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Praterstern train station is a particularly busy transport hub, and serves some 100,000 commuters per day. (Photo: ÖBB/Robert Deopito)

Vienna’s northern train station relies on online monitoring of its lifting units

With around 25,000 properties, 5,000 buildings and over 1,000 train stations and stops, the Austrian Federal Railways (Österreichischen Bundesbahnen – ÖBB) is one of the country’s largest property owners. Some 760 well-trained specialists keep this infrastructure operational around the clock. Web-based services help to secure the neuralgic sewage disposal in the company’s train stations, which have worked to good effect at Praterstern station in the north of Vienna. The pumps and the network infrastructure are both provided by Wilo. The complex, which was completed in 2008, provides a pleasant atmosphere for travellers – and that also applies to its sanitary facilities. In order to guarantee optimal efficiency, operational reliability and performance, the ÖBB opted for a new ‘EMUport’ lifting unit from Wilo.

Train station toilets – a particular challenge

“Access systems, cleaners and surveillance personnel can work to maintain the external quality of sanitary facilities, but their function must also be secured,” said Andreas Coufal of the ÖBB’s Vienna Technology Management department, about the background to the project. And, in heavily-used public sanitary facilities, maintaining functionality is not always straightforward: visitors use the toilets to dispose of a range of different items that could place the sewage pumps out of order. This would then have accordingly unpleasant consequences for subsequent visitors. “In the past, we have had to make repairs several times a week to remove solids from the pumps”, explained Coufal.

Solids separation system to protect the pumps

The Wilo ‘EMUport’ lifting unit markedly reduced the frequency of clogging. Indeed, Vienna’s newly refurbished main train station features 21 ‘EMUports’ to ensure successful sewage disposal. “Building on these positive experiences, we decided to install this solids separation system in the Praterstern station,” said Coufal.

In Wilo’s solids separation concept, the inflowing sewage firstly reaches a container, where a grid retains the solids. This pre-treated sewage then flows through the idle pump and is stored in a reservoir. When a pre-defined fill level is reached, the pump transports the sewage from the reservoir back into the solids container. From there, pressure pipes convey the solids into the sewage network. The system features two solids separation chambers and pumps. These run alternately, though in the event of a fault or maintenance they run continuously so as to ensure almost interruption-free sewage disposal.

Regular functional testing and preventative maintenance and repair decisive factors for service life

Thanks to the solids separation system, materials with considerable clogging potential are kept away from the pump hydraulics. Yet the lifting units’ pumps still require regular maintenance and repair. The specific intervals are measures are prescribed by DIN EN 12056-4. For commercial use, the system must be maintained every three months by a competent specialist. Moreover, the lifting units must also be inspected once per month by its operator, by monitoring the operability of at least two switching cycles.

This involves an enormous amount of work across the various properties of the ÖBB. “Beyond that, such intensive use, such as in a train station, leads to numerous fault repairs each month,” complained Andreas Coufal of the misuse of sanitary facilities. The ‘WiloCare’ concept is therefore based on two key pillars: maintenance and repair in accordance with DIN EN 12056-4 as well as fault prevention through real-time system monitoring. To that end, the lifting unit is equipped with additional sensors that transmit system parameters to a Wilo Cloud via a communication box. “For reasons of data security, we work with our own web-based system when doing so,” detailed Niko Kösling. “It analyses all decisive operating parameters in real time. If a pump sees an unusual increase in power consumption, the Wilo service technicians can use the data available to isolate a problem and resolve it on-site before a malfunction actually occurs.”

Depending on the scope of the selected service package, unplanned call-outs can be charged at flat rates or are sometimes included in the service price. “As well as the technical transparency from the monthly status report, this also provides calculable cost transparency,” said Andreas Coufal of the operator, ÖBB, outlining an additional financial advantage. What is more, the service takes the pressure off ÖBB personnel.“Regular functional testing and preventative maintenance are decisive for service life” said Thomas Huber, Service Manager at WILO Pumpen Österreich GmbH. “If such work is not carried out, the pumps do not last as long and the actual life cycle costs increase, independent of the manufacturer,” said Huber, describing the practical aspects.

The lifting unit is connected both to the sewage network – approx. six metres below the backflow level – and the data network. Online monitoring through the ‘WiloCare’ service enhances the operational reliability and service life of the system. (Photo: ÖBB/ Andreas Coufal)

Digitalisation supports monitoring

The use of ‘EMUports’ with solids separation systems have reduced servicing call-outs by around 50 %. Thanks to ‘WiloCare’ monitoring, major faults no longer occur as this service firstly optimises operating parameters and thereby remedies the sources of potential faults. Secondly, the regular maintenance work carried out by specialist Wilo technicians and timely inspections of the solids separation containers by ÖBB personnel together lay the foundations for secure operation.

For Vienna’s northern train station and the adjacent crowd-puller of the Prater amusement park, the contribution of the functionality and hygiene of the sanitary facilities effect to enhancing the image of this transport hub, which serves some 100,000 commuters per day, must not be underestimated.


The three service packages on offer focus on ‘sensitive’ pump applications – including for those already in service. Pressure-boosting systems and sewage lifting units are perfect examples of this, as malfunctions lead to a bottleneck in terms of supply or disposal and often result in substantial repair costs. Securing the technical and economic performance of pump systems is the stated goal of the web-based service, both for new systems and those already in service.

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