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European railway infrastructure construction and development faces a number of business as well as technological challenges in the modern era.

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BIM for Railways Infrastructure Development


European railway infrastructure construction and development faces a number of business as well as technological challenges in the modern era. These challenges of construction hindrance and budget insufficiency originate out of climatic shifts, regulations and public subsidies. Furthermore, a commitment to deliver high-level results, safety and security, capacity and connectivity of construction site with the office staff and sustainable development are the obstacles in the progress of construction. Besides, especially in Europe; railways are public goods and a consensus has to be reached for these overall needs and wants.  

With multiple complexities of scalable impact, contractors and infrastructure developers find options that deliver determined solutions and coordinate their job roles well when it is the case of railways infrastructure development. UK government realized the original concept of BIM and shifted it slightly from buildings to railways; and expanded the concept significantly to cover broader aspects.

The railways sector actually is an amalgamation of buildings, structures, stations, and a unique blend of infrastructure design, causing the need of BIM even more than buildings construction. Beside, railways has a specialism of governing, signaling, gauging, permanent way, crossovers, overhead lines, power supply and the list can go on forever. Implementing BIM makes it a convenient business to manage information, which earlier was a challenge due to high paper work and immense documentation.

BIM has trashed out tedious paper-based documentation  

Recording, maintaining and presenting inspections and audits etc with paper based work is next to impossible in railways due to the complexity and grandiosity of the projects. Autodesk’s Revit – an industry wide accepted and efficient BIM tool, however; is the savior to contractors and infrastructure developers as it enables data storage in one single model. Although most of the past records have been transferred to excel sheets on computers, the common data environment (CDE) in BIM and its interoperability is unparalleled.

BIM level 2, to be specific, is the set of information in collaborated format and data is accessible from any electronic device. Both geometrical and non-graphical data is kept in common data environment and accessible to multiple disciplines working on the project. This CDE makes it possible to update real-time changes in the model and promptly notifies professionals. Not only changes, BIM unlike excel spreadsheet clubs new age electronic technology with the project requirement and employs it for good.  

BIM couples upcoming electronic technology

Scale, accuracy and design data are some of the fundamental elements of BIM level 2 to be implemented with success and confidence. If there is even the slightest deviation in any of this BIM data from the actual need, it will cause disputes between disciplines as the project advances to construction stage owing to numerous complexities. 

To design and achieve an accurate BIM model for rails sector, it boils down to surveyors who have to keep the model updated as the project marches ahead. Current technologies of laser scanning, GIS mapping, Global Navigation Satellite System - GNNS used for data collection and BIM model preparation gives output which is accurate and only errored to small extent.

Other techniques such as train mounted scanning cameras, tripod mounted scanners, LiDAR, drones, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) will capture and gauge the data up to a precision of more than 1mm. However amongst these techniques, use of UAVs is limited in railways yet because of its operation limitation only along the line of sight, which likely will be taken care of in near future with current advances in the technology. Such detailed and precise information point cloud scan can help develop accurate models and information of the tracks in BIM tools. It helps engineers and contractors prevent accidents by designing an efficient and well-planned network of rail routes.

BIM Level 2 goes far too deep

BIM level 2 essentially delivers 3D modeling and its object based intelligence warehoused along with 3D models goes beyond 3D visualization. Attributes of 4D construction sequencing and 5D cost estimation along with BOQs deliver efficiency in contractor’s works to great lengths. Information rich intelligent BIM ready models are not only efficient during construction for better management, clash detection and avoiding reworks but also for operations, maintenance and refurbishment of the infrastructure once constructed.

A comprehensive BIM model at level 2 brings standards to design phase and this collaborated model helps in better implementation of standards. Collaboration here means bringing together different organizations and construction firms involved in the project and not just various disciplines.

Railway projects turn out to be even a greater success when city and state councils show keenness and inclination of involving various local firms and organization into the project. When several ideas from different organizations are collaborated in shared data environment of BIM, it brings more efficient outputs. The entire concept of BIM Level 2 implementation is to enable a project database through BIM models and develop it as asset for the entire lifecycle of the railways infrastructure.

Making the task of record keeping a simpler business and also the ability to keep it handy in the office and on site, share it efficiently with the right party wing of project. It is not the task for data fit for a single purpose; in fact BIM Level 2 for railways infrastructure development will prove to be a data fit for any purpose ranging from construction designs to construction management until refurbishment and renovation.

Better Information Management in railways infrastructure development is all set

The time when investing in BIM will be railways infrastructure the foundation on which railways infrastructure development relies. Contractors and EPC firms should be prepared to invest the highest share of their budget in BIM to avoid any adverse cost implication. It de-risks the future of civilians, an important aspect, since railways are the part of public infrastructure development, and connect people to places.

An investment in BIM Level 2 technology is an investment for safe future that will generate ROIs on itself – many times.

(Source:  Hiral Patel)

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