Success Story | Network Rail Overcoming Challenges Under COVID-19 Lockdown

Overcoming Challenges Under COVID-19 Lockdown

Wales and Western Region, United Kingdom



Meeting New Pandemic Work Demands

Owner and infrastructure manager of most of Great Britain’s railway network, Network Rail is responsible for ensuring reliable and efficient commuter transport along 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts, and thousands of signals, crossings, and stations. Despite being designated as essential workers by the U.K. government during the COVID-19 pandemic, Network Rail’s Wales and Western (NR WW) region had to comply with lockdown restrictions, which required all staff to work from home. They needed to move from an office-based environment, where face-to-face meetings were the norm, to remote lockdown standards. As a result, they faced numerous coordination and collaboration challenges, which caused them to find creative ways to work virtually while keeping the network operating safely and reliably. To overcome these difficulties, they needed innovative thinking, agile digital transformation, and teamwork.

Visualization, Design Integration, and Virtualization

During the lockdown, Network Rail was working on several projects requiring the upgrading of railway wayfinding and signaling at Paddington and Exeter stations, respectively. These projects presented challenges that included limited information, survey and data collection issues, and complicated asset documentation, compounded by the pandemic restrictions that traditional work methods could not accommodate. They desired an integrated technology approach in an open connected data environment to enable web-based visualization, design integration, and virtualization to meet project deliverables amid COVID-19. However, when they tried various data sharing platforms to implement a digital approach, none of them provided enough control and integrity of the source data to meet their needs.


Finding Success with BIM and Digital Twin Technology

Already familiar with Bentley applications, NR WW established digital workflows in a cloud-based environment using ProjectWise, enabling teams and contractors to collaborate remotely, conduct interdisciplinary and live design reviews, and resolve potential issues. Using MicroStation and Descartes, they created a comprehensive 3D model of the Exeter station. With OpenRail Designer, they performed signal sighting in the visually and technically accurate model. Unable to survey and review more than 100 existing signs on site at London’s Paddington station, they conducted point cloud scans and used Descartes to create a digital twin from the images, providing a realistic representation of signage and multiple signaling options.


Advancing Digital Workflows Delivers Benefits

With Bentley’s integrated BIM applications, NR WW created the Exeter station model in just three days, allowing virtual site visits and stakeholder engagement that facilitated informed decisions without people leaving their homes. The use of digital workflows in Descartes cut the time to manipulate the point cloud data by 50%, resulting in delivery of the Paddington digital twin one month ahead of schedule. Working in a virtual environment also mitigated safety issues when accessing a live rail network and streamlined remote collaboration during the pandemic. As a result of creating the digital twin, they ensured future work for the modeling team at an accelerated, more efficient pace, as well as provided a firm foundation for the use of digital twins across the region.



  • Network Rail needed an innovative approach for collaboration on their projects in a digital built environment during pandemic lockdown restrictions.

  • MicroStation enabled them to deliver an accurate 3D model of Exeter Station within three days.

  • Using ProjectWise to facilitate live design reviews ensured visible and transparent communication among the remote team and optimized issue resolution.

  • Generating a digital twin of the Paddington Station with Descartes saved 50% in design time.


quote“The swift creation of the model [using Bentley applications] has proven that during a global pandemic and lockdown, it is still possible to provide services that go above and beyond the expectations of our clients and stakeholders.”

John Nolan
Program Manager, BIM
Network Rail Wales and Western Region

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