- Client: Network Rail
- Lead Contractor: Murphy Construction
- BIM Tools: Rhino, Grasshopper, Synchro PRO
A detailed 4D model simulating civil construction works and train movements along a 14-mile section of railway, between Gospel Oak and Barking, is helping Network Rail pro-actively manage the £133m construction programme.
Part of Network Rail’s overarching railway upgrade plan, the project to modernise this section of Victorian railway requires lowering four sections of track, replacing four bridges, and upgrading a further six, to make space for electrification.
The volume of work needed to successfully deliver this project within the phased eight-month closure has been a significant challenge. Network Rail decided to use 4D modelling on this project and is now working with consultant Freeform to develop a single coordinated model of the project based on construction programme data. It is one of the largest and most detailed 4D models ever created.
The model, built in Synchro software, is proving an invaluable tool to help the team plan their work as efficiently as possible. The process of working adopted by Network Rail and Freeform has helped the project team make informed decisions by visualising the work in real time. The benefits include the ability to identify clashes between different work packages and subsequently re-plan to maximise resources and save time.
A key aim of the model is to prevent “confliction” within Network Rail’s own internal upgrade works, and between the project and surrounding interfaces. James Bowles, founder and director of Freeform, told BIM+: “Due to the level of detail represented, this is the most complex model we’ve ever built.
The model, built in Synchro software, is proving an invaluable tool to help the team plan their work as efficiently as possible (Figures, dates and activities changed, for demonstration purposes only)
It includes around 60 different types of train arrangements, plus all machinery and plant that moves in different ways with different attachments, depending on the tasks being carried out. Where the track is being lowered there are around 10-15 different operations represented at every 10 metres of track.”
The virtual model was developed using Rhino software to create the 3D elements, Grasshopper is used to run dashboards to display key text data as well as conflict and clash analysis, and to generate the virtual construction sequence, Synchro combines Gantt scheduling data with the 3D model.
Network Rail is maintaining and updating the model which is being interrogated by the project team during regular workshop meetings. The project team estimate that cost savings from identifying conflicts in advance will exceed the cost of the 4D model.
Visualising the construction process makes things easier to understand and enables faster decision making than relying solely on Gantt charts, says Bowles: “4D makes information more accessible and helps unlock buried knowledge, for example when work is shifted forward a specialist might instantly realise they can no longer pump concrete from a wagon on a bridge due to restricted access at that time. If that detail had remained locked in a 6,000-line Gantt chart, the conflict may have taken longer to surface and deal with.”
Although the project has only been underway a few weeks, the model and workshops have already helped identify potential work conflicts with complicated train movements on the line. In addition, Network Rail has started using the 4D animations as a public relations tool on social media, tweeting links to short 30 second clips showing the impact of planned work at specific locations.
“In the near future we expect to see the model really helping the project team make decisions even faster,” says Bowles. “Looking ahead at future projects, the model could become a very effective smart communications tool for disseminating information to the public.”