Tuesday 5 February 2019

Results from the 4th edition of the UIC Global Rail Research & Innovation Awards

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Rail transport faces huge present and future challenges for which innovation and step changes are necessary. As UIC’s overall mission is to promote an increased use of rail transport at world level and to help members make rail transport more attractive, effective, sustainable and economically viable, the General Assemblies have brought their strong support to the ambitious programme of the UIC’s International Railway Research Board (IRRB), as well as its initiative to set up the UIC Rail Research & Innovation Awards. The 4th edition of the Awards came to an end through the organisation of the award ceremony, held in Paris on 7 December 2018, as part of the UIC General Assembly.

Through these Awards, UIC aims to support and promote:

  • The development of theoretical, experimental and applied research in railway transport
  • The development process of international cooperation in this field
  • The promotion and attraction of leading experts from different countries, research institutes, universities, railway operators, infrastructure managers, railway suppliers, passenger transport organisations, governmental bodies in charge of transport and individual researchers to address the most important problems and challenges of modern railways
  • The global recognition of the role of single researchers and research groups in order to establish rail as the sustainable backbone of the transportation system which is cost-efficient, reliable, safe and secure and therefore will become the mode of choice for passengers and freight forwarders

As well as to:

  • Support and encourage gifted young researchers, stimulate their research work in the sphere of railway transport, prepare a new generation of researchers, lay the foundations for future innovative development of railway transport and attract young researchers in the sphere of railway transport as well as to support the creation of favourable conditions for scientific discoveries and innovative achievements involving young researchers
  • Honour those persons who have spent their lifetime trying to innovate and improve the railway system and its services – the Lifetime Achievement Award

In a series of articles in the next issues, we will focus on the Award-winning submissions as well as on some of the other high scoring ideas for innovation of the railway system. This first article is focused on the 2018 Award-winning team of researcher in the category of “Safety & Security”. This research team from RTRI in Japan consisted of the following experts:

Mr Masahiro Korenaga, Assistant Senior Researcher, Seismic Data Analysis Laboratory of RTRI, Mr Hiroyuki Miyakoshi, Researcher, Disaster Prevention Research Laboratory, East Japan Railway Company, Japan, Mr Shunroku Yamamoto, General Manager, Seismic Data Analysis Laboratory of RTRI, Japan and Mr Shin Aoi, Director-General, Network Center for Earthquake, Tsunami and Volcano, National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience.

Their Award-winning topic of research was entitled: “The Development of Algorithms for Earthquake Early Warning System Using Ocean Bottom Seismic Network”. The results of this research are of course of high importance for the Japanese railways, but with the present obvious changes in the climate, it will be interesting for many other regions in the world.

The RTRI team has developed new algorithms to stop the Shinkansen High Speed trains quickly and reliably by utilising the real-time data observed at the bottom of the ocean and put them to practical use. To secure the safety of running trains at the time of earthquake, the earthquake early warning (EEW) systems that detect tremors of an earthquake and rapidly issue warning signals have been installed for Shinkansen throughout Japan. On the other hand, the world’s largest ocean bottom seismometer (OBS) networks have been recently developed by governmental organisations in Japan. Since the OBSs are installed close to the epicentre of earthquakes which occur beneath the sea, it was expected that the OBSs can detect tremors of the earthquakes more rapidly than seismometers installed on the land.

Based on the above-mentioned data, they have developed new algorithms for EEW system using the data of the OBS networks. They have proposed a judging algorithm for EEW by using the data from OBS networks, a monitoring algorithm to prevent false alarms, and a communication algorithm to transmit data from the OBS networks to railway EEW systems. As there is a significant difference in characteristics between the seismic data from the OBSs and those from land seismometers due to different installation environments, the above-mentioned algorithms have been developed in consideration of those characteristics. By using the observed data, they have confirmed that the new EEW system with new algorithms can issue a warning signal about 10 seconds faster than the present system. The new algorithms for OBS have been installed in some EEW system of Shinkansen line and are now in operation. It is expected that the EEW systems with new algorithms will increase in number to secure safer operation against earthquakes.

The newly developed algorithms are as follows:

1) To judge the risk of earthquakes occurred beneath the sea, we developed a new attenuation relation by adding a correction term to the attenuation relation of inland earthquakes.
2) To prevent false alarms, we developed a new algorithm in which a warning is issued only when one seismometer observes a large signal that exceeds the threshold level and another seismometer observes a smaller signal that exceeds the noise level at the same time.


The result of improving the algorithms to estimate the seismic source parameters for the EEW system is that the accuracy rate of alarm is increased about 6% and the false alarm (excessive alarm) is reduced by about 87% compared with the conventional algorithms. Furthermore, the minimum time to issue the alarm is one second earlier. Using the observed OBS data, the researchers have verified the effect of improving the rapidity by introducing the warning algorithm using OBS data. As a result, it was confirmed that the new EEW system using the new algorithms by OBS data can issue a warning signal about 10 seconds earlier than the previous system which used solely on-land data.

One railway company has already made the findings operational and has begun operation to stop high speed trains in cooperation with the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience, which operates an ocean bottom seismometer network.

For more information about this specific research project, please contact Mr Masahiro Korenaga at nozawa.hiroyuki.59@rtri.or.jp

For more information about the UIC Global Research & Innovation Awards scheme, please contact Dennis Schut at schut@uic.org or check out the Award webpages (to be updated soon) http://uic-innovation-awards.org/

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Fig.1 Fitting function of the conventional algorithm (blue line) and the new algorithm (red line) to estimate the epicentral distance
Fig.2 Conceptual diagram of the EEW system for railways using OBS data