Last week the 3rd Annual International Rail GIS Summit was held in Paris, France at the offices of the International Union of Railways (UIC). This event was sponsored by Esri, Nokia, Nice and Trimble. This organisation represents 197 railways around the world together with affiliate organisations. The main objectives of the UIC are:
- facilitate the sharing of best practices among members (benchmarking)
- support members in their efforts to develop new business and new areas of activities
- propose new ways to improve technical and environmental performance
- promote interoperability, create new world standards for railways (including common standards with other transport modes)
- develop centres of competence (High Speed, Safety, Security, e-Business, …)
When many people think about railways they often do not immediately do not see the supporting infrastructure that plans, builds, operates and maintains a railway. Most people connect with rail through services, particularly passenger and freight transport. As was clearly evident last week, railways have a huge amount of activities operating behind these first connections.
For example, PROTECTRAIL is a project of the UIC that aims to provide a viable integrated set of security solutions, by considering the assets involved, the nature of the threats, and the requirements and constraints. The Integrated European Signalling System (INESS) is another project. It aims to deliver an integrated framework for connecting the signal systems used in European railways. The sheer size and complexity of this endeavour can be realized when one considers every asset along the tracks needs management for their locations, where the challenges of cross border interoperability and equipment inter-connectivity often arise. These are just a few of the many examples where technical development and innovation are pushing railways into future pathways.
3D plays an integral role in the development of railway asset management the design and planning of railway resources. As was evident during the event, 3D lidar, 3D visualization, 3D engineering technologies and the constantly shifting GIS-CAD relationship are posing unique challenges for organisations. Policy and governance are similarly important to the operation and maintenance of railways.
We now see 3D technologies being applied from surveying, asset management and vegetation perspectives, all part of railway operations.
Did you know that an average high-speed railway uses 3.2 hectares of land per kilometer as compared to 9.3 hectares of land for motorways. This is why many organisations consider to upgrade rail when they are considered to upgrade or renovate spaces and landscapes. Consider for a moment that a train will invariably need to comply with an integrated network, rail station infrastructure, lighting, electrical, terrain and slope conditions, scheduling and a host of other factors that need to comply within an integrated fashion.
Many railways are now combining their ‘lifecycles’ from planning through to maintenance into seamless database connectivity, with high interoperability and the ability to continuously capture more data throughout a network in real-time. The shift from paper drawings and disparate databases is quickly being replaced by cloud connected services and a fusion of knowledge from multi-disciplinary participants – all digitally connect and more often than not 3D and 4D realised.