Digitalisation in Railways: Role of Multidimensional BIM Technology

Digitalisation in Railways Role of Multidimensional BIM Technology
A view of a proposed Pune Metro Reach 2 Garware College metro station. Equipped with rooftop solar panel, escalators, entry exit points on both sides


In India, a huge metro-rail building initiative is underway, with the goal of modernising public transportation networks to provide quick transit to millions of people in major Indian cities. Because of the magnitude of this development, it is critical to innovate, as changes in design, construction, and operations can have a substantial impact on the long-term viability of constructed assets. As integrated digital delivery systems become more widely employed in infrastructure projects around the world, new challenges concerning their use and suitability in these Indian metro-rail projects arise.

This article is the result of research cooperation that included desk-based research, site visits, and a hosted workshop with 40 participants, including client representatives from six major Indian metro-rail projects, as well as technology providers and delivery teams. While the Nagpur Metro project is the most advanced in terms of implementing Building Information Modelling (BIM) in its planning and design phase, translating practices from Cross rail in London into the Indian context, the findings show that there are significant challenges in adopting digital practices in the delivery of new transportation schemes in Indian cities. Stakeholder awareness and education, integration and interoperability, standardization, financial implications, and BIM strategy are among the issues. The report finishes with several potential future research directions and examines India’s ability to “leapfrog” a generation of technology in order to adopt low-cost effective digital solutions.


The construction industry has actively worked to lower its carbon footprint by reducing significant sources such as construction waste and process inefficiencies. This has been accomplished through the use of lean building concepts, the transition to mechanise off-site manufacturing, and the utilisation of modern IT trends such as Building Information Modelling. In the United Kingdom, for example, BIM is widely used and is predicted to reach 95 percent by 2018. Many governments around the world (for example, Germany, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Korea, and China) advocate for the use of BIM and comparable forms of integrated digital delivery in building and infrastructure projects. A new suite of standards (ISO 19650) is being produced, and there is a lot of effort being done on standard development.

The World Economic Forum has released its own plan to accelerate BIM (World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group, 2018), which builds on recent work on the future of construction and articulates the various digital technologies that are accessible across the lifespan. In the United Kingdom, projects such as Cross rail and High Speed 2 have invested heavily in establishing information management strategies for use during construction.

India has yet to make considerable progress in lean adoption and off-site manufacturing, and it lags far behind in capitalising on recent IT waves. For example, just 22% of construction professionals in India adopt BIM (Sawhney, 2014). As a result, construction operations in India account for the most direct and indirect CO2 emissions among all Indian businesses, accounting for 266 MT/year (24 percent of total), with Delhi alone producing 5,000 tonnes of construction material waste per day. This carbon footprint is set to worsen, as the Indian government is planning and constructing metros and trains for 50 cities over the next 10-15 years, which is 20 times the capacity added in the previous decade. Existing IT tools and adoption processes in India are unlikely to modify this trend and significantly help to lowering the carbon footprint anytime soon: what would make a significant enough difference?

Indian Metro projects

Digital efforts have yet to be widely adopted in the Indian metros. The majority of the construction projects underway are without any digital efforts in place. But, the upcoming projects seek to incorporate digital activities on their agenda. It is important to note that the government does not have a mandatory policy or legislation requiring use of BIM or digital technologies at any point of a construction project. Most often, project clients or general contractors drive initiatives to apply these processes. Nonetheless, there are isolated digital efforts implemented in metros that are dedicated to automating workflow processes. The digital workflow developed by the Kochi Metro includes, for example, the handling of papers in a digital system. Larsen and Toubro are responsible for developing 3D models for metros when they are the contractor, and they use clash detection to uncover clashes in multiple technical disciplines at an early stage. Other important developments include the work by Larsen and Toubro, who provided mobile platforms for on-site inspections.

So far, only one project in India has undertaken major strides toward using BIM in the planning and design phases: the Nagpur Metro. In spite of the client – Nagpur Metro Rail Corporation Limited (NMRCL) not specifying a digitalization requirement, private technology suppliers and the general contractor formed a group of project delivery leadership, leading to BIM being used for all aspects of the project.

In the 3rd party BIM development realm, planning and design process modelling and supply chain management implementations are handled by third-party BIM developers. To oversee the status of component tracking and installation, RFID tags were used. Digital information management systems are implemented across the project life cycle in the Nagpur Metro Project. The BIM plan was designed based on the guidelines from PAS1192 standards, which may be found here. The places where digital platforms are most commonly used for information management include:

To promote transparency and facilitate tracking, the design review and approval process takes place in a single data environment. Placeholders will be used for the sake of designs. The document will be handed off to the document controller. Lead Reviewer receives the transmittal, and initiates the approval process by assigning it to an approver. Reports are generated to track the status of the review process, and the system flags issues that need to be addressed.

2D drawings and accompanying data are used to build a Building Information Model (BIM). Information to be included in every component, no exceptions (e.g. Geometric data, material definitions, quantity take off, asset tags, links to related documents etc.). It is used to plan as well as to find clashes in BIM models. To cross-check the work order amounts supplied by the contractor with the BIM models, the work order amounts from the BIM models were used.

When creating a workflow and enabling visual progress monitoring and integrated cash flow management, SAP software for billing and finance is linked to building information for billing and finance. Oracle Primavera P6 is also connected to the building information model to integrate the schedule. A 5D visualisation platform for combining information for cost and planning is constructed on top of the RIB platform. In addition, they’ve been able to visualise the project’s progress and spot problems earlier because of this.

Many of the problems encountered with Nagpur’s metro project stemmed from the fact that BIM wasn’t used beyond the project’s second two stages.

Information encoded in BIM was not used to ease the downstream phases such as operation and maintenance because it was difficult to translate the data into a useable format. Verification is necessary to ensure the validity of Building Information Models across subsequent metro expansions.


Digital technology have had very little impact on India’s metro train projects today. Although the Nagpur metro has been halted, all of the other current and upcoming metro rail projects in India have barely begun to use digital technology. However, the various groups’ conversations show that projects such as these can succeed by way of digitization. 3D and 4D models can help facilitate time-saving development on the sites and, in some cases, even allow for automated or generative design. Finally, the numerous metro rail projects’ discussants recognised digital technology and were ready to use them for their respective demands. But it was evident that, for these particular problems, a single solution such as BIM might not be a silver bullet. In order to meet project team expectations and to help the project, it will be important to design a holistic Digital System, integrating technologies such as BIM with GIS and other project workflows. Systems that will not only be functional but will also be used may necessitate approaches that put more emphasis on design thinking.

In the future, these might be paths to follow for R&D. Digital technology is riding high thanks to the ambitious metro rail development in India. Although these technologies and challenges to adoption are considerable, practitioners know about them and believe that they can be overcome. Until now, the task of making best use of the multitude of technological tools has fallen to academics, consultants, and tool vendors, who are each vying to get in on the first floor of new context-based digital adoption and project performance solutions.

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