Digital railway planning


An integrated workflow platform keeps rail projects on the right track

The conventional way to go about designing railway tracks is split into two overarching steps: first, you set up a project design outline, which includes the basic idea of what the clients wants to do. When the outline is approved, the project team produces comprehensive design drawings for each project element, which detail exactly what will be built and how it will be done. 

This approach has been in use – and worked well – for years. But rigid processes and many manual tasks are a challenge. Changes to the design along the way is time-consuming and it requires multiple steps to calculate and visualise the effects of one design change on the overall project. 

These speed-bumps significantly impact the efficiency of the work, but now digitalisation is changing the process and enabling integration between these two steps.

Finding the right solution with the client

Using parametric design modelling as the underlying basis, it is possible to integrate all project workflows into one streamlined digital platform and automate manual tasks. For the client, this means that it becomes possible to test multiple options early on. This is called optioneering. Early in the process, designers can work closely with the client to identify the solution that helps the client reach goals in the most efficient manner – and save money, time, Co2 etc. in the process.

On a recent project for Bane NOR, where Ramboll helped with the 2.2-kilometre extension of Østfoldbanen in Norway, the rail design team were able to reduce the work time with 440 hours. Basically, they completed the job twice as fast, compared to the conventional approach. 

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All design elements and workflows were integrated to one digital modelling platform, allowing the team to make changes to the overall project with one click. Compared to the multiple steps and 20 minute-effort it used to take, just to change the sign on a signal for example, this was a dramatic increase in efficiency. The design process for these elements included four major interlinked workflows: parametric content creation, modelling automation, design review and data visualization and the rail design team were able to reduce work on different options, using the optioneering approach.

“This is a win-win for both sides. A great deal of time was saved for each discipline, and we delivered an even better design to Bane NOR. Now we have the process and method in place to replicate for all our clients”, says Mantas Smidtas, Technology Leader at Ramboll.

Improved evaluation and cocreation process with clients

As part of the new digital modelling platform, the team also developed an interactive dashboard. This dashboard made it easy for the team to evaluate progress, analyse design KPIs and receive feedback throughout the process.

Visualisation can be a strong gateway to stakeholder engagement, and the dashboard – and the platform in general – also improved the cocreation process with the client and other stakeholders. Visualisation made the pros and cons of different design options easy to explain and understand.

With the new approach, the client can be involved in the workflow from the very early stages and simulate different design options to land on the design that yields the most value. In short, the integrated digital approach enables a more streamlined design process, leading to lower overall infrastructure delivery costs.

“Bane NOR is focused on new and innovative technology, especially for effective workflows. Parametric design modelling has huge potential, and we see the reduced costs, as a builder. We also see the large potential in running project design automation processes.”, explains the Bane NOR team.