How Close are we to a Data Driven Railway?
The UK rail network comprises over 2,500 stations, over 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts, 23,000 switches and crossings. It’s also the oldest rail network in the world.
Imagine how much data would be involved in accurately storing the precise location, condition, composition and maintenance history of each of those assets. That’s an almost unimaginably complex challenge; yet it’s one the industry needs to take on if we are going to deliver the capacity, reliability, and performance required in the future.
Comprehensive data will allow us to plan maintenance based on condition and risk rather than time elapsed. This is really the key to directing resources efficiently and making a step change in the reliability and resilience of the network.
While initiatives such as ORBIS are making significant advances in placing more detailed asset information into the hands of planners and engineers there are still significant data gaps. Or are there?
A great deal of asset information is collected and maintained by the supply chain. Unfortunately, the data is held on different systems and in different formats, making it hard to share and use across the wider network community.
Achieving the goal of a truly data driven rail network demands new thinking and new practices to spread across the industry supply chain. A willingness to manage and share detailed asset information in accessible formats is at the forefront of this challenge. This commitment needs to be matched by a determination to use data that exists rather seeking to replicate this information.
Collaboration, openness and a willingness to change systems and processes to make information sharing simple and seamless are critical. But the task of building a complete data picture of the entire network is simply too big to approach any other way.
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