The secret to London’s Crossrail project success – digital building information modelling

London’s Crossrail project is a new 118km railway line development due to open in December 2018. The project’s main feature is a set of new 21km twin tunnels. The project also includes the development of 40 new stations. Large projects such as this carry more complexity (and therefore risk) which lead to costs over and above budgeted levels. However, the Crossrail is on time and on budget. Why is it achieving these stellar results? The answer lies with the use of building information modelling (which the use of, was a core contractual requirement in the project).

Building information modelling (BIM)

The Crossrail project is being built twice; the first time digitally, using BIM and asset lifecycle information management standards and processes. Physical construction started only after it was built digitally.

BIM is the process of generating and managing digital representations of projects, before they are built.

In the context of the Crossrail project, the BIM includes physical, environmental and commercial data on every design element. The BIM has successfully combined information from 25 design contracts, 30 main contracts, 60 logistics main contracts, and 1 million CAD files into a centralised information model.

This information is on a standard database for all relevant parties to access.


Some of the BIM benefits realised from the Crossrail project include:

  • Reduction of information loss or miscommunication between project phases and different parties.
  • Long-term cost savings by providing accurate information to operators who will be maintaining the railways post-completion.
  • Increased effectiveness during the construction phase, as engineers are able to visualise the complexities surrounding the Crossrail project.
  • Any changes to design along the way are easily integrated. As stages of work are completed, the CAD models are updated and re-integrated to the central database.

The Crossrail project is many times larger than Auckland’s City Rail Link project. However, it is managing to stay on budget and on time. The BIM model offers a compelling new approach to construction projects.


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