From capacity limitations due to social distancing through to changes in mobility patterns because of people working from home, COVID-19 has made us rethink how we manage our mass transit infrastructure systems.
The pandemic’s flow-on consequences brought to the fore the need for more resilient and future-proofed infrastructure, according to RMIT academics.
Dr Nader Naderpajouh from RMIT’s School of Property, Construction and Project Management said that when it comes to metro and rail infrastructure, we also need to prepare for multi-hazard events, for example when the effects of the pandemic may compound with the consequences of other disasters such as physical or cyber failures.
“We need to ask ourselves whether our current infrastructure systems are resilient enough to cope with such events, and prepare accordingly,” he said.
“In the past, the siloed nature of many organisations made it difficult for them to create a unified approach in the case of a multi-hazard event and its cascading impact.
“While asset managers plan investments to increase the resilience of a railway’s physical assets such as the tracks, the stations, and associated buildings, investments to increase the resilience of IT infrastructure takes place elsewhere in the organisation – and there can be minimal communication between them,” Naderpajouh said.
“It can then be hard to develop an integrated approach to optimise resilience of the whole infrastructure system to respond to multi-hazard events.”
Naderpajouh is part of a team working on the European funded research project Safety4Rails, which aims to instigate a system-wide optimisation for asset management and resilience enhancement of railway infrastructure systems by integrating both physical and cyber systems within one asset management system.
“This process is not straightforward as the practices need to be translated across the two different domains: physical and cyber,” he said.
“We’re proposing an integrated approach to realise efficient resilience enhancement actions across the whole system.”
Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title ‘SAFETY4RAILS’The Safety4Rails project includes instigating a system-wide optimisation for asset management and resilience enhancement of railway infrastructure systems.
The knowledge behind RMIT’s Central Asset Management System (CAMS) – developed by RMIT researchers Professor Sujeeva Setunge and Professor Ron Wakefield – will be used in the design of the comprehensive asset management system for rail operators, which will be extended through resilience modelling developed by Naderpajouh along with input from railway operators.
Also working on the Safety4Rails project is RMIT Europe’s Dr Mauro Poliotti, who is involved in the development of a framework to optimise the budget that rail operators allocate to improve resilience in their systems.
“A major topic in the improvement of resilience is to evaluate the different strategies from an economic perspective,” he said.
“In other words, how to make the most of the available budget to build a safer and more resilient railway environment.
“Budget is always limited and railway systems are complex – decision makers require a tool that simulates a range of scenarios and provides them with the valuable information they need to make better informed decisions,” Poliotti said.
“To develop and test such tools requires real and accurate data from the railway environment.
“Working alongside large rail operators, such as Metro de Madrid and FGC, is crucial as it gives us the opportunity to test the capabilities of the framework in realistic scenarios.”
With 2021 marked as the European Year of Rail by the European Commission, rail is being prioritised as a sustainable, smart and safe means of transport.
Experts such as Naderpajouh and Poliotti say that resilient infrastructure management systems will be key for railway and metro systems to remain safe, efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly mass carriers.