Prediction of railroad track geometry change using a hybrid CNN-LSTM spatial-temporal model

Xin Wang, Yun Bai, Xiang Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Track geometry is highly important for ensuring railroad safety. Predicting track geometry degradation can support preventive maintenance by identifying and prioritizing track segments that are more prone to potential track geometry defects. This paper develops a novel machine learning approach that can simultaneously geospatially align track geometry data from multiple inspections accounting for positional errors, and also predict foot-by-foot track geometry change over time. The proposed position correction method considers multiple geometry parameters to provide highly accurate positional information for geometry measurements, which is a prerequisite for foot-by-foot track geometry prediction. A hybrid CNN (convolutional neural network)-LSTM (long short-term memory neural network) machine learning model is developed to account for spatial–temporal dependence with respect to foot-by-foot track geometry change. Specifically, CNN is used to incorporate spatial dependence of track geometry on adjacent segments. LSTM is applied to learn dynamic changes in track geometry data over time to consider the temporal dependence. The hybrid CNN-LSTM model is validated using track inspection data provided by one major freight railroad in the United States. The results show that our positional error correction method can reduce the relative positional error to less than 1 foot with a 99% confidence interval. Our proposed CNN-LSTM model outperforms four other models, including a naïve model (using the last observation), multi-layer perceptron (MLP), plain CNN, and plain LSTM, for both short-term and long-term prediction periods. The proposed hybrid machine learning methodology can be adapted to various other freight and passenger rail lines. The predictive track geometry change information can be used by the industry to plan and prioritize resources for preventative maintenance, yielding benefits in safety and operational efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102235
JournalAdvanced Engineering Informatics
StatePublished - Oct 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence


  • Positional error correction
  • Spatial-temporal dependence
  • Track geometry prediction


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