FRANCE: Infrastructure manager RFF signed an agreement on April 30 to share its core database of asset information with the academic community in an effort to improve the lifespan, cost and efficiency of railway infrastructure.

The agreement initially covers a partnership with Ifsttar, the national transport technology and science research institute established in 2011. Researchers at Ifsttar will have access to RFF’s entire asset database covering track, ballast, energy consumption, signalling, train control, traffic management and telecoms.

A principal objective is to understand the true life cycle of infrastructure components and to improve their whole-life performance.

By sharing its data in this fashion, RFF - and its partners SNCF Infra and network operations unit DCF - hopes to gain ‘concrete results’ over the medium term which are academically proven. These will be fed into work on management of ageing assets and improving rail’s environmental footprint.

Among the first uses of the data will be a project to augment a timetabling software programme with accurate signal and lineside sign positioning to gain a more accurate understanding of where extra capacity could be found or regular-interval operation might be possible.