Twice as Safe, Twice as Smart: How Digital Twins are transforming the Tube…

Rachael Hutchman
Case Studies
Jun 24, 2024

Overview

Transport for London (TfL) plays a crucial role in keeping London moving smoothly, managing an intricate web of infrastructure. To meet the demands of efficiency, safety, and sustainability, TfL needed a modern solution to age-old challenges. How to inspect tracks and tunnels without always needing ‘boots on’ or to go under the ground? How to reveal information that may have previously been hidden from the human eye, such as faults, and heat and noise hotspots? How to get closer to the goal of a zero-carbon rail system by 2030? Enter Spinview’s innovative digital twin technology.

 

Challenge

TfL manages a vast and complex network of underground infrastructure, facing constant pressure to optimise operations, ensure worker safety, and minimise environmental impact. Traditional asset management methods are time-consuming, resource-intensive, and lack real-time data insights. Furthermore, critical asset data was often trapped in silos, remaining inaccessible to the majority of workers who needed it for timely and effective decision-making. TfL needed eyes where they couldn’t see and feet where they couldn’t be…

 

Solution

In 2021, TfL partnered with Spinview to implement a digital twin solution into the Underground system, bringing visual intelligence to the Piccadilly line track, stations, and depots. This cutting-edge technology provided high-fidelity digital replicas of physical assets, integrated with real-time sensor data and analytics aimed at overcoming the challenges of traditional asset management.

Using Deep Rail Sensor devices, Spinview meticulously mapped out the geometry of the underground spaces and ‘sniffed out’ environmental pollutants. These readings helped form the foundations for measuring carbon emissions and were an important component in tracking progress towards environmental goals. Meanwhile, above ground, Spinview’s drones helped chart each twist and turn of the track.

The digital twin solution centralises and visualises previously siloed data, provides real-time insights, and enables data-driven decision-making to optimise operations, ensure worker safety, and minimise environmental impact.

 

Impact

Cost Savings: Early results are promising, with independent analysis and simulated scenarios showing potential reductions of up to 44% in operational expenses and 26% in capital expenditures within the first year. These savings mean TfL can invest back into their infrastructure and services – good news for passengers and keeping London moving.

Enhanced Worker Safety: Digital twins enable remote inspections, cutting physical site visits in half and minimising workers’ exposure to hazards in deep tunnels. Spinview’s digital twin also helps identify optimal work times based on air quality, promoting healthier working environments.

Environmental Sustainability: By pinpointing emission hotspots and tracking carbon output with precision, TfL can implement targeted reduction strategies, aligning with their goal of a carbon-neutral transport system by 2030. This enhanced measurability also allows TfL to hold suppliers accountable for their environmental impact.

Streamlined and Cost-efficient Maintenance: Spinview’s digital twin allows for virtual inspections of assets anytime, anywhere. This eliminates the limitations of traditional inspection windows, streamlining maintenance workflows and allowing for proactive maintenance based on real-time sensor data. Remote inspections also minimise the necessity for on-site visits for TfL’s contractors who must investigate the site to provide accurate work quotations.

Training & Development: Digital twins provide a realistic training ground for many teams at TfL, ensuring they’re prepared for the challenges of the underground environment. This enhances efficiency and reduces time away from daily tasks.

Improved Collaboration: Spinview’s intuitive interface makes for seamless communication across TfL departments. Features like tagging and alerts facilitate efficient knowledge sharing and coordinated decision-making.

 

“Having that visual representation gives the advantage in that you can view everything without having to go down there. We can identify if there are any issues around the areas where we’re working, which is very important from a health and safety point of view. By removing boots from the ground and doing it virtually we are increasing the safety of our staff.”

– Daniel Rahamim, Lead Innovation Manager – Transport for London

 

A Pioneering Approach

The success of this project demonstrates the transformative power of digital twins and their visual intelligence in infrastructure management. By leveraging this technology, TfL is optimising costs and improving safety whilst also taking concrete steps towards a more sustainable future for London’s transport network.

Looking Ahead

This partnership serves as a springboard for further innovation. TfL and Spinview are exploring how to expand the use of digital twins across the entire network, further enhancing efficiency, sustainability, and the overall passenger experience.