Urban Infrastructure - Railway Projects Connecting People with Places

Jul 22, 2016 -- With over 100 km of tunneling work completed for the first phase, Qatar Rail’s Doha Metro project now stands at 41% completion. This marks an important milestone in the urban infrastructure development in the MENA region, as much as a shift in the general attitudes towards developing public transport. A crude-oil driven economy whose policies have historically encouraged the public to own and drive cars, is now driving a vast change in public attitude by creating a strong public infrastructure, which in turn, will build a stronger community.

It isn’t only the GCC countries which are waking up to the importance of quick and efficient public transport. As cities attract more people, the increasing population also signals a progressively worsening traffic scenario. But people like Peter Rogoff, the CEO of Sound Transit, are perceptive and prepared to tackle the changing demand on public transport in the coming decades. Sound Transit operates and manages the commuter train, rail, and bus service in the Greater Seattle area.

Rogoff understands improving the quality of public transit systems as improving the quality of life for the citizens. While Washington DC, NYC, and San Francisco already have robust public transit systems in place, which are, albeit, in need of repair & renovation, Kansas City is reviving the streetcar. The streetcar last operated in the city in 1957. Involving the local communities has been the single largest driving force for this project which is set to take off soon.

The American Public Transport Association (APTA) conducted a study in association with the Mineta Transportation Institute. The study found a severe backlog of $88 billion to simply repair the existing transit systems. Rogoff notes that most public transit systems are burdened by a dual load of repairing and renovating existing systems, as well as developing and expanding current layouts.

There is an obvious alternative to getting into such a situation, and that is planning and allocating funds in regular budgets for repair and renovation, and expansion. And that is Rogoff’s strategy for Sound Transit.  There is, however, an often-overlooked alternative that enables EPCs to save up to a third of their construction costs: adapting to a BIM workflow over a traditional 2D CAD workflow right from the design and planning stages.

Rail construction projects such as the Doha Metro in Qatar, and the North West Rail Link in New South Wales, Australia, are examples of collaboration between infrastructure companies and governments, using BIM to drive the design and construction, and in the process, optimizing the designs to withstand the challenges of the future, and save on time and costs involved in wastage due to rework, especially on projects of such scale.

The government of New South Wales in Australia mandated the use of BIM on the North West Rail Link, which would be the first automated transit rail system in Australia. The AU$8.3 billion project is expected to be functional and open to the public in 2019.  With 8 stations, car parks for over 4000 cars, and two 15km tunnels, the scale and complexity of the project requires great detail in planning and management.

The object-based intelligence afforded in BIM goes beyond 3D visualization. The attributes assigned to an object in BIM enable generation of accurate BoQs, detect and resolve clashes way faster than in a 2D workflow, saving the time and wastage arising out of rework, and remain useful for operations & maintenance of the asset, once the construction is over.

The standards and specifications that come into the picture along with BIM ensure better collaboration among disciplines. A project of this nature would bring together not just different disciplines, but also different organizations with their specializations. In such a scenario, it is even more imperative that the collaborators follow the same standards and there is coordination between services.

The connection between these rail projects which are set to give commuters easy access to neighborhoods they want to frequent, is the way they are being developed and managed. There is a greater keenness on the part of city councils to involve local communities into the project’s development more than has been the norm.

The process of development is more participatory and open, both, on the ground and off it, with BIM opening up the design and construction workflows among collaborating teams, saving the projects millions in cost overheads on rework and wastage, making it clear that more urban infrastructure projects would stand to benefit by adopting BIM.

About Author:

Bhushan Avsatthi is a BIM expert, a certified Sustainable Building advisor, and an associate director with more than 15 years of industry experience. He leads a team of architects, Structural & MEP engineers, LEED consultants and energy modelers. Bhushan strives to make his organization a cohesive resource for sustainable building design. He regularly participates in green initiatives like tree plantations, and promotes using bicycles for everyday commute.

Image Credit:http://www.autodesk.com/solutions/bim/hub/bim-for-rail-transit-more-than-3d-visualization

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