HS2 aspires to achieve new standards in infrastructure delivery – “how we build it is important as what we build,” the railway group explains.

Committed to achieving value-for-money and creating a resilient, sustainable railway, it is applying first-class design and construction techniques and exploiting the best global technologies. This includes the creation, alongside the physical asset, of another railway – a virtual railway.

Our team is supporting HS2 Ltd in developing this virtual railway – what will ultimately become a digital twin-of the highly complex system.

Using our GeoConnect+ cloud-based platform, which hosts and connects asset information with BIM, GIS and IoT datasets, we are pulling together the vast volume of project and asset data which is being managed and procured on the programme. Critical information reaches the hands of the users that need it far more quickly than before, speeding-up decision making and helping to optimise operations.

At a recent digital twin panel debate, Adrian Burgess, our Technology Director, gave an outline of the challenges involved in creating a twin of this size and scale and of how our team is supporting HS2 to meet its objectives.

Here’s a Q and A summary of his presentation:

What is the purpose of the virtual railway / digital twin?

The purpose of the virtual railway is to help teams find information during construction. If they can find reliable information, they can make important decisions – which in turn supports quicker, better capital delivery.

That’s a compelling enough reason for investing – but it’s also about handing over a digital twin on completion.

Ten years down the track, the operations and maintenance teams will be relying on autonomous systems and robots to deliver real time, reliable asset data. This means to optimise the railway and assure performance, a digital twin was not an option – it was an absolute requirement.

Has much data been amassed on the project yet?

Yes, even though we are at the early concept stage, already a vast amount of data has been collected, stored and used – and in an array of systems.

Our brief wasn’t to change information procurement or exchange processes – it was to implement an integration platform which sits as a top hat above existing systems to integrate with that data.

It is about the connection of multiple systems.

Connecting data – how?

Using a cloud-based platform, called GeoConnect+.

The system presents a single interface on the web, which enables staff to locate information. They can search data and navigate virtual fly-throughs to locate assets, where you one click away from accessing the datasets.

These datasets constitute all of HS2’s various systems, CDEs, projects, an asset information management system and then project control systems for different areas of each project.

You can zoom in on a particular asset such as a train station and see all of that data.

What have been the biggest challenges to date?

The key challenge has been connecting all those datasets in separate systems where the data quality varied. We had to reconcile that data together and integrate it so it is all connected to an asset or geo-located.

In our industry, all the systems are bespoke, so we had to tailor a system like this accordingly.

Better information management and more effective use of data by built environment professionals is a big theme in the sector generally today. How is the construction industry responding to the challenge?

If I was to consider the industry’s current challenges, three emerge:

One is connecting the data from various systems.

The second is data quality and inconsistency

The third is information model DNA – If we are integrating events, assets, contracts and their DNA changes then the integration begins to fracture. This could be as a result of many variables such as systems’ ageing.

If we have issues around master data where keys change in every system, there needs to be a master data strategy which means you can centralise data keys in information models so that all the systems inherit the same information.

For more information on how we support organisations to integrate and simplify data access to more effectively deliver projects and optimise services, please contact Olly.Thomas@pcsg.co.uk. Follow us @PCSG_World.