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Sets the standard for BIM in railway projects

The Norwegian National Rail Administration´s holistic approach to 3D and BIM design in the large InterCity project around Oslo spurs innovation and major benefits throughout the design and construction phase.

“Together with our assigned engineering consultants and contractors we have the opportunity to set the standard for the use of 3D and BIM in railway projects”, says Kristin Lysebo, project responsible for the 3D/BIM initiative at the National Rail Administration.

“Model-based design and engineering give us a unique opportunity to streamline the project in all phases; from feasibility studies, via municipal plans, zoning plans and construction plans, to the completed construction and transfer of as-built model data to our maintenance database”.

Kristin Lysebo, project owner for the 3D/BIM initiative at the National Rail Administration.

Massive construction

The InterCity development is the country's largest investment in railway infrastructure in recent times. Billions will be invested in the coming years. Any measure that provides added project efficiency will lead to big cost reductions. The 3D/BIM initiative is crucial for achieving maximum efficiency at all levels.

The engineering companies assigned to design the 230 km InterCity railway lines are Aas Jacobsen/ViaNova Plan and Traffic, Rambøll/Sweco, Multiconsult/Cowi and Norconsult/AsplanViak.

The National Transport Plan 2014-2023 stipulates that the new InterCity lines between Oslo and Hamar, Tønsberg and Fredrikstad will be completed in 2024, whilst the stretches further to Lillehammer, Skien and Halden will be ready in 2030.

Strategic design manual

“Based on very good experiences with the use of 3D models in our recent joint rail and road project E6-Dovrebanen together with the Road Administration, it was decided to use model-based design for all disciplines also in the planning of the new double-track InterCity stretches”, continues Kristin Lysebo. “We are therefore using our new “Manual for digital planning” in the InterCity project and we have also prepared a special contract document for the project, which all consultants must comply with.

Lifecycle requirements

“This means that the designers must deliver coordination models, visualisation models, terrain models and discipline models for all disciplines, adapted to the necessary degree of detail for the respective planning level”, explains Lysebo. “We also require that the 3D model shall be passed on to the next planning level and be further developed there in line with the degree of detail for the project. The models will therefore be updated and enriched continuously throughout the whole design phase, and be used actively in communicating with the stakeholders.”

“The objective is that the models shall be used not only in the design and engineering process, but also be leveraged in the construction phase. The goal is that the model shall end up as a complete as-built model of the finished construction, and hence also be transferred as directly as possible to our maintenance database Banedata”, she points out.

Generic model requirements

The Norwegian National Rail Administrations´s design manual does notably not define the concrete design tools to be used in the project – this is up to the individual assigned engineering companies to choose. The manual only defines the types of models required, and the content of the models.

The base models and discipline models shall be delivered in the dwg format. The visualisation models must be capable of being viewed in a non-license, free viewer, so that the Rail Administration´s own people (and others if needed) can easily access and get insight into the model.

The coordination model is an assembly of the base model and the respective discipline models. The base models include map data, surveyed data, rail data, W&S pipelines and underground data. The discipline models consist of all railway-technical disciplines, such as track alignments, superstructures, signalling, telecommunications, electro etc., plus substructures such as engineered terrain, structures, tunnels and landscape.

Interdisciplinary control

“The discipline models must contain full details of the infrastructure, even down to the individual discipline objects they consist of”, explains Kristin Lysebo. “It is important that all objects are geometrically correct, including survey data and volumes. The contractors shall be able to retrieve survey data directly from the model, and use it as machine control data for the construction machinery.”

“The joint collaboration model will represent a detailed model of everything that has been planned, and thus provide an excellent visual basis for efficient interdisciplinary collaboration, communication and control. Design conflicts between disciplines and errors and deficiencies can hence be detected and corrected early in the process, so that optimum results can be achieved.”

Many tools

As pointed out, the Rail Administration does not have any requirements as to what design tools to be used in the modelling. However what the assigned InterCity consultants in reality have chosen, are products by Autodesk and Trimble Vianova Systems. Infraworks is used for track alignment studies in the early planning phase, NovapointDCM and QuadriDCM for detailed design, and Novapoint Virtual Map and Navisworks for model visualization. In addition, the designers are using free model viewers such as QuadriDCM Easy Access and NovapointDCM Viewer for easy insight into the models.

Moss stasjon


“We're currently working with feasibility studies and municipality plans, so we are still in an early phase of the project”, says BIM coordinator Tone Rødby Kristiansen at Ramboll Sweco, one of the contracted engineering groups. “The Rail Administration´s design manual means a restructuring process for most disciplines, which traditionally have not designed very much in 3D before.”

“However, there is fortunately a high acceptance for exchanging experiences and ideas in the InterCity project´s reference groups. Close communication between disciplines and good project guidelines are needed to get the disciplines really on track, and to understand the dependencies and what to be delivered.”

“We have therefore arranged gatherings for "simultaneous clarification", with discipline professionals, planners and people from the National Rail Administration. The gatherings have been very well received as a good way of working, both by the Rail Administration and internally within the project organization”, says Rødby Kristiansen.

Many benefits

“Based on lessons learned from the Joint E6-Dovrebanen Project and others, we strongly believe that this way of conducting the InterCity project will entail substantial gains”, says Kristin Lysebo at the National Rail Administration.

“In an early phase, there are many processes running in parallel. Here the visualisation model offers a brilliant communication medium in order to arrive at the best possible track alignment. Landowners as well as politicians and stakeholders in general much easier understand a lifelike digital model than "cryptic" drawings.”

“Detailed design using 3D and BIM will also lead to fewer interdisciplinary conflicts in the project”, Lysebo points out. “Hence also in significantly fewer errors and rework on the construction site. The 3D model will be reused and exploited in all phases, including by the contractors. The goal is that the efficiency will lead to substantial savings and better quality in all areas.”

Not only that: The InterCity project also aims to use 3D models to visualize different thematic maps such as RAMS, environmental, agricultural, wildlife and danger areas such as flood and landslides/avalanche etc.

Cause for great optimism

In collaboration with the public Roads Administration, they also aim to make a joint digital design manual within a couple of years. What's more they even plan to try out Concurrent Engineering in the InterCity project, an engineering type which can provide further efficiency and savings. Last but not least, they potentially expect even more gains from the 3D R&D project, which the National Rail Administration is conducting together with Trimble Vianova Systems and others.

“It is very exciting to work with the Norwegian National Rail Administration. They have very good teams with excellent expertise in 3D/BIM, and they are willing sparring partners for us. They always give very good and constructive feedback”, praises Tone Rødby Kristiansen at Rambøll Sweco.

“InterCity is an incredibly interesting project to work on. A lot of exciting things is going to happen on the project in the years ahead”, concludes Kristin Lysebo.