RICS: Unlocking rail's data potential

Source: RTM Dec/Jan 19

Anil Sawhney, director of the infrastructure sector for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), discusses standardising data to meet the rail industry’s future challenges of an urbanised Britain.

Ongoing delays that result in service disruption, combined with annual fare increases, has resulted in continued scrutiny for UK rail. Improvements and modernisation of the sector can, however, serve as an opportunity to showcase the management of large-scale infrastructure delivery. Ultimately, its success will be dependent on the ease of connectivity and interconnectedness with other sectors.

By 2080 it is projected that 85% of the world’s population will live in cities; in 1980 that figure was only 25%. This growth in urbanisation will increase demand on transport. The role of technology will continue to serve to impact the sector, as has been the case in all modes of life. Currently, UK rail is fragmented and suffers from a limited alignment of systems, data and processes, fragmented knowledge sharing, and limited data management.

With technology, particularly data, becoming more prevalent, compatibility issues have inevitably arisen in the absence of a common framework in the data held by rail sector stakeholders.

An agreed and consistent standard of data management needs to be approved in the built environment, particularly in the reporting of rail project costs. Such standardisation will ensure project cost data is no longer fragmented, thereby facilitating systematic comparison and benchmarking of projects and assets at a regional, national, and international level.

RICS has long championed the need to standardise data across the built environment, with the objective of reducing project times and costs.

In response to the challenges faced, particularly in infrastructure projects, RICS launched International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS) in 2017 as part of a coalition to bring clarity, consistency, and transparency to construction and infrastructure projects worldwide. This will also help businesses, investors, and government make informed decisions based on reported live data forecasts.

This need for standardisation is echoed in the DfT’s Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy, which identifies seven core challenges to deliver efficiencies. Three challenges in particular play to the strength of RICS, highlighting the need for the creation of a transport infrastructure performance benchmarking forum (to share best practice and innovation); establishing a common approach (to estimating to improve cost confidence and assurance); and exploiting digital technologies and standardising our assets (to enable the adoption of best practice from the manufacturing sector).

To ensure professionals and organisations are equipped to meet the challenges of urbanisation and ageing infrastructure, RICS, in collaboration with international partners, has developed a suite of data standards in parallel with ICMS to ensure the quality and consistency of data is accurate.

Furthermore, the ongoing development of our existing data platform, BCIS, will support different types of data and different reporting structures in order to capture data from all stages of a project lifecycle and to utilise the latest data technologies, including data analysis powered by artificial intelligence, machine-based learning, and blockchain.

Vast possibilities for UK rail can be unlocked with the accurate management of data, which will ease its current fragmentation. There are also clear benefits that can be realised by investors considering the rail sector as an area for investment. The management of data and implementation of ICMS is best with the expertise of a chartered surveyor, who benefits the whole lifecycle of a project. From early cost advice, accurate cost predictions, improved cost management, mitigating risk, benchmarking data through comparability, and valuing assets, the expertise of a chartered surveyor can help retain confidence in large scale projects.

Like any sector, UK rail needs to modernise to meet its future demands. To achieve this, a number of steps need to be taken – one being the implementation of globally agreed standards.


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