London is a dynamic city with over two millennia of history which span several eras of buildings and infrastructure. So it’s an ambitious undertaking to build a new subway line right through the center of it. The London Crossrail railway project is the largest construction project in Europe with a £14.8 billion budget. The project consists of over 60 miles of above and below ground rail, 10 new stations and updates of 30 existing stations. The challenge for Crossrail was managing information amongst hundreds of contractors with the risk of information loss and miscommunication between project phases and teams, causing errors, safety risks, and increased project costs. Crossrail also wanted to increase effectiveness during construction, where engineers could visualize complexities surrounding the project so design changes can easily be integrated throughout the project.
For the project Crossrail teamed up with Bentley Systems. Bentley’s charter was to facilitate collaboration by bringing all the data into one environment, so information is continuously available to all of the contractors where and when they need it – on time and on budget. Crossrail had already been utilizing Bentley’s modeling software to design in a virtual environment along with their project information and collaboration software and Bentley’s asset management software in a Common Data Environment (CDE), but as the data grew they decided to extend their solution to a hybrid model powered by Microsoft Azure. By using a hybrid model with Azure, Crossrail can work with their entire supply chain, using digital technologies to manage and join up the data that underpins the design, construction and operation activities of an asset across its lifecycle from conception to decommissioning. It provides a single location for storing, sharing, and managing information. This creates a “virtual railroad” where the existing infrastructure and future infrastructure could be viewed simultaneously.
Alan Kiraly, Senior Vice President of Asset Performance at Bentley, explained: “People have used 3D models to design stuff for twenty years. But we are making a comprehensive virtual world that depicts the terrain, the tunnel and all of the associated data.” You can see more about this project in the video below.
Alan Kiraly says that Bentley “use[s] the entire Azure stack for extending our solution to the cloud.” When the project is finished, Bentley’s virtual model will be used to manage ongoing operations, enabling maintenance crews to assess repairs without shutting down the subway. By using Azure, Bentley is able to streamline the construction of the tunnel and have a resource for future teams to extend or maintain the tunnel.
Digital transformation is often thought of in the context of changing how we communicate, share pictures or hail a cab. Yet, as we can see from the London Crossrail project it can be used to change how we build and update our physical surroundings. By using the cloud not only is it easier to share information but it leaves an asset for people in the future to use. In this case people who will do the repairs. As your companies transform or disrupt industries, think about new ways that things can be done better and then the technologies that can support it. Happy coding.