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News from the UK Rail Industry 7th March 2019

Posted by: Warren Drobac
Industry News

HS2 utilises virtual railway technology to envision 2026 target

John McSheen, client director at SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins, has showed support for HS2, stating that “HS2’s ambitious aim is to develop and deliver a world-class ‘Digital Built Britain’ through innovation and open data standards.”

In 2016 the government mandated that all publicly procured projects must implement BIM (Building Information Modelling), a process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.

The steps taken by the rail industry to implement HS2 have resulted in revolutionary new ways of working which are beneficial to all of Britain. “Our combined approach focused on four key areas,” explains McSheen. “Leadership; people and culture; process; and information and technology – that would enable HS2 to deliver its strategic outcome of a consistent, collaborative process for production, management and delivery of digital representations of the physical railway assets over their life-cycle.”

BIM has been implemented across HS2 to create a ‘virtual railway’ creating a road map for what the programme would look like in 2026. The project has triggered developments in BIM strategy, encouraging the market to develop a Visualisation and Integration Hub. McSheen highlighted HS2’s industry-leading BIM strategy: “This is the first time [BIM] has been applied to a project of this size and complexity.”

McSheen goes on to detail how HS2 has forced the rail industry to innovate and progress. “To deliver HS2’s BIM vision required everyone to adopt new ways of working, behaviours and culture,” he explains. “This has resulted in an industry-wide upskilling platform, providing access to key training materials free of charge and that continues to be updated. In an industry facing significant skills shortages, this initiative is something that benefits not just HS2, but everyone in construction.” Full story.

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Revolutionary tech detects rail faults before they happen

Improved service and safety are at the forefront of Network Rail’s goals, and reducing system failures is key to achieving this. Big Data Enterprise is working on a research project which would use artificial intelligence to help detect and predict faults in advance.

Professor Lukumon Oyedele is assistant vice-chancellor and chair professor of enterprise and project management at the University of the West of England and runs its Big Data Enterprise and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (Big-DEAL). His project i-RAMP (IoT-enabled Platform for Rail Assets Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance) could help detect faults on a railway line before they happen.

Network Rail encounter a wide array or problems, from faulty signal boxes to broken tracks. This results in hundreds of work hours lost due to train delays, which ultimately hampers UK productivity and with HS2 on the horizon, efficiency is more important than ever.

i-RAMP will implement sensors which will be installed on tracks and on station facilities like ventilation systems, barriers and lighting. These sensors will transmit data such as vibrations, strains, pressures on a structure, humidity levels or temperature changes. With this data, AI will predict when a fault is likely to occur, highlighting any stress points or component failures on a 3D virtual model of the station and tracks.

i-RAMP also uses augmented reality (AR) to assist engineers with repairs. “This approach will also allow engineers to use AR-based tools that offer them information about the location of faulty components and provides guidance on how to fix them,” explains Oyedele. “It will supply real-time instructions and warn of potential dangers when they carry out the repairs. For example, by wearing a headset or using their mobile phones, engineers will be able to view these instructions superimposed on the joint or electrical circuit that they are repairing or replacing.”

The research project will be completed in the second half of 2020, with large-scale testing planned for 2021. Full story.

Network Rail select rail design competition winners

Network Rail and Innovate UK have selected winners for their collaborative research and development competition grant. The four finalists are Costain, Graffica, PEAN Technologies and Plume Rail.

In November 2018 the competition asked for solutions to implement automated designs to track layout, overhead line electrification, traction power supply systems and signalling systems.

Atish Chauhan, Network Rail project manager, said: “I am really pleased that the challenge we set out in our competition generated a lot of interest and that companies have come back with some excellent ideas and solutions. Using automated design will help Network Rail with producing better designs faster and support our long-term service planning by allowing better assumptions about future infrastructure and associated changes to services.”

Kelvin Davies of Innovate UK said: “The collaboration between Innovate UK and Network Rail has seen the delivery of a very successful competition with a high level of interest. We look forward to working with Network Rail to deliver the exciting portfolio of projects over the coming 12 months and to help demonstrate the capability of automated design for planning different aspects of future railway systems.”

The four winners will receive a combined grant of £300,000 which will be used to fund projects for the development of tools that plan automatic rail infrastructure. Full story.

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