Wireless train detection

Rail Connected is a Dutch company that develops wireless sensors for the railways. With the wireless axle counter that registers passing trains, Rail Connected wants to contribute to optimising train traffic and making it more sustainable..


From May 2022 to February 2024

Partners (TU Delft)

Do IoT Fieldlab, TU Delft

Partners (other)

Rail ConnectedProRailTNOMCSUnmanned ValleySURF

Train detection is important in order to guarantee safety on the railways. If you know where the trains are running, you can calculate how fast they are allowed to drive. ProRail currently deals with this by means of a track circuit in the rails. With the introduction of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), the use of axle counters is mandatory. This device counts how many axles pass a certain point on a railway; another method of train detection, in other words.

This research focuses on developing a wireless axle counter to register the location of a train. A traditional axle counter is installed with cables for power and data. The works of laying cables and pipes are time consuming and involve the risk of damaging cables. Installing a wireless axle counter is significantly faster and cheaper.

The aim of this project is to develop a wireless version of the axle counter. In recent years Rail Connected, has already developed a first version together with ProRail. To ensure the system is actually suitable for train safety, tests with 5G technology are necessary. Particularly the very fast and reliable data transfer and the ultra-low power consumption are essential in this research.

Do IoT Fieldlab’s facilities are used to explore the capabilities of 5G when developing prototypes. The greatest challenge lies in testing whether 5G can meet the very stringent safety standards (SIL4) for train traffic.

The potential on a European scale is enormous: for instance, 20,000 axle counters will have to be installed in the Netherlands alone. If this can be accomplished wirelessly, it will save a tremendous amount of excavation work and hence time, costs and disruptions to the timetable. In addition, the wireless system is more sustainable due to significantly lower power consumption and fewer materials required. Maintenance and replacement of cables is redundant: a battery lasts for years and is easy to replace.

Related websites: Draadloze assenteller uniek in Europa | ProRail (Dutch)

Watch the video on Rail Connected’s and their experimental results with 5G technology so far.

This project is enabled by the Kansen voor West programme (aimed at promoting the competitiveness of the Dutch Western region).