Early this morning, on a cold day near Vienna, two commuter trains collided leaving several people severely injured. The early cause has been identified as a technical problem that resulted in the track switching equipment allowing the two trains to be on a collision course.

The good news is that there have been no fatalities reported. The bad news is that transportation along this busy corridor has been crippled, liability claims are sure to arise and repairing the train engines and cars is going to be very expensive.

Could this have been avoided? The answer is it should have been! Technical problems with rail assets fall under the care of maintenance.

CMMS for Transportation

Don’t get me wrong, even the best maintenance in the world will not stop every asset from failing. However, I wonder if the financial crisis affecting European governments and industry alike are resulting in deferred maintenance, fewer inspections and less preventive maintenance.

“After a disastrous experience involving the moving of the repair of rolling stock to eastern Europe that resulted in defective wagons causing at least one accident in Italy the Austrian rail company ÖBB is reportedly bringing maintenance back to Austria…The management have now accepted the workers recommendation that outsourcing is without doubt much too expensive and this outsourcing will now be stopped and repair and maintenance work in future will be carried out in Austria.”

Source: Austrian Times

It would seem that government owned OBB (the Australian Federal Railways) got it wrong once before. Maybe now they will understand that lower cost maintenance practices are never a good idea and are almost always more expensive in the long run.

There are some things that OBB can start to do immediately to make up for a lack of maintenance caused by outsourcing and the change in maintenance locations. These include implementing a CMMS to:

  • Schedule inspections of all track switching equipment to make certain today’s accident is not repeated.
  • Schedule inspections on all assets subject to wear and tear such as rail wheels, bridges, signals, crossings, circuits etc.
  • Schedule maintenance on work orders derived from inspections.
  • Perform preventive maintenance and repairs on rails subject to rolling contact fatigue.
  • Ensure OBB is getting the highest productivity from the rail union employees by using the work management automation and scheduling tools of a CMMS.

Better maintenance practices using CMMS software can streamline labor costs, lower repair costs and help reduce capital expenditures. More importantly they may help prevent an accident such as the head on collision today or at the very least mitigate liability claims.

The best part about using a CMMS for the railway industry is that it can be used across their infrastructure setup including facility management, freight and passenger transport, power plants and technology.

Longer-Term Impact of CMMS

Rail systems are an important part of many national and continental infrastructures. Their long-term viability requires a long-term plan for maintenance that can weather economic cycles.

Cutting costs does not need to be centered around outsourcing or reducing headcount. Sadly and we see it too often slashing headcount and deferred maintenance is only a short-term solution.

Implementing a CMMS solution does much more than grab the low hanging fruit of lower labor and repair costs. CMMSprograms are at the core of good transportation asset management systems. They can help transportation companies lower long-term costs by:

  • Lowering capital expenditures by extending the useful lifespan of assets through better maintenance.
  • Reducing training costs by creating a knowledge base for assets and their maintenance history.
  • Provide a detailed work history of each asset that can help asset planners and maintenance managers make better repair, refurbishment or replacement decisions.
  • Mitigate claims of asset neglect by keeping methodical asset maintenance records.

More will be written on this developing story as it unfolds.