“We need to do something different” to deliver on time and budget, says HS2 director

Jon Kerbey, director of BIM for HS2.

As preparations accelerate towards delivering a high-speed rail network for the UK, the man heading up HS2’s Building Information Modelling (BIM) division has revealed how the technology is allowing bosses to deliver vital financial savings.

Speaking at the second European CIO conference, Jon Kerbey, director of BIM for HS2, discussed how crucial the technology was going to be going forward in ensuring the network was delivered efficiently. 

Opening up his talk, Kerbey talked about the issues of shifting towards digital in a rail industry which is traditionally “incredibly risk averse” and how changing the way people work was an ongoing challenge.

HS2 has a target to deliver savings through BIM of £0.5bn, so the BIM director stated how vital it was that teams communicated effectively to its supply chain in order to reach such saving targets so the data collected was of use and allowed planners to make informed decisions.

Kerbey talked about how BIM is so much more to HS2 than a 3D model, where it can cover stakeholder interactions, design data and asset information. 

Speaking at the conference in London, Kerbey said: “BIM allows us to see how every stakeholder contributes to the digital journey we are embarking on. Ultimately it provides us with the ability to understand the railway better - both in a virtual environment and then in a physical environment. It allows us to create a virtual railway and test assets so we can get things right or wrong virtually before we go on site resulting in real save costings.”

The delegates heard how the implementation of BIM within design preparations of the high-speed rail network was allowing planners to gain a “greater understanding” which led to “greater certainty” proving vital when it came to delivering the projected £55bn project on time and on budget.

But Kerbey spoke about how, looking into the future, it was important the company couldn’t “afford to back ourselves into a corner” and a focus on data models would allow technology to move across that. While he was unsure on what technology would be used in years to come, he reiterated the need to do things differently to the traditional rail practices and as long as the collection of data was correct then he hoped technology would follow. 

On the issue of combining data and looking externally for best practice then Kerbey said the organisation “fully intended to” when possible. He mentioned looking at HS1 and good connections to European high-speed lines. The BIM director also said HS2 could be looking at people from Formula 1 and within manufacturing to ensure those behind design and construction gained a well-rounded understanding of all the good practices in setting up a digital strategy.

Regarding encouraging innovation, the digital chief said he was “absolutely open” when it came to supply chain involvement within the process. “I want to be challenged on everything,” Kerbey added. “We are absolutely open to innovation as the experts are in the supply chain. HS2 tried to write the contracts to enable innovation and we are seeing innovation in pockets but it’s now about how we can begin to see these pockets become more widespread.”

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