Reinventing Indian Railways with 3D Simulation

Integrating 3D simulation into railway engineering

While our national rail transport system is making progress with headline-grabbing projects that cut journey times while increasing safety and comfort, much of the network is inefficient, underfunded and, with more than 100 accidents in the last year, dangerous.

In the past, political, economic and social pressures increased these inadequacies and widened longstanding regional inequalities. Recently appointed Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal has put safety at the top of his agenda and has also pledged track renewals, inspection programs, speedy introduction of new coaches and the elimination of unmanned level crossings – the cause of many accidents.

In India and around the world, railway infrastructure, services, systems, signaling and rolling stock are being re-imagined, designed, delivered and operated using technology that brings stakeholders into collaborative partnerships that operate within a unified enterprise platform. This lets the national and regional governments, politicians, managers, and citizens work together to improve what already exists, and creating bold new rail transport initiatives.

Collaborative program management is deployed by forward-thinking railway planners, designers, fabricators and constructors to form extremely productive enterprises.  In these, every individual, department, and business has instant access to the data required to perform their work. Each player uses the same enterprise-wide platform, because of which individual components such as design, bill of materials, engineering and manufacturing data are always current and cannot be lost, misfiled or siloed where no-one else can access them. Updates are incorporated in real-time and there can only ever one version of the truth.

The incorporation of 3D simulation into railway engineering allows early validation of strategic, commercial and technical decisions. It also paves way for project-wide access to information in order to make tasks concurrent. For example, geophysical information can be deployed to help produce accurate material and engineering requirement estimates early in the process, and this, in turn, can be used to guide better-planned production.

Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” This has been proven over many decades of engineering and manufacturing and is the reasoning that reinforces collaboration. Joining diverse multidisciplinary teams together not only enables better planning but also leads to innovation. This is because, with the right information available, people are able to understand their work in relation to the work of others in a better manner. This increased access to vital information means innovation can take place for grand plans and intricate details alike. All parties can comprehend the bigger picture and strive towards universally agreed goals.

Several rolling stock manufacturers deploy virtual 3D model technology that incorporates subsystems components and assembly information. Train control & monitoring systems and software, are also accurately modeled and can be analyzed and improved in the virtual world before any tangible work is done for the same. This allows faults and inefficiencies to be corrected early so that costly mistakes can be avoided.

When digitalization is applied to Infrastructure Lifecycle Management, it facilitates efficiency through the stages of designing, building, operating and maintaining railway equipment. Further, it provides information for highly informed decision making by owners and operators. Due to the simple application of digitalization,

project managers, engineers, contractors, field engineers and inspectors both access and contribute to the wealth of available data, live and transparent knowledge flows efficiently through organizations.

When all the information is gathered in one place and made available to all stakeholders, tasks including scheduling and workflow become streamlined allowing true command and control. Risk can be accurately understood and managed while approval and certification processes are based on accurate 3D models containing all relevant data. Using this method, mistakes caused by poor communication of data are dramatically reduced while a highly accurate picture of infrastructure lifecycle is clearly available for people to see and collaborate around.

With our long experience and deep knowledge, India has the potential to lead the world in railway innovation. Our international partners are bringing huge additional investments and thus facilitating our expertise as a nation. To build on what has already been achieved requires bold strides towards integrated planning and consolidated forecasting and operations across functional domains. This implies that data from all sources including rail, ground & crew operations, maintenance planning & scheduling, and timetabling must become integrated and consistent.

Piyush Goyal said, “Changes to Indian Railways will ensure our country’s lifeline is preserved. These changes will further contribute to the economic and social development of the country as we usher in an India that is prosperous and efficient.

When these steps have been taken in amalgamation with an efficient information sharing process evolved and put into place, Indian Railways’ transformation will benefit society as a whole.