Britain’s High Speed Rail Network (HS2) has received a smart ally in the fight against service and operational issues, the company tasked with building the massive project announced on Monday.
HS2 Ltd will incorporate both virtual reality (VR) and real-time sensor monitoring of network infrastructure such as power lines, railways, bridges, and others to safeguard the project.
According to the firm, engineers have begun preparing designs for the new railway system and have extracted data to build a VR digital twin for workers to access.
Additional technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) will monitor railway performance and trigger HS2’s predict-and-prevent maintenance protocols.
Engineers will also use VR head-mounted displays to locate maintenance issues from the NICC facility, allowing teams to potentially resolve concerns prior to despatching staff on-site, potentially saving network operators from slower, more costly repair and renewal protocols.
Thousands of sensors will also monitor the entire railway network “as if it were the railway’s version of the body’s nervous system,” allowing engineers to monitor, predict, and tackle issues as they arise, the company said in a statement.
Such efforts will help the HS2 boost the reliability and punctuality of trains operating on the network, and engineers at the company’s Network Integrated Control Centre (NICC) in Birmingham can receive updates on network issues via the real-time digital twin, the company added.
Comments on Smart HS2
According to David White, Head of Strategic Planning and Asset Management, the digitally-twinned “predict and prevent” may extend the life of railway assets “by months or even years,” adding,
“This will enable us to reduce cost, cut waste and shrink the environmental footprint of HS2’s maintenance operation and maintain a consistently high level of customer service”
He added the addition of VR technologies had an “important part to play” in educating teams on the railway and that the HS2 would be safe and reliable using the newest and latest standards.
“This in itself creates the challenge of keeping staff trained and competent to run and maintain both the railway and its stations. So we will create new tools through the use of [VR/AR] technologies to maintain and enhance the skills of our maintenance and station teams”
VR Empowers Global Engineer Workforces
The news comes after several logistics and infrastructure companies collaborated with VR training firms to develop simulators aimed at improving, building, and maintaining infrastructure.
Bilbao-based VR firm Virtualware joined forces with Spain’s Administrator for Railway Infrastructures (ADIF) to design simulators for training engineers tasked with building the nation’s networks.
In the United Kingdom, Bristolian VR firm Virti also backed Easy As HGV, a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) training enterprise across Britain, to train drivers and improve learner retention rates.
Tulsa, Oklahoma-based VR training firm XALTER partnered with Marathon Petroleum, a major oil and refinery firm in the United States, to build VR trainers to instruct lorry drivers in coupling and decoupling procedures, safety protocols, and refuelling to reduce misfuelling incidences.