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Digital Expertise: Case study

Large-scale digital evolution – Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal Project

At the crossing between paper and digital

There’s always a crossroad, a point in time where there’s a noticeable evolutionary step forward. This was the case on the Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal Project.

Aurecon with its Alliance partners – CPB Contractors, Lendlease, WSP and Metro Trains Melbourne – were selected by the Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA) to remove nine dangerous level crossings, and elevate three sections of rail line between the Melbourne suburbs of Caulfield and Dandenong.

A project for the future

Right away the challenges of designing and planning this large-scale and complex billion dollar project across multidisciplinary teams were evident – the Alliance could not approach this as business as usual.

The complexity of the project called for a digital approach, which would make a substantial difference in facilitating collaboration and integrated planning between the construction and design teams, especially during the short construction timeframe.

A project of the future

The Caulfield to Dandenong section of rail is Melbourne’s busiest. Removing dangerous level crossings and building sections of elevated rail line will improve service reliability, lower road congestion, and improve community and commuter safety.

Keeping communities safe

The Caulfield to Dandenong section of rail is Melbourne’s busiest. Removing dangerous level crossings and building sections of elevated rail line will improve service reliability, lower road congestion, and improve community and commuter safety.

The Alliance implemented three digital approaches to design and test solutions, identify risks and better plan for construction:

  1. Interactive signal sighting
  2. Digital models for visualisation
  3. Digitised shop drawing reviews

The adoption of these new digital tools and integrated work methods were a big leap into the future for the Alliance team and presented some challenges. However, the benefits of integrating these solutions outweighed any initial difficulty, and was met by the Alliance team with creativity and confidence.

While these solutions were not specific to this project alone, the integration of these digital tools on this project provide an exemplar model of how we can engineer, design and plan large-scale infrastructure projects going forward to provide the best outcomes for our communities.

1. Driver signal sighting simulation for better design

"Imagine yourself in the train cab watching the track, looking for signals. You see traffic headlights and shadows. You sense the scale of trackside infrastructure and stations. You understand the relationship between the train and its surroundings… yet this track hasn’t been laid yet." Mark Roberts, Aurecon Associate, Infrastructure

To ensure that train drivers had clear sighting on the viaduct section of the rail line, Metro Trains Melbourne wanted to simulate exactly what the drivers would see on any given day. Aurecon’s VizRT platform was chosen for its ability to perform real-time and interactive signal sighting visualisations.

Signal sighting simulation
Aurecon VizRT signal sighting simulation

VizRT had previously been used on signal sighting projects in Queensland with great success. The Alliance took VizRT and augmented it to be used as a realtime, analytical tool to design signal sighting layouts, and resolve any sighting problems prior to the start of construction. From the base VizRT platform, the signal sighting tool was rapidly prototyped, built and tested for Metro Trains Melbourne and the design team.

The fully interactive and dynamic model meant that rail engineers and stakeholders could drive the train back and forth inside the model. Signals, trackside furniture and infrastructure could also be moved and added to make sure that signal sighting would not be an issue for train drivers. Driver height and position was altered with real-time lighting and weather conditions, and viewed in virtual reality for truly immersive experiences.

The resulting tool is a tailored solution for Metro Trains Melbourne and for the Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal Project.

2. Data rich modelling

The contractors on the Caulfield to Dandenong Project were seeking new ways to better understand and plan for the transportation and construction of prefabricated elements. By modelling spatial, time and cost dimensions of the design solutions, the Alliance was able to accurately detect clashes, consider the construction planning of the project, and incorporate costings.

Space, Time and Cost Impact


Space – Individual models of disciplines such as architectural, structural, bridges, electrical and mechanical service models were incorporated into a single platform to appreciate the full design. This approach enabled the project team to review each model and produce a 3D visualisation to identify and address clashes between services and infrastructure before construction commenced.

The platform was vital for preparing the contractors to achieve necessary construction works during short rail shut down times, and progressing construction alongside live rail lines.

Visualisation of SkyRail
Visualisation of SkyRail


Time – Use of a virtual construction sequencing tool was critical to the success of the first major rail occupation, where contractors finished the works within a confined corridor and beside operating trains. The construction tool allowed contractors to virtually build the project in an on-site office, review their methodologies, and provide changes as required. This wouldn’t be achieved using a traditional Gantt Chart.

The construction modelling also allowed the Alliance, client and contractors to review and communicate changes in real time, enhancing collaboration between teams throughout the design phase, and prior to site activity.

Cost Impact

Cost Impact – The cost loaded, data rich models produced for the project were used in conjunction with a cost estimating program, to simulate and manage the costs of each component of the project. This assisted the estimators to successfully manage the overall project cost.

One example was when this process was used to compare the fabrication and construction cost of reducing the main station canopy size and increasing the smaller station canopy. Rather than estimating the cost (quantity * rates), we had the ability for near instant cost capture of design changes.

3. Saving paper and time with digital fabricationThe benefits of digital collaboration

With the possibility of more than 25 000 drawings to be prepared for the Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal Project, it was clear the project team had to step into the future. The use of a virtual collaboration tool made it possible to digitally review and approve shop models between the Alliance design teams, and the steel fabricators.

The benefits of digital collaboration

The Alliance design team’s 3D visualisation was leveraged by the steel fabricator, who produced the fabrication model. Alliance Designers inserted comments and tracked changes directly into the fabrication model, prior to the stamped formal check from the Alliance design team. This sped up the review process compared to traditional shop drawing review processes where each drawing is printed for every review stage and passed from one discipline to another for checking.

This wasn’t the only benefit of this collaboration tool. It utilised a built-in workflow, so drawings were virtually allocated to designers swiftly. Designers logged into the digital collaboration platform and saw their task, and could see which disciplines had already reviewed the drawing, and what previous changes had been made.

Digital engineering is transforming Melbourne’s rail links

"As an Alliance, we wanted our digital engineering solutions to benefit everyone working on the Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal Project. We knew that time and budget management, design and construction sequencing, and collaboration were key on a large-scale project like this," says Warrick Plymin, Technical Director Built Environment, Aurecon.

"Our engineering designs had to be accurate before construction on any section began. This was for two reasons. First, the contractors only had a short window of time to complete upgrade works during any rail possession. Second, the majority of the construction took place adjacent to a live rail line. Passengers, trains, overhead wires, and services were in a tight corridor to manage," Plymin explains.

"This is why our digital engineering tools were so powerful. They enabled infrastructure clashes to be detected and resolved during the design phase rather than only coming to light when construction had begun. The digital solutions that were implemented on the project touched each part of the design and construction process."

The implementation and integration of digital tools were used to great effect on this large-scale complex project. As digital tools continue to evolve, they can help drive a brighter future for infrastructure design and construction.

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