Digital twin for Offenburg reflects the future of infrastructure planning

Case study

Digital twins elevate the planning of railway lines to a completely new level. The associated benefits, which are significant, are demonstrated by the Offenburg project where tmc, expert in railway digitalization, digitally converted a 50 km line.

It is envisaged to increase the capacity on the line between Karlsruhe and Basel, which is already heavily frequented. DB Netz AG aims to expand the line to four tracks and completely renew it in parts. A section of the line runs between Appenweier and Lahr, part of which will also be the Offenburg tunnel at a length of 11 km. Here, Obermeyer, one of Germany’s largest engineering companies, is responsible for planning. To be able to make use of the BIM method (Building Information Modeling), a digital twin of 50 km of track in total was to be created. The contract for this went to Track Machines Connected (tmc), the digitalization expert of the Plasser group of companies.

The digital twin excels with its average absolute accuracy of 2 cm. Thus, all future planning can be carried out in front of the monitor.

Project information

  • Project description:
    railway line digitalization
  • Country of operation:
  • Infrastructure manager:
    Deutsche Bahn
  • Length of the line:
    50 km
  • Machines in operation:

The EM100VT track inspection vehicle only needs eight measuring runs

In April 2021, tmc used the EM100VT track inspection vehicle by Plasser & Theurer to gather the required data. This machine was equipped with the latest measuring systems and uses, among others, three 360° rotation scanners (2D scanners) and two high-resolution colour cameras. It took two days to complete the measuring runs at a speed of 60 km/h, with the second day serving as a backup. By utilizing the gaps in the interval timetable, there was no considerable impact on regular train traffic. By comparison: data collection with conventional methods would have taken at least three weeks.

An average accuracy of 2 cm facilitates complete planning via a desk monitor

The measuring runs supplied a total of 5 billion points and 62,826 colour images, equating to about 100 million points and 1,250 images per kilometre of track. tmc took about 11 weeks to analyse this huge data volume and integrate it into the digital as-built model. At the end of the project, Obermeyer had a full digital twin of the line with highly precise geographical positions. Thanks to an average absolute accuracy of 2 cm, it is possible to carry out all the planning without having to interfere in ongoing train operations.

Huge cost benefits speak in favour of innovative method

Experts agree that this project is ushering in a new era of railway infrastructure planning. It is not only about accelerating the planning processes considerably, but also about huge cost savings. The cost of the initial surveys using the EM100VT alone is below the cost of manual measuring methods. Due to the high speed of the measuring runs, there are no costs for closing and securing the track. And finally, there are no costs for post-measuring, which would normally be required to obtain additional data or because of manual measuring errors. Obermeyer reckons that this has created the basis for everyday use and lasting advancement of the BIM methodology. A new era in railway infrastructure planning in which tmc plays a crucial part.