Digital Twin and Automation Streamline Workflow on Chinese Metro Rail Project

The use of GeoBIM, 4IR and immersive technologies in the construction of an urban transit line project in Shaoxing, China, helped the contractor save USD 1.53 million (CNY 10 million) at the design stage itself.

The 2,500-year-old city of Shaoxing is situated in the Zhejiang province of China. This ancient city, which is also known as ‘Oriental Venice’, witnesses abundant rainfall and has numerous lakes and rivers that cover a 21 sq km area. In recent years, the population of the city grew significantly and the city infrastructure was unable to handle the increasing traffic flow. Since the city had no operational metro lines, it was decided that seven metro lines, stretching across 260 km, be constructed to ease the problem. As a result, Shaoxing Urban Rail Transit Line 1 is the first metro line scheduled to begin operations in 2022.

Optimizing Design Through Digitization and Collaboration

Project brief

The Urban Rail Transit Line 1 project is a part of Shaoxing city’s long-term plan of constructing seven metro lines in the city for a better commuter experience. The metro’s main line starts from Jianhu Town and connects Diyang Road via 19 stations. Additionally, the metro’s branch line reaches Keqiao Bus Station and then connects with the main line via Zhangqian station. The key highlights of the project include the construction of a depot, 24 stations, two main substations, a car park, a control center, and 25 other assorted sections.

Construction work on the 34.1 km stretch of the Urban Rail Transit Line 1 in the city began in 2017 and is slated to be completed by mid-2021. The project was awarded to Powerchina Huadong Engineering Corporation Limited (HDEC) for approximately USD 3.69 billion (CNY 24 billion) by the Shaoxing Rail Transit Group. As a part of the agreement, the contractor is responsible for survey, overall consultation, design, construction, project management, and operations and maintenance. This is the largest infrastructure project the city has ever undertaken. It holds much significance due to its role in connecting Hangzhou, the most populous city in China’s Zhejiang province, with Shaoxing, through the Hangzhou-Shaoxing Intercity Railway.


The contractor faced numerous challenges during the design and construction stages due to the location of the project. According to plan, the new railway line has to pass through a historical site and heritage neighborhoods that need to be protected, face challenges like huge vehicular traffic, incorporate 26 existing bridges, and skirt the river course.

During the initial stage of construction, the use of digital engineering methods helped HDEC overcome various issues related to the safety of the foundation pits, limited underground space, hydrogeological conditions, and water leakage.

Value proposition

The project has tight deadlines that are difficult to achieve given the numerous construction challenges, ranging from geological conditions to collaboration and cooperation issues between the city departments of Shaoxing and Hangzhou. Using the Bentley Systems’ open and collaborative design with their existing iTwin platform, the team at HDEC implemented digital workflows in the project from design stage to operation stage. The overall route of the new railway line, along with tasks such as underground pipe modeling and metro crossings, were put together in an integrated BIM model using Bentley’s GeoStation and OpenRoads. The data gathered through automated monitoring technology in the BIM model allowed for real-time analysis of the construction activities’ impact on the surroundings. Near to 100 abnormal events, which could have negatively impacted the project’s progress, were resolved.

The HDEC team also used aerial photography and ContextCapture to construct a 3D reality grid that depicted the city’s landscape, road network, and architecture more realistically. The HDEC design and construction team was able to work with the dynamic and static data using Bentley’s iTwin technology. Many management activities, including safety, quality, and costs were improved, wherein, each participant involved in the process could collaborate and share a 3D view of the project. Nearly 800 hours of field data collection time and USD 461,765 (CNY 3 million) in resource hours were saved in the areas of geological investigation, site survey and pipeline exploration. Digital workflows during the design stage helped in shortening the design cycle by 20%, with a cost saving of USD 1.53 million (CNY 10 million).

The Bentley’s iTwin platform enabled the multi-source processing (BIM, GIS, and IoT) of data inflow, and by implementing Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud Computing and Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR), huge savings in time and cost were witnessed.

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