Turning data into information and insight

Edward Morley, Head of Business Engagement, Asset Information, Network Rail
Davin Crowley-Sweet, Head of Data Management, Asset Information, Network Rail

This is a big moment for Britain’s railway. Investment from successive governments has enabled Network Rail to turn a once great but decaying part of our nation’s heritage into a growth industry with huge potential for the future.

Demand for the railway is increasing year on year, but our network is becoming increasingly full. We need to be able to run more train paths on the existing network whilst spending less money making our investment decisions.

That is why we are investing to deliver a quantum leap in the application of technology – potentially the biggest in 100 years. Investing in technology will transform our knowledge of the railway, making us better at targeting when, where and how we improve it – to deliver a safer, more reliable and more efficient railway.

Asset Information is Network Rail’s infrastructure information services business unit that collects, evaluates, collates, analyses and communicates information to enable accurate informed decisions to be made to balance cost, risk and performance, supporting operational effectiveness and efficiency. We do this against three objectives to:

1)Align information to business processes and provide the business change support to make our customers’ processes more effective,

2)Deliver trusted and sustainable quality information through services delivered by highly competent information handling staff, based on a functional data-to-intelligence operating model and

3)Enhance and exploit five related information types to provide improved tooling and services that help our customers turn information into insight.

Asset Information is supporting one of Network Rail’s key corporate strategic outcomes to provide enhanced real-time and system-wide infrastructure information enabling greater network capacity exploitation and improved traffic management.

Recognising that technology and process changes can still make things better and easier for our customers Network Rail and the government have supported the investment to enhance our service portfolio – the £330m ORBIS programme (Offering Rail Better Information Services) of 43 projects in 5 sub-programmes – to build the system, technology and process capability and business change over the next six years needed to deliver a single railway infrastructure network model, and decision support tools to our customers.

Central to this process of turning data into information and insight is the following understanding – Data is an asset in its own right, and not just a reflection of the physical infrastructure. It works with the whole asset management principles in every way, we have choice about what data we buy, we make management decisions based upon that data to reduce its whole life cost, we then operate that data during its lifecycle to achieve the maximum value from that data, when maintaining it becomes unsustainable we think about renewing that data and when the data doesn’t meet the business purposes any more we dispose of that data – the same things we’d do as we manage our infrastructure.

Many thanks to Edward and Davin for this contribution to our Know-How series. Network Rail use Affinity Fieldreach to help turn data into information and insight as part of the ORBIS programme.

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