Senior readers may remember Euston House as the headquarters of the British Rail’s London Midland Region and subsequently HQ of the British Railways Board until completion of privatisation when it was vacated by the railway.
This modernistic-style building, standing just across Eversholt Street opposite the eastern entrance to the station, was built in 1934 as the headquarters of London, Midland & Scottish Railway Company. Construction of the 150,000 sq ft of office space took just 11 months from site possession to occupation using a ‘fast track’ construction method.
Today the building once again plays host to the railway industry and is headquarters of the Digital Railway, the concepts of which were explained in issue 123 (January 2015).
Network Rail, in conjunction with IT consultancy CSC, recently hosted a demonstration at Euston House of how the RINM (Rail Infrastructure Network Model) Viewer, a sub-system of ORBIS (Offering Rail Better Information Services), is placing quality rail asset data into the hands of a mobile- enabled work force.
ORBIS, a £330 million five-year programme to create a detailed digital model of the UK’s rail network, is one of Europe’s largest rail infrastructure transformation programmes. Launched in 2012, the programme began a digital revolution of the UK’s rail infrastructure to help manage assets more efficiently, cost effectively and safely and is predicted to save up to £1billion over the next decade.
Through the introduction of apps and tools specifically designed to capture high quality asset data and new ways of viewing the railway, Network Rail is delivering the resources to meet these aspirations. CSC’s partnership with Network Rail began with an IT outsource in 2007 and the relationships and engagements have constantly expanded since then, both within IT as well as within the business. In October 2013, CSC became the systems integrator for the ORBIS programme which is managed within the Digital Railway Directorate.
Quality data at the heart of decision-making
Network Rail director Steve Dyke described Asset Information (AI) ORBIS as a programme of asset information data and services capability enhancement that provides a vital enabler for condition-led asset policy implementation. This enables customers to manage their asset base for less, and exploit existing railway system capability better.
ORBIS is principally an infrastructure knowledge service that will collect, evaluate, collate, analyse and communicate intelligent data to the business in a way that aims to put quality asset data at the heart of decision-making in Network Rail. The chosen method of data movement originates from the National Criminal Intelligence Service. Data may be presented to planners, engineers and technicians on desktop, laptop and mobile devices. The latter are seen as essential tools for the guys and girls in orange with some 10,000 iPads having been issued.
RINM goes live
David Moran, solution lead for CSC, gave a brief introduction to the Geo-RINM, an enhanced visualisation tool for the British rail network. The Viewer is a critical tool that will assist users from across Network Rail (and eventually external partners) by providing better worksite familiarity during pre-work planning, mobilisation and early design stages. This will reduce overall expenditure on surveys and, by minimising the amount of time required trackside, it will further increase safety when working on the railway.
A key source of information that will go into the Geo-RINM Viewer is the National Aerial Survey which the ORBIS programme undertook last summer and is described below. The programme is also creating an underground services geospatial data layer (Network Rail and third party) and is in the early stages of defining the end-to-end processes for the exchange of asset information when performing maintenance or major infrastructure projects. The project team will continue to work closely with a range of people and teams across Network Rail to plan future work based on business value and prioritisation.
A new view of the railway
Using geospatial technology, the ORBIS team has been building a logical model of the railway that will provide a detailed, Google-like map of all assets. Taking data from a range of sources, including images from existing master asset registers and aerial surveys, RINM will create a clear picture of the entire railway network and how it relates to the wider environment – from roads to power networks.
RINM will support the connection between the worlds of asset management, operations and maintenance, enabling staff to understand the relationships between assets more accurately – how track links to signalling then into E&P and finally into telecoms. This will improve access to information across the network and aid quicker, safer decision- making. RINM will be delivered through seven phases in structured packages to ensure safety, to release the benefits incrementally across the routes and to develop the programme through feedback from users.
Geo-RINM rolled out to 4,600 users Delivery of RINM has been broken down into stages with the current focus aimed at the rollout of the Geo-RINM Viewer. The first phase concentrates on visualising a number of key datasets and this will be followed by future releases to colleagues and teams across the network. The initial release of the Geo-RINM Viewer will display existing Gl Portal data, track centreline, an enhanced level crossing view and five mile line diagrams. New data sets will be continually added to the viewer from other asset-related data sets, including access points, underground services and workbank, plus high resolution images. As data is added, the viewer will play an increasingly vital role in early planning and design – reducing the amount of time required trackside and increasing worksite efficiency.
A programme of continual development is now in place to develop the Geo-RINM Viewer. This includes additional datasets and access via mobile devices. Model Offices are taking place around the country to identify users’ priorities ahead of this release.
A view from above
The ORBIS Aerial Survey Data Project was key to collecting data about the infrastructure.
What has been done?
» Aerial survey of the entire railway network;
» Capture a rich set of information;
» Analyse raw data to gather key insights. How does this help to run the railway better?
» Reduced survey costs;
» Increased maintenance efficiency;
» Fewer people trackside, less of the time;
» Better data about our level crossings;
» Reduced risk of doing work in the wrong place.
Standard project deliverables
» Imagery – downward facing, full colour;
» Imagery – downward facing, false colour infrared;
» Imagery – oblique;
» LiDAR point cloud;
» Digital terrain model, surface model;
» Advance project deliverables;
» Tree Database;
» Nairns profiles (for level crossings);
» Vector data (mapping).
To achieve this, more than16,000 route kilometres across Britain’s rail network have being photographed and captured using laser technology during a five- month long national aerial survey. Capturing approximately 60TBs of data, the survey will record enhanced downward and oblique imagery and LiDAR data across the entire UK rail network. As the images are processed and quality assured they will be deployed to the Geo-RINM Viewer.
The Air Operations team in Network Operations provide specialist aerial inspection and survey services to Network Rail, carrying out targeted inspections to improve performance and safety with no disruption to train services or worksite activities. The team includes five aerial survey specialists covering the entire network using two dedicated and specially- equipped helicopters. Both aircraft contain mounted cameras with sensors fitted, including high definition video, thermal imaging, corona discharge and a spotter scope capable of 80-times magnification.
The aerial surveys record at a height of 250 metres and cover 15 metres either side of the formation. The aerial photography RGB is a true- colour representation of the real world showing ground features at a resolution of 4cm, providing far superior quality than Ordnance Survey off- the-shelf Aerial imagery at 25cm resolution. In order to keep track of environmental changes, the full national survey will be done every five years with a refresh every year on an ‘as required’ basis. The team are investigating the use of drones, rather than manned helicopters, to carry out future surveys.
As the current RouteView system (containing aerial photography) and new Geo-RINM Viewer are complementary, Al ORBIS and Network Ops will be working together to further integrate and evolve the two systems.
Richard Pease, business analyst – asset information, demonstrated the Geo-RINM Viewer. It is a web-based system and the user starts with a map view from which the various data layers can be switched on. Some examples of the system showed the potential. A map of Euston Station was displayed on the screen from which a data layer was selected showing tenants data about leases granted by the property division.
An example of a real life benefit may be appreciated in relation to track renewals. Sometimes it is necessary to change ballast when relaying but it can freeze when stored. A frozen-solid mass of ballast is treated with de- icer but this cannot be used in environmentally- sensitive areas such as nature reserves, areas of Special Scientific Interest and where there is protected wildlife close to the railway. It would need to be replanned for a warmer period. Geo- RINM will show the job planner exactly where these sites are in relation to the railway without having to make a site visit, thereby making the planning process much more efficient, avoiding time consuming applications to agencies to find out about such environmental sites in the locality of the planned work.
Using LiDAR, it is also possible to take a cross-section of the formation. This will allow analysts to look at the terrain including such variables as the slope of a track and the density and shape of the trees that border it. Decisions can then be made on maintaining cuttings and embankments by looking for signs of degradation and landslips.
Investment project teams will be a key user of the survey data as the RINM Viewer will provide the information that would hitherto have been gathered by time-consuming site surveys conducted at the outset of a new scheme.
The RINM Viewer naturally lends itself to the visible aspects of railway infrastructure such as track and structures. ORBIS, on the other hand, has much to offer other disciplines as it links the data held in the separate engineering functional record depositories, enabling users to call up all the data for a specific area including track, structures, signalling, communications and power supplies.
From the S&T perspective, for example, it is possible to envisage the iPad playing a crucial role for a technician attending, say, a points failure. After keying the asset reference (point number) into Geo-RINM Viewer, a route would be plotted which would guide the technician to the appropriate lineside access point. The system will also provide detailed safety information about the running lines, then guide the technician to the exact location of the failed point.
Keying in a request for circuit diagrams would cause RINM to display the circuit diagram layer of data with diagnostics information. Removing the need to study paper road maps, find site access information and seek out the paper signalling circuit diagrams housed in a cabinet somewhere will obviously save considerable time. The ORBIS programme continues through to 2018, with advanced asset and system decision-support tools to be rolled out.
Thanks to Network Rail’s Steve Dyke, Richard Pease, Marco Sala and Sara Hirsch, and CSC’s David Moran, Mark Davis and Ruth Armitage, for their help in the preparation of this article.