The Intelligent Infrastructure approach

Network Rail is seeking to improve asset management whilst cutting down on expenditure by implementing a new Intelligent Infrastructure programme, writes Tim Flower, its professional head of maintenance.

Network Rail has recognised the opportunities it has available to improve asset management by improved collection, integration, interrogation and systemisation of its available data. To realise this opportunity, Network Rail has developed its Intelligent Infrastructure Strategic Plan and is in the process of setting up the Intelligent Infrastructure Programme for delivery over the next six years, through to the end of CP6.

The Intelligent Infrastructure programme will improve asset management across Network Rail. This will be delivered by eliminating failures through product and maintenance regime design and capturing, analysing and exploiting asset data to improve short, medium and long-term decision-making. Ultimately the goal is to reduce expenditure whilst improving the availability of the infrastructure by understanding the probability of individual asset failure; predicting when failure will occur; forecasting the impact on the operational railway; and planning intervention prior to disruption to train services.

Track workers with iPad (1)

An integrated approach

The Intelligent Infrastructure programme will deliver the vision through an integrated delivery approach. Successful delivery of the outcomes is dependent on each project developing a scope that considers the full end-to-end process, from asset knowledge requirements through to planning of mitigation activity in the asset management system, Ellipse:

  1. Performance requirements: The business case for every project in the programme will be based on delivering the expected performance requirements defined in the strategic business plan, whether this is to reduce operational or capital expenditure or improve reliability and safety;
  2. Asset knowledge: A consistent knowledge model is being created for each asset, detailing the performance requirements, capability, known failure modes and their effects. The models will be enhanced as analysis techniques evolve;
  3. Effective design: Design for Reliability techniques have been implemented to eliminate failure modes and maintenance requirements where practicable for all new asset types. If maintenance is required it will be specified using reliability-centred techniques and optimised based on risk;
  4. Monitoring capability: Asset monitoring is being used to gather condition and failure data from the operational system, with deployment defined by the asset and maintenance design. Monitoring technologies include everything from manual data collection through to highly automated techniques;
  5. Analysis capability: Asset data will be interrogated to predict probabilistic time to failure and diagnose the likely failure mode to prescribe work requirements. This area is expected to provide the greatest opportunity for return on investment in Network Rail;
  6. Optimised mitigation through Ellipse: Ellipse will evolve to integrate the outputs from the analysis with available access and resources to enable optimisation of short, medium and long-term asset management plans. In the longer term, Ellipse will be integrated with traffic management systems to provide a fully optimised asset management solution.

Network Rail has published a series of challenge statements to provide the supply chain with details of the new technology and capabilities required to deliver a safe, cost-effective and resilient railway. The ‘Maintenance’ challenge statement has seen great success, with over 20 expressions of interest submitted to date and approximately 50% being taken forward. Opportunities across all the challenge statements still remain.

As part of the CP6 planning process, Network Rail has identified approximately £380m of activity that could be delivered as part of the Intelligent Infrastructure Programme, delivering reliability, performance, and operation and capital expenditure savings both in the control period and beyond. To de-risk delivery and benefits realisation an initial budget of £190m has been proposed, delivering efficiencies of circa £30m per year from 2022 onwards. The remainder of the proposed programme will continue to be developed in conjunction with the route businesses, and further budget will be requested once the benefits have been accepted into future route business plans.

(Top image © Dan Belitsky)




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