Collaboration between RailTopoModel, railML.org and IFC

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On January 10th, the representatives from the RailTopoModel (RTM), railML.org initiatives and buildingSMART International met in Frankfurt in order to discuss collaboration in the future development of the railway modelling approaches, to ensure efficiency and consistency for the industry.

buildingSMART International (bSI) is the home of openBIM, a publicly available and vendor independent approach to the Building Information Modelling. Within bSI, the IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) are developed as a standard schema and exchange format for asset information.

In 2015 the China Railways BIM Alliance submitted to bSI a first national development of IFC for the railway domain which has been published as a bSI SPEC. The Chinese proposal will provide a foundation for further bSI developments in the railway domain. The details of this IFC RAIL project will be presented at the International bSI Summit in Barcelona in April 2017.
The UIC (International Union of Railways) organised “RailTopoModel Expert Group” and railML.org to collaboratively work at providing the railway community with a detailed UML model to support the whole life cycle and operation of railway systems. The global objective of RTM is to provide a model, capable of supporting simulations for railway systems. railML.org´s global objective is to define a standard data exchange format, based on RTM. It shall support railway business use cases in all operations (infrastructure engineering and maintenance, interlocking and route management, timetabling, etc).

The meeting served to share both project ambitions, deliverables and roadmaps and to discuss about collaboration for convergence, consistency and complementary issues. A foundation for first steps in this discussion is a scientific work of TU Dresden (Germany); this paper analyses RTM and IFC projects in view of their application to business needs. The results of this comparison will most likely be presented at the International bSI Summit at the beginning of April in Barcelona, and during the RTM conference on May 4th in Paris.
The first output of this discussion is that the teams of RTM/railML.org and bSI/IFC definitely share the willingness to organize a clear communication to the railway business about relative positioning, consistency and complementary of both projects. A future collaboration shall be initiated. A rough technical assessment resulted that the models primarily have different scopes of application, and could most probably complement one another to offer continuity between construction and operation.

It was agreed that an overlap of the models could exist in the description of topology, though a deeper analysis of the respective positioning systems is of great importance. A linkage of the two models should be possible to ensure consistency on functional and spatial dimensions.
Both parties concluded that a collaboration must be organized in the coming months to ensure consistency in solutions for the benefit of the railway industry. A first step in that direction could be a collaborative data dictionary on railway business objects.