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Enabling Quality Asset Information to Support the Crossrail Smart Railway

Crossrail is a high frequency, rail link being built to serve London and South East England. Twin 21km tunnels (42km combined) are being bored across London to link the surface sections of Crossrail and the 10 new stations being constructed along the route, 35km of which have already been excavated by eight tunnel boring machines.

Crossrail is the largest construction project in Europe and has a high degree of complexity relating to the engineering challenges in design and construction, integration to existing transport infrastructure and complexity of relationships between the 50 main projects consisting of 200 contracts supported by 100 contractors.

Approximately one million assets will need to be recorded in the Crossrail asset information management system (AIMS). These range from large concrete structures to power and ventilation systems to complex signaling and communication assets. Crossrail will carry 200 million passengers per year as delivery is progressively completed up to and beyond 2018.

Crossrail passed the 50 percent completion point during January 2014, on time and on budget. Now that the majority of civils and structures are in place, the project is entering the more complex systems equipment design and installation phases. With these stages come the subsequent asset information provision complexities that require a consistent approach to capture the large volume of data that is required to support the whole life of the Crossrail assets.

Asset Information Fundamentals

Good Practice Asset Management

Besides delivering a functional and efficient railway, Crossrail needs to ensure the railway can be operated and maintained efficiently and effectively through its whole life in accordance with good practice approaches to asset management. The Institute of Asset Management's asset management landscape tool demonstrates the main areas essential to good practices of asset management. Asset knowledge, which encompasses asset information, is a key underpinning area. The availability of good, quality asset information is essential for achieving these long-term strategic goals. Crossrail is building two railways, one physical and one virtual, that involve utilizing a geographic information system (GIS) to pull together and present asset information holistically, including data, documents, assets, models and visualizations.

Figure 1: Crossrail progress overview

Crossrail's approaches are informed by confi ation management (CM) and asset management (AM) related standards. Some of the key standards include ISO10007 for CM and AM, PAS55 and the newly released ISO55000 series (replacement for PAS55), plus a key suite of British standards, most notably the BS1192 suite, Part 2 of which looks at the creation of a common data environment (e.g., the Crossrail central data hub) and the design phase of an asset's life. The recently released Part 3 looks at the remaining phase of the asset's lifethrough operations, maintenance and renewal/replace.

Crossrail also has been involved in an advisory capacity with Part 4, due for release this year, which deals with the exchange of information between parties throughout the whole life of an asset and is supported by COBie.

Frequently on engineering projects, the acquisition of asset information is undertaken shortly before handover, leading to poorer quality asset information and more expensive data gathering activities post-handover. Crossrail is collecting asset information progressively throughout the project.

Figure 2: Asset management landscape diagram

Crossrail identified Bentley Systems' Enterprise Bridge (eB) as very closely matching the project's 80 configuration management and 300 asset information management related requirements. The asset information management system is a proactive project to ensure that timely, good quality asset information is delivered through assured business processes.

The Crossrail business case for an information management tool deliberately took into consideration the need for a solution that allowed for documents and assets to reside in one system, subsequently reducing the need for integration between other applications to a practical level and reducing the likelihood of duplication of efforts. This initial strategy enabled Crossrail to bring other areas of the business, such as contract administration, into its central data hub.

Quality Asset Information Enablers

Crossrail has implemented a number of enablers to support the establishment and ongoing maintenance of good quality asset information. These include the:

  • Asset Information Management Plan that details the framework being used by Crossrail to specify, acquire, manage and govern asset information.
  • Asset Identification Standard that details Crossrail's requirements for the identification of assets. It includes details of asset naming conventions, the style and format of asset identification labels, label fixing requirements and requirements for machine readable identification.
  • eB/Asset Information Management System (eB/AIMS) that is part of the central data hub for storing all asset information and related virtual structures and workflow.
  • Asset Data Dictionary that specifies the functions, classes and related attributes agreed as relevant to Crossrail's assets.
  • Asset Data Dictionary Defi Documents (AD4s) that describe just the relevant detail relating to a specific asset class and function within the asset data dictionary.
  • Asset Data Collection Spreadsheet that holds each individual asset class being represented separately in its own worksheet with its own attributes. Contractors then populate these attribute fields while referencing the AD4 definition documents.
  • AssetDataDictionary Master Configuration, which is a baseline document/data model that brings together key reference information into one place for client and contractors use.
  • Asset Information Provision Procedure, which is the overall process defined by Crossrail for the creation of assets in the eB/AIMS and the provision of relevant asset information by Crossrail staff, contractors and third parties.
  • AssetPaintersoftware being developed as part of an application software to support the application of Crossrail’s asset tags to design elements and subsequently link the design elements to related asset information.
  • Asset Information & Configuration Management Team, which is a client side Crossrail team that leads the establishment of quality, control and management of asset information and collaborates with site contractors to ensure the large volumes of asset information is provisioned to appropriate standards and requirements.
  • ContractClauses, which are adequate clauses within the contractors’ contractual information to ensure compliance to the aforementioned enablers are achieved.

Asset Representation

Asset owning organizations typically like to record their assets in a hierarchy to assist finding and navigating to assets. Often, such hierarchies are based on the location of assets, or their duty or type, however, recording assets in a single hierarchy based on one of these approaches is usually too simplistic. The eB/AIMS provides Crossrail with the capability of recording assets in multiple hierarchies, consequently, each asset tag is included in three hierarchies representing location, function (or duty) and class (or type).

In addition to these relationships, assets in complex environments will be related to other assets. For example, electrical switchgear will provide power to multiple assets, however, such relationships are frequently difficult to represent correctly in many asset management systems. The eB/AIMS allows explicit relationships to be established between assets to ensure assets can be unambiguously linked to each other.

Figure 3: Flexible assets

Figure 4: Crossrail’s virtual and physical asset representations

The following terms help to represent a Crossrail asset.

Crossrail high-level asset representation:

  • Complex (a group of elements, e.g., Crossrail).
  • Element (a group of facilities, e.g., Crossrail operating section).
  • Facility (a group of primary functional units, e.g., a railway station consisting of discrete systems). 

Crossrail system/low-level asset representation:

  • Primary Functional Unit (a system, e.g., an escalator).
  • Functional Unit (a subsystem, e.g., escalator steps).
  • Asset Tags (a functional requirement, e.g., needing a pump).
  • Equipment (fulfills a need, e.g., of the pump/asset tag).
  • Serialized/Batch Items (unique instances, e.g., of pump/equipment or batch of cable).

Collecting & Utilizing Asset Information

Quality Asset Information Provision

A Crossrail-specific asset data dictionary defines the classifiction of assets, their required attributes and relationship to each other is hosted in the eB/ AIMS to provide wide visibility of asset requirements.

Attributes held against the asset data dictionary are intelligently exported into asset data collection spreadsheets (ADCS), with each individual asset class being represented separately in its own worksheet with its own attributes. Contractors then populate these attribute fields while referencing the AD4 definition documents. The eB/AIMS and the ADCS have already been utilized to issue 125,000 asset tags and collect the related attributes from the contractors.

Smart Initiatives

Crossrail made an early conscious decision to integrate the eventual operators and maintainers within the Crossrail project environment. This has made for a much improved relationship between the two parties and an excellent level of understanding of the operators' user requirements. Positive benefi of this relationship include the operator and maintainer working with the Cross- rail team to introduce Crossrail good practice approaches to widely benefi other sectors of the operators' portfolio. The Crossrail asset information management plan has established reliable and safe foundations for ongoing operations. Even after handover, the Crossrail data hub will act as a reliable configuration to ensure consistent compliance to current standards and legal requirements, and provide the ability to draw on asset information, documentation, records and contractual administration.

Stakeholder concerns that asset information may not support long-term asset management needs have been alleviated by defining appropriate governance arrangements through regular asset information gov- ernance group meetings with key internal and exter- nal stakeholders. Emerging issues are identified and resolved as early in the process as possible and provide assurance to key stakeholders that asset information will support handover of Crossrail to its future operators and maintainers.

Crossrail has formed a technical partnership with Bentley Systems and a Crossrail - Bentley Information Academy, which offers the many contractors and industry partners (600 to date) an opportunity to gain awareness of all the latest industry developments (e.g., the UK BIM government strategy) and learn the various Crossrail/Bentley informational and technological related processes through discrete information pods. The academy also acts as a focal point for general feedback, new ideas and information innovation.

Crossrail has a number of other initiatives in development that will help leverage the quality asset information that is being provisioned, including a field supervisor app, a document verification app, mobile GIS, and 4D modeling virtual planning and augmented reality.

Sharing Good Practices

Crossrail takes seriously its responsibility of sharing good practices with industry and realizes there are bidirectional benefits of pushing out and pulling in good information management practices. Crossrail has been involved with a number of initiatives, including the most notable UK government BIM strategy that sets objectives to look at construction and post-occupancy benefits of building information modeling (BIM) and management for use in UK building and infrastructure markets. Crossrail was proud to receive the BIM Project Application Award at the 2013 British Construction Industry Awards in recognition of its significant efforts in this area. Crossrail also works closely with a number of universities supporting a range of information management related initiatives, including configuration management, industry information management requirements, future proofing and virtual application development, plus industry supervision of students working on doctorates. Crossrail chairs the Industry Partner Asset Information Forum, which brings together thought leaders from the rail sector to discuss initiatives through which all parties can gain mutual benefits.

Business Benefits

Crossrail asset information is pivotal to achieving Crossrail's vision of a smart railway that is safe for everyone, reliable for customers, efficient for business, predictable for operations and maintenance, and enables proud and motivated staff. Information is established and maintained through a central data hub for efficiency, effectiveness and consistency, reducing ambiguity and thereby reducing risk.

The development of eB/AIMS enables a number of key benefits to be utilized. For example, extending the usage of Crossrail's existing eB system to provide asset information management capability has avoided the need to purchase a separate and costly asset information system, thereby avoiding significant additional system implementation and integration costs.

eB/AIMS also reduces the risk that incomplete or poor quality asset information prevents handover of Crossrail to future operators and maintainers. Governance arrangements help ensure effective engagement with future infrastructure managers and reduce the risk of them not accepting the data at handover as a result of being otherwise unaware of its acquisition and provenance.

eB/AIMS provides a single, change controlled and widely available asset data dictionary to explicitly specify the classification of assets and their required attributes. This saves time when stakeholders need to understand information requirements and reduces the risk that out-of-date versions of a published asset data dictionary are inadvertently used.

The use of optimized managed processes to minimize the effort required to collect asset information and maximize the quality of this information is especially critical due to the large volume of assets (approximately one million) that will need to be recorded in eB/AIMS. Small improvements in the effort required to acquire information for an asset will have a significant benefit overall.

Site data acquisition is expensive and time consuming, and for users, it can be difficult to know what data is required. Crossrail's asset data collection spreadsheets present the data already in eB/AIMS and explicitly define the attributes to be populated. This supports standardization of information requirements and verification of existing data by site staff, and minimizes the volume of information site staff has to provide. Effective management of information from a very large number of information providers will be challenging, consequently, an optimized process has been developed for the provision of asset information.

By establishing and maintaining good quality asset information that is reliable, trusted and fully utilized by users, huge benefits can be realized, particularly during the operational and maintenance phases. Conservative independent studies have shown that good quality configured asset information can reduce an organization's whole life costs by at least five percent, or one to two years operating expenses (OPEX), based on a 20 to 40 average asset life.


Being Europe's largest construction project, Crossrail takes seriously its responsibility to enable quality asset information to support the whole life of the asset. It has implemented a number of enablers to support the provision of quality asset information. Delivering this information needs to be conducted progressively and not at the last minute, which has typically been shown to provide asset information that is late, of poor quality and not fit for use by its owners, operators and maintainers.

Crossrail has, and continues to, work with industry to push and pull good practices in information management, recognizing that generic and more efficient approaches are required not only to support the physical assets, but also to control and manage the increasing volume of data that organizations and the general public use and demand.

Crossrail understands other external factors also need to be considered to fully realize and utilize the quality asset information it is provisioning. Control and management of people, processes, technology and information are key for organizations to fully optimize their potential.

Crossrail is taking its whole asset life responsibilities seriously and is well on track to enabling quality asset information to support the Crossrail smart railway.

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​Ross Dentten

Ross Dentten, Asset Information & Configuration Manager, is applying his 25 years of transport industry experience to take a lead on assets for the largest construction project in Europe, the £15 Billion Crossr ail. He is enabling quality asset information to support one million physical assets while harnessing standards, information, technology, processes and people within the industry to optimize whole life value and to help with ‘Moving London Forward’.

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