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Planning for the future

Advances in BIM and digital engineering are doing wonders for construction works in the railway industry. By ironing out the creases in a digital environment, project teams are able to avoid expensive and time consuming delays in the field.

The technology can be applied in many other inventive ways. For example, it can be used as an effective way of illustrating a tender document or visualising a project to stakeholders. It can also improve safety, not just at the design stage but at the point of delivery by demonstrating to site teams specific hazards at a given location.

D2 Rail & Civils (D2RC), a Manchester- based planning and visualisation company, has been using the technology to produce animated briefing videos that support the traditional paper exercise.

‘Everyone is engaged from the beginning, they understand it and they visualise it. It’s something new so they’re all quite keen to look at it,’ says David Diesbergen, one of the company’s directors.

‘Yes programme’s have their place and yes they contain all the detail, but at the end of the day the video and the animation helps with understanding the process so you can get up to speed with it a lot quicker.’

Northern Hub

David, whose career has included station regeneration works, as well as plain line and S&C renewals, worked on Reading Station and Thameslink Key Output 1 before moving on to Northern Hub supporting Parsons Brinckerhoff and Network Rail.

The project has embraced the use of digital engineering and visualisations. David believes the use of the tool in advising the public about what is physically going on behind the scenes.

‘It’s briefing the public as to why the railway is shut for a period of time’, says David. ‘If someone understands the railway has to close to deliver this volume of work and they can see what is happening etc then it goes a long way in justifying the relatively short- term disruption for the longer-term benefit.’

D2RC is now looking to grow its current eight-man team as it expands its planning services. David said it’s important for him that those working for the company have a good knowledge of the railway construction environment.

‘We like people who have been there and done it. Those that have been out there on the ground in the rain on Saturday night,’ said David.

‘I think there’s a balance though. I’m all for bringing new skills to the industry, so when we get to a point, that we’re probably not a million miles away from, we’ll look at bringing graduates into the company and ensure that they gain the relevant experience as the industry moves forward.’

What does the future hold?

The next step will see the visualisations combined with BIM models to create a truly accurate, high- quality rendering. This combined with the development of Oculus Rift-style virtual reality headsets will dramatically change the way major projects are planned.

However, David believes things could be moving forward faster. ‘Personal opinion, I don’t think it’s developing fast enough. The rail industry has been behind for quite a while compared to other parts of the construction industry.’

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