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Title:
SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR CONTINOUS DIAGNOSTICS OF RAILWAY INFRASTRUCTURE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/186236
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
System (1) for continuous diagnostics of the railway infrastructure (F) comprising at least one control device (2), of the rail (2), installed on the rail (R) itself and configured for continuous monitoring of the rail (R), at least one peripheral unit (3), installed in a peripheral area of the rail (R), communicating with the control device (2) and configured to send monitoring data obtained from the control device (2) and a processing unit (4) configured to receive the monitoring data from the peripheral unit (3) and to analyse the data in real time so as to obtain a status condition of the rail (R) pertaining to the at least one control device (2) and to communicate it to an operator or other user dealing with the maintenance of the rail (R).

Inventors:
MALATESTA LAURA (IT)
PIRAN ANDREA (IT)
Application Number:
PCT/IB2020/061353
Publication Date:
September 23, 2021
Filing Date:
December 02, 2020
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
THERMIT ITALIANA S R L (IT)
International Classes:
G16Y40/10; B61L1/00; B61L23/04; B61L27/00; G01N29/00; G01N29/14; G06Q10/00; G06Q50/30; G16Y40/40
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TANSINI, Elio Fabrizio (IT)
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Claims:
CLAIMS

1. System (1) for continuous diagnostics of the railway infrastructure (F) comprising:

- at least one control device (2), of the rail (2), installed on the rail (R) itself, configured for continuous monitoring of the rail (R);

- at least one peripheral unit (3), installed in a peripheral area of the rail (R), communicating with said at least one control device (2) and configured to send monitoring data obtained from said control device (2);

- a processing unit (4) configured to receive said monitoring data from the peripheral unit (3) and to analyse said data in real time so as to obtain a status condition of the rail (R) pertaining to the at least one control device (2) and to communicate it to an operator or other user dealing with the maintenance of the rail (R).

2. System (1) according to claim 1 , wherein said processing unit (4) is configured to analyse the monitoring data so as to identify if a defect in the rail (R) has been detected by said control device (2) and to evaluate an extent of the defect.

3. System (1) according to claim 1 or 2, wherein said processing unit (4) is configured to filter the monitoring data so as to distinguish a false alarm due to possible noise in the monitoring of the rail (R) by said control device (2).

4. System (1) according to one or more of the preceding claims, wherein said control device (2) is configured to monitor said rail (R) near a rail (R) portion relating to an installation point of the control device (2) on the rail (R), preferably said control device (2) being installed near a respective welding or junction point of the rail (R).

5. System (1) according to one or more of the preceding claims, wherein said control device (2) is configured to monitor a rail (R) portion, comprised between two welding junction points or the rail (R) defining a span (C) of the rail (R) itself, preferably said control device (2) defining a distance between the control device itself and the defect, if present.

6. System (1) according to one or more of the preceding claims, comprising a plurality of control devices (2) for each welding point of the rail (R), each control device (2) being configured to send respective rail monitoring data (R) concerning a rail (R) section under the competence of the control device (2).

7. System (1) according to claim 6, wherein said at least one peripheral unit (3) is configured to communicate with a group of control devices (2) of said plurality, perform a preliminary diagnostic analysis of said data and receive and communicate the monitoring data of each control device (2) to said central unit (4), said system (1) preferably comprising a plurality of peripheral units (3) each configured to communicate with a respective group of control devices (2).

8. System (1) according to one or more of the preceding claims, wherein the processing unit (4) is further configured to record said data so as to define an event database suitable for carrying out a predictive analysis to obtain a predicted status condition of the rail (R) pertaining to the at least one control device (2) and to communicate it to said operator or other user dealing with the maintenance of the rail (R).

9. System (1) according to one or more of the preceding claims, wherein said at least one control device (2), said peripheral unit (3) and said processing unit (4) are equipped with a wireless communication system (5) for sending and/or receiving said monitoring data. 10. System (1) according to one or more of the preceding claims, wherein said control device (2) and said peripheral unit (3) are provided with means for self-feeding (3a), said peripheral unit (3) being preferably equipped with solar cells for self-feeding the peripheral unit (3) itself.

11. Method for continuous diagnostics of the railway infrastructure (F), preferably using a system (1) according to one or more of the preceding claims, comprising the steps of: - continuously monitoring a rail (R) so as to obtain monitoring data by means of at least one control device (2) installed on the rail (R);

- sending said monitoring data from said at least one control device (2) to at least one peripheral unit (3);

- sending said monitoring data from said at least one peripheral unit (3) to a processing unit (4);

- analysing said real-time monitoring data by said processing unit (4);

- obtaining a status condition of the monitored rail (R);

- communicating said status condition to an operator or other user dealing with the maintenance of the rail (R).

12. Method according to claim 11 , further comprising a step of intervention on the rail (R), if a defect of the rail (R) has been detected from said status condition, and a step of assessing the extent of the defect. 13. Method according to claim 11 or 12, further comprising a step of filtering said monitoring data so as to distinguish a false alarm due to possible noise during the step of monitoring the rail (R).

14. Method according to one or more of claims 11-13, wherein said monitoring step is performed by monitoring said rail (R) near at least one installation point of the at least one control device (2), preferably a welding and/or junction point of the rail (R), and/or monitoring at least a rail (R) portion between two welding points of the rail (R) defining a span (C) of the rail (R) itself defining a distance between said at least one control device (2) and the defect, if present.

15. Method according to one or more of claims 11 -14, further comprising a step of recording the monitoring data, defining an event database concerning said recorded data and a step of predictive analysis of the database to obtain a predetermined status condition of the rail (R) pertaining to the at least one control device (2) and communicating it to said operator or other user dealing with the maintenance of the rail (R).

16. Method according to one or more of the preceding claims, wherein said steps of communicating and sending monitoring data are carried out through a wireless communication system (5).

Description:
SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR CONTINOUS DIAGNOSTICS OF RAILWAY INFRASTRUCTURE

The present invention relates to a system and a method for continuous diagnostics of the railway infrastructure.

Railway infrastructure means the structure defined by two side-by-side rails defining a track which in turn defines a route for a railway locomotion

5 means. The rails are defined by a number of elements (straight, curved and the like) welded together.

The rails thus defined are subject to a number of potentially harmful events during the year. The continuous passage of vehicles during the day, the expansion and contraction due to the different temperatures in the various

10 seasons and the different hours of the day are just some of the causes that can lead to a break or the formation of cracks or other similar undesired defects. In particular, such “anomalies” may occur near the aforementioned junction points and/or other portions of the elements which form the rail such as, for example, the rail span itself.

15 Unfortunately, such anomalies can lead to minor damage or inconvenience to the circulation of railway locomotion means as well as to much worse situations such as, for example, derailments of the aforementioned locomotion means.

To date, cyclic control systems are known such as, for example, the use of 0 a diagnostic train, i.e., a railway locomotion means configured to measure the tracks in order to verify the status and integrity thereof, or for example the cyclical intervention of technicians who can use measurement means which allow to evaluate the extent of the possible defect.

However, the above solutions have several critical issues. Such solutions 5 involve cyclical interventions and therefore between tests the rail is not diagnosed on events which may occur (and which would therefore be known after a certain period between interventions). Furthermore, such solutions may involve disturbances to the normal circulation of railway vehicles. In other words, with the passage of a diagnostic means and/or technicians on a given route, there will be problems with the normal circulation of the other means.

Furthermore, given the frequency of these checks, it is not possible to carry out any type of predictive diagnostics.

Other critical issues may arise, for example, in the case of a diagnostic train which presents anomalies and may not identify the defect, as well as in the event of delays or other problems for which it may not depart, perform the diagnosis with high time intervals which cannot therefore guarantee a diagnosis of the desired railway infrastructure. With regard to the example of the technicians, human intervention, by its nature, can be subject to undesired errors such as possible forgetfulness by technicians or diagnostics which are not carried out as precisely as possible.

In other words, one of the problems emerging from the prior art is a discontinuous control which can lead to both mild and disastrous events of a completely undesirable nature in the interval which occurs between one check and the other.

Unfortunately, the known solutions can often and willingly lead to corrective maintenance (i.e., after any failure) which can lead to slowdowns in circulation or much worse situations.

Furthermore, the known type of solutions are not always able to identify the presence of “false alarms”, thus causing unnecessary maintenance with the consequent loss of resources where it is unnecessary.

The technical task of the present invention is therefore to provide a system and a method for continuous diagnostics of the railway infrastructure which are able to overcome the drawbacks arisen from the known art mentioned above.

The object of the present invention is therefore to provide a system and a method for continuous diagnosis of the railway infrastructure which allow to obtain an accurate and effective diagnosis about the conditions of the railway infrastructure.

A further object of the present invention is therefore to provide a system and a method for continuous diagnosis of the railway infrastructure which allow to precisely identify where an anomaly is present.

Furthermore, an object of the present invention is to provide a system and a method for continuous diagnostics of the railway infrastructure which allow to improve the safety of the railway infrastructure.

The specified technical task and the specified aims are substantially achieved by a method and a system for continuous diagnostics of the railway infrastructure, comprising the technical specifications set out in one or more of the appended claims. The dependent claims correspond to possible embodiments of the invention.

In particular, the present invention includes providing a system for continuous diagnostics of the railway infrastructure comprising at least one control device of the rail, installed on the rail itself and configured for continuous monitoring of the rail, at least one peripheral unit, installed in a peripheral area of the rail, communicating with the control device and configured to send monitoring data obtained from the control device and a processing unit configured to receive the monitoring data from the peripheral unit and to analyse the data in real time so as to obtain a status condition of the rail pertaining to the at least one control device and to communicate it to an operator or other user dealing with the maintenance of the rail.

Furthermore, the present invention provides a method for continuous diagnostics of the railway infrastructure, preferably using a system as above, comprising the steps of:

- continuously monitoring a rail so as to obtain monitoring data by means of at least one control device installed on the rail;

- sending the monitoring data from the at least one control device to the at least one peripheral unit; - sending the monitoring data from the at least one peripheral unit to a processing unit;

- analysing the real-time monitoring data by the processing unit;

- obtaining a status condition of the monitored rail;

- communicating said status condition to an operator or other user dealing with the maintenance of the rail.

Further features and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent from the description of an exemplary, but not exclusive, and therefore non-limiting preferred embodiment of a system and a method for the continuous diagnostics of defects of the rails.

Such description will be set out hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings given only for illustrative and, therefore, non limiting purpose, in which:

Figure 1 is a schematic representation of a system which forms the object of the present invention;

Figure 2 is a schematic representation of an operation of a component of the system of figure 1 ;

With reference to the accompanying figures, 1 refers overall to a system for the continuous diagnostics of the railway infrastructure which, for the sake of disclosure simplicity, will be indicated hereinafter as system 1. Railway infrastructure “F” means the structure defined by two side-by-side rails “R” defining a track which in turn defines a route for a railway locomotion means. The rails “R” are defined by a number of elements (straight, curved and the like) welded together (the term elements may be understood as beams or other elements used to make the rail “R”).

The system 1 comprises at least one control device 2 of the rail “R”, at least one peripheral unit 3 installed in a peripheral area to the rail “R” and a processing unit 4.

The at least one control device 2 is configured for the continuous monitoring of the rail “R”. In particular, the control device 2 is configured to obtain monitoring data pertaining to the rail “R” on which it is installed. The control device 2 is configured for the diagnostics of a point of the track (in particular the rail “R”) and interfaces with the rail “R” (i.e. , one or more of the elements defining the rail “R”) by means of the aid of a sensor. In other words, the control device 2 comprises a sensor, preferably of the passive ultrasonic type, to detect the possible presence of defects or cracks in the rail “R” (or in the specific section of rail “R”).

The control device 2 may be configured to monitor the rail “R” near a portion of the rail “R” pertaining to an installation point of the control device 2 on the rail “R”.

Preferably, the control device 2 is installed near a respective junction point of the rail “R” or a welding point of the rail “R”.

Therefore, the control device 2 is configured to perform a “short range” type diagnostic. To identify this type of diagnostic, it has been indicated in figure 2 with the symbol “SR” related to a representative (and therefore non-limiting) extension of the limits within which to start this type of “short range” diagnostic.

The control device 2 can be configured to monitor a portion of rail “R” between two welding points of rail “R” defining a span “C” of rail “R” itself. Therefore, the control device 2 is configured to perform a “long range” type diagnostic. Since the span “C” can also be several tens of meters long and therefore defines an area between two joints of the rail “R”, the control device 2 is therefore configured to work at such distances. In figure 2, the entire extension of the span “C” is indicated as a “long range” diagnostic area, but it should be underlined that this area can also be represented by reduced intervals comprised in the span “C”. For example, a reduced range of the span “C” can be understood as a diagnostic range which does not take into account portions already diagnosed by the “short range” type diagnostic and schematically identified in figure 2 with the symbol “C1”.

Preferably, the control device 2 defines a distance between the control device 2 itself and any defect (if present). Thereby, among the monitoring data there are also spatial data related to where to identify the crack (or other defect) along the entire length of the span “C” with respect to where the control device 2 is located.

The control device 2 can also perform “short range” type diagnostics and “long range” type diagnostics simultaneously.

That is, the control device 2 is configured to perform a continuous diagnostic check of the critical points of the rail “R” (i.e. , of the railway infrastructure “F”). The term critical points refers to those areas of the rail “R” which suffer continuous stresses due to external events such as the passage of trains or other railway vehicles or the increase in heat with the consequent expansion of the rail “R” itself.

Preferably, and as shown in the accompanying figures, the system 1 comprises a plurality of control devices 2 for each welding point of the rail “R”. Each control device 2 is configured to send respective rail “R” monitoring data pertaining to a section of rail “R” under the competence of the control device 2. In other words, each control device 2 is configured to perform a “short range” and/or “long range” type diagnostic pertaining to elements aligned with each other and joined to define the rail “R”.

In this context, the control devices 2 are able to communicate with each other so as to precisely identify where the possible defects of the rail “R” (cracks and the like) are located. For example, two control devices 2 located at the ends of the same element (i.e., at the respective junction/welding points) are able to communicate with each other so as to identify whether the crack or other defect is closer to one sensor or the other. If the defect is in the middle of the two control devices 2 (i.e., in the middle of the span “C”), for example, both control devices 2 would simultaneously send a datum related to the defect indicating the location thereof precisely and unequivocally.

The control device 2 may be provided with means for self-feeding the same. Preferably, the control device 2 can be equipped with energy harvesting systems which define accumulators which exploit, for example, the vibrations of the rails “R” and/or temperature changes to obtain energy and/or other energy storage systems.

Preferably, the control device 2 can be placed in communication with a user interface device so as to perform calibrations, data analysis and any reconfigurations.

As for example shown in the accompanying figures, the system 1 is equipped with control devices 2 for each rail “R” defining the track.

The at least one peripheral unit 3 communicates with the at least one control device 2 and is configured to send monitoring data obtained from the control device 2.

In other words, the peripheral unit 3 is configured to collect monitoring data from the control devices 2. Furthermore, the peripheral unit 3 may be configured to pre-process data so as to send pre-processed data. Preferably, such pre-processing involves identifying the control device 2 from which the monitoring data has been sent and then adding name-type information about the control device 2 and spatial-type information about the positioning of any defect along the rail “R”. Such spatial and name association may also be performed on-site directly by the control device 2. Preferably, the peripheral unit 3 is configured to communicate with the central unit 4 and any other mobile devices (such as smartphones, tablets and the like).

The peripheral unit 3 may be provided with means for autonomous feeding of the power harvesting - power storage type. In other words, the peripheral unit 3 may be provided with means for self-feeding 3a. Preferably, the peripheral unit 3 is equipped with solar cells for self-feeding the peripheral unit 3 itself.

The peripheral unit 3 may be physically made in the form of a cabinet which can be installed for any type of installation along the railway line. For example, the peripheral unit 3 may be installed on a pole arranged near the track defined by the rails “R”.

The at least one peripheral unit 3 is configured to communicate with a group of control devices 2 of the plurality of control devices 2 installed along the rail “R”. The peripheral unit 3 is configured to receive and communicate the monitoring data of each control device 2 to the processing unit 4. The system 1 preferably comprises a plurality of peripheral units 3 each configured to communicate with a respective group of control devices 2.

In other words, each peripheral unit 3 receives monitoring data pertaining to a section of rail “R”.

The processing unit 4 is configured to receive the monitoring data from the peripheral unit 3 and analyse it in real time. Thereby, the processing unit 4 is able to obtain a condition status of the rail pertaining to the at least one control device 2 and communicate it to an operator or other user dealing with the maintenance of the rail “R”.

The term processing unit 4 can be understood as a single electronic device, suitably programmed to perform the described functionalities, and/or the various modules which may correspond to hardware entities and/or software routines which are part of the programmed device. Alternatively or in addition, such functionalities may be performed by a plurality of electronic devices on which the aforesaid functional modules may be distributed.

Furthermore, the processing unit 4 may use one or more processors for executing the instructions contained in the memory modules.

For example, the processing unit 4 may comprise a continuous power supply, an AC/DC power supply, a modem (preferably of the 4G type) for communication, a switch for connection management, two redundant servers for availability and tasked with evaluating the overall status of the system 1 and/or of the railway infrastructure “F” and a user interface (i.e., a user interface device such as the screen of a PC or other similar device) to interact with one or more operators.

In other words, the processing unit 4 analyses the data and determines if and where a control device 2 has detected a problem. The processing unit 4 may therefore be configured to analyse the monitoring data to identify whether a defect in the rail has been detected by the control device 2 and to assess an extent of the defect.

When no damage or other problem is revealed, the processing unit will provide this information to the operator. For example, by means of the user interface device, the processing unit 4 will send a “green” alarm which identifies the absence of anomaly along the section of rail “R”. In other words, the processing unit 4 communicates a condition status identifying a rail “R” in good conditions.

If a problem associated with a degradation status of the rail “R” is identified, the processing unit 4 will send a “yellow” alarm identifying a problem which requires scheduled maintenance. In other words, the processing unit 4 communicates a status condition identifying a rail “R” in non-optimal conditions for the correct circulation of vehicles.

If a problem associated with an actual failure of the rail “R” is identified, the processing unit 4 will send a “red” type alarm which requires immediate maintenance. In other words, the processing unit 4 communicates a status condition identifying a rail “R” in dangerous/very dangerous conditions.

If the problem/damage/fault is identified, the processing unit 4 is configured to provide an identification number and a position of the peripheral unit 3 and the specific control device 2 so as to know where the problem occurred and where to intervene.

The processing unit 4 may also be configured to filter the monitoring data so as to distinguish a false alarm due to possible noise in the monitoring of the rail “R” by the control device 2. In other words, the processing unit 4 is equipped with software and/or data filtering devices so as to isolate erroneous data which may lead to an unjustified report. For example, it is possible that the passage of a train can stress the sensors of the control devices 2 and cause an incorrect reading of the status of the rail “R” (i.e. , a diagnosis corrupted by the passage of the train) to occur and the processing unit 4 is therefore configured to prevent a false alarm from being signalled by analysing the received data in real time.

The processing unit 4 may be further configured to record the monitoring data so as to define an event database suitable for performing a predictive analysis to obtain a predictive status condition of the rail “R” pertaining to the at least one control device 2 and communicate it to the operator or other user dealing with the maintenance of the rail “R”.

In other words, the processing unit 4 is able to process the data obtained from the peripheral units 3 and to define the specific alarms of the analysis in real time as well as to record such data so as to know a history of data obtained from a specific control device 2 (or from a specific peripheral unit 3) and understand when it is possible that a type of damage/failure may occur again.

Preferably, the at least one control device 2, the peripheral unit 3 and the processing unit 4 are equipped with a wireless communication system 5 for sending and/or receiving monitoring data. In other words, the system 1 leverages a wireless communication protocol.

Therefore, there may be no wiring for both communication and the feeding of the components of the system 1 , thus reducing the number of sensitive components and unnecessary dimensions in the different sections of rail “R”.

Preferably, a type of optic fibre communication between the peripheral unit 3 and the processing unit 4 may also be used.

The communication in the system 1 is based on a hierarchical and asynchronous exchange between the control device 2, the peripheral unit 3 and the processing unit 4 unless justified, command-like exceptions direct the processing unit 4 to the control device 2.

Advantageously, the system 1 disclosed above allows to obtain a continuous and objective monitoring of the detection of the possible defect of the rail “R”. Advantageously, the system 1 disclosed above allows to obtain a predictive diagnostics based on the analysis and processing of the monitoring data.

Advantageously, the system 1 is operated with any type of non-destructive sensors which allow the monitoring data to be obtained for the analysis. In other words, the system 1 allows to obtain a diagnostic by means of non destructive controls.

Advantageously, the system 1 disclosed above allows to improve the safety of the railway infrastructure “F” with a detection of the defect before the breakage occurs.

The present invention also relates to a method for the continuous diagnostics of defects of the rails “R”.

The method may preferably be used with a system 1 according to one or more of the previously described embodiments. Preferably, the method which will be disclosed below may be understood as the execution of software integrated into a system 1 as described above.

The method comprises a first step of continuously monitoring a rail “R”. By means of this step, monitoring data may be obtained by at least one control device 2 installed on the rail “R”.

This step is preferably performed by monitoring the rail “R” near at least one installation point of the at least one control device 2 (preferably a welding point of the rail “R”).

This step is preferably performed by monitoring at least a portion of rail between two welding (or junction) points of the rail “R” defining a span “C” of the rail “R” itself. Thereby, the monitoring step allows to define a distance between the at least one control device 2 and the defect, if present.

Preferably, the monitoring step can be carried out by simultaneously monitoring both the span “C” and monitoring the portion near the installation points of the at least one control device 2. The method further comprises sending the monitoring data of the at least one control device 2 to at least one peripheral unit 3. Preferably, the method comprises sending a plurality of monitoring data to the at least one control device 2 obtained by a group of control devices 2 associated with the peripheral unit 3.

The method further comprises sending the monitoring data from the at least one peripheral unit 3 to a processing unit 4. Preferably, the method comprises sending a plurality of monitoring data from a plurality of peripheral units 3 (associated with as many groups of control devices 2) to the processing unit 4.

The method involves analysing the monitoring data in real time by means of the processing unit 4 and obtaining a status condition of the monitored rail “R”.

The method further involves communicating the status condition to an operator or other user dealing with the maintenance of the rail “R”. Preferably, the method also comprises an intervention step on the rail “R”, if a defect of the rail “R” has been detected from the status condition, and a step of evaluating the extent of the defect.

If no damage or other problem is detected, the method involves sending a “green” alarm which identifies the absence of anomaly along the section of rail “R”. In other words, the method involves communicating a status condition identifying a rail “R” in good conditions.

If a problem associated with a degradation state of the rail “R” is identified, the method involves sending a “yellow” alarm identifying a problem which requires scheduled maintenance. In other words, the method involves communicating a status condition identifying a rail “R” in non-optimal conditions for the correct circulation of vehicles.

If a problem associated with an actual failure of the rail “R” is identified, the method involves sending a “red” type alarm which requires immediate maintenance. In other words, the method involves communicating a status condition identifying a rail “R” in dangerous/very dangerous conditions. The method preferably further comprises a step of filtering the monitoring data so as to distinguish a false defect due to possible noise during the monitoring step of the rail “R”.

Preferably, the method further comprises a step of recording the monitoring data, defining an event database related to the recorded monitoring data and a step of predictive analysis of the database to obtain a predictive status condition of the rail “R” related to the at least one control device 2 and communicate it to the operator or other user dealing with the maintenance of the rail “R”.

Preferably, the steps of communicating the monitoring data occur by means of a wireless communication system 5.

Advantageously, the method described above allows to obtain a continuous and objective monitoring of the detection of the possible defect of the rail “R”.

Advantageously, the method described above allows to obtain a predictive diagnostic based on the analysis and processing of the monitoring data. Advantageously, the method described above is operated with any type of non-destructive sensors which allow the monitoring data to be obtained for the analysis. In other words, the method allows to obtain a diagnostic by non-destructive controls.

Advantageously, the method described above allows to improve the safety of the railway infrastructure “F” with a detection of the defect before the breakage occurs.

The present invention is therefore able to overcome the drawbacks arising from the prior art.

Advantageously, the present invention allows to obtain an accurate and effective diagnostic about the conditions of the railway infrastructure. Advantageously, the present invention allows to precisely identify where an anomaly is present along the railway infrastructure “F”.

Advantageously, the present invention allows to improve the safety of the railway infrastructure “F”.