Bringing BIM to Spain’s national rail network


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We’ve digitised the design process for all new built assets on Spain’s national rail network on behalf of infrastructure manager Adif.

From enabling smarter workflows to improving communication and data exchange between teams, the benefits of digitisation within the rail sector are widely recognised.  

Adif is responsible for managing the majority of Spain’s rail network which includes more than 1,450 stations and over 125,000 kilometres of track. Keen to transition to a digital-first organisation, Adif commissioned our DigitalAECOM specialists to create a Building Information Modelling (BIM) strategy and implementation programme to cover the full lifecycle of all new built assets.  

This major four-year project also involves providing technical support and training to help Adif employees navigate the digital shift. 

The challenge

Implementing BIM methods is a big step for any organisation, even more so for one as large as Adif. As they had never used BIM before, Adif decided to take a phased approach and digitise the process for newly built assets first. 

Even so, the challenge was still significant. Our BIM strategy would need to meet the needs of all the different specialisms involved – design, construction, and management through to operations and maintenance – but still be cohesive enough to work at an enterprise level.  

We also knew that staff would likely be unaware of how BIM could improve delivery and unfamiliar with working in a data-conscious and digital-first way.  

The digitisation of new built assets is Adif’s first bold step in its transition to a digital-first organisation. 

Adapted and aligned  

Following close collaboration between the client and our Madrid-based digital team, Adif – whose management system is based on the ISO 9001 standard – is now adapting to BIM by modifying its internal processes, mainly with reference to the ISO 19650 standard, among others.  

BIM manuals and documentation have been developed and integrated into the Adif management system. 

In a similar vein, we adapted Adif’s existing specifications to those needed for BIM at the start of the project. All specifications have been added to the new suite of tender documents so that suppliers are fully aligned when they are engaged by Adif on new projects.  

Because we had completed a thorough analysis to understand how Adif would be using BIM, we were able to make the transition to the new specifications as smooth as possible for staff and suppliers with notable success. 

Good data

BIM relies on good data. The implementation and consequent uptake by staff of a new common data environment (CDE) has been another standout success of this ongoing project. Adif had already chosen the CDE platform, so we helped them to configure and test it for use.  

We also sorted the information from the assets currently in design and construction so that the data in the BIM models and the CDE were consistent.  

From the point of view of assets already built, we are working on how to generate, order and exchange this data as Adif applies this approach to the maintenance and asset management stages. 

Supporting staff navigate the digital shift 

In any environment where digital processes are new, education and training are critically important to a successful transition. However, encouraging people to fundamentally change the way that they work is not easy. 

Given that Adif is such a large organisation, we created a change management strategy to manage the wider BIM implementation against which we would deliver all the training. We used this structured approach to teach people about Adif’s new digital-first approach and train them to use the new processes and the different digital tools that they would need on a daily basis.  

In addition, we created a set of user guides covering topics such as 4D planification and 3D clash management. 

Recognised as industry best practice 

The digitisation of new built assets is Adif’s first bold step in its transition to a digital-first organisation. The journey is ongoing, but this work has provided Spain’s national rail manager with the building blocks for further enterprise-level change. 

Furthermore, the integration of BIM methodologies in Adif’s management processes has been ahead of the recently published BIM mandate of the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, which is an early success that ensures its establishment.