Railway defect detection based on track geometry using supervised and unsupervised machine learning

Jessada Sresakoolchai, Sakdirat Kaewunruen

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Track quality affects passenger comfort and safety. To maintain the quality of the track, track geometry and track component defects are inspected routinely. Track geometry is inspected using a track geometry car (TGC). Measured values are stored in the machine and processed to evaluate the track quality. However, track component defects require more effort to inspect. Track component defects can be inspected manually which is time- and workload-consuming or using sensors installed at additional cost. This study presents an approach using track geometry obtained by a TGC to detect track component defects, namely, rail, switch and crossing, fastener and rail joint defects. Detection models are developed using several supervised machine learnings. The relationships between track component defects are analysed to gain insights using unsupervised machine learnings. From the study, the best model for detecting track component defects using track geometry is a deep neural network with an accuracy of 94.31% followed by a convolutional neural network with an accuracy of 93.77%. For the exploration of insights, k-means clustering is used to cluster the track components defects, and association rules are used to find the relationships between them. Examples of the insights from applying these two techniques are that switch and crossing defects are usually found where the radius of curvature is less than 2000 m and the gradient is positive, the most common defects when the radius of curvature higher than 4000 m are rail defects, or a worn wing rail will be found when the rail section has failed, ties in switches and worn point blades are found with the confidence of 92.17%. The findings of the study can be applied to detect track component defects using track geometry where additional cost is not required and unsupervised machine learning provides the insights that will be beneficial for railway maintenance. The information obtained from machine learning models will be complementary information to support decision making and improve the maintenance efficiency in the railway industry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1757-1767
JournalStructural Health Monitoring
Issue number4
Early online date29 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jan 2022


  • K-means clustering
  • Track geometry
  • association rules
  • convolutional neural network
  • deep neural network
  • railway track component defect
  • supervised learning
  • unsupervised learning


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