Optical Fibres for Condition Monitoring of Railway Infrastructure—Encouraging Data Source or Errant Effort?

Ivan Vidovic, Stefan Marschnig*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The condition of railway infrastructure is currently assessed by track recording cars, wayside equipment, onboard monitoring techniques and visual inspections. These data sources deliver valuable information for infrastructure managers on the asset’s condition but are mostly carried out in time-based intervals. This paper examines the potential of fibre optic cables, which are already installed in cable troughs alongside railway tracks, to monitor railway infrastructure conditions. The sensing technique, known as distributed acoustic/vibration sensing (DAS/DVS), relies on the effect of Rayleigh scattering and transforms the optical fibre into an array of “virtual microphones” in the thousands. This sensing method has the ability to be used over long distances and thus provide information about the events taking place in the proximity of the monitored asset in real-time. This study outlines the potential of DAS for the identification of different track conditions and isolated track defects. The results are linked to asset data of the infrastructure manager to identify the root cause of the detected signal anomalies and pattern. A methodology such as this allows for condition-based and component-specific maintenance planning and execution and avoids the installation of additional sensors. DAS can pave the way toward a permanent and holistic assessment of railway tracks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6016
Number of pages22
JournalApplied Sciences
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • railway infrastructure
  • condition monitoring
  • track assessment
  • fibre optic sensing
  • distributed acoustic sensing
  • Condition monitoring
  • Track assessment
  • Railway infrastructure
  • Distributed acoustic sensing
  • Fibre optic sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation
  • Engineering(all)
  • Instrumentation
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Computer Science Applications

Fields of Expertise

  • Sustainable Systems

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