Train Derailments Underscore The Importance Of Risk-Based Asset Intelligence

It was with great interest that we read a deeply-investigative news story which examined a string of train derailments which occurred last year around Amtrak’s Penn Station in New York. These accidents, with at least one resulting in injuries, underscored how hazardous the condition of the railway tracks had become.

Investigators found that all of these derailments might have been avoided if maintenance and repairs had been conducted earlier.

The report got us thinking about the significant challenges rail organisations face when balancing new works projects alongside the maintenance of existing, and often aging, infrastructure.

And, how important a risk-based approach to the management of assets is as a means of making better, safer decisions about the allocation of limited organisational resources to activities that will return better business outcomes.

The Universal Challenge Of Competing Projects And Priorities

Despite the highly-complex maintenance requirements around Penn Station, many would say that such accidents can still be avoided.

The challenges Amtrak face could affect any business, on varying levels.

Strapped for funding, under pressure to ensure services are uninterrupted, whilst giving new development projects more resources; management is constantly making decisions about what must be fixed now, what can wait and for how long.

However, in many cases, organisations continue to make such decisions almost blindly.

In a recent Deloitte Global, Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) survey, 79 percent of institutions polled expressed concern about the quality of asset-related risk data in their risk management systems, with 40 percent of these being extremely, or very, concerned.

In the case of Amtrak, some maintenance managers stated that essential repairs were not flagged as ‘safety-critical’ and put off for months, and some even years.

Additionally, some rail parts and components, including ones deemed at risk of imminent failure, were used long past their initial replacement dates, highlighting the importance of quality asset lifecycle data and asset lifecycle management practices.

“Everybody believes that their project is priority,” Mr. Scot Naparstek, Amtrak’s CEO said in the New York Times article. “Our goal is to try to do our best to satisfy everybody. In the end, we’re balancing.”

However, what if Amtrak had a risk-based approach to the management of their railway assets that gave them greater insight and intelligence about:

  • All asset-related risks across Amtrak’s entire network [including maintenance of existing and new development works]
  • The ability to correlate and compare all these network-wide risks, with real-world data, to determine the highest [and the lowest] so they can be prioritised accordingly
  • The ability to clearly understand and communicate the consequences of addressing, or not addressing, asset-related risks
  • The ability to model critical controls to determine what will be the most effective, and least effective, ways to address specific operational risks

With these sorts of insights, Amtrak may have prioritised multiple development projects and critical railroad repair completely differently and perhaps some, or even all, of these incidents might have been averted.

Risk-Based Asset Intelligence

Now more than ever, businesses need trusted, real-world insights and ability to make better risk-based decisions at all levels of the enterprise which drive asset optimisation – the kind that will keep critical infrastructure, like railways, in good and safe working order.

It’s not just a matter of gathering the data, but also having a consistent approach to decision-making about maintenance, production and safety as organisations strive to deliver services 24/7 and meet increasingly complex compliance mandates.

Relegen’s unified risk-based asset intelligence platform [assetDNA+riskDNA] bridges the expanse between the management of assets and risk and applies a rigorous step-by-step, semi-quantifiable assessment methodology.

Organisations can then use this risk-based asset intelligence to run comparisons across the total enterprise and model the effect of taking action or not – giving managers a very powerful decision-making tool.

As a result, ‘risk-based asset intelligence’ offers the potential to transform asset-intensive organisations from being behind the eight ball to being on the front foot when it comes to service delivery, and most importantly, safety.

Learn More

If you’d like to learn more or receive a live web demo of our Unified Suite for risk-based asset intelligence please reach out to us on or +61 (02) 9998 9000. We’d love to give you a guided tour.