BT-384-GardermoenThe 3rd Annual International Rail GIS Summit was held in Paris, France at the offices of the International Railway (UIC) from June 13-14, 2012. The event focused on the use and application of GIS related technologies in railway design, planning, operation and maintenance. Special attention was given to the inclusion of GIS for asset management. Discussions including several international railways included questions and the event provided an opportunity to share ideas and learn how other organizations are using advanced technologies in railway management. 

hans-guenther-kerstenHans-Guenther Kersten,  Director of UIC Rail System DepartmentDirector of UIC Rail System Department

The show opened with Ian Koeppel of Esri welcoming attendees to the event. "This is an opportunity for all of us to share ideas, learn from each other and to discuss new opportunities," he said. This point was referred to by many people during the event as they absorbed and learned from each other, valuing the event more as it went on.  It was interesting to watch and see the differences in approaches and the kinds of problems that each different railway faced in their presentation. Contrary to the notion that we might think all railways have the same issues, they do and don't. 

International Railway Welcome

Hans-Guenther Kersten,  Director of UIC Rail System Department then delivered opening remarks. "I know many railways have used GIS technologies for many years, but not enough," he said. "There are many EU railways contending with interoperability issues and we need to connect the system more completely," Kersten suggested. He spoke easily about all of the rail systems that link to GIS - obviously aware of the influence and use of the technology and it's value. He also indicated that a more integrated forum that includes all rail issues is needed and that he has noted that as one of his aims while at UIC. 


Railway Design, Operation and Planning

Peter Burnett and Andy Kervell of Network Rail then spoke about the use of GIS technology and the system that is being developed to coincide with the IT structure for railway operations - The Network Rail Roadmap for GIS as they indicated. Their key point was that they developed the business model for the development as the planning for GIS proceeded, recognizing early on that business factors would help to support the development and keep the project ontrack toward a successful outcome. 

"Two years ago everyone in our organization was purchasing data separately for projects within Network Rail, " Burnett said. Since the system for organizing and streamlng data within the GIS framework has occurred, there has been a savings of about 500,000 GBP  per year.  Challenges in the work have been:

1) the organization had to shift from working primarily in schematics to working in real world coordinates

2) disparate referencing systems were present depending on data holder in the organization

3) the value of geotechnical data was not fully recognized

4) linear referencing was an issue

5) high amount of duplication in records and databases

Peter Burnett and Andy Kervell of Network RailAndy Kervell and Peter Burnett of Network Rail The measurement systems in Network Rail previously determined distance from mile posts to mile posts, as compared to distances between stations. Issues related to non-metric measurement also arose. "It's all about improving the data lifecycle," Burnett pointed out. It took about 18-24 months to pull together the GIS plan together with the business case (ORBIS Project). "Actualy railway geometry depends upon the quality of data", a factor that was re-emphasized by others over the course of two days.

"We need the right information in the right format to use it," he said. The organization is now developing 'Linear Asset Decision Support Tools'.  From the start this project took an investor perspective to gain support for it's implementation. Andy Kervell said the project went live May 20, 2012 and that it provides for a seamless single system. The Rail Infra Network Model used is also supplying information and details to plan work on the railway. 

Grzegorz Brodecki of TK Telekom spoke on the topic of 'How Network Inventory Facilitates Network Management'. " PKP is the Polish National Railway operator, a company that began in 1926 and was deregulated in 2001. Divided into several companies, PKP operates not only a railway, but a telecom network. The rail network provides for 36,000 km of rail and over 300 towers and 98% of it's cables are underground. It has the largest telecom in Poland. This railway had little understanding of it's assets prior to implementing a GIS project and re-organizing the railway along both rail and telecom networks.  In 2010 the tender for the project was let and few companies replied. This was due to the fact that both telecom and rail knowledge would be needed. Few companies had utilized the tools for such large-scale projects and the timeline and price were challenges. The company decided to move ahead and began by identifying cables and assets. Little information for nodes was available and the need for developing a network map was high. 
Maarten ZanenMaarten Zanen, Advisor at ARCADIS

Immediate benefits to the PKP approach resulted in a reduction to operational costs and a speeding up of services to customers. As the networks became more efficient, business processes could be optimized. Quicker location and identification of failures resulted in faster resolution and improved customer support. The project is large and is now beginning to venture into the secondary service areas to improve services and to begin asset management routines for maintenance and improvements. Brodecki indicated that other opportunities including the ability to integrate personal costs and planning were other options that can be explored now that the connections are made.

At the ARCADIS company Maarten Zanen works as an advisor and has been helping companies with the design of cabling and ducts for their railways. "We previously saw a lot of the design involving cables for railways that included CAD-based systems, now we are seeing more GIS," he said. His work includes many details and it was interesting to learn that 1 kilometer of railway includes: 1) 70 km of signalling, 2) -- 15 km of telecom and 3) -- 8 km of power supply.

As Zanen pointedly said, "we can circle the earth 3Xs with the railway cable in The Netherlands alone." He suggested that GIS and design are tightly linked for railway development and cable situation drawings and cable information lists are integrated through GIS-based systems. "We a single data model" for the railways Zanen suggested and it should include all assets and objects. This would aid to avoid clashes in cabling design, to ensure connectivity and link the rail network to the assets and infrastructure. From 2017 onward, copper cabling will be taxed in The Netherlands and this means the shift is now underway to upgrade.

Vegeation Management

'Management of Green Spaces Along the French Rail Network' was the title of a presentation by Nicholaus Saint-Jean, Sarah Ancelot and Cedric Lardeux of France. Their work involved the use and application of GIS to management the forests and biodiversity along the rail line. Along the Paris-Lyon line information was needed to manage vegetation. They decided upon GIS and spatial technologies because the collection of such information can be costly and time consuming where done manually. This immediately meant that the records were in digital form and suitable for GIS analysis and mapping. Using 10 cm orthophotography and lidar collected at 16 pts /m2 , they were able to acquire a 15cm resolution for their data. Heights of vegetation were classified from the lidar data and growth rates of the vegetation were similarly calculated. 

Lidar analysis involved:

1) determining the relationship of areas near rails

2) relationship to height

3) embankment zones

4) relationships to slopes

Both helicopter and train.based systems for capturing laser data were used. Helicopter is more accurate showing a more complete picture, whereas both back-facing lasers are needed for complete coverage. Field data supported the classification process, and information supplied by trains (Imajnet) enabled quick and  simple identification while also acting as a communication tool. All of this information can be integrated with other spatial data into a complete system, and although this was a pilot project, the question of updating would need further investigation. 

Russian Railways has embarked upon a major railway upgrade that involves a scale that few other projects can duplicate because of the size of the country. Esri CIS and Rozheldorprekt are involved in this work and Dmitry Ushakov delivered the presentation. Rozheldorprekt consists of 27 institutes with 7 branches. The project included 3 principles: 1) combining design into the project, 2) combining data and 3) the use of design as basis for the lifecycle. A series of GNSS base stations was established along the length of the Moscow - St. Petersburg line and GLONASS was incorporated into the project. Data sources include aerial and satellite imagery, laser scanning and an electronic map was completed. The concept of a Digital Model Track (DMT) was also initiated with the idea of "track management with standards."

Accuracy and 3D Infrastructure for Rail in Russia

RusTransData was founded in 2012 with the purpose to establish a 3D infrastructure for rail. This is a large task for a railway that has 85,000 km of track. But the idea is to complete the digital rail model in such a way that standards are incorporated into the processes. The completed display has 3 perspectives in the window view including top, side and cross-section along the rail line. This work suggested that it is difficult to use point clouds along rail lines for the purposes of creating vectors. The trains did have measurement systems embedded into them to enable data capture.

Ron Bisio of Trimble explained how high quality data is driving the design process for railroads. He provided a short observation of the Trimble company operations, indicating that his division was established as it was recognised that measurement in the company touched on the rail industry in several areas. "Trimble is mostly involved from the track.down," Bisio said. That is, the surveying, design, construction and building of the railway falls within the realm of the company's talents and capabilities as a technical and project manager. This included feasability, design, construction and safety and maintenance. "Maintenance costs are 65% of the cost of operating many railways," he said.

He pointed to the 3D work involved in Glasgow 'Missing Link' project that incorporated many of these principles. Bisio said that tamping machines, for example, cost about 5,000 Euro/hr and that precise GNSS guidance and alignment helps to ensure that the machines operate effectively and efficiently. In tunnels, accuracy at the 1 mm. level if achieved through the use of optical instruments. "The United States is currently engaged in building out infrastructure at the 10 cm level," he said. New technology can guide ballast operations more precisely along railway tracks using GNSS and weeds can be sprayed with minimal chemical use, navigating to locations only where weeds are identified and present. "In rail re-design we are typically looking at accuracy of 2-4mm," he said. 

INSPIRE and Data integration

Erika Nissi, a senior advisor at UIC began the second day presentations with a summary of INSPIRE for Railways and the UIC Outlook. INSPIRE is a European Directive that aims to harmonize spatial data within EU and its implementation is currently being prepared by Member States. Of the 34 themes involved in INSPIRE, 1 is transport related. Cross-border and inter-modal connections are of particular interests and Inspire stipulates that the elementary geographical railway data need to be available in Inspire format in 2017. "More than half of the European freight traffic is international and we don’t have only technical interoperability problems but also those related to data interoperability. Therefore there is a great need to promote dialogue and interaction between railways concerning GIS data to converge the future data production and international exchange towards the same direction. Nissi suggested that the "UIC can act as a catalyst to bring this discussion and collaboration about".
erika-nissiErika Nissi - Advisor UIC In the case of INSPIRE there are 4 key elements: 1) metadata, 2) interoperability, 3) network services, 4) data and sharing services and 5) monitoring and reporting. Of the 34 themes involved in INSPIRE, 1 is transport related. Cross-border and inter-modal operations for rail are particular interests involving operators. INSPIRE specifications are still very general" she said. "We have made a proposal to UIC members to define a common sector approach and to involve railways more actively in the INSPIRE Maintenance and Implementation Framework (MIF)". Nissi asserted that there is a need to develop an international rail data model and railways ought to take the current Inspire framework as a starting point for this development. If data standards are not defined by railways, the chances are that further specifications are defined by EU in the so-called Inspire Evolutive Maintenance. In this context she mentioned the forthcoming UIC meeting with EC Joint Research Centre to discuss Inspire MIF and the EU Location Framework.

Nathalie Delatre works as European affairs manager for the INSPIRE program and talked about Harmonizing European Transport Data Experiences of the Eurogeographics Association. That group is responsible for the production of the EuroRegional Map that includes 56 member from different countries. They were working on harmonization before INSPIRE came, so they were well prepared to implement Pan-European data.

Since no standard existed at that time they have created a harmonized product and validated it through technology from providers such as Esri and 1Spatial. "Our information is easily accessed, managed and published," by users she said. They have also integrated different transport modalities into their products. "We are working on both spatial integration and semantic integration," Delatre indicated. The basis for this is the codification system that her organization has developed and which can be re-used readily by others. 

Rail Schematics

Patrick Dolemieux is the Program Manager for Esri ArcGIS Schematics (see interview), a software program used to automatically generate schematics such as those often used within the rail industry - as well as other networks. He spoke about schematics, describing how they are used in rail applications, "Schematics are used to help us to understand the way things are connected and the way they operate," he said. "These drawings show the relationships between different parts of the network," he added. Schematics are: 1) data driven, 2) rules based, 3) flexible and 4) extendable. They show connectivity between objects and when clicked upon, reveal details of the connections.

"Esri has recently developed a Schematic Map Server Service and SilverLight APIs are included in the product," he pointed out.  Only the displays of networks are published, maintaining security of the operational data. Many users like to work with both a map and schematic at the same time, therefore, they often employ the use of two monitors to achieve this capability as they work within network operations. 

Juliette van Driel is a business information analyst for ProRail and together with colleague Marlies van de Goot, a GIS consultant, they described The Netherlands rail network as one of the busiest in Europe. The railway includes over 7,000 of track and operates 6,000 trains. "We use rail schematics to focus upon rail topology," she said. Their goals are to use GIS to optimize planning and maintenance, timetabling of switches in the network and they combine SAP business intelligence with GIS software connectivity to provide a robust data management approach. 

Network Rail VisionAsset Network Vision (Image: Network Rail - UK)  As they explained the system in ProRail it previously included a wide variety of software including Visio, Powerpoint, Microsoft Access, Excel to name a few. Their desire was to integrate these into a single seamless system.

An Intra Atlas Database was developed that included only a single DGN view of the network with many sources of data in different coordinate systems. Problems were arising with SAP handling one set of disruptions, while the switching to resolve issues was connected to timetables elsewhere.

What they needed was disruptions together with timetabling, and all of the information geo-referenced. The planning and maintenance is done on the desktop in schematic views and the result is a drawing to provide security and capacity checks. They prefer to work in the field on a geographic maps and being able to visualize schematics together with these is an advantage. As van de Goot explained, "now we have one screen with multiple viewpoints." ProRail summarised by indicating that the company uses schematics for business practice purposes. They can now connect to several different databases in a geo-referenced network.

Rail Situation Management

'Using GIS for Real-time Situation Management' was the title of a presentation delivered by Hannan Saltzman, Senior Product Manager , Situation Management at the company Nice. That company operates in 150 countries and employs over 3,000 people involved in system related planning that includes rail networks. "Our systems are for planning during and after events," he said. "We capture many kinds of rail related data then integrate it to solve a variety users within the network," Saltzman added. "People space is different than physical space," he pointed out. The company aims to provide better situational awareness though monitoring. It also performs crowd counts and passenger planning as well as developing alarms for events. 

Nice develops and manages systems that also include video cameras and provides details about the entire network information system needs. This work also involves integrating different standards as they occur across the work processes. When events arise, Nice has developed procedures that are immediately acted upon in an organized way and then de-briefs after the events occur. Suicide, for example, is a growing issue when it comes to rail operators. Tragic loss of life occurs on many networks, and these events have an economic impact that arises as the rail system shuts down to deal with them. Using procedures developed by Nice, these kinds of events are dealt with quickly and attempt to manage and control costs. Nice has also installed a surveillance system called Aero Express in Moscow's 3 high-speed services to airports. It handles 182 runs / day and includes management of operations for over 11.5 million passengers annually. 

The concept of integrated data and integrated operations was voiced many times during the event. There are both technical and conceptual aspects to developing this capability. The culture of the railway also plays a role and ti was also shown that executive support helps when it comes to driving through concepts to reality. Many railways have legacy systems and are therefore faced with updating these systems as they move to new systems using advanced technologies. All of this must be achieved while continuing to operate with high safety requirements. These businesses cannot afford to shut down to update, thus making them unique candidates for planning and implementing changes.

Alain Lhote, Xavier-Amaury Marchal and Dominique Cuppens spoke on the topic of 'Infrastructure GIS Solution Conceived To Support Railway Operational Situations' and their work at the SNCF. The solution was implemented to manage land and buildings. A 4 month project, it resulted in RailView (like Google StreetView for rail) where events and weather across the network could also be searched. People working along the tracks can also be monitored and located. It is expected that this work will go live in Q4 2012 and further work will include a Service Development Software about 2014. They asked, "why don't we share symbology between us?" in reference to the fact earlier noted that standardization for GIS practice across networks would be beneficial. 

Terry Bills, transport industry manager for Esri was the last speaker of the event and he summarised the previous discussions and presentations. "We need to develop better ways for accessing our rail information that will allow us to make better business decisions," he said. "There is a trend in the presentations toward more real.time information needs." A clear goal is the ability to raise public confidence in how we operate railways," he added. Bills pointed to 4 contributing factors to meet challenges ahead:

1) better data management

2) more planning and analysis using GIS

3) more field enablement (mobility solutions)

4) greater situational awareness

He provided several examples where GIS is helping to improve rail networks around the world and also included the connections Esri software already makes with IBM's Maximo, INVENSYS, DataStream and SAP. Identifying where more work needs to be done, he suggested,

1) we are not fully using GIS in rail

2) there is a lack of complete linear referencing tools for rail

3) the need to move from a reactive stance to an active stance

4) more proactive planning

Bills also indicated that some technical issues remain including further development of field data capture tools, more real.time apps, a willingness to engage new technologies like wearable command clothing. "There is also a need to link 3D tools to technologies in rail, " Bills suggested. He gave the example of BNSF, the American Rail company that moved into rail information using GIS and has now developed an advanced capability for the railroad with one source of truth for all information. Other examples included CSX where web map editing is available and the company is furthering the use of GIS for competitive advantage.  While schematics are used in railways, Bills voiced the idea that true asset management that can result in business efficiency depends upon further GIS integration.

All in all this year's event was filled with interesting examples and presentations. There appears to be a constant connection between data capture technologies, data management, analysis and representation, and the fact that rail systems operate in real.time makes their modeling not only interesting, but challenging as it calls upon the need for the right kinds of tools that can integrate such broad and diverse kinds of information. Clearly GIS has a role to play in rail as demonstrated during the last few days by so many different railway operators.

Additional articles and blog posts from this event:

Interview: Schematics - Visual Understanding for Complex Networks

Paris – 3rd Rail GIS Summit: 3D Technologies Support The Future of Railways


Small thumbnail train image courtesy of Bombardier Transportation.