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Rail & Road: in-depth

In the railway sector, ‘digital twins’ could be used across several different engineering, planning, and operational aspects, such as monitoring physical assets (rolling stock and infrastructure), monitoring train movements and providing information about passenger behaviour on-board trains, in stations or on platforms.
Asset utilization
On-time performance
Mean distance between failures
Energy consumption
Maintenance costs
Safety incidents
A twin isn’t just a visual 3D model of the line. Each element within the model – every section of track, every switch, signal, and siding – is also a data repository. By selecting an element, users can see what it is made of, its specifications and tolerances, details of when it was last maintained, data that shows its importance to operations
It is therefore clear that digital transformation improves a passenger’s experience of the railway and the quality of services a rail system can provide. Technology is advancing now at a pace that allows the previously unimaginable to become routine, and for us to harness levels of data we could previously only have dreamed of.
[Digital twins] are helping us develop an even greater understanding of our passenger movements and the infrastructure that underpins the rail network, helping us to clearly see how we can make journeys better for our passengers.
— Richard Thorp, Engineering Director, HS11
Benefits of digital twins
Connected workforce.
Operations, maintenance, headquarters whilst reducing the number of communications from the moment a fault was reported to it being fixed.
Maintenance based on data, not miles.
Condition-based anticipation of service needs.
Preventative maintenance.
By spotting track issues earlier, major disruption can be avoided, and delays minimised.
Remote monitoring.
Reduces in-person track inspections, saving labour and travel along the network.
Automated monitoring.
Allows continuous checking at no additional cost. Avoiding major disruptions and reducing service delays by repairing issues before they impact services.
Digital examinations.
Repetitive review (anytime, any number of times, ML, AI) of faults in a controlled environment.
AI maintenance review.
Automatic, 24/7, instant, and accurate.
Virtual simulation.
Scenarios to service trains more cost effectively—simulating changes such as train fleet maintenance regimes, scheduling strategies, depot capacities.
Evaluate proposals.
Reliable estimates with data and simulations to support proposals, be flexible with project changes and consider limitations, and then monitoring delivery implementation.
Whole–of–life management.
Optimise design plans, capture design v as-built changes, model to make forecasts, considering end-of-life options.
... sensors have been installed on each switch to measure things such as the time of a swing to graph the smoothness of its swing motion, motor current drawn and so on. Over time, they help to build a picture of what ‘normal’ looks like. As soon as a switch trends away from normal or a certain variable passes a set threshold – for instance a switch takes too long to swing open – operators can react and create a maintenance plan designed to prevent any downtime. This process change is already helping to significantly improve performance across the line.
— Ronald Powell, GM Rail & Transit, SNC-Lavalin2
MacBook mockup

Nextspace digital twins

Nextspace’s platform provides the data interoperability that brings multiple technologies together in one data model for analysis and visualisations to help teams understand complex situations at a glance—more informed and faster decision making.
30% fewer
fewer unscheduled depot stops through precise maintenance planning
15% reduction
in maintenance costs by eliminating unnecessary work like premature part replacement
100% fleet availability
through elimination of unplanned downtime3
50% reduction
reduction of track geometry defects
57% reduction
in fault-related communications4
  1. “HS1’s digital twin trial gives a glimpse of the future of railway” by Richard Thorp, Global Railway Review
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  2. “How digital twinning is making Canada’s trains run on time” by Ronald Powell, Global Railway Review
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  1. “Maintenance intelligence for rail vehicles” by Siemens
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  2. “Empowering the rail industry to leverage digital solutions to improve performance” by Gerard Francis, Global Railway Review
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When implemented correctly, digital twins deliver significant ROI. This is why more industries are building digital twins into their core asset and operational management processes.

Our platform

Data-first digital twins built on Nextspace are customizable and extensible. Our platform helps you integrate, federate, and futureproof valuable data.

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