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Liverpool spearheads virtual reality rail design

Liverpool lime street vr aerial view future

A redevelopment of Liverpool’s Lime Street station, part of a £340M upgrade in the area, is spearheading the use of virtual reality in rail station design.

The upgrade involves changing the layout and length of the station’s platforms, as well as upgrading signalling.

Network Rail is using the technology for 4D virtual modelling, which it says will cut the amount of time needed on track, as well as avoiding overlaps between different engineering teams.

For example, while civil engineers, track engineers, signalling and telecoms teams and overhead line specialists carry out their work, the 4D technology links to the 3D model and construction plan so that planners can schedule and co-ordinate the tasks and create a virtual construction model, timing work so that machinery and labour is not unnecessarily deployed on site.

In terms of signalling, instead of designers having to go the railway and plot the location of the new signals and map how the signals could be viewed by train drivers in different models of trains, the new technology means most of this can now be done from a desktop using a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) model is created from point clouds, and enhanced with realistic textures from a photographic survey of the site. It is then co-ordinated with site signalling software.

Liverpool Lime Street project manager Graeme Whitehead said: “On major projects, where you have people laying track, moving bridges and installing electrical wires overhead, all at the same time, we need precise planning to avoid overlaps that could potentially cause projects to overrun or risk the safety of those working.

“Using this state-of-the-art technology we can spot those clashes before they happen making the project safer and more efficient. This delivers benefits for passengers, taxpayers and our orange army of engineers.”

Simon Wray, managing director of Specialist Project Integration, the company which developed the software, said: “Liverpool Lime Street is the first rail project in Britain to have a virtual reality model at its core.

“A unique feature of the system is that it works on multiple formats including mobile devices. Liverpool Lime Street is also the first project to use Oculus Rift virtual reality technology, which allows for a fully immersive experience for training and engagement.”

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