From capacity limitations due to social distancing 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.

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.

According to Dr Nader Naderpajouh from RMIT’s School of Property, Construction and Project Management,  “We need to ask ourselves whether our current infrastructure systems are resilient enough to cope with such events, and prepare accordingly.”

“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 take place elsewhere in the organisation – and there can be minimal communication between them. It can then be hard to develop an integrated approach to optimise resilience of the whole infrastructure system to respond to multi-hazard events.”

The Safety4Rails H2020 project aims to develop 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. The project proposes an integrated approach to realise efficient resilience enhancement actions across the whole system.

The development of a framework to optimise the budget that rail operators allocate to improve resilience in their systems is also crucial. Dr. Mauro Pollioti thinks that “A major topic in the improvement of resilience is to evaluate the different strategies from an economic perspective. In other words, how to make the most of the available budget to build a safer and more resilient railway environment”.

The strength of S4R is that by collaborating with large rail operators the project gives the consortium 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 within RMIT say that resilient infrastructure management systems will be key for railway and metro systems to remain safe, efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly mass carriers.

RMIT

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