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Delivering Rail Infrastructure

How Esri’s ArcGIS helps plan, design, and build the future of the UK’s rail network

Trains and a map of the United States with green lines

Rail agencies have to properly manage projects to build the future of the UK's rail network. Having a comprehensive understanding of the end-to-end stages from the planning phase through to the delivery is critical to successful management. 

Managing land & property

As part of constructing and maintaining railway networks it is essential to accurately record details of the land and property impacted by the works.  This starts in the plan and design phase understanding the land and property that might need to be acquired and estimating the cost and environmental impact of the scheme.  Developing and costing schemes for land and property acquisition, and maintaining a detailed register of the land owned, leased, or borrowed for the construction of maintenance works. 

Esri’s ArcGIS can be used to implement an intelligent gesopatial system of record to pull together all the information relating to land and property for the development, bringing in datasets to help value land, identify development constraints, and document access rights.

California's High-Speed Rail
parked train cars and tracks

Digital engineering

Modern construction projects are embracing a range of new digital reality capture and design solutions to help reduce cost and identify risk before major construction starts. Whilst 2D CAD was almost the only digital tool in town for 20 years, we now see 3D BIM as a common part of the design process. And in preparation for groundworks and during construction there are now a variety of digital reality capture solutions used such as high-precision GPS/GNSS survey devices, drone surveys, LIDAR imagery, aerial photography, and mobile data capture.  

Esri’s ArcGIS provides a single environment to stitch together all these sources of information to build 3D interactive models of the design and construction phases of the project. This enables stakeholders to see the project at different points in time, to understand what’s already been designed or constructed, and what the future phases will look like. This is particularly valuable to rail organisations wanting to engage the public and communicate the value of the project.

Read about SCS JV's project
Aerial view of trains on parallel tracks

Sustainability & Environmental Management

It is essential that network projects fully consider sustainability objectives and environmental management as part of any development.  The environment shapes designs and plans, and places constraints on projects in terms of sourcing water and energy.  Rail organisations have to balance competing priorities and deliver solutions that are sympathetic to the places and communities they serve. These constraints and the impact of development on the environment and communities are very difficult to understand without taking a geospatial approach.  

Esri is helping rail organisations move towards data-centric decision-making, and Esri’s ArcGIS plays a fundamental role in helping to gather data, understand it, and use it across multiple systems. Ultimately saving money and time. Esri GIS can also help identify new opportunities such as assessing the solar potential of fallow land around rail networks, to help spot clean energy generation potential. 

Rail Baltica

Strategic planning

Strategic planning of new rail network routes needs to consider many factors. These may be related to the physical environment the network will be delivered in, such as land use, slope, drainage, connectivity with road networks, and environmental constraints. They may also be related to demand considerations such as what’s the demand for rail services in a location, how many people could access the service in a 15-minute walk or drive, what opportunities could it create for businesses in the area. Rail providers also need to minimise disruption during maintenance works, ensuring works are well planned and co-ordinated, so that possessions and closures are for as short a duration as possible. 

Esri’s ArcGIS provides a geospatial data analytics platform to bring together physical environment data with demand data to help evaluate routes based on a variety of criteria. This platform can be linked with other data analytics and data science toolkits to model scenarios and inform future timetables. 

Transport for London

Public engagement

As part of any rail construction project engagement with the community and stakeholders is vital in ensuring support for the project.  Whether that be seeking feedback and community consultation on planned routes, transparency around property scheme limits, communicating the need for and duration of construction works, or demonstrating community benefit. Maps can play a big role in communicating complex project, particularly those which are environmentally sensitive or have major community impact.  

Esri’s ArcGIS Online SaaS platform provides a unique environment for collaborating with stakeholders and the public.  This includes sharing Story Maps explaining the project, publishing open data around things such as property scheme limits or environmental restoration projects, and providing interactive websites to capture community feedback. 



Big maps for a big project: A Crossrail story

Using GIS strategically helps staff make informed decisions about future public transport services and publish accurate information for passengers.

Read the case study

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