COWI to combine digital inspection techniques to innovate Network Rail tunnel examinations


COWI, a leading international consulting group within engineering, economics and environmental science, has won a contract worth approximately £500,000 to share with its subcontractors as part of project that is funded by Network Rail through the SBRI: innovation in automated tunnel examination competition, delivered by InnovateUK. The project seeks to improve the accuracy, efficiency and safety of tunnel examinations, resulting in safer and more reliable railway operation.

Working with subcontractors Railview and Viapontica over the next 18 months, COWI will combine machine learning and novel subsurface defect detection with existing virtual inspection tools used for bridges to reduce the time spent by personnel on the ground examining tunnel structures. The project team will build on mobile mapping solutions using a combination of technologies to collect data that will be processed to build an accurate three-dimensional model, which can be viewed and manipulated by engineers.

The new techniques will reduce exposure to health and safety risks and reduce costs while enhancing the asset knowledge of rail staff. The improvements will also lead to less disruption of rail passengers by reducing disruptive possessions required for examinations and allowing timely maintenance interventions.

Andy Sloan, Managing Director / Senior Vice President, COWI in the UK, said: “While railway workforce injuries are declining, there is still room for improvement. The impact that digital technologies can have on health and safety cannot be understated and this project is a fantastic opportunity for us to bring best practice from across sectors and geographies to further digitalise and improve tunnel inspection.”

The final stage of the project next year will be to undertake an Operational Environment Demonstration and evaluate the results in conjunction with Network Rail's asset managers. Following that COWI will submit a report on it at the end of 2021 and develop plans for further development and exploitation.


COWI is a leading consulting group that creates value for customers, people and society through our unique 360° approach. Based on our world-class competencies within engineering, economics and environmental science, we tackle challenges from many vantage points to create coherent solutions for our customer.

With offices all over the world, we combine global presence with local knowledge to take on projects anywhere in the world – no matter how large or small. At any given moment, we are involved in more than 12,000 projects.

We have 90 years of experience in the business, and COWI is a leader within its field because our more than 7,200 employees are leaders within theirs. Together with our customers, we create coherence in tomorrow's sustainable societies.

About Viapontica AI

Viapontica AI is a private sector R&D company headquartered in Scotland. We draw on state-of-the-art research to deliver bespoke commercial products in AI, backed by a robust software, electrical engineering, industrial and UX/UI design. Most recently we delivered projects for automated monitoring of highway road conditions, recognising safety incidents in public spaces, intelligent monitoring of health risk, and aesthetics-aware image cropping.

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Lorna Wharton LOWH

Lorna Wharton Chart.PR MCIPR
Leading Specialist
Press and Public Affairs, United Kingdom and North America