Monday 11 July 2011
Infrastructure / Geographical Information System

2nd International Rail GIS Summit at UIC

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The 2nd International Rail GIS Summit was organised by ESRI (with sponsorship from Trimble, Nice Systems and GeoCue Corporation) and hosted by UIC on 10 June 2011. This event brought together over 65 participants from 19 different countries, providing the opportunity to share experience and learn about different initiatives to deploy Geographical Information Systems (GIS) within railways.

The GIS technology provides the possibility to interconnect different databases and workflows together via location/positioning with geo-coordinates. The use of GIS data through the entire rail infrastructure lifecycle including feasibility, design, construction, maintenance, renewal, etc. is a powerful lever in achieving efficiency and savings.

Following the 1st Euro Rail GIS Summit (hosted by UIC in 2010), this edition was called 2nd International Rail GIS Summit. Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC General-Director, pointed out that the railway technology and market have also expanded beyond continental boundaries. He said that the railway industry certainly needs to adopt new, global, technologies such as GIS, enabling the railways to have a “common language” for international knowledge sharing and technical development.

One of the most striking presentations was given by NRIC, explaining how in 18 months and with a €3 million EU subsidy, the Bulgarian rail infrastructure had been captured in a 3D geo-database. This involved 226 flight hours over the rail routes and 32 000 geo-referenced aerial photos achieving accuracies of 10 cm. Besides the track elements (rails, signals, buildings), cadastral registers and schematic drawings had also been geo-referenced. According to NRIC the next step will be the integration of power supply, signalling and telecom, and train operations management into the GIS deployment.

The presentation delivered by ProRail generated a large discussion on the need for cooperation between GIS industry and railways to find specific solutions for railways in terms of interconnection between different railway databases such as:

  • Geo-database (location, photos, maps)
  • Schematic database (drawings on rail topology and interconnection of elements)
  • SAP database (project planning, asset information, maintenance history, economy)
  • Monitor database (measures on track condition)

In the ideal IT architecture the unique master data could be viewed simultaneously in complementary views of geographical and schematic formats. In this respect, RFF also presented an impressive vision of integrated information system architecture as a backbone crossing all railway business processes in a multi-partner context.

Banedanmark made an interesting presentation on the methodology behind their Fast Position Lookup system based on onboard GPS positions and track circuits (SAP) systems. Another Real-Time-Train-Information-System had been set up, within 6 weeks, by VR to avoid customers suffering – like train punctuality – from the particularly severe winter in Finland.

This GIS Summit generated passionate discussions and intense networking among the railways, and many participants requested a two-day summit next year. All railways, whatever their IT framework, are invited to present their work in the field of geographical or schematic data management. For more information please contact: and

This summary is based on detailed articles published at by Jeff Thurston, a journalist specialised in GIS technologies.
The railway presentations are available on request:

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Schematic presentation
Geographical presentation