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Driving industry standards for design innovation on major infrastructure projects

Driving industry standards for design innovation on major infrastructure projects

Crossrail has been driving industry standards for design innovation on major infrastructure projects since the first surveying work was undertaken in the mid-nineties.

Detailed design work for the project began in 2008 and working in a collaborative 3D environment was a core contractual requirement across each of the 25 design contracts.

Today, Crossrail integrates the information developed from over 25 main design contracts, 30 advanced works contracts and over 60 logistics and main works construction contracts, all of which have an extraordinary number of interlinked interfaces within the complex and sensitive urban environment of London.


For Crossrail, Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the process of generating, building and managing data through the life of the project by using model-based technologies linked to a database of project information. BIM incorporates data – physical, environmental, commercial – on every element designed for Crossrail.

A BIM environment has not been created on this scale for a European transportation infrastructure project before and Crossrail is focusing its efforts in exploiting the opportunities BIM can bring not only in delivery of the railway, but perhaps more importantly in driving forwards design innovation within the construction industry.

Crossrail aims to be the first major infrastructure project to fully realise the BIM lifestyle concept.

A key focus for us is the long-term cost savings that can be realised through our BIM model, by providing accurate information that can be handed over to the operators of the railway for managing Crossrail’s assets post-completion.

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  • centralised set of linked databases
  • 25 design contracts
  • 30 main works contracts
  • 60 logistics main works contracts
  • 1,000,000 (1 million) CAD files created, approved and integrated within centralised information model

All of the design to-date follows a coordinated and consistent set of 3D rules and processes.  In order to successfully manage all of this design data we have adopted a central software model for all 2 and 3D design files using Building Information Modelling (BIM).

To date, around 1 million CAD files have been created, approved and integrated within the centralised information model.

The 3D design information model is hosted by Crossrail and shared with our construction contractors. It will eventually move across to the operators and maintainers of the railway.

This significantly reduces information loss between contracts and project phases, reducing project risk by giving greater visibility into design and construction processes, and leveraging technology to make delivery more efficient and economical as well as less disruptive.

Having all of the design models integrated into one centralised set of linked databases allows us to create detailed still and moving visualisations of specific elements of the project – we are able to bring to life elements of the project years before work to construct them actually begins. 

It also allows us to be significantly more effective during the design and construction phases – it enables the spatial relationships of all the component elements to be defined and this ensures that there are no clashes between say, the mechanical engineers duct work and the structural engineers concrete or steelwork.

Engineers can visualise many of the complex utilities in and around the stations in 3D. This ensures that anyone working in the vicinity of the proposed stations is readily aware of the intricate and complicated weave of pipes and cable under the streets that need to be avoided or protected.

Once each works package is completed, so in turn the CAD models are updated and re-integrated to the central database. We can link this to other centralised databases, ensuring that we are able to visualise existing component elements alongside other related  data such as Crossrail asset information, specifications, operating manuals etc.


  • Reduction of risks from greater visibility into design and construction interfaces and activity
  • Improved safety through increased construction awareness from easy review of complex details or processes on site
  • Reduced errors from using a trusted “single source of truth” approach to data management, for example ensuring only the most appropriate version of models, drawings and documentation is used
  • Improved collaboration through linked data sets and integrated 3D models that create a “virtual” Crossrail before the physical Crossrail  is constructed, allowing design and construction refinement
  • Reduced information loss between project phases, ensuring  we capture and hand over full asset information into the Operations and Maintenance phases
  • Improved project delivery leveraging technology advances including data interoperability and mobility