LiDAR supports higher-precision mapping of UK’s rail infrastructure

Leica 3D Rail Scan, source: Leica Geosystems (owned by Hexagon)

Network Rail is looking for a more accurate and efficient way to measure Britain’s network. Swedish engineering company Hexagon will support this intention with its solutions that use LiDAR data and artificial intelligence.

A disruptive research project will be soon conducted on Britain’s railway network. It is initiated by Innovate UK, the country’s innovation agency, and is dedicated to looking for new options for faster and higher-precision mapping of railway infrastructure. To this end, the British body selected Stockholm-based engineering company Hexagon for this effort.

The project is funded by Network Rail. It will the infrastructure manager to automatically identify and measure railway structures from LiDAR data, saving valuable time and resources, while also improving planning and operations across the rail network. “We anticipate this project will offer us a more efficient way to capture, analyse and measure railway features along 20,000 miles of track, which is important to railway safety and the growth and capacity of our network,” said James Sweeney, Senior Engineer at Network Rail.

Collecting data

Currently, most of the data about railway infrastructure (tracks, bridges, tunnels and other structures) in the UK are mainly collected manually. The data is then analysed to assess clearances between trains and the infrastructure around them, which is key to safety. This process takes analysts months or even years due to the size of the data and the labour-intensive tasks involved.

The new project aims to automate the extraction and calculation of railway features from sensor data, leveraging AI to automatically analyse point cloud data, identify different structure types and perform measurements on the structures. The data will be collected from reality capture solutions from Hexagon’s Geosystems division. “Network Rail, supported by Innovate UK, is leading the way in the use of AI to automate rail structure identification and measurement,” said Mladen Stojic, president of Hexagon’s Geospatial division.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines and

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