Using big-data to reduce flood disruption on rail journeys

12 October 2018 10:45
Railway tracks

A novel Internet-of-Things (IoT) predictive drainage management solution that aims to mitigate the impact of flooding across the UK’s rail network is to begin trials as part of the InnovateUK funded TrackWater project lead by technology SME InTouch Ltd.

TrackWater, a highly collaborative project involving Network Rail, Lancaster University and the Transport Systems Catapult will deploy and evaluate an end-to-end drainage sensing and predictive modelling technology at Network Rail’s test-track at Melton Mowbray until April 2019.

Following an innovative data-driven approach to surface water management within the railway sector, TrackWater is exploring how real-time drainage information combined with predictive flood risk models can empower Network Rail to better monitor rail drainage infrastructure and offset the cost of flooding on the network. 

In the past 10 years, Network Rail has compensated operators more than £119 million for almost three million delay minutes which have been caused by flooding. TrackWater is further developing a proven IoT drainage management solution to help operators manage flooding and reduce both spend and delays.

John Walden, managing director of InTouch, said: "After spending 10 years successfully trialing and launching a solution to manage highways gullies, we now turn our attention to railway drainage and flooding.

"It is important that we develop our IoT technology to allow automation and data collection to be used to improve services, which can improve the lives of thousands of people using the railways.

"We are delighted to be working closely with Network Rail, Lancaster University and Transport Systems Catapult to test our TrackWater product."

The project is supported by a science base with academic expertise in wireless communications, data science and pervasive computing from Lancaster University’s Data Science Institute and School of Computing & Communications.

Lancaster University’s Mike Harding said: “The TrackWater project is delivering leading research in collaboration with Network Rail to understand and overcome the challenges of adopting more automated, data-driven approaches to drainage management.

“Trackwater, in collaboration with transport maintainance companies, is providing a unique opportunity to better understand the real-world challenges of deploying emerging cyber-physical, data-driven technologies in a domain that traditionally has relied significantly on local knowledge to inform decision-making. Through providing a greater awareness of the performance of the drainage network, Network Rail can perform more targeted maintenance and avoid costly incidents that result from flooding.”

A video explaining the project is available here.

Businesses interested in research collaborations with Lancaster University's Faculty of Science and Technology can find out more by visiting

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