China Railway Engineering (CRE) has debuted a smart track-laying method on a 500m stretch of a high-speed rail line in Hunan Province, which it claims can cut site labour by some 63%.
It makes use of robots, the internet of things, laser scanners and autonomous vehicles. Its developer, state-owned China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group (CTCE), has filed 17 patent applications in China. CTCE is a subsidiary of China Railway Group.
China Daily reports that the system uses a "long-rail intelligent sorting vehicle", a push-and-roller recovery vehicle and a tractor. According to the paper, the three vehicles "nimbly laid the tracks with great precision".
Called "WPZ-500", the system was developed with the assistance of Central South University based in Changsha, Hunan province, and Zhuzhou Xuyang Electromechanical Technology Development.
A combination of autonomous vehicles, laser scanners and the internet of things is used to control the equipment (CTCE)
Zhai Changqing, an engineer who oversaw the development of WPZ-500, commented: "The project began in 2019, and its successful operation now gives us great confidence."
The company has manufactured four sets of the track-laying apparatus, which it said would be useful in areas where it is difficult to recruit labour, such as those with high altitudes and low temperatures.
Zhai said: "If it is used in building the Sichuan-Tibet high-speed railway, the savings in manpower, and the increase in speed and reducing material damage will be enormous."
The demonstration occurred on a $6bn project to build a 250km line between three cities in Hunan, a mountainous province in south-central China. The Zhangjiajie-Jishou-Huaihua line, which is nearing completion, will run at up to 350km/h.
Top image: The WPZ-500 system uses three vehicles to lay the rails (CTCE)
Automating such an array of rail service can only further advance the installation, operation, maintenance and even cost of rail transportation.
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