Multiple digital twins set to connect HS2

By Mike Hayes09 February 2021

Project’s digital chief reveals tech that will drive forward the UK’s high-speed rail network

Technology including augmented reality is being routinely used across the HS2 construction project

The head of digital engineering on the UK’s HS2 high-speed rail link has described how a federation of digital twins will operate on Europe’s largest rail project.

Dr Sonia Zahiroddiny said tier one contractors working on the project have been tasked with creating individual digital twins, which will then be linked, giving an overall digital picture of the operation of the €117 billion network.

In an online interview organised by construction technology specialist Bentley Systems, Zahiroddiny said “We are transforming the way we’re working.”

She said, “In the context of HS2, we have a fairly sophisticated definition [of a digital twin], just because of the scale [of the project].

“Our supply chain contractors are producing and developing digital twins of various assets, but we need do federate all these different assets, systems and sub-systems – to have this eco-system of digital twins – to have a network of the whole scheme.

“If you then overlay that with visualisation and analytics, you can enable more strategic approaches to assurance or programme planning or asset management.”

Zahiroddiny said the developers of the project had recognised that a programme of the scale and complexity of HS2 cannot be managed using traditional highly manual processes and that “we need to work towards streamlining, digitising and systemising our processes.”

She added, “I’m not suggesting that we need full automation, but we’ve got to work towards semi-automation and remove waste as much as we possibly can.

“We’re not there yet,” she said, “but even during design and construction, there are some very strong use cases showing how powerful the digital twin can be to support the ongoing virtual validation and verification, to make sure that the railway works as a fully integrated and operational network.

“The plan is to have a federation of digital twins which will be pulled into a single integrated information portal – to have this macro programme helicopter view of the whole HS2 network and, potentially, some of the interfacing parties as well.”

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