Austrian Rail Operator Runs Successful Pilot Project with AP Sensing after Fire Incident

In 2017, a fire occurred at the main train station in Linz, Austria. The fire took place in a shaft with traction power supply cables and led to disrupted Westbahn services for more than 7 hours. This disruption also affects rail traffic beyond the day of the incident and causes huge delays, financial losses and reputational damage. A similar incident had occurred just half a year before in the Wein-Meidling station.


The rail operator, ÖBB Infrastructure, considered various technical alternatives for the monitoring of high voltage cables and chose AP Sensing’s Distributed Temperature Sensing (DTS) system through our partner Honeywell. Our system was tested in a long-term pilot project in Linz.

Cables are the backbone of modern railways and are used for communication, signalling, train safety, data transmission and energy supply. In most cases, trackside cable failures lead to operational restrictions, which affect customer service. The reasons for cable faults are manifold; cable sheath, insulation faults or partial discharge may damage the cable.

To perform conventional cable measurements (such as partial discharge or loss factor measurements), it is necessary to unlock the cable during measurement, which either causes operational disruptions or must take place during night. Besides the operational restrictions, the effort for conventional cable measurements is large (such as four people and one hour per cable). There are around 100 of these cables in such a train station. Costs for conventional cable monitoring are in the lower six digit range and need months to be performed and coordinated. Once completed, these measurements are just a one-time observation.  

Distributed Temperature Sensing (DTS) is a cost effective alternative to conducting manual cable measurements, providing real-time temperature information and monitoring an entire cable. Cable hotspots, overloads, and potential fires are detected and located immediately, reducing train system disruptions and enabling improved preventative maintenance activities. AP Sensing has global experience and project references monitoring high voltage cables; we are working with various rail operators at this time on different projects including cable monitoring, cable theft detection, train tracking, and improved train operation via moving blocks.

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*Information from this article was sourced from Bernd Drapp, Klaus Leithner & Manuel Maleschitz in Edition 04 2021 of Elektrische Bahnen.