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Track in use?


Is a section of track occupied or not? This is currently still determined with the Jade detection system with track circuits. As parts of the system are nearing the end of their service life and sand and salt cause a lot of delays on the outer edge, a pilot project is now testing how the detection system with axle counters works.

The pilot project is set up on the outer edge of the Maasvlakte where sand and wind have free rein and will last for a year. This pilot project is the first large-scale project with GAST-NL axle counters within the freight process in the Netherlands.



Why are trains running in this area when weather conditions make it difficult? Expanding the harbour area inland is not an option, but towards the sea is. It takes about 12 years for the site to be built on or to become overgrown with vegetation, from which time wind and sand have less influence.

Jade & GAST-NL side by side


During the pilot project, rail freight traffic will continue as usual, and so the axle counters will be on the same track as the Jade track circuits that are currently being used to secure the track. This provides even more measurement data as the behaviour of both systems can be compared in the same situation.

Engineering firm Sweco analyses the results and maps all possible scenarios for the functioning of the axle counters. This makes good use of digital capabilities to monitor the area of over 50 km. With 360° photos, the whole area is mapped in detail with GPS location.

The technology


The track circuit system functions by built-in circuits in the rails, which are short-circuited when train wheels pass. A shorted track circuit thus indicates that a track section is occupied. An axle counter at the beginning and at the end of the track section counts the axles, thus the system determines whether the section is free or occupied.

Daily operations


In addition to detection and weather conditions, ProRail and Sweco are also looking at design and operating requirements, in particular the process of fault repair and maintenance and what this means for daily operations. The first results of the pilot project are expected in autumn.