The Long Island Railroad, often abbreviated as LIRR is a commuter rail system in the south-eastern part of the US State of New York, stretching from Manhattan to the eastern tip of Suffolk county on Lon Island. It is publicly owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and has a ridership of around 253,800 per weekday.
Like many rail companies, the Long Island Rail Road’s aim was to improve the way they deal with Autumn rail challenges that affect rail track safety and railway reliability. Wheel slip and emergency braking was forcing them to take much needed equipment out of service for repairs. It was vital to address the poor adhesion conditions that were causing issues with acceleration and braking/stopping distance, rail wheel maintenance and overall On Time Performance (OTP).
In 2018, we demonstrated successful rail cleaning pilot, delivering three times higher adhesion after one pass of the laser at 12mph against a target of 9mph.
• Step 1. Clean track was measured with a tribometer (average CoF level 0.34) • Step 2. The track was made slippery by crushing leaves and applying water • Step 3 Contaminated track was measured with a tribometer (average CoF 0.18) • Step 4. One cleaning pass-over with the LaserTrain • Step 5. Post clean track was measured with a Tribometer (average CoF level 0.37, considered optimal traction on the railhead for driving)
2019 Gaining Traction
A successful pilot convinced LIRR to commission us to produce an operational prototype, capable of working from a non-passenger train at 25mph. Deployed for 12 hours a day in Autumn 2019 over extensive parts of the LIRR network prone to slippery rail conditions.
• 17% slip event reduction on the whole network; with a 65% reduction on the lines where LaserTrain operated • 48% fewer cancellations (due to fewer wheel flat spot repairs) • 32% fewer short trains (due to fewer wheel flat spot repairs) • 65% fewer late trains due to “weather” 2% improvement in annual OTP
2020 And Beyond
Continuing to improve on success in 2020, The LIRR added a second 25 mph LaserTrain to their fleet and increased the running speed to cover more of the network daily. Both LaserTrain's operated up to 18 hours per day, cleaning 2/3rds of the network. As a rail slip prevention measure, all vital parts were cleaned every 24 hours. Rail cleaning was effective, with 88% less slippage on railway tracks after 12 hours, and instances that did occur were mainly on sections that were not cleaned by the LaserTrain.
• 66% reduction in low-adhesion delays • 27% less cars taken out of service due to wheel flat spots • 38% reduction in wheel truing labour costs (or $102,000) in October-November alone • 95.3% OTP in November – an improvement of 4.6 percentage points
A reduction in wheel truing preserves rail wheel integrity and results in longer wheel life. Additional wheel maintenance benefits include the calculation that, according to LIRR $500,000 in shop labour and materials costs will be saved for each year of extended life!
In 2021, The LIRR announced their best annual OTP since modern record-keeping began in the 1970s, with 96.3% of trains operating to schedule over the course of the year. 2022 saw an annual OTP of 95.8%, above the 94.0% Target, proving the laser cleaning effectiveness.