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Geomatic Technologies Perspective: Accelerating PTC with smart tools and high-value datasets

By Finbar Holland, business development manager, North America

Geomatic Technologies (GT) is bringing over 20 years of successful mapping in the complex rail environment to address the immense challenges facing railroads as they implement PTC on their networks. As a specialist railroad mapping and clearance business, our capabilities go beyond field data collection to include the provision of high value datasets and software to accelerate PTC implementations and maintain PTC databases post-commissioning.

With field data collection/mobile mapping technologies becoming more and more powerful, we recognized the need some years ago for capabilities that could process vast volumes of field data including LiDAR, high resolution imagery, GPS and inertial data into information relevant to real world rail engineering. Similarly, we recognized that specialist software tools were needed that could manipulate LiDAR to support the placement of new infrastructure in an existing right of way and also validate their installation for compliance purposes.

For this reason we developed AIMS Analyzer in close collaboration with railroad clients to meet their engineering and compliance challenges. AIMS Analyzer allows railroads to automatically check that any new infrastructure design is placed outside of the dynamic envelope prior to installation on site. It allows railroads to iterate their initial design to maximize clearances and optimize the installation of wayside and communications assets. AIMS Analyzer is also used to validate that the installation of wayside infrastructure is consistent with approved designs prior to the commissioning of any PTC system.

The PTC mandate presents a once-in-a-lifetime challenge to railroads. Not only are timeframes tight, but the need to deliver results quickly within the complex rail environment places limitations on what can be achieved using conventional methods of survey, existing GIS tools and software. GT meets this challenge with smart tools that produce results and datasets quickly — including digital track centerlines, geodatabases, as well as a much more streamlined design process.

A further challenge is network configuration management as PTC systems come online. GT’s FMC solution allows field users to mark up configuration changes that occur through periodical maintenance activities and submit these to corporate systems seamlessly and quickly so that PTC systems can be updated with minimal impact to train operations. Our strong ICT capabilities allow us to work at the enterprise level to deliver data that can easily be consumed by leading enterprise asset management systems including SAP and Infor, while being responsive to the complex needs that field teams face in day to day railroad maintenance and production.