on priority bridges, particularly those that regularly deal with heavy loads and are at the most risk of deterioration.